One must have chaos to be able to give birth to a dancing star. Deep within every conflict is an opportunity for rebirth, something beautiful, something awful, something enduring, some new knowledge; some old truth.
And, we of the Order owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty in pursuit of our noble task.
The Order was ferried through the Abyss into a sheer, chaotic hell in Vienna that whipped around them like a cyclone of death. The air was heavy with the smell of burnt flesh, blood, and ash. And smoke hung in a haze as gunfire and thaumaturgical flame exploded in a dizzying show of lights and curses, beautiful and deadly, it erupted in a wild and fatal flow.
The battle had been contained to a few barricaded blocks of the Vienna’s lower side, away from precious libraries and it’s many historic treasures. But that only made the fighting more dense and deadly. And if they didn’t end it here soon, losing the rest of the city and beyond was just a matter of semantics.
Noticeably few Tremere were in the actual battle. The Baali plague and Viviane’s blood curse had thinned the ranks of them substantially. But for what this battle lacked in Tremere numbers, it made up for in Etrius’ vile gargoyle creations which roamed the streets freely shredding everything in their wake.
Marcel, Zosime, and Viviane plunged into the pandemonium of battle. And they began cleaving a path through the chaos, the constant and savage tide of war around them. The Ordo’s abysmal soldiers spread out from them to help clear the way. Their black forms moved through the sea of chaos and blood like a reaper’s scythe.
Snatches of battle could be seen through the maelstrom.
Virstania’s gargoyle children swooped down like a murder of crows on their Baali-corrupted cousins, their glowing green eyes making for an easy target. But the tainted gargoyles were fierce, and they wielded green flames. Stone flesh crunched against stone flesh, and for every blighted gargoyle who fell, it seemed Virstania’s children did too, her motherly rage cut through the den of battle.
Two gargoyles swooped in on the Order from either side.
Viviane knocked them back hard with her mind, one crunching into a bricked warehouse nearby, a tacky peeling billboard overhead advertising the film Blood and Money. The other fell onto a fire hydrant, causing it to erupt in a geyser, as the creature flailed and flapped its leathery wings. She formed the gushing water into a wall, confining a row of gargoyles…for now, who beat against it enraged.
The Camarilla Alestors and Agents threw themselves into combat. A blighted gargoyle tore the head off of the alestors and hurled it rolling into the crowd, where it was crushed under the foot of another corrupt creature before turning to ash.
Nosferatu launched from their hidden places in the ether and descended cunningly on the Tremere and their gargoyles. Gangrel claws wooshed through the air, through skin, through blood, painting the dirty walls red in dramatic sprays that might enthrall a Toreador.
And Marcel, Zosime, and Viviane ran and fought, taking blows, giving blows. They raced toward the alley where the Third Eye had left a thaumaturgical secret back door into the Fatherhouse, Vienna’s impenetrable chantry.
It had taken them many years and constant vigilance during their time in Vienna, but the Third Eye had at last found a weakness, one they would exploit tonight.
A dread call cut through the conflicted, the Tzimisce war cry, led by Sola Vadislavisk, the Voivide of Voivodes.
Sola Vladislavisk: Atak teraz! Vozhd! Vozhd! Atak teraz! Vozhd! Vozhd! Atak teraz! Vozhd! Vozhd!
And the lumbering thud of a vozhd’s pounding steps could be heard as it stuffed the blighted gargoyles into its many mouths with a sickening crunch, like trees being cut down. The green flame in their eyes dying as their were devoured. Sola stood behind a great shield freshly fashioned from two Tremere who screamed in terror, still painfully aware they had been crafted, as they were pelted and gutted with savage wounds.
From behind their forms, Sola released pestilent, living arrow after arrow into the crowd, and where it landed there were screams and paroxysms. It was impossible to see if those arrows landed on only foes or friends too.
Viviane: “Blasted Tzimsice…”
As the Order ran into the distance nearing the alley, they noticed that behind them the field hospital where Mason was treating the Baali plague and the other casualties of this conflict was being overwhelmed by a swarm of green-eyed gargoyles. It seemed that what remained of the Tremere had realized a Salubri was inside.
But then…there were two Salubri outside as well, Jophiel and Sariel, warriors, the last of a dying bred. The Salubri let the vile wizards come, those that would devour them. They let the gargoyles come with their glowing green eyes.
They let them all come. Jophiel and Sariel would not let them destroy the field hospital or Mason. They would draw a line in blood.
They carved out a circle of flesh, blood, and ash around them with the rhythmic flurry of swords. Talons pierced their armor, great and grotesque teeth, their blood gushing through the perforated holes. Tremere spun their curses, their appetites wet for their blood. Hellfire blanketed their armor, scorching them inside.
But they fought on, even when they began to stagger from the weight of the rain of blows slowly eclipsing them. They fought…until they were bent over in agony, and surrounded by the Tremere and their creations.
And they knew this was it, but death, it was the natural order. It was better than cowering in Sola’s Tzimisce manse, listening to the screams, enduring the hospitality of fiends.
And in that moment they took off their helms, looking at each other. Jophiel held Sariel’s chin in his hands, pulling her in for a one last kiss before the device in Sariel’s hand went off.
And as it did, a wave of flame stretched outward quickly, a flash fire, that reduced everything to ash instantly, leaving whatever it touched still in its form, like ashen statues, hardened into the press of death.
The door to the field clinic was clear now. And Sariel and Jophiel stood near the entrance frozen in ash, in that last and final kiss, that embrace, right before oblivion.
Viviane screamed; it was short and shattering, another couple of dead Salubri added to the pile the Tremere had made their pyramid from. Another couple she had failed to save.
