Chris: “I’d like to declare at this juncture that Georgia is a crazy old cat lady and has no less than three cats: the dragon, the space whale, and Bob.”
Rabenholz follows Georgia into the back labs of the Chantry bolt-hole, and finds her rifling through equipment stacked around a large vat of congealing blood. He eyes it distastefully and turns to her. “Ms. Johnson, if you seek my counsel, I advise you to retake your Chantry while the wards are down.”
“How?” her muffled voice echoes from inside a cabinet.
“You already have two gargoyles. A loyal if inscrutable servant. And presumably you can co-opt Vannevar’s staff.”
Georgia hesitates, then slowly backs out of the cabinet. She smiles at Rabenholz while mentally extending her thoughts. Jawahar, can you hear me?
An exasperated sigh echoes back. Yes?
Once I get back to the Chantry, I propose we don’t hold it. I propose we just go back to Thera. On the way we can grab anything from the Chantry that might be helpful, but let’s not try to keep it.
Jawahar’s mental link wavers a moment in confusion. I see the purpose in your logic, but how will we return to Thera? We’d need a moonbridge of some sort.
Isn’t that one still in the basement?
I don’t know, I don’t know anything about moonbridges. They might close when the sun rises.
Well, luckily we have Max’s notes. Her gaze slides to a nearby shelf, stacked with metal thermoses like the ones she grabbed the last time she was here. And I have an idea.
Are you sure about abandoning the Chantry? Jawahar asks tentatively.
For now. It will be too expensive and time-consuming to get the wards back up tonight. And we need to focus on the larger goal. Making the clan great again by destroying the worst of Clan Tremere.
(Jason: “Jawahar makes a passable attempt to conceal what he’s thinking, but fails. You get a clear sense of a combination of horrified ‘What have I done?’ mixed with an exuberant ‘Yes yes yes….’”)
Frustrated with her lack of reaction, Rabenholz turns away to make some phone calls. Georgia wanders to the shelf to grab a couple thermoses, then pulls Max’s journal out from under her robes and flips through, looking for information on moonbridges.
Norton’s Model T coughs to a halt next to the wide sidewalk in front of the Pyramid. Scout hesitates, then nods to him and moves to climb out.
Norton’s hand darts out to stop her. “Do you see?” he intones.
Scout stares, then looks around. A few late-night pedestrians are lingering nearby, staring at the car.
“She comes,” Norton continues. “Would you stop her?”
“…I’ll try?” Scout replies hesitantly.
Still pinning her in place with his gaze, Norton’s face slowly falls. “You are unworthy. You have not the spirit. But there is another. The day shall come when she rises to blacken the sky with smoke and scorch the earth with flame. To send Babylon toppling and the waters rise to claim us all. And on that day only two things may save you then.” He leans closer, over the back of his seat. “You must tell him. Tell him to look for iron and gold.”
Scout stares back, then slowly nods and slides out of the car. This time, Norton doesn’t stop her. She closes the door and the car sputters off, the dogs staring at her out the back window. She watches it recede, then turns to enter the Pyramid.
She takes the elevator up to the 40th floor, the main level of the Camarilla floors. A ghoul stops her as she steps off. “Can we help you?” he asks.
“I’m here to speak with the Priscus.”
The ghoul eyes her, his face flickering with a hint of disdain. “The…Priscus…is occupied at the moment.”
Scout smiles thinly. “Can you let him know I’ve arrived, then.” The ghoul leaves and she sits down on a chair to wait.
Meanwhile, a few feet away, Bell is at his desk in his office, Anstis sprawled on the chair opposite him. “Tell me about the status of your submarine,” Bell asks, eyeing the pirate over his sunglasses.
“It is near the city of Makkasar at the moment,” Anstis replies smoothly.
“And you plan to engage in some kind of war in Indonesia?”
Anstis grins. “I intend to go after Flowers.”
Bell eyes him silently a long, dangerous moment. “Look, Captain, this is your business and I’m not gonna interfere with it cause I don’t see how it interferes with mine, but let me be very clear. Flowers is a powerful, powerful kindred. He has a great deal of influence in that part of the world. You somehow start the next world war out there and bring down the wrath of an elder Ravnos on this city, I’m not gonna be happy.”
Just then, a light knock comes at the door and the ghoul sticks his head in. “Sir? The Caitiff is here to speak with the Priscus.”
Bell closes his eyes and sighs. “Excuse us a minute, Captain.” He nods toward the door.
Taking the hint, Anstis gets up to leave, grinning at Scout as she passes him in the doorway. Bell motions for the ghoul to shut the door behind her, leaving them alone. He watches her a long moment as she waits in the center of the room, hands clasped loosely in front of her. “Why do you need to talk to the Priscus?” Bell asks without preamble.
She eyes him coolly. “I’m looking for information.”
“Some particular reason you’re talking to him and not me?”
“It’s very particular information.” She shifts. “Sabbat information.”
“Well good, cause I never deal with the Sabbat at all.” Bell stands and approaches her slowly. “I could make you tell me.”
She watches him unflinchingly. “You could. But I’m pretty sure he is the only one who can help me with these issues.”
Bell stops a few feet in front of her, looking her up and down. She waits. Bell opens his mouth to say something–
–Suddenly the second, private door to the office swings open, and Marcus walks in. He’s encased in a full set of Roman plate-mail, custom fit, but it’s seen better days. The polished metal is beaten and dent, with full rents torn through in a couple places, and splashed with dark streaks of blood. Marcus himself appears largely unhurt except for a long slash across his face, barely missing his eye. The cut is deep, and strangely unhealed. Marcus stops next to them, plumed helmet held under one arm.
