Five Elder Kindred receive a strange invitation at their haven – a simple white card with an address and symbol of a sword piercing a crown. They arrive at the address, a Church in NYC, with different motivations and are greeted by a peculiar English woman, Luthienne De’Loncre. She explains that she is the only member of the Order of the Venerable Dead, a shadow group that answers only to the Council of 13 , and seeks 7 other Elder Kindred to aid in exterminating an infestation of Inferalists beneath NYC. She explains the Baali have discovered the Lovers, resting in torpor, from Kindred lore and intend to use them for nefarious purposes. She persuades them to enter a blood bond similar to the Vaulderie and they find that they now share each other’s signature discipline and know each other’s secret thoughts. This connection allows them to sometimes feel what the others are feeling leading to either cohesion or chaos.
Blyte was witness to a horrific Baali embrace and shares his ordeal with the others. He believes there is an Elder Baali embracing mortals. With further explanation from Luthienne they now believe there to be a thousand Baali practicing beneath the city. While the newly bonded Kindred discuss their plans, the “Elder” Baali (whom Delphine and Blyte now realize is only a fledging) appears within the Church with the intent of menacing Blyte only to find herself in the company of a group of Elders whom she did not expect. Heinricus attempts to dominate her only to have his control reflected back at him. The Baali escapes leaving the rest of the group with visions of Kindred being tossed into green flame, causing Sphinx to fall into frenzy as the others come dangerously close.
Luthienne, Delphine, Heinricus, and Blyte reconvene at the Church the following night. This is the first time they are able to properly see Luthienne whose appearance is corpse-like and bloodless. They surmise that she is a Cappadocian leaving, Delphine, member of a lost clan herself, with many questions. Luthienne stays silent on the subject and instead explains that the Baali have become so numerous because they have discovered a way to use the Abyss to gather beneath the city in a twisting Labyrinth. Luthienne suggests they enlist the aid of E, rumored to be an Abysmal mystic, and free her from her captivity. Luthienne explains that she is being held within a crypt at a local cemetery under guard by heavily armed ghouls.
After an awkward cab ride to the cemetery, the group enters the cemetery and finds it crawling with ghouls. Blyte cloaks the group to mitigate unnecessary violence and they come upon a gate guarded by two ghouls who were caught in the middle of foreplay. Delphine uses her disciplines to bring shame to them both and the ghouls retreat without seeing the coterie. Just as Luthienne is about to open the gate to the crypt, the male ghoul, Mickey, returns to search for his phone and receives a call from a Ms. Maric whom Blyte immediately recognizes as the fledgling Baali he encountered in the sewers. The brief conversation reveals that Maric has been coming to the crypt herself and has been allowed in before by Mickey. Blyte then disarms the ghoul and fatally shoots him bringing the attention of other ghouls guarding the area. Luthienne pushes open the gate just as the emerging ghouls sight them.
As soon as the group is behind the gate and Delphine forces it closed the crypt yard is immediately surrounded by a churning darkness. They are able to see the ghouls leap the fence in search of them but they appear ethereal to the group, able to pass through their bodies. They soon realize that the crypt has been shrouded by the Abyss and that the ghouls have been guarding a decoy. Unsure of what allowed them to pass into the true prison, they stand before an intimidating door preparing to meet E.
The group enters the crypt and is greeted by a writhing shadow cage. Within the cage sits a cloaked woman leaning against a sarcophagus. Her deathly pallor suggests she is the Lasombra they are looking for, E. Luthienne introduces them as the Order of the Venerable Dead to which E seems to be amused. The group explains they are there to free her in exchange for information and transport to the sewers beneath the city via the Abyss. E confirms that the Baali, Judith Maric, has been entering the crypt and using the Abyss to enter the sewers but she seems reluctant to aid the group. She balks at their account of there being a thousand Baali beneath the city and keeps her focus on Luthienne. As the coterie discusses how to free her, E explains that she is unable to control the shadow cage surrounding her and suggests they use what they know about Obtenebration to free her. This leads to a lengthy discussion about how best to light a fire which results in Heinricus attempting to use Lure of Flames and Marcel lighting a couch on fire. This enrages the shadow cage around E and it begins to attack the coterie with two arms of the Abyss. Luthienne and Blyte are strangled by the shadows with Luthienne falling into torpor as Blyte breaks free. Marcel continues to burn the shadows as it forms into a humanoid mass and begins to taunt the coterie. It speaks to Blyte and reveals to the coterie that he was once in service to a demon and that Heinricus drained his own sister and stole from the Church like a common thief. At this, Delphine activates her Third Eye which opens the third eyes of the rest of coterie forcing them to cut their foreheads open. The room is illuminated by a blinding white light and the shadow form explodes into nothingness.
With E free, she remarks on their shared disciplines and looks to the fallen Luthienne stopping Blyte just before he awakens her for torpor. She then asks the coterie why they have a “Seer” with them. No one seems to understand this question save Heinricus who begins to consider it. Blyte awakens Luthienne suddenly, and she scrambles to her feet demanding that E “open the door”. Luthienne becomes unhinged and continues to shout at E, while Heinricus begins to question the “Seer” comment from earlier. E does not respond to this and instead advises them she will do “as their mistress wishes” and drops to knees, slamming her hands into the floor and opening an Abysmal door beneath their feet.
The coterie falls into darkness and finally lands in an open pit with corridors on every side. Luthienne angrily begins tossing dirt and stones into the churning darkness above them screaming at Eustacia “open the door”. Her normally calm demeanor has been replaced by instability and she explains to the coterie that E has sent them directly into the Abyss instead of into the sewers as Luthienne had intended. Delphine and Heinricus discuss their suspicions, recalling that Luthienne had called E by her full name “Eustacia” and that this familiarity made them uneasy. Blyte carefully watches Luthienne on her tirade, no doubting forming his own suspicions. Luthienne then storms off into one of the corridors, explaining that since they do not belong in the Abyss they will have no trouble finding one another again. The coterie then begin to search through the corridors for a way out.
Blyte wanders down a corridor alone while Delphine and Marcus discuss the situation. The Kindred all begin to sense a feeling of growing bliss and pleasure. The conversation between Delphine and Marcus becomes easier and they begin to hear whispers in their ears of a sexual nature while feeling the presence of hands caressing their bodies. Marcel hears a woman enticing him to surrender to his growing lust for Delphine. The voice urges him more aggressively to take her by force. Delphine feels the presence of a man caressing her body in ways that she is no longer accustomed to. Her discomfort continues to mount while Marcel succumbs to the urging of the whispering woman and attempts to awe Delphone and have his way with her. Blyte watches this from the shadows, his own whispering demon planting thoughts of homicidal rage in his mind as he watches Marcel try to seduce Delphine and then force himself on her. As Blyte tries to intervene he realizes he can see the whispering figure behind him and uses his claws to tear her apart. Just before Marcel overpowers Delphine, she uses Mask and disfigures herself breaking Marcel from his trance. He is able to see the whispering Abysmal creature behind him who now appears grotesque and begins vomiting and defecating shadow gore onto the floor. In a blind rage, Marcel brandishes a hatchet from his coat and slaughters the creature, bludgeoning it until it is nothing but a mass of quivering shadows.
It is at this time, Luthienne reemerges, finding the Kindred covered in a spray of inky gore, and quite put out with the entire situation. She then turns their attention to a figure across the room. It is Sphinx, who taunts the Abyss into making his genitals larger. They grow until they explode leaving his flaccid penis exposed. The coterie brushes this off and discover Sphinx has used a ritual to come here but there is no time to discuss an escape before a stone door opens in a far corridor. A frantic Luthienne runs into it. The rest go after her, following the trail of water her skirts leave on the stone floor. They find her in a room, utterly silent, standing before a woman chained to the wall.
The woman appears disheveled, wearing a tattered cloak, smoking a pipe with putrid smelling smoke and reading a book. She looks up to them and is almost the exact likeness of E. The coterie assumes this is another trick but Marcel reads the woman’s Aura and determines she is real and is the Sire of E, Katerina De’Lavez who is a prisoner of the Abyss. Katerina takes a long appraising look at the coterie and explains that the shadows of the Abyss have told her things. She asks the same question E had earlier, “Why is there a Seer with you?” Delphine does not seem to understand and Katerina clarifies that Luthienne is a Malkavian. She then begins to recount their blond bond, knowing details that appear to be unknowable. She asks the coterie if Luthienne had told them she was part of the Order of the Venerable Dead and that the Council of Seven had sent her. Katerina then begins to mock them asking them if they realized they had entered the Vaulderie with a Malkavian. Delphine and Marcel slowly begin to understand but can not image why Katerina is so amused. Katerina then reveals that Luthienne was a prisoner of the Abyss herself and was sent there the Inconnu. She continues to mock the coterie marveling at how they could have so little indiscretion at entering the Vaulderie with a Malkavian and balks at the notion there are a thousand Baali beneath NYC. It is suggested by this scene that they are all now tainted by Luthienne’s madness. As Katerina continues, chains appears from the darkness and lock around Luthienne’s wrists and ankles dragging her screaming into the darkness. Marcel and Delphine run after her, spurred on by the blood bond but a wall appears to block their way. Katerina chides them and explains they have done a great service by returning an escaped prisoner to the Abyss. With that, Sphinx drops a suitcase he had been carrying and opens it suggesting he has a means of escape. The suitcase opens and his filled with dry bones and not the sand he had originally brought with him. It becomes apparent his suitcase is lost somewhere in the Abyss possibly taken by other Abysmal creatures. Sphinx becomes enraged and the Kindred are left in the Abyss with no means of escape.
Katerina laughs and goes back to her pipe and book welcoming them to their time in the Abyss.
Trapped in the Abyss, the coterie take a moment compose themselves and consider all they have learned. Blyte and Marcel trade theories about Luthienne’s true nature and whether all this was intentional. Delphine is overwhelmed by the shadow-world surrounding her and spends time alone in fervent prayer. The Abyss appears relatively peaceful now with the churning darkness above their heads thundering on occasion giving the group trepidation. As they explore the corridors they come upon several figures donning black armor and armed with spears, swords, and axes. These Abysmal Guards do not seem to see them or display any movement at all. They realize that all motion and sound has been completely frozen. Water droplets, mist and dust are suspended before their eyes as they travel further and further into the Labyrinth of Halls.
They come upon a large vaulted room and find Luthienne standing between two Abysmal Guards and two sarcophagi appear on a balcony overlooking the room. Neither the Guards nor Luthienne seem to see or hear them and they remain motionless like the figures they have seen before. Blyte attempts to open one of the sarcophagi and he stunned by the terrifying power he feels radiating from it. Thunder then rolls overhead and the room suddenly floods with sound and motion as the mist and water fall like rain to the floor. The coterie then hear one of the Abysmal Guards address Luthienne as “Legatus De’Loncre” and Luthienne explains that she is the only remaining member of the Order. Delphine watches and realizes they are viewing a scene from the past. The Guard then explains that Luthienne can Sleep now in the Abyss and wait for the Order to be called again. Luthienne seems confused and then refuses attempting to escape the Abyss by smashing an amulet around her throat and a portal grows beneath her feet. The Abysmal Guard then spears her heart with a pike and the scene freezes in a horrifying tableau. Blyte deduces from the vision that to free Luthienne they must take her place in the Abyss as the Watcher and wait for the Order to be called/chosen again. The coterie flees the room as the Abysmal Guards momentarily see through the vision and become aware of them. They find themselves standing before a large gate with shadows coiling through the bars. Before it stands a skeletal figure wielding a blade who calls himself the Gatekeeper.
The Gatekeeper refuses to allow them passage without seeing their “Marks of Reprieve”. A comical scene follows with the Gatekeeper, an Irishmen named O’Bannon who reveals himself to be the only remainder of his Brethren (suggesting he was once part of the Order), threatening the group unless they produce their Marks. Blyte and Marcel question him and he reveals that Luthienne was supposed to take his place as the Gatekeeper before her escape. The Gatekeeper then tells them the Warden would have given them marks if they were true members of the Order and accuses them of being prisoners and Blyte of being a “a Gangrel prisoner Childe of Saulot”. Marcel remedies the situation by simply asking where the Warden can be found and the Gatekeeper directs him to the small corridors. The group leaves and become disoriented and find themselves before an Abysmal Guard called Gatekeeper Alessio, an intimidating figure, who refuses to allow them passage and then advises them they can find the Warden in the Shrinking Corridors.
They come upon Warden Septimus and an Abysmal Guard. Warden Septimus greets the group by their names and refers to them as Brothers and Sisters. He listens to their questions but seems exasperated and declines to answer some of them. He then explains that he has seen them before and they are simply confused. Delphine has slowly become more frustrated by their situation and refuses to listen to anything the Warden has to say. Warden Septimus then expresses his gratitude that they returned Luthienne to the Abyss and gives Marcel a set of letters with orders to release Katerina De’Lavez as a reward for her assistance. He also explains his secondary orders are within. The letters also serve as their Marks of Reprieve to allow them passage to and from the Abyss. At being given Orders, Delphine snaps and refuses to be complicit in what she believes is servitude to demonic forces. She rails at Marcel for being so cavalier with accepting Orders from the Warden and refuses to leave if he accepts the letters. She also implicitly refuses to go near the infernal orders or touch them. As the group tries to reason with Delphine, the Warden becomes enraged and addresses Marcel as “Legatus” and explains he will serve as Legatus until such time as Luthienne takes her place as the Gatekeeper, making him the defacto commander of the group. He instructs Marcel to get Delphine under control and suggests he shackle her if she will not comply. A struggle ensues with Blyte and Marcel dragging Delphine away.
Marcel tries to reason with Delphine as they make their way back to where Katerina is chained. Delphine continues to protest accusing Marcel of “selling himself too cheaply” in exchange for an easy escape. As Marcel continues to reason with Delphine they come upon Katerina who watches the two argue. Marcel agrees to question Katerina before making the decision to follow their orders and release her.
They question her about Luthienne and the nature of the Order. Katerina explains that the Order has existed for a thousand years and that they are indeed servants of the Inconnu. Delphine questions her about why she seemed so amused at the notion of the Order on their first meeting and Katerina answers her that she finds the Inconnu absurd and foolish elitists. She goes on to suggest that the coterie has been in service to the Order before and that they simply do not recall their time repeating the word Luthienne had said on their first meeting. Loyalty. This scene suggests they do not remember in Order to preserve the secrecy of the Order but there is no further definitive explanation. Katerina continues to look at Marcel while answering Delphine, eagerly awaiting him to execute his orders. He says he will only release her if Delphine agrees. Katerina goes on to explain that when the Order is called one of them is chosen to remain when the Order is freed upon Final Death and remain in torpor in the Abyss until new members are chosen. She then says that Luthienne had been chosen more than once by often ending up as the only surviving member of the Order and escaped to avoid further servitude. When Delphine asks what they can do to free her, Katerina answers “take her place”. The group then learns that the Order has been allowed use of this prison within the Abyss by the eldest of the Lasombra to preserve its secrecy. Katerina tells them she is only conveying what the shadows have told her during her imprisonment and satisfied with these answers Delphine agrees with Marcel that they should free Katerina for her assistance.
The coterie gather before the Gatekeeper ( who is the physical key to the Gate) with Katerina in tow. He releases them after once again accusing Blyte of being a “Gangrel prisoner Childe of Saulot”. Marcel steals one of the Gatekeepers eyes for his insolence. The coterie step through the gate and are plunged into darkness and fall through the ceiling of E’s former prisoner. As they dust themselves off, Blyte demands an apology from Delphine for her erratic behavior before the Warden and the group talks among themselves about their time in the Abyss. Katerina seems drawn to the sarcophagus that E had been imprisoned with and begins to remove the lid. Sphinx aids her and as he touches the stone they coterie are immediately flooded with images of blood and terror. When it is opened they find, to their horror, two ancient kindred resting in torpor. The Kindred are male and female and their hands are clasped and Katerina immediately recognizes that they are the Lovers. As the coterie considers their remarkable luck (good or ill), Marcel succumbs to silent urgings and attempts to diablerize the Lovers. Chaos ensues as the coterie battles to keep Marcel from attacking the ancients and while the others struggle to control him, Delphine seizes the opportunity to feed the lovers her own vitae in a misguided effort to protect them. The male ancient, Aetius, awakens in a rage and grabs Delphine by the throat and feeds from her until nearly the point of final death. As the others watch in horror, Aetius, questions them in Latin asking why they have disturbed him. Katerina, cautiously provides translation, awaiting what can only be their impending destruction. As Delphine lay nearly dead, Aetius is overwhelmed by her memories, and what can arguably be the shared memories of the coterie, and recognizes her as a Childe of Saulot. He commands them to leave and returns to torpor. Katerina and Marcel carefully return the lid to the sarcophagus while the group marvels at their narrow escape from death. Blyte, who had attempted to intervene, putting himself between Delphine and Aetius, assists Delphine and helps the others make sense of what has just happened. The coterie then think it would be practical and completely safe to reawaken the ancient and warn him of the danger the Baali pose to them. Enraged from being woken a second time, Aetius bursts through the stone lid and smashes it against the wall, screaming at the coterie to leave. The coterie realize it would be best to oblige and escape to the crypt yard (which is still a part of the Abyss) where E emerges to chide them and explain that Aetius can not escape. She cryptically tells them, she and Aetius were “cell mates” and before they can question her further she opens an Abysmal portal and they suddenly, and thankfully, find themselves on the streets of NYC.
Note: It is suggested by this scene that the Camarilla is aware of the existence of the Lovers and imprisoned E with them as an added measure of security.
Grateful to be back in the temporal world, the coterie indulge their beast and seek out blood. Marcel seduces China Washington, a ho, and she takes the group back to her “daddy’s apartment”. Upon entering she rudely throws her shoes and purse on the floor (because she’s a ho) and explains that this haven belongs to the infamous, Elric De’Lorme, though she has not seen him for sometime and does not seem aware that he is a Cainite. Sphinx, Marcel, and Delphine corner her in the kitchen and convince her they are about to have a three way, to which China seems nonchalant and feed from her. After she passes out, Delphine, who seems pained by the act of feeding heals China of her genital warts. Marcel excuses himself, leaving Sphinx and Delphine alone to discuss recent events. They notice that the fire in the living room is lit when it was not lit upon their arrival. Sphinx investigates and finds the fledgling Baali, Judith Maric, smoking casually on the couch. The pair cautiously approach her and she behaves strangely but does not seem to mean them any harm. Judith approaches Sphinx and taunts him with cryptic words before uttering an Egyptian name only he is able to recognize, this sends him into a blind rage and he gores Judith with a knife and attacks Delphine in a sexually suggestive manor. Judith only stands there, arms open, and allows him to stab her before melting into a shadowy pool of blood. Sphinx and Delphine suddenly become aware of themselves and find the room undisturbed with no fire lit, the only evidence of a struggle appears to have been from Sphinx attacking Delphine. They are left to wonder, briefly, if what they saw was real at all. As they discuss, the sound footsteps and slamming doors throughout the apartment grow louder and more erratic. The security alarm begins to ring and the pair flee the apartment, leaving China behind, who seemed undisturbed by the noise they heard. The scene ends with the question of whether or not the coterie can trust their own sanity.
The members of the Order take a week off to rest and gather their thoughts. They are brought together again when they receive word that a conclave has been called in the city and all vampires, regardless of sect or political affiliation are welcome to attend. The message comes from the Archon herself who strongly urges all vampires to attend advising them it is a matter of great importance. The conclave is held in a high end brothel with primarily Camarilla and Anarch Kindred in attendance, though in theory (and strangely) Sabbat were welcome. The group attends and are addressed by an Alestor (Alestor Gray) who explains that 17 Kindred, all neonates or fledglings have been killed the previous night with only ash found in their havens. The Alestor goes on to explain that this is not the work of Hunters, the Sabbat or even the Camarilla. The Alestor warns the vampires in attendance to secure their havens and keep an eye on their neonates. Heinricus von Verden seems skeptical and questions the Alestor but is deferred to the visiting sheriff who invites him to see her for questions after. The Alestor explains that Prince Bailey is aware of the situation but the Justicars have seen fit to send an Alestor to assist and investigate. The group are dismissed and consider among themselves what this all might mean. Marcel, greets his old Toreador friend Bree, who is a neonate herself and tries to warn her of impending danger but she leaves before he is able.
