3/08/16

Kara: “I don’t know if Georgia would be familiar with term papers or book reports.”
Jason: “Well, these are papers written about magic that look very similar to papers you yourself may have written at one point long, long ago. Back when you were an apprentice and the world was young.”
Chris: *dry, rote intonation* “Over the summer I read The Path of Corruption. It was a good book. I really like the chapter on making people’s skin decay while they are still wearing it. I would recommend this book to most people, with the exception of people who do not like books about skin decaying.”

***

AUTHOR’S NOTE

I must start off this post with some unfortunate news. During this March of our game, Kara announced that she would be stepping down from gameplay for the foreseeable future. Not because of drama with the game or with any of us; she’s had some personal things come up in her life and is also beginning a new job so she felt she didn’t have the time to devote to the game properly. Everyone agreed it’s the right thing right now. Jason has actually been building to it the last few sessions, but this episode will be the last episode of continuous Georgia-play for the time being.

But that doesn’t mean this is the end of Georgia. Kara gave Jason permission to play her periodically if needed—mostly in interactions with the rest of the characters—and I can tell you now that there are some cameo re-appearances coming on nights when Kara rejoins us for dinner. There is also talk of bringing her back for the final endgame (which Jason assures us is approaching, believe it or not). But for the time being, the main plot thread of Georgia the Lich must be put on hold.

Each of us has dealt with the grief in different ways:

Me: “Oh nooooo, I’ll miss the tiny dice!”
Kara: “I’ll sell them to you, Colleen! They were ten cents each!”
Me: *Sharp intake of breath* “Ooo, I don’t know, that’s pretty steep….”

***

AN ALLEGORICAL REPRESENTATION OF BEOWULF

Anstis stands in the cave, frozen in shock at the woman’s revelation. Georgia and Rabenholz both stare at him, but he doesn’t notice.

The woman chuckles and turns to them. “Doesn’t matter what you two want to do. He’s going to kill you.”

“Why is he going to do that?” Rabenholz asks suspiciously.

The woman picks up her paintbrush and dabs a few more blotches of shadow to the painting. “Because if you get out of here, you’ll tell the lesser Sertorius. And if that happens, your captain will be killed.”

“Why would he be killed?”

She smiles and taps the handle of her brush against her chin. “Consider.”

Rabenholz frowns and resettles his cloak, surreptitiously exposing the cane sword tucked at his hip. “Is there any other use we might have of you than to kill you? You are, after all, just some sort of player or actor here.”

The woman gestures vaguely with her brush, undulating across the cave to a bottle of wine on a ledge. “We are all players and actors here. Including yourselves.”

“What would happen if we changed the story?”

She laughs as she pours herself another glass. “You can’t!

There’s a long silence as the woman takes a smug sip of her wine. Then Georgia steps forward with the rusted sword and stabs her.

The woman stumbles back, paintbrush and wineglass tumbling from her hands. She glares at Georgia, then slumps over.

Georgia turns away to start searching the cave. Rabenholz approaches the body and leans down over it. “Is it really necessary to cut off your head?” he asks. The body doesn’t answer. He sighs, then, just to be safe, whips out his cane-sword and slices it off anyway.

Meanwhile, Georgia is pawing through the furnishings of the cave, joined by Anstis. The pirate moves woodenly, gaze still a little distant, but the familiar act of looting starts to bring him back to the present.

However, the pickings of the room aren’t promising. Furnishings that looked luxurious when they first entered now, upon closer inspection, feel rough-spun and thin. The glittering gold sconces lining the walls turn out to be electroplated nickel, and even the jewelry on the woman’s body is costume plastic and glass.

Deep in a trunk, though, Georgia finds a sheaf of papers scrawled largely in unfamiliar languages, but the few phrases Georgia can translate seem to be talking about magic, albeit in a rigid, school book-report style.

(Kara: “I don’t know if Georgia would be familiar with term papers or book reports.”
Jason: “They’re papers written about magic that look very similar to papers you yourself may have written at one point long, long ago. Back when you were an apprentice and the world was young.”
Chris: *dry, rote intonation* “Over the summer I read The Path of Corruption. It was a good book. I really like the chapter on making people’s skin decay while they are still wearing it. I would recommend this book to most people, with the exception of people who do not like books about skin decaying.”)

Georgia flips eagerly through the papers, then stops as a photograph slips out from between them. It’s a large family portrait, with three generations at least squeezed into one shot. It’s in color, but faded, most of the faces obscured, but by the style of the clothing the family is Indian. One pale face, though, hovers amongst the brown. Georgia peers closer in the flickering firelight.

It’s herself.

Anstis comes to peer over her shoulder and Georgia quickly tucks the photo away, turning to see Rabenholz holding the woman’s decapitated head. “Ah. You killed her. Well done. Now we just have to wait fifty years and kill a dragon.”

Anstis examines the painting, which has now bleached back to plain canvas. He scowls. “Is there any way to hasten the story?”

Rabenholz examines some of the junk furnishings they found. “Well, we appear to have a bunch of theatrical props instead of treasure, so….” He drops the head, spreading his arms dramatically. “CUT! DRAGON SCENE!”

Everyone looks around expectantly. Nothing happens.

“Maybe I have to do it.” Georgia stands in front of Rabenholz, copying his posture. “Enter stage left!” she shouts.

This time, someone steps out from behind a stalagmite and approaches them, moving into the firelight.

It’s another copy of Georgia.

Other-Georgia stops, beaming pleasantly, and waves. “Hello! I’m Georgia!

The three gape at her. “What are your feelings about being beheaded?” Rabenholz asks.

Other-Georgia considers this. “I would prefer not.”

“Very well then.” Rabenholz gestures to Georgia. “May I present Ms. Georgia Johnson, of Clan Tremere?”

“You may,” Other-Georgia says.

“Hello!” Georgia says, waving back.

“Oh, but he hasn’t presented you yet,” Other-Georgia says.

“Oh.” Georgia turns to Rabenholz. “Will you present me?”

“He will,” Other-Georgia says, nodding sagely.

Rabenholz, by all intents a vampire who doesn’t take cosmetic breaths very often, takes a very, very slow one.  “Ms. Georgia Johnson of Clan Tremere, meet Ms. Georgia Johnson of Clan Tremere,” he mutters.

“Oh, I’m not of Clan Tremere,” Other-Georgia says.

“Of what group do you consider yourself a member?” Anstis growls, watching them both with a narrowed eye.

Other-Georgia cocks her head, considering. “Genociders,” she says brightly.

“Apart from that, do you maintain any other political, religious, or economic affiliations?” Rabenholz asks.

Other-Georgia nods eagerly. “Yes.”

Silence lingers. “Please list them,” Rabenholz finally prompts.

Other-Georgia cocks her head the other way. “…No.” She turns to Georgia. “What are you doing here?”

“Participating in the scene,” Georgia says. “What are you doing here?”

Other-Georgia looks around the cave. “I’m not entirely certain.”

Rabenholz steps forward. “Pardon me. Ms. Johnson Not-of-Clan-Tremere, would you mind being a dragon?”

Other-Georgia beams. “No, not at all!”

“Oh, well in that case.” Georgia spreads her arms again. “Fake-Georgia becomes a dragon!”

Everyone waits expectantly. Nothing happens.

Other-Georgia peers down at herself. “I don’t think I did.”

Georgia frowns. “Oh. Maybe I didn’t do the stage directions properly.”

“I don’t think you’re the director,” Other-Georgia says.

