Friday, 28 December 2018

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Eleven - The Pasadena Problem (Part Six)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Having made a few allies unsuspecting of their greater goal they have decided that in order to gain influence they need to acquire a barony of their own.
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The now obligatory warning bit - Unlike my other RPG write-ups this one will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. If you can't tell the difference between real peoples opinions and grown-ups role-playing predators who crave blood then this probably won't be for you. I've also used actual photographs to represent some characters which I'll give acknowledgements to at the end if I've any idea who they are.
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The introduction to this campaign, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order...
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThreeFour
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part Five

The Storyteller
Garreth as Everyone else...
The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Dave as Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah
Work commitments meant we were a kindred down this session...
Unexpectedly an NPC
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested.
As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red...

Introduction
With the ghoul mages of Marius refusing to assist the coterie in dealing with the necromantic defences of the Pasadena Baron Edward they have been forced to once again deal with the vampiric cannibal Pisha much to the chagrin of the coteries Malkavian seer 'Roach'. Her price was as expected one of both flesh and blood which has in turn put the Toreador Michael even further into debt with the Autarkis 'Fixer' Marius.

Storytellers Note - The Banu Haqim's player turned up a bit early in order to enact a couple of solo plans that he wanted to implement so the others didn't have to sit around while he did solo stuff. Therefore we'll be starting this write-up with not one but two interludes before the actual first scene of the session...

Interlude Four - An Intervention
Marius Walker - Autarkis Gangrel
'The Fixer'
The Banu Haqim Doctor Daniel Matthews has always had a somewhat unusual relationship with the Gangrel Marius more based on their usefulness to one another than the usual back and forth trade of boons that often defines cooperation between kindred.

Marius for his part has provided the doctor with a Haven, documents to enable him to once again rejoin the world in his previous career as a surgeon and has protected the knowledge of his whereabouts from the sire who has been relentless in the pursuit of his childe for many years.

In return the doctor has given the Gangrel the benefit of his skills both as a medical man when necessary to assist those mortals in his service who require mundane help and also has used his training as an assassin to remove the occasional impediment to the plans of his patron.

Though nothing near to what a mortal would call a friendship Daniel does consider their interactions to be mutually beneficial enough for him to be able to sometimes ask for a favour outside of their normal dealings and it is with this in mind he has contacted him directly.

Victoria Anne - Ghoul PA
Marius's Senior Retainer
"What can I do for you doctor? I presume it's important or you wish to bypass Victoria as you've chosen to contact me directly?" Daniel started with some pleasantries before working his way around to the somewhat delicate subject of his fellow kindred Michael's earlier negotiations with the aforementioned Victoria. "I believe that Michael's guilt over manipulating two of his own coterie put him in somewhat of a self sacrificing mood and he agreed far too high a price for the help he required" before relaying the exact particulars of the deal and his hope that he could offer something himself in order to lower the Toreadors commitments somewhat.

For his efforts he got only a simple "I'll bear it in mind..." from Marius but in his opinion it was about the best he could do under the circumstances.

Interlude Five - Shadowing Henry
With his phone-call to Marius concluded and somewhat relieved that he hadn't been referred back to Victoria who would no doubt have reacted to being undermined quite poorly, Daniel moved onto his second plan of the evening which was to shadow Henry Waters in order to see if he'd lead him to the 'mundane spies' mentioned by the entity who had spoken to him outside the Vignes mansion. Parking off the road he waited to see if the Vignes retainer left the house and after about an hour of waiting he saw the Ventrue drive past and decided to follow him at a discrete distance.

Los Angeles - Angeles National Forest
Henry was obviously not going into any significantly populated area as he drove north towards the mountains taking increasingly winding and out of the way tracks and side-roads. The less populated and used the roads became the further distance Daniel was forced to stay behind and eventually he lost him. Not willing to give up yet, he back-tracked and checked several side-roads until he found one that seemed to have been travelled along within the last hour or so and without any other clues drove along it.

