12/10/15

Jason: “Okay so, two werewolves, a mage, two gargoyles, a ghoul, and I think…three vampires are still here?”
Chris: “Does Paul count as a vampire?”
Jason: “…Yes.”
Chris: “Then yes.”
Jim: “Oh! We had a wraith there too!”
Jason: “Okay, so basically we got the entire World of Darkness in this house.”

***

PORTOLA VALLEY

The front door closes behind Rabenholz. Paul stands in the foyer, staring after him, puzzled. After a few moments, he returns to the living room, meeting Georgia and Jawahar on their way up the stairs from the basement.

“Jawahar,” Paul says thoughtfully, “Would it be possible to ward my house? I don’t know if you’ve picked up on it, but I get a lot of…odd visitors here.”

Jawahar stares at him a moment, then clears his throat. “Ah, well, Chantry warding was one of the first things they taught us in Delhi, but…I am not capable of making wards able to ward people off more than the fact that there are werewolves, mages, and multiple vampires sitting in this house right now. If there is an enemy proposing to attack your house, my suggestion is you simply open the front door and invite them in.”

Paul glares at him. Hearing their voices, Anstis suddenly swaggers back into the living room. “Now, Georgia, I think we should discuss payment for my services.”

“Yes, we absolutely should, but first….” She peers into the foyer, looking for Rabenholz.

Anstis steps in front of her. “I need to be rid of a certain Eastern Kindred. If you would help me on this endeavor, I would consider us even.”

She stares at him. “When?”

“At your earliest convenience.”

She sighs and steps around him. “I’m not sure when that will be at this point, because I got a Chantry to retake. But after that, I’d be delighted to.” She checks all the rooms on the ground floor, then comes back, frowning. “Where is Rabenholz? I need to speak with him.”

Jawahar’s eyes narrow suspiciously. She meets his gaze and, anticipating his suspicions, shakes her head slightly.

“Rabenholz just left,” Paul says, “But he told me to tell you he’s gone to get your Chantry back, and that I should come rescue him if he fails, and he’ll give me Tom Lytton in exchange if I do.”

Georgia stares. “…He left to take back the Chantry without me?!”

Anstis turns to Georgia, frowning. “What do you want with Tom Lytton?”

“Can I ask, who is this Tom Lytton everyone keeps speaking of?” Jawahar asks.

“Another Kindred, who had certain strengths…” Georgia pauses thoughtfully. “…Which tended to involve brute force….”

“That may be generous,” Paul mutters. “He’s a well-meaning idiot.”

Georgia nods. “He murdered one of the primogens.”

(Me: *whispers* “Ohmygod, noIdidn’t….”)

“I assume that’s rather serious,” Jawahar says. “So why does everyone concern himself with his whereabouts? Is he running around killing others?”

“No, we took him prisoner,” Georgia says. “He’s in my Chantry.”

Eyeing her, Paul folds his arms. “I will say, taking someone prisoner is an odd way to repay someone for all the times they got you out of a jam. Even if they had been unsubtle about it.”

Georgia waves breezily. “Well, I could have murdered him, but I didn’t.”

Paul and Jawahar both stare at her with an identical disbelieving look.

“Anyway,” Georgia continues cheerily, “If anyone wants to kill Tom, or eat Tom, or both, we’re going to have to take my Chantry back first.”

Bob (whom we finally remembered is there) nods enthusiastically.

(Kara: “Bob is a good employee.”
Jason: “Let’s be clear here. Bob is not an employee. He is a vanity pet.”)

Paul, staring at Bob, seems to have a similar train of thought. “Georgia, do you still have your space whale?”

She blinks. “Well, he’s at the Chantry, so…I hope so….”

“What’s a space whale?” Anstis asks.

“It’s a cat,” Paul replies.

Georgia glares at him. “It looks like a cat, but it’s much denser than a cat. Also it eats a lot more. Like a lot more.”

Paul shrugs. “It eats, it sheds fur, it vomits. It’s a cat.”

Anstis eyes them suspiciously. “Where did you find this thing?”

“Pluto,” Georgia says.

“Technically not Pluto, but rather some Lovecraftian horror-dimension,” Paul clarifies.

“Yuggoth, was the name,” Jawahar adds.

Anstis looks between them. “What’s Yuggoth?” He hesitates. “And what’s Pluto?”

Now Paul eyes him suspiciously. “…Captain, I know you haven’t been in our time long, but I wonder if you have discovered Wikipedia yet?”

(Me: *gasps* “Show him his own Wikipedia article!”)

Georgia itches to head out after Rabenholz, but with morning approaching, she finally concedes it’ll have to wait till the next night. She excuses herself and goes to the basement to find shelter for the day. Paul, though, too excited at finding one of today’s lucky ten thousand, takes Anstis to his office and pulls up Wikipedia on the computer in another exchange best enjoyed in real-time.

Paul leaves Anstis clicking through the sum total of human knowledge and goes to find a quiet place to sit for the remainder of the night. He settles himself on one of his not-comfortable chairs, holding a fresh mug of tea he can’t drink, and ponders these new developments in his once-quiet world.

#

SUNSET

Scout, meanwhile, has left Fort Funston and is making her way back north toward Lands End. On the way she stops at a bar, flirting her way into a getting a lift from the bartender, then steals a few bites of blood once they’re alone in his car. She leaves him passed-out in the seat and calls an Uber to take her the rest of the way back to Seal Rock Inn.

(Me: “Or a Lyft. Though Jim doesn’t drive for them anymore.”
Jason: “…You get Jim.”
Me: “Oh yay!” *winks at Jim* “Heeeeey.”
Jim: *Adam voice* “Where to?”
Jason: “…No, this is too meta.”
Jim: “You sure? Cause we can do this!”
Jason: “No we’re not! I’m gonna reserve that for like the climax of the game where you desperately need a car to go chase down Perpenna, and it’s not gonna be Adam, it’s gonna be Jim. Actual Jim.”
Jim: “I’m gonna be like, ‘What the hell is going on!?’”
Jason: “‘I can’t wait to tell everyone in my Vampire game about this!’”)

#

RUSSIAN HILL

Rabenholz sits in a car around the corner from the hidden entrance to the Chantry. Despite arriving almost an hour ago, he hasn’t moved from the car. The driver–hired by Rhona–waits patiently and unquestioningly.

Rabenholz checks his watch. Roughly forty five minutes to sunrise. Gathering his cloak around him, he nods to the driver and gets out. The sky is lightening rapidly but Rabenholz is unhurried as he strolls around the corner and stops where the Chantry door is supposed to lie. He grips his cane firmly and clears his throat. “I have an urgent message for Mr. Hughes,” he announces to the air. “It would be greatly in his interest to have an audience with me. Immediately.”

A few minutes pass. Suddenly, a man is next to him on the sidewalk, as if he was always there. “Can I help you?”

Unflapped by his sudden appearance, Rabenholz nods to him. “Yes, it is urgent I speak with the Regent.”

“I’m afraid the Regent is indisposed for the night,” he replies flatly.

“It’s regarding his predecessor.”

The man bristles. “The Regent is very indisposed. There’s not much I can do to dispose him.”

Rabenholz eyes the man closely. His aura says human. Rabenholz meets his gaze. “Bring me to the Regent’s office and send for him.”

The man blinks and takes a stunned step back. “I…I can’t….”

“Then send for the Regent here,” Rabenholz insists.

The man stares back unblinkingly, then gropes for a handle only he can see. “O-one moment….”

Instantly he disappears. Moments pass, then he returns. “The Regent is asleep,” he says firmly.

Rabenholz makes a show of checking his pocketwatch again. “Very interesting. Well, if you will not wake him, then you may as well stop calling him the Regent, as his predecessor will be overthrowing him before nightfall.”

The man stares. “What? How?”

“I imagine it’s quite obvious.” Rabenholz snaps the watch closed. “But if he’s too sleepy to care, I certainly can come back this evening and talk with the next Regent. Who incidentally was the previous Regent.”

“I can’t wake him, I can’t even enter the room!”

Rabenholz raises an eyebrow. “He has no provisions for being woken in the event of an emergency?”

The man gapes back. “…The gargoyles, I’ll tell the gargoyles to wake him.” He gropes for the door again and disappears. Rabenholz waits, hands on his cane. Moments later, a door springs into visible existence and opens. “Come in, come in,” the man says, gesturing Rabenholz inside.

He leads Rabenholz through the foyer and into a small reading room off the main hall and leaves him there. Rabenholz paces the room slowly, examining the bookshelves. After a few minutes, an enormous brick-red figure looms in the doorway. “You wish to speak to the master?” the gargoyle growls.