Sphinx then explains he has a plan he would like to share with the group and invites them back to a warehouse of his. Upon entering, the coterie is greeted by a group of scantily clad women, cutting and bagging cocaine and a host of ghouled reptiles, including a large alligator named Cleopatra. Meaty K, Sphinx’s lieutenant, oversees the work while Sphinx explains he plans to use a large shipping truck to move the ancient vampires in the crypt from their prison and unleash them on the Baali beneath the city. Heinricus is aghast at this plan and argues that there is no safe way to utilize the ancients for their benefit. While the group discusses they notice one of the working girls, who has strange green eyes, flirting with Meaty K. Sphinx becomes enraged and beats the man nearly to death before throwing him to the alligator who quickly devours Meaty K. Delphine is horrified and tries to reason with Sphinx. While the group discusses they notice the same working girl with the green eyes keeps watching them. Heinricus senses that she is a spy and Delphine adds that she can feel the taint of infernalism on the girl. They alert Sphinx who is already aware. He transforms into a giant cobra and coils around the girl who begins to fight and speak with multiple voices. It is clear that she is possessed by an unknown force and when Heinricus peers into her mind he sees that she was ghouled in a mass Baali embrace/ghouling at a rave beneath the city streets but that her soul was long at rest. The demonic ghoul taunts Heinricus and uses the voice of his sister to mock his murder of her. At that, Sphinx ,in cobra form, devours the girl leaving Heinricus shaken and hardened even further. The group now believe the Baali numbers are so great because of the secret mass embraces, a move that is uncharacteristic of them.
Marcel then thinks back on the nature of their Order and the mission at hand, though Delphine believes he is hiding something. Marcel recalls that Luthienne told them they needed to be 8 and that they would know the final two members when they saw them. At first, he believes that Katerina and E are the remaining members but after some consideration he realizes he did not feel this to be true. Heinricus then comes to a dangerous realization. He recalls Delphine had shared their blood with both the ancients, creating a one sided link to them and believes that Luthienne intended the ancients to the the final members of the Order. The group realize the implications of this but understand that there can not be a full bond between them unless they drink from the ancients. Delphine also recounts that many years ago she was approached by the Inconnu to join their ranks, given her lineage and personal pursuit of Golconda. She believes the Inconnu that she encountered would not have sanctioned the Order of the Venerable Dead and that they were simply scholars and Elder vampires who wished to be left in peace. As Delphine recounts her story the others have an eerie recollection of the same but no one but Delphine speaks of this. They let this thought hang in the air while Marcel anxiously checks his phone. He explains he had sent his ghoul, Brody Cross, to watch Bree and ensure her safety. When he does not receive a response from Brody he fears the worst and the coterie go with him to Bree’s penthouse to investigate.
Upon arrival, they find the penthouse spattered with blood and Brody dead in the kitchen. Delphine analyzes his blood with her spiritual touch and discovers that figures armed in black ran him through with a blade and that Bree was also slain. They sense they are not alone and investigate the bedroom to find two Abysmal Guards standing over a pile of what can only be Bree’s ashes. Marcel becomes enraged and commands them to leave, being a Legatus himself. The male guard, known as Legatus Khar, seems confused and explains that they are only following orders and that the Order had commanded the destruction of the neonates and fledglings of the city. The female guard, Praetor Vernese, questions why Marcel is not following his own orders to do the same. Delphine becomes angry and uses the power of her Faith to repel the Khar and Vernese before violence ensues. Vernese is frightened by Delphine’s Faith and Delphine believes she will relay this aggression to the Warden.
Delphine questions Marcel about what Khar and Vernese said about their Orders. Marcel, who had been keeping his secondary Orders from the Warden A secret, sits down and shows Delphine the orders.
Chapter 7. Secrets
Delphine, who wholeheartedly refused to go near, let alone read the wicked orders, cannot help but do either when Marcel spills them out before himself. She reads the letters as Marcel waits with a heavy heart. They explain that the city’s neonate and fledgling population is out of control, using up valuable resources and putting a strain of the domain of Elder kindred. While the orders do not make mention of the Masquerade they stress the importance of maintaining anonymity from mortals for the purpose of self preservation. The orders go on to detail that the carelessness with which Kindred are being embraced has directly resulted in the Baali gaining a foothold in the city and embracing at will for infernal purposes. They also explain that other members of the Order are working to begin a mass culling in other cities across northern America, making no mention of the situation in Europe or beyond. Marcel, as Legatus, was instructed to begin killing vampires under the age 50 but he kept this from the others and the culling began without him. The orders explain that while this is a drastic measure it is a necessary genocide to preserve the purity of older vampires and thin the vampire population at large.
Delphine, horrified and with a healthy dose of skepticism, confronts Marcel about keeping this information from the rest of the Order. While they discuss, the Shadows in the room begin to grow and coil around them. An elder Lasombra, Alec, emerges from the darkness and angrily questions them about their time in the Abyss. He explains that as they are not Lasombra and that they have no business treading the Abyss and infringing on Lasombra secrets. Threats are exchanged as Alec continues to question them. Heinricus had been eavesdropping in the other room uses Celerity to get the drop on Alec, appearing behind him with a stake to his back. A Mexican standoff ensues as Delphine manages to teleport out of the grasp of the shadows. The four agree to answer each other’s questions without violence for the time being. Alec, an Abysmal Mystic, explains that he came across them in the Abyss and had discovered the prison there. He questions them about their Order and their business there explaining that other Elder Lasombra are enraged by this impertinence. The members of the Order in turn question him about his knowledge of the Order, the Warden, and other aspects of their time there. Alec possesses knowledge of Katerina, whom other Lasombra regard as a renegade and utterly insane, and E, as loyal to her clan and with some knowledge of Abysmal Mysticism. He balks at their account of 1000 Baali beneath city and the nature of the Order which he seems to possess no knowledge of. Marcel and Heinricus having had enough of yet more Lasombra arrogance attempt to subdue him. Marcel uses dread gaze on Alec while Heiricus dominates him into confessing on whether or not he is a liar. Alec enraged by the dread gaze and compelled to answer Heinricus, explains he is telling the truth and uses the shadows to disappear into the darkness before violence can ensue.
Sphinx and Delphine arrive at the cemetery and use Obfuscate to move past the army of ghouls unseen. They enter the cryptyard, shrouded in the Abyss, and prepare the crypt for defense against infernal forces. Delphine utilizes her Faith and blesses the cemetery while Sphinx performs a Setite ritual that summons a giant shadow cobra to guard the Crypt. While they continue to secure the area, they both sense the presence of a great power within and are overcome with visions of blood and terror. Sphinx decides to enter the crypt and Delphine follows.
Once inside, they come upon a horrific sight. Bloodied bodies are strewn through the crypt and vitae is sprayed across much of the interior. In the center of the carnage, the Ancients stand awaiting them. Both awake. Sphinx immediately kneels compelled by respect and terror and Delphine does the same. The pair of Ancients appear statuesque and unnaturally still. Aetius moves his eyes to Sphinx and utters a single word at first, “Aegyptium”.
Sphinx understands that he is addressing him as an Egyptian and quietly waits for the Ancient to speak further. Aetius continues to speak in Latin and then addressing Sphinx by a long forgotten Egyptian name. He tells Sphinx that “It has been a long time, brother.” Aetius then begins to use English and explains that the fog of time has clouded Sphinx’s memories of his native tongue. The female Ancient then speaks and asks Aetius if the pair are “Ordo Venerabilis Mortuis”. Aetius nods and explains that the woman’s name is Vestia and that she will not utter English as she finds the language vulgar. Aetius then offers his wrist to Sphinx, commanding him in Latin “Et bibetis vos scitis” …”Drink and know thyself” the same words Luthienne spoke when they entered the Vaulderie. Sphinx complies and is overwhelmed by memories of his long forgotten past. Through the feeding, Sphinx is revealed to be the first member of the Order chosen by the Original Legatus, Aetius himself. He remembers that the Ordo Venerabilis Mortuis was founded in Rome as an answer to the Baali who were manipulating Carthage at the time. Sphinx was commanded to seek out 5 other worthy Kindred to join the Order at the time of it’s inception. It is revealed that Sphinx has always been a brother of the Order and that a Malkavian, a Ventrue, a Nosferatu, a Toreador, a Salubri, and a Setite have always served in the Order. Sphinx explains that all the current members are representations of the original members and that their progenitors have served before them and have either forgotten their time in the Order or have refused to reveal this information to their Childer who were also chosen to serve. Aetius addresses Marcel, who located Sphinx and Delphine through the call of their blood, as the current Legatus of the Order and commands them to reunite all the members and bring them back to Aetius and Vestia to perform the Vaulderie again so that they may understand everything and prepare to destroy the Baali scourge. Aetius then explains that they are not the Lovers of Kindred Lore but Ancient Etruscans who serve as representations of the what the Lovers embodied “Loyalty” (the same word both Luthienne and Katerina used to describe the Order). He also cryptically hints that they are Antediluvians of their own forgotten clans, referring to the 13 other Antediluvians as their brothers and sisters.
Marcel, Delphine and Sphinx then exit to the crypt yard with their orders and discuss the situation. They notice a shadow servant hovering above them watching their movements and Marcel suspects the Lasombra Alec is spying on them. The trio exit the cemetery and Marcel suggests they investigate Siv’s apartment for clues.
Alec escapes to the city streets and immediately begins to search out E. He doesn’t have to look long before she finds him. The pair now stand face to face in a dark alley way, two powerful Lasombra. She comments on his meeting the Order but Alec seems unimpressed. He questions E about her involvement with the Order and she explains what she knows about their dealings. She also shows a measure of respect to the Lasombra Elder which is unusual given her typical demeanor. He continues to question her about the Order and their true nature and about her knowledge of Judith Maric. E only provides him with tasters on information but warns him that the members of the Order are old, powerful and “unhinged”. She also advises him not to balk at the account of a thousand Baali beneath the streets. Alec seems more disgusted that the members of the Order, given their age and power, would so easily succumb to what he assumes are the manipulations of other forces. E tells Alec of the crypt but gives him a dark warning about it’s nature not revealing what is inside. E also tells him of her sire’s return to the corporeal realm to which he seems surprised. He warns her that she should flee NYC to escape her volatile Sire but E only smiles and melts back into the shadows.
Alec then uses the eyes of two mortal, Palp and Rose, to spy on the Order, sending them up to the penthouse.
After Alec’s escape, Delphine becomes suspicious of whether or not she has been dominated into subservience to the Order. Heinricus explores her mind and discovers that all within the Order entered their unique Vaulderie of their own free will and are under no dominating enchantment. As the group continue to discuss their next move, the doorbell rings and Marcel answers to find two mortals, Palp and Rose, standing there with alcohol in tow. They excitedly claim they are here to see Bree and party with her. Before Marcel can interject the pair enter the bedroom, visibly intoxicated, and ramble about being invited to a “Ball-y rave”. They explain the rave is held often and this time the location is in the cemetery, the same cemetery where E was imprisoned. Based on their drunken ramblings the coterie surmise that the mortals have been dominated and serve as an invitation to the Order to attend this rave which is most likely a mass Baali embrace. Heinricus and Marcel are certain they have been dominated into spying on the Order as well, Marcel seduces Palp, making sure to sexually assault him, and feeds on Palp until he passes out thus cutting off the eyes and ears of the domitor. Delphine puts Rose to sleep for this function as well.
The members of the Order are now left at an impasse: pursue the Order and stop the mass genocide of the Neonates, deal with the anger of Lasombra Elders or find the Baali before they can reach the ancient Kindred.
Delphine and Marcus take an opportunity to wander the city and clear their minds while they consider what course of action next to take. They meet in downtown NYC and while waiting on the sidewalk notice a strange woman looking at them. The woman waits a few feet away and when a red Corvette pulls up she greets the driver with laughter while suspiciously continuing to glance at the pair. Their heightened senses tell them she’s an Infernalist ghoul. As the woman gets in the car to leave, Marcel leaps onto the hood and the car speeds away with Marcel still holding on. The car careens and swerves trying to lose Marcel who is thrown from the hood into a pile of garbage as the driver violently rounds a turn. Delphine rushes to assist Marcel and notices a lone flyer floating in the breeze. She catches it and it is an advertisement for the Rave in the Cemetery. A prostitute comes over to check on Marcel and explains the car they just saw belongs to her Domitor Bianca Lenoir, a Toreador and one of the local Harpies, whom Marcel is acquainted with. Marcel, intrigued, convinces Delphine to accompany him to the Harpy’s suite in the Barclay. Delphine, who would rather prepare the Crypt for an assault, reluctantly agrees.
Upon entering, the pair are greeted with a vulgar display. Three scantily clad women are sitting, legs spread on the white couches openly menstruating onto them. They find Bianca performing cunnilingus on one of them while feeding on the girl’s menstrual blood. Delphine is immediately repulsed while Marcel finds himself right at home. He greets the Harpy and begins to question her about her vehicle. Bianca, who is tantalizingly beautiful speaks with a hideous smoker’s rasp, and refuses to talk about serious matters unless they pair make themselves at home and sample her “display”. Marcel allows one of girls to give him a taster of her menses while Delphine becomes overwhelmed by the heavy scent of fresh vitae in the room. Overcome by her beast she succumbs to the invitation, against her typical nature, and openly feeds from from between one of the girl’s legs. Bianca watches this display with growing lust while Marcel appears very cavalier and continues to question her about the missing Corvette. Bianca explains that she loaned the car to one of her ghouls, Siv, and hasn’t seen her in a week. While all this occurs, Marcel notices the bed in the far corner trembling and sees a pair of men’s shoes peeking out from the curtains. As Delphine comes to her senses and realizes what she’s done, she completely breaks down and rushes to the bathroom in shame. The figure on the bed then appears, erect penis in hand and comments on the provocative display. Marcel immediately recognizes him as, Elric De’Lorme and gives Bianca a suspicious look but does not question her further. Elric excuses himself immediately when he hears Delphine fervently seeking penance and comments that he “Once knew a girl just like her…”. Marcel rebuffs him and goes to seek out Delphine who had cut herself in remorse for her repulsive actions. Marcel admonishes her and tries to comfort her. It is at this point, Sphinx, who had business with the Harpy himself, arrives unaware of what has just occurred. Marcel retires for the evening leaving Sphinx and Delphine alone with the Harpy. Sphinx supplies the Harpy with cocaine and makes further arrangements for drug trafficking with her. Delphine, in utter shame, leaves the suite with Sphinx in pursuit. Sphinx confronts Delphine about what is troubling her and is shocked to learn of her actions. He explains that they have far bigger concerns that a momentary indiscretion on Delphine’s part. The pair then make plans to prepare the Crypt from a Baali attack.
Alec uses his shadow servant to enter the crypt and see’s the Ancient’s standing their in the midst of all the drained mortals. Aetius immediately notices the shadow servant and welcomes the “Son of Sacer”. Alec then boldly makes the decision to enter the tomb curious about the mention of his progenitor. Alec, like the others, kneels before the ancient vampires and they exchange words in Latin. Aetius continues to address him as the “Son of Sacer” explaining that he is fully aware of who and what Alec is. Aetius provides details of Alec’s sire that are seemingly unknowable. He explains that their brother Lasombra gave them use of the Abyss when he still walked the night and out of respect for one of his childer he invites Alec to ask him questions. Alec questions Aetius about Katerina De’Lavez but Aetius only comments that she was a prisoner of the Abyss and that the Warden for his own reasons saw fit to free her. He then questions Aetius about E and Aetius explains that she has provided the feast Alec sees before him and acted as their Cerberus while they slept in the crypt. Alec then questions Aetius about the Order and Aetius explains very little, instead encouraging him to make peace with the Order to understand for himself. Aetius also has knowledge of Judith Maric and Alec’s quest to retrieve his children, which Aetius knows are actually Sacer reincarnated. Aetius warns Alec that Judith Maric is not the source of the Baali scourge but in reality a prisoner of it, but Alec remains unconvinced. He also curiously refers to Judith as Alec’s sister, being a Daughter of Sacer herself. Alec seems stunned by this information and hides his true feelings. Aetius then commands Alec to leave and makes it clear that his quarrel with Judith is his own affair and that the Order will not be required to intervene. Alec is grateful and leaves to seek out the other members of the Order.
Marcel and Delphine arrive at Siv’s apartment and find it completely empty. While investigating they discover a backroom with two bloated corpses and gore painting the walls. Marcel and Delphine use Spirit’s Touch and see horrific visions of the pair’s murder with Siv stabbing the dead couple to death and devouring their fresh entrails. They notice there is a lone leaflet in the far corner of the room with the Latin phrase
“Sollemnitatem in inferno” (which Delphine translates as “Feast in Hell”) scrawled on it in the victims blood with the letters 2E (the name of a subway line). Delphine recognizes this as another invitation to locate the nest of Baali. Delphine and Marcel sense they are not alone and enter the living room to find that Alec has followed them there. He explains that he is also investigating the Baali for his own reasons and seeks their assumed leader Judith Maric. Delphine urges him not harm Judith and explains that she means to try and convert the Baali. While the pair discuss this Marcel notices a necklace lying in the corner of the room, unseen by the others. He identifies it as his sire’s and notices it is spattered with blood. He slowly becomes enraged as dark words begin to whisper in his ears. Delphine then notices a pile of crimson jewels at her feet reminding her of her time as a prostitute and slowly drawing her thoughts to her dark past. Delphine is able to overcome this madness while Marcel succumbs to violent rage and attacks Delphine calling she and Alec “murderers”. Alec summons darkness to subdue Marcel while Delphine uses Temporis to slow his actions. Marcel comes to his senses and sees that there is a pool of blood in the corner that smells fetid where the necklace once lay. He and Delphine sense the evil aura around it while Alec only sees it as an ordinary blood pool. Alec begins to grow suspicious of the behavior of Marcel and Delphine but does not say more. The trio agree to exit the apartment and reconvene at the Baali rave the following night.
Delphine and Heinricus meet and exchange ideas about the best course of action to take next before the rave gets underway. He comes up with a plan to use both Camarilla and Sabbat forces to launch a twofold assault on the Baali and diminish their numbers so the Order can more effectively deal with them. Heinricus plans to approach Prince Bailey and convince him to allow Sabbat forces into the city under the guise of waning defenses and allow the shovelheads to throw themselves on the Baali. He then plans to make the same arrangements with the Sabbat and have the Camarilla send forces of their own to attack the Sabbat but destroy Baali in the process. Heinricus surmises this plan will accomplish multiple goals and ultimately thin the Baali numbers while the Order remains the puppeteer. Delphine agrees and as she an Heinricus make their way to Brooke Mansion to see the Prince and set their plan in motion they discuss their ancient histories. It is revealed that Delphine is a direct childe of Saulot himself which Heinricus finds fascinating. He questions her about her memories of the Ancients and begins to grasp just how old she is. What Heinricus truly makes of this revelation only he knows but the pair seem to have formed an unlikely bond.
Delphine and Heinricus make their way to the Prince’s mansion and notice that it is armed to the teeth with ghouls and mercenaries. Given the recent situation in the city, Heinricus seems impressed by this measure. He gains an audience with Prince Bailey who is raging in front of the Sheriff and Alestor Gray. Heinricus begins to explain the situation but Bailey cuts him off saying he’s aware of what’s going on. He shows him some old photographs of carnage in NYC and says it is the work of Katerina De’Lavez whom he now knows is alive. It was his defeat of Katerina De’Lavez that awarded him the position of Prince and now that she has returned Bailey fears his power over the city will lose its effectiveness. Heinricus explains that the recent neonate deaths are not Katerina’s work, but that of the Baali. (a lie) He then sets his plan in motion, advising Bailey to allow Sabbat into the city at large and set them on the Baali. Bailey is listening to this plan intently when Alec suddenly arrives. Alec and Bailey know each other well, a fact that seems to interest Heinricus momentarily as he recalls his first meeting with Alec. Heinricus continues to explain his plan, with Alec beginning to raise objections. Bailey quickly agrees to the plan and then leaves to attend to other matters. The Sheriff and Alestor follow. While Alec and Heinricus discuss the plan they overhear the Sheriff getting a call in the hallway about a disturbance in the cemetery. She seems dismissive of the situation and suggests they send someone down to investigate assuming it’s just some teenagers. Delphine, Heinricus and Alec then agree to investigate the cemetery from a safe distance realizing they have run out of time.
The trio arrive at the cemetery and see that a large party is in full swing. The neighborhood around the cemetery is mostly abandoned so there is no police presence. Curious green lights glow from within as mortals shout, scream, dance and drink. Alec uses an Abysmal ritual to see into the cemetery via the shadows. He scans the crowd and finds Judith standing in the middle of the debauchery utterly still. He senses there are other Kindred there but they seem to just be opportunistically feeding. He reports this back to the others and Delphine devises a plan to try and make the mortal leave the area. She calls up a storm and rain begins to fall on the party only delighting the revelers further. Alec then makes the decision to enter the party and confront Judith. Heinricus cautions that they should not allow Alec to capture her and disappear. Delphine and Heinricus then enter the cemetery in pursuit.