Were they the last besides Mason? Viviane reached out a hand to their ashen forms in the distance, her cousins, almost always had they been out of reach until death.
Marcel halted in his steps, ash billowing around him, caught by the wickedness of his blood. Their death was the most beautiful he had seen in a century, and so fucking unnecessary. He growled, more noble blood on foul Tremere hands. He smashed his axe into the face of a lumbering gargoyle, tasted the host spray of its polluted blood. He pulled it free, beast raging at this fresh, wasteful loss of life.
Zosime moved, unmoved, untouched, through the sea of ash. The hem of her jeans were coated in gray, but she noticed it not. Her gaze was focused on what lay ahead of them. Zosime held her ornate, gilded sword at her waist, ready to cut a swath through anything that got in her way. Zosime separated the head from a Tremere in one smooth move, getting coated in another layer of gray.
Marcel threw himself on a gargoyle as it gorged on Tzimisce blood, sinking his axe into its back. He turned on another and hacked it to gore, catching a talon in the shoulder and howling against the pain.
The buildings nearby from the blast now showed some of their inner structures, like corpses revealing the skeletons beneath. The block further down still howled and raged in conflict, but here it was barren, empty now, fire had taken what the Baali plague and Viviane’s curse did not. With the hardened ash figures about it looked for all the world like Hell’s breath had sighed over Vienna.
As the Order reached the alley they saw the serpentine eyes of Setites in the darkness, chanting to their god Set, calling upon him to obscure and protect Marcel, Zosime, and Viviane. And as the chants continued, the image of Set began to appear, the trappings of the Great Snake Lord falling into view. The foul gargoyles in the distance and what scant Tremere remained kept their battle at a distance, not venturing up the block.
And Marcel, Zosime, and Viviane ran down the alleyway, reaching the end, which smelled of garbage left in the sun to rot. Or perhaps that was Viviane, she smelled terrible herself of apostasy.
Viviane: Acerrimus ex omnibus nostris sensibus est sensus videndi. (The keenest of all our senses is the sense of sight.)
With those words swirling light appeared around the three of them and transported the Order from the war torn streets into the Vienna chantry itself.
The Order appeared in a stone circle carved with thaumaturgical symbols, a library with books climbing up to the ceiling around them. But bookshelves weren’t the only thing surrounding them.
They saw Heinricus being held from behind in Etrius’ arms, the blood of their brother screaming, as he was being eaten alive, diablerized. He was gluttonously consumed, in audible, choking gulps, Etrius grunting with pleasure, like a hog in a muddy pen at feeding time, fangs buried deep in the throat of Krasburg’s king. Heinricus was crushed firmly against Etrius’ round gut, the rolls of blubber pushing against the small of his back. His expression agonized, as he screamed in pain, consumed with hate, hate that belied the lunacy of shameful bliss that came of being devoured. He screamed, and screamed, and it shook his brethren, as their blood burned with the sight.
Marcel roared. He threw himself from the pedestal, launching himself at the vision of Etrius. He slammed the blade into Etrius’ fat, fucking head. Von Verden was a piece of fuck, but he was a brother! Etrius was cleaved like a slaughtered pig, his face gushing uncontrollably. Marcel tore into his wrist hurriedly, trying to offer his blood to Heinricus, who reached to Marcel shakily, less imperious now than Marcel had ever seen him before, chaotic, on the verge of frenzy, dangerously pale. Etrius wrapped his thick arm around the weakened Heinricus’ throat and dragged him back into the darkness of the ether, his blue eyes pricked with terror.
And…they saw It too, the Unnamed.
Her black-clad form surrounded them in a ring, green crackling fire in her hand. She started to move in on them all, the circle closing. Marcel, Zosime, and Viviane’s heads swam, racing, as the Unnamed drew near, tightening around them like the knot of a silk noose, gentle and soft but…it would kill you all the same.
Zosime closed her eyes and focused, ignoring the proverbial noose tightening around them.
The Unnamed’s voice whispered in their ear like the caress of a lost love:
Take the dream of me…
The blood I’ve sewn, wear it…
You are perfume…
You are poison…
You are passion…
Marcel: Bitch! Shut up! Shuttttt Uuuuuup!!
Marcel growled, slinging his head like a wolf in the rain; then whirled on the figures, near to frenzy. He started hacking at the countless images of the Unnamed with abandon, spewing curses in English, French, and…Portuguese.
Zosime focused her blood and her mind, synching herself both mentally and physically with the space-time stream. Zosime’s eyes remained lightly closed, but she reached out sensing the space around them for time anomalies and found none. She marshaled her mind then and actively ignored the illusions. For that’s what they were…they had no real “gravity” in this spatial area. Her voice came as a calm, singular monotone…
Zosime: This is not reality, Marcel.
But Marcel’s blood was too hot to hear Zosime.
Row after row of the Unnamed stood in an increasingly tight circle nearby. They were impervious to Marcel’s blows. Beneath the black hoods, a kind and gentle smile, lips forever bleeding murder, which seemed to take in Marcel’s fit as a mother would with a willful child.
Marcel howled, his face contorting in rage as he swung his axe, hacking into that lying whore’s face. He beat the vision down, grinding his axe into the stones of the floor. There was no blood to sate him.
It was a rush, swinging that sharp edge of metal into her wicked form. Even if it didn’t bleed, didn’t move, he imaged it, the wet gush of her spraying over him. As he levied blow after swinging blow, he remembered the taste of the sweet and biting copper of her blood, remembered when he had gulped it down and thought her Arikel. And she smiled still, lips dripping like virgin freshly broken.