“Then how did I make you enter stage left?” Georgia leans back to peer behind the stalagmite.

“You didn’t, I simply did.”

“That…was very coincidental timing.”

Other-Georgia nods sagely again. “Coincidence is at the heart of all magic.”

Anstis, sullenly watching this exchange, decides to hurry things along.  

(Jim: “I Summon dragons!”
Jason: “Okay, roll it.”
Jim: “…Three successes!”
Chris: “Half of all the dragons in the area show up.”
Kara: “So…zero dragons.”
Jason: “Boopsie walks in. …No, the PARROT flies in!”
Me: “The fuck-off parrot!!”
Jim: “Does it really?!”
Jason: “Yes!”)

Out of nowhere, the cherry-headed conure from the Telegraph Hill flock, the one Anstis tried to ghoul ages ago—when he still thought he was good at Animalism—flies in, lands on his shoulder, and starts chewing at his hat.

Other-Georgia watches it a moment. “That is not a dragon.”

“How can you tell?” Anstis grumbles.

Other-Georgia grins. “Magic.”

“Via magic, could you bring us back to San Francisco?” Rabenholz asks.

“Qute possibly, yes,” Other-Georgia says, smiling.

“…Would you be so kind as to take us?” Rabenholz asks after another awkward silence.

“Oh!” Other-Georgia considers the idea. “That’s difficult to say. I’m not accustomed to being kind.”

Anstis stalks forward, ignoring the beak now nibbling at his ear. “Do that.”

“No,” Other-Georgia says simply.

He meets her eyes. “Do. That.

(Jason: “Okay, so, since Georgia has no idea how that can be accomplished, Other-Georgia doesn’t know either, so the most logical explanation would be that she is dreaming, so killing you will return him to the real world.”)

Still smiling, Other-Georgia draws her rusted sword and stabs Anstis through the chest. The parrot flies away shrieking while Anstis stumbles to the ground, more surprised than injured. A moment later Rabenholz is there, pulling her off Anstis and helping him back to his feet.

(Jim: “I would like to subdue fake-Georgia.”
Jason: “Okay. Which one is fake-Georgia?”)

Once Anstis has regained his footing, he and Rabenholz look up, then stop. Identical women stare back at them blankly.

“Georgia Johnson on my left,” Rabenholz says, “If I asked this Georgia Johnson on my right which Georgia Johnson you were, what would she say?”

“She would say that I am not Georgia Johnson,” that Georgia says.

He turns to the other. “Is this so?”

“Yes,” that Georgia says.

“And you would agree that neither of you would say either of you is Georgia Johnson?”

“No,” one says.

“We would each say we are Georgia Johnson,” the other says, while the first nods in agreement.

Anstis, less entertained by the puzzle than Rabenholz, glowers. “Are you both Georgia Johnson?”

One of the Georgias scoffs. “Well of course we’re not both Georgia Johnson!”

“That’s ridiculous!” the other agrees.

“One of us isn’t Georgia Johnson, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any readily available way to determine which is which, is there?” She gestures to the other Georgia. “This fake Georgia Johnson seems to have all of my memories and abilities.”

The other Georgia glares at her. “I am not the fake Georgia Johnson. This fake Georgia Johnson is doing an admirable job pretending to be Georgia Johnson.” She turns to Rabenholz. “Why did you want her to become a dragon?”

“Because we need to slay a dragon to get out of here,” he grumbles, rubbing at his temples.

“So why don’t you just slay the dragon?”

“Well, we were afraid we’d have to wait fifty years,” the other Georgia answers.

“Well, you could, but the dragon is right over there.” The first Georgia points toward the mouth of the cave, to a lump of furs tucked in a crevice by the entrance.

“No no, that’s Dr. von Natsi,” Georgia says.

“No, that’s definitely the dragon,” Other-Georgia says.

“How can you tell?”

Other-Georgia grins. “Magic.”

Georgia peers at him again. “He doesn’t have wings.

“You’ve met dragons that didn’t always have wings.”

Georgia’s face falls. “Oh, that’s a good point.”

“Ms. Johnsons,” Rabenholz interrupts, his voice carrying the weight of frustrated authority, “You must both agree this is a strange circumstance. To help solve this situation and find us a way out of here, I must request a drop of each of your bloods.”

“I decline,” Georgia says.

“As do I,” Other-Georgia says.

Both of the Georgias fall back into arguing the relative merits and features of dragons. Rabenholz watches them in growing disbelief, then pulls out two plain stakes. He stalks forward and thrusts one into each of their hands. “I believe if this will be more successfully resolved if both of you silence yourselves for a moment.”

They stare at their stakes, say “I decline” at the same time, then turn back to continue arguing—

—Until time suddenly stops around them.

Georgia falls silent as she senses the change to the world. She stares around at the frozen flames in the sconces and the now-permanent glower on Rabenholz’s face.

“You don’t understand, do you?” Other-Georgia says.

Georgia turns back to her. “Not really, no.”

“They’re all the dragon.”

“Ah.” Georgia nods. “…No, I still don’t get it.” She looks around again. “I have to kill all of them?”

Other-Georgia smiles. “All of them.”

“Is this some sort of moral thing about Jawahar?” Georgia asks hesitantly.

Other-Georgia laughs. “Morals? What do morals have to do with reality? It’s not morality that matters here.”

“What then?”

Other-Georgia shrugs. “Introspection. Self. Reality.”

“Okay….” Georgia smooths at her robes. “Well the reality is my self is Georgia Johnson.”

“Are you?” Other-Georgia’s gaze flicks over her. “I don’t see Georgia Johnson when I look at you. You haven’t been Georgia Johnson for some time.”

Georgia’s hands stop. “Since when?”

“Since you killed her.”

The silence rings exceptionally loud in the unearthly stillness. “…Okay….” Georgia says finally, glancing around the cave again. Her gaze falls on the distant lump of Dr. von Natsi. She looks away hurriedly. “You know I can’t kill all of them, right?”

“Oh yes you can.”

“It would defeat the purpose! Jawahar died for a reason, to further the cause!”

Other-Georgia nods. “And now it’s time for them to make the same.”

“I see.” Georgia’s hands fall to her side. “That’s unfortunate.”

“It was unfortunate for Jawahar to make the helpful sacrifice too.”

“It was. And I am grateful. It was not a meaningless death.”

“No. And neither are theirs.”

Georgia looks around the cave, then down at the stake in her hand. “This feels different. This feels…constructed.”

“No more so than the other one. We are all in the hands of sadists.” Other-Georgia shakes her head sadly, then smiles. “Well, this has been a very interesting conversation.”

Georgia nods eagerly. “I am so glad you think so. Thank you so much for having it.”

In the next instant—which, to the world is still the same instant—time speeds back up.

#

THE CHANTRY

Scout paces the thick, blood-red rug of the Chantry office. Not long before, she left Thrace alone in one of the dungeon storerooms to accomplish his task. He assured her it wouldn’t take very long, but she keeps checking the clock to mark the passing of every minute.

As she circles the room, she passes by the desk, and slows.

(Me: “Earlier I was looking at the rolodex on the desk, I imagine it’s still open?”
Jason: “Yes.”
Me: “I flip through it again, and I think I stumble upon a name. A name that I know Georgia has the information for because Tom gave it to her, game-time months ago, real-time years ago.”
Jason: “Which name would that be?”
Me: “Fatima. El. Amin.”)