He soon found Henry's car parked along one side of what was basically a dirt track and drove past it to find somewhere to conceal his own vehicle before retracing his steps and seeing what tracks he could find. His military training came in useful as long un-used skills from basic training were recalled and he followed the trail left by Henry along a winding trail into the rocky lower parts of the mountains. Fortunately for the doctor, neither stealth nor the ability to cover his tracks were apparently skills that Vera's lover possessed.

'Alonzo' - Nosferatu
Eventually he reached a cave that was concealed from the trail via an overhanging ledge and an old collapsed section of cliff-face. After checking for traps or electronic observation devices he ventured within. The gravel and stone strewn floor, darkness and unfamiliar terrain made progress slow and the Banu Haqim almost gave himself away several times as he gradually worked his way through the treacherous tunnel towards two voices he could now hear in the depths.

After passing several apparently empty areas to each side he made his way deeper and could now hear the voices more clearly. Concealed by his own discipline of Obfuscate, Daniel moved even closer where he could see Henry Waters and possibly the ugliest Nosferatu he'd ever encountered or even heard of having a discussion about vampiric disciplines. He was emaciated, with a practically skeletal face and huge fangs and more or less represented every child's picture of the boogie man. Specifically the Ventrue seemed to be attempting to persuade the Nosferatu to teach him his powers of concealment which given what he was plotting seemed like a pretty good idea to Daniel.

From the tone of the conversation it seemed to Daniel that they were at the very least very familiar with one another and possibly even friends. As the Nosferatu agreed to pass on his knowledge, Henry began to speak "Thank you Alonzo, I'll..." when the Nosferatu suddenly stopped and turned in the direction that the doctor had concealed himself. "Quiet Henry...I think there's something there..." He said and began to move towards the Banu Haqim's hiding place. Not wishing a confrontation Daniel utilised his powers of speed and retreated back the way he'd came.

Though the plan to find Edwards spies had failed he had at least learned something of interest.

Scene Seventeen - Some Actual Planning
Abandoned Hospital - Pisha's Haven
Daniel drove to the galley where he was due to meet the coterie to discuss there next move based on the new knowledge they'd gained over the previous few days. Michael and Vin were waiting for him in the galleries meeting room though Roach was nowhere to be seen. Michael explained that their Malkavian ally was occasionally prone to erratic changes of mood and hadn't in his opinion fully recovered from the trauma he'd suffered when visiting the wraith infested halls of the abandoned hospital that Pisha called home.

Before they started Daniel admitted that during his meeting with Edward he'd claimed to be clan Brujah rather than being of the Banu Haqim in order to avoid making the baron suspicious due to his actual clans perhaps deserved reputation as assassins and diablerists. A "Really?" from Vin was the only real reaction he got which at least meant he was paying attention which was fortunate as if any-one was likely to accidentally reveal the deception it was probably him.

Henry Waters - Vignes Retainer
While he had their attention he also mentioned that he'd followed Henry. "Our ally Henry?" Michael queried with some genuine irritation. "Why?". Daniel gave his reason as an attempt to see if he led him to Edward Vignes's spies and also that he couldn't rule out that Henry had his own agenda. Vin agreed that this seemed like a sensible precaution as double crosses, concealed motives and outright betrayal weren't exactly uncommon amongst kindred and there's was a scheme with considerable risk attached. Michael who saw himself as an excellent judge of people and highly rated his own empathetic abilities disagreed as he could feel the genuine love that Vera and Henry felt for one another and believed their motives to be pure.

Nonetheless Daniel explained that his quarry had met a Nosferatu in the hilly regions near the Angeles National Forest who he seemed to be friends with and that they had been discussing the Nosferatu teaching disciplines of concealment to the Ventrue retainer. Though him having an acquaintance wasn't exactly damning it was however a piece of information he'd kept to himself and friendships between Nosferatu and Ventrue weren't particularly common either unless there was some mutual benefit. Michael continued with his assertion that Henry and Vera could be trusted but Daniel and Vin both advised caution. As Vin pointed out, priorities could change though the Brujah didn't really trust any-one.

In light of the trust issues Vin and Daniel had raised they suggested that when they eventually moved on Edward that Vera and Henry should be as far away as possible. Michael had already considered this and had arranged a signal to inform them to leave the mansion so they wouldn't be collateral damage in any confrontation with the baron. With these issues dealt with they began to discuss exactly what they already knew about the fetters binding the Vignes entity and where they may be hidden.