Marcel hacked through the delirium of the blood he once knew. This infectious bitch, this evil succubus cunt!
Marcel: It’s always been your doing!
Viviane’s looked to Zosime, to Marcel, and to those ominous shades, their boiling green eyes, making a deduction, a calculation, her face hardening, bringing her own wild and polluted blood to heel.
And the Thing that called itself Lenora Minogue bowed, each of them, one by one, blood-dripping smiles seen beneath their hoods, fresh and bright as murder. And then they vanished into the ether. They seemed figures of Viviane’s diseased soul, shared by virtue of the vaulderie, or so her brethren very much hoped…and didn’t hope.
In the wake of this abrupt departure, three Tremere knelt before them. No one could say how long they had been there, what they had seen. The Tremere gave no indication, simply rose, and it was quickly revealed that this was the Third Eye, the secret society within the House who had gotten them into the chantry.
Astrid: Ancipiti plus ferit ense gula. (Gluttony slays more than the sword.)
Viviane: Amat victoria curam. (Victory loves diligence.)
Marcel stumbled against the pedestal, axe head falling to his feet while he held the handle in a loose grip. Marcel’s chest heaved pointlessly, eyes wide with anger. Marcel was relieved he didn’t have to slaughter them…yet.
Zosime: Your assistance is appreciated.
Most surprisingly Astrid Thomas was among them, Etrius’ own trusted childe. Astrid hastily explained to Viviane that the back door the Third Eye had created would lead to Etrius via a slightly circuitous and stealthy route. Teleportation would be a far safer and faster way to reach him than trying to walk through the heavily fortified chantry. Astrid had also obtained the means by which to wake Tremere.
Marcel instantly straightened. He shot a look to Viviane.
Marcel: Wake him…?
Marcel kept his eyes on the trio of Tremere, as he asked Zosime…
Marcel: Chances of termination?
Zosime: Please specify on who the terminated party for this calculation would be.
Marcel didn’t know himself, drew straws in his mind and said…
Marcel: Us and…him.
Zosime: The best estimate I can provide is 39.7 percent.
Marcel grimaced, regretted asking the odds.
The means to wake Tremere, it came in the form of Etrius’ precious gold necklace that he kept on him always, which had a bloodstone dangling on the end, Tremere’s blood.
Astrid offered the necklace to Viviane, who looked at the bauble that hung for an age around the bloated neck of Etrius, the fattened calf they would soon sacrifice on the altar of the Ordo…
Viviane: No, keep it. The three of you, start the ritual to wake him. Go, now. Do that while we squeeze Etrius’ bloated heart from his chest, and he is focused on us.
Astrid nodded, closing her hand around the necklace, and the three Tremere left to wake their master. But Viviane caught Astrid by the throat just as she was about to round the corner, pressing her against the wall. Viviane’s grip was firm, like a manacle around the condemned.
Viviane: Betray me and die.
Marcel said to Zosime and smiled ruefully….
Marcel: You hear that? She betrays Viviane, and she dies. Simple. Logical.
Zosime: That is viable logic, Marcel. I do believe you are improving in this department, so to speak.
Marcel: I learned it from you, love.
Zosime stepped from the raised dais after what seemed like a considerable pause, moving to flank the other side of Astrid, but made no move to threaten. Clearly, she did not need to nor was it her way. Should the other Tremere move against them, Astrid’s head would instantly be severed or skewered, depending on how successful she was at evading.
Viviane held Astrid by the throat, not tight as to hurt her, but firmly, her hand an inescapable vice. Astrid stared at Viviane, sharply taken aback, then smiled sadly, a smile that was not a smile at all but a thing born of desperation.
Astrid: Councilor Morgause, if I betray you, I don’t just die. We all do. The other houses have gone dark. No one knows if the other Councilors even live. The rest of the Third Eye is gone. It is just us.
Viviane’s eyes cut over Astrid, sharpened like the points of daggers. She tightened the grip on Astrid’s throat, giving it a squeeze.
Viviane: Explain this.
Astrid: The new…gargoyles turned on everyone, not just in Vienna, but overseas as well. There have been so many, thousands by some reports. And we have been plagued here, cut off.
Viviane whispers to herself, or to Marcel and Zosime…
Astrid: Yes, thousands….
Marcel closed his eyes, would have sighed, but he was dead.
Astrid: And all the while, there is a blood curse eating us alive. Etrius blames you, but I know better. You…you would never condone this sort of genocide. Never curse us.
But she had…
You had seen it…
Marcel did not look at Viviane, would not betray her now, instead his eyes bored into Astrid as if he would blame her.
Viviane did not give any outward indication that it tore her apart, but the wound gushed in her blood. She understood her part in this and what must be done now.
Marcel rolled his shoulders as he felt her crash into him. It turned him on. It made him angry. It made him sorrowful.
Astrid: And those closest to Etrius seemed to have miraculously survived…until war hit the streets. He is to blame for all of it.
Zosime: A miracle is statistically unlikely.
Astrid: If you can’t stop him, we join the Salubri.
Marcel nodded; this was enough for him.
Marcel: Then we shouldn’t waste time. I haven’t speared a boar in ages.
Zosime: Marcel is correct. And it is imperative we find Heinricus.
Viviane quickly released Astrid’s neck like it was nothing, like she was nothing.
Viviane: Hurry then…flee…
Astrid nodded just once, resolved, feeling along her throat as she turned.
They would die or die trying now. There was no turning back.
Viviane’s words had been cold and distant, strangely alien, strangely familiar. Marcel’s mind fought him, not allowing him to think or voice the comparison…to the dead. She was sick. That was all. And he could not lose her.