Bell is quiet, but he glares down at the boy. His glare deepens as, next to him, Scout bows.
Marcus eyes her and hefts the helmet onto the desk. “Justicar. Thank you for for playing the secretary, but I do believe she was asking to speak to me. Would you be so kind as to give us a moment?”
At his words, the temperature in the room drops noticeably. Bell glares at Marcus, then her, then whirls and stalks out without another word. Scout stands poised in the middle of the room until the door closes again.
(And, I am afraid/sadistically delighted to say, Scout’s and Marcus’s conversation is still secret at this time. But all of this intrigue will have a point, I promise!)
While Georgia confers secretly with Jawahar via telepathy, Rabenholz uses modern magic to confer with Anstis, calling him not long after Bell kicks the pirate out of the office. Rabenholz asks Anstis if Vannevar Hughes has been seen around the Pyramid. Anstis says no, but Rabenholz asks him to keep an ear out and let him know if the Regent goes on the move.
Georgia tucks the journal away and smiles at Rabenholz as he hangs up. “So, are you ready to go?” she asks brightly.
“I am afraid I will be meeting with the Justicar this evening, he has requested my presence,” Rabenholz says smoothly.
Georgia’s smile droops slightly. “Oh. I thought you were coming with us.”
“Unfortunately not.” Rabenholz tucks his phone away, surreptitiously checking Glitch in the process. “Stay in touch, though. I may be able to render assistance if things go poorly. I do not know if Vannevar Hughes will be there to combat you, and I think you are more than a match for the other defenses in the Chantry, especially with the wards down–”
Suddenly Rabenholz stops as a strong compulsion overwhelms him, an urge to go somewhere and meet someone….
(Chris: “…Like a Presence 4 compulson?”
Jason: “Yeah kinda like that.”
Chris: “Well, that could be entertaining…but Rabenholz has a blue silk cord around his neck.”
Me: “Oh shit! That thing!”
Jason: “Remind me how it works?”
Chris: “It looks like…oh, he has to activate it every night, he may not have had a chance yet. Okay, then I am being compelled to go somewhere.”)
Rabenholz frowns. He can’t tell who the Summons is from, but he can tell it’s coming from the north-east, pulling intently but not urgently. He quickly scans his mental map. The Pyramid lies in that section of the city. But the Chantry does as well.
Anstis hangs up the call with Rabenholz. Since he’s still waiting outside Bell’s office, he pulls out a rock to cast his ritual on Vannevar:
Vannevar Hughes is leaving the Hidden Chantry and heading for the Mountain of the Flags, with a host of murderers.
Rabenholz is still staring thoughtfully toward the north-east when his phone buzzes with a text. He pulls it out. It’s from Anstis, warning him that Vannevar has left the Chantry.
“I will be late for my appointment, Ms. Johnson, so I must be off.” He nods to her and sweeps out of the lab, dialing for Rhona to call him a car on his way out.
Georgia, meanwhile, returns to the front room of the complex. “Bob, wake the gargoyles. Jawahar, are you ready to go?” Jawahar, pacing in the middle of the room, nods grimly and starts muttering incantations to himself.
Georgia waits as Domen and Dug climb to their feet. “Domen, are you prepared to protect me?”
The large gargoyle straightens, spines lifting proudly. “Always, Master.”
She nods and turns to the other. “Dug? Are you prepared to slay our enemies?”
“Yes, Second Master.” He stares up at Domen shiftily. “Is this gargoyle our enemy, Second Master?”
She stares at Domen assessingly. “No.”
“May he be our enemy, Second Master?”
“Not at this time,” Georgia says.
Domen glares down at Dug over folded arms. “He would fail, Master.”
“Yes, Domen. But don’t worry, Dug, there may be other gargoyles who will be our enemy.”
Georgia kneels down to reactivate the circle leading back to the Chantry. Once everyone is ready, she leads them to step through.
KPIX TELEVISION STUDIO
Paul follows the tech through the studio, flipping through an email Gates sent with talking points for the interview, when suddenly–
They stop. Paul looks up. Emperor Norton is there in the hall, threadbare cloak wrapped around him and glaring.
“Ah, Emperor Norton.” Paul turns to the tech. “Could you give us a moment?”
She stares at the emperor. “Is he one of the re-enactors?” she asks skeptically.
“Yes,” Paul says firmly.
She hesitates, then looks at her clipboard. “You’re due on set any minute, Mr. Stewart–”
“Yes I know, this will only take a minute.” The tech hurries down the hall. Paul walks over and extends a hand. “Emperor, I’m glad to see you’re using your indoor voice–”
He cuts off as Norton rushes forward, face inches from his own. Norton glares deep into his eyes, raising a finger. “There is a matter of great import,” he whispers. Actually whispers. “Great, terrible import.”
Paul blinks in surprise, more at the whisper than the news. “…So it seems.”
“There is a darkness rising on the eastern horizon. I have seen it.”
“The east? The only crises I am aware of are coming from Marin.”
Norton sneers. “Marin is nothing. She rises. She rises in the east.”
Paul blinks. “I don’t know her.”
“You do, and you will. You all know her but none will speak.”
“What is she?”
Norton growls deep in his throat. “She is a terrible thing. The force that has gnawed at the heart of this city since its foundation. And they will wake her.” He leans closer. “Fire and blood, the oceans rising to swallow the land, the skies burning and crashing down upon us. That is what she is.”