Rabenholz turns to him and nods. “I do.”

The gargoyle looks him over slowly, neck muscles creaking like stone. “How did you convince the ghoul to let you in?”

(Me: “This gargoyle sounds like he’s competent.”)

Rabenholz settles his cape around him. “I merely informed him that I have confidential information on the master’s predecessor and her plans to retake the Chantry, which I must deliver personally.”

The gargoyle’s face wrinkles even more than it already is. “You are a Ventrue. You poisoned the ghouls mind with your magic.”

“Unfortunate,” Rabenholz replies smoothly. “Urgency is of the utmost need now.”

The gargoyle takes a heavy step into the room, wings flaring open. “You will not poison my mind. You cannot. I am bound to the will of the Regent.”

“I am certain that lets the Regent sleep better at night,” Rabenholz replies smoothly.

“It is the only thing that lets him sleep at all.”

Rabenholz eyes it. Despite his height, he has to look up to meet its gaze. “You do your master credit. He must be very proud of you.”

“I serve him.” The gargoyle’s blood-red gaze narrows. “If you are lying, I will remove your tongue.”

Rabenholz lifts an eyebrow. “I’d hope you’d remove more than just that.”

The gargoyle leans closer. “It would begin there,” it growls.

Rabenholz stares back evenly, then nods. “Very good.”

The gargoyle straightens, wrapping its wings tight around itself. “The Regent is not here.”

“That is unfortunate.”

“He is in Florida.”

(Me: “That is unfortunate.”)

“He certainly gets around; I met with him earlier this evening,” Rabenholz says carefully.

“The Regent does as he would. He does not answer to me or to you.”

“He should consider answering to this.” Rabenholz reaches under his cloak and pulls out the folded letter. “These are instructions from the Regent to the Toreador Paul Stewart, describing how to aid her this evening after her plan has taken place. I don’t know the details of it.” He unfolds it, showing the blank page. “As you can see, it is not even readable to those lacking the required powers to see through the enchantment on it. It is designed to be read by Paul Stewart only, but…,” he folds it again, “…I will not deliver this to anyone but Mr. Hughes.”

The gargoyle’s wings creak ominously. “I am the Regent’s right hand. I speak for him in his absence.”

Rabenholz waves the folded letter gently. “Yet you cannot read this, you cannot see through it, and you cannot act on whatever information is within.”

The gargoyle straightens. “If the Tremere traitor comes here, I will kill her.”

“If the traitor comes here, she will poison your mind more easily than I could.”

The gargoyle sneers. “I will do whatever I may to protect the Regent.”

“Then send for him in Florida.”

“It is morning in Florida, he will not be awake.”

“Then he has lost his Chantry.” Rabenholz settles into a chair. “I will wait here until sunrise while you attempt to contact him. If he is truly asleep and cannot be roused, then at least I tried.”

The gargoyle eyes him a long moment. “Wait here. I will send word to the ghouls at the Florida Chantry.” It ducks out of the room. Thudding footsteps disappear down the hall.

Rabenholz pulls out his watch to check the time. Half an hour till sunrise. He puts it away and waits, tapping his cane against the floor.

After a few minutes, the ghoul from the front door comes back. “Mr. Rabenholz?”

Lord Rabenholz.”

The ghouls winces. “Lord, I am sorry. Mr. Hughes will see you now.”

Rabenholz stands. “Excellent.”

The ghoul leads him down the hall to the office and opens the door. Vannevar is sitting at desk, the brick-red gargoyle at his right side, two other stone-colored ones looming at the corners of room. Two armed human guards are there as well, flanking the doors. Rabenholz ignores all five. Vannevar himself looks surprisingly focused for someone supposedly woken up and dragged across the country within the last ten minutes.

(Chris: “Surprise!”)

Vannevar smiles warmly and stands. “Lord Rabenholz. I hope this as important as my servants say. I had urgent business to attend to.”

Rabenholz bows. “I am sorry to distract you, but it is urgent. Ms. Johnson has formulated some scheme with the Toreador to retake the Chantry.”

“Toreador?” Vannevar blinks, then curses. “Not that damn doctor!”

“No, some tech mogul.”

Vannevar rolls his eyes. “Oh, the one she was bedding.”

(Me: “…Oh my goodness.”)

Vannevar sighs and sits, gesturing Rabenholz to a seat in front of the desk. “What of him? And her?”

“They have been scheming something and summoned me to their presence. She asked me to deliver this.” Rabenholz places the letter on the desk as he sits.

Vannevar eyes it. “What is that?”

“It’s a letter. It’s enchanted such that only Paul Stewart can read it.”

Vannevar picks it up, fondles it a moment, then frowns. “This has been enciphered, thaumaturgically.”

Rabenholz nods. “I imagine as much. I lack the abilities to see through it.”

Vannevar eyes the paper, holding it up to the light. “It will take some doing. You cannot breach confidential wards like this very easily. But we can do it.” He peers at a grandfather clock in the corner. “But perhaps not in the time available to us.”

Rabenholz nods. “If there’s anything I can do to help. I believe she intends to act very soon, perhaps by proxies in the middle of the day.”

Vannevar sighs. “I made a foolish mistake in leaving her and her companions alive. I thought they had some value to the clan. But one can correct one’s mistakes, given the opportunity. If she wishes to come back here, she’ll have to make a better show than one neonate Toreador.”

“I agree, the Chantry’s reputation as an impenetrable fortress is renowned,” Rabenholz replies, glancing once at the guards. “Nonetheless, that Toreador is one of the wealthiest men in the area. He can purchase any amount of resources.”

“Yes, he is a concern, but I suspect we will be able to rid ourselves of that problem soon enough.” Vannevar smirks, then stands. “I will decypher this tomorrow evening and increase our security for the day. Thank you, Lord Rabenholz. Is there something I can offer you in return?”

Rabenholz peers at the clock. “Actually, the hour is later than I imagine. Perhaps you have guest-rooms?”

“Well, we have acolyte quarters. They’re not really up to someone of your stature, but we don’t have any acolytes at the moment, so they are available.” Suddenly, Vannevar’s smirk widens. “Unless you’d prefer to stay in the gargoyle warrens!” He breaks into uproarious laughter. The three gargoyles in the room stare stonily.

Rabenholz smiles thinly. “I imagine the acolyte quarters are a bit more comfortable.”

“Considerably. Gargoyles won’t have it any other way.” Vannevar eyes the brick-colored one next to him. “Have you ever met a gargoyle in person?” he asks.

Rabenholz’s glances at each. “These are my first.”

“Oh, they are truly remarkable.” Vannevar pats the brick one’s broad chest. “This one here I’ve had for centuries now. Made him myself, you see. Perfectly loyal. Engineered to be that way. We got the idea from the Tzmitsce.”

Rabenholz watches their blank faces. “I can tell you, there is no price too high for a genuinely loyal servant.”

“See, that’s the key.” Vannevar lifts a finger to Rabenholz. “You Ventrue know this, but very few others do. Anyone can make someone do what they want. But to have a servant who’s independently loyal? Priceless. That’s been the key to the Ventrue’s success all along, and why no one has ever been able to unseat you in the Camarilla.” He chuckles. “In any event, I’ll have one of my ghouls show you to the acolyte quarters. They’ll be on-call all day in case you should need anything.” He gestures to a decanter on his desk. “Can I offer you some blood? I understand your feeding habits must be a bit rarified.”

Rabenholz stands and bows. “Thank you for the offer, I can get by for the day. Good day, Mr. Hughes.”

The front-door ghoul collects Rabenholz and leads him deep into the Chantry, to areas not often seen by outside visitors. They enter the ground floor of a wide, circular atrium, rising up four floors to a paneled glass ceiling. Even though sunrise is imminent, stars shine overhead in a deep black sky. Rabenholz eyes it as they climb the stairs encircling the atrium and reach a room on the first floor. The ghoul bows him inside and closes the door behind him.

(Chris: “Does the door open?”
Jason: “From the inside? No it does not.”
Chris: “I was afraid of that.”)

Rabenholz frowns and looks around.

(Chris: “What are the colors of this room?”
Jason: “Red. Lots of red.”)

He taps his cane a moment, checks his watch, then knocks at the door. It opens and the ghoul sticks his head in. “I am very sorry to disturb you,” Rabenholz says, “But you wouldn’t happen to have any blue furnishings, would you?”

The ghoul blinks. “Um, I’ll see what I can find, sir.” He leaves, then a few minutes later returns with an armful of royal blue linens. “If you’ll give me a moment, sir, I’ll have these installed immediately.”