They are greeted by a sight of utter debauchery and licentiousness. Mortals openly engage in sex, drug usage, and heavy drinking. The ghouls who were guarding the cemetery are completely trashed, drinking and dancing with the other party goers. Alec meanders through the crowd and comes up behind Judith while Delphine and Heinricus watch carefully from another part of the cemetery. Alec confronts Judith but she only smiles at his arrival and says “Finally”. He immediately becomes in enraged and demands to know where the children are to which Judith suddenly grows fearful and advises him that she does not know. Alec can barely contain his beast at this and Delphine and Heinricus move to intervene so that Alec doesn’t not escape with their target. Several Kindred in the rave begin to encircle the group and when Judith sees Delphine and Heinricus she screams asking why Alec brought them here. One of the Kindred, who are now understood to be Baali, descends on Heinricus putting a stake to his back. Heinricus grabs a drunken mortal and tosses him into the Baali while Alec, realizing the situation is becoming dire, screams for Judith for her to tell him who took the children. A lone woman, Lykenia, then appears in front of Alec and answers , “I did.” She’s barely clothed and has the same fiery green eyes as other Baali. There’s something ancient and terrifying about her countenance. She speaks with an ethereal voice and begins to taunt the coterie recalling their past sins and the ruin of Carthage because of the actions of the Order. She boldly tells them that the Baali plan to raze the city to the ground. Party goers peppered throughout the crowd stop their dancing and turn one by one to the coterie, perfectly still, their eyes glowing an infernal green, illuminating the cemetery in a terrifying scene of creeping horror. Judith, seemingly unaware of who took her children attempts to attack Lykenia but is restrained by Alec. Heinricus having had entirely enough of this grows into a fearsome creature and violently admonishes Lykenia recalling the vile practices of the Carthaginians and their base and low degree.
Then, in what can only be described as the single most badass move in roleplay history, Heinricus uses dominate and his voice booms over the crowd. He commands all the mortals to heed the call of their dread lord and says a single word. Kill. Utter chaos ensues with the mortals attacking everyone and each other on sight. Blood and terror fill the cemetery as the Baali are swept away in a deluge of violence and slaughter. The coterie fights off the mortals as best they can and Alec and Delphine struggle for control of Judith. Delphine manages to teleport to safety with Judith as Heinricus stands calmly in the middle of the carnage surveying his handiwork before seeking out Lykenia. Alec manages to stomp one of the Baali to death while Heinricus attempts to charge Lykenia who is now enveloped in green flame. She calls over the crowd “We are legion!” as she disappears into demonic fire. As the mortals slaughter one another the coterie manages to escape and reconvene at the Church where the Order originally met.
Delphine had used Morpheus to put Judith to sleep and awakens her at the Church. Alec is enraged with Heinricus’ actions (having just caused the death of over 100 mortals) and warns him that the Camarilla will see to his punishment. Heinricus, having effectively saved the coterie from certain death receives a call from the Sheriff who is in a panic about the situation at the graveyard and believes the Sabbat are to blame. She asked Heinricus to personally see to the situation. While Heinricus discusses the condition on the phone Judith and Alec begin to violently argue about the custody of the children which leads to a physical altercation. Alec dominates her into revealing that she had hid from him in the Labyrinth beneath the city and the children disappeared around that time. Delphine tries to quell the violence between the two while Heinricus casually discusses business with the Sheriff. While the chaos in the Church rages on the door suddenly swings open and they hear the click of boots on the stone floor.
It is Luthienne. She stands before them covered in dust and carries the same bloodstone amulet she had with her in the vision Delphine, Marcel, and Blyte had in the Abyss. She dusts off her hat and advises the members of the Order that “There is much work to do.”
Delphine takes Judith below the Church to her sacred haven and invites Alec down as well. Judith, having been overcome by the power of Alec’s Dominance, is resting peacefully, unaffected by the divine aura of the space. Delphine explains to Alec that she is aware of who and what he is and was witness to Sacer’s rebirth into the mortal world herself. She explains the nature of his making but Alec remains cold and distant, only concerned with what can assumed to be his vengeance on Judith. Delphine wants to allow him an opportunity to understand his nature further and his volatile relationship with the Baali fledgling. Alec agrees only if Delphine will promise not to interfere should he decide to try and destroy Judith. She gives her word and surrounds Judith and Alec with a glowing ethereal light.
Judith awakens and listens like a child while Alec admonishes her for what she’s done and all the destruction she has caused throughout her existence. A ghostly image of Enyara appears, whom Judith has always believed to be her centuries old great great (etc) grandmother. Enyara is holding a baby which both Alec and Judith immediately understand is an infant Judith. Enyara calls the name of Alec’s father, the King of Portugal at the time and asks him to hold her. The image fades and Alec continues to rail at Judith for all the chaos she has caused. Judith very carefully approaches him and Alec immediately reacts in the defensive summoning a host of shadows to surround him. Judith now sees Alec with the face of her lover, Clive Wells, and seems confused, believing he was resting in torpor. She explains to the face of Clive that Alec had taken the children and that she went to retrieve them. Alec nows sees Judith with the face of his lover and sire the elemental force, Sacer, whom he believes was destroyed with the making of the children years ago. Both Kindred succumb to their desires for their lost loves and embrace, each thinking they are kissing someone else. A flood of memories then washes over them with both remembering the night the children were conceived. It is revealed that Alec who was wearing the face of Clive is the true father of the children, himself believing Judith to be Sacer at the time. The pair also understand that they share the same mother, Enyara, effectively making them half siblings. This seems impossible as Judith was only embraced a few years ago and has always been assumed to be a fledgling but this scene is left mysterious. Judith had always believed Clive to be the father of her strange, unnatural children and she immediately teeters upon the brink of frenzy as does Alec. The shadows coil around Judith as she rages and Alec begins to squeeze her with them while her Baali fire explodes from her hands. Just as violence is about to ensue, Judith is overcome by the voice of Sacer who speaks to Alec. She explains that there was no other way, as Judith was the only one to survive “the process” and that she needed a union between the pair to be reborn. Alec seems unable to accept this but Sacer urges him to find the children and save her existence. Judith is then released from the possession and begins to completely break down, overwhelmed, and pleads maddenly for Alec to kill her. She cries that she can’t not kill her children and that she intended to die in the cemetery by his hand to keep her from the act. She wails about the true nature of the children, explaining that he doesn’t understand and that the children are not what he has always believed them to be (an innocent reincarnation of Sacer). She explains that the children intended to destroy him and consume his blood and soul in addition to harming the population at large. She also adds that the children were the ones to give her passage into the Abyss while she hid from Alec and sought out the Baali themselves and helped to swell their numbers. She then cryptically recalls their words to her when she finally understood their true nature, “Silly mummy, no one will believe you.” Alec, indeed, does not believe her and accuses her Baali nature of corrupting the children. Defeated, Judith says nothing more and waits for death but Alec is stirred by her words and reads her thoughts. He is then overcome by chilling images of the children engaging in evil behavior from the time they were able to walk onward. They attempted to allow the sun in to destroy Clive while he slept, tortured animals, other children, and when Judith and Alec met once again in NYC years ago, the children wanted to go with Alec (who they always knew to be their true father ) to destroy him as well and consume his soul. When Judith would not allow them to go with him, fearing what they might do, they allowed Alec to abduct them and lived with him in assumed peace for years. He then hears their eerie words to Judith in his own mind “No one will believe you, mummy.”
Alec now understanding the truth and fully comprehending Judith’s nature as a magnet for chaos and destruction, takes a veiled measure of pity on her and offers her the chance to leave NYC. She answers, in utter defeat, “I will say that I can not and you will kill me.” Alec only replies “No. I won’t.” and then stakes her. Alec then takes the incapacitated Judith and reminds Delphine to keep her word and leaves with Judith slung over his shoulder.
Heinricus goes to have a conversation with his new contact, the visiting Sheriff Lena Roane. It is clear from her demeanor that she is an upjumped Kindred who seems unsure of what course of action to take and consults with Heinricus about this matter. Heinricus questions her about what she knows regarding the events of the cemetery but she appears to believe it was the work of Sabbat or Baali. She explains that the Camarilla took great pains to cover up the event so there seems to be little suspicion falling on Heinricus. He manages to subvert her political leanings using a dash of Presence and she begins to spill all her true feelings about the current regime to him. She tells him that she and others believe the Prince’s title was simply bought for him given his destruction of Katerina De’Lavez in previous events. The Prince is practically a fledgling with many in his Court seeming unsure of his worthiness of the position. She also vehemently dislikes his counselor, Alec Durand, believing him to be unnatural and unwelcome within the Camarilla. Heinricus takes in all this rich information and questions her about Alec’s presence within the Court and she reveals that she knows that Judith Maric has returned to NYC and that he is pursuing her. She, however, does not seem to understand the nature of their relationship or Judith’s involvement with the Baali. Heinricus listens to all this and the two eventually part ways. Meanwhile, Delphine and Marcel have a personal meeting with the Prince who is suspicious of their presence within the mansion. He invites them to a special Elysium later that week. All part ways and reconvene at Elysium in a few days.
The Brethren (specifically Marcel, Delphine and Heinricus) arrive at Elysium and their weapons are checked at the door. Heinricus produces a mace but sadly little comment is made about this. As Elysium begins, the Prince is seated at the head of a great table and the Primogen are present. He begins by stressing the importance of the Masquerade and then asks the Sheriff to speak about the recent events in the cemetery. The Sheriff explains that mortals, ranging in age from 13 – 60 were slain and that the media believes it to be drug related. Delphine is visibly moved by this. The Sheriff also stresses that this event received national attention. (The President even knows!) The Prince then proceeds to question the Sheriff about the knowledge she received during a scan of Alec’s mind. She is immediately flustered and tries to evade him. He continues to question her about the nature of the events at the cemetery and then about her relationship with Heinricus. She becomes combative and one of the Alestors intimidates her into answering. The Prince then openly accuses Heinricus of involvement in these events to which the crowd seems astonished. Heinricus rebuffs him and claims that any evidence presented through a mind scan lacks validity and when the Prince asks him to submit to a mind scan himself Heinricus vehemently refuses. A battle of words ensues with Heinricus calling attention to the feeble weight of the accusations while the Prince is incensed at Heinricus’ disrespect of his domain. Delphine also refuses to submit to such a scan and appears extremely uncomfortable and out of place. Marcel lingers near the back with the mysterious Katherine Dee. He gets the sense that he has met her before and engages in conversation with her. She assures him she is a friend of Herinicus’ and cryptically gestures to the Prince telling him and explains that he has “killed her once.” (It is understood that Heinricus sought her out via dominating a mortal and made an alliance with her.) After another exchange Marcel understands that this is Katerina De’Lavez who appears to have cleaned up remarkably well and blends into the crowd since most NYC Kindred believe her to be dead. The Prince and Heirnicus continue to exchange words and eventually the Prince rescinds his hospitality to the Brethren and closes the mansion to them. While the exchange was occurring the Sheriff had boldly argued with the Prince about the nature of Alec’s presence at Court and also offered convoluted evidence. The Alestor begins to drag her away for a “private talk” with the Prince and she becomes immediately frightened. Heinricus intervenes and admonishes the Prince as “a boy” and invites him to be counseled on a better method of rule. The Prince then dismisses the Sheriff from his service with Henricus publicly offering her sanctuary in Krasburg. The Prince and Heinricus share a weighted look before parting ways and it becomes clear that a cold war has been declared between the two Princes. The Sheriff is grateful and leaves to pack for Krasburg. Marcel immediately works the crowd and sees that is divided between support for the Prince and skepticism at his fitness to rule. He begins to subvert members of the crowd in favor of Heinricus. Alec then enters the scene and chides the Brethren for making an enemy of the Prince. He notices the strange Katherine Dee but does not recognize her. He pulls Delphine aside, realizing that she is the only one who could be capable of bringing peace to the situation. Marcel, Heinricus, and Katherine Dee then depart and meet at a cafe to discuss the matters. Delphine confers with Alec a moment longer and he offers her his number as a means of discussing the matter further. Delphine, who has taken a vow poverty and doesn’t even have the decency to get a prepaid phone, tells him she will be in touch. She joins them at the cafe a little while later.
At the cafe, Heinricus, quite out of character and much to the delight of Marcel, begins to flirt with the waitress and invites her to sit with them. Enraptured by the mighty awesomeness of the Prince of Krasburg she obliges. The four then engage in pleasant conversation with Heinricus slowly seducing the waitress while Delphine and Katherine Dee engage in a philosophical conversation about the nature of second chances. The cafe eventually closes leaving just the four of them. Katherine Dee then becomes entranced by Herinicus’, uncharacteristic seduction of the waitress and he begins to strip and fondle her in front of the table. Katherine Dee, having effectively spent the last several years in purgatory is enthralled and the two make plans openly, eyes locked, while Heinricus handles the waitress in a manner that Marcel finds utterly enticing. Katherine Dee agrees to try and eliminate Judith Maric in exchange for advising her Uncle, Elric De’Lorme that she is awake. Heinricus then feeds from the waitress and Katherine is overcome with growing madness and lust with the mix of enticing conversation and the rarely seen debased acts of a Ventrue. It is clear from this scene that Heinricus, combined with the effects of Luthienne’s Malkavian blood and his own irritation with the Prince, has become slightly unhinged. When his beast is sated the pair agree to meet again and make further plans. Katherine Dee excuses herself while Delphine tries to ensure the waitress is unharmed. Marcel simply wants the show to continue but excuses himself as well. Delphine and Heinricus are then left to talk about the nature of Luthienne’s shared blood with them and offers to heal him of any derangement he might possess. He considers it but leaves soon after himself to take care of unfinished business.
The Sheriff is frantically packing her things to prepare for her escape to Krasburg when Alec appears behind her and begins to choke her with tendrils of shadows. He calls her a liar and questions why she would undermine the Prince in public. He releases the shadows enough so that she may answer and pins her to the walls. He is able to Dominate her into providing truthful answers about her motives. She explains that she only conferred with Heinricus about her dislike for the Prince’s fledgling rule and her equal disdain for Alec himself. He feels she is leaving out information and he is right. He questions her about Katherine Dee and the Sheriff confesses that she know her (but does not seem to know that she is Katerina De’Lavez) and that Dee had approached her sometime ago asking for information about Elric De’Lorme and E. The Sheriff confesses that she was dominated by Dee into freeing Elric but that she was too ashamed to reveal this to the Prince. She also tells Alec that she is aware of Judith’s presence in his haven and seems disgusted that the Baali has returned. Alec then reveals he has been recording the entire conversation to which the Sheriff becomes enraged. He offers her the chance to repent and forsake Heinricus and throw herself on the Prince’s mercy but she refuses. She explains that she is only a visitor here and has nothing but hatred for NYC. Alec then calls her a traitor and slowly crushes her to death with shadows as she screams for help.
Sphinx is pensive and is waiting in one of his drop bars while his associate, Misty, cuts and bags cocaine for him. He is considering the nature of what he has become after Aetius’ words to him. A voice comes over the intercom and the bartender advises Sphinx that a strange woman named “Lucy Anne” has come to see him. Sphinx goes to meet the woman but Misty stops him and thanks him for providing her with the work. She tells him that because of him her life has improved and even goes so far as to invite the Ancient Kindred to her son’s birthday party. He acknowledges her graciousness and walks her upstairs. Upon arrival, Sphinx sees that it is Luthienne covered in dust and wearing her Victorian garb. She drops him a curtsy and greets him as a brother, issuing laughter from some of the seedy patrons. Sphinx makes a mental note of everyone who laughed at her. He asks her to meet him downstairs and the pair descend. She apologizes that she has been away so long and tells him that she escaped the Abyss by coming upon his lost suitcase and opening it. She also explains that his blood called to hers and that she understands that he is troubled by something. He simply answers that he needs to show her something. He grabs a submachine gun from the table and the two go back upstairs. He immediately opens fire on everyone that had laughed at Luthienne to which she can only watch with a faraway smile. The bar descends into panic and the pair exit arm in arm and disappear to the Setite Temple in the city.
They enter the temple and Sphinx produces a rope with a grappling claw attached at the end, he explains that he is done with the worship of Set and that he has forgotten himself in the thousands of years since he ruled as a Pharaoh. Luthienne strangely comments that “such is the measure of his weight in sand”. They go before the statue of Set and Sphinx tosses the rope over it and asks Luthienne to help him pull it down. The pair pull the statue down and it crashes to the floor and shatters. Two Setites then emerge in a rage and confront the two as defilers. The Priestess weeps over the fallen statue of Set and then attempts to attack Luthienne but she grabs the girl by the hair and twists her head off. The other attacks Sphinx but he is unable pierce his skin with the blade. Sphinx calls upon his shared blood with Delphine and begins to radiate a burning light that sets the temple ablaze. As the fire roars around the two, leaving them unharmed, Sphinx realizes that he must join Ra and watch over the people from the heavens. Luthienne bows to him and understands that he means to unleash himself on the Baali beneath the city. She then tells him that he must take this message to Aetius and free the Ancients from the shadow prison. They ascend the burning stairs together, arm in arm, as Setites scream and try to escape consumed by the fire around them.
They appear then before the Ancients and Luthienne kneels but Sphinx does not. Aetius then tells Luthienne that she has served her sacred duty by bringing them Sphinx in his true form. He then asks that Sphinx due his duty to which Sphinx once agains begins to radiate white light effectively removing the shadow prison around the Abyss. For the first time, Vestia then moves to Sphinx and bows to his majesty and in gratitude for remembering himself and doing them a service once again. She then releases him from his bond to the Order saying that she “knows well what he must do.”
Marcel finds himself drawn from his many amusements by an irresistible urge to return to the tomb of the Lovers where he is invited to drink from the ancient couple so that he might fully understand his purpose. As he simultaneously sips from their extended wrists, he is swept away in an ecstatic rush that reveals the past glories and accomplishments of the Toreador, sweeping through the history of the clan of the rose, all the way back to Arikel, who seems to appear all around him in a fleet and intoxicating dance. Marcel struggles to dance with her at first, but then gradually, he quickens, matching her dizzying speed, increasing his celerity. He is also given a perfect undying rose, said to be from Arikel’s garden, but upon closer look with his artist’s eye, he understands that the petals of the rose have been made from Arikel’s blood. Marcel leaves the Lovers with his purpose fully in bloom.
Heinricus wanders the streets of NYC after he parts ways with the others at the cafe. He has made arrangements to send his entourage back to Krasburg to give the impression he has gone with them as well. As he walks, darkly considering all the recent events, Luthienne appears beside him and walks with him in silence for a while. She makes a cryptic comment that the “boy king” has his spies on them and takes him into a dark alley way. She advises him that there is a place for him with the Ancients should he wish it. He agrees to go with her and takes her hand and the two appear before Aetius and Vestia. Heinricus has many questions for them and Aetius offers him the chance to be free of his vow to the Order if he no longer wishes to serve. He explains that the Ancients believe in the free will of all Kindred and will not accept an unwilling servant. He also explains to Herinicus that the Order’s purpose is to defend the laws of God and serve these laws with noble and honorable accord. Heirinicus, moved by this concept, agrees to remain in the Order. Aetius then offers his wrist to him while Vestia asks if he will “drink and know thyself”. Heinricus does so and is immediately overcome by images of his great Ventrue lineage, many of his progenitors having served in the Order before him with his ancestress giving her life during the destruction of Carthage. After the visions are over, Vestia kneels before him and produces a beautiful ancient sword called, Il Sacro, and asks that he use it as his forbears have done to slay the Baali Lykenia, who is revealed to be a servant of the Baali Methuselah Moloch. She also warns him against the dangers of falling prey to the squabbles of less noble pursuits. Overwhelmed by new purpose and understanding of his role in the Order, Heinricus vows to slay the Baali with this very blade. The ancients then invite him to stay with them, saying that E will come and provide for their needs.
Alec sits beside a staked Judith and talks with her. He explains that he wishes to talk about his intentions and offers her a truce if she will behave when he removes the stake. He removes the stake and Judith appears confused as to why he would let her live. He speaks calmly to her about their shared children, explaining that he believes her Baali nature corrupted them and that they will return to normal if they are allowed back into his care. He asks if she will agree to allow them to grow up in his care and that she can be a presence in their lives when they are older and strong enough to resist her influence, a period of 10 years. She agrees and then questions what he will do if he is wrong and the children are truly evil. He only comments that they “have been with the Baali a long time” and says no more. Judith then reminds him that she wanted him to kill her in the cemetery to spare her having to make the decision to kill them. Alec then offers her sanctuary in his haven and her freedom if she wishes. She agrees to stay and help him retrieve the children and destroy the Baali.