It had been a compulsion of Viviane’s since Heinricus had been taken, a meticulous devotion to a doll, his likeness, it was never far from her. And now she once again plucked the doll of Heinricus from her coat pocket, holding it like a child too scared to scream for comfort in the darkness, holding it with the cunning and craft of a sorceress. The doll began to sweat blood and Viviane tasted it, her brows drawing inward, angrily. Etrius was breaking through her protections.
They teleported to the alchemical labs, and the poison of their sister Viviane’s soul leaked into their minds by virtue of their shared blood. They saw a blood orgy of the Baali founders surrounding them, moaning in ecstasy, hands hungrily grasping flesh, feeling, touching, smiling with dread temptation, bliss, rot, all wearing Viviane’s face.
Viviane brought her hand to her brow, smearing the sickly blood sweat there into her silvered hair. Her face seemed gaunt and wraith-like. She knew she was poisoning the others, and it was excruciating. It couldn’t go on.
She had wanted to let her die…let her die, this woman wounded in the dark corner of her mind, her soul, let her die, a creature only to be used and tasted for the foulest craven whims, to be used as a receptacle, a bowl to vomit cum in, to rid themselves of their own poison, to make room for more.
Let her die…let her die…let her die…it was what she wanted to say, what she wanted to scream, but all she could manage was…
Viviane: Purge…purge yourselves.
The blood orgy erupted violently into green flame, their final screams indistinguishable from pleasure or pain, a harmony of it all, of suffering, of sweet release.
Let her die, but not yet. First let Etrius die…
Marcel trailed after her, looking around, trying his damndest to appear as if understood what was going on.
Zosime followed wordlessly. Such peculiar attitudes both kine and kindred had toward sexual intercourse. She did not quite understand what mass fornication had to do with anything.
That had been the only part Marcel had really understood.
They teleported to the earthen depths of the Tremere chantry. Raw veins of thaumaturgy dug deep into the bowels of the earth, humming with energy, slick with churning blood.
It was a kind of mad marvel. Luthienne would have loved it.
Marcel looked on with disgust. Where did it all come from? How did a city still stand above such horrors?
They descended into this pit, Viviane using the doll to lead them toward Heinricus. She worried with it like a young girl, holding fast to it to protect her from nightmares in the dark. Only she was one of those nightmares now.
But when they found Heinricus…his face was a grotesque menagerie of misshapen bone and flesh, leathery wings had sprouted from his back with spikes. And his jaw was horribly elongated and curved like a great beak. He was in terrible agony, but it didn’t come out as a scream, no, but in a series of guttural, primal growls. Some would say it was not possible, but Krasburg’s King was wholly without the faculty of speech. His eyes alone seemed untouched, ice-blue as they had ever been, screaming windows to his mind. His brethren steeled themselves, nearly descending into frenzy then and there.
Viviane held the doll of Heinricus in her hands, looking between it and the thing in the cage. She shoved the doll back into her coat. The blood they shared shrieked inside of her like an angry tea kettle on the stove. She shook in animal rage and struggled to push it back until she could use it on Etrius. Viviane choked down the feral thing inside of her. It went down as hard as Etrius’ blood had.
Zosime looked at Heinricus, her hand tightening subconsciously on the hilt of her broadsword. She remained frozen as ever, though her hand had dug deeply and painfully into the gild-work of the hilt. There was no outward indication she noticed or felt anything. For her face remained without the slightest line or crease. She took a step closer, still, but seemed to be peering into Heinricus’ eyes.
Marcel waited for the rage to overtake him…but no. His mind stood silent for want of belief. For the first time since he’d laid eyes on a thousand hoard of Baali. Marcel’s beast even calmed, as a child looking upon a dead parent, unable to truly comprehend, put the pain into bile. Marcel thought only on his promise. Was it less cruel to return to Katerina with ash and flowers? Let a tale of greatness be finished and honored and aspired to by cruel Ventrue whelps? He wondered if Viviane felt the coldness pouring out toward his limbs, his blood, as he thought, “You wanted this, didn’t you?”
Viviane looked at Heinricus’ eyes, and then looked right above those eyes as she had done many a night, boiling in contempt over his crimes, his diablerie of the Salubri. And she found this all fitting…But he had tried to save her in Ceoris, and she would try to do the same here. The bloody eye of Saulot, the mark of Heinricus’ odious sin, was still there on his misshapen head. It followed then that Saulot may be able to save Heinricus. But…would he?
Viviane struggled with her brethren to release Heinricus’ twisted form from the thaumaturgically-sealed cage.
Etrius lumbered around the side of the cage, knocking on the metal with a cane, watching Heinricus cower. He turned and admired his captured King, adjusting his dick.
Viviane: No…It is nothing, low, base. For such a big man, you are such a small evil.
Only Zosime’s irises moved to track Etrius’ movements, eyes that were quite dead despite their peridot shade. She said in a voice of dispassionate stone…
Zosime: I will find no difficulty in purging you along with it.
Marcel turned his eyes to the mage, the focus returning, the blood running again. The hate found form again. And unlife made sense once more.
Viviane: You stink of treachery and gluttony.
Etrius grinned in a fat, jowly smile, and softly said…
Etrius: Shut up, whore.
Viviane: Whores are company too pure for you. There is honor in what they do.
Etrius: Ah. Do you find yourself so honorable then? Tell me. Do you still feel me inside you? Do you ache for the cock of Tremere?
Viviane: You bastard!
She lunged forward then, reaching for his throat, the flame in her hand shifting from purple to green.