“Quite good, thank you.” Rabenholz steps back to let him enter, surreptitiously checking the time again. Just minutes till sunrise. “When you finish, would you mind leaving the door open?” he asks nonchalantly.

“The door closes by itself, sir,” the ghoul says, tugging at the sheets. “A precaution in case the atrium is flooded with light.”

Rabenholz glances out the door. The stars above glitter like diamonds on deep velvet. “Is that likely to happen?”

The ghoul stuffs the pillows into new cases and fluffs them. “Oh no sir, not while the wards are standing. They keep the sky set to permanent night. But we like to have redundant protection.”

“That makes sense.” Rabenholz taps his cane. “Perhaps you have a key by which I can open this door, then? I merely wish to not be trapped. You understand, after so many centuries, certain habits do form.”

The ghoul finishes with the linen change and gathers the red sheets to his chest in a bundle. “Sir, that would be against my instructions from the Regent.”

Rabenholz hesitates, then nods. “Very well. Then you may spend the day with me.”

(Me: “Oh myyyy….”)

The ghoul freezes, blank face barely masking his terror. “Yes…sir….” He leaves to shove the linens into a chute in the hall then comes back to stand in a corner, shaking.

Rabenholz ignores him, laying back on the fresh sheets and closing his eyes, feeling the pull of death on him as the sun finally rises.

With deep concentration, Rabenholz draws on willpower to remain awake.

Minutes pass, the only sound in the room the breathing and fidgeting of the ghoul. Finally, sensing enough time has passed, Rabenholz sits up.

The ghoul jumps. “Sir! Is…everything okay, sir?”

Rabenholz checks his watch. “Yes it is…could you come here a moment?”

The man tenses, then slowly approaches the bed….

Rabenholz grabs his shirt, throws him down, and bites him.

(Chris: “Is he a first son?”
Jason: “What do…?”
Chris: “I mean, can I drink him?”
Jason: “No.”
Chris: “Oh. Well, I don’t have to swallow.”)

Rabenholz takes enough blood to knock him unconscious, then spits it out onto the new sheets. He roots through the man’s clothes till he finds a key, then lets himself out of the room.

As promised, the atrium is still dark, but he can feel the sun beating down on the thick stone walls outside. He shudders, feeling sleep pull at him again, but forces himself awake and forward toward the staircase.

Footsteps echo off marble ahead. Rabenholz ducks into an alcove as an armed guard patrols by and disappears into a side hall. Rabenholz waits for the footsteps to fade, then hurries to the stairs, rushing up to the top level. He circles it til he finds a hallway leading off the atrium to the Regent’s quarters, clearly identifiable by the glowing warding-runes emblazoned in the stone around it.

He eyes them a long moment, vision wavering with exhaustion, then–willing himself to focus–he turns and heads back down the stairs, sneaking through the first level till he finds the stairs leading down into the basement.

Moving quickly, he reaches the storeroom containing his mirrors. They’ve been tucked into crates, half-packed with padding and loose sheets thrown over them. He drags out the smaller one, touches the glass, closes his eyes and concentrates. The mirror-prison dispels, dissolving the glass but leaving the frame behind. He reaches through the frame, digging around in the packing material.

And pulls out Glitch.

Rabenholz tucks his cane through a loop on the underside of his cloak and hefts the sword. He glances only briefly at the other, larger mirror, then leaves the room.

He moves quickly back through the Chantry, Glitch wielded before him. No one encounters him as he returns to the atrium and rushes up the stairs to the top floor. He approaches the Regent’s hallway, eying the wards–

“Hey! You there! Stop!” a shout calls across the atrium. The armed guard stands on the far side, gun raised.

Rabenholz stops, slowly raising his hands.

The guard jogs toward him, gun still levelled. “Who the hell are you?!”

“I am your guest for the evening,” Rabenholz responds smoothly.

The guard hesitates, lowering the gun slightly. “…Lord Rabenholz? Where did you get that sword? And…it’s seven in the morning, how are you even awake?”

“I had a dream,” Rabenholz says as the man approaches. “A voice called to me in the dream, and I awoke downstairs with this sword in my hand.”

The guard eyes him oddly and reaches for his radio.

(Chris: “Movement of the Mind.”
Jason: “What do you do?”
Chris: “I am going to hold his diaphragm in place.”)

Instantly the man gags, dropping his radio and gun to clutch at his throat.

Rabenholz feigns concern. “Son, are you alright?”

The man falls to his knees, eyes bugging, chest heaving uselessly.

Rabenholz raises a calming hand. “Just relax and try to breathe, I’ll go for help.”

Moments later, the man’s eyes roll back, and he passes out.

(Chris: “I hold it for just a moment longer, then release it before he dies.”)

Rabenholz eyes the man coolly, then in one movement, turns and slices Glitch across the glowing wards engraved around the entrance to the stairwell.

(Jason: “You’re using Glitch against the wards?”
Chris: “That’s right.”
Jason: “…Oh boy, how do I describe what happens next…. Okay, so you know how orichalcum blades tend to shift into whatever form will deal the maximum damage to whatever you’re hitting?”
Chris: “Yeah…”
Jason: “Well, you just hit a Tremere ward, so…Colleen, you’re gonna want to listen to this….”)

The moment Glitch touches the stone, the blade shivers in his hand, taking on a shining silver cast. It’s solid primium–

(Me: “Oh shit!”)

–with counter-magical runes emblazoned down its length.

(Me: “Oh SHIIIT!!!”)

Magic crackles along the blade and erupts out, spidering up the stairway and across the stone. A deep groan echoes through the stone of the building, followed by distant explosions like firecrackers. Moments later, the air shivers as the entire Chantry ward system comes crashing down.

And the atrium glass overhead suddenly lets in a flood of morning light.

Agony boils across Rabenholz’s exposed skin, spreading as his clothes catch fire. He dives forward into the shadows of the hall, scrambling mindlessly away from the sunlight’s reflections off the marble.

Klaxons echo through the building, overlaying human shouts. Rabenholz finally moves far enough away to recollect himself, batting out the flames and brushing char off his clothes. He stands and hurries to the door to the Regent’s quarters.

More wards encircle this doorframe–as well as a few spatulas–but all are now smoking black. Rabenholz twitches his fingers, ripping the door off with Movement of the Mind and tossing it aside. Gripping Glitch firmly, he steps across the threshold….

The bedroom is empty.

The sword droops. “Naturally….” he mutters.

Footsteps echo, coming from the atrium. Rabenholz tucks Glitch under his cloak. “Protect the Regent!” he shouts down the hall, then climbs into the bed, pulling blankets over himself. Moments later, a ghoul rushes in and approaches the bed.

Rabenholz throws the blanket off and grabs his throat. “Take me to the Regent.

The man gasps, groping uselessly at his hand. “I…can’t….”

Rabenholz glares at him, then throws him down onto the bed and bites.

(Jason: “This one is a first son.”
Chris: “…Wait, is or isn’t?, Cause my restriction is I can’t eat first-sons.”
Jason: “OH! This whole time, I thought it was the other way!”
Chris: “No. Wait, so I can’t drink this guy?”
Jason: “No, it’s–whichever it is you can drink, he’s it.”)

Rabenholz drinks enough to knock the man unconscious, then sits up, scanning the room with blood dripping down his beard.

Chaos continues to sound across the Chantry, but the pull of sleep tugs at him again. He scrambles out of the bed, forcing himself to retain enough awareness to stumble into the other rooms of the Regent’s suite. Two rooms over, he finds a teleportation circle engraved into the floor, but it’s dusty, with a chair dragged half-across it. He stares at it as shouts from the hallway start to come closer.

(Chris: *thoughtfully* “That’s probably a ruse… So, it’s gonna take me too long to do that path ritual I did for the Abomination. I’m just gonna say, when in doubt, jump through the random circle, probably into daylight.”)

He activates the circle and steps through.

A moment of disorientation, then Rabenholz looks around. The space here is dark, but he can still feel the daylight beating outside. His grogginess increases and he struggles to stumble out of the circle and explore the space.

The place is decorated like the Chantry, but cramped. A lab takes up the main space, with a few dormitory-style rooms leading off it, a small library, and a chamber with a big blood vat in the floor, slowly coagulating. There’s no sign anyone has been here for a few weeks at least, and no sign of any other circle leading out.

Rabenholz stumbles to the front door. Wards are painted along the inside frame, these ones live, and set to keep people out. Rabenholz frowns, scanning the space again.

(Jason: “You do have the sword back, so it wasn’t an entirely unproductive evening.”
Chris: “Yes, but I had hoped to have Vannevar diablerized by this time in the morning.”)