It had occurred to Michael that though he hadn't paid much attention before as it wasn't something that would particularly draw his notice that one of Edwards rings was very much unlike the rest of the expensive but tasteful jewellery he wore. It was a ring in the shape of a crown with inlaid black gems that didn't seem to quite match. It was also the only piece of jewellery that he fiddled with.

Daniel was also now sure that the extension on the side of the Vignes mansion was of importance. Some old plans he'd obtained seemed to indicate a cellar entrance but this was now covered by the new extension. It also was the only area he or Vin had observed so far within the mansion and grounds that actually had anything approaching decent security. The final aspect of it that aroused his suspicion was that Edwards personal office seemed to lead into this expansion and it would make sense that he'd want personal access to something so important to his security.

Their planning session was interrupted by the ringing of Michael's phone.

Scene Eighteen - The Blood of Edward
The call was from an elated sounding Henry. "It wasn't easy but I saved a little of the blood you wanted, it's soaked into a handkerchief but it's the best I can do." Michael told Henry that he'd be over to collect it as soon as possible and that he'd be using the excuse that he needed to make some modifications to the preliminary sketches he'd made.

Vin and Daniel both decided to accompany Michael as they had established identities as his bodyguard and chauffeur respectively so their presence would be relatively unquestioned. It also meant that with the potential for danger growing that they'd be available to defend him if necessary though based on how Daniel had described his previous encounter they were both doubtful about what difference they could actually make if it came to violence. Daniel also wished to attempt to make contact with the entity again though the Toreador advised caution as they were still unaware of the specifics of the ritual that bound it making it's reactions unpredictable at best.

Marcus
Blood-bound Servant
On their arrival the Brujah Vin carried Michael's less delicate painting equipment into the home where the upstairs drawing room had once again been prepared for their use. Daniel meanwhile drove a short distance away given the impression that he'd left and would return later so he could sneak back into the grounds and do some recon.

The artist and his hulking bodyguard were informed that Edward was currently out but that Vera was available for whatever artistic modifications he required. Vin noticed that two of the servants seemed to be paying quit close attention to the conversation and Michael also noted that Henry had made a point of spelling out their reasons for being at the home in front of these two in particular. Once out of sight of these potential spies the bloody handkerchief which was now contained in what looked to Michael like a freezer storage bag was handed over. Vin double-checked the corridor to ensure they were quite alone so the Toreador could make some enquiries of the two plotting lovers, Vera and Henry.

Belinda
Blood-bound Servant
On the subject of the 'mundane' spies spoke of to Daniel by the imprisoned spirit it was Henry's opinion that it probably meant Marcus Smith who was the head of the mortal members of the household and dealt with all tasks not given to Henry and Belinda who was the only mortal member of the staff permitted to clean Edwards office and rooms. Both were blood bound so were incredibly loyal to the baron and if any-one was spying on visitors it would be them. Michael made a mental note to inform Daniel that he now knew who the spies were so he wouldn't go off spying on their allies again.

When asked about their plans for leaving Los Angeles, Henry confessed that their options were somewhat limited by what resources he could get access to without Baron Vignes noticing and that Vera was adamant that she wouldn't return to Boston which was inconvenient as the family had several holdings there he could have easily utilised. He also discovered that as they had suspected the extension had been built over an old cellar entrance and that the whole household including himself and Vera were forbidden to venture within.

The Banu Haqim meanwhile had stealthily made his way back to the mansion and as quietly as possibly attempted to engage the spirit in conversation but effectively just wasted an hour talking to himself in the mansions grounds. Somewhat dejected he returned to the car and then drove back to the mansion to pick up his passengers who he hoped had had a more productive visit.

As the three were currently without Roach they decided to waste no time in visiting the mysterious but surprisingly helpful cannibal from the hospital basement from whom their information on Necromancy had been forthcoming as they now had the final item she'd requested. Now more than familiar with the process of using her maps to navigate the trap and wraith filled mine-field that was her domain within the hospital they made their way once more to her basement haven.

