The Order of the Venerable Dead
Status: Main Arch Concluded – Epilogue Beginning
Synopsis: A secret order of powerful, old kindred from an array of clans and sects come together to deal with a staggeringly devastating outbreak of Baali in New York City. Will the Order be able to save the city and themselves from the ultimate darkness?
Primary antagonists: Lykenia
The Order of The Venerable Dead Soundtrack
OTVD: Epilogue Soundtrack
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.
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.
In the distant past, Lykenia meets with Sphinx and tries to sway him to join Moloch in Carthage, but Sphinx isn’t having it. He banishes Lykenia in a sandstorm after she chooses Moloch over him. She devotes herself to ruining Sphinx’s next great work, only to discover after Egypt falls from glory that she wasn’t able to prevent Sphinx from finishing it. It’s a massive stature of her that she sends sinking into the earth in a hiss of green flame.
Marcel, Kranzer, Domino, and Katerina join Delphine for a ritual where she rids herself dangerously of almost all her blood, then ingests a blood pearl from her sire Saulot, which refills her veins quickly and drops her to the third generation, during which hollowed out crosses are filled with her blood and set aside for a brood of Salubri fledglings to atone for the neonates Delphine killed under the compulsion of the Baali. They share a vision of transcendence, as Delphine sheds her craving for Baali blood and reaches Golconda.
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.
Domino and Kranzer accompany Delphine to the cemetery where the Baali rave turned into a massacre. Delphine is troubled by failing to save any of the people there, and asks the two of them to help her put a couple of restless souls to sleep. She explains that the souls were afraid of her because of her kindred nature or perhaps because they had seen her at the massacre, leaving Domino and Kranzer much more well-equipped to reach the troubled spirits. They find not spirits but two children hiding out in a tomb, but in the midst of talking to them realize heartbreakingly that the children were actually dead, spirits still trapped in their dead flesh. The Baali had found the children hiding in a half-opened sarcophagus and decided to merely shut it on them. Kranzer realizes the little girl’s teddy bear which has her father’s tie on it is somehow fettering the children to their bodies, and he goes off to burn it, while the other two children fade away, dying again, returning to true death in Domino’s arms. Kranzer, Domino, and Delphine decide to burn the bodies to make sure the can’t be further desecrated and are truly free.
Delphine, Domino, and Kranzer take to the city to survey the destruction. Delphine spots China Washington, a prostitute of Elric De’Lormes, whom she had fed from and then subsequently healed of a venereal disease. China is assisting a wounded officer and immediately recognizes Delphine but is fearful of speaking of their past acquaintance in public. She explains that she is in the process of joining the Sisterhood of St. Mary’s and is dedicating her time to helping the sick and wounded. China, still sassy however, insists on taking Kranzer to a local shelter to clean him up. They go there and China assists Domino in giving Kranzer a much needed bath. She departs for a moment to see to a scuffle between two homeless people leaving Domino alone with the mortified Kranzer. Heinricus arrives called by his bond to Delphine and is naturally put off. A homeless woman who is intoxicated mistake him for her son and hilarity ensues when Delphine decides to heal her of her alcoholism. The coterie encounters many interesting characters at the shelter: China, the homeless woman, an eloquent street urchin. All these people illustrate the effects of the Baali War on the Kine population. The coterie leaves the scene when the eloquent street boy is killed during a drive by shooting and Domino takes out one of the gang members. Delphine decides to stay behind to see how she can further assist.
Heinricus, Domino, and Kranzer then take an awkward cab ride back to Manhattan where Heinricus is greeted by Katerina De’Lavez. She seems pleased Heinricus has returned but is concerned about something. He offers them all shelter in his newly purchased haven, the Barclay. The Barclay is armed to the teeth with ghouls and provides for the possibility of various assaults. Domino and Kranzer, a thin blood, enjoy a delicious gourmet pizza, which Heinricus and Katerina are fascinated to watch him eat. Marcel arrives shortly after and everyone enjoys a quiet evening around the table, like an Ancient incredibly fucked up family. Katerina excuses herself to the balcony while Heinricus delegates a financial task to Domino. After Domino agrees to take on the task, Heinricus goes to see what concerns his vassal. She explains that she makes a habit of keeping tabs on E but has been unable to locate her or Alec Durand. Heinricus defers to Marcel who takes Katerina aside and explains that E had been incapacitated by Luthienne for her crimes against the Order. Katerina seems distressed by this but thanks Marcel for his candor. She then takes a measured look at Marcel, Domino, Kranzer, and especially Heinricus. She comes to understand that she is an outsider to them and that ultimately she is Heinricus’ vassal in truth – being utterly powerless to express her ire that her childe was punished without her consent and knowledge and in a way that Katerina deeply fears. She departs to consider her now growing fear of Heinricus and the Order. Marcel seems far away in thought as well and while he looks down on the city he hears the crack of gunfire. War – Bellum – is finally spilling openly into the streets of NYC. Three Abysmal Guards begin to slaughter mortals as they command the 97 remaining Baali to do the same. One looks up and regards Marcel on the balcony with a smile.
Juliette joins Domino for a dangerous trip to New York’s slums while the city is in turmoil. Each is brought there by the desire to please a kindred. For Domino, it’s completing the million dollar test Heinricus gave her, and Juliette is there to try to get a fix for her drug-dependent associate Tommy, who is having a hard time scoring since his usual connections have dried up. The two encounter Nicky Giovanni, a friend of Juliette’s, in the derelict hood, who joins them because the wraith of his mother has also been stolen by some thugs who may be connected to their mutual search. They discover a number of ways the slums have been impacted by recent events, from Sphinx’s disappearance, to Heinricus’ story about bath salts at the rave, to Delphine’s ministering to the homeless, all to surprising and mixed results. The evening ends in blood as a marauding gang of thugs are subdued, and Domino bullies a judge into cooperating with the zoning arrangements for Heinricus’ company without spending a penny. Nicky and Juliette find what they were after in the stash of stolen goods collected by the thugs.
Kranzer, Domino, and Delphine head to the relatively quiet suburbs of Staten Island which hasn’t yet been hit with the full-on war and chaos in the streets of Manhattan. But something is off with this dark and lonely suburb. They’re joined by Marcel’s friend, Victor, who has also been drawn to this alcove and the intoxicating fears boiling beneath the surface of this hamlet. They search the neighborhood and discover that some people have had food and pot stolen, followed by notes written in blood forcing the terrified people to deliver more food, the last note threatening to eat the unfortunate people themselves if they didn’t comply with the demands. Domino and Kranzer comfort these people. Kranzer provides his own blood to help them take the edge off of their fear and misery. The scared people take the advice given to get out of town that very night, even if it meant abandoning their expensive home and risking getting out of an increasingly chaotic and dangerous trip out of the larger city.
It turns out that another group of scared people in the neighborhood had been the ones behind the bloody notes. They themselves had been bullied into writing them after their teenagers, Gullian, Trent, and Tamantha, with their appropriately banal suburban names, had been kidnapped. While speaking with this second group of people, they run into investment banker and financier, Tommy Vyzu, who is only too happy to scoop up the properties of these scared suburbanites at cut rate prices. The crowd turns ugly though when Domino intimates that Tommy took their children, but then a battalion of raccoons enter the fray, courtesy of Victor, dispersing the mob in rampant terror.
It turns out the food was being delivered to an eerie empty house nearby. As they explore the place, they find it covered in cans, wrappers, trash, vestiges of the deliveries there. And in the basement they find the missing teenagers listening to music, smoking pot and indulging in other substances as they watch videos taken from cell phones on a wide screen TV of the chaos and destruction around New York. The room is also filled with vampire paraphernalia, including a sarcophagus with flyers to an upcoming Baali rave. It seemed the pattern of embrace was rippling out from the main heart of the city. And these teenagers with their expensive glowing green eye contacts, the girl with a set of wings to resemble the transformed Baali she had seen in the cell videos, had hatched their own kidnapping and the scheme terrorizing people in the neighborhood to impress the Baali at the rave, while combating their severe case of munchies. It is also discovered that the Baali were seemingly using a Pokemon GO style phone app to entice in the youth to draw them in further.
The gathered kindred and Domino go about scaring these teens straight, some through more violent ends than others. Domino reaches Trent through some shared understanding of how he was led astray with Tommy chiming in about the dangers of whores from all too obviously personal experience. Tamantha is almost killed as Kranzer’s beast rages, tasting human blood for the first time. And Delphine reveals the ugly visual truth of Victor’s soul to Tamantha, which kills her fascination with vampires. The teenagers are returned home, both Kranzer and Victor vowing to watch Tamantha especially, one to provide a helping hand to the mislead youth, one to provide a helping dose of fear should she ever be able to forget what she saw in Victor’s face that night and the prematurely white bits of hair it had given her. The evening concludes with the Order gaining some advance warning about a rave to shut down and an investigation into the Baalimon GO style phone app.
Marcel, Delphine, Domino and Luthienne all share a frightening dream before dawn. They find themselves in the Baali Cathedral in front of the sarcophagus containing Moloch and Lykenia. Judith Maric enters the scene and commands the remaining Baali surrounding the sarcophagus to leave. She chats idly with the sleeping ancients and muses about her role in the events leading up until this moment and seems to regret that no one ever took her seriously. It is clear she despises Moloch and Lykenia and after a short speech proceeds to diablerize Lykenia causing Moloch to awaken.
Marcel, Delphine, Domino and Luthienne all awaken just after the sun has set, unnerved by the dream. Their thoughts are interrupted by the war and violence spilling out into the streets below. Each considers what move to make next while Delphine decides to throw them into the fray and hurls everyone to the streets. The remaining Baali, Sabbat and Camarilla all war openly in the streets while the army, National Guard and police force try to fight back as well. The coterie battle an array of deranged Sabbat and Baali while Luthienne breaks the Incognitas so that all of them may know exactly who the Ordo Venerabilis Mortuis is. As they continue to fight, two Baali transform into hideous monstrosities and fight Marcel, Domino and Delphine. Domino is gravely wounded as is Marcel who loses track of her. In the fray, a female Baali abducts Domino causing Marcel to frenzy. Delphine takes Marcel away to calm him and Luthienne finds them and explains Domino was taken to the Baali Cathedral. They go after her and find her in the Sanctum being beaten and raped by three Baali. As Marcel and Delphine intervene, the Baali cease their violence and turn to kneel at a figure approaching. A handsome young man, with striking blue eyes appears and it is revealed to be Moloch. He admonishes the Baali and destroys them for doing harm to Domino and for being poor progenitors of his legacy. All present are shocked by this, having expected aggression from Moloch. Instead, he is stoic and congenial and when Delphine confronts him he reveals that is infatuated with her and has always been so. He also reveals that they share the same sire, Saulot, and offers her a place at his side. Delphine is momentarily tempted by Moloch who allows them to leave in peace and bids Delphine to return when there is no treachery in her heart.
The three of them take the wounded Domino to the Sanctum of the Order and find that all the council members have gone except the Tzimisce Svatomir Borsa. He explains that Troile has awakened and the others left to try and subdue him. Marcel then suggests they reach out to Judith Maric and see if she will aid them. They find her fighting her Baali brethren in the streets, diablerizing and killing them without mercy. Judith is intoxicated by the madness of the heart’s blood and Marcel finds this change in her enticing. She explains that she killed Lykenia to end her uselessness and finally contribute to the war against her Baali brethren. She also reveals that Moloch has removed his heart and that Delphine will have to break it to destroy him. Delphine realizes that Sphinx must have taught this to Lykenia who then taught it to Moloch. Marcel invites her to join them and she agrees as they all continue killing aggressors in the street. After a long battle, Marcel takes them to his haven to bathe and retreat until the follow night. While in the bath, Judith rejoices in her new found powers while Delphine cautions her against succumbing to her dark nature. Unnerved by Delphine’s words she engages in a three-way tryst with Marcel and Domino, intoxicated by their combined wickedness and essentially running from the truth of Delphine’s wisdom. Delphine watches dispassionately, hoping that she will be able to reach Judith before she ultimately destroys herself.
“They hate us, sister. They will hunt and despise us until the world burns to cinder. Our children are unworthy, their evils small, petty, nothing. It does not hold them beneath the earth…as it once did.” — Moloch.
“Evils, like poisons, have their uses and there are diseases which no other remedy can reach, a Deep Truth they will all learn should we both fall.” — ∆ɲI∆ɳJ∆ƒƒ∆Ǥ∆ƒʓ∆ɲI∆ɳƒ∆.
“Lenora Minogue” is revealed to be the Third Baali Founder, The Unnamed, ∆ɲI∆ɳJ∆ƒƒ∆Ǥ∆ƒʓ∆ɲI∆ɳƒ∆, and Heinricus’ mother when she meets the freshly awakened Moloch at the Tophet-Well of Carthage. The Unnamed had been in contact with Moloch, and they attracted the Council and the Lovers into a trap by luring them into believing Troile was still there. She and Moloch discuss the growing problem present in concocting evils large enough to feed the demons so that their hunger doesn’t devour the world in light of the emergence of the age of reason and disbelief that the Masquerade has only compounded. And it seems she desires a spiritual revival to keep the Sleepers, the demons, in slumber. Moloch entrusts her with a box and passes the torch of the Baali over to her as he readies himself to take up the mantel of his new bloodline. The Council who has been steadily killing the Baali are close to their heels, and Moloch leaves with three terrible words to The Unnamed, “Seal them in.” And she does, sealing the majority of the Council in except for a few who may have escaped, including Reginald Pole, the Brujah, who manages to escape in hopes of warning the Order that there was a snake in the hen house.
Because Marcel fed from Judith during their sexual encounter, he dreams of her shared memories with Lykenia the following day. His blood bond with Delphine and Domino and Kranzer by virtue of the blood fountain pulls them into his dream as well. They find themselves back in time at the beginning of the Dark Ages where seven kindred, all named after the seven deadly sins surround a great pit of fire. They each reveal a foretelling of future events and the current incarnation of the Order, describing the current members. Moloch then enters the scene and the seven kindred confirm they have the box containing his heart in their possession and that they are servants of the Crone who gives them the visions he requires. Lykenia then enters with a small boy, called Durand who explains he has a mother named Andrea (Domino’s real name) and a sister named Delphine and a brother Heinricus, and names various other members of the Order. Moloch then explains that the seven kindred have foretold that he will found a great bloodline but that his children will be scattered and cause Moloch a great harm in the future. He then retrieves his heart and forces the boy to consume it, causing the boy to fall into a torpor-like state. Lykenia takes the child away and Moloch commands her to hide the boy and never reveal his location to him. Moloch then makes sure only the seven kindred know about this and when they advise him that the secret is safe he then summons the demon, Baal Hammon, his master from the pit who proceeds to kill and devour the seven kindred. Baal Hammon is aware of the coterie’s presence in the dream, he then begins to taunt them while Marcel and Domino not realising the danger of the situation offer insolence in reply. Baal Hammon then bites Marcel and Domino and challenges Delphine to attempt to heal them in the waking world.