Paul stares back a moment, then glances down at his phone screen, scrolling with Tesseract technology specs. “How does she feel about sunlight?” he asks slowly.
“She cares nothing for sunlight. Nor vampires, nor werewolves, nor any living thing. She exists to destroy and despoil and overthrow, and she is coming.”
“When will she arrive?”
“Soon,” Norton hisses.
“How will we know she’s arrived? Can we head her off?”
“There is a way. But you cannot do it alone. It will require you both.” Norton steps back, eying Paul assessingly. “You must find him.”
“The one who may stand and find her.” Norton glares reproachfully. “You know him.”
“Do I? When did we meet?”
Instantly, Norton grabs Paul’s shoulders, hauling him close. “Do you not see? You know him! You have met many times, you have bled many times. Why do you not see???” He groans and releases him, turning away to stalk the hall. “They destroyed him. In their shortsightedness, they undid him because they would have power, and now they stand in the shadow of She Who Will Wake and do not know that the sun will never rise again.” Suddenly he whirls, broadsword out and pointed dramatically. “You must allow him to stand again and find the one who can bring her low.”
Paul freezes, staring at the sword, quiet as Norton leans close again. “Iron, and gold, Mr. Stewart. Without them, there will be nothing but death.”
“Mr. Stewart?” the tech’s voice suddenly calls from down the hall. Paul turns to see her rushing forward, headset jostling on her forehead. “There’s been a delay, Mr. Stewart. Some big pileup on 101 is taking up the main news hour, so we’re going to push you back to the 9 o’clock. We have another guest we’re interviewing at that time but I promise we’ll get you in before him. Your assistant is on her way to help organize.”
Paul nods vacantly and turns back around. Norton is gone.
Anstis is slowly pacing the antechamber to the main office when the door opens. Scout walks out, Marcus lurking in the office behind her. Anstis hesitates a moment, surprised that Bell is no longer there, but grins and enters the office as Scout is leaving, bowing deeply.
Marcus rolls his eyes. “Captain. What can I do for you?”
“That depends on a great many things.” Anstis looks him over. “You are…looking prepared tonight.”
“I had a date with Settites,” Marcus grumbles. “The Settites and I have a difference in opinion on a great many subjects.”
Scout, lingering in doorway, suddenly turns back. “I met some Settites earlier this evening,” she says conversationally.
Marcus goes still. “What?” he asks, voice low.
“They were at Fort Funston.”
Anstis turns to her. “What?”
Marcus steps forward. “What were they doing in Fort Funston?” he barks.
“They were searching the tunnels,” Scout replies.
“How many of them?” Anstis presses.
“Eight or so, lead by a dark-skinned woman. They called her Nitocris.”
“Nitocris is there?!” Anstis and Marcus both yell at the same time.
Scout’s gaze darts between them. “She was. I fought her, but she turned into snakes and disappeared.”
Marcus steps closer, eyeing Scout carefully. “You fought Nitocris?”
She stares back coolly. “Just in defense.”
Marcus looks her over, standing calm and uninjured in the doorway. Slowly, he reaches up a hand to touch the gash across his face. “…Well. You see, Captain, that’s why you never turn your back on Caitiff.” He turns and stalks to the desk. “I don’t have any idea what they could have been doing out there, but then again, I don’t have any assets in those tunnels, do I?” He casts a look over his shoulder at Anstis. Anstis’s eye glares back.
(Me: “Look! Other people can arbitrarily drop information that’s irritating to other people too!”)
“Do you think they’re still there?” Anstis asks.
“I can’t predict their movements, but yes, it’s possible they are.”
Anstis turns to Marcus. “Would you care to pay a visit?”
Marcus hesitates, then smiles grimly. “Why Captain, are you asking me to slaughter your enemies for you?”
Anstis grins back smoothly. “I’m asking you to slaughter your enemies.”
“How convenient.” Marcus turns back to Scout, still standing at attention in the doorway. “How did you survive the encounter?”
“Quite well,” she says flatly.
Marcus looks her over again. “Against nine Settites lead by a warleader?”
“I was only attacking the one at the time. The others were lost in the tunnels, and I took one of them down before I met her.”
A long silence follows.
“It seems you have some skill,” Anstis grumbles.
Scout eyes him quietly a moment. “Sometimes I do more than just stand quietly and listen.”
Marcus smirks grimly and turns back to the pirate. “To answer your question, Captain, if you are going to investigate the tunnels, I would in fact like a word with Nitocris.”
Anstis bows. “I can get us there rapidly. This way.” Anstis leads Marcus out of the office and down the hall.
Scout lingers behind in the antechamber, then pulls out her phone to call Rabenholz.
“Ms. Scout,” he greets her.
“Herr–I mean, Lord Rabenholz. I have collected some information on the topics which you requested of me, if you would like to meet.
“Excellent. Where are you now?”
“I’m at the Pyramid, I just finished meeting with the Pr–with Marcus.”
“…Intriguing. I am on my way there now. Why don’t you wait and I will meet you shortly?”
“I shall.” She hangs up and sits stiffly on a chair in the empty hall.
The pull of the Summons grows stronger as Rabenholz travels north, though he still can’t tell if it’s coming from the Pyramid, the Chantry, or something else. Alone in the back of the cab, he drums his fingers on his cane thoughtfully.
(Chris: “While we drive, I will perform the ritual we spoke of.”
Jason: “Which…will cancel the Summons?”
Chris: “Well, if it works, it will switch so that I’ve Summoned him.”