Scene Nineteen - Blood In, Blood Out
You can't help but notice that the Nagaraja's improvised food preparation area is devoid of bodies and her blender is also empty of fluid instead having several quite fresh looking internal organs within. As you enter her office area she emerges from the shattered wall area beyond where she previously fetched her books from and is covered in (even for her) a significant amount of blood. "You have the final item or do you need more advice?"

Michael handed over the bloody handkerchief and apologised for the form in which it had been provided. The necromancer removed the item from the plastic bag and ran her finger along the bloody section with her eyes closed and then licked the tip before her eyes flicked open suddenly. "This will be more than sufficient. It contains exactly the resonances I require to create your talisman" She paused for a moment as if savouring the taste "Most of the work has been completed, you may wait the half an hour or so I require to complete the final ritual or return later? and while I remember, please tell Marius that his tribute was satisfactory." Seeing little point in leaving only to return they elected to stay. Daniel perused the various books on her shelves but refrained from opening any hoping to find some shared area of interest in order to ingratiate himself with the Nagaraja or at the very least to see if there was anything along the lines of a gift he could bring her. Michael sat patiently and waited while Vin kept guard, though more out of habit than anything.

Sooner than she had predicted Pisha returns holding a pouch of pale leather held together by rough stitches which she then tosses onto the desk. "The talisman within that pouch will resonate with the aura of the house and whatever fetter Edward carries and draw you towards it. It will amplify the resonance of whatever bindings he is using enough for you to 'see' them even if shielded by the most potent of wards" The pouch contains a blood coloured crystal in a silver mount on a fine chain. "If the Malkavian wears it I'd warn him to avoid forcing any premonitions that focus on the fetters or their potential locations. I'd imagine the compound effects of the processes would be unpleasant...perhaps permanently so...

"Return to me with knowledge of the exact forms these fetters take and I shall formulate a way of countering them so you may destroy Edward Vignes by whatever mundane methods you favour" "I would advise against a direct confrontation until you have done so, however" She then stopped and stared directly at Michael "You have more questions I see. Make them brief, I have some new toys and reading material courtesy of Marius and his delightful assistant Victoria that I intend to enjoy as soon as you leave."

Pisha - Nagaraja Necromancer
Not wishing to linger longer than necessary Michael got straight to the point and voiced his belief that this entity had some connection to the Vignes families escape from Boston and wandered if she knew of any-one in that area with the knowledge to accomplish the necromantic ritual they were attempting to undo. Pisha did recall a blood sorcerer of some power just outside Boston at that time but knew her only by reputation not by name. She did however recall that she was known for being particularly malicious and even by the standards of necromantic blood witches as some-one to avoid crossing.

Seeing their host was growing impatient he quickly enquired about the possibility discussed previously about the entities host being a living creature when enslaved and exactly what difference that would make when it was released. Pisha, usually quite direct seemed a bit vague in her reply which seemed to boil down to "It depends on many things". As it was obvious no further information was forthcoming he turned to leave and was somewhat surprised when Vin interrupted with a question of his own.

"What's in the corner of the hospital? The one we never seem to be sent through with one of your maps..." he took the fact that he got no reply as leave to continue "...we've been through this place a few times now and a few of the paths have crossed but we never go through that corner at all." Pisha claimed that the area of which he was speaking was far too run down and treacherous to send visitors through but Vin seemed dubious about the honesty of the answer.

Definitely an Acquired Taste...
Michael however was reasonably sure she was lying but decided given the circumstances not to press her on the matter and so they left.

Storytellers Note - Due to fortunate rouse tests over the last few days none of the coterie were actually very hungry from a rules mechanics point of view but I decided that as they hadn't eaten for three nights that they had to go and feed before they retired for the day.

Daniel who was quite capable of surviving on the bagged blood which he purloined from the various hospitals he worked out offered some to the others but of the two it was only palatable to Vin.

The Brujah accepted the offer and after they had dropped the Toreador off at Venus's 'Club Confession' journeyed to the Banu Haqim's pleasant studio flat to partake of a tasteless but easy meal of fractionated blood.