When Marcel awakens he is badly wounded and Domino is near death. They both reek of a putrid odor that smells like sulphur. Kranzer and Delphine then enter and try to assist. Delphine manages to save Domino from death and Marcel as well but their scars heal a hideous black color and exude a noxious odor causing Kranzer and Delphine to become ill. They try to bath them but it only worsens the scars that begin to putrefy. Marcel overcome by pain and a strange transformation in his blood begins to frenzy and attacks Kranzer. Kranzer flees with Domino whose scar begins to heal and stops emitting an odor but remains black. When Marcel overcomes his beast they all see that he has green eyes. Delphine realizes that he has become an Apostate as does Kranzer before he flees. Marcel begins to relish in the cacophony of whispers about the sins of the coterie while Delphine tries to reason with him. She manages to drive away the darkness in him but sadly explains that he will always bear the scar on his throat and that it will stink whenever he tries to engage in copulation.
Meanwhile, Kranzer explains what he believes about Marcel to Domino who appears heartbroken. They summon Judith to try and understand what has happened to them. She explains that Marcel and Domino bear the Mark of Baal Hammon and that Marcel has become an apostate. Marcel, ashamed of himself and afraid for Domino tracks them down. Judith then offers her assistance in retrieving the memories of Lykenia to find the boy bearing the heart of Moloch.
A plague impacting the homeless brings Delphine and Kranzer to the slums along with a couple of Marcel’s heathen friends, Victor and Lily. They meet a stressed, but determined medic, Mason, who combined with some information from the sick homeless, lead them to investigate a Pharma company that’s been giving the homeless free shots. Delphine’s impressed with Mason’s drive to heal the poor, and she considers him a possible candidate for the embrace. The Pharma company turns out to be a Tremere trap set to ensnare the “Angel of the Slums” who they managed to track from New Orleans to New York.
The Tremere created a contained plague to lure Delphine into the area, and she realizes these poor people died on account of her presence in the city. The Tremere seems particularly interested in Kranzer too, who is recognized for his intriguing thin blood. A fight erupts and Delphine drinks the Tremere to death, allowing him to think she intends to eat his soul since he had accused her of being a soul stealer earlier. This debilitates her with agonizing pain, as Kranzer grabs her and hurries out of there. Their path, however, is blocked by gargoyles, but an elder Baali battles them, dying to protect “Moloch’s whore,” because it wished to get back in its master’s good graces. The end of the Tremere seemed to have halted the plague, but surely the Council of Seven knew about Delphine now, and certainly, Kranzer was on their radar as well.
After Kranzer and Delphine’s harrowing encounter with the Tremere, the two end up discussing a number things in the ruins of one of the many decimated churches in the city caused by the recent explosions. Kranzer admits that when he drank from Tamantha it was the first time he tasted human blood, and Delphine explains the nature of the beast to him. The two feeling concerned about Tamantha’s state decide to check in on her, only to discover she has seemingly committed suicide while taking a bath. Kranzer tries to embrace her, but his thin blood is not strong enough to do it.
Things take a turn when Kranzer and Delphine realize, Guillian, one of the misguided teens they had encountered recently in the neighborhood earlier had actually murdered Tamantha. They confront Guillian, and it turns out that he killed her out of jealousy and because he was addicted to the Baalimon GO game, and her death gave him enough points to get an unlock code. Kranzer’s beast rages and he starts beating Guillian with his own phone. Delphine intervenes not wanting him to kill with his beast raging and takes the opportunity to help him learn about control. Guillian ends up getting a heaping dose of guilt courtesy of Delphine, and he breaks when he realizes what he has done, stabbing himself in the throat. Kranzer decides to save the wretch with Delphine, and the two seemingly convince the youth to warn other teens about the danger of Baalimon GO and to volunteer his time to those in need in the city. But both Kranzer and Delphine agree the now penitent teen will require careful watching, and Kranzer vows to put Gullian down if he catches him backsliding. Kranzer uses the unlock code that Tamantha gave her life for which seemingly leads to a location near the Staten Island ferry where an enticing Baali is waiting.
Hali about That Delphine: “That creature…that insipid woman! She’s nothing! No one! Not even worthy to carry the diluted blood of Saulot in her veins.”
Hali about Domino: Don’t cry, Andrea….look there, see, it’s your Big Papa Marcel…guess what? He’s going to put a leash on your and rape you.”
Hali to Marcel: “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your heart turn to ash in your chest and feel your soul falling into the belly of a lesser Cainite?”
Hali about Tristan: “And this…thing…this thin-blooded street urchin who’s not even fit for a Dickens novel…Wasteful. I bet they made you a buttboy or maybe you sweep up the stables.”
Marcel, Domino, and Tommy join Delphine to investigate a location near the Staten Island ferry revealed by the Baalimon GO! unlock code. Tristan, hungry and troubled by recent events, goes off to feed and meets them at the address a little later. Though the heart of New York was in chaos, Baalimon GO! presented a dangerous threat on its own as it had continued to addict the unsuspecting in escalating sin and violence. If allowed to persist, it could impact the whole state, or potentially, even the country. This brought the matter to the Order’s full attention.
The location in question turns out to be a bourgeoisie little bar/net cafe, Queefcuts, filled with college students and suburbanites of Staten Island. They begin to think they might have the wrong address but end up having a look around anyway. Tristan joins them, and he makes good on a promise to Delphine by eating pizza while opening his mind to her so she can get a sense of something she has never tasted. She is especially grateful not simply for the novelty of it but because the experience makes her feel closer to humanity. Tommy ends up chatting with the bartender, Hali Reowbal (Baali Whore), and he expresses an interest in buying the place. Though Hali is reluctant to introduce Tommy and his associates to the creeps in back, she changes her tune when he plies her with cash, and she realizes he’s the illustrious Tommy Vyzu.
Hali leads them to secret location beneath the stock room, and it is everything the upstairs isn’t, a den of sin of depravity, lit by green lanterns, girls dancing lasciviously on poles while others engage them in sex, soaked money with booze and sweat beneath their feet. Several girls nearby try to get their heads into a toilet bowl like thirsty dogs to slurp up feces and vitae. In another corner, Kranzer recognizes the woman he saw on the Baalimon GO! video when he used the unlock code, a camera parked in front of herself as she fingers herself bloody. A trail of mortals line up and are being taken deeper into the smoky recesses by a couple of cloaked figures. Hali leads them in that same direction to meet the boss.
However, when they meet the boss, they discover that she is not in charge but a prisoner herself. She is, in fact, Glory, Judith’s childe, a Baali neonate who was captured and used to feed ghouls and embrace other Baali, a necessity after the Order had killed so many Baali. And this is what it had come to, a Baali neonate feeding ghouls. As Delphine had always said about the Baali, “It only takes one…”
But in this case, there was yet another Baali, an elder, who revealed herself now…it was the bartender, Hali. It turns out Hali is a 2,000-year-old Baali elder, and a childe of Lykenia, who is ticked off that her sire was diablerized by Judith and that Moloch now spurns his childer.
Marcel, an apostate himself, understands Glory’s terrible suffering, and he tries to kill her as she begs for death, which he nearly does before Tristan stays Marcel’s hand just long enough for Hali to drown them in overwhelming fears and desperation that even the most cavalier of them cannot withstand. Tommy’s mind can’t handle the assault, and he torpors almost instantly. Delphine’s wrists are split open, and she is trapped in a cage of her own swirling blood, trapped by the blood that had always contained and imprisoned her all her kindred nights, her hands crisscrossed over her head in agony from its weight as she’s brought to her knees. Domino is haunted by the horrors of her past as a ghoul, while Tristan is overwhelmed himself, as he gets a shot off intended for Hali but instead he envisions it hitting a boy he once knew.
Marcel smashes Hali’s head in and nearly kills her, but to his horror he realizes he has almost killed Domino and with Delphine watching no less. Marcel quickly gives Domino his blood to save her, and it is almost too late. While he’s reeling from this, Domino, though she is just a ghoul, seems to grow fangs and drinks more hungrily from Marcel. She sinks her fangs into his neck and starts devouring him, the necklace of the Duchess she is wearing mocking him. However, Marcel resigns himself to the diablerie, finding some justice in it. As he can feel Domino tugging on his heart’s blood, his very soul, he realizes at just the moment before his death, that this was it, he was going to die. And out of all the things he might fear was that maybe there really was a Heaven and Hell after all. And every “shit happens” moment of his life meant something after all. He thought of all those holy men he mocked or cajoled into orgies, and their words, maybe they were words of salvation. Maybe he had been the fool.
Domino relents on Marcel as he is about to become ash on her lips, and she leaps to Hali who had been cackling in a mad rage. Hali casts Domino aside like a rag doll into the claws of a demonic statue whose glowering teeth resemble Baal Hammon before he had ripped into her delicate mortal flesh. Hali is enraptured by the sight of Domino and capers about her, as Domino cracks, twisting, graying like a time-lapsed shot of a body undergoing mummification. Kranzer moves quickly to push his bloody wrist into Marcel’s mouth, who drinks deeply and starts to recover.
Warden Septimus is there too with Abysmal Guards and they stand deep in the ash of neonates, corrupted leaflets of orders compelling others to their dark bidding falling all around them. Hali watches the orders hang in the air like a child would snowflakes as Kranzer rails at her. He’s quickly overcome though, the Queefcuts pizza he ate for Delphine’s benefit turning on him, as if it’s clawing it’s way out of his stomach. In a horrible moment of doubt, he wonders if his suffering was caused by that Delphine. He recovers and reaches out to Hali, but Warden Septimus held out a set of orders to Kranzer that waved like death itself. The orders on the page read over and over again “Kill the Legatus Marcel,” and Kranzer pounces on Marcel, his beast raging, compelled to follow the orders. Warden Septimus says, “There must be order in the Order…” while Hali gleefully chimes in, “Tell ’em, Septimus. You tell those little shits!” The two struggle, but Marcel had the more elder blood and had been anticipating this. It ends with Tristan being held beneath Marcel, squirming.
Hali leaves Domino writhing in the horrors prepared for her and saunters over to Delphine, who is still trapped in a cage of her own blood. Hali smiles, as she squats down slowly to Delphine, nodding in Domino’s direction and asks, “Are you getting all this you crusty, old three-eyed bitch? Surely even the great Delphine, childe of Saulot, could appreciate the artistry. But I bet you don’t…we must forgive you after all. You’re French.” Delphine regarded Hali with a strained expression, teetering on madness, nearly consumed by fear, death, and worse…her own desire to help those beyond the cage of her blood making the cage thicker around her. For it had always been one of her greatest fears that her blood, her passivity, her want to do good, would cost the lives of those around her, as it most assuredly had in her past. Somehow, at last, she managed to struggle through it enough to pray, “Father save them. I ask you to save them not for myself, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but entreat your boundless mercy.”
Hali snarled as Delphine prayed and hurriedly lurched backwards, taunting her, her tone strangely prophetic, “Maybe your ought to let that withered old husk of a Ventrue fill your guts with seed. I’ll save that for-” Hali freezes, as a voice smooth, calm, and dispassionate filled the void now, Moloch’s voice, “Misdirected passion…what a waste, how utterly wearisome. You are as trivial as a parrot’s prattling. Your sins, small and meaningless as a child trying to blow out the stars.” And as he spoke, the fears and compulsions of Marcel, Domino, Kranzer, and Delphine slipped away like they were petty and meaningless diversions, laughably banal and tiresome.
Moloch shifts past Kranzer, his footsteps moving in eased calculation. He rests a hand on Kranzer, who is badly hurt and on the verge of torpor from his fight with Marcel, and frees him from his compulsion to kill the Legatus. Moloch says cooly, right before Kranzer disappears from their eyes, “You may have your freedom.” Marcel took the moment to rush to Domino’s side to tend to her. The cage of Delphine’s blood collapsed around her, and she struggled to gather herself as she saw with compounding dread Moloch had joined Hali here. For the Father had not responded to Delphine’s prayers, but a father had been watching and waiting. And he rose from his throne now, giving Hali a look that defined perfectly her insignificance.
Hali says not a word, but stares, stares in the shock and horror of seeing her enemy rise before her. Moloch, “You defile the gift of your blood.” His voice not rising. It was flat, clean English, but there was danger in his eyes.
Hali kept as close to Delphine as she dared, letting him speak, because she did not know what to say in this moment or rather…dared not to speak what she thought. But at last, she couldn’t help herself, she spat acridly, “Gifts? Gifts?! Do you mock me, Lord Moloch?! You who gave us such power only to be disappointed with your own creation?”
Moloch stood unmoved as death, something coiling in the depths of his blue eyes, “You had every benefit of my blood. Yet you all chose to wallow in filth, degradation, and empty, small purpose. And for what end? All your miniscule minds can conceive of is as a grain of sand in the desert of better sins. A mere drop, when you could have made a stain so big it could hold Hell were there no more but it.” Moloch steadily moves toward her.
Hali took another step back, as Moloch’s presence pressed ever closer, thrusting a cruel hand to Delphine, and says, “You chose her! This….this…insipid cow! This nothing!”
And at this, he snaked a hand down to Delphine, curling a finger beneath the point of her chin, tilting it upwards, eyes met eyes, as he eased her to her feet. And to Hali, he stoically says, “You transfer the corruption of your jaundiced eye to everything, and it colors the world in stained impurity. You see in her what, in truth, you are…nothing.”
Hali snarled, uncowed, grabbing Delphine sharply by the arm, “I’m going to bleed her. I’m going to drain every drop of her, then spit her pilfered blood in your face!” Delphine’s face seized up in terror, she breaks away from Hali, falling to the ground, palm against the floor, trying to gather herself.
Green flame hissed into Moloch’s hand, as it sprung to life. He slammed a pillar of emerald fire into Hali’s chest, knocking her back. Moloch, “You will see your own blood first.”
Hali raged as recovered, “You cleaved us from the herd and left us to thirst in the desert. You’re a false god! Liar! Betrayer! And I will raise an army to rise up and cast you down as they did in the days of the flood!”
He vanishes abruptly then, appearing beside Hali, grabbing her by her vile throat, hosting her in the air. Hali screams, and her hands fly to her throat. He strangles her until you can hear her words gargled in her own blood. Hali’s eyes turn bright crimson as her blood boils into their wet orbs. Moloch, “Petty, wretched, and vile, even the Whore of Babylon sat higher than you beneath a mountain of flesh and bile.”
Hali growls and trades no more words with him, flames exploding from her hands. Moloch hurls her across the void and slams her neck beneath a guillotine there. Moloch, “You so love these insignificant toys of fear you use…die by them.”