He pulls out his phone to check his location. The map immediately loads up San Francisco, processes a few moments…then zooms into the southern side of the city. City College.

(Jason: “Kara, do you remember this place?”
Kara: “I recognized it as soon as you started describing it.”
Jason: “This is where you met Bob and told him he was not allowed to go outside.”
Kara: *sighs happily* “I know….”
Jason: “But he has since been outside.”
Kara: “I know. Am I not merciful?”)

Rabenholz stumbles into the bunk room. He texts Georgia a message that the wards are down, then collapses onto a bed, finally letting himself sleep.

#

(Jason: “Alright. I’m gonna have to ask for everyone’s indulgence, cause I’m about to run two scenes, but they are not happening at the same time. Colleen’s scene is happening considerably after Jim and Kara’s scene.”
Me: “But…I have Early-Riser….”
Jason: “I know.”)

#

SEAL ROCK INN

Scout wakes up to the sound of her room phone ringing. The faded colors of recent sunset leak through the edges of the curtains as she gropes for it. “Yes?”

“Uh, Miss?” It’s the nervous voice of the kid who works the evening desk. “There’s someone here to see you?”

She blinks. “Who?”

“Um, a man…?”

She sits up and swings her legs off the bed in one motion. “What does he look like?”

“Big guy, bald. Tattoos….” The kid’s voice drops to a whisper. “…I think he has a gun….”

Scout sighs, relaxing. “I’ll be right down.” She dresses quickly, grabbing her phone and her knife, and locks the door behind her. She obfuscates on her way down the stairs, peeking out into the lobby. A large man is leaning against the front desk, looking exactly as described, leering at the clerk and chewing on a toothpick.

Scout ducks out of sight, composes herself, then winks back into visibility and descends the stairs. She stops a few feet from the man. “Can I help you?”

He looks her over with a more pointed leer and stands. “We need to talk.”

“I’m…sorry, I’m not sure who you are.”

“Who I am ain’t important. I have a message for you.”

She eyes him, then nods toward the counter, and the teenager half-ducked behind it. “You could have just left a message at the desk.”

“This one had to be delivered in person.” He approaches slowly, enunciating with each step. “You don’t drink in the Baron’s territory without making obeisances to him. Personally.”

She doesn’t flinch as he looms in front of her. “I’m…not aware of a baron within San Francisco–”

He laughs. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was dealing with an idiot. Baron Don Esteban de la Vega, of the Sunset. You ran through his territory last night and had yourself a feast.”

She tenses, then frowns. “I think one quick sip at a bar barely counts as a feast–”

He spits the toothpick into her face. “I think a Caitiff like you better stop running her mouth. The Baron insists on formalities. You wanna hunt in his territory, you get his leave. Or you get out.”

She blinks, then slowly reaches up to wipe off sprays of spittle. “Well. If it would ease the situation, may I make an apology in person?”

The man grins. “I think that would be a good idea.” He jerks his head toward the door. “This way.”

The clerk watches nervously as she sighs and follows the man out to an unmarked black car.

#

PORTOLA VALLEY HOUSE

Around 11 am the day before, all is quiet at Casa de Stewart. Georgia and the gargoyles are asleep in the basement, while Anstis is buried in the yard. Paul is in his light-safe master bedroom, and Sophia is dozing in the room nextdoor. Jawahar is sprawled out on a couch in the living room, arm thrown over his eyes against the radiant morning sunlight that permeates the entire ground floor of the house. Bob…isn’t there, because we forgot about him again.

(Jason: “Okay. Anyone who wishes to wake–Actually, no, fuck that. Everyone spend me a willpower as you are all jostled awake from an extremely loud crash that shakes the house.”)

A crash rocks the house. Paul wakes first, staring blearily through the dark of his bedroom. He checks the time on his phone, frowns, grabs his glasses and checks it again.

Then almost drops it as gunfire erupts outside, followed by a shrill, rising shriek.

Paul scrambles out of bed. “JAWAHAR!!” he shouts. “THIS IS WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!!!”

He stumbles to his bedroom door as a keening, rising howl tears through the house.

#

Deep in Paul’s garden, the thuds awake Anstis as well.

(Jason: “What do you do?”
Jim: “I’m staying the fuck underground. There’s sunlight up there!”)

#

Georgia sits up and stares around the basement. Dirt rains down from the rafters as more thuds and muffled explosions rock the house.  Nearby, both gargoyles pull themselves awake, staring blearily.

She pulls out her phone to check the time, then, realizing she can’t leave the basement, calls Paul.

“WHY IS THIS ALWAYS HAPPENING TO MY HOUSE?!!” he shouts as the call connects.

“I don’t know, what’s happening?” Georgia shouts back.

“I don’t know!!! There’s explosions and gunfire–”

Something splinters directly overhead, followed by an ominous, rising woosh, then a scream.

Georgia hangs up on Paul and calls Jawahar. It rings, then goes to voicemail. She hangs up and tries Sophia next. That call just rings indefinitely.

(Kara: “This is great. Why isn’t your house warded better?”
Chris: “Because someone refused to teach me Thaumaturgy!”)

A voice echoes from above, chanting in a language she doesn’t understand, with a rising timbre louder than any normal human voice should convey. Dug cowers away from it, staring open-mouthed, while Domen stands slowly, wings flexing.

“Are either of you able to go out into sunlight?” Georgia asks.

Domen frowns. “With great difficulty, Master.”

“What is happening, Second Master?” Dug whimpers, still staring at ceiling.

“I don’t know. Stay here for now.”

Georgia finds what looks like a reinforced corner of the basement and crouches low as the voice above reaches a crescendo, and the sounds of battle intensify.

#

THE SUNSET DISTRICT

The car pulls up outside a run-down bar, incongruously tucked between a nail-salon and a daycare center in the middle of a quiet neighborhood in the Sunset District suburbs, not far south of the park. Toothpick-guy lets her out of the car and leads her inside.

Shadowy figures, mostly men, watch her from the corners as she enters. One gestures toward a set of stairs leading up to a small balcony overlooking the main floor. More men are up there, including one sitting at a table under a lamp and a cloud of cigar smoke. Her knife hand twitches, but she calmly makes her way up.

More thuggish-types are standing against the wall of the balcony, but the man at the table is an older gentleman, in a pale suit, panama hat, and a weathered face under a white beard.

(Me: “…And a bottle of Dos Equis on the table.”
Jason: “…No.”)

A bottle of aged tequila sits on the table in front of him, next to a chilled ceramic carafe. The scent of blood lingers under the smoke twisting from the cigar in his hand. He gestures with it to the chair across from him. She takes a seat, keeping her eyes on him.

He pours some tequila into a tumbler. “I understand you have been consuming my resources,” he says in an accent smooth as Spanish gentry.

“I was not aware they were a reserved vintage,” Scout replies.

He eyes her. “You think in a city like this there is territory not claimed?”

“I was under the impression that anyone of an independent mind was in the East Bay and that this was all Camarilla holdings.”

The man laughs and leans forward, bringing his face further into the light. “My name is Esteban de la Vega. I am the Baron of the Sunset. And while we are all very, very happy to be under the umbrella of the Camarilla over here, you will find that not everything in this city is quite the way the officials of the Pyramid wish to tell you.” He smiles and pours dark liquid from the ceramic carafe. The scent of blood spikes. “There has been a great deal of upheaval. My neighbors to the north are gone, my neighbor to the south retreats to his mountains, and everything east is plagued with unease at best and vermin at worst.” Ice clinks as he gently swirls the blood and tequila together. “But I am in charge of this district of the city. I have been since it was built, and I have kept it the same quiet neighborhood as always. And in my territory, you will show respect.”

She sits quietly a long moment, hands folded demurely in her lap. “…Did he die?” she asks softly.

Esteban eyes her. “No,” he says finally, “But that does not make the issue any lighter.”

She looks down, then bows her head. “I shall endeavor to not let this happen again.”

Esteban sits back, eyeing her as smoke curls from his cigar. “Who are you? Really, I mean.” He gestures with it. “You have made appearances at the Pyramid. You have been seen in the company of a Ventrue captain of industry. And a pirate. These are interesting friends. How does a Caitiff come to be serving with these men?”

“Well, conveniently, my name helps define my profession.”

“And what is your name?”

She smirks. “Scout.”

He echoes her smirk. “Then you are a spy. Or perhaps you are merely an enthusiast for literature.”

She nods concedingly. “In any event, I am simply collecting information on the events of the city and those two seem to be people whom events are circling around.”

