Jim: “Is he aware he’s being mind controlled?”
Jason: “There are all manner of ways I could answer that but the simple fact is you don’t fucking know. Normally a human would not know, but this isn’t a normal human.” *counts out a very large handful of dice, begins to roll* “This is Jawahar Singh, of the Order of Hermes.”
Kara: “Who is an apprentice.”
Chris: “And who has just had significant amounts of blood drained from him after a period of extended oxygen deprivation earlier this evening.”
Jason: *hesitates, removes a single die from the pool*
On his way out of the Pyramid, Anstis calls Bell. Anstis says he’s has been running tasks for Rabenholz but is between jobs at the moment, so asks if the Justicar needs any assistance.
Bell replies that, in fact, there is something. If Anstis didn’t kill the mage in the tower, Bell is interested in finding out who did, especially since that someone seemed intent on framing Anstis for killing him in the first place.
“I have suspicions,” Anstis says, stepping into the elevator to head down. “The body was masked by illusion.” Anstis sneers. “Admiral Johnathan Flowers is a Ravnos.”
“I know that,” Bell grumbles.
“And he’d like nothing more than to see me burn.”
“I know that too. So you think Admiral Flowers tried to frame you for the murder of the mage?”
“I think it is well within his purview.”
“Strange he’d show up all the way here just to mess with you. What were you to him? Cabin-boy?” Bell’s voice drips with insinuation at the word.
“Nay,” Anstis says, the implication going right over his head. “He chased me across the ocean for years. I’m the one that always got away.”
“You’re not the only one who got away, so why you?” Bell is quiet a moment. “…You’re sending your boat to meet him aren’t you?”
Anstis grins at his reflection in the elevator doors. “Aye, in Makassar. It should arrive soon.”
Bel sighs. “You plan to kill him?”
“He’s a powerful Ravnos, Captain, and Indonesia’s been a battleground for decades.”
Anstis’s grin widens, his beard twisting in self-satisfaction. “Aye, but I have skills of me own.”
“I’ve been meaning to speak to you about that,” Bell says, voice sharpening. “I don’t like Necromancy, and I like the Giovanni even worse. I know they have a hold in Chinatown and I know you’ve been seeing going in and out of there for a couple of weeks. Describe to me your level of involvement with the Giovanni at this time. Describe it to me, clearly.”
Anstis sighs. “Xiang Li Weng is pressuring me to remove an Eastern Kindred for him. That is the extent of our relationship.”
“You sure of that? You get in with the Giovanni and neither me nor anybody else gonna save you from that.” Bell is quiet another moment. When he speaks again, his tone has dropped considerably. “I don’t like Admiral Jonathan Flowers. I got history there. Personal history.”
Anstis blinks. “You do?”
“You might want to ask him what business he dabbled in when he wasn’t busy chasing you halfway across the Atlantic.”
The elevator dings and opens on the ground floor. Anstis steps out. “I’d be interested in the story from you.”
“Lets just say he made some…shipments on the side, across the Atlantic. Shipments of a very unique nature. Most of his kind did.” Bell lets that sink in a moment.“I’m gonna pretend you didn’t. For the moment.”
This time, the implication is clear. Anstis stops, and nods. “Aye.”
“You run off to Makassar to get him killed, or get yourself killed, I’m of no mind on that subject. But I do not need a powerful Ravnos showing up here to settle a score. I get one more serious kindred from outside the bounds of the Camarilla showing up in this town and I don’t give a damn who says what, I’m going to start cutting heads off. Do I make myself clear?”
Anstis’s eye darts across the empty lobby. “What if he’s already here, laying low?”
“Then you have a problem. I suggest you find that out and eliminate that problem. Besides, stands to reason, if he is here, you’re in trouble, but if he isn’t here, he almost certainly has someone else here.”
Anstis peers out the large glass doors toward the darkened street. “Undoubtedly.”
“Take. Care.” Bell hangs up.
Doc leads Georgia, Paul, and the gargoyle–carrying the unconscious bodies of Sophia and Jawahar–out of the Alcatraz underground complex and down the side of the island to the west dock, where a small motorboat is tied up. They load up in silence and cast off, heading south toward the Silicon Valley shores at the bottom of the bay.
On the way, Georgia pulls out her phone to call Rabenholz, pitching her voice to be heard over the wind.
“Ms. Johnson,” his deep voice answers, “What can I do for you tonight?”
“Um, where are you?”
“I am in my penthouse suite in the Mark Hopkins.” He hesitates, but if he can hear the roar of the wind, he does not comment on it. “Where are you? I have been trying to contact you.”
“I advise that you do not look for me in the Chantry,” Georgia says smoothly.
“I have already failed to find you there.”
“Ah, then you are aware the Chantry is already under new management.”
“I have discovered this, yes. What do you intend to do about it?”
Spray lashes at her. “I am sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
(Jason: “And they say Georgia doesn’t lie.”)
Rabenholz is silent a moment as well. “…Quite.”
“I simply wanted to check in with you, and I noticed I have a lot of missed calls from you…?” she asks hesitantly.
“Yes, there are some undertakings I would like to engage in with your blessings and assistance. But perhaps we should speak more privately.”
“Excellent. Can you acquire a car?”
“Good. Drive south, and I will contact you later, once you’ve left the city.”
“…Could you be more specific?” Rabenholz asks.
“Yes.” Georgia hangs up.
Rabenholz hangs up the phone, frowning. Before Georgia called, he had just finished an elaborate ritual to enchant a wooden stake. He tucks it away, then calls Rhona into the room.