Hali struggles and mightily, but it was in vain against his strength. The hungry blade was about to come down as the flames burned in her own hands. But Delphine catches his eyes for a split second, as he heard a few terrified words of prayer break on her lips. A slim moment of distraction presents itself and Hali acts, rolling out of the guillotine, shuddering. Great and fearsome black wings erupt from her back, and she lifts off the floor sharply before hurling herself at Moloch. Enormous greenish claws sprout from her fingers, and she unleashes a torrent of blows against his flesh.
Her fire and claws and fury erupt over him, and he staggers back with the weight. Long slashes of wounds opening and closing so quickly before the eyes, that by the time she makes another cut, the previous wound is gone. And then the flames pass, you realize he was staggering back not with injury but the…laughter. Moloch grabs her by her pitch black wings, dark as a moonless night, and for a moment, you can see the outline of her wings turn to pure green flame as they burn with the stink of a thousand corpse pits for that’s where they were in truth once formed.
Hali wails as her wings to cinder and crashes to the floor, rolling a few feet back from Moloch. Moloch grabs her by her pigtails, his hands still burning, singing the hair away in a volatile hiss. She digs her feet into the ground as he drags her, the sickly green flames spreading from Hali’s hair to her head, which violently shakes. Hali sends a clawed hand into his belly and tears at him wildly. Moloch grabs onto her jaw, yanking it out of her skull, pouring her blood before the demon statue that resembled Baal Hammon like she’s no more than a decanter of wine. Hali falls forward, the lower half of her face gone, her life’s blood gushing from her. And there at the feet of this devil, the circle began to fill with blood like a great, deep chalice, which reminded them too much of the Ordo’s Vaulderie. And that blood meets other blood, including the blood of Marcel, Domino, Tristan, and Delphine, which Hali had been tricking everyone into shedding in for a ritual.
Moloch said coolly, “In death, you will finally serve some larger purpose.” Hali convulsed and sputtered and her eyes glazed, rolling up tot he great Moloch as he loomed over her. Moloch, “Blood is both the way to prison and freedom here, struck by means of an unfortunate deal for the power of living nightmares and all they possess.” Moloch runs a green, fiery fingernail now down Hali’s neck to her sternum, all the way down to her pelvis splitting her skin open like it was a paper wrapper, and with that she bleeds the rest out, meat, blood, bone, then finally ash. Moloch turns to Marcel and Domino, looking at each in measure, stoically, “You have your freedom. Use it more wisely than she did.” Marcel nods and pulls Domino over toward Delphine, and says, “We should take his offer quickly.” Domino wraps an arm around Delphine, helping her to regain her balance, and Marcel hugged Delphine tightly for a sweet moment. She clasped her arms around him, trembling in return, pale, bloodless still. Over the slope of Marcel’s shoulder, she saw Moloch, and he smiled gently at her, and sighed like song’s triumphant breath, his blue eyes like a star in the blackest night.
And then it was all gone, this horrible place of nightmare and yet it had been more than only that. Just as Baal Hammon had reached through a vision of the past to harm them, so had this place done, leaving them with thoughts and opening dark spaces they dared not look at long, dark spaces that would stay unwelcome and unwanted in the nights that would come…and in the nights that would come even after that, when there was quiet…and there was always eventually quiet.
They find themselves back in the chamber beneath Queefcuts, the nightmare gone, but a grim reality remains, they were all suffering from genuine trauma and blood loss. The basement is quiet now and heavy with the scent of blood and death. And they understand that the people here had been pushed into the blood fountain by the cloaked figures seen earlier. And those figures along with Glory, who is still caged, are all that remains other than themselves, Tristan and Tommy who had been torpored from the trauma of their experiences. The cloaked figures attack, hurling green flame, it misses, setting Glory’s cage on fire, which frees her. She joins in the fight to kill these black hooded devils. Marcel gives her a cup of blood from the fountain, and then finishes what he had started earlier, killing her, in his mind, mercifully. As an apostate, he understood what it was like to have a constant devil gnawing in his mind, and thought death should be Glory’s right.
Though Delphine is rattled by Glory’s death and thinks the traumatized neonate could have been saved. After all, Glory’s sire, Judith, had desired death, but given reprieve, she had found a new purpose. Delphine bemoans the fact that the answer to all their problems seems to be to kill the Baali, desiring instead to save them. And though she would not speak his name, some part of her thoughts turned to Moloch as she began to pray beside the ashes of Glory. Marcel hastily leaves. The temptation of what that fountain teaming with blood could offer him tearing him apart inside. As Domino is about to join him, she notices a whole in the wall that presumably got made in the conflict when the people here were being killed and fed to the fountain. Through the whole she notices the Baalimon Go! servers and she destroys them, finally taking the evil and addictive game offline.
In the perfect marriage of pragmatism and generosity, Heinricus arranges for kine to be cared for and kept safe at a refuge as the Baali ravage the city by utilizing Biltburger INC, a company chaired by one the world’s richest men in the world Adalwine Biltburger, a self-made billionaire who is Heinricus’ ghoul. When the Order meets Biltburger, they find him a cold and calculating old man while his young companion Jayden Cole is warmer and affable, but filled with shrewd intelligence of her own. The contribution of blood through the efforts of Biltburger INC ensures the kindred population continue to have a ready supply of nourishment without risking their beasts on the perilous streets. Later, Heinricus addresses Domino’s task he set out for her.
Heinricus: “I hold no dominion over you, Miss D’Orleans. I merely present my best concocted plan for your evaluation, fully aware of the sacrifice and risk being requested, but surely no less than every single mortal who walks the streets of this city while the Tempter himself, Moloch, corrupts it from within. All our souls at stake.”
Delphine: “How unclean a thing it is to be thought the Devil’s prize. I wish for all the world he hadn’t smiled and looked my way. But such is the way of Hell. I’ll do it…This must end. It must.”
As the situation in New York escalates, Heinricus meets with Delphine beneath one of the ruined buildings in the city. Delphine asks him to describe the cathedral in Krasburg, admitting she had always wanted to see it but was unable to risk making the pilgrimage with Vienna so close by. Heinricus is deeply touched by her request and depicts it in vivid detail which she profoundly relishes. She asks that he stand beside her when she sees it for the first time, wishing to share that long-denied moment with him, and he agrees. She also tells him his description of the Krasburg Cathedral matches a vision she had which entails Salubri or Salubri candidate(s) being drawn to Krasburg. Delphine takes this as a sign that God is smiling on their endeavor. One candidate presents himself as a pure and righteous man who will share wine with Heinricus that does not turn his atrophied stomach. She also sees this same virtuous man speaking beautiful prayers in Latin for a crippled woman with remarkable violet eyes. Delphine is uncertain of the significance of this the violet-eyed young woman, but senses she’s important somehow as well, and she may even be another candidate as a Salubri. Unbeknowst to Delphine, she has just seen a vision of her own funeral and what is drawing others to the Krasburg cathedral is her own death.
They discuss Domino and Marcel’s sickness after being given the mark of Baal Hammon. Delphine tells Heinricus that Marcel is still an apostate and that she was only able to save his life and treat his symptoms. She asks that Heinricus watch out for Marcel while she tries to find a cure. Though no apostate has seemingly ever been cured, she vows to find one. He agrees, and he asks her to do something as well, namely go to Moloch and distract him with thoughts of romance since that pagan god seems only interested in her. She’s utterly repulsed by the very idea of approaching Moloch let alone thoughts of vile romance. Heinricus is conflicted, hoping that some part of her will refuse, but knowing they need to divide Moloch’s attention away from war somehow if they hope to have any chance of success. Heinricus ultimately talks her into it.
Delphine and Heinricus then turn their attention to their primary reason for meeting in this ruined building, to determine the nature of Heinricus’ blood after hints have arisen that he may be an apostate himself. Delphine has prepared an ancient ritual here, forming loose stones from the structure into a circle, each bit of rubble baring a clan symbol painted with her blood. In the middle of the circle is a brazier with a flame burning to represent Caine himself. Delphine uses Temporis to stop the flame in the brazier, the edges of it crack and show weathering of accelerated time. Heinricus then adds his blood into this still flame, and it snakes down close to the Tzimisce and Ventrue symbols where it hovers a moment before moving to the Ventrue one, dissolving into the stone. Heinricus is flooded with incredible and overwhelming relief. He has the Blood of Kings, after all, that of the Ventrue. However, his eyes are drawn toward the brazier in the center of the stones, the bottom of the orange flames appear more greenish than he recalled. As he comes closer, a seemingly mundane memory from his past surfaces in greater clarity.
Heinricus recalls when he was a young boy living with his parents the von Verdens, an incident with some startled horses and a carriage coming to mind that he was fortunate to escape with little damage. However, as the memory plays out now, he sees that he was in fact seriously injured by that accident, so seriously that he might have become permanently crippled. His parents argue quietly in the corner, as Lenora enters and tends to his injuries by giving him a kiss filled with her blood. He calls her mother and seems to recognize her, perhaps mistaking her for his actual mother, or perhaps he was not so mistaken at all. Lenora amends his memories so he believes he wasn’t hurt by the accident. Then she tells young Heinricus to rest. As he starts to fall asleep, he hears the last bit of Lenora’s conversation with the von Verdens. She deals with them in a way that is very similar to how Heinricus has been known to handle his own ghouls, and calls to mind his interaction with Adalwine Biltburger and Jayden Cole. Lenora’s voice is the same windless night as she chides the von Verdens for not protecting Heinricus. She demands that they send him to the Knight Commander, Sir Navarre, for training and remove themselves from Heinricus’ life. Mr. von Verden, who is quite old already, asks Lenora for blood, and she cooly says, “You will last…” leaving him and his wife thirsting. And though the mystery of his blood is solved, he’s left with questions he feels compelled to answer.
Heinricus leaves this memory, returning to himself. And as Heinricus and Delphine go, he casually inquires about her real name. She tells him that her sire referred to her as Diasnara certain that must be the name he wishes to preserve. But he catches her by surprise asking truly about her birth name as a mortal. She confesses that she never knew her family, but that the first name she can remember was actually Delphine. He says he’ll remember her by that name always then. And Delphine puts out the flame in the brazier and closes the door with rubble behind them with her mind, the conversation drifting to the legendary warrior, Samiel, as they head away.
Heinricus Von Verden has returned to NYC with the full knowledge Moloch has awakened and his designs on Delphine. His plan is to send Delphine to Moloch as a distraction while they try to determine the location of the heart. At Marcel’s haven the coterie shares a tearful goodbye with Delphine while Marcel discovers a letter Judith Maric left behind detailing the location of the heart. He burns the letter after reading it as it instructs and it sends the coterie (Marcel, Luthienne, Heinricus, Domino, and Kranzer) to the catacombs beneath Paris. They encounter eerie whispers in the dark and one that distinctly questions “why hasn’t she eaten you yet?”. They come upon a hooded and disturbing figure in the dark who taunts them and advises that he will follow the coterie. Their senses tell them that this entity is not Kindred and Heinricus suspects it to be demonic in nature. The coterie makes their way through the dark, finding papers with disturbing messages about their darkest secrets written on them. They eventually come upon a hidden room containing the sleeping body of the small boy. They realize that the boy’s body contains two hearts. Marcel wastes no time in slaughtering the boy, who dies brutally, even unsettling Heinricus. They retrieve the heart as Luthienne sets fire to the body.
When they are finished they are plunged back into the Abyss and to their horror realize that have been sent directly to Moloch. They come upon a spine chilling scene: Delphine and Moloch in middle of coitus. Marcel immediately tells Heinricus to stake the heart but Delphine uses her powers of telekinesis to take it away. Luthienne is horrified by the sight and covers her ears while Heinricus, Marcel and Domino come forward at Moloch’s command. Delphine relishes in her submission to her darker nature which Moloch seems to have encouraged. Just as he is about to command Delphine to consume the heart and form a new bloodline with her Luthienne gives an unearthly cry of rage and comes forward. Moloch then reveals that Luthienne is Malkav (who often has a habit of forgetting this fact). The coterie is shocked that they have been travelling in the presence of an antediluvian this entire time. Luthienne then threatens Moloch and the two trade blows, but Moloch is too quick and buys himself some time by engulfing Luthienne in Baal fire. He then seizes the moment and Delphine consumes the heart. As soon as she eats from it she realizes to her horror that is it the heart not of Moloch but of his brother Nergal. Delphine then begins to become overwhelmed by the heart’s blood of Nergal as the coterie futilely tries to battle Moloch. Luthienne then intervenes before Moloch can turn them into apostates and engages in an epic battle with him while Heinricus tries to save Delphine’s life. As the antediluvian and Baali founder battle, Marcel tries to contain Domino’s fear and rage while Heinricus struggles with Delphine. Eventually Moloch sends Luthienne crashing deep into the earth and turns to escape with Delphine in a blaze of blue flame. As the cathedral threatens to collapse the coterie escapes to the streets of NYC, encountering Tommy Vyzu, and then to Heinricus’ haven. There, he finds a final parting gift from the Camarilla, the better chair he was promised earlier, surrounded by C4. Just before the explosives are detonated, Tommy manages to pull the group back into the elevator shaft and escape much of the explosion. As they spill onto the streets of NYC, a series of explosions destroy what was left of the city. Tommy has a helicopter ready and the coterie manages to survive and escape to it, watching the burning ruins of NYC fade into the distance.
Delphine goes at the behest of her Brethren to meet with Moloch alone. She expects the worst, but he once again defies her expectation. He approaches her directly about being his queen and forging a new pure bloodline, disgusted with what’s become of his Baali brood. As she lays hands on him, she sees Moloch’s suffering during his creation in the corpse-filled pit, and how he was bound to serve demons, ultimately forced into necessity to serve Baal Hammon for the ability to craft and direct his own bloodline. Something in his suffering touches her own and the suffering she has seen in so many others across time. Moved by his sorrow, she takes off her St. Christopher’s medal, tucking it away in her pocket, no longer feeling she needs protection from him, instead she offers him the protection of her arms. She holds him close in a sweet way he never thought his wretched soul would feel again. And for the first time in ages, her scarf is away from her head, and she doesn’t feel the need to hide her third eye. In this unlikely place, with the most unlikely soul ever, she finds mutual understanding.
Delphine agrees to be Moloch’s queen then, and together they forge the first two childer of the new bloodline, a husband and wife, who serve as some mirror of them. The husband of the couple, J.J. (Johnathan) Gibson, is a scholar and psychiatrist, and his delving into the soul had freed many from their torment. And he would no doubt continue that over the ages. The wife of the pair, Gwenyth Corbetta was a doctor, a hematologist, given the gift of immortality she would cure all the plagues of the blood. They drain the couple as they kiss, who never stop holding hands as they swoon from the blood loss. Then Moloch and Delphine simultaneously offer each of the pair their blood. The new childer rise and walk away, a ripple of azure flame burning in their clasped hands. They hurried from the city, leaving everything behind, going far away to sleep where they would wait for the deluge of Jyhad to break and pray that no one would find them before that time.