Sphinx and Delphine meet near New York’s largest hospital, both drawn to each other and this monolith of suffering. Delphine realizes that Sphinx has been truly transformed and has turned his back on the vile Set, returning to his righteous path, now channeling Ra. Despite the differences in their faith, Delphine cannot deny Sphinx’s holy radiance and is so moved she touches his brow in wonder where his own third eye opens. His eye shines upon her own, as he removes her scarf. She turns away under his scrutiny, considering the look of her third eye shameful, as it had become the eye of a serpent courtesy of Set’s corruption through the vaulderie. But Sphinx sees past the false power of Set, viewing the eye as it was intended as Horus’s all-seeing eye, and her eye reflects that as the taint of Set fades from it. Sphinx also sees how Luthienne’s Malkavian blood has unbalanced Delphine, sending her figures of false saints and angels who had tormented her, pushing her to ever-growing and dangerous martyrdom and self-inflicted injury, depleting her strength, will, and blood at a time when she would need it most. He heals her ravaged mind and spirit, and in doing so sees in her simple clothes and purity of purpose the image of queen to his king in what sacrifice and battle is to soon come. He asks her, “Will you walk with me?” and the two join hands and obfuscate their way into the hospital, going floor by floor, room by room, healing sick children, the elderly, and those forgotten and hopeless. They tend to the doctors, the nurses, the staff too, who choose their own greed and indifference in the suffering of others, shaming some, opening the eyes of all. While the rest of New York City teeters on destruction, for one glorious and merciful night, unnoticed and unpraised, this pair leave a legacy of healing and mercy in their wake, the hospital now an edifice of defiant healing amidst suffering in what may be their last and pure act before their own deaths.
Alec broods over a chessboard in his haven while Judith chain-smokes and reads over a ponderous book. She checks on him and he tells her that he has an idea about how to retrieve the children. Alec is mistrustful of the Order and believes they may try to harm them. He explains to Judith that he is considering going to the other Lasombra in NYC for help (specifically E, Katerina De’Lavez and Elric De’Lorme), feeling that a united Lasombra force will be a fearsome foe. Judith seems aghast at this, reminding them that everyone believes those Lasombra to be insane or at the least incredibly dangerous. He retorts by reminding her that the Baali pose a threat to the De’Lormes as well. By his reasoning if the city is destroyed so are the pawns in their “Great Game”. Judith seems hesitant but supports him. Alec then leaves to seek out E, believing her to have the most potential to be reasonable. He finds her outside the crypt of the Ancients dragging an unconscious mortal through the crypt-yard to feed them. Alec interrupts her and she seems apprehensive at his sudden appearance. She quickly bars the entrance to the crypt with shadows and stands in front of it. Alec explains to her that he wishes her to join with him in the fight against the Baali, reminding her that for the last 20 years the city’s fortunes have often rested in the hands of a Lasombra and he wishes to restore their glorious reputation. E is hesitant to accept but eventually agrees. She advises him she will not speak to Elric or Katerina on his behalf but will stand with him when the time comes. She then tells him that Katerina can be found in a Church and Alec surmises that she will probably be at the one she was slain in. His instincts are correct and he finds her alone in the chapel where she was slain fervently praying. She does not seem surprised to see him, only asking if Bailey had sent him to destroy her. Alec tells her that he means her no harm and asks her to unite with him against the Baali. Katerina only listens very patiently as he explains that her “Great Game” will end should the Baali succeed. She then offers to show him something as an answer to his request. She offers her hand and Alec, open to trusting her, takes it and they disappear into the Abyss. They appear in shadow in the ruins of a temple beneath the city. In the center of the sanctuary there is an open pit with hundreds of Baali coiled together copulating, sharing blood, and killing mortals. Lykenia sits on a throne above it all flanked by the children who are, to Alec’s horror and rage, feeding from her. Alec is overcome by the deplorable sight and nearly succumbs to his Beast. Katerina then angrily tells him “do not talk to me of games …for this is no game.” She agrees to help him in his fight because she can not bear this insolence from the infernal horde. She then returns them to the Church as many of the Baali in the pit seem to sense them. Alec now understands the true gravity of the situation and asks her if she believes Elric will join with them. She tells him that she can not be sure and that she had told Von Verden to tell Elric of her presence so that she could flee the city with her Uncle. Alec is surprised by this and Katerina only says that death has changed her in some way. She tells him that he should go to Elric himself and try to persuade him but does not guarantee that he will be cooperative.
Heinricus and Delphine make their way to Elric De’Lorme’s haven, both discussing the possibilities that this encounter could offer. They enter the penthouse and are immediately greeted with muffled screams and the sound of someone being smacked. They make their way to the bedroom to find Elric, disheveled and bloody, beating a woman who has been racked between two posts and another who is bound by shadows on the floor. Delphine stops him mid-swing as he moves to strike the racked woman again. He simply looks down to her hand on his and licks it, rattling Delphine. Heinricus looks over the seen with disgust and explains that he is there to deliver a message. Elric appears to be caught up in his rage, however, only half listening to him. He continues to beat and terrorize the women. Delphine reads their auras and realizes that they are Baali ghouls and their souls are no longer attached to their bodies. Elric continues to beat them and explains that they had tried to kill him. Heinricus then attempts to explain the Baali situation to which Elric only seems partially aware. Heirnicus then tells him that he there to deliver a message from his niece. Elric is frozen then, his demeanor instantly turning dark. He tells Heinricus that his niece is dead and asks if he has been trafficking with spirits. Heinricus then begins to describe Katerina in enticing detail drawing attention to her strange beauty and demeanor. He then begins to quote lines of poetry that is clearly meant to recount her character. Elric, who had been wielding a dagger the entire time, turns on Heinricus collapsing into unbridled anger and charges him, asking him if he “fucker her”. Delphine tries to interject explaining to Elric that they had freed Katerina from the Abyss. Elric will not hear it and backhands her, angering Heinricus.
Just as violence is about to erupt, Alec emerges from the shadows with Judith, who had tried to disguise herself by dying her hair blonde. He tries to calm Elric and explains that he needs his help. Elric, overwhelmed by the murderous Baali whores and yet another pair of intruders in his haven snaps and summons to two shadow arms to his side. Alec rushes up behind him while Delphine tries to calm his beast. Heinricus then makes a surprising move and uses Celerity to appear before Judith who remained out of the fray. He locks eyes with her and puts her in state of torpor and she collapses*. Delphine, shocked, uses Temporis to put Heinricus in a repeating pattern of movements to hold him so that he can not further harm Judith. Alec then charges him and throws him into the wall, breaking Delphine’s hold on Heinricus.
Alec tries to revive Judith but she will not respond to his vitae. Elric, now completely shocked by this turn of events, sits down and watches the confrontation. Heinricus then casually returns to his seat. The three of them then begin to argue while Elric grows impatient with the chaos. He commands them all to be silent and then begins to ask them questions one at a time. Heinricus explains that Katerina had asked him to deliver a message to him and flee the city. He also adds that he did not, infact, fuck her. Alec explains that he has also spoken with Katerina and E and that he wishes to unite the Lasombra to defeat the Baali horde. Elric then asks Delphine if she “made her cum” (he was present when she fed from the menstruating girl) Delphine is confused and simply responds in the negative. He then asks Alec why he didn’t just ask him for his help instead of breaking into his home. More arguments ensue with Heinricus growing enraged at Alec’s insolence towards him and using Presence to command his attention while he admonishes him. Heinricus explains that Judith can not be awoken by any means other than Heinricus’ own command. Elric watches in rapt and scandalized attention as he realizes that these Kindred will probably destroy one another before they destroy the Baali.** Threats are exchanged between Heinricus and Alec as Delphine tries to intervene to no avail. Alec then takes the fallen Judith and leaves with Elric commenting that he will join in the fight but that next time he should “just use the fucking door.”
Heinricus, feeling completely betrayed by Delphine and realizing that Alec is an enemy and that Marcel is a fool, begins to understand how alone he is. He and Delphine continue to discuss the situation while Elric moves to slay the girls in the room. He cuts the racked girl’s throat and then exposes his erect penis and begins urinating vitae onto the shadow bound girl’s face commenting excitedly that he is going to “fuck Baali cunts into ash”. He then uses the dagger to saw the girl’s head off, bringing it up by the hair to kiss its lips and then punts it down the hallway. Heinricus and Delphine continue to banter while Elric moves about the room retrieving weapons and readying himself for the impending battle. He brandishes a beautiful sword and practice swings then carves the dead racked woman in two. He leaves the room and returns with another sword and interrupts Delphine and Heinricus. He tosses Heinricus the sword and comments that he “has a swordsman’s stance”. He then invites Heinricus to spar with him. The two engage in swordplay that slowly becomes more aggressive as Elric taunts him about his feud with Alec. Delphine, realizing what Elric is doing, assists by uses telekinesis to throw knives at them both to help Heinricus to focus. Heinricus then gets the better of Elric and a moment passes between the two and Elric then retreats the room brooding over Heinricus’ earlier description of his niece. He tells them that he will join their fight and exits the penthouse, fuming.
Delphine and Heinricus then continue their earlier discussion about the nature of trust in the Order with Delphine offering to heal him of his tainted Malkavian blood. He refuses but listens to what she has to say. She chides him for attacking Judith while Heinricus explains that it was a strategic move saying that the action will bring Alec to heel. Delphine then goes on to explain the nature of Judith’s history and tries to help Heinricus understand that she is largely a victim in all this. Unbeknownst to Delphine, her words trigger something in Heinricus as he makes startling connections about his own mother, questioning the legitimacy of his own Ventrue blood. Heinricus then succumbs to half-mad rage and rambles about returning to Krasburg. It is at this time Luthienne enters and asks Delphine “What have you done?”
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)
With Heinricus’ mind on the verge of collapse, the very foundation of his existence in question, Luthienne suggests he seek out the Lovers for clarity of his nature. Luthienne obfuscates away at that, gauging it far too dangerous to remain near him on the verge of frenzy. Despite her hesitation to return to the Lovers, Delphine accompanies Heinricus there, given that, in such a state of mind, he might succumb to frenzy and kill others or meet the very sun himself. Vestia alone greets them, and seeing Heinricus’ state of mind, immediately asks Delphine, just as Luthienne had earlier, “What have you done?” Delphine refutes the accusation that she has somehow poisoned Heinricus’ mind, and suggests it is the blood of the Order, if anything, that has afflicted Heinricus. Vestia is dangerously perturbed, and states had it not been for Saulot himself creating the Baali that there would be no need for the Order in the first place. Heinricus intervenes then, gathering himself enough to diffuse the hostility, and Vestia agrees to forgive Delphine’s impertinence this one final time since she had not yet shared the blood of the Lovers and was still confused. Heinricus all but broken, asks Vestia, “What am I?” no longer certain he was born of the bloodline of Kings. Vestia reassures him he is most certainly Ventrue and reiterates the importance of clan in its role to the Order. Theirs a legacy stretching backward through time, an honorable Order of distinguished bloodlines brought together through loyalty. Heinricus’ raging mind quiets at this but cannot quite silence the sliver of doubt that has fallen over him. Delphine counters that is not Heinricus’ blood that makes him great, but Heinricus himself, but this is of little consolation to him.
Vestia then turns to Delphine and bids her to drink so that she might know herself and not cause any further dissent in her brethren through her ignorance and suspicion. Delphine hesitates, saying God will give her clarity enough. Vestia retracts her offer while chiding Delphine for risking the lives of her brethren, especially Heinricus who was so unhinged. That moves Delphine to drink from Vestia, but before she can sink her fangs into Vestia’s wrist, Heinricus plucks Delphine’s St. Christopher’s medal from her neck, pressing it to Vestia’s extended wrist, having grown steadily suspicious that she was a Baali herself. Vestia recoils. Heinricus and Delphine are thrown back against the wall suspended against it, unable to move. Delphine starts to pray and skin grows over her mouth silencing her. Heinricus musters his will and strength and starts to snap free of the invisible chains that hold him, considering that the Lovers may be the other two legendary founders of the Baali. Heinricus vividly recollects prayers in Latin when he was a Crusader in the confines of a sunlight church, which he struggles to utter at first. Vestia now takes on a motherly tone with Heinricus saying, “My boy… you are more me and the than Ventrue. And the Tzimsice…” Heinricus hesitates at that, and Vestia gets in his face as he rails against her hold, and states he owes his existence to the Baali and the Tzimisce.
Heinricus finds holy weight behind his words at that, and his prayer intensifies. Delphine snakes a hand free and rips through the flesh covering her mouth. And the two join together in escalating and intense prayer, which drives Vestia back, utterly cowing her. Now free of the invisible chains that held them, Heinricus and Delphine act quickly. Heinricus uses a cane from one of the many victims the Lovers had fed on to stake Vestia. As Heinricus leans down to Vestia though, he finds himself not looking at her body but at the feet of Aetius. Vestia stands nearby, unharmed. Aetius claims that the two them quite lost themselves, and he was forced to restrain Heinricus and Delphine, suggesting that the whole of what they experienced was a delusion. Heinricus craftily tests their response to Delphine’s medal, but the Lovers do not react. Little details plague Heinricus and Delphine, the scene being just out of sorts enough to continue their own doubts, and they leave uncertain if they left two clever and ancient Baali manipulating them or not. They hurry away determined to warn their brethren.
Salt. The streets are strewn with salt. Bags of it are piled throughout the city. Flyers litter the ground, stuffed in doors, mailboxes, blowing in the breeze and wafting down in the snowstorm that has come through. They read only Delenda Est Carthargo “Carthage Must Fall”. The Kine are in an uproar, they believe it is a terrorist attack and they scramble to restore the streets to order. Heinricus, Delphine, Marcel and Sphinx take cover in an alleyway to discuss the situation. Heinricus and Delphine share their strange experience with the Ancients asking Sphinx for his input. Sphinx listens to their story with an open mind and suggests they go before the Ancients.
When Marcel hears that Heinricus attempted to stake Vestia he is infuriated and leaves them immediately. The three of them then go to the crypt-yard to share their suspicions with the Ancients with Sphinx’s guidance. Upon entering, E confronts them and bars the entrance with shadow. She’s enraged and explains that Heinricus had been there with Delphine the night before and they were behaving like madmen and had caused some minor chaos. Delphine storms past her and E allows them entry, saying that she will be happy to “mop them up before dawn.” They enter and find the Aetius speaking with Alec who has brought the fallen Judith before them.
Sphinx shares a long look with Aetius, they seem to be sharing something and then turns to Heinricus and Delphine and in perfect Sphinx fashion he tells them to “get their fucking shit together” and they he will “see them in the sky”. He departs. Left alone with the Ancients and Alec, they await some sign to either confirm or repute their suspicions. Aetius calls Delphine forward and explains that the blood of Malkav has polluted her and that she will be freed of her bond to the Order and cast out. He then draws the shared vitae from her body and takes it back into himself, leaving Delphine with no memory of the Order, save for the names and faces of the members. Terrified, she retreats to the crypt-yard. Heinricus can only watch in horror and then Aetius calls him forward and gives him the title of Praetor. He explains that Delphine has been cast out due to her bringing Heinricus to the crypt-yard the night before and corrupting him with her delusions but he commands him to do her no harm and let her live in peace. He then addresses the situation between Alec and Heinricus. He asks Heinricus if he placed Judith in torpor with noble intent and when Heinricus answers in the affirmative he reminds Alec that his squabble with his sister is not the business of the Order.
As both parties plead their case, the ground begins to shudder and gunfire and screams are heard from the cemetery. Aetius says “it has begun” and draws a sword while Vestia’s nails become long silver talons, and they fade into an ethereal smoke and leave Alec, Heinricus and the sleeping Judith there. They go to investigate the disturbance and find the cemetery crawling with Baali who are dragging mortals into an open grave. A ghoul has staked Delphine and takes her away leaving another infernal ghoul behind to taunt them. E enters and Alec asks that she take Judith to safety which she does. As the two restrain and begin to question the ghoul, Lykenia appears and keeps the other ghouls at bay while she mocks them. Heinricus is overcome by her corrosive words while Alec does battle with a ghoul. As the situation hinges on destruction, Alec seizes the opportunity to pull Heinricus into the Abyss and retreats. As they fall, they see a vision of Lykenia descending into the crypt and down into a tunnel beneath.
They emerge on the streets of NYC and as Alec begins to stalk away, he is stopped by Elric. Katerina has already come upon Heinricus and speaks to him about the situation. He warns her that her Uncle is near and the two (Elric and Katerina) finally come face to face after several decades. There is immediate tension but it is overshadowed by the feud between Heinricus and Alec. As they continue to argue over Judith’s condition, Katerina and Elric both see that the city will fall without a truce between them. In a move that is far from her historic nature, she offers her service to Heinricus for a period of 10 years if he will restore Judith. Heinricus considers it and accepts. They go to a Church where she takes Heinricus’ blood and issues a vow on Holy ground to give her service while Elric fumes and Alec regards all this with scepticism. E brings Judith to the Church and true to his word, Heinricus restores her. Katerina and E who have also not seen each other in decades share a brief look and E simply retreats. Afterwords, Elric and Alec discuss their suspicions about Heinricus while Katerina and Heinricus discuss their new bond.
Marcel and Heinricus come face to face at the crypt. Marcel has had enough of what he perceives as the irrational actions of his brethren. He has gone to the Abyss to collect the Abysmal Guard and Warden Septimus. Heinricus has gathered his own small army. The Justicars have descended on NYC and sent two more Alestors (Black and Belos) to assist with the chaos. They meet and Marcel attempts to put Heinricus under arrest while Heinricus tries to keep the situation from boiling over into anarchy. The two square off with Heinricus trying to explain what has happened to Delphine to Marcel. Alec interjects, having been watching from atop a statue in the cemetery. E and Katerina are also present, lingering in the shadows. He chides them for their own internal conflict and all three exchange heated words as Alestor Belos exchanges threats with an Abysmal Guard. Warden Septimus halts the discussion seeming particularly concerned with rescuing Delphine and the death squad tag team supreme descend into the tunnels beneath the Abyss.
The tunnels are lined with little green candles that serve as a guide as they wind down below the earth. Alec sends his shadow servant ahead of the coterie, while Marcel uses his insight to scan the vicinity for enemies. Heinricus and Katerina stay close and attempt to press ahead. Eventually they come upon the grisly sight of Kindred impaled on pikes. Marcel helps one of the dying Kindred down and realizes it’s one of the missing neonates. He offers him his blood and before the Kindred can tell him who did this to him one of the Abysmal Guards decapitates the Kindred. Marcel is angered but the Warden explains that the Kindred was suffering. They continue and then Alec spies two Baali feasting on dead corpses in a horrifying tableau. The coterie engages them in combat with Marcel beheading one of them and Alec and Heinricus brawling with another. The remaining Baali barely escapes with his unlife and disappears in an explosion of green flame sending everyone sprawling across the room. When they gather themselves together they see that the Abysmal Guards and Alestors are missing. Alec contacts E via the shadows and she tells him the Baali went through a door into a labyrinth but the communication is cut short. They find their way to a winding staircase over an open chasm where unnatural winds threaten to blow them over. They escape the maze of stairs and eventually come to the Baali nest that Alec had seen before.
They are met with a horrifying site of utter chaos, violence and debauchery. The Baali feast, fight, fuck, and consume the flesh of dead mortals and each other. The scene is so deplorable that all present teeter on frenzy. They manage to sneak by the madness and reach a torture chamber with an iron maiden in the middle and 3 cages. E has been staked and so has Alestor Black and both are caged. They see the Abysmal Guard and Warden Septimus standing before the iron maiden. Warden Septimus opens the iron maiden and pulls out a nearly drained Delphine who is dangerously close to torpor. He smooths her hair away from her face and throat and they can see as he moves that his eyes are an infernal green. He then attempts to diablerize her. The coterie immediately intervenes. Delphine is able to throw the Warden into the iron maiden with the last of her strength, staking him on the spikes inside. Katerina leaps onto one of the Abysmal Guards and uses her claws to tear out his throat while Heinricus bolts up to the other and stabs him with Il Sacro. Marcel also strikes out with his blade and Alec finishes them off with his shadows. When the two Abysmal Guards are slain, Katerina suggests that Delphine drain the Warden. Heinricus then suggests they read his mind for secrets. He does so and then a torrent of information is revealed to him.