They discuss her research into cloud seeding, though she says every piece of research she’s read indicates it’s highly impractical.
He considers this a moment, staring out the balcony windows, then advises her to look into donations to certain agricultural groups headquartered locally.
She folds her arms. “Bribing people to allow us to spray chemicals over the Bay Area. Do you have any idea the sorts of conspiracy theories this is going to drum up?”
“No, but I do hope to read them on ‘the blogs’ later.”
Rabenholz then goes on a short ramble about the nature of the internet, while Rhona carefully tries to keep her face blank.
Once complete, he collects his cane and asks her to call him a car.
Scout stands on the bluffs of Fort Funston, looking down at a mess of police tape surrounding the entrance to one of the tunnels. It’s a calm, clear night, with enough moonlight out for nighttime jogging, but no one seems to be around.
(Jason: “No one seems to want to be around when there’s a serial killer murdering people in Fort Funston.”
Jim: “…Wonder who would do that?”
Jason: “I don’t know! A douchebag, I think!”)
She scrambles carefully down the dunes to the pitted World War 2-era concrete in front of the tunnels. Pausing to brush the sand off the pants of her suit, she obfuscates, steps over the police tape, and disappears inside.
Darkness engulfs her, but through the gloom she can see tunnels branching off in various directions. She keeps to the main tunnel, moving slowly, pausing occasionally to listen, her hand hovering near her knife.
Finally, she hears echoes of movement ahead, and a distant glow around a corner. Pressing herself to the wall, she approaches carefully and peers around.
A cavernous room lies at the end of this tunnel, lit by ancient halogen sconces embedded in the walls. In the center of the room is a fresh teleportation circle. Next to it is a hooded figure, crouching to examine the blood.
(Jason: “You have seen this figure before. Earlier tonight, in Union Square.”)
Suddenly the figure tenses, then stands in one fluid movement, turning toward the mouth of the room. In Scout’s direction.
(…Aaaaaand what happened next is still secret at this time. Watch this space!)
Rabenholz gets in the car summoned by Rhona and tells the driver to head south. On the way he calls Anstis. Anstis reports on his visit to the Anarchs of the East Bay, saying they’re considering the idea of working security for him, but they wish to discuss it in person. With Rabenholz. Alone. At a theater in West Oakland tomorrow.
Rabenholz stares out the window a moment. “Captain, you possess the abilities of persuasion?”
“Find some idle but otherwise violent men. Have them arrive at the theater with the Anarchs. Implant the command to them that Rabenholz belongs to Vannevar Hughes, that Hughes will deal with Rabenholz in his own time, and the Anarchs would be wise not to meddle.”
“…Who is Vannevar Hughes?” Anstis asks.
“Ms. Johnson’s replacement.”
“She’s been replaced?”
“For the moment. We’ll see if it sticks. Feel free to arm your men with flame throwers, I will cover the expense.”
Anstis is quiet a moment. “Have you asked Bell about this plan?”
“I think it’s best if the Justicar retain plausible deniability on this front,” Rabenholz replies smoothly. “And what Vannevar Hughes wants to do with the Anarchs is his own business.”
“…I’ll see what I can do.” Anstis hangs up.
Rabenholz’s phone buzzes with a text message. It’s from Georgia, telling Rabenholz she’s going to Paul’s house and sharing the address. Rabenholz passes the information to the driver and sits back, thinking.
Fortunately, Doc’s boat arrives at the Redwood City docks without incident.
(Chris: “Okay, so who’s here? I think it’s our new gargoyle, Bob, Georgia, me, and Doc?”
Jason: “…Your new gargoyle?”
Chris: “Yeah, the one from the Chantry.”
Jason: “Oh, right. …Oh Christ, you have a second gargoyle!?”
Jason: “Shit, how did I let this happen….”)
Doc pleads a smooth excuse–as Doc is wont to do–and leaves with a smile and a tip of his hat. Paul calls Gates and asks her to send a van to their location. Fortunately no one is around to see the massive gargoyle carrying two unconscious bodies so they wait quietly out in the open.
After a few minutes, Paul notices the gargoyle is eying him interestedly. The creature looms over them, larger and darker-skinned than Dug, with short but thick spines erupting from his shoulders and at the joints of his wings. “Master, are you Tremere?” the gargoyle rumbles.
“Uh, no,” Paul says.
“Oh.” The gargoyle blinks slowly, then turns to Georgia. “Are you Tremere, master?”
She nods once. “Yes.”
Instantly he kneels, keeping Sophia and Jawahar carefully balanced on his shoulders. “I apologize, Master, you are Master. He is not.”
Paul frowns at this. “Do you have a name?”
The gargoyles gaze flicks up to him, shadowed by bony ridges. “I am called Domen.”
“Okay, Domen. Really, there is only one master for you, and you are your own master.”
Domen stares at Paul, then turns to Georgia. “He is not Tremere, Master.”
“No, he is not,” she agrees sadly. “But we like him. He’s useful.”
Paul folds his arms. “Hey!”
Domen stands, scanning the surrounding industrial area. “Where is the Regent, Master?”
“This is the Regent,” Paul says, patting Georgia’s shoulder.
Domen eyes her. “No, this is not the Regent.”
“This is the lawful Regent,” Paul replies firmly. “The other guy is a pompous prick who usurped her.”
Georgia shrugs. “Well, there was some usurping that occurred, yes, so who is the Regent is up for debate–”
“No it’s not,” Paul interrupts, “You’re the Regent, you’re the lawful Regent, and this guy is a…a fraudulent Regent!”