Flipping aimlessly through the deck, she stops as she finds a card with Fatima’s name scrawled across the top. She checks to make sure the door is closed all the way, then calls the number.

“Who speaks?” a woman’s voice answers.

Scout smiles thinly. “The slave.”

Fatima is silent a moment. “How did you get this number?”

“From the would-be Regent.”

“Found it, or consumed it?”

“Found it, I’m in her office now.”

Another pause. “Impressive. Most impressive.”

Scout glances at the clock again. “When last we spoke, we spoke of…opportunities.”

“We did.”

“I’m not alone in the Chantry at the moment. Another would-be Regent is here. Oliver Thrace.”

“…Thrace? Thrace is here?

“He is here, he is doing something for me. When he is done, I have no further need of him. And from what I hear, he already has a Blood Hunt declared on him.”

The words—and the implication underneath them—hang in the air a long moment. “This is valuable information,” Fatima says finally. “To what do I owe the honor?”

Scout’s gaze falls to the desk, and her bone-handled knife laid out on it. “You remember what else we spoke of last time?” she says hesitantly.

“I do.”

“I—” Scout chokes suddenly as the subconscious force of a blood bond grips her throat, silencing her. She braces a hand against the desk, forcing herself to breathe, to concentrate, finding words to force through the weak points of the bond. “—I…still need assistance with that.”

“It is no simple thing to ask,” Fatima replies, grimly.

Still staring at the knife, Scout’s hand clenches. “I think I know that more than most.”

“How long will Thrace be there?”

Scout looks to the clock again. “I don’t know. The task he’s working on may take more time. I also need to be sure it’s going to work at all. But when I leave the Chantry, there is a possibility he will take over occupancy. For how long, I don’t know, considering how the leadership has turned over lately.”

The clock ticks fill the silence as Scout waits for the answer. “…So be it,” Fatima says finally. “I cannot overcome Thrace myself, but another associate of mine will be there soon. Together we may have a chance. Await him.”

Scout sags against the desk and nods. “He can let himself in.”

“Yes. He can.” Fatima hangs up.

(Jason: “…Okay. So. You’re gonna play that game?”
Me: “Hell yeah. Welcome to Vampire.”)

#

AN ALLEGORICAL REPRESENTATION OF BEOWULF

The bubble of time around the Georgias speeds back up to the present. Both women stare at each other.

(Kara: “I…stake her.”)

Both Georgias raise their stakes at the same time, but one lunges for the other faster, staking her through the heart and sending her crumpling to the floor. Winning-Georgia nods, pleased.

Rabenholz eyes her. “Have you decided whether you’re the real or fake Georgia Johnson?”

Georgia hands the stake back to him. “There was never a question. I’m the real Georgia Johnson. She was attempting to tell me that you are all the dragon and I have to kill all of you in order to slay the dragon.”

Rabenholz shifts ever so slightly, twitching back the corner of his cloak covering his cane. “And have you done this yet?”

Georgia glances between him and Anstis. “No….”

“Are you going to?”

“No.”

“Good.” The cloak falls back down. “I would rather object to that plan.”

“Consenting has never been a big element in her character,” shouts a new voice. They turn to see a portly man enter the cave, dressed in a dark sweater with a matching beret and carrying a riding crop.

“Are you a dragon?” Rabenholz asks.

“No.” The man tucks his crop under his arm. “I am the director.”

“Ah!” Georgia rushes forward and shakes his hand. “How very lovely to meet you!”

Rabenholz and Anstis continue to eye him warily. “Do you have any direction?” Rabenholz asks.

The director extracts his hand from Georgia’s grip. “A great deal, as it turns out.”

“Let’s hear it then,” Georgia says.

The director flicks his crop toward Rabenholz and Anstis. “Attack them.”

Georgia stares. “No, we already decided I’d rather not do it that way.”

Rabenholz strides forward, smiling politely. “Would you please instruct the dragon to come on screen?”

The director merely rolls his eyes. “You are the dragon. So is he, so is that doctor over there.”

Rabenholz’s smile evaporates. “Cut your eyes out.

“That sounds unpleasant, but alright.” The director reaches into his pocket, pulls out a folding knife, flicks it out—

Georgia rushes forward. “Wait, is that really necessary—”

Before she reaches him, the director reaches into his other pocket, pulls out a potato, and starts digging the eyes out with the tip of his blade. “Anyway,” he continues pedantically, “There’s no real dragon, it’s all a metaphor.”

Georgia stops, but recovers rapidly, ignoring Rabenholz’s double-facepalm behind her. “Well I know that,” she says, “But I’m asking if we can change the metaphor.”

The director looks up from his potato, shocked. “That would defeat the point of the story!”

“But see, I don’t want to kill them.”

“The idea is growing on me,” Rabenholz mutters from behind his hands.

The director rolls his eyes again, tucking the knife and potato away. “You’re not going to kill them, they’re going to kill you. That’s the point. The dragon wins.”

Georgia hesitates. “Doesn’t the dragon also die?”

“Well of course, but the dragon isn’t the point of the story. Beowulf is.”

“Can’t I just skip the part where I kill them, then?”

The director tsks. “Then you don’t finish the story.”

“What if I did still finish the story?”

The director barks a laugh. “How could you finish it without fighting them?”

Georgia eyes them a moment. “What if I fight them but I don’t kill them?” she suggests carefully.

The director taps his riding crop against his chin. “…That’s entirely possible. The point is still made….” he says.

“Why are we being cast as a dragon?” Anstis asks.

The director shoots a Look at him. “Because you involved yourselves.”

Georgia lays a hand on the director’s arm. “They’re not getting it. It’s alright, I got this.” Brandishing her sword, she turns to Anstis. “To the death!” she shouts.

Anstis stares at her, confusion morphing into disbelief. “Why do you wish to fight me?”

“Because it’s necessary for the story.” Georgia hefts the sword and lunges at Anstis in an obvious feint.

Meanwhile, Rabenholz takes the opportunity to stride forward, grab the director, frog-march him back to the entrance of the cave—protesting the whole way—then lifts him up and throws him far out into the air, off the mountain to disappear into the fog.

(Jason: “That’s a metaphorical representation of me, by the way, so…thanks for that.”
Chris: “What did you expect?”
Jason: “…Pretty much that, actually.”)

Anstis, meanwhile, dodges back from Georgia’s unbalanced lunges. “Stop!” he shouts.

Georgia stops, sword tipping to the ground. “Fight me, you tentacle-faced buffoon!”

“No.”

“Then how am I supposed to get you to kill me?”

“I don’t believe that’s necessary.”

She jabs the sword into the dirt. “I do think it’s necessary!” She turns as Rabenholz returns from ejecting the director. “Lord Rabenholz! We should duel.”

Rabenholz stops. “To what end?”

“To the death.”

Rabenholz stares between her and Anstis. “You wish me to send you to final death?” he repeats carefully. “Are you certain?”

Georgia’s smile falters briefly. “Fairly….”

Rabenholz watches her a long moment, face unreadable, then moves forward.

(Chris: “I…would like to diablerize her.”
Kara: “I allow it.”
Chris: “Glug glug glug, glug glug glug.”)

Georgia doesn’t resist as Rabenholz bites her, draining her dry. Her body crumbles to dust in his hand.

Rabenholz brushes himself off and looks around expectantly. Anstis does too.

(Jason: “…I’ll get back to you in a moment.”)

#

THE CHANTRY

A knock echoes at the office door. Scout gets up from her chair, drawing her knife. The knock comes again, more urgently this time.