Warden Septimus had always been a Baali and was not as ancient as his name. He sees the Warden giving Marcel the orders to destroy the neonate population of NYC and sees Marcel reading them. He sees through the Warden’s eyes, Marcel killing several neonates with no memory of his actions. He also sees Delphine reading the orders as well and killing five herself. It is clear now that the orders had been a device to corrupt the Order and cause them to quell the Kindred numbers in NYC to make their destruction of it easier. It also appears the Baali had infiltrated the Order and corrupted it. Overwhelmed with this information, Heinricus chooses not to share it entirely with the rest of those present. Alec and the other Lasombra realize it’s time to escape. They use their combined abysmal powers to open a portal through the Abyss. Alestor Black goes through first while Delphine finishes off the Warden by draining him. Heinricus then devises a risky plan to hit the Baali hard and then escape through the portal before it collapses. He goes before the great pit and targets an area where the most human bodies are concentrated hoping to ignite the fat of their flesh and cause more damage. He hurls flame at the nest of Baali and ignites a huge explosion in the pit. Delphine recuperates enough to join him, and she summons gusts of wind to help spread the flames. Of the estimated five to six hundred Baali, about 100 are consumed by fire with possibly more dying. Everyone jumps through the portal, and they all descend into darkness.
They appear on the salted streets of NYC and compose themselves. Alec chides E for getting herself staked and offers to help hone her Abysmal powers. She takes her leave of them, sharing a look with Katerina. Alec takes his leave as well. Katerina, Heinricus, Delphine and Marcel are then left to consider all that has happened.
Katerina takes the three of them to her haven beneath the Church where she was slain to collect themselves and take shelter. They rest and begin to discuss the situation at hand. Delphine has no memory of her time in the Order but she does recall the names and faces of Marcel and Heinricus. They discuss why the Ancients would have cast her out and their continued suspicions about their nature. Katerina offers, as she does not share their blood or possible delusions, to look inside the minds of Delphine and Heinricus to see what actually happened at the crypt. Heinricus gives her a look that speaks volumes and she offers to read Delphine instead. Delphine allows her to and she sees that Heinricus and Delphine were overcome with delirium when they want before the Baali. She sees Vestia tell Aetius to cast Delphine out of the Order, calling her “poison” and addressing the fact that Delphine was unwilling to serve the Order and by their reasoning was causing dissent among the members. Heinricus seems unsure of this and Katerina then boldly offers him a glimpse into her own mind to allay his doubts. He accepts and sees all that she had seen in Delphine’s mind and her own dark past and some glimmer of her loyalty to him. Delphine is utterly incensed at what the expulsion from the Order has done to her memories, especially at such a pivotal time in the fight against the Baali, and she now trusts the ancients less than ever. Katerina gives her a measured look and then retires before the fire to let them finish airing their fears and contriving a way to give Delphine her memories back.
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45)
Heinricus and Delphine adjourn to location overlooking the city of New York. Her mind has taken a dark turn as she confesses to killing five neonates in cold blood, the strange orders she read, the word culling digging into her brain, and gravely suspects she may have killed more over time, but she is without memories to confirm or deny it. Heinricus calls upon his substantial knowledge of military tactics and suggests the memories might be false and placed there by the Baali to demoralize Delphine. But the memories still plague her, and she punches through the glass as the beast seethes in her. Delphine’s mind teeters and starts to crack even as the glass in the windows and doors do around them. She is crazed, breaking, dangerously feral. Glass shatters all around them, gusts of wind rampaging in. And then there is stillness, as the glass hangs in the air like fragile diamonds, before slamming to the ground in a torrential wave. The shards raise up swiftly and clatter back into their frames, as she tries to fits the pieces of them and her mind together, growing ever more agitated with the impossibility.
Heinricus recalls his own recent crisis of despair and Delphine’s diligence at his side. Feeling indebted, he offers to sift through her mind and separate truth from falsehood. As he does, he enters into her chaotic mind, nearly getting swept away in it. He is haunted by the eerie suspicion that Saulot left some residual echo in her mind, the voice seeming almost to speak to him at times through her memories, alluding to the raising up of a Third City. Heinricus restores Delphine’s memories, and as he does, the glass smoothes in the frames of windows and doors, becoming whole again as her mind does. While it is revealed she has not been killing at the behest of the corrupted arm of the Order for centuries, she must reconcile herself to the five deaths she took through the Baali’s insidious compulsion. Since five neonates were taken by her hand, she decides to give back five worthy healers and asks Heinricus to pledge himself to their protection on his sacred honor. Delphine reveals then that the locket of her St. Christopher’s medal contains a bit of Saulot’s blood and through a purification ritual of prayer and shedding herself of almost every drop of blood, she can then ingest Saulot’s blood which will temporarily raise her to the third generation, long enough to supply blood for these healers to make a handful of powerful fourth generation vampires. They discuss the particulars and the deeper implications of what it would it would mean to have the Salubri rise with the Third City.
Heinricus and Katerina have found an easy peace while they share a haven for the time being. He is still suspicious of her motivations behind becoming his vassal, however. They engage in small talk and with Katerina giving him little jabs here and there that spur on his hesitation. She asks if he had heard of her before coming to NYC, assuming that he would not have, and he begins to recall the early formation of the Sabbat. He hints that he is aware she was behind the missing Lasombra during that time and her face betrays her. She explains that her death left her “shriven of such things” and the pair discuss it no further. They take a walk to a local jazz bar and Heinricus finally directly asks her why she chose to give herself in servitude to him. She then boldly tells him that he had lowered himself in her eyes with his feud with Alec Durand and that she “put her neck under his boot to raise him up.” Heinricus controls his rage at her words but concedes that by some degree she has a point. He then continues to make mysterious arrangements for a fete. Katerina then curiously warns him that should he die by shadow he will end up in the Abyss and that she will do her part to save him. The scene ends with Heinricus having a private phone conversation about the party and asking that Katerina not be harmed.
The Baali have been quiet for an entire week. The city is still making efforts to clean up the salt and flyers but things appear to have calmed for the time being. In light of all the chaos, the Cainites of NYC have been invited to a party as a show of solidarity and unity. The Prince and all ranking members of the Camarilla are in attendance. Marcel and Heinricus arrive and are met with scandalized looks and whispers. Alec is already there and questions why Bailey would agree to such an event when plans for battle must be attended to. Alestor Grey (who had been in the city since the neonates disappeared) advises Alec that he understands his concerns and then explains that the Inner Circle has seen fit to begin an evacuation of the Cainite population of NYC. Bailey comments darkly that they may want to arrange some sort of war as a cover for the Baali troubles. The Alestor then opens his coat to show Alec a remote control that appears to be for explosives. He makes no further comment on this and leaves Bailey and Alec to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, Heinricus and Marcel are at the party being entertained by Bianca Lenoir. Heinricus then gets the attention of all the party goers to discuss the situation with the Baali openly. Prince Bailey intervenes and they begin to have an open debate about the situation to the amusement and shock of those in attendance. Marcel encourages Bianca to begin circulating rumors among the crowd to sway their loyalties toward Heinricus. Bianca then says something very strange to Marcel. She tells him that Elric De’Lorme is in attendance as well and has the place loaded with C4. She appears to find this amusing. Marcel is alarmed and takes Katherine Dee (De’Lavez in disguise) to the side and pretends to embrace her. He projects his consciousness throughout the building and notices three assassins watching the party from the balcony above. He also finds Elric sequestered in a private room upstairs. He returns to his body and warns De’Lavez who turns to Heinricus and has a horrifying realization as she watches him engage with the Prince. Alec becomes aware that something is amiss and warns Bailey to leave immediately. Before he can do so two assassins drop to the floor, armed and move in to take out Bailey. Heinricus looks up to see a third assassin on the balcony and Elric De’Lorme come up behind him. Elric takes the assassin’s head off and sends his crumbling body to the floor. Elric then holds out a remote and the Alestor present realizes that his own is gone. Bianca then tells everyone close to the door to leave if they want to live. Elric announces that he’s not here for the Camarilla and commands everyone but Alec, Marcel, Heinricus, and Katerina to leave or he will detonate the explosives that have been place throughout the building. The remaining assassins take the offer and leave as well.
Elric explains to them that they will not leave the building until they have: reached an accord (meaning the feud with Alec and Heinricus) have killed each other, or they can take the remote from him. He also explains that many other buildings in NYC have been wired with C4 by the Camarilla and that he has commandeered them. Alec is shocked by Elric’s sudden treachery while Heinricus considers all possible solutions and Marcel is very cavalier about the situation. Elric then begins to play a game with them to pass the time and expose their secrets. He engages them in a game of Never Have I Ever and begins to make statements about the sins of each person present. Alec realizes that something is very wrong with Elric and grows suspicious. Elric then shows them he’s serious by blowing up one of the bookcases in the room. Elric taunts Alec with his relationship with his sister and hints that Heinricus had lusted for his own sister as well. He begins to speak with the voice of Alec’s son, Michael and says unnerving things about their nature. He does the same to Heinricus, using the voice of his long dead sister, Leonor. He then lays into Marcel with the voice of Marcel’s sire, the Duchess, whom he says Marcel diablerized. He continues to rail at Marcel with the Duchess’ voice berating him for his weakness and his pathetic manipulation of mortals over the centuries. Marcel comes to the brink of frenzy as his sins are laid bare and it is at this time Alec understands that this is not Elric but a Baali using his face. The demonic Elric then jumps to the floor and presses the button. Small explosions rock the building and what sounds to be like several buildings outside. The building is in shambles but the coterie are mostly unharmed. Marcel then attacks Elric with an axe and impales Bianca on the door (who’s face is already quivering into a demonic mask, revealing that she too was simply a Baali in disguise). Alec uses his tendrils to grapple with Elric, while Heinricus using Vicissitude and firearms to finish the job. Marcel and Katerina finish him off and with every injury, the demonic Elric’s body begins to dissolve into flame, setting the ruins of the mansion ablaze. The coterie manage to escape via the Abyss and emerge in front of the Church on the streets of NYC. They are met with the horrific sight of utter chaos around them. At least 10 buildings across NYC have been decimated and police and fire trucks swarm the streets. Mortals and Cainites alike flee from the burning buildings and the coterie can see the Prince’s mansion in the distance is ablaze. With no way to tell who is dead and who is alive the coterie simply take in the sight of the city being slowly destroyed and understand that the war has finally come.
Part 2. Sand
Marcel has found Delphine alive. They make their way through the chaos of NYC to Katerina’s haven. The city is in shambles with the National Guard has been called in to help quell the disorder. They find Katerina in the Church praying fervently. Delphine tells her that she has come to ask for her assistance. Delphine is tormented over the neonate lives she has taken and seeks to restore 5 Kindred to the night as recompense. Marcel is shocked when she says this, having no idea that believes herself to be the murderer of those neonates. She explains to him that Heinricus helped to return her memories and that she knows she was responsible for the slaying of the neonates and suggests that Marcel is as well because they both read the orders from the Warden. Marcel can not bring himself to believe her and thinks she is still under the influence of some subterfuge. Katerina only watches the exchange. Sphinx enters after a time and Katerina is unnerved by his presence in a Church. He explains that he is no longer a Setite and she understands his meaning. Delphine now turns her attention back to Katerina to ask her the question she had come there to. She shows all present a splinter of the True Cross and asks that Katerina assist her with finding five worthy individuals to become Salubri should she fall in battle. It is implied that Delphine will portion out her vitae to give to such individuals to restore the five Kindred she destroyed and return the Salubri to the world. Katerina emphatically refuses explaining that she is unworthy of such a task especially if this is Delphine’s honest conviction. She suggests she give a portion of her vitae to each member of the Order to see her wishes done. She also goes on to explain that Luthienne would help her, as she had been helping them all this time on her own. Delphine accepts her answer but Sphinx is incensed and demands that Katerina assist him or become their enemy. Katerina disregards the confrontation but concedes to Delphine that should it come to her death and there is no one else to do it she will carry out her wishes. She then leaves the group to their discussion. Sphinx then reminds Delphine of her vow that she would give her life to destroy the Baali with him if necessary. Delphine reminds him that she will act according to her conscious and Sphinx grows displeased. Marcel attempts to bring unity to the group as Legatus but Sphinx storms out of the Church in a rage. He summons a sandstorm to demonstrate his power and bury the city in sand if he must. Delphine manages to calm him but it is too late. Sphinx’s time has come and he must act now.
Before they can stop him he goes to the crypt and descends into the Baali tunnels. They have no time to summon Luthienne or Heinricus and they go after him. They find themselves before the vile Baali pit and Sphinx standing on its precipice. He does not seem afraid or disgusted and openly moves between the Baali. Lykenia rises from her throne and addresses him. She seems pleased that one of the Order has come before them and offers him a place within their ranks, remembering him from the destruction of Carthage. Sphinx seems to accept and goes to her side. He then commands the Elder Baali present to take Marcel and Delphine prisoner and bring them before Sphinx and Lykenia. Alec’s children, Michael and Lenora are partially hidden behind the throne, looking at Sphinx with suspicion. Michael takes his sister away deeper into the Baali haven and disappears. Marcel and Delphine are forced to kneel in the presence of Lykenia and Sphinx. The Baali in the pit cower and scramble away as Delphine moves through the gore. Sphinx then takes Lykenia’s hand and consumes the infernal fire from her finger tips and she strikes him and turns to flee. He then asks that Marcel and Delphine remember him as he was and gives them a comforting look. His body begins to radiate a blinding white light as the Baali in the room are repelled and scramble to be free. Soon all Marcel and Delphine can hear are the screams of the Baali and they see the gore on the floor being burned away. They remained unharmed as the room is filled with a light so bright they can see nothing at all but its radiance. Sphinx is consumed by the light and so are the majority of the Baali. When it is over they are surrounded by mountains of ash and bones. Perhaps a 100 Baali escaped and have fled into the tunnels but Delphine and Marcel are alone now. They look around them as a breeze passes through and they can see the ash piles blowing in the wind. It looks just like sand. The words of Luthienne are recalled then: “It is sand, it was all his weight in sand.”
With Sphinx’s sacrifice fresh on their minds, Delphine accompanies Marcel to New Orleans. There Marcel hopes to gather some of his old allies, since they clearly need all the bodies they can get to crush the Baali, and Marcel’s focus on the task at hand has never been more palpable. Marcel’s connections manage to get him and Delphine a plane out of New York, and they end up spending the night in a crummy motel in New Orleans once there. Marcel thanks Delphine for coming with him in light of her other concerns. And she says poignantly, “I am where I should be, by your side.” Delphine wastes no time healing the drug-addled at the motel. However, a local pusher is less than pleased with Delphine dismantling his customer base and accosts her. The pusher goes on a tirade and has obviously been using too much of his own product, but as she lays her hands on his head, curing him of his addiction and the maladies of his soul, her words pierce him. She sees a different version of this man, Darrell Gentlee, one who enjoyed some local glory at the famous Preservation Hall, playing his saxophone and spreading joy, instead of spreading drugs and despair at a run down motel. She kisses him on his forehead as he breaks into sobs and tells him there’s still time to get his sax from the pawnshop. He looks at her as though she were an angel, love and wonder as much as fear, but when he builds up the courage to ask her if she is one, she dismisses that quickly, saying she is “just another person, trying to make my way through the world.” Marcel gives the man two crisp bills so he can get his sax back and recommends he try his luck playing at an underground club downtown, the Cellar. The man rushes away, filled with purpose, and Marcel smiles. He hadn’t really known hope beyond profit much in his unlife.
Marcel cautions Delphine that his allies, “The Heathens,” may be disagreeable to her, but then says offhandedly, “But if you can put up with me and …Sphinx…” He pauses, not expecting the loss to hit him this hard. As Marcel and Delphine strode together through Jackson Square, Delphine is quite taken with New Orleans, finding it jubilant and enduring, despite its sickness and hardships. Marcel remarks on how it always recovers, a strong city, with great love even as it tears at itself. And he adds, “Amazing its endured at all. A malaria ridden swap of exiled French colonists.” Delphine finds the city’s fortitude inspirational given the tribulation they face in New York, and turns her attention to the many colorful auras of humanity passing by. An old homeless couple nuzzles together by the Jackson statue, their broken forms taking nothing from their happiness. Marcel flips them a few silver dollars, and Delphine offers the lady her jacket, who accepts it with gratitude. She grasps Delphine’s hands and dances with her to the distant beat of Bourbon Street. The man dances awkwardly besides them, a 40 in one hand, barely balancing himself. Delphine’s enraptured by the simple joy of these people, and she dances with them with abandon of King David before the Lord. Her movements were holy, but savage somehow, like the gyrations of ancient saints passionately swept away. Marcel beams with a smile, watching this ancient creature swept up in the moment, a trance nearly overcoming him, so lovely the sight, so full of hope for even the eldest of undead sinners. As the dance ends, the old lady embraces Delphine, and she slyly seizes the chance to act as the Prophet Elijah and touch the nearly empty bottles of booze the homeless couple were carrying, which fill with sweet wine, unbeknownst to them for the time being as they return to their hovel. Marcel catches on, and shoots her a wry grin, saying, “That’s the spirit.”
As Delphine continues to scan the crowd, she notices a street magician with a dark and pale aura. The onlookers stand enrapt, if slightly uncomfortable in his presence. Someone in the crowd takes a card for one of the magician’s tricks, and visibly shivers as he touches this creature’s hand. The small gathering watches the eerie man shuffle the cards, one suddenly bursting into a cold blue flame. The crowd applauds, moving on. The creep with the cards grabs one of the women as she leaves. She stares, too scared to scream, as he gives her a feral smile. He digs his hand into her blouse like a claw, and then an instant later releases her, saying, “You run along…” This strange man, Victor, a nosferatu, turns out to be one of Marcel’s allies, the Heathens. Victor, though friendly, is a bit put out with Marcel who he views as abandoning the Heathens to the oppressive local Prince, Evangeline, and gives Marcel a couple of verbal barbs. He recounts the tale of how Marcel came to be allies with the Heathens:
The Sabbat stormed the young city. They tore neonate and elder alike from their havens, strew their entrails and ashes across Elysium. And none could stop them! Their bloody rites soaked the city. Let’s just say, there was less yellow fever than the books will tell you these days. And then, the Sabbat prepared for a final assault with a mass embrace in the graveyard in Lafayette square. They set the neonates on each other and the unfortunate mortals. The orgy of blood overcame them, and in walks Marcel, alone with but rapier. And they corner him, he spoke. They shouldn’t have let him speak. He convinced the craven neonates that the Camarilla, the debauchery of hidden life, hiding in the alleys and underground parties, the bloody delights to be had, were more fun than a life in the Sabbat. He showed that the order of the Camarilla would let them use and abuse the poor mortals in ways more entertaining than any Tzimisce priest could devise. And they turned on their masters. And those that survived, those that set out to rule the city in pleasure, unfettered…the Heathens.
Victor’s presence unnerves Delphine, and he relishes it, describing himself as a farmer of fear and offhandedly says that while his clan curse cannot be helped, he can still have fun with it. He laments that he missed the chance to meet Delphine as a mortal, pulling her into an alley to show her the truth of the world. She tells him that his fear would have been a blessing given the truth of her own alleyways, yet she clearly remains ill at ease with him. Victor likes her spirit and regrets that he can’t throw Delphine a proper welcome party given that the Heathens are in the midst of an escalating conflict with Prince Evangeline, who has taken one of their eldest, Harlow, a prisoner, and mentions five others have gone missing, and they are almost certainly dead by now. Delphine invites him to their party in New York instead, saying there hasn’t been a fete like it since Carthage. Victor doesn’t seem to understand the reference at first but is delighted when the mythical Baali are mentioned. Marcel explains that New York presents a rare opportunity for the Heathens, and that once the Baali are beaten those that have destroyed them will inherit the gem of the Americas. Victor is all for it, but says before the Heathens can join the festivities in New York that they’ll need to settle the war with the Prince in New Orleans first. Marcel clearly doesn’t relish the idea of visiting Prince Evangeline, since he wasn’t religious and often at odds with her, describing her as “deluded as only a megalomaniac Toreador can be.” He also explains that the Heathens got their name because of their opposition to this overzealous Prince and that the name stuck.
Despite his reluctance, he and Delphine agree to go and resolve the situation. The pair arrive at an old plantation home on the outskirts of the city to meet the Prince. Marcel’s aura swirls with trepidation at being there, and despite the sweet scent of magnolia blossoms and seeming serenity of the location, Delphine is also nervous, not being one to move around gatherings of kindred without concern for discovery of her clan. They steel themselves for the encounter, deciding the best course of action is try to keep the Prince entertained and attempt a diplomatic negotiation. Marcel, seeing Delphine’s concerns, tells her she can stay back if she likes. But then she strangely reiterates what she said at the beginning of the evening, “I am where I should be, by your side.” Marcel’s aura slows its swirling, and he smiles.