“Who sent you to Funston?”

She pauses. “The good Lord Rabenholz was interested in certain recent events and I endeavoured to investigate.”

Esteban lifts his glass and takes a sip. “So you work for Herr Rabenholz?”

Her smirk widens. “He assumes I do.”

Esteban laughs. “Oh, I like that.” He sets the glass down and eyes her again, more warmly this time. “What clan do you pretend to claim, when you are not claiming to be nothing?”

She meets his gaze. “I find it tends to reduce people’s interest in me when they think I’m nothing.”

He nods slowly. “You will find that is not always the case. Some think Caitiffs are a sign of the end times, that they are here to wipe us out. But, fortunately for you I am not one of those who think the Caitiff are some…harbinger of doom. I think you are unfortunate souls, lost without the assistance of a bloodline or established sire.” He smiles. “And I make a habit of helping those who are lost, even when they are not what they claim to be.”

She smiles. “I don’t know, I do pretty well at scouting.”

“I have every faith.” He tilts his cigar toward her. “But you also do pretty well at hiding that blade you brought into this room.”

Instantly she tenses, but he raises a hand. “I won’t begrudge you. How are you to know you aren’t going to be eaten here? We are Anarchs, after all. Dangerous men.” A chuckle rolls throughout the bar. Scout doesn’t flinch.

Esteban chuckles as he reaches for his glass again. “I may have need of a scout. If you are as good as you say you are.”

She’s quiet a moment, then smiles. “I have multiple contracts at the moment. But I’m always open to fitting more into my schedule.”

“Do you wish to have permission to hunt within the Sunset District? “

She blinks. “I’m not planning on setting up permanent residence here.”

“But perhaps you plan on passing through?” He eyes her over the glass. “All who hunt within my territory must have my permission. That was the arrangement I had with van Nuys, and that is the arrangement I will have with whomever replaces him. If there is anyone who chooses to ignore that agreement, Camarilla or otherwise, well…it will be very…unfortunate for them.”

Scout nods silently and gestures for him to continue.

Esteban puts the glass down. “There is a man. He lives just beyond my borders. He is some concern to me. I do not know his name yet, though I have heard rumors of it. I have heard rumors of all sorts of terrible things associated with him. He resides in a church. A bright, towering structure, on the far side of the park. The Church of St. Ignatius.”

Scout lifts an eyebrow.

“Now,” Esteban continues, “Naturally it is beyond my borders, and I do not have any right to tell him where he can and cannot live. But I don’t like powerful Kindred setting up their dens next door to me without paying me the privilege of a visit, and an announcement. And I especially don’t like it when they come from the Sabbat.” He eyes her.  “So I’d like to know who this man is. What he is doing here, what I may expect from him. Because if he thinks he is going to take over the Western half of the city, he is going to have a very sharp surprise.”

She’s silent a moment, staring at the condensation rings on the table. “What has this man done so far?”

“Very little, as far as I can tell. He has resided in the church and….” Esteban shrugs “…apparently kept to himself.”

“If he is keeping to himself outside your borders, then what are you afraid of?”

“Because the man is Black Hand,” he says seriously. “And if a Black Hand agent is within five states of you, you become concerned. And this one is less than three miles away.”

She nods slowly, still studying the table top. “And you think a wandering Caitiff without associations will be enough to fool him?” she asks carefully.

He chuckles and drags the ashtray closer. “Fool him? No, I am asking you to do some scouting. I don’t ask you to talk to this man. If you did, you would become his slave for an eternity. Or perhaps his dinner.” He stabs out the stub of his cigar, then sits back, folding his hands. “I am asking you to find out who he is and what he is doing here. The more you discover, the more happy I will be. And the more happy I will be, the more I will give you in return. Because this man only arrived in this city very recently, whereas I have been here for a long, long time. And whatever he is, if he thinks he can supplant me, or whatever is left of the Camarilla, he has another thing coming.” He smiles. “We are not all fools who live in the suburbs, you see.”

Scout glances again at the figures lurking in the shadows of the room. “I will admit, Don Esteban, others have expressed interest in information about this man recently, but they have also indicated he is extremely dangerous.”

Esteban chuckles. “One does not join the Black Hand by being good at stamp collecting.”

She eyes him. “The name I have heard associated with him is Cantor. Whether that is his permanent name, or simply one he goes by at this time, I don’t know.”

Esteban nods slowly. “That is a name I have heard as well, though I am not sure it is a real one. I have never heard of a ‘Cantor’ in the Black Hand. Not that I get the mailing list.” He chuckles and lifts a hand. One of the men from the wall steps forward and opens a silver cigar case. Esteban selects one, and the cigar cutter the man also hands out. “Nevertheless, it is less his name and more his interests and capabilities I am interested in. A Black Hand member of that seniority should not be here alone. Yet he appears to be.” He slices the tip with a snap, then smirks at her.  “Which of course means he is not.”

She nods once.

Esteban’s man lights a match under the cigar. He pulls from it, then sits back with a sigh. “I am not asking you to risk your life unduly,” he continues. “I do not want you to fight Cantor or steal his things, I just want to know what he intends. And if he intends bad things, then I want to know about it. Because the Black Hand aren’t the only ones who are dangerous. And I haven’t held my position in this city for this long just to walk away the first time the hand decides to send someone up the coast.” He gestures with the new cigar. “This is California, not Mexico.”

“If I recall my US history, it was Mexico,” Scout says.

“It was. But no longer.” He smiles at her. “And why do you think that is?”

Scout hesitates, then returns the grin.

Esteban chuckles. “I am glad we understand each other. And in return for this service, you will have the freedom of the entire Sunset District. The largest single territory in the city. Very quiet.”

She lifts an eyebrow. “Credit on delivery?”

Esteban eyes her a moment. “Actually…starting now. Presuming you are working toward my interests.”

She blinks, then nods. “That…is very generous.”

“I pride myself on being a gracious host. But be careful if you return to Fort Funston, the Baron of the Skyline does not share my generous impulses.” He tilts the cigar at her warningly. “But, in any event. You are free to move about the Sunset. Please do not start anything untoward. We have enough problems in this city as it stands.”

Scout stands from her chair and bows to him. “You’ll find I keep a low profile.” Instantly, she disappears.

Esteban stares, then chuckles deeply and raises his cigar to the empty air.

#

PORTOLA VALLEY

Unseen carnage tears the air and shakes the house. Carefully, Paul opens his bedroom door and peers out. The upper hall is still light-safe, with a heavy curtain over the window at the end, but the space is filled with smoke. He creeps to the stairwell and squints down it….

Something flies past the foot of the stairs in a blur, followed by roars and thuds like two rhinoceroses fighting, or fucking. Or both.

Paul checks Sophia’s room. It’s empty, and now its door has been torn off too. He stands in the middle of the hall, perplexed.

(Chris: “Whelp, I can’t go outside cause sunlight, I can’t go downstairs cause sunlight…do I have any urgent work emails I should probably attend to?”)

Paul is tapping at his phone when suddenly a brick flies through the window at the end of the hall. Razor thin shafts of light leak around the curtains as they sway. He dances back, moving toward the stairwell–

–Just in time to hear a sizzling sound and loud thump as a charred body is tossed onto the foot of the stairs. He stares, then ducks back into his bedroom.

#

(Jason: “Jim, are you doing anything?”
Jim: “…I can’t think of a place I’d rather not be than outside of the ground right now.”)

#

The door to the basement is kicked open and an armed figure descends the stairs. Georgia ducks behind a wine barrel but the gargoyles remain standing. The man stops. “DOWN HERE!” he shouts back up the stairs.

“Who are you?” Georgia calls from behind the barrel.

The main raises his gun–a heavy, wide-mouthed thing–and prepares to fire a grenade at them.

In one movement, Georgia stands and launches a bolt of fire at him from her good hand. It crashes into his face, knocking him off his feet and down the stairs. The gargoyles stare as Georgia leaps over the barrel and runs over to throw herself on the man to drink him dry. Once she’s done she stands, letting the body slip from her grip and thud to the floor. She regrows her eye and stares thoughtfully at her severed wrist.

(Kara: “How much blood would it cost to regrow my hand?”
Jason: “Uh, well you would need to spend–”
Jim: “He has a hand right there you can just take.”)
Jason: “–YES, actually!”)

“Domen,” she shouts over the noise echoing overhead. “Remove this hand cleanly.”

“Yes, Master.” Domen strides forward to grab one of the man’s hands, braces one foot against his arm, then tears the hand off. He hands it to Georgia.

She stares. “Is that clean?”

“There’s no dirt on it, Master.”