(Me: “…Doppelgänger.”)

An identical image of Scout materializes in front of the desk, moving toward the door. Behind it, the real Scout obfuscates and follows, knife ready. She reaches forward to open the door, then stands back to lurk near the wall of the room while the image of herself peers out into the hallway…

…At Bob. He blinks up at her. “Oh! I’m sorry, Ms. Scout, I saw the door was closed and thought the Mistress had returned.”

The image looks down at him impassively. “No,” it says. “I don’t know when she will return. But I’m sure she’ll be extremely pleased with the work you’ve been doing.”

His eyes grow wide. “Do…do you really think so?”

“I do.” The image makes a show of glancing up and down the hall. “Do you need anything, Bob?”

“No! No, I just wanted to see if you wanted anything.”

“No. Our visitor is working on some things in the dungeons. Stay out of his way.”

“Of course, of course. I will.” Bob bows as he backs away, then hurries down the hall.

The real Scout—still obfuscated—steps forward to align herself with the illusion, reaching out to close the door.

“That was unkind,” a deep voice behind her grumbles. Both Scouts whip around simultaneously.

A nine-and-a-half foot tall monster looms in the room behind her, a wall of hardened muscle and slate-blue skin. After a moment of shock, she identifies it as the gargoyle she saw the first time she snuck into the Chantry, the one stalking the basement corridors the same time she was. He folds his arms and stares at her with a blood-red gaze.

Slowly, the obfuscated-Scout steps away from the other figure. The gargoyle’s eyes remain focused on the illusion, even as she moves toward the side of the room. She relaxes slightly but keeps her knife in-hand.

The gargoyle looks her over, growling. “Who are you?”

“My name is Scout,” the illusion replies. “Who are you?”

The wings unfurl, pinion claws scraping the walls. “I am called Jalut. What I am should be apparent.”

“How did you get into this room?

“The same way you did. Skill.” His gaze slowly scans the furnishings of the office. “Tell your bodyguard to come out.”

Scout tenses. The illusion looks puzzled. “Which bodyguard?”

“The one sliding around this room. The one I can smell.” Jalut bares his fangs. “The one who thinks she can’t be seen.”

Scout hesitates a long moment, then composes herself and  drops the illusion at the same time she drops her obfuscate.

Jalut tenses, gaze flicking between her and the space where the illusion just was. It lingers on her knife but doesn’t comment. “Why am I here?” he growls finally.

“Are you working with Fatima?”

“I am working with myself,” he snarls. “But I am told by her there is something here worth seeing.”

Scout nods once. “Oliver Thrace. He’s in the basement.”

His wings spread wider, creaking like brittle shale. “And you asked us to destroy him. Why?”

“I offered him as a courtesy.”

His eyes narrow. “There is no courtesy in your kind. No honor, no friendship. Nothing but hunger.”

“There is courtesy among those worthy of it, in my kind.” She hesitates, fingers twitching on her knife. “…Or so I hear.”

“You think yourselves worthy and the rest cattle.” He stalks forward, crushing the thick carpet under his taloned feet. “What do you hunger for, Kindred?”

She shrugs one shoulder. “Same thing any of us do, it seems.”

“Power. Lordship.”

“Surviving,” she says flatly. “From one night to the next.”

He eyes her, an indistinct sound rumbling his chest. “How do I know this isn’t a trap?”

“Why would I have tried to lure you if I didn’t even know who you were?”

“To curry favor with the Tremere.”

Scout snorts.

His talons dig into the carpet, piercing through to scrape on stone. “You laugh. Few laugh at them and live. Few besides me.”

“Yes,” she smirks, “You seem quite the jovial type.”

An angry tremor crosses his face. “I have hunted Tremere for two hundred years. Many times they have sought to destroy me. Or trap me. Every time, they have died. If you are lying, you will join them.”

Her smirk vanishes. She nods. “I need Thrace to finish something for me. When he is done, I do not care what happens to him.” She eyes him a moment. “Why are you associated with Fatima?”

“Because she has what I want.”

“What is that?”

He bares his fangs. “Vengeance.”

Scout glances to the door. “Is she coming as well?”

“In time. She sought to curry favor. To obtain my aid.” His wings flare again. “She cannot destroy Thrace. I can.”

Scout glances at the door again. “Part of her agreement with me is she needs Thrace in order to…accomplish something else.”

This time, Jalut bares his teeth in a gargoyle approximation of a smirk. “She will have what she needs of him. She does not need all of him.”

Scout hesitates a long moment, fingering her knife, gaze flicking to the clock and the door. Finally, she nods. “Let me go check to see if he has completed his task.”

Jalut nods and settles his wings tight around himself. “I will follow.”

She eyes him up and down. “Um, you’re a little obvious.”

Jalut grins and steps back. Instantly, his slate blue skin melds with the rough stone of the wall. A moment or two later, he’s merged completely and gone.

“…Wow,” Scout mutters.

(Jason: “You go downstairs?”
Me: *tears at hair* “Ehrmagerd, whatamIdoing… Yeah! Okay!” *awkward, manic laugh* “Let’s go! What the hell could go wrong?”)

Scout recasts her doppelgänger illusion, dropping into invisibility at the same time, and both leave the office, heading downstairs to the dungeon room she left Thrace working in.

Thrace is consulting a heavy leather-bound tome as both her and her illusion step into the room. “Yes?” he mutters without looking up.

Her illusion bows politely. “I was coming to check on your progress and see if there was anything you need assistance with.”

Thrace turns a page in the book, flashing brief glimpses of thaumaturgical symbols. “Are you familiar with fourth-circle Tremere rituals?”

“Not at this time. But there are some ghouls upstairs who might be.”

“I doubt that quite seriously.” Thrace snaps the book shut, finally looking up at her. “I am an experienced thaumaturgist,” he says sharply, “I know what I am doing. The question is, do you?”

Her illusion eyes him. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

Slowly, he takes a step toward her. “You know there’s a gargoyle in this building?” he says nonchalantly.

Both Scout and the illusion freeze as her mind races. “Well, yes. I met him upstairs, he’s watching Pixar movies.”

“Quite.” He follows her glance to the ceiling, then back. “Fascinating creatures, the gargoyles. Did you know we created them?”

“I’ve heard this, yes.”

“Do you know why?”

“No.”

“It was to wage war.” Thrace tucks the book under his arm. “We were hunted once, you see, by other clans. Tzimisce. Gangrel. Nosferatu. Unhappy, I should imagine, with some of the experiments we were doing. One can hardly fault them. Creatures of low repute and instinct.” He shakes his head sadly. “But we paid for our arrogance. The gargoyles turned on us. Tore our headquarters at Ceoris apart. It’s why we had to relocate to Vienna. It’s not in the official Chantry histories, of course, and you won’t have many Tremere tell you this, but I don’t care. It’s better to speak of the truth, isn’t it?” He smiles thinly. “And the truth is after the gargoyle revolt, we took some pains to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Magic was bred into the rituals used to create them. Things that would alert us in case they were ever plotting treason once more.”

Thrace glances at the ceiling again. “That gargoyle upstairs hasn’t a treasonous thought in his head. I know. Because you see, when a gargoyle who does mean treason enters the building…” he withdraws a stake from his jacket, “…I can tell immediately.”

He smiles. “Now. Is there something you’d like to explain to me?”)

(Me: “…The illusion he’s staring at looks confused, kinda looks around behind her…while the real me draws her fucking knife.”)