Marcel, Heinricus, Domino, Kranzer and Tommy are taken by helicopter to New Jersey. A private plane is waiting but they have no idea whom to thank for this. They flee to Krasburg where upon entering his estate Heinricus is greeted by a throng of Kindred and ghouls who had escaped NYC (most notably Themis Leigh, Juliette Alexander, Nicky among others to be named) and Katerina De’Lavez who is seated at Heinricus’ desk sharing a private joke with Vezemir. Heinricus is incensed at first but Katerina shows contrition by bowing (and directing the others present to do so) to the Ordo Venerabilis Mortuis (Luthienne had removed the Incognitas from the the inhabitants of NYC in a previous game). Heinricus takes the floor and explains that the Kindred may shelter here and to take note of all present because he is closing the vampiric borders of Krasburg in light of the coming war with the Camarilla. He then sends the Kindred away save the members of the Order.
Delphine then enters the scene to the shock and delight of the coterie. She is much changed, having taken on the characteristic of her shared Baali and Salubri blood. She explains her reasoning for doing what she did and offers the Order a peace and to seek out Moloch with her to provide protection from the rising Antediluvians. After a lengthy discussion she transports them to the Tophet-Well to treat with Moloch. The well has been turned into a sacred palace of sorts and Moloch greets them cooly, appearing battered from his earlier battle with Malkav. He explains his intention to make a new bloodline with Delphine and that he intends to use the Order as apostates in this. He offers them a choice to join or he will allow them to leave but warns them he will hunt them later should they refuse. Marcel tries to steal away from the situation while Heinricus gives a poignant refusal. When the offer is put to Domino she refuses as well. With that Moloch says he will agree to let them survive and give them a “running start” but how far they get is interrupted by the chilling entrance of a figure the Order had met earlier. The thing in the catacombs of Paris, the demon Baal Haamon.
Baal Haamon enters with his scourge, the demon Xaezahl and makes commentary on the nature of Hell and the place he intends to drag Moloch to. It is revealed that to gain his Baali powers, Moloch bargained with the heart of his brother Nergal that was consumed by Delphine, and has been running from Baal Haamon’s debt for eons. Baal Haamon used the mark he gave Marcel and Domino to track Moloch down to take his payment. An epic battle then ensues between the demons and Moloch, who tries to have Delphine flee. Luthienne (Malkav) returns during the battle to offer the gifts of Aetius and Vestia to Marcel, Heinricus, and now Domino. (Heinricus’ blade Il Sacro, Marcel’s Rose of Arikel, and a sacred blade for Domino). The coterie does battle with a host of demons, Moloch and Xeazahl. As the battle hinges upon the death of the coterie, Luthienne (Malkav) removes Marcel, Heinricus, and Domino away from the fray. She senses the coming of Baal Haamon in his demonic form who has come to finish off Moloch and Delphine. As Baal Haamon is about to destroy Moloch and Delphine, the two share a beautiful moment of understanding together and Delphine uses her sliver of the True Cross just as the demon is about to consume them. They are swallowed by Baal Haamon who is cast back into Hell with Xeazahl by the power of Delphine’s faith. The coterie watches in horror, while Luthienne (Malkav )tries to keep Marcel from interfering.
The scene ends with Heinricus destroying the throne of Moloch in a passionate display of shock and grief while, Domino, near death from the battle is Embraced by Marcel in an equally beautiful moment. Malkav stands by as she watched the continuation of Caine’s curse, knowing that the machinations of his childer will always continue despite the epicness of what they have just witnessed. She urshers the Kindred to safety as the Well collapses. The last thing they see before exiting is the flame in the brazier turning a beautiful blue with the understanding that it will burn this way forever. This leaves the fate of Delphine and Moloch open to many questions. Malkav then returns the Kindred to the streets of Krasburg as the scene closes with all permanently changed by what they have witnessed and with much work to do regarding the Vampiric political state.
In grief over the loss of New York, Kranzer rushes into the streets of Krasburg, and the beast claims him. When he comes to his senses, he finds himself at the mercy of two kindred who have beaten him severely and are on the verge of drinking him to death. He hears a voice that asks him if he will accept death or embrace the beast. He chooses the later, and he ends up diablerizing the two kindred who would have killed him. He learns that the voice he heard belonged to a kindred who introduces herself as Lenora Minogue. She explains what diablerie is, and he listens in shock of what his soul has endured and having killed for the first time. He realizes that the kindred he killed were refugees from New York himself and feels tremendous guilt over killing those not unlike himself, as he comes to terms with his blood no longer being thin and his heartbeat gone. She soothes him, and offers him some accommodations, offering to help him develop his skills. He accepts, and they leave, him being forever changed by this night.
At Marcel’s request, Domino takes Themis and Juliette on a mission to find missing kine refugees from NYC, businessmen, Heinricus’ interests. They go to a private club, and briefly encounter Mason, a refugee from New York, and a kindred, who is there looking for Marcel. Then, they discover human trafficking, and a live display of vulgar depravity and gang bang rape. Themis sprays down sex show with a fire extinguisher to see if the owner, Vasili, has stones to do anything about it, which he doesn’t. Domino tries to seduce Vasili, and at this point, he asks her to chose a ghoul for to be raped for the sex show. She chooses Juliette, but Themis volunteers for the rape to save Juliette the humiliation. Juliette isn’t having this, and grabs a dick of the man carting Themis off, and crushes it with potence into a bloody spray. A fight breaks out, and Vasili gets roughed up by Domino and Juliette who don’t believe his story that he knows Heinricus and the humans are for him.
Meanwhile, Tommy shows up with a limo to whisk them away, and Juliette shows off her wealthy associate and the consequent business Vasili has lost now since he couldn’t be persuaded to play ball. They force him into the limo with the idea of Themis torturing him away from the prying eyes in the club, but Vasili is terrified of getting in the limo, and it turns out he had set the limo to explode, and they all make it out just in the nick of time. Domino beats the man badly after escaping the limo, and he breaks, admitting that he had been holding three human business men in cages. They’re terrified and rave about monsters attacking them in a clear breach of the masquerade. Two of them are soothed by awe, but the third is adamant about what he saw. Themis knocks the third man out and almost kills him. While Themis is freaking out about almost killing one of Heinricus’ interests, Mason shows up again. It turns out he’s a medic, and he starts wrapping the man’s head in gauze but then a glimmer of light escapes from his hands, and Mason heals the man with his touch. Themis notices this, but keeps her observations to herself. She and Juliette, however, exchange business cards with Mason, while Domino offers to take him to meet Marcel.
As Heinricus returns home to Krasburg, he is greeted by Lenora who has remembered his birthday with a gift wrapped in black paper with a blood-red bow. He opens it and discovers a bottle of Delphine’s blood inside, which he could use for the purposes of diablerie or to fashion another Salubri childer. The choice tugs on him, and though part of him wants to smash the bottle, he finds himself unable to destroy it. The two part with Lenora poignantly saying, “Happy Birthday, my son.”
Marcel and Domino invite Juliette to attend an event below a museum in Krasburg. After entering, a prominent and somewhat traditionally conservative Toreador, Radoslawa Kowalczyk, greets them. In comparison to the quiet of the museum above, below, in a completely sound proof chamber, is a raucous, but controlled celebration with many local kindred in attendance for “The Bloodletting,” which turns out to entail the local kindred feasting on some freshly captured werewolves courtesy of Vezemir when Heinricus gives the signal by pantomiming raising a glass. They briefly encounter Kranzer at the Bloodletting, who they haven’t seen since he ran away, overwhelmed by the loss of New York.
After the Bloodletting at the club, Heinricus and the rest head to a more classy venue where they meet with Themis. Heinricus asks them to acquire a rare Ravnos occult book for him. They’re joined later by Tommy as they head off to meet with the book dealer, Rolf Steiner, who has the tome. Steiner is revealed to be a Tremere, and he recognizes Marcel from New Orleans. Steiner has come in search of Delphine, who Marcel reveals is now dead. Themis is very tense, and caught in the middle of all this, as a Tremere ghoul. She tries to redirect Steiner’s interest by subtly suggesting Delphine has left some childer behind, while trying to defuse the violence. But it doesn’t work, and when pushed into a corner, she joins the others in fighting Steiner, staking him, which coincides with Heinricus’ instructions not to kill anyone in this transaction.
They return to Heinricus with the staked Tremere and with Themis certain she is about to die. However, for now, Heinricus allows her to stay in the city unharmed. The whole incident seems to suggest that Heinricus was perhaps sending Marcel and Domino to their deaths, but they don’t leap to this conclusion, perhaps because of their bond to the Order, instead allowing Heinricus to explain. Heinricus casually throws the book into the trash. What he really wanted was the Tremere. And he reveals that he sent Marcel hoping that the Tremere would attack them because Steiner would recognize Marcel. Heinricus explains that now if the Tremere come asking after Steiner, then there’s a justification since Steiner incited violence on Heinricus’ domain.
They proceed to the back room, and there are a couple of extremely unsettling Tzimisce waiting. Heinricus presents Steiner as a sign of his genuine intentions. He wants to put their past behind them and hopes to hear from Vladimir Rustovich, Voivode of Voivodes, very soon. The game ends with the Tzimisce tearing the Tremere to pieces in an extremely detailed and graphic fashion. Juliette, who has never seen the Tzimisce, let alone their craft before, flees the room in disgust. Tommy, on the other hand, takes the opportunity to be tortured himself later, hoping to improve his toughness.
It is October 31st 2016 and Heinricus, Marcel, Katerina, and Domino are gathered at the Cathedral in Krasburg for a memorial service for Delphine. In the rear, a mysterious crimson haired woman sits weeping, the infamous Lenora Minogue, while Tommy Vyzu sits across from her but doesn’t stay the length of the homily. The memorial service has been paid for by a generous benefactor, or several, none can truly say. There is a choir of priests singing beautiful Gregorian chants and a portrait of Delphine was commissioned and is on display. The book of names below the portrait has been signed by the hundreds, and in blood by the Kindred who paid their respects. Though it appears many have mourned the passing of Delphine, only the Ordo, Katerina De’Lavez, Lenora Minogue, and briefly Tommy Vyzu, had the dignity (or bravery) to attend the service. The priest, Father Dietrich Braun, a mortal but wise to the world of Cainites, gives the litany and offers communion to those Kindred present who desire it. Katerina and Heinricus both take communion and miraculously it does not turn their Cainite stomachs. Marcel, thinking it would be hypocritical, declines.
Father Braun then begins the service but says no contrived words of praise for Delphine d’Orleans, but instead reads from 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 – a passage that discusses the nature of death, immortality and victory in the hereafter.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
I met Delphine d’Orleans in a sacred place. One much like the one in which we here gather. We were called at that time to fight the darkness. It was not a noble calling for me, just a new game, another amusement. But Delphine…Delphine fought the darkness all of her unlife. From a time only the eldest remember, Delphine fought to keep alive…that which I lost in myself not weeks from my embrace. That which I did not remember but for the faintest spark. Until she showed me kindness in that sacred place. I had never seen it as Kindred, but she had it in her and took it as a torch into the darkest demesnes. I thought her naive, I thought her a fool…and time again, she saw what I could not in the dark places and the light. She fought not only the dark in the Abyss and in the corrupted places. She saw something better in the monsters that have fed and played longer than God intended. We will mourn her, yes. But if we would honor her….let it be that we do not lose sight of that glimmer of light she saw in us. The flame she stoked with her patience and her presence. If it were to live on, I do believe she would be at peace. Loyalty.
It is then Heinricus who moves to speak on behalf of Delphine, he leaves no token at her memorial portrait but simply makes the sign of the Cross and addresses those gathered.
My words are not for situations such as these. The very concept of mourning, a departed one, is almost alien to our kind. Delphine d’Orleans was the rarest of Cainites, however. Not merely a Methuselah but one that could be trusted. I can pay her no greater compliment. I shall pray for her soul as long as I exist.
Katerina takes a moment to pay her respects as well but she does not say a word, merely lays a blue carnation with the other flowers and signs her name in blood upon the book and issues a silent prayer. When the service is called to an end all are invited to give confession should they wish it. Domino takes this opportunity to provide her own silent tribute to Delphine. She lays a blue silken rose, plucked from the dress of a small child at Heinricus’ benefit rally and lays it with the others in a truly touching and personal tribute to Delphine. She signs her name in blood as well, signifying the permanence of the act.
Domino lowers her fingers, the droplets still flowing, like tears, as another hand reaches into her jacket, so slowly as if the object in question might crumble at the slightest mistouch, a small rose of vivid blue sateen, a bundle of now frayed green threads, its stem. The rose, the one from that little girl’s dress, the very one Delphine had handed her at Heinricus’ press junket. It belonged to Delphine…it was her rose and only hers.
The priest then ends the service and offers confession to those who wish it. Katerina De’Lavez is the only Kindred that accepts. As the others move to leave the Church and make ready for the festivities later that evening, this narration ends the final memorial service for an excellently crafted character by my long time and most dear friend, D, who was the catalyst in bringing me back into a world of endless possibility and timeless creation.
The priests continue the melodic rolling of the Ecclesiastical chants, their words chained together as the chains of blood that bound all Cainites, from the first star light that lit the face of Caine to the last burning heat of Wormwood. From the rose petals with their delicate impermanent flesh to the one of blue sateen, Domino offered to Delphine…the world of men would wither and rot upon the vine, but you…you would have no such reprieve. You would persist in your endless ocean of memory and endure until God brought the end of time.
Later on Halloween night, a fete is underway at Heinricus’ estate. Many high-blooded kindred are in attendance, including the Prince of Laval and his consort, Maria Therese Antoinette de Valois. Lenora Minogue introduces herself to Marcel and Domino and reveals she’s Heinricus’ mother to them. She offers to trade stories about him and invites them to join her another evening, promising to “break a few hearts before it’s done,” which they gleefully accept.
Mason Land, Delphine’s childer, is presented to Heinricus by Marcel, who fumbles at first, despite Marcel’s recent tutelage, but then seems to find his way. His thick blood seems to already be protecting him from a measure of control, however, as Heinricus tries to exert his influence, leaving Heinricus to wonder if he might indeed need to consider Lenora’s gift of blood to strengthen his own. Heinricus and Katerina are disgusted by Mason, since he’s a Moor. But Mason is accepted, and he’s left in Marcel’s care. The music starts and Heinricus asks Katerina to dance, where the two plot and scheme and make observations around them about the future. And Marcel, Domino, and Lenora dance too, pulling Tommy into the fray briefly for a time.