Jason: “Alright, well let’s see. Roll it. Difficulty 8.”
Chris: *rolls* “…Six successes.”
Jason: “ON DIFFICULTY EIGHT???!”)
Immediately, the pull eases. Rabenholz closes his eyes, pouring power and focus into the tenuous connection, then feels something snap like a rubber band under the force of his will. Mentally, he grabs it before it recedes and pulls back, drawing the enchantment–and its caster–to attend to him instead.
(Jason: “Whoever is at the other end of it is coming, and they’re coming fast.”)
Georgia and her entourage reappear in the circle in the basement of the Chantry. Carefully, she leads them through the dungeons and up into the upper levels, Jawahar and the gargoyles scanning the halls warily while Bob clutches to the back of her robes. Their footsteps echo through the marble corridors, but after half an hour of searching, it’s clear no one else is there. No ghouls, no guards, and no Vannevar Hughes.
Also no wards. Georgia extends her mind to test them carefully, seeing if she can throw them back up real fast, but discovers’ they’re not just down, they’ve been destroyed.
(Me: “Well, she fixed them before!”
Jason: “No, that was just reactivating them. These are destroyed in vital points. They don’t just need to be reactivated, they may need to be recast. And you don’t know how to do that.”
Kara: “That’s what I was afraid of.”
Jason: “So what do you do?”
Kara: “Well, the first thing I do is loot the Chantry.”)
Georgia instructs Domen to kick down the door into
Max’s van Brugge’s Max’s her the dragon’s her Vannevar’s her office and sweeps in to search it. There she finds her satchel, clearly rifled through, but with nothing inside missing.
(Jason: “Congrats, you have your inventory again.”)
Jawahar looks around nervously as she searches. “Where is everyone?”
“Not sure,” she mutters, leaning over to dig through drawers in the desk. “But that’s not important right now.”
“I think it might be.” Jawahar’s fingers twitch. “What if they’re at…the place we intend to go?”
“Well, I suppose we’ll find out when we get there.” She sits up. “First things first, we’ll assume they’re not there, we take everything we need so we can get there, we go there, and then if they’re there we can deal with it.”
“What do we need from this place?”
“Well, for one, my bag, which has the mechanical dragon.” She holds the satchel aloft. Movement squirms inside and a tiny pair of bronze jaws emerge from the top of the bag to nom delicately at her finger.
Jawahar frowns at it. “I wonder what that thing’s intended to do. I doubt very seriously it’s a guard.”
“I agree.” She pries her finger away and puts the bag down. “Other things we need: we need to go to my bedroom and get as many books as Domen and Dug can carry, as well as some books from this office.” She gets up and starts selecting from the shelves.
(Chris: “Arent you glad Rabenholz already got rid of all your ridiculous ghoul maintenance books?”
Jason: “Actually yes, that has made things considerably easier to pare down.”)
Georgia pulls all the books she needs from the office, her room, and assorted minor libraries around the building. As the gargoyles figure out a way to carry them, she returns to the basement, poking around the dungeons until she finds the cells where Sophia and Jawahar were trapped and follows the tubes to a room filled with exsanguination equipment and large containers of blood. Carefully, she opens the spigot on one and tastes it.
Instantly, she’s hit with the hyper-adrenaline rush of werewolf blood.
Grinning, she pulls out her thermoses and fills them with the blood. As she pours, the dragon sticks its head out from her bag and peers up at the equipment. It cranes its neck forward and nips at the tap.
Georgia pulls it gently away. “No, not right now, not yet. We’ll try that later.” She shoves the tiny machine gently but firmly back into her bag.
(Chris: “I’d like to declare at this juncture that Georgia is a crazy old cat lady and has no less than three cats: The dragon, the space whale, and Bob.”)
A similar line of thought apparently hits Georgia because next she combs the Chantry looking for said space whale, pacing the halls calling its name and making kissing noises. Eventually she finds it in a room off the ghoul barracks, locked in a cage, bleary and almost unconscious.
“MewMew!” She cracks the cage open and pulls it out. It meows weakly at her as she cradles it and leaves, running into Bob and Jawahar in the hall. “Bob, go get him some water and meet us in the basement. Jawahar, carry him.” She holds the limp creature out to the mage.
Jawahar stares. “What am I supposed to do with him?”
“Just hold it until we get to Thera. It’ll be fine once he gets some water and a chance to rest, but right now I need you to carry it cause I need my hands free.”
He gapes at her. “And I don’t!?”
She sighs. “Are you going to be able to make the moonbridge?”
“Are you going to be performing literal miracles?!”
“Yes,” Georgia says seriously.
Jawahar stares at her a long moment, then takes the cat hesitantly. Instantly, Georgia whirls and heads back down to the basement.
Rabenholz arrives at the Pyramid, staring up at it silently as his car drives away. Gripping his cane, he once again checks that Glitch is tucked through his belt, then wraps his cloak tightly around him and heads inside.
No one accosts him as he crosses the lobby to the elevator. Halfway up the building, though, he hits the emergency stop and exits on the 33rd floor, well below the Camarilla’s 40th. The floor is a generic office level, empty and dimly lit. He moves to a darkened alcove and waits, one hand on Glitch. After some time, the elevator whirs to life again. There’s a ding, and the doors open.
Dr. Everton steps calmly out.
Rabenholz frowns, straightens, and steps out of the shadows. “Doctor. How may I help you?”
Everton lifts an eyebrow and nods. “Pfalzgraf. How are you?”