“A gargoyle besides the one watching Up?” the illusion says, innocently.

“Indeed. One flowing through the stones as we speak. No doubt he thinks himself clever.” He takes a step forward. “But how did he get word that I was here?”

He suddenly releases the stake, letting it hover in the air at chest level. “I’ll tell you something else,” he says, conversationally. “Something I’m sure you’re unaware of. Something you’d know if you’d ever been a part of an organization such as this. The office is warded for privacy, independently from the main Chantry wards. But whomever holds the Chantry key can access those wards.” He draws the key from his pocket and smiles.  “And all outgoing calls are logged.”

Scout and the illusion stare at the stake, slowly rotating from air currents in the room. Thrace tucks the key away, then draws a swirling red gem from the same pocket as the last trace of forced-amiability evaporates from his elderly face. “Do you have any idea what it is to betray me?” he says, voice practically a growl.

(Me: “No, goddamit!! Arrrgh!!!
Jason: “He’s still looking at the doppelgänger.”
Me: “I know, but I can’t kill him cause I need to make sure he finished the thing!!!”
Jim: “Then why are you betraying him so soon?”
Me: “ARRRGHHHH!!!!
Jason: “You’re the one who played this card!”
Me: “I know!! Because I thought it would be awesome!!!”
Jim: “Maybe if he has a computer you can put a sword through it!”)

Real-Scout crouches against the wall and concentrates, drawing on the depth of her willpower to simultaneously maintain her obfuscate, her doppelgänger-figure…and a new illusion of Jalut stepping out of the wall behind Thrace.

Thrace whirls toward the image of the gargoyle, staking a step back. “You,” he snarls.

The image of Jalut glowers silently, flaring his wings.

Scout watches intently, body trembling with the effort of concentration, until finally, slowly, Thrace smiles. “Well now. A rare opportunity.” He flicks his hand disdainfully. Instantly, the stake flips and blitzes toward the gargoyle’s chest, passing right through the illusion to smash to pieces on the wall behind it.

Thrace hesitates. “Learned some new tricks?” He glares at the illusion of Scout. “Or found new allies? So be—”

At that moment, his words are cut off as the real Jalut erupts from the floor underneath him.

Cracking stone rings like a gunshot through the dungeon, followed by a scream and a roar and Jalut and Thrace grapple with each other. Thrace’s gem explodes, showering blood across the room. A moment later the writhing figures are consumed in a column of fire. Real fire. Scout’s illusions drop as her focus shifts to maintaining control in front of the flames. She presses against the stone wall, turning away from the light and the heat—

—Until cold silence falls across the room. Scout looks up. The column of fire is gone, replaced by a hulking black shape in the center of the room the color of scorched stone.

Flapping footsteps echo down the hallway, approaching. Bob appears in the doorway, panting and carrying a fire extinguisher. He takes a step inside and stops. “Uh…Ms. Scout?”

Still shaky, Scout stands and reappears right next to him. “Yes?”

Bob yelps in surprise and bolts, dropping the fire extinguisher on his way out. His footsteps recede back down the hall.

Carefully, Scout eyes the black shape. Thrace’s thaumaturgy book lies forgotten and half-burnt on the floor, and a few other objects and crates in the room have been damaged by the fire, but nothing is as dark as this hulking mass. As she watches, it slowly rises and unfurls, revealing the red eyes and massive shape of Jalut, skin crinkling like cinders as the black scars across his skin slowly heal back to slate.

Jalut sees her, rumbles deep in his chest, and holds up a pale humanoid arm, wrenched off at the shoulder. “He has fled.”

Scout stares at the arm. “…Fuck.”

Jalut tosses it away. “He will not escape.”

“Did he finish the thing?”

Jalut glares at her. “What thing?”

Scout hesitates, glancing at the ruined book on the floor. “Do you possess skills in magic?”

Jalut’s wings unfold, showering ash. “Why should I tell you?”

She steps toward him. “Please, I need to know if he finished the enchantment—”

Jalut growls, deep enough to rumble the stone. “Why should I tell you?” he repeats.

Scout takes a step back. She glances again at the book and the damage to the room, twists her knife nervously in her hands, then slowly takes a breath…

…And begins to explain the truth about her plan. And herself.

#

GEORGIA’S CONSCIOUSNESS

The last thing Georgia senses is Rabenholz grabbing her, then—everything goes black. The darkness lingers, long enough for her to realize that though she doesn’t have a form, she has consciousness.

(Jason: “This must be what final death is like. Less exciting than you would have imagined. Very empirical, though.”
Kara: “Wish I could take notes.”)

Georgia floats in this state for timeless eons, till footsteps approach at the edges of her perception. Another eternity later, a figure materializes out of the darkness in front of her.

Jawahar.

Though she doesn’t have a body, she does her best to flash her classic Georgia-smile at him. “Hello!”

“Hello,” he says softly.

“Is this…judgement?”

Jawahar’s shoulders pulse once with a soft laugh. “If it was, then wouldn’t that make me God?”

“Well…maybe you’re a representative.”

“I should like to think so, but no. Judgement is for the living.” He shrugs. “Or perhaps it is not. I’m not God and I am not a chorister.”

“Then why are you here?”

His face—hale as it was when she last saw him alive, on Thera—watches her seriously. “Why are you here, Georgia Johnson?”

“Well, I thought I was going to die.”

“Yes you did, didn’t you. But you’re in a paradox realm, and a paradox realm is not designed to kill. Not except in the most extreme of circumstances. Although in this case, perhaps it would be reasonable to assume so, considering how you invaded a realm that was not designed for you, argued with the paradox spirits who created it, hijacked their intentions, and killed several individuals you were not supposed to kill.”

“I thought I was requested to kill them.”

“That’s not the point. That paradox realm wasn’t for you, so if you are the one who did all of the things, Paradox feels a bit cheated. The intention was to make Dr. von Natsi undergo these trials.”

“Well, he wasn’t quite up to it.”

“No, he was not. It was noble of you to handle it on his behalf.” Jawahar folds his arms. “Or, rather, I would say it, except you rather killed me. And devoured my essence to wield unspeakable power.”

“I did,” Georgia agrees with a note of sadness in her voice. “To the ends you and I had agreed upon.”

“I don’t recall agreeing to ends in this way.”

“Well you didn’t, but I know how committed to this cause you were and how much it would have brought you pleasure to wipe out the Tremere clan.”

“I was committed to this cause. Very, very committed. And it would bring me great pleasure to see you annihilate the Tremere clans, especially in my name.” He stares off into the darkness a moment. “That was my failing.”

Georgia extends her consciousness, trying to give a sense of laying a hand on his folded arm. “I will still do these things for you,” she says softly.

He laughs once and shakes his head sadly. “It is your intention, but you know what they say about the road to hell.”

“Yes. Yes I do.”

He eyes her a moment. “But then you’ve been on the road to hell for some time, have you not?”

“Probably.”

“And you’re alright with this?”

“What else can I do?”

Not take the road to hell?”

“But that would mean turning from these intentions.”

“Would it?” After a moment, his shoulders sag. “Perhaps I’m not the best person to judge. I took the same road.”

“We’re in this together, Jawahar.”

“In a sense.” His gaze turns distant. “We all encounter paradox-realms, all the mages. When we stretch too far, or press reality too much. We are punished for our hubris, for our arrogance.” He falls silent a long moment. “I understand now. I didn’t enter a paradox realm in Thera.”

“You thought you had?”