Georgia sighs. “Well, technically it is still lawful for him to usurp me, but if I usurp it back, I get to be Regent again.”
Just then the van arrives. Paul hurries to talk to the driver. Domen eyes the vehicle suspiciously, then turns to Georgia. “Should…I return to the Regent, Master?”
“No, I won you in combat.” She smiles at him. “You’re on my side now.”
Paul hears this and comes back, frowning. “He’s on his own side,” he says.
Domen frowns and stares back and forth between them. Georgia pats his shoulder, carefully, between the spines. “For now, you’re with us.”
Paul pats his other shoulder and gestures him toward the van. “I’ll show you a movie and it will all make sense.”
They finally arrive safely at Paul’s Portola Valley house deep into the night. Dug and werewolf cub peer nervously around the door to the living room as Paul, Georgia, and Bob enter the house, followed immediately by the heavy footfalls of Domen. Domen strides through the foyer, laying the unconscious bodies of Sophia and Jawahar on couches in the formal den across the hall, then turns to glare at them. The cub immediately ducks away, disappearing to some unknown hiding place, while Dug cowers and slips out to follow Paul to the kitchen, Domen’s red gaze following him the whole way.
“Master….” he begins hesitantly as Paul reaches for the fridge door.
“Yes, Dug?” Paul asks, pulling out a jar of chilled, thickened animal blood. He takes a swig, grimacing only a little.
Dug glances back toward the hall. “The other gargoyle, Master. He wishes to kill you, Master.”
“He doesn’t know what he wants, he’s confused.”
“He does know what he wants, Master. He wishes to kill you. I saw it.”
Paul throws the empty bottle in the recycling and pats Dug on his smooth, slaty-grey shoulder. “Well, he won’t. We’re going to reeducate him.”
“But…I do not understand, Master. He is an enemy.”
“No, he is not, and killing just perpetuates the cycle of violence and does nothing to achieve our own ends. If we kill him, he doesn’t learn that we’re right, he just dies.”
The floor groans as Dug shifts nervously. “But if he kills us, then we are dead, Master.”
“Right, but we won’t let him do that.” Paul hesitates, glancing to the door, then lowers his voice. “But if it does look like he’s going to do that, it’s okay to defend ourselves.”
Dug straightens and nods. “Yes Master. I shall watch him, Master. Carefully.” He follows Paul as they go back to the living room to find Georgia and Domen.
(Kara: “Right, okay, so while they were in the other room, Georgia decided to practice her Dominate 3. I got three successes, which means I can make a slight change to memory and I am going to convince him that when we left the Chantry, we defeated Vannevar Hughes in battle.”)
“–So you understand,” Georgia is saying to the massive gargoyle, “We just need to get the Chantry back.”
Domen stares stonily. “You have bested the Regent.”
“By whose authority?”
Georgia gapes back at him.
(Jason: “Kara, Intelligence + Politics.”
Kara: “Uh…three successes?
Jason: “It’s worth noting that a Tremere is totally within their rights to refuse to answer such questions from their inferiors, sometimes with extremely pointed violence.”)
Georgia gathers her robes around her, straightens to her most regal height, lays her hands on her hips…and glares at him.
Domen instantly winces. “I…I apologize, master.” He kneels before her, wings mantled like a graveyard statue. “All authority is yours, master.”
(What happens next has been drafted up below, but it is perhaps best appreciated if you listen to the audio clip from it as well)
(Chris: “The doorbell rings.”
Jason: “It does? And who’s there?”
Chris: “Who do you think?”
Jason: “…I don’t know?”
Kara: *laughing* “I go get the door!”
Jason: “What’s going on? Who’s at the door?”
Kara: “It’s Rabenholz!!”
*room explodes with laughter*
Me: “…Did you forget he was coming?”
Jason: “I did….”)
Georgia trots across the foyer to open the door. Rabenholz is there, peering around the front garden. “Ms. Johnson, where are we?”
“Oh, this is one of my associate’s statehouses. Have you heard of Paul Stewart?”
“Yes, my analysts seem to think he is on top of the next Microsoft or something.” Rabenholz hesitates. “I hope that means something to you because it didn’t for me.”
(Chris: “Paul hears the doorbell and goes to the entryway!”
Jason: “…I want you all to bear in mind that I am resisting the urge to smash this house with an asteroid right now.”)
Georgia smiles. “Oh! Paul, I’d like you to meet my colleague, Lord Rabenholz.”
Paul stops in front of the door, staring up at the tall, cloaked man standing outside. Rabenholz slowly takes in Paul’s small glasses, faded jeans, and standard black turtleneck.
(Chris: “Okay, so Paul rolls Awe…and gets three successes. Rabenholz does the same thing…and also gets three successes!”
Me: “Is this going to be like dueling Presence?”
Jason: “Okay, I refuse to allow you to actually talk to yourself!”
Me: “Aw, let him do the thing.”
Rabenholz nods. “Mr. Stewart, I am Lord Augustus von Rabenholz. An associate of Ms. Johnson’s.”
Paul blinks. “Oh, Mr. Rabenholz–”
“Lord Rabenholz,” he says firmly.
Paul hesitates, glancing at Georgia. “Um, okay, Lord Rabenholz. You two are friends? Allies, I hope?”
“He’s a colleague of mine from the Chantry,” Georgia says.
Domen suddenly steps forward, looming behind Georgia. “Master, is this a Tremere?”
Rabenholz scowls at the gargoyle. “Mind your own business, servant!”