“I am very well, how are you?”
“Oh, I’m reasonably alright.”
Rabenholz pulls a pocketwatch from his cloak. “Our appointment was for midnight, was it not? I hope I haven’t missed it.”
“No, no, nothing of the sort.” Everton stares around the empty office floor. “What brings you to the Pyramid?”
Rabenholz gestures vaguely. “Oh, I was about to have a conversation with Mr. Bell. It appears the Toreador tech magnate has managed to lose himself another house. I don’t quite know the details, but I thought I would pass what little information I had along.”
Eyeing him, Everton nods slowly. “Ah. Well I am very glad to see someone is taking charge in a responsible manner for these barbarous acts.”
Outwardly, Rabenholz smiles grimly, while inwardly he tests the status of his reverse-Summon. At this point, he can’t tell if it’s completed yet or not.
(Chris: “So it could just be a coincidence that Everton showed up.”
Jason: “It could be. But then again, how did he know which floor to stop on?”
Chris: “It is quite the coincidence.”)
“I have to say it’s quite a coincidence bumping into you here on floor thirty-three.” Rabenholz slowly takes in the bare mauve walls. “I’ve always liked it myself.”
“If you believe in coincidences. As it happens I was assisted,” Everton says grimly.
Rabenholz faces him again. “Oh?”
“Someone decided to exert a certain degree of influence on the matter of my location.” Everton shifts his cane in his hands, bracing it in front of him. “I was rather to have some insight into what that was.”
“Ah.” Rabenholz idly shifts his own cane. “I’m certain I haven’t any idea what you mean.”
“Well, I’m rather certain you likely do.”
Rabenholz meets his gaze evenly a long moment, then gestures vaguely. “It’s a trick I’ve picked up. And I do wonder why you were trying to call me to you in the first place?”
Everton’s face falls, blinking in surprise. “Call you to me? My good Pfalzgraf, earlier this evening, you quite distinctly summoned me.”
Rabenholz matches Everton’s confused stare a long moment, then carefully tucks his cane aside under his cloak. “Well. Doctor, have you met the new Regent?”
“I’ve heard of him, yes, but I don’t think we’ve had the occasion to encounter one another just yet. Why do you ask?”
Rabenholz carefully draws Glitch. “Because I think we are about to be ambushed by him and his henchmen.”
Everton blinks again. “…Oh. Well, that’s most distressing.”
Meanwhile, Scout is still sitting in the hall upstairs, running her thumb along the blade of her knife, slowly tracing the complex symbol etched into the metal, when Rabenholz calls her. “Yes?” she answers.
“Hello,” Rabenholz says, “I’m afraid I may be delayed. I wonder if you’d be so good as to check the lobby and see if there are any angry-looking men there?”
Scout stares. “…Stand by.” The ghoul from before is just then passing in the hall. She flags him down and asks him to take her to a security room. He shows her how to flip between feeds and she scans the banks of CCTV cameras until she finds one focused on the lobby.
The wide space is mostly empty. A couple security guards are huddled behind the desk, looking down and discussing something. Neither of them seem to have taken notice of the man lurking on the far side of the lobby, clearly trying to be unobtrusive. An older man in a crisp suit, with white hair.
“Pfalzgraf,” Everton says carefully, eyeing Glitch as he moves away from the elevator doors. “If you wouldn’t mind a rather impertinent question, but you seem rather well-armed for someone who came to the Pyramid seeking a conversation.”
Rabenholz still holding his phone, hefts the sword. “Oh, you know the expression. An armed society is a polite society.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know that expression, but then I’m not American.”
Just then, the phone unmutes and Scout’s voice echoes out, “Lord Rabenholz?”
He lifts the phone back to his ear. “Yes?”
“There’s one man in the lobby, but he seems to be alone. An older man in a business suit with white hair.”
Rabenholz meets Everton’s gaze. “Please hold a moment.” He mutes the phone. “Doctor, I would be happy to resume our conversation later this evening, but unless you fancy a rather awkward situation, you may want to make yourself scarce.”
Everton frowns. “Why do you say?”
“Well, the Tremere Regent is in the building and is apparently on his way up here. If the situation escalates out of control, I imagine this is probably an awkward spot for you to be in, what with your status with the Camarilla and everything.”
Everton snorts and grips his cane. “The details of my crimes against the Camarilla are regretfully overblown, but I do appreciate the point. That said, if the Tremere Regent’s purpose is to annihilate both myself and you, then I should like a word. Unless, of course, you think he stands a very good chance of actually performing the act.”
“That is a fantastic question.”
Silence falls between the men. Then, as one, they back further away from the elevator doors.
Scout stares intently at the security monitors, tabbing through camera feeds until she finds one showing Rabenholz, standing next to Everton, sword bared and moving away from the elevator. Her fingers drum against her knife, then she turns to the ghoul still lurking behind her. “Do you have any spare blood on hand?”
He stares. “Um, certainly–”
“Can I have some please.” She glances again at the monitors. “Now.”
Rabenholz and Everton stand in tense silence, backed into an alcove in the wall. After a long moment, Everton turns to Rabenholz. “I don’t imagine–”
Suddenly an arm bursts from the wall, grabbing Rabenholz by the throat and pulling him back. Rabenholz gurgles in surprise and grabs at it.
(Jason: “It has strength of ‘a lot,’ potence of ‘considerable,’ and claws of ‘ow.’”)