Michael decided that as he'd had a few difficult days that he'd reward himself with something special this evening rather than arbitrarily selecting a partner of convenience and selected for himself a young lady who was in his opinion the most attractive of those available in the club this evening.

He made a brief detour to indicate to Venus that he'd need one of the upstairs rooms and went into mysterious artist mode. With a moderate application of disciplines combined with stunning good looks and a practised routine the pretty young thing didn't really stand a chance.

Storytellers Note - To be honest the way the dice were going for him he could probably have succeeded without disciplines but with them it was a spectacular bit of seduction feeding by any-ones standards, lol.


Scene Twenty - A Private Exhibition (Part One)
With the talisman now in their possession all that remained in this part of their scheme was to find a way of separating Edward from the mansion in order to enable them to use the arcane item to find the exact location of the wraith's prison and also to confirm that the ring was indeed the fetter that he used to guide the spirit.

Storytellers Note - The following plan had genuinely never occurred to me as a possibility so the whole next scene had to be pretty much pulled out of my arse as they went along.

After a few ideas were passed back and forth it was eventually decided to lure Edward to the gallery by arranging an exhibit for him to see the work on the portrait of Vera so far and then keep him there long enough for another of the coterie to journey to the mansion to locate the prison itself. The timing would of course be critical so the exhibit needed to have enough of interest to hold Edwards attention there for quite some time. After contacting Henry, Michael was informed that Edward would be free on Sunday but that would only give the coterie a day to organise what they needed. With an internal sigh the Toreador agreed to the tight time limit hoping he could gather what he needed.

In Michael's opinion they'd need musical entertainment, refreshments and enough of a focus on Edward by appealing to his considerable ego to keep him there for the length of time they needed. this would of course require the usual trade in favours that seemed to wind their insidious way through any scheme where kindred were involved.

Refreshments turned out to be less of a problem than they were expecting. Michael knew that Venus had bottles of wine with blood mixed within as he'd sampled such a beverage himself several weeks ago at her club though had no idea what was involved in their creation. Venus for her part seemed quite happy to provide a worthwhile quantity of these for them as she informed them she could pull a few bottles from each of Marius's clubs without it having any real effect on the amount each establishment had available. Being busy with other matters it was only later that it occurred to Michael that this meant she must run his other clubs as well or at least have considerable influence with them.

Entertainment was going to be more of a problem as given the guest list and topic of conversation he'd need people aware of the existence of kindred and who could be trusted, generally this meant ghouls and he knew that neither his own ghoul Lisa nor Daniels had any musical talent. He did however have one card up his sleeve. He had been contacted recently by Marius's ghoul assistant Victoria who had been somewhat unsubtle in her hints that the Fixer's blood doll Heather could really do with a job. Knowing full well that Victoria had no time for Heather her argument that she was 'wasting her talents' translated as 'get her out from under my feet'. This in turn meant that he for once was in the stronger negotiation position as employing the girl at the gallery would make Victoria very happy indeed.

Heather Taylor
Ghoul of Marius Walker
"So Michael. Have you given any more thought to employing the delightful Heather?" Despite her self control the effort that it took to be nice about Marius's favourite ghoul blood-doll was audible even across the phone. "I was giving it serious consideration..." said Michael, savouring the moment "...but unfortunately I have this event to organise for Edward Vignes which is causing me a number of problems and I can't really deal with anything else till it's sorted." Victoria who had been on the opposite end of such negotiations for a considerable amount of time could see exactly where this was going. "Perhaps I can help?"

Michael laid out his issue with entertainment and wondered if any of Marius's considerable herd had any talents in that area. Victoria pointed out the Gangrel's selection process for blood-dolls was a lot more superficial than that but that she did recall of at least one with classical music training. "So you say you need this musician pretty much immediately? Just out of interest how soon were you going to offer Heather a job? because I was thinking tomorrow might be a good time, don't you?" After a little more negotiation the Toreador had been assured that Victoria would ensure that the 'shepherdess' of Marius's herd someone called 'Leanna' would the day after tomorrow deliver some-one suitable to provide musical entertainment at the gallery and he in turn had given his assurance that Heather would be gainfully employed at their gallery the day before that. In all honesty Michael still thought he'd got the best out of the deal because despite not getting on particularly well with Roach Heather did have considerable talent in a number of areas useful to the gallery and also her continued employment would make Victoria considerably easier to deal with in the future.