Instantly, Domen falls back into a kneel, eyes cast to the floor. Paul rushes between them, hands raised. “Whoah! Whoah, unnecessary! We are all on equal footing here!”
Rabenholz eyes the gargoyle coolly. “Mr. Stewart, do you fully appreciate what it is you have here–” he looks up, then tenses. “–Oh my god, you have another one.”
Paul and Georgia turn. Across the foyer, Dug is peeking carefully around the corner. “Master, is this an enemy master?” he asks.
“No, no one’s an enemy here, but we’re going to watch carefully for things, just like we discussed….” Paul trails off significantly. Dug’s eyes go wide, he nods enthusiastically, then he scowls and stares intently at Rabenholz.
Rabenholz flicks one a hand dismissively. “Oh please, put yourself at ease. I mean none of you any harm.”
“Lord Rabenholz is here at my request,” Georgia says firmly. “To assist us.”
“As you say, Master,” Domen rumbles, still kneeling on the floor. Dug continues staring at Rabenholz, unblinking.
Silence lingers. Finally, Rabenholz clears his throat gently. “If you pardon me, Mr. Stewart, I mean to render my assistance but I do not know the situation fully.”
“Oh, okay. Um…Georgia, do you want to bring Mr–Lord Rabenholz up to speed?”
Rabenholz nods. “That would be most appreciated, Ms. Johnson.”
Georgia smiles warmly. “Yes, I’d be happy to!”
(Me: “…The game plays itself….”)
Paul invites everyone to the living room and offers to make tea while Georgia begins giving Rabenholz the rundown.
Suddenly, a groan echoes from the den across the hall as Jawahar begins to stir.
(Kara: “Oh, yeah, Jawahar and Sophia are still here. We should have given them medical attention.”)
Jawahar’s eyes open a sliver, focusing slowly on the cluster of vampires staring down at him. Instantly, his eyes snap all the way open.
“Jawhar!” Georgia says brightly. “It’s good to see you awake!”
The mage’s eyes dart around. “This…is not…. Where am I?”
Georgia gestures to the men flanking her. “So, you remember Paul? You met on Pluto. And this is Lord Rabenholz, whom I think you also met before–”
Jawahar’s gaze slides to the figure looming behind them and he scrambles upright. “What in Shiva’s name is that!??” he yells, pointing at Domen.
“That is a gargoyle,” Georgia says reasonably.
Domen folds his arms. “Is this a Tremere, Master?”
“This is a friend,” Georgia says.
“Shall I kill it, Master?”
“No, not at this moment.”
Paul hurries forward and helps the mage to his feet. “Jawahar, let’s step into the kitchen to talk. I’ll try to explain there. And I’ll make you some fresh tea.”
As the two leave, Rabenholz turns to Georgia, but before he can speak his phone buzzes. He pulls it out to check the ID, as Rhona has taught him. “Ms. Johnson, there are some things I need to discuss with you with the utmost urgency, but first I must take this call from the Justicar.” He answers. “Hello?”
“WHAT’S THIS I HEAR ABOUT YOU TRYING TO START A WAR WITH THE ANARCHS!???” Bell’s voice roars, loud enough for Georgia to overhear without Auspex.
Rabenholz blinks. “Oh, goodness no–”
“Really?! Then maybe you can explain to me why reports are you’ve been sending the pirate sniffing around?”
“I sent Mr. Anstis to parlay to see if they’d be interested in a security operation,” Rabenholz says smoothly.
“Really. The Anarchs.”
“Everyone needs money.”
“And I’m sure they’ll be willing to take it from your cold dead fingers.”
Rabenholz takes a slow breath. “That was the impression I got from Mr. Anstis also.”
“So what is your next move?”
“I merely requested Mr. Anstis leave some entertainment for them.”
“You hired a hit squad to take the Anarchs out, you mean,” Bell growls.”
Rabenholz twists his cane slowly in his grip. “I like to think I am taking unproductive people off the street and moving them to an area they’ll be less noticeable.”
There’s a tense moment of silence. “You heard about what’s going on in the East Bay? The Settites have basically declared open war on the Anarchs. There’s been skirmishes from Pleasanton all the way up to Pleasant Hill. But right now the Anarchs are the only thing holding them back, so you take them out, what do you think’s gonna happen next?”
“I assume the Settites would prevail,” Rabenholz replies calmly, “But I am confused as to why you think I’m taking out half the Anarch population in the East Bay.”
“Because I don’t think your squid-faced sheriff there does things by halves.”
“I am not trying to kill any Anarchs, I am sending human gang members to be entertainment for the Anarchs.” Rabenholz’s voice is calm, every syllable ringing with enunciated reason.
Silence lingers. Finally, Bell replies. “Let me be clear then. No. Wars. Not now. Not with the Anarchs, not with the Tremere, not even with the North Koreans. You so much as flip someone off and I’ll be the one who has to go put it out.”
“I assure you, no such thing is going to happen.”
“See that it doesn’t,” Bell grumbles. “Where are you right now?”
Rabenholz hesitates only a moment. “On the advice of some representatives of mine, I am trying to become more acquainted with modern culture trends. Apparently today is the launch of some sort of…e-phone, or something. I am at the Palo Alto Apple store.”
Whether or not Bell believes this, he seems to accept this. “…You be careful,” he rumbles.
Rabenholz makes a show of peering around the den. “Yes, it’s most absurd here, the line goes on for blocks and blocks–”
“That’s not what I meant. The Bishop of Palo Alto got a promotion recently, but he still runs around that area. He gets word you’re in town, there’s liable to be trouble. And I don’t need a war with the Sabbat now either.” Bell hangs up.