As he struggles, his eyes resolve on what’s happening. The arm hasn’t broken through the wall, it’s of the wall, plaster and marble melding perfectly into the smooth surface he’s being choked against. Everton draws his cane sword to swipe at it, but another pair of arms erupt to grab him as well. Both men yell and struggle as the walls along the hall start to undulate and bulge.
Scout jumps back in shock. “What floor is this!?” she yells, jabbing at the feed showing Rabenholz and Everton.
The ghoul peers at the code in the corner. “Thats…floor thirty-three, a few flights down–”
Scout grabs the ghoul and drags him to her, tearing a few bites of blood from his neck before lowering him unconscious to the floor. Gripping her knife tightly, she runs for the stairs.
Rabenholz twists against the arm’s grip to face the wall, staring intently at the area he’d expect the eyes to be. “Your Master urgently requires a coffee. Bring it to him,” he intones in full Dominate.
The arm freezes. “….I OBEY,” a deep gargoyle voice rumbles from the plaster. The arm releases him, melds back into the wall, and disappears.
Grinding plaster cracks and metallic squeals echo as large, winged shapes step into being, filling the hall between him and the green exit sign of the stairwell at the far end. Rabenholz runs the other way, back toward the elevator shaft, and pries the doors open. The shaft disappears down into the gloom, no sign of the elevator car. He stares down it, then turns back to check on Everton.
Fire has erupted in the hall, climbing the walls in an undulating tapestry, licking against roaring, formless dark shapes that tear at the walls in a frenzy to escape.
(Chris: “…Yeah I’m definitely going down the elevator shaft.”)
Scout pounds down the stairs to the 33rd floor and throws the door open. Searing heat and light and a roaring cacophony greet her, pouring over the threshold into the stairwell.
She throws the door closed.
She stands frozen a moment, fighting through panic to retain control of herself. Finally, she runs back up the stairs to the 40th floor, back down the hall to the security room. She steps over the unconscious ghoul and peers at the monitors. Flames and dark writhing monsters fill the feed, obscuring any sign of Rabenholz and Everton. Yet, for some reason, not tripping any alarms.
She gropes for a fire alarm on the wall of the security room and pulls it.
Rabenholz steps out into the chasm of the elevator shaft. The darkness swallows him in free-fall for an endless moment-
–Then he lands hard on the roof of an elevator car heading up. He stumbles, steadies, and looks up. Light from the flames shine through the open elevator doors far overhead in the darkness, the rising car bringing him steadily closer.
(Chris: “Is there a trapdoor in the roof of the cab?”
Jason: “No, those only exist in movies.”
Chris: “Ah. Well, luckily I have Glitch.”)
Hot, white light bursts into existence as he jams the sword through the roof of the car, sawing through in a large circle.
(Me: “Isn’t Glitch fun?”
Chris: “It really is.”
Me: “It’s like you have a real lightsaber!”)
Suddenly, alarms erupt through the building, echoing up and down the shaft like an enormous roaring throat. The car stops, then begins a rapid emergency descent to the bottom. Rabenholz saws faster, finally completing the circle and kicking it in, bracing the sword to attack.
The cab is empty.
Rabenholz drops down into the cab, landing heavily on top of the cut metal, slicing Glitch through the air in case someone is obfuscated inside, but hits nothing. He stands, glaring, then freezes as the elevator reaches the bottom floor, and–as programmed in emergency procedures–automatically opens the doors. Rabenholz turns to see a lobby full of first responders and evacuated people, many of whom are now turning to see him standing in the elevator holding a flaming sword.
(Chris: “…Wow, it’s at the lobby already?”
Chris: “That descended quickly.”
Me: “Well, to be fair, things escalated quickly as well.”
Chris: “That’s true.”)
In that brief moment of surprise, though, on the far side of the staring crowd, Rabenholz sees a shock of white hair moving away toward the front doors.
Before anyone can comprehend what they’re seeing, Rabenholz leaps back out of the car through the hole in the ceiling, then pries open the hallway doors on the floor above and climbs out through.
Scout watches on the monitors as sprinklers finally kick in, melting the flames and driving back the dark shapes to wherever they came from. Firefighters show up on the 33rd floor not long after, drenching the whole place in retardant. Checking the other monitors, she sees the crowd growing in the lobby, and spots Rabenholz climbing out of the elevator shaft on an empty floor holding a shining bright sword.
She pulls out her phone to call him, watching him answer on the monitor. “Lord Rabenholz? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She watches as he places the sword onto the floor and pulls the elevator doors closed behind him. “I believe someone arranged a trap for Dr. Everton that I somehow managed to stumble into. Tell me, that man you saw in the lobby, is he still there?”
She checks the other monitor. “Yes, he’s just leaving.”
“Scout, note this number,” Rabenholz rattles off a phone number. “That man is Regent Vannevar Hughes, and this is his phone number. Inform him Mr. Bell is not pleased with his theatrics and demands an audience with him immediately. Tell him to come alone, and use the stairway for his troubles.”
She blinks. “…Okay.”
“Call me back afterwards.” Rabenholz hangs up.
She shifts her attention to the lobby feed and dials the number. The white-haired man stops near the doors and pulls out his phone. “Who is this?” an even voice answers.
“Mr. Vannevar Hughes?”
The man glances around the lobby. “Who is this?!”
“I am calling from the fortieth floor. Mr. Bell is here and is not impressed with your theatrics. He wishes to speak–”
Vannevar hangs up. He shoves his phone away and rushes out the front door. She watches a moment, smirks, then calls Rabenholz back.
“Is he on his way up?” Rabenholz asks.
“He’s leaving the building. Rapidly.”