With that, the two are off to see the Queen Bitch and are greeted with armed security and heavily dominated ghouls, who have been stripped of all will but Prince Evangeline’s desire. This deeply troubles Delphine, whose sorrowful eyes flow over them, thick, cool, sticking like Mississippi mud. A gathering seems to be in full swing inside. The finest china dominates the spread, its like not seen since King Louis’ court. Delphine is hopeful that the celebratory mood may work to their advantage in settling some arrangement with Prince Evangeline, who emerges, a diminutive belle, her sweet, flowery presence weighing on their chests. Delphine initially hits it off with the religious Prince, who in her “benevolence” decides not to flog her ghoul Geoffrey this week. Prince Evangeline asks Marcel if he returned to her sacred domain for redemption, and he fumbles uncharacteristically for a moment. Delphine interjects quickly saying that it is obviously his genuine humility that has made him lost for words. The Prince laughs, and says, “Oh but I jest. The king of the Heathens still has no eyes for Godliness.”
Prince Evangeline invites Delphine and Marcel to join her for prayer and nourishment. Delphine brightens at the idea, but Marcel clearly has his reservations. The Prince leads them to a darkly lit room where a sniveling woman is tied up. Torture devices fill the room, but the worst of all is the original Steinway piano in the corner. Sheet music rested on the bench, Bach Chorals to Amazing Grace. Delphine gapes at macabre scene in horror while Marcel hangs his head. The Prince begins to pray, thanking God for the gifts of Caine, and self-aggrandizing herself as a servant of the Lord by being master and predator to man. She concludes her prayer with an offering of blood, saying, “As Abel’s blood upon Caine’s altar, may the blood of this mortal be sweet to your lips.” Prince Evangeline grabs a sharpened hot poker and holds it out to Delphine, insisting she get the honor of the first cut. Delphine holds the poker in her hands, utterly sickened, the woman’s suffering like some strange poison. A pale priest, Mathias, joins them then, his voice chilling, his blood, old and powerful, but also familiar somehow. They realize later he is a Malkavian. Mathias laments that the Mayor’s daughter has been untouched for so long, while the Heathens wash their hands in the blood and ashes of the Prince’s childe, shedding some light on the Prince’s escalating grievance with them.
Delphine asks the Prince what this captured woman’s sin is. The Prince explains that the young woman bound before them is not there for her own sins but on account of the sins of her father, the mayor, who violated her command, which was he could rule kine, as she ruled kindred with the caveat that those he loved must suffer. They were to be kept in cages and eat like dogs. The mayor though had tried to send his daughter away to a boarding school instead. The Prince is livid, seeing the mayor’s defiance as trespassing on her divine right to rule.
Delphine is seething in the sight of such blasphemy and the combined horror of suffering. She uses the hot poker to cut through the bound woman’s bindings. The Prince steps back, aghast, calling her an inhospitable Heathen. Delphine hands the poker to the young woman, who goes rushing toward the Prince with it. Mathias intervenes, and in a flash, grabs the mayor’s daughter and goes crashing through the window with her. He smashes the woman’s face into the shattered glass until it nothing more than pulpy wet crunch. Mathias flies back out the window as Delphine gives him an enraged shove with her mind. She then snatches up the fallen poker and brings it within an inch of the Prince’s beautiful face, so she could feel its heat. Delphine’s fangs flashing, she is spitting mad, and tells the Prince, “You want to purify someone with pain, start with yourself! You are no servant of God, just your own ambition!” Mathias seizes the hot poker from Delphine, his flesh searing as he glares. Delphine grabs the Prince with both hands, her flesh begins to sag and droop, making the delicately featured Prince appear like an old hag. Delphine thrusts the Prince’s face to an unbroken window, so she can see the ruined corners of her beauty, telling her this face is still prettier than her wicked soul. Prince Evangeline screams in startled horror, vowing to destroy Delphine and her childer to the 7th generation. Delphine festering with anger tells the Prince that destruction won’t regain her appearance, but if she repents her wickedness and releases the ghouls and prisoners she abuses that Delphine will restore her.
But just then, Geoffrey and some other ghouls and rush into the scene, and Marcel is forced to keep them at bay. He rushes around, in and out of rooms, dealing with them and armed guards. The Prince refuses to repent or release anyone and Mathias rushes at Delphine throwing her to the ground as she struggles to push him off. A sharp-dressed kindred runs over, no shock registers on his face. Delphine feels an unholy force hold her to the ground as this kindred looks her over, hypothesizing given the Prince’s condition that Delphine may be a Tzimisce. This kindred reveals himself to be, much to Delphine’s terror, a Tremere, who offers to take Delphine back to the lab to ascertain what she is. Delphine gives him a shove with her mind, but the Tremere manages to resist it, landing on his feet lightly like a feather. This only intrigues the Tremere more who briefly contemplates if Delphine wields some primitive discipline or is a thaumaturge. Delphine’s beast is clawing at her corner of her mind as she finds herself caught by the vile Tremere, remaining stuck as the Tremere cuts his wrist and draws a circle around her. Delphine tries to summon a howling wind to enter through the broken window but her mind is too chaotic with fear, and her fangs flash, her eyes become feral as she is wholly consumed by the beast. She snaps wildly at the air, straining at the weight holding her down, until it almost seems to budge an inch from the force of her frenzy. Her eyes bleed red, the centers smoldering like embers, the center coals. The Tremere offers to assist in fixing the Prince’s hag-like condition, but then as he and Mathias hover over Delphine, their heads seem to snap to each other, and they simply walk out the door. The Prince wails, screaming at them as they abandon her, while she stumbles, nearly tripping over her own sagging skin. As they go, the force keeping Delphine down vanishes, and she leaps for the Prince, tearing out a fat chunk of the sagging flesh of her cheek, yanking out fistfuls of her hair. Screams ring through the house and a fresh stream of blood bursts from her eyes, as Prince Evangeline asks God why he’s forsaken her. Delphine tosses the Prince into the open Steinway piano like a rag doll, where her loose skin gets caught in the strings making some strangely discordant music. Delphine rushes out the broken window. And ss utter chaos and calamity ensues, ghouls, guards, and the Queen Bitch herself, Prince Evanegline dies.
Marcel is taken aback when he finds Delphine in a small house on the property after her frenzy subsides. Skinned corpses sit, bowing to a disemboweled corpse on a cross. Delphine knelt before this terrible sight, praying, the sight of it making her sick to her soul. Marcel moved in to comfort Delphine, but then all at once, the skinned body on the cross turned up its head and screamed. Marcel recognizes the voice of this man now as the elder Heathen the Prince had captured, Harlow. Marcel gives Harlow all the blood he can spare, while Delphine lays hands on him to take away the pain until the blood healed him. Delphine says last rites for the tortured corpses, who turned out to be ghouls for the Heathens. Harlow explains that the Prince had wanted them to learn from Harlow’s example, but they just couldn’t heal fast enough.
With the Prince dead, the Camarilla destabilized in New Orleans, Harlow found, and the Heathens now free to help in New York, Marcel labels their mission a success, but Delphine is troubled by her lack of control and the bloodshed. Harlow doesn’t seem to know what happened to the Prince’s childe, whose death seemed to escalate the Prince’s contention with the Heathens into a war. It is suggested that perhaps the childe may be alive and just ran away from such a cruel sire. Marcel decides it might be wise to try to look into the disappearance of the Prince’s childe since proof the killings of the Prince were unjustified might blunt the reprisal of the elders in the city. Marcel finds an mp3 player, the music selection clearly not the Prince’s taste, but reflecting that of a girl in her mid 20s. Both are hit with an impression, fear, panic, a building, Club Thunderdome. The two decide to investigate the location.
The club is in full swing. Several young licks are taking advantage of the easy pickings among the dancers. Marcel and Delphine each share an earbud, and listen to the young woman’s music, and that along with their auspex seems to carve synesthesiac path of sound and color toward a young brunette sitting at the bar who they recognize as the Prince’s childe. Delphine gives the young woman back her mp3 player, who then becomes terrified. Delphine, at first, mistakes the fledgling’s terror being a reaction to fear of the former Prince, Evangeline. But as screams start to ring out through the club, they see abysman guards as well as Mathias and the Tremere from the Prince’s mansion, who make the same dazed eye contact as before, before Mathias commands the mortals to leave, which they do in a single file line. Delphine wraps her arms around the Prince’s fledgling, and hurries with her to the door, which is promptly slammed shut in their faces. As Marcel watches the crazed elders begin to tear through the neonates, it becomes clear that this is the local chapter of the Order, and they are acting under the compulsion of the infernal orders. And he can no longer deny it. This….this is what he had done. And both he and Delphine had had more than enough. Whatever the order is, tonight, it was Marcel and Delphine against the fucking world. If companionship in valor was all the order had left, it was time. Marcel and Delphine fight the shadow guards and the other elders, moving as one, faster than any eye could follow. Two neonates are left by the time they put the dark priest Mathias into torpor. Delphine stakes Mathias with a broken bar stool. But it’s only a matter of time before he awakens and starts to fulfill his orders again. The Prince’s childe then sinks her fangs into Mathias, all her rage and fear falling into that sweet feeling, until he crumbles to dust. Delphine finds it a fitting end for one that would cull a neonate to be culled instead, but her heart was heavy. She wondered if she and Marcel might deserve the same. As they leave the club, the full weight of their crimes falling over them as unbearable as the New Orleans heat, sirens wail past, burning their ears. Police nearby pull up towards a hooded, bloody body on the ground with a shiny blood-covered saxophone. It was Darrell Gentlee.
Heinricus has asked to meet with the Justicars to discuss the situation in NYC. They meet in Vienna, refusing to set foot on American soil. He is offered a simple wooden chair in comparison to other plush ones present. He is then greeted by Dr. Argelle Nightengale, a Ventrue, Roland Vaughn, a Tremere, Tobias Graye, a Malkavian, and Jonathan Strange, a Toreador. Argelle begins the proceedings by giving Heinricus a copy of a disturbing report. A sink-hole has opened up around the Tophet-Well in Tunisia (where Carthage once stood) and two Cainites dressed in Roman garb were seen killing neonates (believed to be Baali) around its entrance and then descending into it. Any Cainite that comes close to the area is now at risk for frenzy just by being in proximity to it. Heinricus is disturbed by this report but maintains his composure. The discussion then moves to NYC. Tobias and Argelle explain that NYC is a waste of their resources at this point while Heinricus counters its cultural and financial importance. He also adds that other Princes in the New World are willing to aid in its recovery. Tobias is in favor of simply blowing NYC to pieces and covering the act by suggesting it was done by “terrorists”. Heinricus offers an alternative plan of quelling the Baali by use of the city’s gas lines so that any destruction appears as a side effect of neglect in maintenance or as a result of the recent bombings. The Justicars listen, with Tobias having an undignified outburst (he is a Malkavian after all). Argelle and the other Justicars agree they that will put this matter to the Inner Circle with Heinricus accepting full responsibility for its success or failure. Before he is dismissed, Argelle questions him about the nature of the Lasombra that have been openly engaging with the Camarilla elite in NYC. It is clear that Argelle is incredibly young to serve as Justicar and betrays small improprieties throughout the exchange. Heinricus reproves her and explains that all Cainites are welcome under the umbrella of the Camarilla. Heinricus leaves then, pondering his past in Vienna and wondering if this is the last time he will return. A ghoul comes to bring him some comforts for his stay with a note of thanks from Argelle that is signed off with the words “next time I’ll see that you get a better chair.”
Heinricus is drawn down into the Baali tunnels drawn by the call of his Brother Marcel’s blood. He finds Marcel standing amidst the ash and bone of the Baali marvelling at the destruction around him. Marcel explains what Sphinx had done for them while Heinricus appreciates the nobility of it but shows little grief. They are then greeted by an ash and blood covered Luthienne who is dragging a screaming Baali neonate by the hair. From the looks of her, it appears she has been busy rounding up surviving Baali. She cast the Baali neonate, Dido, at Marcel’s feet and promises her a piglet if she cooperates. Marcel then proceeds to question her with growing disgust which quickly devolves into violence. While this occurs, Heinricus gets the sense there are two mortals alive down here. He leaves to explore the ruins of the Baali cathedral as Alec enters the scene. He had seen Heinricus descending into the Baali tunnels and followed him for news of his children. Heinricus continues to explore while Marcel tortures Dido and Alec uses his shadow servant to search for his children. Heinricus comes upon the little boy, Michael, cowering under a bed and refusing to come out. Alec sees this and coaxes the boy to come to him. Father and son exchange a touching moment of reunification. Michael is sweet and docile but is using foul language in a very casual manner. Heinricus leaves, disgusted at the sight and continues to search the rooms. He comes upon the little girl, Lenora, hiding in the rafters of the next room. She appears almost feral and speaks with a cadence far above her 8 years of life. She admonishes Heinricus for being “the pig shit servant of the Ordo Venerabilis”. Heinricus seizes her just as Alec enters the room. The girl spews vulgar language at them both and destroys Alec’s shadow servant with green flames from her hands. When questioned about this ability she explains that Lykenia had taught her much.
As Alec and Heinricus argue of the custody of the girl, Marcel enters the room at Heinricus’ requests. They hear Luthienne scream from down the corridor and hear Dido rushing towards the room where they stand. Lenora begins to scream for Dido to slay them and Heinricus dominates the little girl to sleep so that she will be easier to manage. Dido enters and attacks Marcel on sight. He manages to shoot her in the head but she rises again and tears his throat out. Staggering from the blow, Marcel is finally able blow her head off. Heinricus then summons Katerina to assist him with the girl. She emerges from the shadows as Alec demands that Heinricus give his daughter to him. Katerina intervenes before it comes to violence and promises Alec that no harm will come to the little girl and that Heinricus will bring her directly. She betrays what appears to be a look of pity to the unconscious Lenora and advises Heinricus that she gave Alec her word no harm would come to the children. Heinricus, shocked at this perceived weakness from her coupled with his disgust for the children that he believes to be abominations, grows inwardly angry with her. Marcel tries to summon Delphine, believing she is the only one who will be able to properly deal with the situation but she appears to be gone.
For lack of a better plan, Katerina suggests they take the girl to her confessor, Father Benedict, a Malkavian, to see if he can be of some assistance. They arrive at Father Benedict’s haven and interrupt him in the middle of enjoying True Blood which he comically describes as mockumentary. She asks him to examine the child and explains that she had been corrupted by Baali. She also reveals her unusual parentage to which Benedict displays no disgust but rather describes it as a miracle. He also rightly describes the the girl as having one-half of a soul and more alarmingly that she has been ghouled. Marcel is very wary about revealing so much to Benedict and uses his mind to call out to Delphine who arrives shortly after. The group then decides to take Lenora to Alec with the hope that Delphine can drive the Baali taint from her. Katerina remains behind so that Father Benedict can hear her confession and Marcel, fatigued from his excursion with Dido and calling out to Delphine, retires for the evening to rest.
Delphine and Heinricus continue with the sleeping Lenora in tow and discuss the matter on the way to Alec’s church. Heinricus believes the children are monstrosities that should be slain and Delphine counters the need for caution. Meanwhile, Alec has taken a sleeping Michael to his Church and has summoned E to assist him should Heinricus decide to resort to violence. E looks to the sleeping child, Michael, in wonder and shows tenderness for him. She and Alec speak about the nature of the children and Alec’s own dabbling into deeper knowledge of the Abyss. E seems troubled that he has been communicating with the darkness so freely and cautions him against going too far. The conversation then turns to the Order with Alec questioning the rationale of Heinricus and E commenting that it is due to his “madness” and adds that they ( the Order ) are “all mad”.
Heinricus, Delphine, and Katerina enter just at this point in the conversation. E takes a defensive stance around Alec while Delphine begins to look over the children. Katerina merely hangs back and watches the scene with rapt curiosity. Alec says his daughter’s name for the first time in Heinricus’ presence to which Heinricus grows immediately disturbed much to the confusion of the group. He asks who named the child and Alec replies that Judith had. Heinricus then asks that Judith be summoned and Alec reaches out to her and tells her the children have been found. She hurries back and is overcome with joy at their return. She keeps a safe distance from them as Delphine begins to uses her Salubri radiance to cleanse the children. Lenora awakens at her mother and father’s call and appears to be returned to normal. While Delphine continues, Lenora begins to convulse and bleed from her eyes, nose and mouth. Delphine is driving out the Baali blood but the trauma is too much for Lenora’s young body and she quickly goes into cardiac arrest and dies. Heinricus holds the little girl’s lifeless body in a tragic vignette while Alec grows cold and Judith wails for her dead child. Delphine then takes the little girl’s body and weeps tears of blood over her. The tears find their way to Lenora’s mouth and she is miraculously revived as a Salubri ghoul. A small eye opens on her forehead and it is suggested that Lenora will be one of the five Salubri returned to the world. The group agrees to work out the details of a ghouled child later while a relieved Judith takes her children away to safety. Alec cautions her to spend only a few hours with them.
Heinricus stops her after she has locked the sleeping children away and asks to speak with her about the little girl Lenora. He questions her about why she had chosen the name Lenora for her and Judith explains that Lenora was another Baali who had explained what she was (Judith had believed herself Caitiff originally) and helped her hone her Baali gifts. Heinricus considers all this deeply and then comments that Judith underestimates herself and that she ought to consider whether or not Alec is the dark influence on them. Judith scoffs at this and explains that given her nature, it is indeed, her influence that has warped the children’s own nature. He seems unconvinced and she provides him with an eerie demonstration. She looks him over and her eyes ignite into green and she begins to speak to him in an ethereal tone. She tells him of his own dark Embrace and describes his uncertainty at his own lineage, a secret that Heinricus keeps carefully hidden. Seeing Heinricus deeply rattled, Judith then explains that this (her inherent infernal abilities) is why she can not be in her children’s presence for too long and Heinricus understands.
Heinricus and Delphine then return to the Baali cathedral to assist Luthienne in it’s cleansing. They find her wrestling with another Baali neonate, Mudda. She shoves him to Heinricus’ feet and commands him to tell the Praetor (Heinricus) all he knows about the Baali activities here. Mudda is vulgar and defiant and Heinricus blinds him for his insolence. Delphine also succumbs to her new craving for Baali vitae and drinks from Mudda which makes her violently ill. Heinricus is concerned but allows Delphine to compose herself and continues to question Mudda. When they see that torture and violence will not get them the information they require, Luthienne goes to another room to retrieve a female Baali ghoul. The ghoul, Blaire, is Mudda’s lover and Luthienne gives Heinricus an axe and tells him that Iudicium (Judgement) must be passed. Mudda pleads with Heinricus not to harm Blaire while Blaire, who has a tragic lisp pleads for her life and Mudda’s as well. Heinricus begins to physically torture Blaire, ripping off one of her fingers. Mudda then submits and tells them that Lykenia has taken refuge in a sarcophagus here in the cathedral. He then explains that he and Blaire were jumped in an alley and woke up in the Baali pit with Mudda ghouling his lover to save her life. Mudda challenges Heinricus about his self righteous hatred of the Baali fledglings considering most of them had no choice in the matter. He goes on to say that he would do anything to save Blaire and if that meant serving the Baali then he would do it. He also reminds Heinricus that he should not judge his choices when Heinricus has no way of understanding the difficult decisions he has had to make. Then to the amazement of Delphine and Luthienne, Heinricus dominates Mudda and tells him to forget about his experience with the Baali and take Blaire as far north as they can go. He does the same to Blaire, commanding her to forget their time with the Baali and live out the rest of her life with Mudda far away from NYC. This act of mercy from a typically cold Heinricus moves Delphine and confuses Luthienne. Mudda and Blaire then happily leave the scene to begin a new life far away.
The trio then go to investigate the sarcophagus Mudda had told them about and find that is is not trapped but its is sealed with an intricate lock. Luthienne finds the key to it in a bathtub filled with bloody water and hands it to Heinricus so that they may show Lykenia “mercy” as well. Delphine breaks off a piece of furniture to use as a stake and Luthienne readies her blade. Heinricus unlocks the sarcophagus and reveals Lykenia resting in torpor inside…her arms wrapped around the ancient husk of her another Kindred. To their horror, all present realize that this is the Baali founder, Moloch.
Alec is alone and given the stress of almost losing his daughter he seeks out the solace of meditation. The metronome in his haven ticks past the moment as his mind wanders deeper into darkness. At the final tick he opens his eyes to find himself in the churning darkness of the Abyss. He is seated in a plush chair and a hooded figure sits across from him. A shimmering portal of crystal light is just to his left. He asks the hooded figure what it would ask of him and the hooded figure only replies that it is Alec who wants something. The figure’s voice is otherworldly and indiscernible. They exchange words while several voices from the shadows begin to bicker and comment on Alec’s presence and desires. Alec’s ire is raised and he grabs the figure and pulls back its hood revealing his own face. He then proceeds to diablerize his image drinking in pure shadow from the Abyss. In the crystal light Sacer appears and offers to aid him with his transformation and allow him to take pure shadow into himself making him a formidable foe. She steps through the crystal and offers her throat to him and he drinks her dry, consuming more shadow from the Abyss and finally breaking his Chrysalis. The shadowy voices of the Abyss continue to argue with one another about whether Alec is being tricked or not. As his mind wanders back to reality he hears the familiar voice of a woman but can not place her face. Her words are haunting and he knows he has heard them before. “If you talk to it, Alec Durand, it will talk back.” He opens his eyes back in the mortal world as the metronome resumes its ticking.
