Friday, 22 November 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Fifty Five - Ties of Blood (Part Two)

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 chronicle is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to bring them back under Camarilla control. After a year of plotting, the coterie now controls the three North-Eastern Baronies and has successfully weakened several others. Unfortunately other Barons have used the chaos they have created to consolidate their own positions.
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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. If you'd prefer a summary of each session rather than read everything then there's a more detailed link page HERE as well as links to the first episode of each story in the blog sidebar.
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Chronicle One - 'Infiltrate L.A.' 
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree, and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Gather'
Story Three Continued - 'Becoming Baron' - Part SixSeven and Eight
Chronicle Two - 'Foothold L.A.' 
Solo Session - 'Hostile Takeover'
Story Four - 'Countdown' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Five - 'The Missing Chantry' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Anaheim Assassination'
Story Six - 'A Meeting of Barons' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seven - 'The Carmelita Situation' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eight - 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One and Two
Story Nine - 'Blood Money' - Part OneTwoThreeFour, Five and Six
Story Ten - 'Anathema' - Part One and Two
Story Eleven - 'Predators and Prey' aka 'The Blount Sisters' - Part Three
Story Twelve - 'Aftermath' - Part One and Two
Story Thirteen - 'The Messiah Complex' - Part One, Two, Three and Four
Chronicle Three - 'Incursion L.A.'
Story Fourteen - 'The Rant'
Story Fifteen - 'Ties of Blood' - Part One

The PC's
Player controlled characters
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, 'Baron of the North East'
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, 'Constable'
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Spymaster'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, 'Census Taker'
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, 'Seneschal'
The SPC's
Storyteller controlled player allies
Priya Haynes - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Carla Doyle - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Orla Riviera - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Rosalind Perkins -  Thin-blood, Alchemist

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested, but be warned that the page is usually several stories ahead of the most recent write-up and may contain some spoilers. There's also some minor 'house-rules' HERE that have occurred as we went along.

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 and occasionally an obscure Premonition will turn up in purple. 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. Anything covered via player handouts will also be in blue as they're written in the same style as introductions and the like. Where particular NPC's have a mention in a faction profile you will be able to reach it by clicking on their name beneath their picture.

Introduction
William Foxley and his Gangrel Pack - Sire of Hope Romero
Hope Romero, the coteries census taker, has revealed to Daniel Matthews that the name that she had asked him to investigate is that of her mortal sister, therefore his revelation that she has a stalker from which she is on the run is of grave concern.

This combined with the arrival in Los Angeles of a roving gang of murderous kindred that Hope is convinced are her sires own pack has forced the pair into a race to find Hope's sister before her sire can do so. Hope is now convinced that he intends to use her own sister as a weapon against her.

Unable to locate her at the apartment where she was reported to be living, they are now heading to a potential place of employment where she has been working under the name 'Aaliya'. The bar is in Hollywood and is called 'The Lost Weekend'.

Scene Six - 'The Lost Weekend'
The bar is typical of Hollywood establishments having framed movie posters around the walls and the decoration is somewhere between contemporary and tacky. It's fairly busy but not packed and the bar staff seems to consist of two young women who are spending more time chatting to each other than serving bar.

Deciding that Hope was still too on edge to talk to people, Daniel offered to make the enquiries on her behalf. It was then that Hope revealed that she had yet to feed and her hunger was putting her on edge. Daniel offered her some blood bags from his cooler but she refused on the basis that she gained no sustenance from such things. Seeing no alternative if they were to continue their investigations without delay, he allowed her to feed upon his own vitae and then consumed the blood bags himself.

Emily Nicholson - Mortal
Hope's Sister
Storytellers Note - Daniel has the 'Iron Gullet' Merit and can pretty much drink any blood, regardless of source or condition. Hope has recently discovered that anything but kindred blood gives her little to no sustenance and has had to seek out alternate, more potent sources of nutrition.

Daniel entered the bar and after gaining the attention of the staff, made his enquiries. The girls behind the bar were fairly chatty which may have had something to do with Daniel tipping fifty dollars without actually buying a drink. Once he'd convinced Morwenna and Selina that he was nothing to do with "Whoever was freaking out Aaliya...", he discovered that she'd been spending some time with a business man who used to occasionally pop into the bar.