A little after Kranzer arrives to the masquerade ball, a disturbance is heard from outside. Bianca LeNoir, the former harpy of New York, is terribly injured and begging to come inside. Lenora warns Heinricus that Bianca is a Baali apostate, though unwilling, as some of the other kindred try to pull Bianca over the barricade. Alestor Thone shows up with some ghouled wolves who tear Bianca LeNoir to pieces as she’s being pulled over the barricade. Alestor Thorne says, “Welcome to the Red List, my Lords and Ladies.” The Camarilla was making an official declaration of war against them. Heinricus calls upon Vezemir to deal with Alestor Thorne, and the two disappear into the night.
Marcel is snapped out of a dangerous reverie just before dawn by Lenora. He stands there with his hand so tightly wrapped around the Duchess’ necklace that it drew blood. The necklace was the embodiment of everything he loathed and desired about the Duchess, and the Tremere had used his fascination to render him powerless before the dawn’s light. Marcel tells her that it’s become a bit of a ritual of his to put that necklace on ghouls, servants, prey, marking them as he fed. Lenora explains then that he must do that now to break their thaumaturgical hold over him with this necklace. And she places it over her neck as he forcefully takes her blood. As he’s swept away in the thoughts of sweet and forbidden diablerie, he’s dimly aware of the vestiges of the thaumaturgy wedding itself to him and the necklace ebbing. The two part not long before daybreak.
A handful of neonates, Ham, Bren, Domino, and Valdisa, are manipulated into going into an asylum to retrieve Argelle Nightengale, a Camarilla Justicar. The asylum is haven to Enede Bahr, an ancient Cappadocian, who in her mortal life called Valdisa a sister, and so she consequently forgives their intrusion into her domain for that and because they got rid of some pesky Sabbat intruders. Katerina De’Lavez collects Argelle from them and erases their memories, leaving them in a spot with a dead kindred, whom they all suppose was a host to party they attended who was killed.
Shortly after the events of the masquerade ball, Lenora meets Kranzer at his lodgings. The two have been steadily working together to unlock the secrets of his blood after his diablerie, and though his blood is still somewhat thin, it becomes clear that he acquired potence, fortitude, and a certain addiction for kindred blood. In his grief over New York, he’s also playing it dangerously close with his beast. Lenora guides him through the darkness of his thoughts, and seeing his hunger, she offers him her blood, which he accepts. As he drinks, he sees a vision of kindred being hunted who have water in their veins instead of blood. Tristan also sees a young woman with violet eyes and a birthmark of a moon at the bottom of the front of her neck. Predatory eyes press nearer to her from the shadows, and he senses she may be in danger or dangerous herself. Tristan finds the pull of Lenora’s ancient blood difficult to resist, and breaks down when he realizes he might have killed her in light of his burgeoning addiction, if he couldn’t have stopped himself.
After collecting himself, Tristan shares the vision he saw with Lenora, and she reveals that the young woman is her ward, Evelyn Winthrop. Lenora mentions introducing Tristan to Evelyn later. But now, the other part of his vision was a pressing concern, as it coincided with what she had learned about some thin bloods, most refugees from New York, who had taken to hiding in the sewers and who now had vampire hunters on their heels. Lenora is concerned that her elder blood may startle the thin bloods, so she asks Tristan, who is one of them, to approach them and save them. Mason Land and Domino also end up coming along to try to rescue the thin bloods before it is too late.
When they find the thin bloods in the sewers it is already too late for one of them. Hortez dies right away from an incidinery arrow. Domino rushes ahead with her celerity and knocks a burning barrel onto one of the hunters. Mason throws a brick to startle them. And Kranzer shoots one of the hunters. The remaining hunter stabs Domino with a machete, while the thin bloods get in on the action. Nytewyng, who seems to believe he’s a superhero vigilante tackles the last hunter, despite the more reasonable thin blood, Arthur Grimm, trying to stop Nytewyng. TJ, a thug with gold plated gun with etched crosses and the Virgin Mary on it, which Delphine would have hated, busts a cap in the hunter. And High C (Courtney) releases a scream that makes the hunter’s ear drums explode. Two of the three hunters are dead much to Mason’s dismay as he rushes forward. He manages to put the last one to sleep with his anesthetic touch. Nytewyng is overwhelmed by the sight of the turned over flaming barrel and runs off. Kranzer saves Nytewyng before he can disappear into the sewers and brings him back. Meanwhile, Domino viciously kills the sleeping and incapacitated hunter much to Mason’s horror, who didn’t see the need to kill a defenseless man. Domino counters that the hunter would not remain defenseless. The thin bloods are taken to safety and hidden away, and Lenora thanks Tristan, Domino, and Mason for saving them before leaving them to speak of private matters. Mason leaves after a time with more questions than answers and eager to get back to the haven before he earned Marcel’s ire.
Tristan had learned earlier from Lenora and Mason that Delphine was dead, but he didn’t want to believe it. It didn’t really set in fully until now when he heard how it happened from Domino. He frenzies in grief and anger, and he attacks Domino. She ends up frenzying too, and they fight each other viciously. Finally, they come to their senses with their fangs in each other’s neck, and their lust for each others’ blood and the echoes of their mutual anger and grief turn to other passions. And the two have sex, in Tristan’s case, it is the first time. They decide to go out and hunt together because a night like this called for hot blood with a heartbeat and not a glass.
* Nytewyng, believes he’s a superhero vigilante, possible Malkavian origin, but who knows.
* High C (Courtney), her screams can cause intense pain, possible Daughters of Cacophony origin.
* Arthur Grimm, one of the more reasonable and orderly of the thin bloods, possible Ventrue origin.
* TJ, a thuggish, straight-talking hood rat, religious, possible Brujah origin.
“Domino…” Lenora said her name like it was song in of itself, the melody of it playing on the lips like sweet music, and in those notes the whole of her life.
“Mister Grevsvich has praised his newest childe with such intensity and so often that no doubt Saint Peter himself has heard it in his post at the Heavenly Gates. Beethoven and Mozart returned, with a touch of Michelangelo and Shakespeare we are told. I can only hope he does not steal the silverware. Shakespeare had the tendency to.” – Heinricus.
“Those who often indulge in mocking others reveal their own weakness.” – Lenora.
“Ah, but here was another string. And should he sever her connection to life in order to free himself? He could do it, lift her above his head and throw her from the balcony now, then watch as her crumpled and crushed and splattered form painted his freedom in bold. He looked at Lenora, containing his anger with only the most immense of efforts, and thought, you manipulative Jezebel!” – Heinricus, his thoughts about Lenora after meeting Evelyn Winthrop.
Domino is invited to a Toreador gathering honoring Winston Grevsvich’s tremendous new childe, who doesn’t bother to make an appearance because he’s too caught up in his art. She is at first summarily ignored as everyone is more concerned with Winston’s childe, but Winston himself takes notice of her, offering her a glass of blood. At first he makes polite conversation and asks her what impression she has about the blood she’s drinking, stating how sad it was that other clans couldn’t taste the nuances in blood that a Toreador could. Domino drinks the blood and remarks on its quality politely, while others gather around and begin to take notice of her. She realizes that the Toreador watching nearby are laughing at her and her unrefined palette that could not tell the difference between refined blood and the base blood she was drinking, which to them, was no better than dishwater. Winston’s comments to her become more biting, as he holds her up as an example as a starkly flawed contrast to his own magnificent childe, who would be performing for the Prince at Court. Domino manages to keep her composure, but leaves as quickly as she can.
Later that same evening, Domino receives a much more pleasant invite from Lenora. Heinricus is there as well, and he mentions that he and Lenora had heard about the spectacle at Winston Grevsvich’s fete. Lenora commends Domino for conducting herself more gracefully than the vultures around her. Heinricus gives Domino some sheet music, which is revealed to be what Grevsvich’s childe intends to play during his performance at Court. Domino realizes it’s Mozart’s 9th symphony turned upside down. Heinricus encourages Domino to learn to play the violin, offering to provide a teacher if needed. It’s suggested then that Domino wait until Grevsvich’s childe completes his performance and then play Mozart’s 9th symphony to humiliate him and his sire in revenge.
It also seems Lenora has told Heinricus about Tristan and Domino’s service in eradicating the hunters. He commends her for her efforts, and he says that the thin bloods will also serve them well in their war with the Camarilla while discussing Tristan’s role as their adjudicator. Domino adds that Tristan feels personally responsible for them. Lenora then introduces her ward, Evelyn Winthrop, who bares a moon birthmark just below her neck. Domino notices Evelyn has a strangeness she cannot quite place about her aura. Evelyn is presented as an orphan who had suffered from a blood disease that crippled her, but who has been miraculously cured after Father Deitritch at the Krasburg Cathedral prayed for her. She had started a blog to raise awareness and foster donations for those suffering from blood diseases too. Heinricus takes his leave to attend to other matters, and when Domino touches Evelyn, she has a strange vision, revealing Delphine staked in an open sarcophagus, sinister specters lurking in the darkness nearby. Could Delphine still be alive? Lenora doesn’t seem to think it was Delphine in the vision but suggests something may still be gained and that they should speak again later after she’s had some time to consider it.
* Winston Grevsvich, roughly 175, local Toreador, who embarrasses Domino at a gathering, celebrating his new childe, a musical prodigy. Grevsvich is the childe of Rafael de Corazon, the Toreador Founder of the Camarilla.
* Fredrick and Sonora are two Toreadors at the party who openly laugh at Domino.
Domino accepts an invitation to Lenora’s estate and is treated to a garden filled with fountains, baths, and what she believes to be mere statues at first. They are in fact people dominated to complete stillness, and as Domino samples each one she tastes a perfect moment contained in the blood of each.
After an exhilarating evening, Lenora leads Domino to a stairwell which descends to the wine cellar of a popular club with the promise of secrets and opportunity below. Lenora leaves Domino to use what’s down there however she decides. Domino creeps down the stairs to eavesdrop on a couple of disgruntled ghouls, who have fallen into disfavor of their respective masters. They were not welcome in the club above, so the two ghouls sneaked below for the rebellious thrill of drinking some of the wine of a club that wouldn’t have them.
One of the ghouls is Liliana, Italian, and Sonora, a Toreador, is her domitor. Sonora was at Winston’s party and laughed loudly at Domino’s humilation. Sonora is known for wearing ropes of gold chain and for her natural red hair. But Liliana reveals that Sonora isn’t a natural redhead and must dye her hair every night. She reveals this secret to the other ghoul hoping he can convince his master to take her in. She worries that Sonora will cook her and make the other ghouls eat her, which Liliana herself was forced to do. Liliana recalls being forced to eat another ghoul who had failed their mistress badly.
The other was a Brujah ghoul, Raoul, Russian, and his master, Constantine, is a local businessman. It turns out that Raoul didn’t jump at the offer Juliette and Tommy made fast enough and that cut Constantine out of the deal. So Raoul blames Juliette, and his hot blood is going wild because his domitor could hurt Raoul’s family, in particular, his son, if he doesn’t find his way back into Constantine’s good graces again.
Raoul angrily mentions that Juliette’s meeting some other potential business associates upstairs in the club, and he’d like nothing more than to sabotage it and see that uppity ghoul get raped and humiliated by her contacts as condition of their deal. But his domitor would feed him to his dogs if Raoul was part of a woman getting violated. Sure he’ll feed a ghoul to some ghouled dogs, but he’s not an animal. He’s got a soft spot for women, which is why Liliana is willing to risk being his ghoul instead to escape Sonora before she snaps.
Liliana agrees to go upstairs and disrupt the meeting and try to persuade Juliette’s contacts to humiliate her so that Raoul can have another shot at the business deal and get in Constantine’s good graces again. She happens to know there’s a hidden sex dungeon upstairs the club uses, “The Moon Room,” that would afford the perfect setting for Juliette’s violation. In return Raoul agrees to recommend her for Constantine. The two agree to meet later at Leibman’s dinner nearby after it is done. Raoul leaves the club, and Sonora heads upstairs, neither one of them realizing that Domino has been there listening.
* Liliana, Italian, out-of-favor ghoul for Sonora, Toreador
* Raoul, Russian, out-of-favor ghoul for Constantine, Brujah (Dead, killed by the Krasburg Sheriff)
Domino listens in as Liliana, a Toreador ghoul out of favor with her mistress, Sonora, tries to sabotage a business meeting between Juliette and several kindred businessmen (one French – Jacques Flaubert, one Italian – Antonio Marino, one English – Jameson Giles) she and Tommy have arranged to support Heinricus by having them orchestrate an international crash at the appropriate moment to cause chaos and disrupt the reach of the Camarilla. Liliana tries to convince the men there that the deal is a poor one given that Heinricus is one man and the Camarilla has more resources. She also encourages them to make having sex with Juliette part of the deal as a show of the resolve of Juliette’s offer. Antonio Marino seems neutral, while Scott Kingston resists the idea. However, Jacques Flaubert is for it and thinks they should see a demonstration of loyalty given they are entertaining putting their own necks out for their businesses. Liliana suggests they ask Juliette for her blood, but she resists this saying her blood is of little consequence to these men of more refined taste. But the businessmen aren’t fully convinced and are beginning to question Juliette’s commitment to this deal and the commitment of the powers behind it.
Jameson ousts Domino from her hiding spot where she had been listening, and she’s drawn into the conversation. When they realize Marcel’s new childe had overheard their discussion, they are more cautious in showing their misgivings about the deal. They realize Marcel is an acquaintance of Heinricus and Domino’s presence here cannot be a coincidence. Domino supports Tommy and Juliette’s deal and considers taking on Sonora as her own ghoul. Sonora, in her desperation, is eager to acquiesce. Then, Heinricus’ sheriff, Hans, who looks more like a dirty street corner bum, interrupts their conversation and gives Domino a bundle to keep safe. Hans is not recognized at first, except by Juliette. Hans seems to leave, but remains there obfuscated. Domino tries to keep the bundle hidden, but Jameson unravels it before she can stop him. Inside is the head of Raoul, the Brujah ghoul of Constantine whom Liliana had been scheming with below in the club secretly. This sends a very powerful message. And Juliette reveals what she already knew that Hans was Heinricus’ sheriff. She uses this moment to remind the kindred businessmen what it means to deal with a millennia-old kindred and the stability that comes with that investment. They decide to accept the deal in light of this turn of events. Juliette thanks Domino for her timely arrival and support, though both undoubtedly realize this support was for Heinricus’ sake.