Heinricus, Delphine and Luthienne stand in abject horror before the sarcophagus. Luthienne, overcome by the madness of her blood can only mutter the word “mischief” and rock herself on the floor. Delphine becomes overhwlemed by her new desire for infernal blood and foolishly drinks from Lykenia as Heinricus tries to stop her. As they are distracted they hear the lid to the sarcophagus close and turn to see it has been locked. A haunting, bellowing laughter fills the cathedral before growing eerily silent. Delphine walks ahead to try and make a way out for them and Heinricus asks that Luthienne remain behind to watched over the sarcophagus. He loses sight of Delphine and runs out after her only to be confronted by an old bed sitting in the middle of the ruined Baali pit. He goes down to it and sees that a woman lies dead on it, a beautiful blonde woman covered in a gossamer veil. It is his long dead sister, Leonor, whom he had killed and failed to revive during an embrace. The woman rises and begins to speak to Heinricus and he is overcome by the vision, believing it to be reality. His body feels alive again and he has no recollection that he was ever a Cainite at all. When he is fully immersed in the false reality, Leonor begins to seduce him and despite himself Heinricus is overcome with lust and begins to make love to her. As the pair continue to “rut like beasts in the field” he hears some of her words over other, “stop” …”please” …”why”. He begins to realize that something is wrong and as he reaches the final throws of intercourse he feels a sharp crack over the back of his head. Luthienne raises a club to strike him over the head again, breaking the vision. Addled, Heinricus becomes aware of himself again and realizes that he is pinning down Delphine and raping her who is pleading with him to stop. Horrified beyond all measure of the word, Heinricus releases her and listens in shame and terror as Delphine begins to taunt him. Luthienne who is immersed in the vision as well, has the benefit of her already troubled mind to help her see through the madness. She puts her thumbs over Delphine’s eyes and spits in her face to break the vision.
Heinricus comes back to reality and sees a fully clothed and unmolested Delphine standing over him concerned. Heinricus is overcome by the trickery of the Baali and becomes enraged. Luthienne, who knows what he saw, does not share his vision with Delphine and asks that she never speak of Heinricus’ actions to anyone. Heinricus bolts off, railing at the Baali and they find him pounding on the sarcophagus lid demanding that Moloch face him. Delphine, concerned for his sanity and safety, puts him to sleep and suggests they take him to Katerina’s haven. (Delphine having placed what Luthienne considers an unwarranted trust in her). Heinricus awakens on Katerina’s couch with Luthienne and Delphine standing over him. Katerina enters and Luthienne coldly excuses herself. Delphine leaves Heinricus in Katerina’s care who leaves him alone with his thoughts after he tells her Moloch has returned though he does not share his experience with her. While he is alone, Heinricus breaks down and weeps with thanks to God that he did not actually rape Delphine. Katerina then reemerges after a time with a young girl in tow, Adira, whom Katerina introduces as her thrall. She tells Heinricus that the girl is a pagan and was sent to her and commands Adira to kneel before Heinricus and explain herself. Adira reveals that she worships a deity which she calls Lenora and describes elements of Krasburg that peak Heinricus’ interest. Heinricus becomes suspicious that his Baali contact Lenora Minogue is taunting him and makes a bold move to take Adira into his service. Katerina relinquishes her most willingly and leaves the two to discuss details about Lenora. Meanwhile, Alec is on the verge of completing the vinculum with Mars Trent, one of his gang contacts he has decided to ghoul. He takes Mars into his service in an effort to begin making plans to restore order to NYC and ferry his children to safety.
Marcel, is once again, drawn by his bond to Heinricus down into the Baali cathedral. He senses Heinricus has been here but finds the place deserted. He comes upon the sarcophagus which is still opened and finds to his horror, Lykenia and Moloch sleeping with in. He is distracted by the same laughter from earlier and when he turns around finds the sarcophagus closed (the same way Luthienne, Heinricus and Delphine had). He chooses to flee and as he does so he is stopped in a corridor by his long dead sire, the Duchess, who blocks the way. She is demure and taunts him for his perceived weakness and uselessness. Marcel is overcome by the vision and finds himself back in her estate, dressed in the clothes he wore the night he diablerized her. The two exchanged heated words, with the Duchess berating him for having the great title of Legatus and using it for nothing and commanding no respect. She accuses him of wanting to be her and worse, of wanting to copulate with her. Marcel is absorbed in the vision and demands to know what she has done with Heinricus. She tells him that he ought to “go and see” and laughs at him. He succumbs to rage and repeats his diablerie of her, draining her heart’s blood again. As he moves through the scene and tries to flee. He comes upon the vision of Heinricus raping and beating Delphine. The scene ends with a horrified Marcel coming upon the scene in the same manner Luthienne had with no indication that it isn’t real.
After sending his new servant away, Alec goes upstairs to enjoy the solace of his church, one of the few in New York still left untouched. He finds Delphine there praying silently, but when she rises to meet him, her expression is unsettled, an eerie contrast to the peace of this place and her usual serenity. Alec is suspicious of her presence in his church, given the company she keeps. He peers at the dizzying colors of her aura, and it reveals that she is indeed shaken, terrified from some recent trauma. Though he decides not to inquire about it further. She reveals that Lykenia and her sire, Moloch, have been found slumbering in a shared sarcophagus in the devastated Baali stronghold beneath the city, and that it had been Lykenia’s plan to diablerize Alec’s children to awaken Moloch, believing their blood to be the only way to do so. In light of this, she asks that he help in destroying Moloch and Lykenia, pointing out that his children will never be safe as long as they live.
Alec is both skeptical and alarmed by this information, becoming agitated when he realizes the Order was before the slumbering Baali and didn’t seize upon the opportunity to deal with the threat. Delphine explains that proximity to this corrupting pair was unhealthy and impeded their ability to act which is precisely why she had sought out Alec. But Alec is still livid and incredulous about the inefficient and unreliable Order, and goes on a tirade, condemning Delphine for her continued association with them. Delphine, who was already unhinged before this meeting, is quickly losing her patience with Alec, and she implores him to focus on the task of hand, the prominent and looming threat Moloch and Lykenia, chastising him for his distraction to his rivalries with the Order. This enrages Alec, who calls out Delphine for her hypocrisy, who comes to him with one threat while ignoring another to him. He lays into her, saying that she’s of the same ilk as the coterie and just as bad as the rest who would goad him into violence and cause the chaos he as seen run rampant as a result of their actions in New York. Delphine has reached her limit and leaves him with the information she has brought before her anger gets the best of her, pews in the church rattling with her contained fury.
Several days have passed since the confrontation with Delphine and Alec relishes the solitude of his haven. He takes the opportunity to meditate again and the metronome ticks out the moments as he finds himself in the Abyss upon the final tick. He is standing before a chasm with a long bridge over it. Two Abysmal guards flank him and kneel at his arrival. At the end of the bridge, Sacer is seated on a throne and has two more Abysmal guards at her side. He goes to her and greets her like a lover. She explains that she still exists as a shadow of her corporeal form in the Abyss and offers him a place at her side as her King with the understanding that he can never return to the mortal realm again. She urges him to abandon the children and succumb to his longing for her and reign by her side in the darkness. Alec is hesitant and explains that he has grown fond of his children but assures her he will consider the matter. All the while the voices from the shadows continue to argue about his presence and over the validity of Sacer’s offer and her very nature. Sacer seems unaware or unconcerned with their words. The scene ends with her saying she will wait for Alec’s decision and Alec once again hearing the familiar voice of the woman telling him “If you talk to it, Alec Durand, it will talk back.” The scene ends with Alec coming to in the mortal world again and realizes how mundane it is and his offer of Kingship.
While considering Sacer’s offer, Alec encounters Delphine ministering to whores, thieves, the homeless, thugs, the dispossessed, the desperate, and the infirm by the New York pier. Many of these people had been touched by the Baali presence in the city, especially the explosion that devastated so much of New York, because of it, losing family, friends, and their homes. Alec watched from a distance, recognizing some of the faces in the crowd, his informants. As Delphine and Alec stepped out of earshot of these mortals, the gathering of people huddled there started comforting and caring for each other, and she comments on how they can heal themselves in ways beyond her abilities. Alec, upon seeing these mortals, discusses the unique paths that kine walk and the great shame that kindred often view them as mere sheep. Delphine’s admiration for the human spirit soars, and she is clearly much calmer than her earlier encounter in the church with Alec, who, in turn, is also more settled and contemplative. The two make amends, both confessing they weren’t themselves under the weight of recent circumstances. Delphine is ashamed that she didn’t have time to compose herself before meeting Alec, the Baali having deeply unsettled her. Alec admits that he’s come to the realization that the children mean a great deal to him, something at odds with his often restrained nature, and Moloch’s threat to them raised his ire. He is worried now especially that desperate kindred may try to kill his children given that they may be the key in Moloch’s awakening. He sees in Delphine’s aura and expression that she fears the same. Alec regrets that so many innocent lives have been taken already in New York, at which Delphine looks down at her own hands and adds, “Yes, far too many…”
While Alec still has misgivings about the Order, he regards Delphine with respect and says he will come if she asks for his assistance in dealing with Moloch and Lykenia but warns he won’t accept compromise. Lykenia must die and Moloch must be neutralized. They then discuss the intricacies of the dilemma with the sarcophagus, and Delphine inquires if it might be possible to move or banish the sarcophagus into the Abyss as a means of dealing with it. But on the matter of the Abyss being the answer to their problems, Alec says, “One must be careful when looking for answers from the Abyss. Sometimes it will just tell you what you want to hear…” Delphine defers to his own wisdom, her knowledge of the Abyss thin and child-like in comparison, but mentions that even she has felt it try to manipulate her, recalling how it affected her and Marcel. As the two begin to speak more openly, Delphine expresses some doubts about whether the Baali truly intended to use Alec’s children to awaken Moloch, suggesting instead that their deaths could just as easily start another Great Flood, like the one that destroyed the First City. But she is hopeful that with an abysmal mystic like Alec tending to the children that this will not happen. While Alec doesn’t like the idea, he points out that should they be on the cusp of another Great Flood, then it will be God’s will like it was before. Delphine is troubled by the destruction though, recalling the loss of the innocent and the corrupt during the ancient flood, and says simply she cannot know God’s will, only His mercy and her duty. As they part, Delphine warns Alec to be cautious because there are burning green eyes still, and the Baali are always more dangerous in fewer numbers. And with that, the two of them leave, each seeing where their paths will take them.
Heinricus and Delphine are comfortably riding in a limousine away from the prying eyes of the mortal world, detached and enjoying the solitude. As they discuss the nature of the events in the city a car careens around the corner and slams into them. Four thugs wearing earmuffs and sunglasses pour out of the vehicle. Two of them begin spraying the limousine with machine gun rounds, killing the driver, while another two bash in the glass with bats. Heinricus and Delphine escape the vehicle and move to take down the would-be assassins. Alec is watching the scene from a safe distance but decides to intervene. He stabs one of the assassins to death with shadows while Heinricus commands another to sleep and Delphine uses telekinesis to disable their guns. When all the thugs are disabled they notice that one of them had intended to kill himself and their suspicions of assassination are confirmed. Heinricus immediately suspects that Alec is behind this but Delphine reserves the benefit of the doubt. As the police are called Heinricus, Alec and Delphine flee to Katerina’s church.
They find that she is not there and get the sense that she had been interrupted. Alec reaches out to E who says she has not spoken to her sire in weeks but she comes nevertheless to assist them in locating her. Heinricus had taken one of the sleeping thugs along with him and examines him to find he is an Assamite ghoul. This is disturbing news and he returns to the group to begin discussing plans for what to do about Moloch. E seems oddly bemused at their planning and Heinricus notices she is wearing a familiar looking amulet but does not comment on or investigate this. While they all plan and plot the room grows suddenly quiet, they hear no sound not even their own words. They look up to see an Assamite hanging in the rafters with a staked Toreador female. She drops the Toreador to the floor and explains that she had been tainted by the infernal and that there are at least 107 apostates left in the city. She explains to Heinricus that she is there to deliver a message as well and to go to Elysium if he wants to round up and destroy more apostates. She then leaves with Heinricus changing into a bat to pursue her across the city. He catches her just as she is about to enter Elysium and she explains that the Assamites are upset that he had double dealt on them and caused the capture of one of their brothers. She warns him that there will be retribution if he does not help free the captive Assamite brother. He agrees in return for her silence on the matter and returns to the Church. Delphine is trying to revive the staked Toreador but her blood combined with the hallowed ground of the Church simply destroys the Toreador apostate to Delphine’s horror. E makes some combative remarks towards her and this incenses Heinricus who insults her and E storms off.
Alec decides to go to Elysium on his own (which is now the center of Kindred power in NYC) and speak with Prince Bailey. Bailey explains that they have captured the Assamite and have been trying to get him to talk. Alec goes to see the Assamite for himself and tries to persuade him to tell him who arranged the hit on Bailey. He tortures the Assamite with Obtenebration and promises him an honorable death if he will confess. He succeeds in breaking the Assamite who tells him that they never knew the name of their contact but that he specifically asked that a Lasombra woman with yellow eyes not be harmed. Alec’s suspicions are confirmed and he now understands that Heinricus was behind the failed assassination attempt. He advises Bailey to then immediately destroy the Assamite and the pair have a private conversation about Heinricus’ involvement in the plot. Alec advises Bailey not to act out openly against Heinricus until a clear plan of action can be formed. He then tries to explain to Bailey about the Order of the Venerable Dead but finds that when he tries to explain it the words come out as homonyms or rhymes of what he is actually trying to say. Order sounds like Horder or Porter and any explanation of them as a shadow organization sounds like complete garbled nonsense. Alec now realizes that for whatever reason it is impossible to speak about the Order openly and believes there are some very powerful magics at play.
Meanwhile, Delphine and Heinricus remain at the church and discuss their plans for what to do about Alec’s children and how to defeat Moloch. Heinricus badly wants to destroy Alec’s children fearing that their very existence will bring down an apocalypse on the city and the world at large. Delphine naturally does not want to kill the innocents and offers up her sliver of the True Cross as a means for defeating Moloch. She and Heinricus share a profoundly religious moment before heading over to Elysium.
When they arrive they find almost all of NYC’s remaining Kindred cloistered within. Rumors of infernalism run amok and Delphine immediately senses that there are 10 apostates in the midst of the Kindred but they were forcibly corrupted and are afraid of revealing their natures. An Arabic woman, Fahima Bahar, then comes up behind Heinricus and begins to chide him about letting the Assamite be captured. She warns him that if he does not free the Assamite then there will be retribution and the she also strangely offers him to the opportunity to kill Prince Bailey right there and now if he wishes and points him out. Heinricus finds this a strange offer and unseemly for an Assamite. As Delphine meanders through the crowd one of the apostates reacts to her hallowed aura and becomes combative. Just as violence is about to erupt Heinricus makes the comment that everyone should contain themselves and that “this is Elysium”. It is at that very moment they hear the door to Elysium being torn down and a scream of rage so piercing it will be difficult to forget. Katerina marches into Elysium, covered in blood and gore and badly wounded. She appears unhinged and screams the first curse she has said in centuries.
With that she leaps onto one of the Baali apostates and begins to tear them to shreds with her feral claws. Utter chaos ensues with Fahima seeming surprised and annoyed by this turn of events and reveals herself to be a Baali. The Baali apostates are overwhelmed by the chaos and begin to frenzy and attack on site. The Kindred not corrupted attack as well and try to restrain them. Heinricus tries to calm Katerina who is goring and killing another Baali. She tries to control her rage in his presence and disables a Baali that tries to get the drop on him. In anger she explains that they came upon her unawares and tried to make an apostate of her as well and screams about how the Baali have infested every part of this city. Delphine manages to disable a group of Baali that launch themselves at Alec while he uses his shadows to stake them. As the chaos dies down Heinricus reaches out with surprising gentility and soothes Katerina who seems surprised at this. The rest of the Kindred take the Baali apostates who are not dead into custody including Fahima. It is clear she intended for Heinricus to try and assassinate the Prince to cause further chaos in the remaining Camarilla and was not associated with the Assamites in anyway. As the Kindred compose themselves Tommy Vyzu enters the scene and offers his help with the destruction of the Baali while Heinricus and the Prince share a loaded exchange of false pleasantries and congratulation. Delphine attempts to comfort Katerina who is clearly very changed by her experience with the Baali. When Alec questions her about her experience and explains that he needs her help to destroy Moloch she graciously agrees and then stalks off to the cathedral alone to do what she can.
Mortals will be mortals and Kindred…well they are always Kindred. The city is ruins but there’s always room for some controlled debauchery. Marcel is distracting himself with the trappings of mortal vices and enjoying a night at the Red Spike, a local strip club. This is Judith Maric’s club and she commands the stage until a new girl, Domino steals the show. Domino is a ghouls sans a domitor and Marcel takes a keen interest in her. He notices Elric De’Lorme is also present and has set his greedy sights on Domino. Juliette Alexander and Tommy “like the Gun” Vzyu are also here to blow off some steam and get their bearings in an NYC they barely recognize. Marcel keeps a wary eye on Judith and De’Lorme and Juliette saddles up to Marcel and takes a seat with him. A veteran soldier enters, a Brujah named Patrick, who is ironically blind and has chosen to spend his night in a place meant for an eye feast. Such is the World of Darkness. Domino senses an opportunity with Marcel and puts on an excellent show for him, dancing for Patrick who tries to keep his hot Brujah blood under control. Judith tries to get a feel for Marcel’s real intentions, knowing he is part of the Order of the Venerable Dead. She dances to her signature song and signals for vitae to be released to try and addle the Kindred present. Marcel, however, is unmoved. Elric is also incensed that his prey was snatched up by Marcel. Tommy and Elric chat and flirt with Judith while Marcel seizes the moment to get Domino alone. He takes her upstairs for a private dance and when he is satisfied with her command of seduction he asks that she send the bartender up as well.
Meanwhile, Judith becomes annoyed with Juliette who interrupts her seduction of Tommy. In keeping with her impulsive nature, Judith reads Juliette’s worst fears off to her and threatens her with infernal flames after Juliette shoves Judith off Tommy and sends her sprawling into De’Lorme. Judith bullies Juliette to tears and leaves to brood. Tommy, Elric, and Juliette then retreat for a private party. Upstairs, Marcel tests Domino’s resolve and asks that she seduce the bartender. She succeeds in getting the bartender to go down on her and Marcel is overcome by lust and feeds from Domino. When she has been sexually pleased to satisfaction he then darkly tells her to kill the bartender, which she does without hesitation. Satisfied with her resolve (he will require a very tough, very tenacious ghoul in the nights to come) and her willingness to serve, the two engage in a passionate moment of blood sharing and the beginnings of vinculum. Marcel then sends Domino to go and spy on Elric at his gathering.
Elric, Juliette, and Tommy enjoy whores, cocaine and idle conversation. Domino arrives and begins taking mental notes. Elric sends the whores away and engages them, ironically, in a game of never have I ever. Tommy seems flustered but Elric begins to cultivate him like a protege or worse..a son. The doorbell rings and Themis Leigh (Tommy’s drug dealer) arrives and is surprised to see him there. Elric then feigns buying some drugs from her, making a note of Tommy’s weakness for drugged blood, and abuses Juliette and Themis with Dominate. He explains to Domino that she should deliver a message to Marcel: that he will repay his slight after they have dealt with the Baali threat. Domino cooly agrees to deliver the message. Elric then tries to rant about the Order of the Venerable Dead but it comes out as utter nonsense. He leaves Tommy to his blood addicted ravings, satisfied with the information he has collected. Themis warns Domino about the nature of NYC and wishes her luck while Juliette tries to comfort Tommy.