She'd got pally with this executive as he worked for some 'big firm' and had gone out with him a few times. He had apparently offered her some modelling and promotional work for his firm, which was "Something to do with video games..."

After some prompting, Selina recalled the companies name as 'Sunburst Computers'. A quick internet search revealed that they had offices fairly nearby and that their company logo matched the description given them by the manager of her apartment building. The building manager had informed them that the symbol had been on the van that had picked up Hope's sister and her belongings when she'd left there.

Pleased that the information he'd been gathering had began to tie together he left another fifty on the bar, thanked them and then departed.

Some quick research showed Sunburst Computing to be a computer hardware company, which had been a recent acquisition by Tellus Enterprises, a computer games developer. An executive of such a company seemed unlikely to be an associate of William Foxley but nonetheless Hope wanted to investigate him further.

The headquarters of the Sunburst's Los Angeles operations had a closer bar to it than 'The Lost Weekend' which initially caused the pair to be suspicious, until they checked it out. The sleazy dive was definitely not the place where anyone of means would drink which explained him choosing an alternative local place for a drink after work.

Scene Seven - Sunburst Computers
The building is a seven story structure in one of the better industrialised areas of Hollywood. Unconnected to it's neighbouring buildings, it has a modern look and the front of the building has a large logo over the lobby area. Though there seems to be some activity within the building, unusual given the late hour, the lobby area is dark. There are security cameras above the door, and on each corner of the building and it seems that the owners take their security precautions rather seriously.

Daniel had done some research on the company and found that it was part of one of the largest multi-national megacorporations in the world, called Pentex. He had furthermore found a likely identity for this 'executive' as one of the pictured directors on the company website matched the description he had obtained from the staff at the bar in Hollywood. His name was Geoffrey Slater and though he worked for Tellus Enterprises, he was seemingly responsible for Sunburst which would explain why he had offices there.

Storytellers Note - My players have never experienced any of the World of Darkness's other game lines and are therefore unaware of the significance of Pentex. Their characters no nothing of the companies other activities either.

Hope was becoming irritable as Daniel was being even more cautious than usual. "What's the matter now?" She asked, her anger and impatience clear in her voice. What was wrong was that Daniel was beginning to have serious doubts about his ability to penetrate the buildings security. A mere office building should have been child's play for him to bypass and search but the systems in place on this building were far beyond what he had expected.

The camera's were placed high on the buildings exterior and were in armoured casings, their wiring was also shielded in armoured cables and were also far higher specification than normal. The windows had the slight tint that he associated with armoured glass and as far as he could tell were all wired to the alarm system. More unusually they seemed to also be secured to prevent access from the inside to the outside as well as the opposite. More suspicious was the lack of a fire escape which he was reasonably sure was a legal requirement and more irritatingly prevented his use of such to get a closer look at the windows. The final observation which was worrying him was that the security seemed to have been deliberately camouflaged to look less sophisticated than it was. This meant that not only were the buildings owners up to something within, they wanted to make it look like the structure was far more innocent than it was.

Marius Walker - Autarkis Gangrel
'Fixer' and Baron of Downtown
Growing tired of waiting, Hope decided to ring the 'Fixer' Marius's assistant Victoria to see if she or he had any more information. Intending to pull in the few favours she had accumulated while in his service given the severity of the situation, she was surprised to get straight through to Marius at the merest mention of the companies name. "Is Daniel currently doing his usual security inspection?" He asked in a serious tone, before continuing without waiting for a reply. "Because if he is I need you to prevent him from attempting to break in, immediately. Then get the hell away from there as soon as possible and hopefully no-one has noticed your interest yet."

Hope was of course concerned given the connection of an executive of the company to her own sister and said so. "Bring your curious friend and yourself to Hallowbrook and we'll have a proper conversation about it...in person..."

The Gangrel found Daniel doing another sweep of the area looking for entry points and informed him that they were going to Hallowbrook to meet Marius, and they were doing so immediately.