Etrius: I fucked her!
Zosime: We are aware that you copulated with her against her desire.
Marcel: You’re awfully proud of yourself. How many rituals does it take to fuck one mortal?
Etrius suddenly struck Viviane back with an explosion of magic. And the two clashed in a spray of flames as she met his thaumaturgy with her own; her eyes matching the flames she held in her hands.
Marcel’s fangs grew long with his smile. One of them would be dead soon. The rush never got old.
Viviane: You…I will wrench out your innards and tear you limb from bloody limb for raw materials. And feed them to your pathetic creatures which, like their creator, lack wit in their corpulence.
Etrius took a careful step back, smiling and never raising his voice.
Etrius: I still fucked you, Viviane. I’ll fuck all you before it’s done.
Viviane: You want to fuck someone, Etrius? Fuck yourself!
Her words were biting, rage-filled. They cried from her tongue like a beaten and abused dog suddenly free from its chain.
Etrius: I have made such improvements to your King…You will find the schematics for your own…evolution…quite terrifying.
He suddenly thrust his cane on the floor, sending out a tidal wave of raw magic. It connects with everyone, knocking them off their feet, onto the ground like a punch to the face, including Marcel who was quick, rolling to avoid the wave, but was pulled out of the air.
Etrius goes to the eldest of them, Zosime, to take out the greatest obstacle first. He slammed her head first into the ground, and struck her across the face with the handle of his cane. It burned her like a brand. He jammed it into her fucking head!
Zosime grunted, her fangs locking in agony, diamond hard enamel grinding.
Marcel wondered how long it had been since a physical sensation had brought a vocalization from Zosime.
Viviane spat blood in her rage, a thin crimson thread of it hanging from her jaw, swung wide, cursing him. And as she did so, Etrius felt his ass turn itself inside out. His entrails boiling, snaking a hot and greasy trail out of his orifice, squelching loudly as they went. He tried to pucker his ass to stop the flow, clenching like he was holding in a really watery shit. But they burst through with a wet, agonizing plop. Etrius screamed, grabbing his ass, trying to push his wasted gut back inside his butthole.
A gargoyle swooped in behind Zosime and Marcel and drove its spikes into their shoulders with a sick crack, battering them with its wings, tearing them up to ribbons of blood, and the wounds leaked with putrescence.
Marcel grunted, as he turned to growl at the creature like a dog in a pit.
Zosime hissed, a long and slow thing, like scalding steam escaping from a ruptured pipe.
They had felt the spikes inject something…vile…beneath the skin that seemed to squirm and writhe, bloated maggots falling from their fresh wounds.
Zosime’s thick, potent ancient blood had already begun working on the wound Etrius had dealt, though it had a lot more to heal. But that was not enough to stop her just yet. Her fangs were locked in a grimace of pain, as she tried to focus her mind, her blood. She focused to separate the thin folds on time, but to no avail. She was simply too weak and being consumed by this pestilence.
Etrius healed himself internally and then raised his hands and screamed his piggy laugh.
Etrius: Feel the sickness of hell! You set pestilence in my streets…Now feel it germinate in your blood, sour your flesh!
He lifted his cane over his head and pulled. It grew into a magnificent spear.
Etrius: Shamma Lamma Ding Dongus!
With Zosime overcome with the rot, it fell to Marcel to act, things rutting beneath his skin, spawning themselves. He pulled away from the gargoyle only to hear a sickening wet crack in his shoulder. Marcel howled as the thing made a high-pitched screech that could only be laughter.
Viviane’s jaw clicked back and forth as she ground her teeth together, feeling the agony of her brethren.
Viviane: You dishonor our House with your pathetic thaumaturgy.
Marcel croaks softly under his breath…
Marcel: It’s actually quite effective. * cough *
Etrius raises his spear as lightning strikes it! He whirled on Viviane and shouted…
Etrius: There can be only one! One House! My house! And you are no Tremere!
Viviane: Neither are you…apostate. You are filth, a scullion of the lowest order.
Zosime remained still, in a tight ball, focusing extra effort on healing, to beat back the maggots that consumed her from within.
Etrius suddenly swept the spear at her, and when she moved, to the right, he feinted and drove it through her shoulder, skewering her white flesh, like he had with his prick. He lifted her from the ground and seized her hair and brought her forward, horribly on the shunt.
Etrius: Yess…slowly now…come to me Viviane Morgause.
But…it was always dangerous to shed so much blood of a blood mage. And so her blood gushed over the length of what pierced her, violated her. She would not be the prey of another thing in the dark. And when the spear was good and soaked with her blood, it exploded into three pieces which flew upwards, two catching Etrius in the chest, and one catching him between the eyes where the third eye of a Salubri would be. Etrius howled, and threw his hands up, trying to wrench the pieces away with his free hand.
Viviane fell to the ground, wincing as she grasped her torn shoulder, and pushed her fingers into her own blood, chanting in a fog of Latin, which ended with two clearly intonated names, “Marcel” and “Zosime.” Then she flicked her syrupy ancient blood toward them, like a priest at a baptism, catching them in the faces. And the two of them rallied, regaining their strength temporarily, though they still crawled with pestilence.
Zosime stood in one movement and began advancing on him like some nightmarish mechanical doll, as things writhed beneath her putrefying white flesh. Her dead, glassy eyes focused on Etrius, as she rapidly closed the gap between them. In another economical movement, she seized the sides of Etrius’ head hard, bearing down on it like a vice, as both thumbs sank themselves deep into the jelly of his eyes, pushing them inwards with a tremendous force of pressure.