Alec finds Delphine crouched over a pile of slumbering bums, who had made a nest out of garbage and discarded clothes in the darkened corner of a grimy subway station that smelled of fumes and urine. She was swaddling one of the men with her coat like a mother, and she might have looked like the Virgin Mary herself, if her lips hadn’t been buried in the neck of the obliviously slumbering man she held. When she noticed Alec watching her, she pulled her mouth away from the bum and gave him a sheepish look, caught in the throws of her kindred hunger. As she stepped away from the bums, he saw she had laid a small feast out before them, but the pile of ashes to the right of them which could only be kindred is what really caught his eyes. He stood there quietly a moment, half-illuminated, half in shadow, examining her aura while they began to speak. She reveals that the pile of ashes was, in fact, an apostate she had caught feeding on these very bums. She seems troubled, and confesses that while she had simply meant to drive the apostate away, that a feeling came over her, like an Eye of Heaven looking down or perhaps it was Sphinx after his ascension, still looking out for them all. Either way a tremendous force shook the apostate who burned first green, then orange, then in white hot flames until he was ash.
Alec checks to make sure the bums are actually sleeping, then begins to ask Delphine about the Order, its leadership, goals, and she confesses her past suspicions about its intentions. He uses a chess piece and his shadow skills to demonstrate how New York would topple without Prince Bailey’s leadership and then reveals that Heinricus hired assamites to try to kill the Prince. Delphine is shocked, having believed Heinricus to have reached out to the Prince in earnest. However, while she certainly cannot condone that assassination attempt, if it’s true, she points out that he was not alone in mishandling the situation and that if a thousand-year-old Ventrue is humiliated by being called him out in Elysium, when a private conversation might have served best, and banished, it had to be expected he would respond. She chocks this blunder up to the Prince’s good intentions but limited experiences. While she is still deeply unsettled by the massacre at the cemetery and shares Alec’s outrage and horror over it, Delphine also suggests that if Alec had chosen to focus on the Baali at the cemetery, who initiated the Masquerade breach instead of focusing on Heinricus’ actions when going to Prince Bailey, then matters might not have escalated. Alec begrudgingly concedes some of her points, but feels Heinricus was way out of line for trying to assassinate the Prince, and he wants matters to be dealt with in the open. Delphine agrees with that, hoping for some resolution, and she also agrees to remain quiet on the matter on his promise that Heinricus will not be harmed and that any arranged combat will be treated fairly. Though she is suspicious about why the truth need remain secret if it is the truth. Alec agrees to those terms, but he’s clearly still anxious about Heinricus, his threat to the city and to Alec’s children. Delphine reveals the sliver of the true cross she has in the locket of her St. Christopher’s medal, and tells Alec that if she can get close enough to Moloch and Lykenia, she will see the pair meet God’s judgment. Alec cannot help but be in awe of the sight of it, the Holiness is undeniable. As he ends up kneeling before it, he feels something subtlety shift about the dark corner of the subway which has become holy ground. The pile of kindred ashes nearby has become pure like salt like the kind that buried Carthage.
Marcel and his ghoul Domino are enjoying a quiet evening in his haven when Delphine arrives. Marcel introduces her as his ghoul and Delphine immediately sees a vision of him having her murder the bartender as a test of her resolve. Delphine admonishes them both for several minutes for their callousness. Luthienne interrupts, as per usual, by punching through Marcel’s balcony window and trying to let herself in. When she realizes that Marcel has taken a ghoul into his service, she begins speak about the Order but Domino does not seem to understand her. Luthienne then removes the incognitas (the magical veil that keeps the Order a secret) from her by putting her thumbs over her eyes and spitting in her mouth. Delphine becomes angered that Luthienne wishes to induct Domino as a servus (thrall) of the Order as she is mistrustful of them. She spends a great deal of time lecturing Domino and all present about her disdain for the Order and expresses her frustration that Luthienne kept things hidden from her. Luthienne tries to soothe her by saying that she has never withheld the truth merely kept it safe and goes to touch the amulet around her throat. Finding it is not there and searching herself to no avail Luthienne suddenly realizes that the amulet (that has been seen before in various scenes) has been stolen from her and she believes E is to blame. As Marcel tries to calm her, Luthienne explains that the amulet holds the vaulderie and the secrets of the Order and hints that it is the key to something even greater. As she rages both she and Marcel are struck with an immobilizing pain and red vapor escapes their skin. They immediately know that their long absent brother Blyte has been killed and they both share a vision of E standing over his body. As they reel from the vision Luthienne explains that his ashes are in the abandoned subway and leaves immediately to retrieve them. Marcel, Delphine and Domino soon follow.
Marcel is seething with rage about the murder of his brother Blyte and Delphine is equally grieved. When they arrive at the subway they find Luthienne weeping over his ashes and sobbing that this is “always how it begins, that she will be alone again soon”. Delphine sees a piece of chained jewelry lying beside Blyte’s ashes and identifies it as a piece of the amulet. Marcel senses someone is watching them and shoots into a nearby barrel in which a thin-blooded vampire, Kranzer, is cowering. Kranzer was witness to the struggle between Blyte and E and explains that Blyte attacked E and she defended herself and seemed shocked when he collapsed into ash. Marcel and Delphine are convinced E murdered him now. Marcel commands Domino to take Kranzer into custody and they question him further.
Kranzer is terribly frightened and confused but timidly asks them if they are the Ordo Venerabilis Mortuis. All present are shocked that this outsider is able to name their organization. They immediately become suspicious and Luthienne demands to know how he knows such a thing. Kranzer explains that the words simply came into his mind but is hesitant to share more. Luthienne tries to put the veil of the incognitas on him but finds to her shock that she can not. She then demands to know if he touched the broken chain of the amulet she holds in her hand. He tries to lie but fails to convince them and confesses that he did touch it. This allows him to understand any talk about the Order. Luthienne and Marcel consider what to do with him while Domino keeps him from fleeing. At this moment, Alec arrives called by E’s distress and sensing that she is wounded nearby. He questions the Order about what happened here and they explain they believe E killed their brother Blyte but Alec wishes to speak with her first before assigning blame. They find her up ahead badly wounded and partially eviscerated. She is holding several pieces of the amulet and Luthienne calls her a thief and a murderer and demands she return them. The two argue about a bargain they made in the past and E says that the amulet by rights belongs to the Lasombra. Meanwhile, Kranzer is trying to flee and is shot in the leg and subdued by Domino. Luthienne presses upon E not to speak further of this matter and reminds her that she swore she would keep silent about their past dealings. E only answers by asking “Did I?” she then takes the remaining pieces of the amulet and hurls all present, including herself, into the Abyss.
Marcel, Delphine, Alec, Kranzer, and Domino all find themselves within the Abyss or at least some part of it. This place however feels different than their past experiences with it. It feels as if they are looking in on a snow globe and have suddenly become part of the tiny world within. Delphine then realizes that they are within the amulet itself. They find themselves standing between two gates. One is lilac while the other is red. They pass through the red gate to see a vision of Delphine in the past as a mortal woman. She is squatting in an alleyway and performing an abortion on herself. Horrified, Delphine pleads with all present to look away but the scene is too horrific to ignore. As the vision of Delphine aborts her child and then collapses in the alleyway they notice she is being watched by a hooded figure and it seems to be recording her grief and suffering. As it approaches her the images fades into shadow and Alec notices their is another chain of the amulet lying there. He retrieves it and he and Marcel try to comfort/reason with the shocked and shamed Delphine.
Domino and Kranzer are drawn away from the scene and wander away from the others and through the lilac gate. Marcel follows his ghoul and the others pursue. They find themselves before a new scene now. Marcel is dressed as a peasant and stands before his sire in the midst of a debauched party. The revelers are all laughing at Marcel and his sire laughs the loudest. The vision of Marcel seems hurt and asks his sire “I thought you loved me.” His sire, the Duchess merely scoffs at this and continues to amuse herself at his expense. She reveals that Marcel had, for whatever reason, had sex with a pig farmer at her behest and had gotten the pox from her and spread it to most of the Kine population in the county. The Duchess calls him a plaguebearer and laughs at his stupidity and commands him to leave her presence. The vision of Marcel is overcome by her trickery and diablerizes her on the spot while the partygoers flee the scene. Marcel himself watches with satisfaction as he revels in the vision of killing his cruel sire. He notices that one of the party goers did not flee, a fair-haired woman he recognizes as Luthienne. She interacts with him and he senses that she is perfectly lucid and that this vision of her is the remnant of her sanity. The vision of Luthienne explains that she watched Marcel and thought he was handsome and found herself a little in love with him. She apologizes for not stopping him from killing his sire and explains that she is the Singularius (records keepers and protector) of the Order of the Venerable Dead and that she was commanded to observe and not interfere. The vision of Luthienne then explains that she went back to the Warden the night Marcel diablerized his sire and explained that he would make a fine Legatus and when she refused to enter torpor she was staked and imprisoned in the Abyss. This is reminiscent of the scene Marcel, Blyte and Delphine saw earlier in the Abyss of Luthienne trying to escape and being run through with a pike. While Marcel listens to the vision of Luthienne, Alec takes another piece of the amulet and Domino pleads with the ghostly vision of her sire to respond to her. Kranzer remains cautious and in awe of the visions and tries to reason with Domino to come to her senses. Alec takes note of all this, understanding that he is viewing defining moments from the members of the Order’s pasts. The vision of Luthienne begins to fade and she again speaks about her loneliness before disappearing.
The group then advances through another gate, this one blue. They find themselves standing before a vision of Heinricus standing over his dead sister. It is clear that he has fed from her and attempted to Embrace her but failed. He waits over her corpse heartbreakingly until she begins to bloat and stink. When the vision of Heinricus believes he is alone he weeps over his failure and all present see a side of Heinricus they have never been privy too. A shadowy figure watches Heinricus and again appears to be recording all of this. Alec especially takes note of this and retrieves another piece of the amulet. The group then move to another scene, through a rust colored gate and find themselves before a vision of Blyte. Blyte is worshipping before a demonic altar and calling upon Moloch to give him power. Delphine is horrified by this and finds these visions cruel saying that they tarnish the memory of Blyte. Alec reminds her that they are witnessing the defining moments of the Order. Marcel takes the opportunity to have Domino run ahead and retrieve another piece of the amulet while he himself snags one from this scene. The vision of Blyte is asked by Moloch to sacrifice an infant to him and after some debate Blyte refuses to offer him anymore blood and renounces Moloch. Blyte destroys his altar while another hooded figure records the deed.
Everyone then advances to the next scene passing through a green gate. They see a vision of Sphinx in ancient times, regal and kingly and feeding his ghoul Lykenia. They appear to be lovers and as the scene progresses Lykenia pleads with Sphinx to join her in Carthage and in the worship of a new deity whom she calls Moloch. Sphinx refuses and explains that she should leave the temple of Moloch and warns her that Carthage will soon be destroyed. Sphinx also explains that he will not betray Aetius and Vestia. Lykenia is hurt and enraged and calls him a coward and strikes him. Sphinx strikes her back and banishes her from his presence. A blonde handmaiden with the same blue eyes as Heinricus records the scene. As the vision fades, Sphinx remains and consoles a weeping Delphine by telling her (in only the way Sphinx can) to “get the fuck over herself” he then asks Marcel to straighten her out because watching her grief is “stressing him out.” The vision of Sphinx then smiles on them and fades away.
The group then advances to down a final corridor to find a disheveled Luthienne slumping before a shimmering door. Alec deduces it is the real Luthienne and she holds the remaining pieces of the amulet. She explains to the group that the amulet is the key the inner sanctum of the Council of 13 and that she has been trying to protect it alone for all this time. She tells them that they she realized the Order had been corrupted by Baali sometime after Carthage and that she was imprisoned in the Abyss when she became suspicious of them and tried to flee. She says that she called out to the Abyss and was answered by E, who was also imprisoned at the time as well. They made a bargain to free each other with E asking for possession of the amulet. Luthienne explains that the amulet is a gem of pure shadow and can access any memory in the world because “shadow is everywhere and witness to all things”. She tells them that after she escaped the Abyss she sought out the blood descendants of the original Ordo Venerabilis Mortuis (Heinricus, Delphine, Sphinx, Blyte and Marcel) and convinced them to free E as per their agreement. She says that she did not reveal the entire truth to them because she had to be sure they had not been corrupted by the Baali themselves and that she was the only one with access to the Inner Sanctum of the Council of 13 and had to protect it. Alec questions her about the nature of the amulet and believes it belongs to E now if that was a part of their agreement. Luthienne says she never made such a bargain and Delphine complains that E has betrayed them at every turn. Kranzer then speaks up and explains that he believed E was only protecting herself and that Blyte attacked her first. He also reveals that Blyte died when he broke the amulet while struggling with E over it. Everyone considers this new information and Luthienne says that it is time they were given their blood right. They put their pieces of the amulet together and it disappears and opens the shimmering door.
Everyone enters the chamber and sees a half circle of 13 chairs with two Roman consul chairs in the middle. There are several torpored vampires sleeping in the chairs and they notice the symbols for each clan over the chairs. Luthienne then reminds them that at their first meeting she told them they answered only to the Council of 13 , or the Inconnu, and then reveals they the members of the Order are the Inconnu and that the torpored vampires present are all that remains of them, one from each clan with several empty chairs to accommodate the members of the Order. There is a fountain of blood in the middle of the half circle and Marcel is immediately drawn to it. He drinks from it and all the collective memories of everyone who has ever served in the Order return to him. He understands his role as a member of the Inconnu and the Ordo Venerabilis and begins to awaken a couple of the torpored vampires. He awakens Mahjud Awad the Assamite and Avitus the Cappadocian. Meanwhile. Alec is drawn to the torpored Lasombra representative, Alessia, he peers into her mind and is it revealed that she is the voice of warning he has been hearing upon his visits to the Abyss. He converses with her about the Order and her place there and asks if she will interfere with his confrontation of Heinricus. She warns him that Heinricus is deeply affected by Luthienne’s blood and that the Order will stand by their brother but also judge him of any wrongdoing. She invites Alec to return to her for guidance in the future.
Meanwhile, Mahjud invites Kranzer to drink from the fountain and become a servus of the Order and strengthen his blood. He drinks and is given knowledge of vampiric society and loses all his fear. Domino drinks as well and is overcome by the sheer power of the blood and prostrates, intoxicated on the floor. Marcel convinces Delphine to drink and renew her bond with the Order. After some prayer and prodding she does so and is flooded by the truth about the Order and Luthienne’s role in it. She understands that Luthienne was the only member of the Order uncorrupted by the Baali for centuries and has work tirelessly and alone for all this time (while Heinricus, Marcel, Blye and Sphinx often mistrusted her). Delphine also understands that it was her sire’s wish to be of service to the Order. Drinking of the fountain also removes the taint of Luthienne’s madness from the vaulderie, providing them with clarity and new purpose. The scene ends with Avictus thanking Luthienne for protecting them all this time and opening a portal to the mortal world.
Marcel, Delphine, Domino, Alec, and Kranzer return to the Inner Santcum of the Ordo Venerabilis Mortuis and wake the remaining Inconnu. Alec asks that Luthienne use the amulet to reveal a memory he has been interested in seeing for many years. She acquiesces and shows him the shadow memory of Caine embracing Lasombra and then the entity Sacer granting him Abysmal powers. Alec is overjoyed at this validation after having been called a heretic for years for his beliefs. With the rest of the Inconnu awake they assign delegations to Kranzer and Domino. Kranzer is made a Singularius – a record keeper and protector of the secrets of the Order. He can use the Incognitas to make people speak nonsense about the Order or forget all together. Domino is made a Paigus – a paige – to Marcel and his imbued with warrior traits and great bravery. While all these honorifics are handed out Alec tells the Inconnu about Moloch’s whereabouts. Mahjub already knows and explains that they buried him beneath NYC long before it was ever a city. He explains at the time, the land was savage and they did not believe any civilization would ever spring up here. (Guess he was wrong!) Shocked by this, all present debate what to do about this. Alessia Romano, the Lasombra Inconnu explains that since Delphine, Marcel, Heinricus, Domino are Kranzer are the Militum – warriors – of the Ordo Venerabilis that they must see to Moloch’s destruction and treats this as their duty. Delphine reveals her sliver of the Cross to illustrate her willingness to do so.
At this time, Alec brings up the issue with Heinricus. He explains Heinricus’ crimes against him and asks that he be brought to justice. Alessia offers Alec a place within their Order if he wishes and suggest he call the Comminus – single combat – and duel with Heinricus. A heated debate among the Inconnu ensues over Alec’s right to challenge a brother of the Order. Alec and Marcel both make compelling cases in support for and in criticism of Heinricus. Kranzer attempts to keep order during the debate but is assaulted by Marcel for his perceived impudence. The Brujah representative, Reginald Pole does not seem surprised at this and comments that since there has been an assault on the Sanctum floor Marcel must engage in single combat with Kranzer or retract his assault. Marcel refuses and his challenged to the Comminus by Mahjub who has taken Kranzer into vassalage. A duel ensues with Marcel the victor. When order is restored the Inconnu all agree to bring Heinricus forth to answer the Comminus. At Delphine’s insistence they also call a blood hunt on E for her perceived assault on Blyte and her treacherous behavior in the past. They name her Fugitivus and command she be captured and brought forth to answer for her crimes, but stress she be brought alive. Marcel leaves before he hears this command in search of E as does Alec. Delphine, Domino and Kranzer pursue.
Alec finds E via the Abyss hiding in an abandoned house. She is visibly distraught and shaken, speaking rapidly and explaining what happened with Blyte. She reveals Blyte had read some papers on the Warden’s desk (and been corrupted by them) and had been pursuing her for weeks. She explains she got everything she needed from the amulet but was taken unawares by Blyte and badly wounded. She also confirms that he died when he broke the amulet. She then tells Alec that the Order is mad and finally explains why. She reveals that they have played directly into Moloch’s hand by slaughtering his childer. The death of so many of his bloodline is what he truly requires to awaken and everything else has just been a ruse to have more Baali embraced and slaughtered. She reveals that she used the amulet to find the location of 3 other Antediluvians and believes Troile to be attempting the same thing. She also explains that she sent the Order to the Abyss the first time to prevent them from launching a direct assault on the Baali when Luthienne requested passage via the Abyss to the Baali labyrinth beneath the city. She has little time for more detail, half mad with fear from all she has learned, but she stresses that the Order must not kill Lykenia. Her death would be the final act to awaken Moloch. Alec believes her and urges her to turn herself in to the Order and plead her case. E, knowing the Order will never believe her nor ever trust her, refuses and says she must flee. She kisses him and then bids him farewell and flees into the Abyss. Alec is frustrated and tries to pursue her but finds her too late. E had appeared with her back to Domino and was staked by her. Marcel, Delphine, Kranzer, and Alec all discuss what to do with the staked E. Alec explains everything that E told them but Delphine and Marcel are unmoved and unconvinced. Marcel wishes to take his revenge on her immediately and bring her to final death and justice while Alec urges him to bring her before the Inconnu. Kranzer and Domino urge caution and stress that Marcel should obey the Order but Marcel refuses and finally demonstrates his status as Legatus and takes E into custody and flees.
Heinricus Von Verden has returned to NYC with a fresh entourage and has purchased the Barclay and armed it to the teeth with ghouls. Marcel who had fled with E in tow seeks refuge there. He enters the penthouse suite and has every lamp brought and surrounds E with them. Heinricus, Domino, Delphine and Luthienne all arrive to witness the questioning of the staked E. Heinricus has his man, Vezemir, a Gangrel beast, to restrain E while Marcel removes the stake and proceeds to question her. E explains everything she had told Alec Durand and Marcel asks if she has any last requests. She asks only for a confessor and that Marcel tell the Comtesse (Katerina De’Lavez) that “she was right”. Marcel then tells Luthienne to “break her”. Luthienne delights in crippling E with catatonic madness as E pleads for them to kill her.
After E is incapacitated, the Order takes her before the Council where Alec Durand is already waiting. Domino acts as the moderator for the battle and debate beforehand. Heinricus is asked how he will answer the Comminus and accepts Alec’s challenge. Both Heinricus and Alec are invited to speak and air their grievances. Heinricus defends his actions stating that he did the things for the greater good. Alec counters that Heinricus has behaved dishonorably and erratically. Evidence is introduced throughout the debate by means of the Shadow Stone which seems to act on its own volition, showing the crimes of both Alec and Heinricus. After a lengthy debate and a final vision from the Stone which shows Alec’s sire, Sacer and Heinricus’ sire, the Black Knight (who appears with Heinricus’ face and green eyes) , the Comminus begins. Alec makes the first move and bares down on Heinricus with his rapier while Heinricus attempts to match him blow for blow and distract him. After a heated battle, Alec emerges the victor sending Heinricus into torpor. He offers Heinricus mercy in exchange for custody of the fallen Eustacia. Marcel agrees to this and Alec leaves with Eustacia in tow giving Heinricus a final an ominous warning “The shadows are everywhere, remember that when you tuck in at night.” Alec then disappears into the shadows, leaving the Order behind him.
After Alec’s departure, Heinricus revives himself and drinks from the fountain and remembers his purpose in the Order. All members then discuss their next plan of action.