There’s a low sigh. “Can you see which car he came in?”
She tabs through the feeds till she finds external cameras. Vannevar walks quickly down the sidewalk toward an alley next to the building. The feed sputters a moment in snow. When the signal returns, he’s gone.
“He’s disappeared,” she reports.
A low mutter, almost a grumble, then Rabenholz hangs up.
Scout stands in silence a few moments, alone in the room with the unconscious ghoul on the floor, watching the various feeds on the monitors. Bell has appeared in the lobby, talking to the firemen and clearly trying to regain control of the crowd. She watches him idly a few moments, then looks down at her phone. After a moment, she lifts it to make another call.
(And this call is also still secret at this time. :D)
Looting of the Chantry complete, Georgia gathers her crew in the dungeons, outside the room where she first accidentally discovered the moonbridge orb. Bob lurks nervously in the hall, Dug and Domen stand patiently, each hefting multiple bags of books, and Jawahar–still holding MewMew–eyes the the little room uncertainly. “Did you find information on moonbridges in one of your books?” he asks.
Georgia flips through Max’s journal. “Ah, no. But there’s enough in Max’s notes here that I think I can make a guesstimate. Also I have a secret weapon.”
Jawahar glares. “And what is that?”
Georgia holds up one of her thermoses of werewolf blood and grins. She steps into the room and carefully pours out a measure of the blood into a circle and traces out unfamiliar runes copied from Max’s journal. She gestures everyone into the room, into the circle, then closes her eyes to concentrate.
(Jason: “I’m going to need you to make an intelligence-occult roll. It’s an extended roll, here’s how it works. You’re going to roll intelligence-occult multiple times. Each time you’re going to add up the successes you get until eventually you get twelve successes.”
Jim: “Or you botch.”
Jason: Or you will botch one of those rolls, in which case all your successes are flash-converted to botch dice and bad shit happens to you.”
Jason: “You are trying to perform an incredibly powerful magical blood ritual, using unstable blood as a component. Take. Care.”)
Power swells in currents around her, raw and earthy and unlike anything she’s dealt with before. Sensations of the surrounding room fade away as she reaches out, first coaxing the energy to her, then drawing it forcefully, building a ball of power writhing to be released….
(Jason: “What roll are you on?”
Kara: “I’m about to make my fourth–”
Jason: “Stop right there. You hear a noise down the hall, from one of the other rooms. A door opens.”)
Georgia tenses, struggling to maintain her grip on the rising power. “Dug, Domen,” she mutters through clenched teeth. “Guard our backs.” The two gargoyles move to stand between her and the doorway, forming a wall of living stone.
“Whatever you’re going to do, I suggest you do it quickly,” Jawahar mutters, peering around them. Georgia nods tensely, pulling even harder–
(Kara: “–Oh! One, two, three, four, five, six successes, plus the willpower gives me a total of eighteen! Six more than I need!”
Jason: “Very good. Allow me to describe what happens….”)
Suddenly, a figure appears in the door to the hallway, stopping as he notices the crowd in the room. It’s Vannevar Hughes. He stares blankly at the gargoyles, then his gaze slides past them to fall on Georgia.
“…You,” Vannevar he snarls, raising an arm. Rivulets of blood rise from the ground, seeping out of the stained concrete and spiralling up his body to collect in his hand. “You will never make it to Vienna!!” he shouts as the blood forms into a massive, coagulated ball, marbled with dark streaks and writhing on itself.
The gargoyles freeze, momentarily thrown by being trapped between two Tremere. Bob cowers. Jawahar fumbles with the cat. As one, they turn to Georgia. She opens her eyes. “Oh, what makes you think we’re going to Vienna?” she asks brightly, then releases the spell.
Instantly, blinding white light fills the room, overflowing into the hall. Vannevar stumbles away, arm thrown over his eyes. Once the light clears, he peers back in.
Team Georgia has disappeared.
Georgia stumbles from the light back into darkness. Her eyes adjust as she peers around the gloom. She’s standing in the middle of the center chamber on Thera, the massive statue to Daedelus looming overhead. Bob and Jawahar are next to her, peering around just as bewilderedly. MewMew squirms uncomfortably in Jawahar’s arms.
But the gargoyles are missing.
She balls her fists on her hips. “Dammit, was anyone holding their hands?” Bob and Jawahar stare back blankly, then Jawahar tenses. “Uh, I think we have something else to worry about at the moment,” he says, pointing beyond her. The moonbridge portal hangs behind them, still open.
(Kara: “Oh, shit.”)
“Should we turn that off?” she asks.
“It depends on how much you want Vannevar Hughes to step through in the next five seconds!” Jawahar yells.
Georgia flips through the journal, but nothing specifies how to end the enchantment. She walks up to the orb and throws her arms up in the air. “Off!” she shouts. The orb continues glowing.
Jawahar steps forward and hands MewMew over to her. “I have an idea, you might not like it,” he says grimly. “Stand back, please.”
Georgia steps back.
“Further,” Jawahar says, rolling up his sleeves.
Georgia backs up almost to the cave wall, cradling the space whale to her chest and pulling the bewildered Bob with her. Jawahar extends his hands, closes his eyes, and mutters something in Sanskrit as he slowly backs up to join them. Jawahar extends his hands, closes his eyes, mutters something in Sanskrit.
A groan echoes through the cavern, followed by dust raining from overhead. An instant later, a huge chunk of the ceiling dislodges and falls to the floor, crashing into the space occupied by the moonbridge orb and instantly cutting off its light.