Etrius squealed like the hog-headed heifer he was!
In another movement, Zosime wrenched Etrius’ head painfully backwards, as her own mouth opened and she vomited a host of the maggot creatures into his own screaming, blinded maw.
Etrius thrashes trying to will blood to his ruined eyes and throw this automaton whore off him!
Viviane sputtered with contempt, as she winced and grabbed her ravaged shoulder.
Viviane: Die, Etrius, die like the bastard scum you are. Die and know you are less than nothing.
Zosime continued to deposit streams of bloodied, white insects into him, purging her own body of the sickness as best as she could while infecting his.
Etrius staggered backwards, hacking vermin and sweeping a hand over the gore of his face. His eyes began to reform, sinew and muscle creeping into place like a bloodied spider’s web.
Marcel kneels down as Viviane’s words and Etrius’ cries raised the hackles of the beast. He exploded upwards, a low scream behind him as bloodied wings fly across the chamber.
Etrius swings wildly with his spear!
Etrius: I’ll suck your cock, boy!
He lands on his feet, winking to Zosime as he approaches Etrius. He sees the old mage trying to catch his wits, murmur a poisoned word. Marcel flies at him as a blur, knocking him back to the ground, his hands fast, but his foot slow as it descends to the dirt over Etrius’ testicles. The wet crack and squash sounds, and the creature screams.
Marcel reaches into the old mage’s mouth, grips, flicks as through a whip and raises his bloodied jaw above his head. He spits on the old thing and looks to Viviane, as Etrius’ fat hands reach stupidly for his jowls.
Viviane grabbed one of the shunt pieces of the broken spear as it flew through the air into her hands. It was still far longer than Etrius’ cock. But the memory of that would endure far longer than the wood in her hand.
Etrius’ half of a face struggled to rebuild itself, blood and flesh dripping from his mouth hole like hot candle wax. He fell to his knees, one eye fully reformed, and it glazed with the threat of torpor.
Viviane leaped onto him, her face inches from his own, making sure he could see it, as
she straddled his thick hips, his body like wiggling jelly beneath her.
He reached for her in vain. Was it a plea, or did he merely wish to defile her a final time?
Etrius’ eyes rolled to her, cow-like, looking dumbly for reprieve, his children…anyone to save their odious father.
She rammed the broken spear into his chest, grinding it in. He would know what it was like to be helpless, as he was violated and torn to death.
He seized, and thick vitae bubbled from the cavity of his neck, then went still, inert, as the wood pierced clean through his heart.
Viviane: Fail, because that is your fate…Die ingloriously, Etrius.
She sat astride him, knowing some part of him remained conscious, despite being paralyzed. She could feel him trying to regain control of his blood, wrest it from her control. But she tore it from him, his blood, the blood he held more dear than a maid with her virtue, stolen Salubri blood, her sire’s blood. His blood began to boil beneath the skin, bursting through the thin membrane, percolating from his flesh in explosive fissures.
Etrius began to melt, flesh pocking into black knots, and he slowly fell to dust. He didn’t scream, couldn’t scream now. He was merely frozen beneath her as his flesh boiled and then blackened slowly. He exploded into ash and a thousand insects, worms, roaches, spiders, centipedes. She didn’t flinch above him, instinctively didn’t fear their virulence. She was filled with it already. She was apostate. She feared that more.
Viviane stood up, covered in ash and wet with Etrius’ blood, insects plopping from her, and yet something about her seemed to settle with his death, something eased, as she looked from Marcel to Zosime.
And so it was done, the First Among Equals, Etrius, had earned an above equal death.
The three of them fought and killed the plague-ridden gargoyle together, so it could not spread its disease.
But they were all struck by maladies. Now it remained to get to Tremere, to Saulot, before it was too late.
The Inner Sanctum was deserted. It was silent as moonlight at the hour death. A diffuse of violet thaumaturgical flame beamed through the pillared corridor, creating a pattern in the ethereal light of a pyramid whose apex was a brass sarcophagus engraved with the founding of Ceoris and the symbols of Clan Tremere.
Viviane Morgause stood still as a beggar at the gate of greatness, beaten of body, beaten of blood, beaten of mind, beaten of soul, beaten of spirit, and yet…she would not give up, not surrender to the belly of the whale and be digested, not wrap the cloak of the abyss of her mind around her and let it drown her, not let the poison in her blood win.
Etrius was dead.
And she and her brethren would not join him. She stepped forward hurriedly. Then stopped again all at once. Her face grew wild in horror as fast as kudzu in a hothouse.
Three distinct ash piles surrounded her. Her eyes snapped to them again and again…grieving, raging, reviling.
They were her brethren…the last of the Tertia Oculus was dead, save her.
And her blood boiled with putrescent filth.
Etrius’ gold chain was still there in the ashes. The bloodstone smashed open, smelling of something sickly, awful, smelling of death. Etrius had made one last fatal move. He foresaw his necklace would be the target of theft, given that he claimed for many years it was a gift of blood from Tremere himself.
So he ensured those who took it would die if they tried to use its power. And so he had killed his own childe, Astrid Thomas, and the other two members of the Third Eye, Phalonius Rothschild and Carlotta Deneuve.
But Viviane, she was culpable too, and that twisted like a talon of ice in her blood. It was she who told the Third Eye to keep Etrius’ necklace, to come to this Inner Sanctum, to try to wake Tremere.
Viviane had so much blood on her hands, had seen enough vampire dust to rival a blizzard, and the steps that had brought her here were cobbled with corpses with her blood curse and wish to purify to purify the Tremere to save them, save the Salubri.