“That was an interesting conversation,” Georgia says as Rabenholz tucks his phone away. “Is everything alright?”
“For the moment, perhaps.” He glances at her sharply. “But right now, I am concerned with the status of your hand and your eye.”
She stares at her stump, as if suddenly remembering it. “Oh, yes. I’m afraid we didn’t have time to look for them before we left the Chantry–”
“I am more worried about why they were collected in the first place. They could be used for further rituals against you, even from far away.”
She blinks her one eye. “Oh, dear….”
“Fortunately, in my years, I have learned tricks of my own to help counter just such a thing. I would like to teach them to you now.”
The promise of new knowledge instantly brightens her. “Let me ask Paul for some paper for notes!” She runs off.
Rabenholz stands thoughtfully a moment, alone in the den with the unconscious form of Sophia. He eyes her suspiciously, then leaves the room. Slowly pacing the front foyer, he pulls his phone out again to make another call, this one to Anstis.
“Lord Rabenholz,” Anstis answers.
“Captain, the Justicar has ordered me to cease any provocative actions with the Anarchs, and I believe it is safe to conclude they do not wish to be security for our party.”
“…Alright,” Anstis replies after a moment.
“He has also informed me that the East Bay is teaming with the followers of Set.”
“Aye, I’ve heard the same rumors.”
Rabenholz’s cane clicks against the wood floor as he paces. “Yes, well they can offer a similar goal. I suggest you give them an offer to perform security for my operation.”
(Jason: “…DAAAMN I WAS NOT EXPECTING THAT!!”)
“I do hope it’s within your abilities to find one,” Rabenholz says smoothly. “I suspect they are more…discreet than the Anarchs.”
Anstis is quiet a moment. “Lord Rabenholz, have you ever dealt with the Settites?”
“Not really. I’ve only seen them maintain a very quiet presence everywhere they’ve been.”
“I’ve had one interaction with them and it was anything but quiet. And they can’t be trusted.”
“That goes without saying, but that’s true of many people. The Settites cannot be trusted to do what we want but they can be trusted to follow their own interests. I am certain they will be interested in currying favor with an up-and-coming Ventrue in the city.”
Anstis hesitates, but when he replies, his tone has turned sly. “Perhaps they will. Perhaps they will be willing to meet at a movie theater, across from Jack London Square, at 11 pm tomorrow night.”
Rabenholz stops pacing. A smirk creeps slowly across his face. “…Well, that hadn’t even occurred to me. I leave the matter in your hands.”
Anstis hangs up, grinning to himself as he swaggers through the nighttime city.
(Jason: “…Wow. This is happening.”
Jim: “Do I know any names of any besides Nitocris?”
Jason: “No. But you know they’re running all over the place.”
Chris: “And you know where they can be at 11 pm tomorrow if they want to have a bad time.”
Jason: “Or if they want to have a good time.”)
He pulls out a stone and casts his scrying ritual on Nitocris:
Nitocris is in the Abode of Beasts, hiding from the Master of the House.
He opens his eye and frowns.
(Jim: “URG, you are the master of this cryptic bullshit!”)
Georgia rushes into the kitchen, where Paul and Jawahar are talking in low tones over steaming cups of tea. “Paul, do you have any paper?”
Paul looks up. “What kind of paper?”
Paul tilts his head. “I…might have some…that’s kind of an odd request….” He gets up. “Give me a few minutes. I should also check on Sophia.”
As he leaves, Georgia turns to head back to Rabenholz, but Jawahar lays a hand on her arm. “Ms. Johnson,” he says, voice low, “What are we doing here?”
“We’re regrouping, so we can take the Chantry back,” she replies brightly.
“Take it back…?” He stares, then shakes his head. “Forgive me, the last thing I remember, we returned from Thera…?”
“Right, so, we appeared in my office, and there was a man there, he turned the atmosphere to nitrogen to knock you and Sophia out, then he and I had a conversation which didn’t end the way he liked so he staked me and shoved me in the basement.” She beams. “But Paul came and rescued me! And you and Sophia.”
“I see.” Jawahar glances around the kitchen. “And now we are in…Portola Valley with two gargoyles.” He turns back to her. “Have I gone mad?”
He looks down at his tea. “May I?”
“If you think it would help,” she says seriously.
He twists the cup in his hands. “I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, but I don’t like having to deal with this many vampires, let alone the rest of this.” He waves a hand vaguely. “There is still the question of the Warmaster.”
“Well, you could have him kill Vannevar.”
He eyes her. “One does not exactly have a warmaster do things for you. He outranks me by a number of ranks that is partly fused with infinity.” He stares at the steam rising from the tea a moment. “And the werewolf?”
Georgia glances into the hall. Paul still hasn’t returned. “We should probably try to wake her up.”
Jawahar grimaces. “Do we have some assurances that won’t end in death?”
“Yeah, she and Paul are good friends, actually.”
Jawahar sighs, then slowly slides off his stool. “I don’t know what it says that I’m not even surprised by that anymore.”
They go to check on Sophia. Paul has moved her to a quiet upstairs bedroom and sitting with her in the dark, watching her sleep. Her skin is still pale, but her chest rises and falls evenly under her weathered army jacket. “How is she?” Georgia asks gently.
Paul sighs. “She’s fine. She’s…calm.”
“Calm is not a term that generally fits a werewolf well,” Jawahar grumbles from the doorway.