She sighs, takes the hand, then shoves it onto the bloody stump of her severed wrist and concentrates. The two pieces of flesh knit and meld before her eyes, and the attached hand shifts and shrinks to match her other one. She holds it up to admire from all angles. “Cool.”

A ring is on the hand, some sort of signet with an engraved rune she can’t identify. She slips it off and pockets it.

#

Minutes have passed and the battle shows no sign of letting up. Paul finally crawls back to the stairwell, ducking around the shafts of light lancing the hallway like security lasers. He finds a safe place to stand and concentrates on Majesty. “Cease fire!!!” he shouts down the stairs.

Some of the shooting stops, but it’s followed by an undulating soul-rending howl. Something large and dark approaches the bottom of the stairs, tilting its head back to stare up at him through the smoke.

The Black Spiral Dancer.

Paul stares. “Why are you here?”

She growls, gore dripping from her hyena-faced maw, and lifts one massive clawed foot onto the first step–

A sudden bark of a command snaps her attention around. She stops, growls, then, with one more predatory glance up at Paul, turns away and disappears.

#

Gradually, the sounds of fighting die down, then fade into the distance. Georgia and the gargoyles stare at the basement ceiling till true silence falls. She climbs over the dead body and carefully approaches the open door at the top of the stairs, staying out of the sunlight’s line of sight. “Paul?” she calls

“I’m at the top of the stairs, Georgia,” his distant voice responds.

“Are you okay?”

A long pause. “…I’m awesome.”

“What happened?”

“No clue. By the way, there’s an angry werewolf here.”

Georgia leans out to look, but Domen pulls her back. “Master! The sun, Master!”

The glow leaking through the doorframe isn’t enough to burn her, but the longer she lingers near it, the sleepier she gets. She fights it off. “Where’s Jawahar?”

“I don’t know,” Paul calls back. “I don’t know where Sophia is either.”

Sirens howl in the distance, getting louder. Georgia tenses, then jumps back as something hot suddenly dashes into the room at Celerity-speeds. Paul stumbles to a halt, beating out patches of flame on his clothes. “Okay, the police are coming and my house is full of dead people and gargoyles. Make a circle and get us out of here.”

Georgia stares. “Where do you want me to take us?”

“Anywhere. A cave. the ocean. It doesn’t matter.”

“What about the werewolf cub?”

Paul stills. “She can usually fend for herself,” he says finally.

Georgia sighs and brushes a section of floor clean for a circle while Paul pulls out his phone to call Gates.

“…Paul?” Gates answers hesitantly.

“Hey, good morning.”

“Paul, it’s almost noon, how are you talking to me now?”

“Hey, so, my house is under siege–”

“–AGAIN!??” she blurts.

Paul calms Gates down and lays out the basic info, somehow convincing her to–once again–mobilize forces to cover it up. While he’s talking, Georgia makes the circle, spelling it to the first destination she can think of that isn’t Alcatraz. More sirens join the growing cacophony outside, overlaid with the thrumming of helicopters. Finally, Georgia finishes, orders the gargoyles into the circle, grabs Paul’s hand to pull him in, and activates it.

#

CITY COLLEGE

Georgia, Paul, and the gargoyles arrive in the secret Tremere bolt-hole at City College. They spread out to check the space and rapidly discover Rabenholz, asleep on one of the beds, Glitch tucked at his side.

“That’s my sword!” Georgia cries.

(Me: “Uhh, it’s my sword.”)

Domen comes up behind her. “Master, should I take his sword?”

She peers up at him. “Ah, no, it’s fine for now.”

Dug, meanwhile, sidles closer to Paul, glancing around nervously. “Where are we, Master?”

Paul stares at some suspicious-looking stains on the floor. “No idea.”

Dug nods, then suddenly reels woozily. “It is daylight, Master. May I sleep, Master?” Paul nods. Instantly Dug falls over, landing stiffly on the floor with a heavy thump.

Domen stares down at Dug disdainfully, then turns to Georgia and bows. “May I sleep, Master?”

“You may,” she nods.

Instantly, Domen falls stiffly over as well.

Georgia climbs into an empty bed and settles herself for sleep. Paul forcing himself to stay awake a bit longer, stumbles over to Rabenholz and shakes his shoulder. “Hey…hey, Lord Rabenholz!”

(Jason: “Oh my god, I hate everyone.”)

Slowly Rabenholz stirs and blinks up at him. “Mr…Stewart? It’s…still midday, isn’t it?”

“What happened last night?” Paul whispers urgently. “Where did you go, and why are you here? And where is here?”

(Jason: “Alright, Chris, I don’t mean to interrupt your roleplaying, but I’m interrupting your roleplaying. Just give me a summary of what they say.”
Chris: “Oh, they just catch each other up on the events of the night.”
Jim: “The cane has come to pull you off the stage.”
Jason: “Yes, because the next night falls finally for all of you to catch up temporally with Colleen, and Jim awakens into an interesting situation…”)

#

PORTOLA VALLEY

Evening falls at the Portola House. Anstis wakes up again and, feeling no sounds of chaos rumbling the earth, climbs his way out of the dirt. He brushes himself off and looks around.

The house is almost completely destroyed. To his eyes, it looks like someone fired every cannon on their ship in a broadside attack and every shot went right through it. Every window is blown out, glass and rubble littering the space inside and out, and every visible surface is black with scorches and smoke.

And it’s not just here. Smoke drifts from the surrounding trees as small fires rage through the drought-dry woods, while firefighters scramble to put out flames belching from a neighboring house down the hill. The whole area is a madhouse of emergency vehicles, flashing lights, firemen, and cops.

And media vans.

Anstis freezes. Fortunately, in the chaos, no one has noticed him standing near the house yet, and no one notices as he disappears down into parrot-form and launches into the air. He circles over the area once, soaring on the updrafts of the flames, surveying the breadth of destruction and finding no sign of supernatural survivors.

After a few minutes, his feathers rustle in a birdy shrug and he wheels away to find a snack.

#

CITY COLLEGE

As dusk settles on the city, calls explode across everyone’s phones as everyone calls everyone to find out what happened and compare notes. The phones then almost literally explode as Anstis reports to Bell and Bell subsequently calls each of them, one by one, to order them to the Pyramid.

Paul leaves the City College bolthole and waits outside for a private car to arrive, using the moment of privacy to discuss things further with Gates. Rumors about Tesseract are flying; apparently the stock dropped almost 15% this day alone. Both agree a public appearance is needed to reassure both shareholders and customers so she starts making arrangements for an interview with the local news within the hour.

The moment Paul hangs up with Gates, he gets another call from a new addition to the phone tree: Marcus. Paul reports on the attack to the best of his knowledge, saying he suspects the Tremere Nazis from the Farallones, based on the fact that the same Spiral Dancer was there.

Marcus considers this grimly. “Paul, I have a question,” he asks finally, suspicion coloring his voice, “How did you get out?”

“Ms. Johnson used one of those circles to get us out.”

“You did that in the middle of a fight, and no one stopped you?”

A car finally pulls up. Paul climbs inside. “No.”

Marcus is quiet a moment. “I’ve been in your house before, Paul, where was the circle?”

“In the basement.”

Another pause. “So…someone sent a werewolf and a bunch of armed men to kill you and they never thought to check the basement?”

Paul gropes for the seat-belt. “I think Ms. Johnson and the gargoyles were hiding out–”

“Paul if I was sending someone to kill you–or coming to do it myself–I think I would think to at least glance in the basement.”

Paul hesitates mid-grope. “…True….”

“…Paul…Are you sure Ms. Johnson and the gargoyles were the only thing you had there?”

The belt slides slowly free of Paul’s fingers. “…Oh….”

“I think this is a good moment for you to start telling me everything.”

Paul takes a breath, grabs the seatbelt again to secure it, then continues. “So…on occasion that werewolf cub lives here. Not all the time, i think, cause sometimes I can’t find her–”

“Werewolf…cub? Where did you get a werewolf cub?”

“Uh…on the Farallones?”

“You…why haven’t I heard about this before?!

“Did you at some point indicate you wanted to sacrifice the cub?”

“Paul, how could I sacrifice a cub I’ve never heard of?”

“Exactly.”

A low sigh. “…Is Johnson with you?”

Paul glances out the window at the passing City College buildings. “Not at the moment, but she should be taking phone calls.”

“Oh, I hope so.” Marcus hangs up.

#

Georgia and Rabenholz are scouring the lab-rooms, looking for anything that might be useful to help them secure the Chantry, then Georgia’s phone rings. She glances at the screen then answers. “Hello Marcus!”