Domino, meanwhile, takes her cruel and torturous pleasures with Liliana, while sharing blood and interrogating her, much to Juliette’s unease aided by the whispers of obfuscated Hans in her ears playing on her fear and uncertainties. Liliana revealed that her Toreador domitor, Sonora, had been playing both sides, the Camarilla and Heinricus, hedging her bets, trying not to fully commit to either. Sonora had met with Alestor Gray in secret though. She reveals grimly that Sonora had cooked a ghoul in honor of his arrival. The scene ends with Domino considering how best to use Liliana who was, despite her claims of loyalty, still blood bound to Sonora.
There is no friend like an old enemy, who has seen us to our mourning days and reviled at our victorious nights, no greeting like his welcome, so intimate as those we have held sword point to throat, spilling blood like Caine and Abel. No curse or homage as sweet from one who has given death. None so worthy to consider now in an alliance against those most hated amongst us, the Usurpers.” – Lenora welcoming the Tzimisce delegation.
Voivode Sola Vadislavisk, the elder, Raina, and the Zantosa family (Ratka, Dimitri, Xeandric, Zlatko, and Mila) meet with Lenora Minogue in what used to be the Knight Commander’s training hall to discuss an alliance with Prince Heinricus, responding to the overture he made during the Bloodletting. Lenora reveals that the Tremere used thaumaturgy when they signed Delphine’s memorial book in blood so that those who came in contact with it would find their dreams plagued by visions suggesting Delphine was still alive and in the clutches of the Tremere at the Luftmore Vineyards on the outskirts of Krasburg in the countryside and be lured into a trap. The Tzimisce gather round and touch the book, seeing the trap for themselves, and seeing their ancient allies, the Salubri, who had come to pay their respects to Delphine, getting sucked into the trap, the vulgarity of the usurpers heating their dragon blood as they decide to attack the Tremere and set their own trap against them.
Voivode Vadislavisk and the elder, Raina, go on ahead to make battle preparations, while the Zantosa family takes a moment to discuss their plans privately in an alcove beneath a bridge. By the time they reach the Luftmore Vineyards, Raina and Sola are in the heat of battle. Raina ignites her sword with an ancient word for fire, and dies heroically as she makes a gargoyle explode in flames. Sola tears out the backbone of a Tremere and uses her head as a weapon, the mouth still breathing purple flames, using her fiendish craft. Everyone rushes below and sees the tail end of the vision they saw, the Salubri trapped. Tremere and their gargoyles and The Tzimisce and their abominations fight tooth and nail. Dimitri Zantosa dies in the conflict. The Salubri are freed as the last two Tremere are seen scurrying up the stairs.
The Tzimisce trap the Tremere and start chanting “Atak teraz! Vozhd! Vozhd!” And at that a huge Vozhd appears as the Tzimisce part, but the tree line falls behind the Tremere and behind it numerous gargoyles, more Tremere, and two massive thaumturgical constructs. The Vozhd rips through them and kills one of the huge thaumaturgical constructs and a host of gargoyles before it is felled. The three Salubri warriors take on the other huge thaumaturgical construct, killing it with the help of their Tzimisce allies. The warrior Salubri, Daniel falls during this battle. Gargoyles and Tzimisce abomintions fly at each other, decimating the other. The Voivode takes flight and uses arrows carved from vicissitude to pierce their enemy and send them into wild and chaotic indiscriminate frenzy as they’re driven mad by them. Mila devours a Tremere with womb but he uses his blood magic to boil her blood, killing them both. Ratka who has lost too much, throws herself into battle and dies, leaving only Zlatko and Xeandric of the Zantosas alive. They throw themselves into battle with the rest of the Tzimisce, and just as the Tremere are about to be laid low, yet another huge thaumaturgical construct appears, but this one is filled with explosives and blows most of the remaining Tremere to bits as the Prince’s advisor, Lenora Minogue, joins the battle, showing unequivocally Krasburg’s support for the Tzimisce. They kill the last of the Tremere and the Tzimisce return home to consider the alliance.
However, when the Tzimisce return to their domains, they discover that the Tremere and the bastard arm of the Camarilla has staged a coordinated attack on their homes while they were fighting at Luftmore Vineyards. Voivode Sola Vadislavisk calls the incensed Tzimisce together while the blood and ash is still fresh. She takes Ratka’s sword and plunges it into the wall where a huge mural of their antediluvian is depicted. The wall begins to bleed to the howling delight of the Tzimisce there, for such an occurrence hasn’t happened in close to a thousand years, a clear sign that their god wishes them to go to war. The blood flows through ancient grooves in the room until it fills the emblem of a dragon eating its own tail. The Voivode pledges herself to the alliance as do others and there is now a sense of challenge for Vladimir Rustovich, the Voivode of Voivodes to do the same. The Tzimisce then make a huge mound of flesh in the middle of the hall and move their hands together, as they begin creating another vohzd, a war chant rising as they think of what’s to come: Atak teraz! Vozhd! Vozhd!
- Sola Vadislavisk – Tzimisce Voivode, long-time frenemy of Heinricus von Verden
- Jophiel – Warrior Salubri (Max skin, Black Knight)
- Sariel – Warrior Salubri (Merlinda Skin)
It’s revealed that Lenora posed as an old fruit stand vendor and gave a comely young woman, Isabella, a diseased apple, though she saw it as sweet fruit. Isabella wanders off further down an ancient bridge in Krasburg where lovers and artisans often gather, running into a Tremere gentleman who often frequents the spot when he is hungry. Isabella herself becomes his apple, and he takes her to a secluded spot, drinks from her, and turns on his heightened senses to more fully savor her, before sending Isabella on her way. But from this spot, he can hear the coarse tongue of the vile Zantosa family discussing their manses, their plans to attack the Tremere, the offer the Krasburg Prince made them, and he quietly steps away informing the Tremere and the Camarilla that they have an opportunity to strike the Tzimisce at their homes while they busy themselves here. The Tremere doesn’t know that he himself is tainted and is a walking plague apple bound for Vienna.
Lenora walks away with a basket of apples crawling with worms and rots, and she bites into an apple filled with blood, having set the Tzimisce and Tremere now against each other by simply giving a mortal girl an apple.
Katerina tasks Domino, Tristan, and Valdisa with retrieving a document from Chuggs, which nearly goes horribly wrong as trio were expecting aggression. Later they are joined by Mason, who as ever finds his own path in this life fraught with resistance.
Elysium is held and Prince Heinricus tends to the business at hand, including recognizing Chuggs, and hearing about an incident between the Giovanni and Tremere where Valdisa is held as a witness.
Later while the kindred enjoyed a moment of frivolity, Reginald Pole arrives and reports that most of the Order is trapped in the Tophet-Well, stopping cold when he realizes the one who trapped them is there. Lenora is revealed to be the Unnamed, the third Baali founder. Conflict ensues with Marcel choosing to protect Reginald, upholding his vow to the Order, and take him away before Heinricus can stake him, since he wanted to discuss the matter and the Brujah’s frenzy was dangerous to everyone. In doing so, Heinricus is cast out of the Order, but allowed his memories. He keeps Domino and Kranzer at the estate, but lets them stay comfortably.
Victor and Lily rescue Domino and Kranzer from Prince Heinricus’ estate. They run into more trouble than they bargained for when they run into the Camarilla’s ire.
Domino and Kranzer are separated from Victor and Lily and find themselves in the basement of Alestor Gray (a disciple of Tobias Gray), who tortures them both for information about Heinricus and Marcel. They reveal little either out of fear or loyalty, and Alestor Gray nearly kills Kranzer with a chainsaw. Domino ends up killing Alestor Gray with his own chainsaw as Lenora emerges and heals Kranzer with her blood. She frees the two of them, and she encourages them to consider a few choices. She gives them the blood pearl formed from when the Order’s blood left Heinricus and tells them that should someone imbibe the pearl and desire badly enough to the leave the Order, they can.
With Lenora presiding, Heinricus and Katerina agree to rule together, King and Queen, and use Delphine’s blood to embrace a couple of mortals, and then they diablerize them, becoming 4th generation kindred, sullying their promise Delphine and their vows on the True Cross to protect Delphine’s childer.
Marcel, Heinricus, Domino, and Katerina meet in a Parisian brothel to discuss terms of an alliance between them. Marcel and Heinricus agree to a contract sealed by Malkav, who makes them joins hands, cuts them off, and then eats them. Katerina also runs into her uncle, Elric De’Lorme, who doesn’t take her being Heinricus’ queen very well.
Tristan meets with Lenora and he agrees to go to Los Angeles and try to rally the thin bloods there to save them from genocide. He meets the Last Daughter of Eve, Evelyn Winthrop, who will journey with him and the other thin bloods from Krasburg.
Domino meets with Lenora and secretly becomes a Baali apostate.
Assamite, Dilawar Aaryan Salar Ayyub, and Domino secretly meet with Salubri in a Turkish bath house. They realize they’ve been duped into a trap when one of the “Salubri,” Viviane Morgause, lights her cigarette with her fingertip, and they notice the sign of a bloody third eye briefly over the foreheads of the other two assailants, who are promptly slain. Later, Bren shows up, and Domino decides he would be the perfect present to give to Katerina.
Dilawar Aaryan Salar Ayyub, Viviane Morgause, and Bren, present themselves to Katerina at Court. Katerina welcomes Domino’s gift, and she takes Bren as her ward to the mixed sentiments of kindred in attendance. Viviane introduces herself as a scholar and provides Katerina with a biography of Pierre Laval, a French politician and traitor, quietly supporting Katerina’s claim to Laval. Aaryan, as a Saracen, is merely tolerated, but allowed some time in Krasburg granted Marcel will vouch for him.
Later, Aaryan and Marcel speak about Order business as the Incognitas is called down to ensure secrecy. It turns out Aaryan is a Caliph from the Eastern division of the Order and is investigating events. Marcel is wary of this new acquaintance but explains the state of the Order and the troubles they still have. He ultimately decides that adding a scholar to the Order to investigate it is just what they need right now. And he, Luthienne, and Viviane host a vaulderie on holy ground. However, when Viviane makes the mistake of trying to share the blood chalice with Domino, Luthienne expresses her displeasure with Domino, who is secretly a Baali apostate, and doesn’t let her partake.
Part 1 – Ashes
It hangs over the mortal cities like the noxious clouds of their own cars and factories, sweeping into the lungs and pores in their fitful sleep. The world mortals knew is no longer. Oh they tried to deny it—the images of New York, what could only be devils in the streets, Manhattan reduced to rubble. Terrorism? An act of unknown war? But it didn’t stop there. Terrors ran rampant in old Kragsburg. Citizens, children and migrants alike were unaccounted for. Their families would barely speak of it lest they be held mad. But then it came to Vienna, no storm to obscure it. The curious cameras caught every detail. Demons to some, Djinn and Dragons to others. The bodies, the smoldering ruins. There was no denying it, even as frantic governments tried.
And then the bombs…the fiery explosions ripped through them: Vienna, Berlin, London, Paris… The images were on every television and smart phone of the ghostly hands reaching up from the waters of the Orient pulling screaming, already rotting corpses from homes and cars in the night as China, Japan and even Los Angeles were visited by the ghastly haunts, leaving only smoldering meat in their wake. Only, morning, and already the tanks were gathering at the borders. The world was on the brink of war and no one knew who with. All suspected all.
One night earlier…
Vienna has fallen and the Ordo is complete once again…as much as it can be. In the conflagration, Marcel’s transport was lost. Seeing a new ship on the horizon, he and Viviane have come looking for shelter from the sun and possibly a ride.
Marcel smiles at Viviane…even as the creeping feeling pulls at his guts and says, “What a lovely mess we’ve made of this town, eh love?”
Viviane ran her fingers through her silvered hair, a memento from her apostasy, a wound, wisdom, scar, gained the hard way.
Marcel shoots fast, remembering the stomach churning weight of his own transformation, “It looks good on you…adds character.”
Viviane looks back, “I’ve seen worse…at least it’s done.” She lifter the point of her chin, she’d been quiet, reflective, but then so much death will tend to do that, especially when a good bit of it was her doing.
“And well done I’d say?” he says, seeming unsure, as if looking for a glimmer from Viviane.
“I’ve got to make this worth it, Marcel… What they did, what I did…”
Marcel holds her close and kisses her lightly on the forehead, “We’re doing good here.”
She lets the thought trail away, a red glimmer passing over her eyes like drops of fresh blood and lifted those eyes to him, they moved to him and seemed to retreat. “Sometimes I wonder.”
A loud bang carries through the cabin and yelling ensues breaking the brief respite. “Watch it you idiot!” echoes down the corridors.
Marcel turns down the way, “Hmm…hot blooded sounds like. Dinner to take your mind off things?”
Viviane nodded and reached a hand out, smoothing a bit of hair over his ear before following him toward the shouts. As they reached the packed cargo hold, the smell of exotic spices and lo mein rushes through their nostrils. Viviane trailed after him, a lighter step, slower than his but nimble, longing for a bit of peace that blood would bring. Flying around the a wall of crates, three armed men in dark glasses look to the intruders and open fire with automatic weapons. Viviane twirls out the way of the spray of gunfire begins slinging them around with her mind like broken toys. And they quickly became just that, one slamming into another as their guns went flying. Confused screaming and grunts and cracks of bones punctuated the falling weapons until one manages to croak “Don’t let them near the merchandise.”
Viviane dragged him by his heels close to her waiting hand and wrapped it around his throat. “What merchandise?”
Marcel always loved watching her play with her food.
The thug sneers at Viviane..and smiles. She repeated herself, letting the weight of her words bore into his mind like a corkscrew, spinning deeper and deeper into his brain’s bottle. She didn’t smile back, even as a web of veins started to spread across his face from the pressure she put on his mind and blood. His mind burns…ready to break…until he looks ahead. And fear is all he can see. He convulses, blood bursts from his nose and eyes.
Viviane spun, him in her arms, like a lioness with prey beneath paw. The others’ jaws drop as they look behind the kindred, almost forgetting the pain of their broken limbs. Thee masked men in dark garb with blades drawn stand there. They hadn’t made a sound. One snaps his fingers and the other two thugs bleed out and convulse like their partner. Marcel growls, but their assailants stand silent, their faces stone. Viviane doesn’t betray her true concern with her eyes, but thinks of Marcel standing there, there had been so much death, so much.
As their beasts rise towards the surfaces, their own blood or their attackers’ cooing, begging to be spilled on the rusty metal deck, a scrawny, dark-skinned man steps forward. He looks as though the wind might blow him over at any second but he stands resolute. As if channeling Viviane’s own heart he speaks, “There is no need for more death.”
The assassins turn and silently heed his words, disappearing into the shadows.
Viviane stands down, “You’ve our attention.”
“Kono.” He introduces himself, “and I wish no such thing. Only for no more children of earth to suffer. May the spirits keep you safe. It is not safe here.” He bows before retreating deliberately to the shadows, looking with a moment of deep sympathy at Viviane, seemingly recognizing the pale streaks in her hair. His accent is deep African, but his Queen’s English is perfectly inflected. “You should go. Be safe wherever you can.”