“She’s surprising.” Paul looks up at them, his face drawn. “Georgia, look, I’m happy to rescue you and keep you safe, but…I really don’t want to go storming the Chantry.”
“I have to admit that I’m not tremendously fond of the notion either,” Jawahar adds.
“Is it possible you can come up with a peaceful resolution with this guy? I mean….” Paul leans to check that the hall is empty, then lowers his voice, “…Bob murdered one of his ghouls.”
Georgia waves this off. “Well, I’m sure there was a good reason for Bob to have done that. Did you ask him?”
Paul glares. “I was a little afraid he might accidentally kill me too. Also I was focused on rescuing you and Sophia and Jawahar.”
She glances down the hall. There’s been no sign of Bob since they all arrived at the house (honestly mostly because we kept forgetting about him).“Well, maybe we should ask him–”
“Have you both taken leave of your senses?” Jawahar hisses. “He killed the other ghoul because he was a slave! Bound by potent magics to serve someone he felt was threatened!”
“That…actually explains a lot.” Paul looks down at Sophia and frowns. “That’s dark stuff.”
Jawahar steps further into the room. “The man is fundamentally broken, do you not see this?”
“I don’t think anyone is so far gone they can’t be brought back,” Paul murmurs.
“Yes well, you are immortal, you have the time to try to do so. I would be surprised if he was ‘brought back’ within my lifetime. However long that may be.” Jawahar shifts nervously and folds his arms. “Frankly, if I survive till three days from now, I’ll be astonished.”
Georgia pats Jawahar’s arm reassuringly. “Well, it’s only been a few weeks, and Bob is making excellent progress. Also I feel like you guys are both overreacting; this is hardly the first person Bob has ever killed.”
Slowly, Paul and Jawahar turn to stare at her. She blinks at them.
“But hopefully the last,” Paul says firmly.
Georgia shrugs. “Maybe. We’ll see what regulations I can put in place when I get my Chantry back.”
“And just how do you propose to get the Chantry back when a Tremere of greater power is currently inhabiting it?” Jawahar asks.
“Well, without you and Paul it’s definitely going to be a little more difficult. So I’m not quite sure yet.”
Paul frowns. “That Rabenholz guy…Lord Rabenholz…?” he trails off uncertainly.
“Lord Rabenholz disturbs me on a fundamental level,” Jawahar murmurs.
Paul nods. “I get that too. Who goes around calling themselves ‘Lord’?”
“I would imagine very powerful elder vampires,” Jawahar says.
“No, he’s actually a lord,” Georgia says seriously. “He has land and stuff.”
“Of course that’s a thing,” Paul grumbles. He stands to face them. “Is there anything he can do to help? I don’t trust him further than I can throw him, which I suspect is not far, but he seems possibly able to broker a deal.”
Georgia pats his arm too. “Oh, don’t sell yourself short, you’re very strong. But the point of inviting him to your house was so we could discuss this with him. So perhaps we should. But I’m glad you brought these concerns to me.” She smiles and leaves to head back downstairs.
Pondering the question of Settites as he wanders downtown, Anstis decides to call the best expert he knows on the subject: Marcus.
“Captain,” Marcus answers with a grumble. His voice sounds strangely hollow, as if echoing through a small, hard-walled room.
“Marcus, I seek council on the Settites.”
Instantly, Marcus’s tone lifts. “The Settites…now that is a topic I enjoy at times! What kind of council do you need? In fact, do you need to speak with one now?” There’s a thump and a muffled noise in the background.
The eyebrow over Anstis’s eyepatch lifts. “That could be interesting.”
“Well, then…speak!” There’s series of thumps and choked whimpers, then Marcus comes back. “I’m afraid my guest is being a little inhospitable at the moment, shall you call back at another time?”
“An idea has come up that I would like to pass by you,” Anstis says. “The Anarchs in the East Bay are meeting at a theater tomorrow at 11 pm. If the Settites were perhaps to arrive at the same time….”
“…Things might get interesting,” Marcus finishes for him, a chuckle in his voice. “Why are you suggesting this?”
“Rabenholz is concocting a scheme to deal with the situation in the East Bay.”
“There are a great many Settites in that area, Captain, I don’t know that you want to go poking into their nests.”
Anstis grins into the night. “Which is why I wouldn’t be molesting them, the Anarchs would.”
Marcus tsks thoughtfully. “That is a difficult game to play, Captain. With anyone, but with the Settites in particular. I don’t play it. When I show up, my intentions with the Setties are very transparent, and direct. The Setties and I go way, way back, we are past such frivoloties. Aren’t we?”
There’s another thump, this one sounding distressingly wet. “If you want to set up something between the Settites and the Anarchs, be my guest,” Marcus continues calmly, “But don’t be surprised when one or both of them figure out what you’ve done. Because they will.”
Anstis nods to himself. “Do you have any contacts amongst the Settites?”
“I do not. Any I had…ended….some time ago.”
The pirate’s grin returns. “Might your friend have one for me?”
“…Let’s find out!” Marcus cries. “Give us a moment, Captain, it appears the cat has got his tongue….”
Muffled yells, then gagging, then finally real screaming in an unknown language. Marcus comes back, voice raised to be heard over the yells. “The name I’m getting over and over is ‘Nitocris.’”
Anstis scowls in frustration. “I’ve heard this name before.”
“So have I. If you find Nitocris, I would suggest finding a way to introduce her to me personally.”
“Perhaps your friend knows a way.”