Jawahar opens his eyes and smiles. “Let’s see him come through that.”
KPIX TELEVISION STUDIO
The tech hurries ahead of Paul, leading him back to the green room. “Again, Mr. Stewart, I’m very sorry for the change in schedule.”
“That’s quite alright,” he says vaguely, scrolling through his emails.
“If you could just wait in the green room with our other guest here, I’ll come get you when we need you.” She opens the door to let him in. The other guest, flipping idly through a copy of Reptiles Magazine, looks up from his spot on the couch. Paul sees him and stops a few feet from the door.
It’s Charles Steinhart.
The tech leaves, closing the door behind Paul. The two men stare at each other in surprise a long moment.
“Hello….” Paul says carefully.
Charles’s albino face darkens. “What are you doing here?” he growls.
Paul lingers near the doorway. “A short press blurb, basically assuring people I haven’t been blown up. May I ask what you’re doing here? I didn’t realize you went on television.”
Charles slaps the magazine down on the coffee table and stands. “What is going on here?”
“Just what I said, I’m reassuring the people I’m not dead. There was another terrorist attack on my house.”
Charles sneers. “What really happened?”
“Uhh, just some Black Spiral Dancers and a Nephandi, if I have the word right, attacked my house and kidnapped one of my guests.”
Charles blinks. “What in the hell is a Nephandi?”
Paul tilts his head. “Some sort of crazy mage? Not like normal crazy, like they want the world to end type of crazy.”
Charles stares, then growls and paces the room. “I don’t have time for this. I warned you and all the rest of your misbegotten kind to leave these sorts of things alone, to leave this city alone. I have tolerated you skulking about in the shadows and now you want to go on television!?”
Paul remains frozen, watching him pace. “You realize I’ve been on television before, right?”
“I realize a number of things have happened that I don’t like,” Charles snaps. “That doesn’t mean I have to continue permitting them. You say the rest of the world believes you’re dead and you’re here to assure everyone you’re not?”
“So it would be a very simple matter for me to just kill you right now and let everyone continue to believe you died in the attack.”
“I don’t know, there would be some booking agents very confused how I was here and then suddenly dead–”
“I think I can handle a booking agent,” Charles snarls.
“I feel like you having said that means you haven’t interacted with booking agents before,” Paul says carefully.
Charles stops, staring at him with his unblinking red gaze, then closes his eyes and massages his temples. “…There is a god and he hates me,” he mutters.
“That’s one way to phrase it. How have you been, by the way? What are you here for?”
Charles’s eyes snap open. For a moment, the pupils look slitted. “I was asked to come down to the station and give a five minute description of the new exhibits we’re opening in April–”
“At some point I’d love to see them,” Paul says.
Charles’s eyes narrow as he continues, “–I wasn’t certain who made the request, but now here you are.”
“I’m here on almost totally pedestrian business! Apart from the fact that crazy evil werewolves and crazy evil mages blew up my house today.” Paul hesitates. “…Would it be helpful if I just wait outside and we don’t see each other till we finish our segments?”
Charles glares, then gestures pointedly to a seat. “I don’t need to blow this entire station apart right now. So for that reason alone, I’m going to give you the courtesy of quietly sitting there while I figure out what the hell is going on here.”
“Okay.” Paul sits awkwardly, picking up a copy of Dwell Magazine from the table.
A growl rumbles through the room. “Stay.” With that, Charles strides to the door, throws it open, and storms out.
(Jim: “Paul has an amazing ability to diffuse situations by confusing the hell out of the people he’s talking to.”)
Anstis and Marcus appear in the teleportation circle deep in the tunnels. Cold darkness swirls around them, then immediately becomes darker as the shadows start to rise higher up the walls.
Marcus draws his sword, staring into the depths of the hall before them. “Well, you claim these are your caves? How would you like to approach this?”
Anstis swaggers forward, eyes glowing as he examines the room. Footprints circle the enchantments engraved into the floor. He kneels to test them. “This circle has been used recently, heading out,” he growls, turning back toward Marcus. “Shall we explore here, or follow where they went?”
Marcus scans the darkness. “Where does this circle normally lead?”
“To places of my own.”
Marcus suddenly chuckles. “Oh Captain, I have so wanted to see your little boat.”
Anstis glares and pulls out a stone to cast the ritual on Nitocris:
The Caves of War, just before you.
He opens his eye. “I think Nitocris is still here.
Marcus nods and gestures forward, his armor clinking ominously. “As you would, then.”
Anstis leads them into the hall, following the trail of footprints. Marcus lags a few feet behind, almost invisible in a rolling wave of shadow.
The trail leads them through the winding tunnels into another large cavern, a mirror of the one they just left. Anstis steps carefully through the darkness, then stops as lights suddenly snap on around them. Half a dozen Settite warriors are ranged in a semi-circle around him, all glaring, and all armed. Standing in their center is the dark, robed form of Nitocris.
Something about her is wrong. One of her arms hangs limply at her side, the shoulder slouched in pain, but the eyes that stare at Anstis still flash with green fire.
Anstis smirks, meets her gaze, and steps forward. “You will reveal all your plans before acting further.”
(Jim: *rolls for the Dominate* “…Aaaand, that was kind of shit.”)
Nitocris staggers a moment, her gold jewelry clinking, then straightens. “My plans? My plans will be obvious in a moment.” She turns to her men. “Cut him down!” she shouts. The warriors lift their weapons and begin to move forward–
And then the lights go out.
END OF NIGHT