“Is there something you want to tell me about a werewolf cub?” he asks, voice low.

Georgia stops. “Not really. Why do you ask?”

“…I’m sorry, let me rephrase: Tell me about the werewolf cub.

“Oh, well, it’s a small werewolf. It’s friendly. I’ve been protecting it. It has black fur and bright blue eyes, and really cute tufted little ears.”

A long pause. “…I have a couple followup questions,” Marcus says. “The first being, how long have you had this cub and why haven’t I been told??

“Since the Farallones, and I was afraid you’d kill it.”

“…Just like that? Apropos of nothing?”

Rabenholz frowns at her. She grins sheepishly. “Well everybody seems to want to kill it, so–”

“Define ‘everybody’!”

“Everybody who knows it exists except Paul and me.” She pauses. “And Jawahar. And Sophia. And Doc.”

“…So, what you’re telling me is, you’ve told everyone else in the city about this cub, but not me?”

“It’s kinda worked out that way, yes. But it wasn’t by intention. As in, I didn’t intend to tell you, but I also didn’t intend to tell them and they kind of found out–”

“Do you expect normally that people who tell Sabbat elders that they were ‘not supposed to find out’ about things survive the experience?” Marcus says slowly.

“No, but you’re not generally like other Sabbat elders.”

“You are really trading on that right now, aren’t you?” he grumbles, voice laced with shadows. “Something just attacked you in Paul’s house and I don’t think it was there for you.”

“You think it was there for the cub?”

“I think it was there for something else and I don’t know who else was there!”

“Well, there were a lot of other people around, but you’re right we couldn’t find the cub–”

“Wait, stop. Who is ‘a lot of other people’?”

Georgia counts out fingers. “Well Jawahar was there, and the gargoyles. Anstis was there but we didn’t see him during the fight, Rabenholz had been there, but he left–”

“Ms. Johnson,” Rabenholz whispers next to her, “I’d appreciate it if you not mention me until we have a chance to synchronize our stories.”

“Ms. Johnson,” Marcus snaps, “I’d appreciate it if you tell Lord Rabenholz that children have excellent hearing.”

Rabenholz goes still. Georgia glances up at him. “Oh, I’m pretty sure he heard that.”

“Good. Do me another favor, explain to me why I shouldn’t just summon, in order, each of the people you just cited until I get the full version of this story?”

“Because I don’t think any of us know what happened.” Georgia sighs. “I mean, Sophia and Jawahar were the only ones upstairs but neither of them are answering their phones.”

Suddenly a pounding echoes through the rooms, coming from the front door. Rabenholz hefts Glitch and makes his way toward it. “Marcus, someone is here,” Georgia whispers. “I’ll have to call you back.” She hangs up.

#

(Jason: “Jim, what are you doing?”
Jim: “Flying toward the Pyramid.”
Jason: “Okay. What date is it?”
Jim: “Uhh…” *checks notes* “…Friday, March 26th.”
Jason: “Okay. Captain?”
Jim: “Aye?”
Jason: “Your ship has reached Makkasar.”
Jim: “AYE!”)

#

THE SUNSET

Scout is waiting on a street corner not far from Esteban’s bar. She wasn’t part of the phone tree, but she’s decided to go to the Pyramid anyway to speak to Marcus on some issues of her own. She’s waiting on a car she summoned, which–this far out in the Sunset–is taking awhile to arrive. Finally, her phone buzzes with a notification that her ride is here. She looks up.

A Model T shudders to a stop in front of her.

She stares, then looks around. No other active cars are in sight. Slowly, she approaches the passenger door, peering through the glare on the flat glass windows. Movement inside, then the driver peers back at her.

It’s Emperor Norton.

“WHEEEEERE TOOOOO????????” he roars, loud enough to be heard over the puttering engine.

(Jason: “He’s still in full imperial regalia.”
Me: “Of course he is, we’ve never seen him out of it.”)

She blinks. “Can you take me to the Pyramid…?”

“The Pyramid? Of COURSE I may take you there!!! Climb inside!!”

She hesitantly opens the door to the passenger seat. A dachshund is seated there, staring up at her with large droopy eyes. She starts to climb in, but he makes no move to shift out of the way, so she sighs and tries the rear door instead. A great dane is seated there, on the far side of the car, folded awkwardly in the narrow backseat with his head shoved up against the cloth roof. She sighs again and squeezes in next to him.

“Do not be afraid of Jupiter and Mercury,” Norton rumbles, patting the dachshund. “Jupiter here insists on being in the front, for he does not fit in the back.”

Scout trades a look with the dane. He stares back sadly.

Norton pivots to eye her over the seat. “Do you know what it is you seek?” he mutters, voice low and full of boding.

She tenses. “…At the Pyramid? I seek information.”

“Information may not be enough. It has been a portentous day. Information may come too late.”

“…Do you recommend somewhere else?”

Norton considers this, then nods briskly. “To Hell.”

Scout stares, then slowly reaches for the door. “I’d…rather not go there–”

“You will go there.” Norton leans closer. “It will be. You will go to Hell. But then…you have been there before.”

She stops, eyeing him silently.

Norton nods again. “I have been to Hell,” he says frankly. “I have seen it, I have walked it…and I have lived.” He grins, then turns forward, pumping at petals and throwing some levers. “LET US BE OFF!!!” he roars.

There’s a muffled explosion, and the Model-T starts puttering slowly down the street.

#

CITY COLLEGE

The pounding echoes louder as Georgia approaches the door. With Rabenholz bearing Glitch and both gargoyles looming just behind her, Georgia takes a breath and opens the door.

It’s Bob, bruised and bloodied, supporting the half-conscious form of Jawahar.

“Bob!” Georgia cries, stepping back to let them in. Bob lays Jawahar down on the floor, then collapses on top of her as he stands, then immediately gets off, sobbing and apologizing profusely.

“Good job, Bob!” Georgia reassures him. “Now, report!”

Bob scrubs ineffectively at the blood he smeared on her robes. “R-Regent…there was fire, and a guy, and I shot him, and then another thing, and–”

“Who did the man work for?” Rabenholz asks firmly.

Still clutching her robes, Bob stops and stares up at him. “…Whom,” he whispers.

(Jason: “He’s picked up Georgia’s habits.”)

Rabenholz’s eyes narrow, but he doesn’t react. “You’ll forgive me, English is not my first language. Whom did the man you shoot work for?”

Bob stares between Rabenholz and Georgia. “I don’t know…maybe the bad Regent?”

“Are you certain of that?” Rabenholz asks.

“No…I…I’m sorry!” He bursts into tears, sobbing into Georgia’s bloodstained robes.

Rabenholz rolls his eyes. “Bob, you functioned adequately today.”

Bob stops, stares at him, then at Georgia. She pats his shoulder awkwardly. “You did,” she agrees. Instantly, his tears turn into ones of joy.

Jawahar, laying at their feet, suddenly groans and drifts back to full consciousness. “Where are we?” he mutters.

“You are in City College in San Francisco,” Rabenholz replies.

Jawahar levers himself to a seat. “That was an experience I do not wish to repeat,” he mutters.

“You may be one of the few who understands it,” Rabenholz says.

“I’m not sure I do.” Jawahar grunts and climbs to his feet. “There was gunfire and werewolves and a great deal of violence.” He stares at them through cracked glasses. “But I know who was behind it,” he says seriously.

Georgia trades a glance with Rabenholz. “Then you should tell us,” she says.

“I don’t know who he is, but I saw him. I tried to stop him, but I was not successful. He’s far more powerful than I am. Tall man, in a long coat. Blonde hair. Blue, blue eyes.” Jawahar looks down and takes a shuddering breath. “A nephandi.” He looks up at them, face grim. “As best I can tell a nephandius, his escort, and a werewolf decided to attack your house and tear it to pieces. I think I killed a couple of them. Your werewolf did the same.”

Georgia frowns. “Did she make it out?”

“The last I saw of her, she was wrestling with the werewolf. I ran outside and encountered the nephandius himself.” Jawahar turns away. “None of us would have survived if not for…other factors.”

Georgia stills. “What other factors?” she asks suspiciously.

Jawahar shakes his head slowly. “You probably don’t understand, a nephandus is…the worst thing in the world to encounter. A fully-powered mage capable of unmaking anything. I didn’t stand a prayer against him, I had no choice.”

“What do you mean?” Georgia presses.

“I had to call for someone who did stand a prayer.”

Georgia’s face falls. “…The Warmage.”

“Not the warmage, all the warmages.” Jawahar looks at her. “I called Warmaster Mwonge and his entire war party. They were there in twenty seconds.”