“Good idea, hold on a moment.” Marcus’s voice tilts away from the phone, then deepens with the timbre of Domination. “You will contact Nitocris and tell her to contact Captain Anstis.”
(Jim: “Oh, great….”
Chris: “You wanted to keep it rolling downhill!”
Jason: “You wanted to keep it rolling downhill, so you contacted Marcus?”
Jim: “I started to push it up the hill and it came rolling back faster than before!”)
“Well Captain,” Marcus continues, “I suspect you’re going to have a very interesting night fairly soon. My position is you stay where I’m able to come to your assistance, because I really want to talk to Nitocris, and Arx Tarpeia wants to talk to her more.”
(Jason: “Arx Tarpeia is the name of Marcus’s sword.”)
With that, he hangs up.
Letting sleeping werewolves lie, Paul and Jawahar head downstairs to rejoin Georgia, but find that Rabenholz has already secured her attention, pacing slowly across the living room while lecturing sternly. “Ms. Johnson, if you seek to resolve this with violence, you should move quickly. If you seek to resolve this with diplomacy, there is less haste. Nonetheless, I don’t think you want to be on the run from Vannevar Hughes for very long.”
Georgia, watching him from a chair, nods. “I agree. We need to break into the Chantry and kill Vannevar Hughes.” She turns to Paul and Jawahar. “Is anyone not on board with this plan?”
Paul glares. “I really don’t want to do any more killing.”
Georgia sighs. “Alright, you can be support.”
Dug, sitting cross-legged in a corner next to the looming figure of Domen, raises a hand. “Second Master, should we not teach Vannevar Hughes the error of his ways in an enlightened fashion?”
Paul beams at him. Domen’s head turns slowly to stare down at the other gargoyle as if he’s just started babbling in tongues.
“That’s very good, Dug!” Georgia says brightly. “We will add that to the list of possibilities.”
Jawahar, also eying Dug oddly, carefully raises a hand of his own. “I’m not the expert in this field, but Vannevar Hughes is in possession of the Chantry. How in the world do you expect anyone to break their way into the Chantry to attack him?”
“Oh, we have a key,” Georgia says. On cue, Paul holds up the key he and Bob recovered, a pale bronze skeleton key covered in carved sigils.
Jawahar eyes it, then continues. “Even with a key, he has the full resources of the Chantry at his disposal and he may have other Kindred there already. Or other gargoyles.”
Georgia clasps her hands in front of her and nods seriously. “That’s a likely possibility, yes.”
Suddenly, Jawahar frowns. “…What was it the cowboy suggested for these purposes? He wanted you to contact someone?”
Georgia stares, then the memory returns: Doc suggested she use a necromancer to find Max’s shade in the Shadowlands. “Right…I can’t actually contact him until we get the Chantry back.”
“Because I dont have the necessary reagents. I need something of Max’s. An item that belonged to him.”
Jawahar tenses. “What sort of item?
Georgia eyes him suspiciously. “Something that meant something to him.”
Jawahar watches her a long moment, then slowly paces into the room, footfalls muted on the thick rug. “…Would you do me a great favor? Will you please attempt to assure me that I’m not about to regret this?”
“Well, if it’s to help me, so far you haven’t regretted helping me, though you would like to pretend that you have,” Georgia says brightly.
Jawahar slowly takes off his glasses, hands trembling. “I’m not entirely certain I’m not betraying the Hermetic order just by standing here.”
Paul, noticing his hands, steps forward. “Jawahar, more tea?”
Jawahar stares at him vacantly a moment. “…Do you have anything stronger?”
“…Stronger than that, I think.”
Paul digs in a cabinet, finds a bottle of bourbon, then recovers Jawahar’s tea from the kitchen and pours some in. Jawahar throws back the tepid liquid in one gulp, then slowly, hand still shaking, reaches into the folds of his robes and pulls out a leather-bound book. Max’s project diary.
Georgia sits up. “How did you get that?!”
“I took it.”
Georgia grins. “Jawahar! You sneaky thief!”
Paul eyes the book over his shoulder. “I’m surprised they didn’t take it from you when you were prisoner.”
Jawahar chuckles. “They would have if they could, but….” He tucks it back into his robes, then flicks them gently. The fabric hangs and sways smoothly, as if nothing was there.
Georgia stands up and rushes forward to feel the fabric herself. “Well done!”
Jawahar shrugs, but the satisfied smile on his face is clear. “It’s one of the first rituals they teach you when you become an apprentice.”
Georgia watches in awe as he pulls the book back out from the robes. “That’s so useful, can you teach me?”
Jawahar’s smile falters. “It…requires true magic.” Georgia’s smile deflates slowly and she moves back toward her chair. “You’ll forgive me for not telling you,” Jawahar continues, “But I felt this was something I had to do in the interests of the Order. We were exploring a mage’s fortress, after all. And the Order does regard Daedelus as being one of its founders, mythologically or otherwise.”
Georgia waves the apology off. “Well, ordinarily I would be cross with you, but under the circumstances, I think I’m quite pleased.”
Jawahar nods grimly. “We all have requirements.” He leans to toss the book to Georgia–
–But Rabenholz suddenly steps forward to snatch it out of the air.
“Lord Rabenholz!” Georgia gasps.
“Oh, I’ll hand it over in a moment,” Rabenholz says smoothly, peering at the cover. “I don’t think you mind terribly if I took a look at this would you?”
Jawahar glares. “I would recommend against that. I took the liberty of enchanting it. Open that book without my permission and you will have a very bad day.”