With the parts of the event outside of his direct control organised all that remained was for the actual plan to be decided upon.

They decided to keep it as simple as possible. Michael would greet Baron Vignes at the gallery and utilise the talisman to confirm whether the ring was indeed the item they thought it was. Vin would then pretend that some urgent matter on the phone required Michael's brief attention and then while out of view would give the talisman to Daniel. The doctor who would be parked out of the way in their warehouse unit next door would then make his way with all due haste to the Vignes mansion to locate the resting place of the entities imprisoned body. It would then be Michael's job to keep Edward occupied long enough for Daniel to get the job done.

Scene Twenty One - A Private Exhibition (Part Two)
Employing Heather turned out to be a surprisingly good move as she possessed considerable organisation skills and a considerable eye for design and presentation as well as bonding with Lisa pretty much immediately. With Daniels ghoul Andrew available to fetch the supplies they needed with a certain degree of security afforded by his military training Lisa could keep the gallery running while Heather sorted out all the small details that would normally have been left for Michael's ghoul to sort out alone. Exceeding his expectations not one but two ladies had turned up courtesy of Victoria, a violinist and a cellist and from the brief audition they gave were both quite talented but hadn't appropriate outfits due to not performing professionally for some time.


Fortunately Heather's fashion training came in useful as she quickly turned two off the shelf outfits into stylish ones for the two and also picked up and tailored a suit for Vin as without the alterations he looked like what she generously described as a "Badly stuffed sofa". Eventually with the gallery closed for 'A Private Function', music playing, 'wine' and glasses ready and waiting and the work in progress displayed quite exquisitely they just needed their guests of honour to arrive.

Vera Vignes
Baroness of Pasadena
As expected Edward and Vera had been chauffeured by Henry and arrived at one of the rear entrances where a reserved parking space had been created for them. The Toreador artist greeted their guest personally and escorted him into the gallery and the moment he moved close to the baron he could feel the talisman around his neck become heavier and he felt a physical pull towards Edward. Attempting to appear as nonchalant as possible Michael ignored the feeling as best as he could and offered the Vignes some refreshments, gesturing towards the blood wine he'd acquired from Venus.

It was immediately obvious that Edward had no intention of pouring his own drink and waited until Henry did so for him. The Toreador also noted that the baron refused to move his hand the two inches necessary to take the glass from his retainer instead waiting until it was placed directly into his hand. As his attention was drawn to the ring upon the hand it glowed like a beacon to his senses as the talisman at his neck transmitted it's magical aura directly to the senses of it's wearer. Now one hundred percent sure that the ring was indeed the first of the fetters he gave the nod to Vin to enact the second part of the plan.

Seeing the signal Vin stuck his head into the office in case any-one was watching and then strolled downstairs from the office and with surprising diplomacy interrupted the conversation to inform Michael of a matter that needed his attention. Apologising he made his way from view and Heather stepped into his place and continued with the flattery and ego boosting that Michael had started with unforeseen skill. Apparently the ghoul had picked up some diplomatic skills since the coterie last encountered her.

Vincent 'Vin' Ghast
Brujah Enforcer
Michael quickly handed the talisman to Daniel who immediately headed next door to his awaiting vehicle for his journey to the Vignes mansion. The doctor could feel a vague pull back into the gallery but ignored it presuming correctly that it was leading him back to the item worn by Edward. Michael then returned to the waiting baron and baroness in readiness to drag proceedings out for as long as he possibly could. Vin meanwhile kept a careful watch on events should he need to get Michael out quickly if their ruse was discovered.

Daniel's experience in shadowing others had taught him how to drive as fast as possible without drawing notice and made good time to the mansion. Once out of the block in which the galley was located the pull from the talisman had faded to nothing. Parking a safe distance away but in a different location to last time the experienced assassins disciplines made him virtually invisible as he dexterously climbed the outer fence and moved from shadow to shadow towards the building extension. As he approached the pulling feeling returned and he felt himself drawn towards the locked door. Daniel noticed that the feeling was no stronger than he'd felt in the gallery when Edward was some hundred yards away so logically the source he was drawn to was still some distance away. Deciding to take the risk he picked the lock on the outer doors and went inside.