Scene Eight - Bigger Fish
Hallowbrook Apartments - Downtown
Hope relayed the warning she'd received and that Marius had seemed serious about it's need to be heeded. The importance of the matter was underlined somewhat by the fact that Victoria greeted them in the lobby of Hallowbrook Tower personally and escorted them directly to the private elevator to the upper floors were Marius did business.

Marius was waiting for them in the large open-plan area that made up the lowest of the four floors which made up his personal quarters at the top of the tower. The large television screens along one wall had been muted and the gigantic hound that was Marius's Famulus was curled up beneath. Daniel had never been able to work out quite what breed of dog it was but was reasonably sure it wasn't something you wanted at your throat, whether you were a kindred or not.

The three census-takers of Downtown LA, collectively known as 'The Circle' were sitting around a coffee table on which sat a bottle of the blood infused wine produced by Leanna, the mistress of his herd and noted Blood Sommelier. Though they were initially talking amongst themselves they turned their attention to the newcomers the moment they entered the room.

Yukio Hayashi - Ghoul of Marius
Assassin
Yukio, one of the fixers two most trusted ghouls and a skilled assassin emerged from upstairs and observed from the higher floors balcony as Marius began. He got straight to the point. "If you wish to trifle with Pentex and it's subsidiaries you are completely on your own and there would be absolutely nothing I could do to help you if you get into trouble doing so..."

Marius explained that as well as having effectively unlimited resources, political connections and to all intents and purposes it's own private armies it also had considerable occult defences.

As far as he knew there was only one kindred in a position of authority within Pentex and Marius had no dealings with him and therefore had no influence over his actions. Given the ease with which Marius pulled the strings of others within Los Angeles it was a sobering thought that there was an organisation so powerful that he wouldn't even consider drawing their attention.

Victoria Anne - Ghoul of Marius
Personal Assistant
That said, continued Marius. "I can hardly be held responsible for the actions of every kindred in the city and so if you, as an independent party, were to investigate this Geoffrey Slater, that would be entirely up to you..." At this juncture, Victoria entered the room and placed a piece of paper in front of her regnant who in turn pushed it over to Hope and Daniel. It contained the address of a small, gated community in the West Valley area of San Fernando. "...but I must again warn you that you are potentially going to raise the ire of an organisation that the majority of this worlds Lupines have been battling since 1865, a battle they are, in my opinion at least, currently losing..."

"Does that wish to stay out of any potential complications also include the supply of equipment?" asked Daniel. "It's just that regardless of the result of our visit to Mr Slater, we'll be going after Hope's sire in order to ensure he can cause no harm to Hope's sister or friends, ever again."

"That's a different matter entirely." replied Marius. "There's a way things should be done between a Gangrel and their childe and Foxley and that spineless bastard, Aaron Saxe that he sired went against those principles." he then digressed slightly. "Of course, my own sire was a complete and total bastard as well but at least he had some principles he could blame for his actions. Yukio will supply you what you need...within reason of course..."

Heckler and Koch MP7A1
"At the risk of pushing my luck..." said Daniel. "I'm also unlikely to have time to feed, is there any chance you could help with my dwindling supply issues?" For the first time during their meeting, Marius actually smiled. "I'll see what I can do..."

"What do we owe you for the help?" asked Hope, aware that Marius wasn't renowned for altruistic behaviour. "Nothing." was the surprising answer. "Just be careful with Slater. A problem with Foxley I can help you with, a problem with Pentex, I cannot..."

Daniel left Yukio's quarters with a pair of suppressed Heckler and Koch MP7A1's with extended magazines and Elcan reflex sights. Each was loaded with armour piercing rounds because as Yukio had pointed out. "You'd be amazed at what just bounces off fucking Gangrel...". He also had two P90's whose magazines were staggered alternately between armour piercing and incendiary rounds.

This was apparently one of the ghouls preferred load-outs for dealing with kindred as "They're either full of holes, on fire or if you're lucky, both..." He also discovered a cooler in his boot containing twelve blood bags.

"That was a lot of help for some-one who apparently wasn't able to help..." Quipped Daniel. Hope however was entirely focused upon the search for her sister. She was also well aware that with Marius there was always a price, whether the one paying it was aware of it or not.