But she would not give up…or give in to this despair.
Tremere still lived.
Salubri still lived, and so did her brethren of the Ordo.
She closed in on the sarcophagus, the brass catching the light, gleaming, like a lighthouse, beckoning her to the safety of its shore. She dug her fangs into the soft flesh of her wrist, and let the blood flow onto a small hole hidden in the design of the engraving, hoping it was not too polluted to awaken her slumbering sire.
She cleared her head, and she spoke a long and involved series of rituals, calling upon names known and those all but lost save to the Tremere.
And she ended it with the words of the fallen Third Eye, realizing that perhaps, she would be the last to speak it.
Viviane: Amat victoria curam… (Victory loves diligence.)
A loud series of clicks sounded. The lid of the sarcophagus groaned as it slid open with a rattle.
It was empty!
Utterly and completely empty, like an uninhabited shell, a bird’s nest in blizzard in December.
It was empty as a broken heart…her broken heart.
Empty, except for a rotten apple, word-ridden, crawling with pestilence, the mark of She, the Unnamed resting like a piece of old, hard candy inside. Viviane snatched it up, clutching it in her hands like the mark of her own damnation. She howled into the abyss of the empty coffin before her.
She staggered backwards.
This was ruin!
Tremere…Saulot was not even there.
How could it be, the scrying had shown him, shown his light, all around. How could it be?!
Viviane Morgause fell to her knees before Tremere’s ornate sarcophagus, as if she had been stabbed with the fatal blow of a sword. Her eyes and hands rolled with verdant green flame.
There would be no healing, no reprieve. For her, for Heinricus, for anyone else.
It was too late.
Viviane: I am a Salubri. And if death is only cure, I’ll heal myself, and…heal the Ordo.
She began to close her fist around the fetid fruit in her hand, but then stopped. The withered skin of the apple, began to redden and smooth. The holes and rotten cracks where the worms squirmed through the desiccating fruit vanished. Leaves on the stem began to grow and unfurl like flags. And within moments the apple was red, succulent and smelling of the sun, as if it had just been plucked from a tree.
Viviane Morgause turned then, and squinted immediately, as a growing white light emanated from behind her. She saw through it as it dimmed, the rest of the Ordo standing behind her now…and one other…
He wore Tremere’s skin and yet was wholly unlike him. A serenity emanated from him that Viviane immediately recognized. She had felt the night she took her last mortal breath, the night her heart had stopped in the Anatolian Desert a thousand years ago.
It was Saulot.
He had been holding Heinricus in his arms, third-eye shining down, doing the unheard of, the unfathomable, healing Krasburg’s King.
Heinricus seemed himself again, no longer blighted by irreversible gargoylism. No one had ever come back from such a transformation. Saulot ran a thumb over Heinricus’ forehead, where the bloody red eye that marked him as a special kind of diablolist, a traitor to the Salubi, had been pressed as the wound of his soul made visible for all time. And the eye came into view, before washing away like blood carried away in a cleansing rain, leaving Heinricus’ forehead clean, leaving it smooth. Viviane marveled at the ease of his forgiveness.
But then Heinricus would have to bear the weight of his evil for eternity. Was it not enough?
Saulot gently placed Heinricus in Marcel’s arms as if the little king were a breakable, fragile little porcelain doll of a soldier.
Saulot stepped forward and plucked the ripe apple from Viviane’s hand, some inscrutable expression of recognition crossed his face.
Saulot: Personally, I’ve always preferred figs…
[Saulot heals everyone.]
Viviane: The Order of the Venerable Dead…
Viviane: It is said that the torch was started there in Rome….
Aetius and Vestia take each other’s hands, fierce loyalty, fierce determination, and a fierce unselfish love shared between them in the smallest gesture as hand clasps around hand. Vitae swirls from their joined hands, spreading from them to every member of the Ordo in chain of crimson.
Aetius: No greater love hath a kindred than to fight for another, to lay down one’s life for another.
Vestia: Not for millions, not for glory, not for fame. For one person, for a love beyond oneself, for loyalty.
Viviane: And since Rome….
Viviane: We are the keepers of its embers down through history, each lighting another in perpetuity.
A vaulderie cup filled with lifeblood, with vitae, passed from hand to hand over time, hands of those who had served the Order, many of them passing into death.
From hand to hand it went until it reached Mason Land, the Medicus.
Mason: This is what it should be. We all represent a piece of humanity. And to be redeemed…
Mason: We must know it all…
Mason: Not just the pretty parts of love, honor, dedication, and joy. Everything.
Mason: Darkness, desire, hatred, jealousy. Every facet of humanity. To represent the humanity we lost.
Mason: We need it all, not just one singular thing, but the whole of it.
Mason, a frontlines field medic in war, scurrying from gunfire. A man who would not leave the plagued homeless in the New York slums, even when his hospital evacuated during the Baali crisis. A young kindred, a Salubri, with dangerously potent blood who braved discovery by the Tremere in Vienna to cure the plague and battle with death itself to save the causalities inflicted, while Tsuka, a loyal and honorable brother of the Eastern Order, guarded Mason vigilantly.
Viviane: Since our beginning, we have stood above kings, alone, with the exception of each other.
Heinricus stands there, isolated by his own thoughts, his own substantial mental fortifications, which kept him from harm, but kept him from the world, kept him isolated, brooding even now over the machinations of his kingdom, while something deeper, an animal he calls beast, which is also his humanity, raged for all eternity.
Viviane: But while we may stand above kings, above kindred…we….do not stand alone.