“At first, but what I mean is it wasn’t there that it happened.” He turns to face her. “I entered a paradox realm the moment you found me on the spaceship around Jupiter. You’re a paradox spirit, Georgia. Sent to punish my hubris.”

“I’m…not sure that’s true….”

“Of course you’re not. Your consensus is such that you are Georgia Johnson, Vampire of the Tremere. Who wishes to cleanse her clan of all evil, so that everything can be made whole again.” He shakes his head. “I always questioned when I was an acolyte if it was necessary for the Order of Hermes to engage in such absolutist standards against Kindred. I thought if the Technocracy wishes to destroy us all then perhaps we have more in common than we’d like to admit. And you came along and validated everything I thought. And lead me down a road which brought us here.” He spreads his arms to the darkness.

“Interesting. So…if I’m a paradox spirit that killed you in your paradox realm, does that mean you’re actually still alive, in a different realm?”

Jawahar takes a long sigh. “Maybe in some other universe, inaccessible from here. But in this one, the one your consensus created, I am quite dead.” He smiles at her sadly. “Even so. You may be a spirit of paradox, or you may be a vampire named Georgia Johnson.”

“Or both!”

“Or both. But purposes are what the consensus dwells upon. Thrives upon, even. The consistent transformation of one situation to another by predictable laws.”

A wry smile crosses his face. “So, Georgia Johnson, if you are the vampire to claim to be, now that you have acquired the power you need, what will you do with it? And if you are nothing more than a paradox spirit sent to molest a mage from another reality, and your usefulness to paradox has ended, then the question is…what are you to do now?”

A moment later, there’s a flash of light—

—And Georgia wakes up in her body. Lying on a cot in Dr. von Natsi’s lab.

Familiar hums, clicks, and unexplained drips of machinery echo around her. She sits up, finding herself tucked away in the library corner, not far from the secret wheel-room. The solid plate of metal covering it, though, has been repaired. As she stares at it, a crashing sound echoes through the lab, followed by cursing. Georgia gasps like a kid on Christmas and runs to see.

On the far side of the lab, Dr. von Natsi stands in front of half a workbench, the other half having just exploded in a hail of smoke and cutlery. He kicks at the remaining legs, shouting in German.

“Dr. von Natsi!” Georgia cries, throwing her arms up.

von Natsi turns, staring at her through soot-streaked goggles, blown-back hair, and a distinct lack of eyebrows.

“You look fantastic!” she shouts.

“Ms. Johnson!” von Natsi says, gaping at her. “Vat are you doing here? I vas in ze middle of Science!”

“Well I can see that. I woke up here.”

“How did you wake up here?”

“You didn’t put me to sleep here?”

“Of course not. I would know if I had done such things, ja? I have been here vorking all night!”

Georgia glances around the lab. “Is anyone else here?”

“Not to my understanding.” von Natsi suddenly tenses. “Do you believe zere is someone here? Must I activate ze Science??

“No! No, it’s not necessary—”

“IT IS ALWAYS NECESSARY TO ACTIVATE ZE SCIENCE!” von Natsi shouts, voice ringing like a gunshot through the lab.

Georgia stares at him a long moment…then throws up her arms. “Then let us activate ze Science!!!”

Simultaneously, they rush to the nearest bank of machinery, pressing buttons and pulling levers in a flurry of hands.

(Kara: “It is joyous.”
Jason: “It is very joyous.”
Kara: “Georgia revels in the Science.”)

von Natsi suddenly stops, grinning, and digs around in the mess made by the broken table. He comes up with a pair of goggles made out of solid rock and hands them to Georgia.

(Kara: “I put it on!”
Jason: “You put on the solid-rock goggles.”
Kara: “I can’t see anything, can I?”
Jason: “No…you see everything.”)

Her mind suddenly rushes with the input of eighteen different camera feeds scattered around the tower, some in infrared, one in ultraviolet, giving her an instantaneous multidimensional perception of the lab and the hilltop surrounding it. Clearly, these goggles are working better than any of von Natsi’s have before.

Or, perhaps, they’re working correctly for her for the first time.

She takes them off with shaking hands. “Doctor!”

He stops mashing buttons and turns to her. “Ja?”  

She stares at the lumps of granite. “These goggles…are a work of brilliance!”

A maniacal grin crosses his soot-streaked face. “But of course! Zey are a product of Etheric Science.”

Georgia puts the goggles down. “Doctor…I wish for you to rethink your refusal of my request to be your official apprentice.” She spreads her arms dramatically. “Test me again!”

von Natsi sighs and takes one of her hands gently. “Mein Fraulein, it is not a question of your intellectual capabilities. Zis is the twenty-first century, ve do not believe in ze superstition about how ze women cannot do Science. It is a matter of ze fact zat you are…dead. Und zis is an unfortunate situation, ja?” He pats her hand. “But it is quite scientific. Ze dead cannot do Science.”

Georgia stares at him a long moment, then, with her other hand, reaches down to touch the remains of the stainless steel lab table. Shining bronze instantly flows out from her fingertips, crossing the tabletop in a weaving, lacy pattern like a river delta, growing and flooding to cover the whole surface. After a moment, she removes her hand and the bronze fades slowly back to brushed steel.

von Natsi stares, then slowly removes his own goggles. “Mein Gott…how did you do zat? You must have employed ze Etheric Transsubstantiator? But…you do not have ze Etheric Transsubstantiator….” He suddenly claps his hands over his mouth. “You employed ze Cloaked Etheric Transsubstantiator! Which means you FOUND ze cloaked Etheric Transsubstantiator!” He pulls her close and peers all over. “How did you find it? I have not seen it since 1983!!”

Georgia grabs both his hands in hers. “Doctor….” She grins. “I have gained the True Magic. …I mean Science.”

He stares. “How did you do zis?”

“I…cannot tell you yet.”

“Why not?” von Natsi’s face suddenly quivers. “Are you…planning….” he gulps, “…planning to publish vithout me?”

“Good gods, of course not! But for now, I want to make sure our collaborators cannot get this information. So the safest thing to do with it is give it to no one. But when the time comes, it will be co-authored.”

von Natsi beams again, then falls serious. “Zere is one vay to be certain.” He reaches into his coat and pulls out another deathray. “You must use ze Etheric Deathray!”

Georgia takes it. “On whom?”

von Natsi glances furtively around the lab then pulls her close. “I think it is best…” he whispers, glancing around again, “…on a cabbage.”

Georgia gasps. “But where will we get one this time of night?”

He smirks. “I have a cabbage stored carefully in ze Etheric Cabbage Storage Unit. Ze ECSU. Come!”

von Natsi dashes to a far corner of the lab, spinning open a bank-vault door embedded in the wall. He takes her through multiple such barriers until they finally reach a large room filled with blue light. It’s empty except for a heavy box on a podium in the middle of the room, which Georgia’s new mage-senses tell her is made of tungsten. Carefully, von Natsi approaches, pulling a pair of fire gloves from under his lab coat, then reaches out to slowly lift the lid….

…And removes a single, glistening head of cabbage.

Red cabbage.

von Natsi’s arms begin to shake. “I cannot contain it forever!!” he shouts. “Shoot it vith ze Etheric Deathray!!!” He turns away, burying his face in his sleeve.

Georgia lifts the gun and fires. Circular beams of radiating energy spray from the tip, bathing the cabbage and casting a sickly green glow. Georgia looks away too, still holding trigger down. After almost a full minute, she releases the trigger and looks up.