Viviane watched him with intense suspicion, her senses expanding, scrutinizing his aura carefully as he left. It was strange. He was undead and looked incredibly old. 1000? 1500? More? A great weight hung upon his soul. That was clear. Sadness the weight of which she and Marcel could well understand. And then he was blurred. Everything was blurred as though darkness reached out from all around the kindred. Not just lack of light, but their very eyes refusing of their own will to see what lay before them.
Marcel stumbles toward the containers. Nothing he can read, all Chinese symbols. Only Hong Kong labels make any senses to him, but something them bores like drills into the eyes of the kindred. Viviane stared a tick of a second-hand or two longer in the direction of that strange man, to the empty space where he had been. She begins to speak but hears Marcel fall to his knees. Her blood curdles as the rushes over to him.
Pain shoots through her. And then fear, like needles in every vein. Her chest heaves as hit head on by a cinder block. She winces, hot and cold through her blood but musters her will and being to reach out for Marcel. And then…nothing. A feeling of great emptiness, loss, like a sound that she stopped hearing were suddenly no longer there.
“We have to go.” Marcel grunts with purpose.
An image shoots through their minds. Viviane quieted her mind, using her thaumaturgical prowess to follow the feeling to the source. A dark basement. A makeshift hospital. Her strong senses, even over the strange interference here pulled her toward the source of their distress. Dark. Bloody beds. Beeping machines. She hesitated a moment. Something was wrong here and it was unnatural. But something called, and nothing was stopping Marcel.
The two kindred worked their way through the burned out city. Vivane’s attunement better than Marcel’s, she led until they came upon a squat little building, several bodies out in the street. Gunshots, head trauma. More dead here, patients it looks like. She looked from Marcel to the bodies and back, so much blood, corpses. Vienna, it seemed, was ever expanding in horrors.
It was a makeshift hospital for the wounded…plague survivors maybe…or just collateral damage from the battle. And in the corner…a skeleton…amongst a pile of ash. Only a black trench coat covering it. They knew it. Mason’s choice in style was his own since joining the Ordo.
Marcel limped slowly toward the ashes and fell to his knees. Viviane felt her heart seize in her chest and hurried to get a closer look. He called desperately to Mason through the blood and…nothing. He knelt in disbelief.
Vivane gasped, “No. No it can’t be. It can’t be! I placed protections on him myself.”
Marcel picked up some of the ashes and kissed them gently. He shook, barely able to mutter “I’m sorry Delphine. I’m sorry…”
Viviane leaned over the skeleton, and examined the coat for any tangible evidence, exploring it with her spirit’s touch. The coat had pockmarks of blood, ash, shot and burns. A twinge of brimstone. And powder? She’d smelled something like it. Possibly in African rituals. As Marcel doubled over the ashes, Viviane held at bay as long as she could with her inexhaustible curiosity until she broke with Marcel. And yet the tears would not come. She started casting counter magic around the dust. Nothing. She stood and mumbled slightly what Mason had spoken with conviction, “Fear is shackles, fear is a knife in the gut slowly twisted, fear is a constant hammer on the head.”
Marcel sat silently, tears of blood seeped from his eyes and clenched his fist and shook. She could see it, the best was close now. Rage upon despair…no will to fight it.
Viviane’s thoughts drug her ever deeper, “This isn’t right. There is a taste to this. A tastes of something familiar.” She struggled not to let the beast out, a hand at last on the back of Marcel’s neck as she look a dead dream. She looked at another dead Salubri, the one she couldn’t fail. She had to make this right. Their twin beasts stirred together, silently stretching in hunger and vengeance when…
The door crashed open behind them. Shouting followed, “There’s fucking more of them!” More shuffled behind. “Remember boys, fire works best on the deadies!”
Marcel cracked his neck. The kindred turned quickly, and in a red-hot moment leapt upon them. There was no preamble, no flair to it, blood would simply have a price.
Part 2 – The Citadel
The past nights have been naught but terror. Nelly recognized on some level there were kindred at work, but things she’d seen hiding in the shadows…it’s hard to believe these were ever human.
Chaos has overtaken the city. The police, the military all try to keep order. But now, ordinary citizens stalk the streets. Stories of men with guns hunting monsters and dark masked men from whom there’s no escape carry on the chattering tongues of the city’s desperate surviving kindred. The usually imperious Tremere are silent..and nowhere to be found. She had come to a coterie mate’s haven to lay low to find nothing but blood, bullets and ash.
The young Brujah knew the score. She stepped quickly out the door to come face to face with men with guns. “Another one!” one shouted, “Do it good!”
Nelly doesn’t even think about it, which most of the time worked out for her. She was alive after all. She rushes them, barreling over to them to knock them down with her arms outstretched like an airplane, the kindred blood pumping fear and rage in her wake. Necks crack, wet labored breaths wheeze. “Die monster!” she hears from behind as another gun cocks.
Before the hunter can fire, Nelly bashes him in the head with his own gun, wailing on him like Babe Ruth. Yelling and running echoes through the streets. Shit! Soldiers! Sorry.. “peacekeepers” as the government keeps saying. Nelly didn’t know where to go or where not to…just ran away from the yelling. She sprinted through the tunnels to avoid them, leaping over barriers and “station closed” signs. The don’t come here. The mend with guns don’t like to be bothered and the soldier boys have less aggressive people to protect.
The brujah rushed up through the first exit she came to. Barricades stand made from bones of victims. Bodies rot on the sides of the street. People too different…dangerous. Nelly wrinkled her nose, incredibly glad she didn’t have a working stomach to churn. Soft footsteps behind her, she whirls cocking her gun nervously. A small framed, dark-skinned man in a nice if nondescript suit stand calmly before her.
Kono smiles warmly…but it cannot erase the heavy sadness beneath it, “Peace child.”
“You’re in the wrong city for that.”
“We’re in the wrong world young one.”
Nelly steps back, “Oh shit, are you a Malkavian?”
Kono chuckles, “No, madder even than that. This place is not safe. They are hunting us.”
“There is no safe place.” Nelly takes a step back, looking him over.
Voices ring out, “Look there, strangers?!?!”
“That’s never good…” Nelly thinks whirling toward the sounds.
“Go child…” Kono disappears into the darkness.
Nelly didn’t need to be told twice. She was the fuck out of there, rounding the corner so fast her beret nearly fell off. She had to hold it to keep it on rushing toward the old theater. More of the men stood in her way, but only watch as she flew past, standing silent sentry over…she couldn’t remember…the old Chinese cultural center? <i>Come to Vienna they said.</i>
The voices came closer as the Brujah booked it into the theater for safety. Breathing unnecessary breaths of relief, she stopped cold as a pudgy old man with looked down on her from the top of the stairs and worst of all…smiled warmly, “Welcome sister. Come inside.”
Nelly wasn’t sure she liked the tone of this “sister” vibe, but it sounded better than the men with guns out there. He led her into the theater, paying no mind to the weapon she held tight. She never trusted a warm greeting. It was very unkindred like. She mechanically checked all immediate exits, taking a head count of how many “brothers” and “sisters” were in here. Fuck. Too many to take on.
Most wouldn’t look dangerous on an ordinary night. Just ordinary folk scared out of their minds…until she looked to the stage. Some pudgy…skinhead maybe? But behind him….the dark robed men in masks with swords…like the ones from the stories…the ones you never hear. An on either side of him, stakes in their hears and heavy chains….One was an Egyptian…like old school sarcophagus and King Tut shit. She’d seen her fighting those fucked comic book monsters only nights ago, didn’t think it possible she could be taken down by anything human. And the other she had seen only briefly…what was his name…Alistair?…Alestor?
The creepy skinhead strutted the stage like some cross between a televangelist and a rock star past his prime playing sad shows in back rooms in Vegas.
“Brothers and sisters!” he begins, “For too many nights we have hidden in our homes, waiting for “the authorities” to save us. Telling us it was terrorists or fascists or goddamn men from the moon! But we know what they are! We know how to find them. And how to kill them.”
The crowd cheers as he continues
“Now you’ve seen these fine fellas in black behind me? They know how to deal with these scum…these undead. You may have heard the government whine about paramilitaries…pfft! The Citadel is in every city in Europe. And they are here to defend you and your families when the people you trusted have failed and lied to you time and again. And to prove it…these…these ancient undead. These powerful creatures you saw spewing about lightning and snakes and flames but nights ago…fighting devils as though they didn’t summon them themselves…Well boys, show them what The Citadel think of that.”
Without a word, the men in black masks silently stepped forward and, without fanfare, sliced the heads clean off the elders. The crowd cheered again.
Nelly might have been a thick-headed Brujah but she knew this was bad. She cheers along with them so they didn’t grow suspicious. She was in shock though. She back slowly toward the door when the quick sound stuck in her ear “psst.” She turned and followed toward the sound. The crowd worked into a frenzy cheering and celebrating those piles of ashes. She went for quiet, but guards already looked her way as she booked it toward the door, “psst” again.
A guard grabbed her arm. “I don’t know you”
Nelly spat back, “I’m going out to find more of those things. I’ve had it with them.”
The guard grins staring at her tits, “Sure, lets just give you “escort” why don’t we”
“Sure, come on. Maybe we can kill more than one.” she smiled at him, she was never great at flirting, luckily her check was better at it.
The guard whistled and more of buddies came around, circling Nelly as she backed through the doorway into the street. He cocks his gun as his buddies follow her onto the quiet streets, not a car to be seen, “Now…we all remember how to recognize em right?”
Another cocks his gun, “Oh we sure…” His words cut off with a crack as his face slams into the brick, red spraying over the crew. Victor and friends burst out from the shadows and descend upon the squad.
Nelly ducks and covers screaming, “Monsters! Shoot! Shoot!”
Victor laughs as he bashes in one of the guard’s chests, “Yeah…shoot! Shoot! HahahAHAHAhaHaaaa!” as the screams of hunters make a sweet melody punctuated by the polyrhythms of bullets in the night. Nelly waits for the guy next to her to line up a shot, then beat him in the back of the head with her gun. The “hunter” falls to the ground limp and bloody.
Victor claps, “Bravi! Bravi!”
Nelly jumps onto the blood body and has a drink…ahh…what a rush, it had been a while before turning to the bloody handed Nosferatu, “Nice timing.” The Brujah wipes her mouth off, look around furtively.
“Ya know,” he croaks, “It’s really not safe around here this time of night? I like it. And whooooo is this pretty pretty pretty?”
A dark-skinned lady with long talons, glowing red eyes and top hat like a…voodoo lady from tv? strolls behind Victor and rolls her eyes. Nelly laughs a little, might have been the fear and nerves talking, but she hadn’t laughed in a while and gets out, “Nelly.”
“Flirting already dear?” the voodoo lady quips.
“Salutations, “ Victor bows theatrically, “A pleasure to make you…acquaintance. And calm down Esther, she’s not a threat.”
Nelly tipped her hat, her accent was American, flat, plain English. Nothing exceptional, except that in was in Europe. “Come to Vienna they said. Nice quiet little city they said.”
“They lied,” Victor retorted, “They do that.”
“To think I nearly went to Bali instead…I should have too. A thousand prizes….”
“Ahh…overrated too I think you’ll find. Lots of conditions on that contract.”
“Figures.” Nelly looks again at the bodies they’ve left. “We best get off the streets. There’s more of them inside.”
“The kindred here haven’t fared well with the Citadel types? Shame. They’re all good fun.”
“They’re itching to rub some more ash on themselves. It’s chaos everywhere. And that’s the good part.”
Victor laughs, his chuckle bouncing between a deep chortle and an ear-shredding screech. The irregular intervals fell so you never got used to it.
Nelly cocked an eyebrow, “You shatter glass with that?”
“I hope not…Then I couldn’t see my pretty face in the mirror.”
“That would be a shame, you two got a place? I did, but they’re…they’re dead now.”
“Oh no, we’re just passing through. Joyride through the end of the world. And dancing.”
“You picked quite a place for that. Know anything about these Citadel assholes?”
“Mmmm…bad tempers. The boys with the guns are all good fun. Think they’re big and tough til you show them some of their insides. The looks are priceless. I’d put em on a hallmark card. The boys in black…they’re more trouble and I think…kindred. By the way they tiptoe about I suspect Assamites.”
“Great. Those fuckers.”
“What’s more interesting, they’re everywhere. When things went to shit in Kragsburg and Vienna were on the news nonstop, a thousand little bands sprung up to protect “the people” in every city and town. All different. Hippie communes with guns. Fascist street thugs with guns. The Citadel is in all of them. They were organized overnight.”
Nelly check how many bullets are left in the gun, “Very organizes, seems like this Citadel was just waiting to move in.”
“And they know a lot…for hunters. Things they shouldn’t. And can take down kindred they shouldn’t be able to. Not like I miss em, ” another spurt of laughter erupts like gas.
“They must have an elder behind them or two.”
“May have. But who and why? And how have they flown under the radar this whole time? This needs. Some. Investigating!” Victor spins in excitement, “And I know just the guy. Trouble is…I’ve lost his number.”
“Who is he?”
“A pretty princess killer who thinks he’s a holy warrior now.”
“Sounds like a piece of scum.”
“You sure he’ll help?”
“I like her, we’re keeping her! Oh I know he will…just needs a little. Push. In the right direction. Talk over a drink?”
“Sold. Investigating is thirsty work.”
Victor skipped along the fog covered streets, Esther slinked behind like a wild cat, Nelly took one last look, weapon close.
Part 3 – Family Meeting
The slums of Vienna stretch into the dark, the few streetlights beckoning the unwary. The kindred come to a squat building, bodies outside. There’s been fighting here…like everywhere else. Esther bursts through the door into a small makeshift clinic, a doctor and Mason leaning over bloodied, fearful survivors. “Guess who!”
The survivors writhe with a start and Mason stands, eyes narrowing at Victor’s entrance. The Nosferatu cops a predatory smile, arms spread wide, “Listen up boys and girls! You’ve got the care package and now the entertainment has arrived!”
“Victor?” Mason murmurs in shock, “What the hell are you doing here?”
Nelly covers the exit, as Esther looms over the stunned doctor and his broken, terrified charges.
“Oh the usual, just trying to spice up unlife a bit!. I tell ya honestly kid, I could use a vacation. People afraid of every little thing out there, every teensy little shadow and bump in the night…It’s enough to put a guy right out of a job!”
“You princess killer?” Nelly asks.
“And no. He’s the killer’s new little pet.”
“You get around.”
“What can I say? See the world, meeting interesting people…”
“And watch them explode?”
“You got it Nelly!” Victor growls as the patients squirm in the beds.