Delphine stood beside Heinricus, speaking about the past with a kind of sad conviction and reverie, of the Great Flood, of Veddartha, Saulot, even Caine, of everyday miracles found in a child’s laugh. Her voice would remain with him.
Heinricus held Delphine fast in the putrid bowels of New York, in that cold and empty hall flooded with green light, empty of reason and hope, Nergal threatening to devour inside out. He would not lose another sister.
Heinricus: Have you forgotten already? It doesn’t matter how much we struggle. God will always be there.
Delphine: Darkness cannot banish darkness. Only light can do that.
Viviane: Kindred, they are the pillar of blood on which we stand, a pyramid, a weave of connected blood.
In Egypt, Zosime raged, and dove for the legendary Thetmes, the sire of her Assamite brother, Aaryan.
Thetmes, the murderer, the devourer of her Setite sister, Kiya. Thetmes still had flecks of viscera from Kiya’s heart on his gluttonous lips. And he was overcome in his stolen rapture, arms outstretched to the heavens like an opium addict.
Zosime had never been able to feel too much one way or another since the nights soon after her embrace when her True Brujah blood had settled. But this night her blood burned deep down and called for her to avenge her fallen sister. She tore into Thetmes’ neck like a lion ravaging the exposed artery of a zebra, and drank until she drained his heart’s blood for…loyalty.
Viviane: And we reach for something beyond the vulgarities of our cursed blood.
Malkav and Saulot shared a long, knowing look, before she surprisingly curled herself into the crook of his arm.
Tonight, she remembered.
Malkav’s fair hair peeked out from beneath her veil, beggar’s rags hanging from her body. She leaned over her mortal father’s lap, as he sat on the stoop of their squalid home. He stank of hounds. His hands were withered and old, and he was unable to find words for her. He simply patted her head as a flood of bloody tears cut a path down her cheeks, enough to drown in as she railed…
Malkav: I came to see, father! I came to warn him! And you will not move me!
She looked up pleadingly into eyes that were not her father’s, but Saulot’s. Time had passed, but her mind was lost in the madness and grief of a distant night, inconsolable and lost. She was living death that could not truly die. A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption.
Saulot: You need not move. I will stay with you. I will walk with you.
She reached up to Saulot with her eyes, eyes red with tears, broken blood vessels, face weighted by horrible burden. A burden too great for even her, which he lifted from her for now. The unending, unbearable fogged torment of her mind cleared at last as he softly wiped the wetness from her face. For a brother loveth at all times, and was more than something born of shared flesh, shared blood, or shared adversity.
Viviane: And so we cannot die, the flame cannot snuff out to nothingness.
Sphinx stood beside Marcel, looking as he did in that final moment when he tricked Lykenia, embraced Ra, and bathed hundreds of Baali in divine light which swept over them like an ocean while Marcel and Delphine embraced untouched by the flood.
Viviane: We are eternal.
Marcel thought he could smell the streets of New Orleans, hear the music of a sax player, Darrell Gentlee, who hadn’t died on the street but made it to that club, the Cellar. Marcel saw Delphine dancing with a homeless couple, who had lost everything but love and a bit of kindness, in front of the statue of Jackson. She was enraptured by the simple joy of these people, and she danced 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 beamed 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.
Viviane: As long as there are kindred, there will be an Order, a sword to pierce the crown.
Death, there had been too much death for Marcel and it had caught up with him in the basement of a ramshackle house in Krasburg. Blyte, Sphinx, Delphine, Lily, and neigh near the rest of the Heathens. And now, Domino had chosen the Baali; Victor had abandoned him. The only thing darker than torpor itself was despair, and it had nearly dragged him down to death too, settling instead, for now, for that lesser, false death of torpor.
False death, it was like the con man himself, which always looked like the imposter it was sooner or later when realty was stacked beside it.
But then when oblivion stretched out to embrace him, those false arms of death, or torpor, they fell away like mist, and Marcel had felt another set of arms wrap around him, Viviane’s arms, the spill of her cool elder vitae gushing past his parted lips. She was blood like wine. And she was laughter, life itself, a story in his arms that loved him and which loved her back.
They were two mirrors of scorching desire stacked against the other, furnaces imprisoned in undead flesh, simmering through ice, despair. A candle of warmth in a cold chasm of eternity. And she had pulled him back from the precipice of death, one button at a time, until their bodies were merged, like the mingled vitae of the vaulderie.
Viviane: There is in every undead heart, a living spark of divine fire, which lies dormant in the ceaseless and exhausting grind of perpetual existence, but which kindles up, blazing in the dark hour of adversity.
In a cell beneath Krasburg Castle, Viviane sat across from Veddartha himself, the consummate soldier, trapped in the skin of Argelle, like a warrior wearing too small of a breastplate. And Viviane…boldly denied helping him in diablerizing another, a freedom he greatly desired. Veddartha had grinned horribly in a way that seemed to shred the thin veneer of Argelle’s facade.
There it had been, honor, in the most unlikely of creatures, a Tremere.
Veddartha: “See that my grandchilde makes a special effort to preserve you. Rare creature that you are…should not wither in the sun.”
She knew Veddartha had been in the Ordo once, and hoped to kindle that spark again. Viviane pledged herself to healing the Ordo after the ravages and loses in New York and refocus their study of Golconda and, in doing so, lessen the curse of Caine.
And one distant night, perhaps, very far from now, but one night, perhaps the grandchilder of Caine…could finally find slumber of death in truth.
Veddartha: I’ll join you in Judgment, Viviane Morgause. At the end of the world.
Viviane: We are the Order of the Venerable Dead.
Viviane: And we do not stand alone.
– VIDEOS –