Georgia steps between them and holds up her hands. “Now now, everyone. Lord Rabenholz, once we get the Chantry back, I am sure you will have ample time to examine the book.”
“Ms. Johnson, I don’t think you appreciate how quickly you need to act,” he says sternly. “If you intend to violently move against him, things must happen tonight.”
“The book doesn’t have information about the Chantry,” Georgia sighs. “We need the book to contact someone, but to do that, we need to give it to Anstis. Do you want to meet him in the city?”
Rabenholz’s eyes narrow. “You mean where Vannevar Hughes can hunt you down?”
Georgia sighs. “Fine, then I’ll invite him down here.” She pulls out her phone and shoots him a text, asking for help contacting a dead person.
Rabenholz, meanwhile, still holding the book, trades a tense look with Jawahar.
(Chris: “Jawahar isn’t letting me open the journal?”
Chris: “Dominate 2.”
Jason: “…Really? Okay, but I will remind you that one of the hallmarks of being a mage is exceptionally high willpower.”)
Rabenholz steps toward him. “I would be very pleased if you would grant me permission to look in this journal.”
(Jim: “Is he aware he’s being mind controlled?”
Jason: “There are all manner of ways I could answer that but the simple fact is you don’t fucking know. Normally a human would not know, but this isn’t a normal human.” *counts out a very large handful of dice, begins to roll* “This is Jawahar Singh, of the Order of Hermes.”
Kara: “Who is an apprentice.”
Chris: “And who has just had significant amounts of blood drained from him after a period of extended oxygen deprivation earlier this evening.”
Jason: *hesitates, removes a single die from the pool*)
Jawahar hesitates, glancing at Georgia. Finally, he clears his throat nervously. “A moment…” He takes the book back from Rabenholz, places a hand on it, closes his eyes, mutters a few moments, then opens them again and hands the book back. “Take care. I suspect I am not the only person who had enchantments on that thing.
Rabenholz meets his gaze as he accepts it. “I suspect you are correct.”
(Chris: “I sit down in a comfy chair to start flipping–”
Jason: “I’m sorry, Paul has only avant garde furniture that doesn’t work.”
Chris: “…Damn. Fine, then I sit down in a very awkward and uncomfortable chair.”
Jim: “But it looks great!”)
Rabenholz folds himself awkwardly into a chair and starts flipping through, starting with the most recent entries in the back.
Paul eyes Rabenholz a long moment, then appears to make a decision. “Lord Rabenholz, can I talk to you a moment?”
(Jason: “Oh, fuck you–”)
Rabenholz eyes him a moment, then closes the journal. “Yes, I suppose.”
Paul and Rabenholz step out of the room to talk for a bit, wherein Paul basically offers to purchase Tom from Rabenholz. Rabenholz seems amused at this offer, but essentially turns it down until Paul has something of truly equal value to offer besides money.
(And if you’re wondering why I am simply summarizing this scene, it’s because once again, Chris is waaaay too good at talking to himself you really need to listen to the full thing yourself.)
Georgia watches them leave the room, straining her Auspex to overhear, but something else echoes within her own head to distract her: “Ms. Johnson.”
It’s Jawahar’s voice. She turns to see him eying her from the far side of the room.
His eyes dart around. “Don’t…indicate I’m speaking, I don’t trust anyone in this house.”
Georgia turns to look in a different direction, nodding slightly.
“I strongly recommend against allowing that man to peruse that journal freely.”
Georgia concentrates a moment, figuring out the cadence to send a telepathic reply: “…He’s been a good ally so far….”
“My suspicion is this is the sort of thing that encourages people to stop being allies and start being fratricidal.” Jawahar eyes the gargoyles nervously. “Look, I don’t understand everything that is happening here, but I think there’s something you ought to know.” He shifts in place, crossing and uncrossing his arms. “It’s…I thought it nothing more than a rumor, a bedtime story Hermetics tell their children. But…it’s regarding Daedelus.” He meets her eyes. “You know what happened with Tremere, he turned himself into a vampire for some reason, desiring power or immortality or something?”
“The story has long been that perhaps Tremere was not the first to try.” He glances at the gargoyles again, both resting with eyes downcast, patient as stone. “The map on the island, that spoke of an avatarium?”
“Well…do you know what an avatar is?”
Jawahar waggles his head uncertainly “An avatar is…like a spark of genius, or some people think it’s a fragment of God. An incarnated spirit that permits you to perform true magic once it’s awakened. Unfortunately, you do not have one. You can’t have one, you’re dead.”
Her face, already lighting at the prospect of new magical knowledge, instantly falls. “Oh.”
“Avatariums are constructs built by crazed or evil mages, designed to tear out someone’s avatar and use it for nefarious purposes. But Daedalus was not a Nephandi, and I don’t think he was a marauder, so why would he have an avatarium?”
Georgia blinks. “That’s a good question.”
“It is. And why would Max have found a way into his facility?”
“That’s also a good question.”
“Are you not going to use that book to attempt to ask him?”
Jawahar peers into the hall. The muted conversation of Paul and Rabenholz drifts around the corner. “Then may I make a recommendation that when you do, you do not do so with this other man there.” Even though he’s not speaking out loud, he pauses for a slow, visible breath. “Because if the answers are anything like what I expect…he will kill everyone in this room to ensure he is the only one to know the secret.”
Georgia stares at Jawahar a very long moment. Finally, she smiles thinly. “That’s good advice, thank you.”
Jawahar nods, then steps back as Rabenholz and Paul reenter the room.
END OF NIGHT