The cabbage has bruised. Slightly.

But von Natsi stares at her, face rapturous. “Mein…GOTT!” He throws up his arms, letting the cabbage splat to the floor. “IT HAS VORKED!!!”

Georgie throws up her arms as well. “We must write this down!!”

“Ja!!! Quick! Measure ze cabbage!”

von Natsi puts it back on the plinth and the two spend the next few minutes taking detailed measurements and notes from every conceivable angle.

Finally, after enough data is collected, von Natsi takes her aside. “Georgia Johnson,” he says seriously. “I do not know how zis has happened. But…it is time. I vill give you zis.” He pulls a new pair of goggles from his pocket, a lighter pair than the granite ones. A formal pair of ether goggles, judging by the gears studding the sides and alternating colored lenses swivelling across the front. And the stickers.

Georgia cups it reverently in her hands. She looks up, eyes misting red.“Dr. von Natsi, this is the happiest day in my unlife.”

He nods solemnly. “Zere is something else. I think it is time I showed you something, Fraulein. I think it is time you saw—”

Her eyes go wide. “…The golem,” she whispers.

von Natsi nods and points to another door leading deeper into the vault. “It is right through this door. But…once you see it, you cannot unsee it.”

Georgia straps the goggles hurriedly to her face. “I am ready,” she says.

von Natsi nods silently and taps a keypad next to the door. The heavy clunk of magnetic locks echoes through the room, followed by the grind of bolts sliding back. He turns back to her. “It is almost ready, but it is not active yet. To activate it preemptively would be disastrous.”

Georgia laughs nervously. “Yeah, that would probably launch us into a paradox realm!”

“Ja! Imagine how terrible zat vould be!” von Natsi laughs as well, then holds up a finger. “But…I can show you vat it is. How it works. It is something…miraculous.”

He grins at her, then hauls open the door.

(*Jason falls quiet. Kara waits expectantly next to him on the couch. Jim, Chris, and I are out of the room so Georgia can have this scene in secret, so nothing disturbs the silence for a few long moments.*
Jason: *takes a breath* “…Sopranos ending.”
Kara: “…Nice, Jason. Nice.”
Jason: “One day I will tell you what you see next. But it is not ready to be revealed. Not even to Colleen, who will be listening to this secret part of the recording at some point in the future.”
Kara: “Nice try, Colleen!”
Jason: “You want to know what the golem is, don’t you Colleen?”
Me-in-the-present: “FUCKING YES!!!!”
Jason: “Well, I will not tell you!”
Me-in-the-present: “ಠ_____ಠ”)

#

RABENHOLZ’S LOCATION

In the span of the quantum space between moments, Rabenholz is suddenly outside under an overcast nighttime sky. He turns to see the lights of downtown San Francisco spread around him and the art deco angles of Coit Tower looming directly above. The rush from his diablerie of Georgia fades quickly. Seconds later and it’s as if it never happened.

Rabenholz eyes the sky a long moment and pulls out his pocketwatch to check the time. Three am. He pulls out his phone to try calling Georgia, but there’s no answer.

Something moves in the tree above him. Something large and heavy. Rabenholz peers up, expecting to spot a streak of blue-and-gold amongst the foliage. Instead, a thick-billed raven stares back down at him.

(Chris: “…Aura perception?”
Jason: “It looks just like a bird, and ravens aren’t uncommon in the city. You wouldn’t know to try it just on a freaking bird.”
Chris: “Yeah, but….”
Jason: “…Fine. You have been aura percepting every damn thing in the game, so why not.”
Chris: “The thing you did where the aura woke up and attacked us was pretty terrifying, but unless that happened pretty frequently, I feel like aura perception is the sort of thing you just leave on all the time.”)

The bird’s aura is strange, neither animal nor vampire, but by its undulations it seems confused.

“Hello,” Rabenholz says.

The raven cocks its head and grumbles.

“You’re not…normal.” Rabenholz hesitates. “…I’m sorry, I don’t mean any offense by that.”

The raven blinks, then says in perfectly intelligible English, “Nothing is.” It lumbers into the air and flies away.

(Jim: “Fucking Gus.”
Chris: “I don’t think it’s a were-raven, I think it’s from whatever weird hallucinogen Georgia has been putting in my blood.”)

Rabenholz lingers a moment, staring at the city, then calls Rhona to have her send a car.

#

ANSTIS’S LOCATION

Anstis wakes up in a thick, close darkness. He struggles, banging against walls of stone only inches from his skin. It takes him a moment to realize what it is: a sarcophagus.

Bracing himself, he shoves up against the lid. It jerks slightly, enough to show that it’s a separate piece, but it doesn’t open. He snarls, pops his claws, and starts slashing at the stone, scattering sparks within the coffin—

Suddenly a click echoes through the rock. He stops. There’s a rustling, then a groan as the lid swings open. Claws still extended, Anstis leaps out into the light. By the stone walls and blood-stained concrete floor, he’s in the basement of the Chantry, surrounded by stacks of other stone sarcophagi.

And the largest gargoyle he has ever seen.

The gargoyle—(—whom I’m just gonna go ahead right now and say is Jalut—)–grabs Anstis by the throat and hoists him into the air. “Who are you?” he growls.

“Anstis,” he gasps, grabbing weakly at the massive slate-blue forearm. “How did I get here?”

Jalut pulls him up to eye level. “You tell me.”

(Jim: “Yeah, we’re gonna go ahead and Dominate the gargoyle.”)

“Release me,” Anstis commands. Jalut tenses, then growls, clenching his fist tighter. Anstis extends his claws further, eyeing the stony skin for possible weak spots….

Then Anstis’s phone rings.

Eyes still locked with Jalut, Anstis gropes at his pocket, pulls it out, holds it to his ear and answers.

“Captain,” Rabenholz’s voice greets him. “Are you back in San Francisco?”

Anstis stretches his neck to inhale air through Jalut’s grip. “…Aye.”

“Have you spoken with the Regent? I am unable to get ahold of her.”

“I am speaking to one of her gargoyles now,” Anstis says. Jalut growls again and digs his claws deeper into Anstis’s throat.

“Hmm. I suppose we should alert the Justicar on these recent developments. I also wish to speak with you about tomorrow’s arrangements. Meet me at the presidential suite of the Mark Hopkins in an hour.”

Rabenholz hangs up. Anstis tucks the phone away, then manages a cocky grin at Jalut.  “Is the Regent available? I should like to speak with her.”

Jalut’s red eyes narrow. “There is no Regent.”

Anstis considers this, then nods agreeably. “What do you want?”

Jalut pulls him close. “Vengeance.”

“Against whom?”

“The Tremere.”

(Jim: “That…takes Anstis back a bit. That’s not something you usually hear from gargoyles.”)

Anstis eyes him. “I seek Thrace.”

Jalut’s wings flare, scraping against the ceiling. “Thrace has fled. He fled me.”

“Do you know where to find him?”

“Yes. But you cannot go there.” Jalut opens his fist and lets Anstis crash to the floor. “Leave. Now.”

Anstis gets up, brushes himself off, then with a nod, moseys away. Jalut watches, arms folded, until the pirate is out the door and disappeared down the hall, leaving the gargoyle alone in the room.

Until Scout suddenly reappears right next to him.

Jalut meets her gaze and nods once. Scout returns the nod grimly and disappears again. A moment later, with equal silence, Jalut sinks into the floor.

#

Anstis makes his way through the dungeons and back upstairs, managing to only steal glances behind him two or three times.