The doctor in his blood and faded white coat finally grows a pair and steps to the kindred, “This is a medical clinic, you can’t just…”
“Can’t I?” Victor grabs the doctor’s face and shakes like a mad hooligan. The poor old doctor tries to scream but hyperventilates in his hands. Just being that close about gives the poor mortal a stroke.
Victor sighs, “Now that’s what I needed, a little pick me up. Grab yourselves a drink, pick a flavor.”
Esther immediate grabs a frightened mortal and begins to drink as the others scream or sit in shock. Nelly saunters toward a skinny, ginger haired mortal, white with fear. He tries to scream but manages only to stutter. “P..P..Please, P Please. Just don’t hur…hurt me. I have a f..f..family.”
Nelly didn’t generally thrive on fear like Victor did, but it was good to see the rightful order of things restored. Nelly was a kindred, he was a human, she was a predator. They were prey. Order. Victor licked his lips, he loved watching the young ones learn.
“Victor..” Mason pleads.
“Shh..” Victor brings a finger to his lips.
Nelly circles her victim, “You have a family. I had a family too. Everyone here had one. What makes you special?”
“P…Please. You don’t have to….don’t have to.”
“But I do.”
Nelly tilts his head back a little further, and pierces his neck with her fangs. He squeals at first but melts into stupor as she drains him. Nelly takes a few deep slurps from his throat and steps back, staggering like a drunkard at closing time. He tries to scream again. Nelly wipes her lip with her thumb. He’s too weak to stand now and pisses his pants in fear.
Victor breaks everyone’s silent reverie as a shotgun blast tears through the clinic.
Mason rushes him, “What do you want Victor?!? Just leave them alone!”
Victor shakes his head and puts the double barrel level in the Salubri’s face, “Oh don’t worry I will. It’s you I wanted to have a little chat with. Well, more like a message.”
“And what is that?”
“Well…Tell Marcel Victor needs him.”
Victor pulls the trigger, spraying brain and vitae over the floor and walls. The mortals scream except the doctor who falls to his knees muttering a prayer as best he can.
Mason rolls helplessly on the ground, nothing left of his face but a gaping jaw. Eyes, ears and skull spread in pools across the floor.
“Ooooohhh..” Victor squeals, “Ooooog that’s not good. Looks like that hurts. Better do somethin about that. Yep. Esther, whadda ya think? He can’t see or hear us anyway.”
Esther floats over to the gurgling, shaking Salubri, “Oh he just needs a little bit of blood, just like this..” she coos, touching his hand lightly and projecting an image into his mind, a blood bag, juicy, sweet, free range, cruelty free…
Mason saw it, smelled it, even without his sensory organs and reached desperately for the imaginary bag.
Victor scratches his head, “Well, we better get Jr some medicine. Whadda ya think Doc?”
Nelly offers, “This one’s tasty, but a bit tapped out.”
Victor offers, “Doctor Giggles? No…”
And with that, a sound from the backroom…and infant’s cries rebounding off the walls. Esther smiles and saunters back carrying the baby swaddled in cloth.
“No!!!” comes the hoarse scream from his mother, splayed helplessly on the doctor’s table. “No!!! Put him back!! Jerald!”
Nelly’s eyes widen, “What are you doing?”
Esther laughs a maternal laugh, “He’s hurt silly and needs some medicine.” The Gangrel hand the baby to Victor.
The Nosferatu smiles back, “This is no sort of town to raise a child in.”
He held the crying child down to the upturned jaw of the Salubri, still grasping for the imaginary bag, his only salvation.
“Physician, heal thyself.” Victor whispers, lowering the infant onto Mason’s last remaining fang…and the beast led him from there. He grabbed the infant and squeezed. Jerald screamed and went silent as Mason greedily took the last of drops of life. He drains it.
Puss and blood oozed from Mason’s wound, reforming his face like wet putty, healing aided by his innate powers. When he beheld his work, the old medic recoiled in horror and convulsed, his healing body rejecting what he’d just done.
Victor and Esther laugh as Nelly looks on in horror. “Get the ringer.” Victor says with glee.
Esther disappears and returns in a flash, a staked body in hand, Nelly had seen him on the scene, nice suit but too good to talk to anyone…definitely Tremere. Victor knew Marcel would come soon, they wouldn’t have much time.
Victor nodded, “Now Mason, let me take your coat…” He took it and put it on the Tremere. Esther reached down with her claws, turning the Tremere to dust in short order. She spread some powder around the ashes and mumbled strange phrases, enough to confuse a blood mage, at least for a quick look. Not enough for sustained study, but they were counting on a distraction.
“I sure hope that witch taught you right.”
Esther snarls. “I’ll need more blood.”
“Well,” Victor says, looking over the remaining, panic-stricken mortal, “Drink up.”
The convulsing Mason reaches out a shaking hand, trying to do something…anything.
Victor reaches down. “Don’t worry kid, just like it was meant to be. Everybody dies and you go on a roadtrip with your new Uncle and Auntie!”
The kindred descend upon the mortals and leave only bloodless corpses as Mason looks on in horror.
Mad with blood and hunger, they never thought to look up. The men in black masks fell upon them, making not a sound until blades severed flesh. Victor and the others fought tooth and claw, blood spilled…but they were too fast. Victor howled and set upon them at the razor’s edge of frenzy before turning to the others and shouting, “Go!”
Esther hesitated a moment, taking her claws from on the of the attackers’ throats. Victor nodded to Mason, “Go!” Esther grimaced but picked up Mason and flew out in a burst of Celerity, the shivering Salubri over her shoulder. Nelly didn’t have to be told twice, it was one of her best attributes…but it was too late. The masked figures fell upon her. Shes bit, ripped and punched, the stoic warriors in shock at her ferocity. Her eyes dashed to the exit when before she could blink, a stake from an obfuscated attacker put her down as fast as her frenzy had flared. As she hit the ground, her eyes fell on Victor, staked and surrounded.
“Drain them?” on says.
“No…bossman wants these two. Special case.”
Part 4 – End Times
Nelly awakened on a fine leather couch in a posh little flat. Masked guards loomed over her…but hadn’t hurt her save the stake they ripped from her chest. Nelly winced and groaned as it came out with a sickening plop. She’d never been staked before and realized everyone had neglected to share how much this fucking hurt. One gave the Brujah a stern look to let her know he meant business before handing her a flask of blood.
A beastly howl of pain and then a gurgling pierced her ears from the other room and then…laughter, the familiar horrific cadence. Nelly took the flag and began chugging. The cold vitae was scant comfort from the unwelcome sound of screams. Someone was being worked over good but it was apparently hilarious too. Strange night this.
The door creaks open but instead of a masked fiend, a handsome if moody looking man walks in. The guards paid him immediate deference. Blood coats his hands as they set some pliers with a fang still in them on the table. He wipes his hands clean with a wet cloth and softly to Nelly who straightened her hat instinctively surprised she still had it.
“Nelly.” he croons soothingly.
He bows, “Reginald Pole. I do apologize for the…traumatic evening you must have had. I understand about my men. I know how hot the blood runs. That we share.”
Nelly turned her eyes up to him, sure he didn’t hear what she heard, expecting anything other than an apology. He continued,
“I hope the blood is to your liking. I know my men were not gentle, but, my dear, you have fallen in with a very bad crowd.”
“It’s the best blood I’ve had in a month.”
“Then my taste is not as poor as the Ventrue say.”
“So it was that crew you were after this whole time?” Nelly spurts incredulously.
“They have been…corrupted. The devils you see on the streets are not without their agents. Agents who at one time were supposed to be their hunters and our protectors.” He bends down and takes her hand with a piercing glance, “I sense no corruption in you Nelly.”
Nelly realized she sounded slow, like someone later to a movie or a baseball game, catching up, but what the hell was going on? “I’m just trying to get by.”
“And I will spare you their fate.”
Nelly nods relieved before murmuring, “I through your men were going to ice me too.”
“The hunters. Regrettable. But there are greater battles to be fought and their movement provides excellent cover against the tide that would destroy us all.”
“We call them the Baali.”
“Yes, you’ve seen their minions fighting throughout the city. And in Kragsburg. And in New York.”
“Never heard of them.”
“Well my order followed its purpose once. But corruption found my brothers.”
Pole hesitated, “I could say more but it would make no sense. We are hidden even from the words themselves, but there are those who speak of us as the Inconnu. It will do for now. Nelly, you must understand, sometimes the enemy becomes so entrenched…the cause so hopeless that the only way to keep fighting is to turn it all upside down, uproot every dark place they would hide.”
Nelly smiles at this, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speak that way before…with that much passion.”
“It’s our birthright Nelly. The gift of the Brujah blood, that if we truly listen, can keep us from being pulled from the path. The prodigals of the other clans, some try. The Childer of Haquim were our allies when our blood was not afraid to carve our dreams on the world.” Pointing to one of the black masked guards, “Some remember still. The old citadels can stand again.”
Nelly felt it too, “I was beginning to think…I don’t even know. This world’s crazy now. You’re the first I’ve heard make any sense of it.”
“I can show you amazing things Nelly. In fact, I plan this very night to show you something no living kindred has seen.”
Nelly turns her head up, intrigued. What could it be?
Pole smiled, “The tales you’ve heard. The ones of the ancients that will awake and devour us all? The ones your elders tell you are legends before throwing salt over their shoulders.”
“I’ve heard of a few, yes. I never knew what to make of it.”
“You’re going to see one. In the flesh.”
“What? You’re…you’re messing with me.”
“Stay by me, stay quiet, and you will be alright. Brave heart Nelly.”
She blinked a few times, stiffened, her mind walking around itself to even remotely comprehend or accept what she had just heard.
Reginald, holds his hand to her and nods to the guard, “Open them.” Nelly takes his hand and walks beside him as the silent guards nod and drive wordlessly to a lone ship at the docks.
Reginald walks fearlessly into a courtyard bathed if soft white light and bid Nelly hide nearby before approaching a lone hooded…was it a homeless man? Some sort of yogi?
Pole addresses him directly, “Brother Saulot.”
Saulot’s powers seemed to hum through the very ground as he turned to face Pole, regarding him with a slight nod. Nelly felt a strange sort of strum against her hot blood as if someone had hit the mute button on a particularly loud episode of Maury.
“Why have you come here Pole?”
“Is that any way to greet a brother?”
The Antediluvian regarded him silently.
“Of course, you were the first to betray us. And it takes the corrupted mouth of that devil’s ass Von Verden to make it all clear.”
Nelly felt the power of this old one practically reach up through the ground and pulsate through her. A strange serenity that seemed incongruous with the events unfolding here.
Pole continued, “Not only did we follow you for you fuck off and abandon us…you created the devils themselves!”
Pole’s rage boiled. Saulot, however, was eerily serene, “What is it you seek brother?”
As Pole glared at the Antediluvian, the periphery of Nelly’s vision began to blur. A strange pressure in her head makes her dead heart pound. Everything was blurred as though darkness reached out from all around the kindred. Not just lack of light, but their very eyes refusing of their own will to see what lay before them. Something cold and wrong sparks in the air. Nelly watches, eyes wide, shifting, feeling things lurking at the edge of her vision.
Saulot finally lifts his head, “What have you done brother?”
With silent steps, a squadron of…creatures…walks into the park from all sides. They walk with intent and inhuman grace. All are Asian Some Indian, others Chinese, Japanese. Some’s faces sit like stone, others shift constantly between expressionless statues and wide-eyed howling tigers.
“I thought you were all-seeing brother Saulot. As it turns out, the Order’s greatest strength lies in what it is not. Neither Sabbat nor Camarilla, above both, above kings and politics…like you taught us. And in absence of all…there are old, powerful things out there that we alone, and our brothers in the east, can treat with. And they all have some hatred for you, I wonder, why could that be?”
A stern woman with red paint on alabaster skin, sauntering like a snake with unblinking eyes of a predatory bird steps forward. Saulot looks up, unnerved in her presence? She shows her fangs and growls as the middle of her forehead splits open to reveal a third eye.
“Saulot…the traitor,” she growls, “How ill you have used my gifts.” The others surrounded the kindred in a half circle, their eyes rolling like marbles toward the antediluvian, their head falling toward him like dolls, some sprouting shining black claws from their hands.
“Traitor, “ Pole spits, “There was no name but yours that could gather ALL of the remaining Bodhisattva.”
Saulot looked between them, maintaining his serenity only by a thread, “Why Reginald?”
A bright light fell on gentle Saulot’s face then as Kono stepped lightly toward him, his forehead split, third eye burning bright, “Because father…we are the plague you taught us to heal.”
Saulot turns to face his childe, “Nkulu Zao…”
Kono, turns his face to the earth, “This is the way father. All things must end. We have brought too much pain on this world. This battle here, Tremere, Baali…All your childer. All our blood. A healthy body and saved soul here and there. They are no recompense for humanity.”
And pillar of light, brilliant white, sickly green and in a flash the gathered Bodhisattva, eldest masters of the Kuei Jin equal to the eldest kindred, and the Nkulu Zao are upon the antediluvian. They move as swiftly as he does. And eventually he sees…he cannot tire them out. Not all of them. Some have to die. Flashes of light and blood and ash flicker. Trees and old stone walls crumble in the path they carve. Sickly flashes burn to screams of things not of this world, more chilling than any creature from the battles tearing through the streets in the nights before. They cut the night sky like flames.
The ancient creatures die by the dozens, the millennia of their combined knowledge thrust to ash. Finally, there are only two, their hands at each other’s throats, third eyes burning deep. Saulot, never had he faced such an onslaught…and so recently awakened, he buckled…but stood fast, “This is over…you can still be the last Enlightened One.”
Her third eyes bubbles a brilliant, stomach churning green, “It is over…if I cannot have my vengeance…” A low thunderous growl beyond the ken of anything human escapes her gut. Her eyes sink into her head, swallowed in unnatural light and finally Saulot’s expression darkens…
“The Yama Kings?”
The devilish thing smiles behind the glare of its foul magic.
Saulot pleads, “You would summon them to take me? You know they will take ALL of your people…back to the hells you sprang from…You won’t.”
“The Devil Tiger punishes all in time…”
And the light grew bright between them. Nelly covered her head under a fallen statue as Pole lept to her side to shield her eyes. And finally…the old man’s face registered…for the first time in millennia..fear? The beast comes to the surface one last time. And the lights grew brighter and banshee demon screams carried through the night air on the black mist as a ghostly green hand reached down and grasped only ashes.
And when their eyes opened, not a creature remained in the courtyard but Nelly and Pole. The old Brujah staggered to his feet. There had been devilry here. But loyalty was the law of the Ordo, and antediluvian or no, Saulot was a traitor. His death would be had at any cost. And the world would hardly miss the Kuei Jin. He straightened his collar and scooped Nelly up in his arms. The citadels of Carthage would stand again.
And from the shadows, Saulot watched, and wept a tear for a Brother.