(Jim: “I stand by my decision to stay underground.”)

Georgia stares, considering this a moment. “So…Mwonge took out the nephandi?”

“I don’t know. The battle was ongoing…I tried to assist the Warmaster, I didn’t make a very good attempt at it. One of the nephandius’s apprentices hit me with something. I don’t remember anything after that.  I woke up with your man dragging me here.” Jawahar paces a few steps. “I don’t know if the nephandius is dead, I don’t know if Mwonge is dead, I don’t know anything.”

Georgia pats Jawahar’s shoulder awkwardly. “Well, that’s fine; good job.”

“It’s not fine. If the warmaster is not dead–and I have to assume he is not–then he will be looking for me, and through me, you.”

“Oh.” Georgia looks around the room. “So we shouldn’t be in the same place.”

“It won’t matter,” Jawahar sighs. “As soon as he has me, he will know how to find you.”

“Okay. What’s your advice?”

Jawahar stares a long moment. “I am a second year apprentice, I am supposed to be studying how to perform hexagramic wards, not fighting nephandi with a group of vampires! I have no advice!!!”

“Okay. Well in that case, I am going to get on with my evening.”

Georgia turns briskly from the door to head back to the lab rooms. Jawahar stares. “You are completely insane, I want you to know that!” he calls after her.

#

DOWNTOWN, KPIX TV STUDIO

Paul paces the greenroom, waiting for his cue to go on, when suddenly his phone rings. He checks the screen, expecting Gates, but the ID says “UNKNOWN.” Perplexed, he answers.

“Paul,” Sophia’s voice greets him, “Are you alright?”

He sinks into a chair. “Yes, are you? What happened this morning?”

“I don’t know…there was a lot of killing…and the Spiral Dancer from before….” Her breath shudders. “Paul, I screwed up. I screwed up really, really bad this time….”

He frowns at the pain in her voice. “What happened?”

“Paul, she took the cub.

(Everyone: “Awww, crap….”)

“I tried to stop her, but…I couldn’t. There was someone with her, someone I’d seen before. On the island, when you and Tom rescued me. The head Nazi. Himmler’s boss. The blonde man, with blue eyes.”

Paul frowns. “I met him.”

“Well, he didn’t take the cub, the werewolf did. As soon as she had it, she ran off.”

“Where are you now?”

She’s quiet a moment. “…Marin,” she whispers.

“You safe for the moment?”

“…Is anybody?”

“No idea.” Paul checks the time. Five minutes till he’s set to go on the air. “Okay. What I know about this evening so far, I have a meeting to broadcast an interview to reassure the world I’m alive and my company isn’t in peril. That is at least partly a lie. Then I am headed to the Pyramid to brief the other vampires here about what happened. Which, given what I know, is not going to take very long.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m kind of glad the other vampires know,” she mutters. “But…try not to mention the cub, if you can.”

“What is the significance of the cub? I haven’t been asking because you told me not to, but at this point I don’t know that secrets can help us.”

“I don’t know exactly, I just know there’s a story.” She pauses. “You know what Metis are, right?”

“That’s what you are, right?”

“Yeah. We’re werewolves from other werewolves. Inbred. We’re not supposed to exist, but we do, and we’re all screwed up in some way. Physically, mentally, or whatever. There’s always something. But…the story goes, one day near the end, when it’s all supposed to end and we’re all supposed to go out in some big Ragnarok fight against the Wyrm, the last Metis to be born won’t have any flaws. Some kind of big messiah figure. Everyone claims to look for it, but no one really believes it. Except the crazy ones who do.”

Sophia takes a shuddering breath and continues. “And then six months ago, the Gaians said they had something, a Metis cub no-one could find any flaws with. This happens all the time. Usually they grow up and they turn out to be autistic or something. But we were in the area investigating Tesseract so we stopped by and then…everything started happening. We couldn’t get an elder in to find out what it was, cause the Gaians were dead, and then the Talons were running around and all this stuff… So I don’t know what the cub is, but all this shit keeps happening around this cub….”

“And now the Spiral Dancers have her,” Paul finishes grimly.

“Yes. And that’s not good. Cause if she is the Perfect Metis…I can’t describe to you how bad that would be. There’s a different story about the Perfect Metis, one we don’t like to listen to. Instead of growing up to kill the Wyrm and save the world, there’s another story that maybe that’s not what it is. Maybe it’s the thing that ends the world. Maybe it grows up and helps the Wyrm.”

“God, it’s like Anakin Skywalker….” Paul rubs his temples. “Okay, so the Spiral Dancer either wants to train her to begin the end of the world, or prevent her  from ending the end of the world.”

“Or use her in some ritual to trigger the end of the world. I don’t know, but if there’s even a chance this is the real thing…I have to try to stop it.” A tense silence settles on the line, then she speaks again. “Paul, there’s something else. After the fight, I don’t know where everyone else was, but I got away, and I healed, and I tracked the Spiral Dancer. That’s why I’m in Marin. She went into the tunnels, in the Headlands. the ones I told you never to go in.”

“And, I assume, you are about to go into them after her?”

“I can’t go into those tunnels, Paul. Not alone. You have no idea what’s down there.” Her voice drops to a whisper. “It’s a Spiral Warren, it leads to the Black Spiral itself.”

Paul blinks. “You lost me.”

“We call them Black Spiral Dancers because there’s a place called the Black Spiral. It leads to the Wyrm’s domain. It’s Hell. Hell itself. They dance down it, they go insane, they come back twisted.”

“Spooky. Okay.”

“Every Spiral Dancer in the universe could be down there, and worse things too.” She pauses. “And I have to go in there.”

“You don’t have to go alone.” Paul stares around the greenroom, searching for ideas. “I…could find a lot of silver–”

“You could send the entire US army down there and it wouldn’t make a difference! You can’t conquer the Black Spiral!”

(Kara: “One does not simply walk into the Black Spiral.”)

Paul sighs. “So what would help?”

Sophia groans. “Direct intervention of God, I don’t know! I need to talk to Stormwalker, and Sees-faces, and Samir. We’re all going to have to go in there, and…I don’t think we have a prayer of coming back.” She hesitates, voice dropping to a whimper, “Paul, I’m sorry this all got messed up….”

“That’s alright, it’s not your fault. When will you decide your plans?”

“I’ll talk to Stormwalker, he’ll make the call, but…there’s only one call for this. It’s Hell itself, but…we have to.”

Paul pauses, staring thoughtfully. “You know, I know someone who’s been to a few hells.”

“You mean the English vampire? He’s the one who took the cub in the first place!”

“Yeah but he didn’t really do a good job of that. Also I kinda think he has a death wish so he might be totally into this.” A tech in a set of headphones sticks her head into the room and flashes two fingers at him. Paul nods. “…Look, Sophia, I’m about to go on TV, but don’t do anything before talking to me first. I’ll try to find whatever I can to help you, and if you think I can be useful, we’ll talk.”

“Alright. I’ll see what I can do.” She hesitates again. “…I hate to say it, but I kinda wish Tom was here.”

Paul hesitates. “That may be on the table. Though I really can’t imagine the situation improving with him.”

“Well, if Tom goes into Hell and starts wrecking the place, I don’t think it will hurt much.”

“Right, unless Tom becomes some sort of evil destruction demon and comes back out and kills the rest of us.”

Sophia snorts. “If he did, would anybody notice?”

Paul smiles. The tech sticks her head through the door and gestures enthusiastically. Paul stands. “I gotta go. Keep me posted.” He hangs up and follows her out.

END OF NIGHT

 

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4 Responses to 12/10/15

  1. Seth says:

    The story continues to be amazing! Thank you for including the ooc bits about splitting time between Scout’s encounter and the raid on Paul’s place, it painted a vivid picture of how the scene played out for both the players and the characters (at least for me).

    And I’d LOVE to see Tom let loose to cause havoc in the Black Spiral Labyrinth!

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I thought about reorganizing the scenes to represent game-time a bit more accurately, but it just felt so much more dramatic this way, so I figured fuck it, why not use the weird meta-story angle we have here to my advantage 🙂 Glad it made sense!

      And we’ll see about Tom 😉 God only knows if he knew Sophia was doing the thing, he’d be blindly at her side in a heartbeat.

  2. Will says:

    I think if Tom knew Sophia was literally about to march into hell, he’d wake up out of torpor, inexplicably pull the stake out of his chest, find Vera, and march right in with her.
    Oh, hi. I’m new, first time comment. I’ll leave a bigger one expressing how amazing this whole story is later when I’m totally caught up 😉

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