(Jim: “Does the gargoyle follow me on the way out, or does he just let me go?”
Jason: “Not that you see. You’ve never heard of a gargoyle with obfuscate. Interestingly, though, there are persistent rumors, of a vozdt with obfuscate.
Jim: “…Because why wouldn’t it exist. That’s terrifying.”
Jason: “Everyone denies those rumors, especially among the Tzmitsce, but they deny them a little too much.”
Jim: “Ghouls can learn Obfuscate.”
Jason: “Yeah. Aquilifer has a little bit of Obten, for instance. It can happen.”
Jim: “If I was a Tzmitsce I would make it happen.”
Jason: “Very bad idea.”
Jim: “Why?”
Jason: “Because you don’t want to lose track of where your vozdt is.”
Me: “You can tie a balloon onto it, like a turtle.”)

As he reaches the ground floor and heads to the front foyer, he passes an open parlor room where another gargoyle—smaller and smooth grey—and Bob are watching bright colored figures on a flat, wide screen. Anstis stops, eyeing the screen curiously. Bob turns to see him and scrambles to his feet. The gargoyle turns a moment later and stares up at Anstis. “Are you an enemy?” he rumbles.

Anstis eyes him. “Of whom?”

“Of the master.”

“Which master?”

“Master.”

“What is his or her name?”

“Master’s name is Paul Stewart.”

Anstis grins and gestures dismissively. “Nay, I am not Paul Stewart’s enemy.”

The gargoyle—(—Dug, naturally—)—continues to eye Anstis suspiciously. “Are you an enemy of Second Master?”

“What is Second Master’s name?”

“Georgia Johnson.”

“Nay. I am not Georgia Johnson’s enemy.” Anstis bows. “Captain Thomas Anstis.”

Dug looks him over. “Are you Tremere?”

In response, Anstis straightens and smiles cockily.

Dug turns to Bob. “Is he an enemy?”

Bob, staring perplexed at Anstis this whole time, suddenly tenses, eyes wide. “He’s not Tremere! And he’s in the Chantry! He’s an enemy!”

Dug shoves to his feet with surprising speed. “I will slay the enemy for Master and Second Master!” He grabs Anstis, dragging him to a chair propped in front of the screen—

Until the figure of Georgia Johnson walks into the room.

Bob straightens like a rod suddenly shot down his spine. Dug drops the pirate. “Second Master!”

“Oh, Dug!” Georgia falters a moment, as if trying to find her voice. “What…what are you doing with our guest?”

“I have slain your enemy, Second Master.”

“Oh. Good job, Dug!”

(Kara: “Oh god, that is exactly what she would say.”
Me: “I know, right, it’s like I’ve been listening to you play her and writing it down for real-time years now.”)

Dug bows, wings extended. “What is your command, Second Master?”

The image of Georgia glances around the room. “Um. I think that’s enough slaying for today.”

Dug’s wings droop. “But he has not been fully slain, Master! The movie is only half over!”

“He seems to have had plenty of slaying. Perhaps we can finish the rest of the slaying later.”

Dug and Bob exchange a panicked look. “But he has not met the dog, Second Master!”

“…Is the dog in the Chantry? That doesn’t seem nice for my cat.”

Bob stares. “…You mean your space whale?”

The image of Georgia hesitates a moment. “…Yes, of course.” She turns to Anstis and smiles graciously, hands clasped in front of her. “Captain. I am so sorry to have kept you waiting. I need to take care of some things in the Chantry since I’ve been gone—”

Anstis, though, eyes her suspiciously. “How did you get free?”

Georgia hesitates, still smiling. “I’m not sure, that’s one thing I need to look into.”

“We thought you had died. Where did you wake up?”

“Well, in my bedroom, of course.”

(Jason: “The best part is, Georgia is usually so weird, I don’t know how you would ever out this as not-Georgia.”)

Anstis stares a long moment. “How is Dr. von Natsi?”

“Oh he’s lovely, thank you for asking.”

“Have you seen him since we’ve returned?” Anstis asks.

“Well no, I’ve just seen the Chantry and now you. I seem to have overheard that you need to speak with Lord Rabenholz?”

Anstis nods once. “Aye.”

“I will have a car sent around for you.”

After a moment, Anstis nods again. “That would be most agreeable.”

“Excellent.” Georgia grins amiably, then turns and walks out without another word.

(Jim: “Yeah, I have no hint that you are not Georgia Johnson.”
Kara: “That was impressive.”
Jason: “Well done Colleen. Jim, what do you do?”
Jim: “I…leave to go get a car, I guess—”
Me: *holds up a hand* “No. I go get the car to bring it around and pick him up out front.”
Jason: “As yourself?”
Me: “No. Someone else. Maybe…like Argyle, from Die Hard.”)

Anstis leaves Bob and Dug to their movie and heads out front. A few minutes later, a long black car with a Tremere hood ornament pulls up and a young black man jumps out to open the door for Anstis. “Where can I take you sir?” he asks.

“The Mark Hopkins,” Anstis replies, settling into the seat.

The man closes the door, then, smirking to himself, gets back in the driver seat to take them away.

#

EPILOGUE

(Jason: “Alright, thank you everyone, we’ll resume next week.”
Me: “XPs?”
Jason: “…Three this week.”
Me: “…Can I get any willpower back?”
Jason: “What are you at?”
Me: “Currently? One.”
Jason: “What’s your nature?”
Me: “Chameleon.”
Jason: *considers* “…Three willpower back.”
Jim: “Wait, you were down to one willpower?”
Jason: “Yeah. I wonder what she’s been doing. So. Georgia Johnson, we may or may not meet again. We’ll see what comes of things in the next few months, whilst I run these three through hell and flinders. You can feel free to stop in as needed.”
Kara: “Thank you. I feel this is at least a decent stopping point for her.”
Jason: “Yes. Exactly. And you have been exposed to secrets which must never be told.”
Me: “…Wait, our secrets!?”
Jason: “No. Secret-secrets. Secrets I actually stopped the recording for, such that none may know what they are. Until the proper time.”)

END OF NIGHT

 

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5 Responses to 3/08/16

  1. pulseofnight says:

    A great session as usual.

    I will miss Georgia though. However now I am anxious to learn the truth behind Scout.

    ps: Jason is a cruel cruel ST.

  2. samjackson01 says:

    I think Jason is actually an Antideluvian. It’s the only way to explain how all the cogs are fitting together. If not a Antideluvian then at least an elder Ventrue.

    Amazing write up as usual. I feel like it’s Christmas since there’s been so many posts lately!

    • Colleen says:

      Jason *has* had a master plan this entire game. It’s evolved considerably over time, and there’s definitely apparently been huge chunks that he’s thrown out, but he apparently has a spreadsheet of major arcs in mind and what is contingent on what happening at which times.

      Yeah.

      Although, to be fair, part of the reason the WRITEUPS fit together so smoothly on a micro-scale is because I make them that way. I file off the rough plot edges, so to speak, and edit and reorganize things to flow more smoothly. Also, lately Ive taken to transcribing a few episodes all at once and then writing them up simultaneously with each other so I can go back and forth to smooth things out even more.

      Which is part of the reason why there’s been a dump of posts lately, I worked most of last month transcribing these episodes together because I knew I wanted to make the Georgia arc flow well. Also my summer class has wrapped up and I have a few weeks off so I’m trying to plow through as many as possible, so look for a few more flurries of posts in the future 😀

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