Brother’s Keeper (Gaem Summary)

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    Chase
    Participant

    Brother’s’ Keeper

    Part 1 – Ashes

     

    Fear.

    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.

    “Marcel?”

    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.”

    “The worst.”

    “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.”

    “Nuh Noooooo:

    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.

    “That’s me.”

    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.”

    “What battles?”

    “We call them the Baali.”

    “Bali?”

    “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.”

    “Order?”

    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.

     

    – VIDEOS –

    Brother’s Keeper
    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3

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