The room has an entrance from the office of Edward Vignes and the heavy-duty exterior door from which you entered. In the floor is a large sloped set of double doors like you'd normally expect to see on an external cellar door. It's possible that this structure was built around an old cellar entrance and from the angle it looks like whatever is beyond them leads underneath the house. An elaborate lock has been threaded through the handles to seal the door shut and the doors look sturdy and well made with no gaps between them.

The feeling from the talisman was now much stronger but he could see no aura as described to him by Pisha and more recently Michael. After some careful consideration he picked the second lock, opened the doors and began to walk down a flight of stairs leading into darkness...

From below you sense nothing but more than that it literally feels to you like the absence of anything then you feel something that alternates between a tentacle and a fingernail running down your cheek as a voice whispers into your ear from a barely formed face within "When you free me I'll let you live. Gather what information you can from below but don't linger, some bindings I cannot deny..." The voice however is strained as it was the last time you heard it.



Deciding to take 'don't linger' quite literally he quickly moved to the bottom of the stairs.

The atmosphere as descend feels for want of a better term 'heavy' but the visibility does improve somewhat as you descend. At the bottom of the stairs is a room some 15' square with a large stone rectangle in the centre that has all the appearance of the stone sarcophagi you'd find in ancient tombs or older churches. It is surrounded on all sides by spotlights and lamps, there are rows of strip lighting in the ceiling and more spotlights mounted along the walls and all are focused on the stone. Based on the illumination within, the room should be unbearably bright yet the stone seems to emanate an inky blackness that's fighting against the brightness and shadows are occasionally cast where none should be present before being snuffed out by the arrays of lights.

Considering the situation carefully Daniel came to a decision and hastily put all the information he had gathered into several text messages and sent them to the rest of the coterie before stating his intention to open the stone cover and see what was within as the talisman was pulling him in it's direction most strongly. The stone cover looked fairly heavy but didn't seem to be fixed in place and on closer examination had hinges on one side. Making sure his path out was clear and readying his abilities to move quickly he slowly and surely lifted the cover up from one side and looked within.

Within is an emaciated humanoid figure wrapped in fine silver chains that glow with a cold blue light that seems to come from the tiny intricate runes carved within. A strange sword with a spiral blade that emits the same icy hue pierces the figures chest. A darkness flows around the body like water and as you watch begins to flow into a roughly humanoid form with too many limbs each tipped with razor sharp nails...

Having felt the vice-like grip of the creature when it meant no harm to him the Banu Haqim had no intention of seeing what it could do when it intended the violence it had itself predicted and so he called upon the powers of his blood and within an instant was some fifty metres from where he started and now stood at the top of the stairs as the stone lid fell back into place. Taking no chances he slammed the cellar doors shut, swiftly clicked the lock on the outside back into place and deciding that hunger was a greater risk than dismemberment activated his powers once more and was gone...

Back at the gallery Michael had pretty much exhausted all of his available stalling tactics so had been forced to move onto the unveiling of the work in progress though was pleased to see that all present were satisfied with the portrait in it's current form. With all the time he could give to Daniel now done he bid the Vignes farewell and checked his phone for any messages...

To Be Continued in 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part Seven

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...

Well they threw me quite a lot this session. The plan they came up with was nowhere near what I was expecting so I had to improvise like crazy and Daniels player basically being willing to commit suicide to provide the rest with information means they've jumped past a few more preparation scenes than I would have liked.

Still...no scene is ever wasted, I just file them away, change the names and use them for something else, lol.

Acknowledgements
I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Michael Tomassio is represented by the actor Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is quite obviously Kurt Cobain, 'Vin' is the actor Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Victoria is a model called either Lorelei Swan or Lilith May depending on where you find her,Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Henry Waters is a young Henry Cavill, Heather Taylor is an adult film actress called Liz Vicious, Vera Vignes is Helen Mirren and the two musicians are probably famous but I've no idea who they are...sorry. Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement...

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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