They picked up Vin on the way, though they were careful to inform him that Geoffrey wasn't an enemy yet and that they were only going to do some reconnaissance, not kill anyone. Vin seemed slightly disappointed, but they obtained his begrudging agreement.

Scene Nine - Geoffrey Slater
San Fernando Valley - At Night
Geoffrey Slater did indeed have a house in the 'West Valley' area of San Fernando within a gated community. A little bit of research revealed that the gated community was owned by a subsidiary of Pentex for their workers and that this one contained an area for senior executives. The outer boundaries were open to access but the mansion home of Geoffrey Slater had a guardhouse at the entrance.

Though they had both been warned about the dangers of attracting the attention of Pentax, Daniel figured that a quick look at the security couldn't do any harm. After all, if Hope's sister was indeed safe and well they could turn their attention to the removal of William Foxley and his brood and come back to check on her once they were done.

Two men in security guard outfits are lying dead against the wall of a security hut near the compound containing the home you are looking for. One has had his chest caved in, the second his neck snapped. There's a sign in ledger just within the smashed window that has had several pages ripped out.

Feral Claws - Protean
Daniel quickly grabbed the ledger as he was overtaken by Hope, Vin was a moment behind and had his weapons in hand. Hope's claws were of course always at the ready. Both the Banu Haqim and the Brujah knew that there was nothing they could say that would cause their Gangrel ally to hold back, so they resolved to help her as best as they could and worry about the consequences later.

The guard at Geoffrey Slater's house apparently managed to reach his gun as it's gripped in the hand of his right arm. Unfortunately for him the aforementioned arm is several metres away from the rest of his body which has also had it's throat torn out. The double doors behind him are open. A nearby security camera has been crushed within it's mount despite being some three metres up the wall.

Hope paused, conscious of the possibility of an ambush as Daniel caught up. Focusing his enhanced senses on the home he could detect the distinct and familiar smell of death from within.

Deciding to find an alternate method of entry, Daniel leapt to the top of the nearby triple garage and from there scaled the side of the building and attempted to gain entry via the loft as this area was still in darkness. As the house alarm began to sound loudly, Hope had a suspicion that perhaps the alarm system was zoned to protect the areas not currently being used by the residents. Reasonably sure that any element of surprise that they might have had was completely none-existent, she entered the home via the open front door.

The house has been thoroughly ransacked and contains several more victims. A butler of some description, a maid and two more men in the garb of bodyguards are dead around the home.

Hope found the alarm button and hit the reset button but was sure that such a sophisticated set-up would be linked to either the police, or more likely in this case, some private security subsidiary of Pentex itself. Some of the bodies had been partially drained of blood but not completely as if the attackers were in a hurry. On closer examination the security guards bodies seemed unusual, their musculature was twisted in odd ways as if surgically enhanced by some scientist who didn't care about the comfort of the recipient.

Storytellers Note - Look up Fomori if your particularly interested...

As Daniel made his way to the second floor he saw a security room of some description that seemed to have various recording devices within, presumably recording the feeds from the many cameras around the property. It had been thoroughly destroyed, equipment had been smashed, and claw marks were discernible in some areas. Whoever had perpetrated the attack had some measure of concern about being identified. At least this saved Daniel a job. Once he was sure that the house was empty of threats, Vin returned to the car to enable them to make a quick getaway if necessary, as Hope and Daniel met up outside the homes master bedroom.

Cautiously they entered...

The master bedrooms has the word "HOPE" followed by a question mark written in blood on one wall, with "'We'll be waiting..." underneath in smaller letters. The donor of the blood matches the description of Mr Slater though it's difficult to be sure considering the dismembered state of his corpse.

Pentex - First Team LA001
Conscious that the police or worse could be on the way, Hope made a quick search of the rooms. The presence of both male and female clothing and other personal grooming equipment indicated that her sister had been here willingly. Despite having dubious employers it was apparent that Geoffrey Slater had been treating the girl well and was therefore quite unlikely to have been involved in any scheme to hurt her. His violent death being the final evidence of that fact.

Both Hope and Daniel's phones beeped with a text message from Vin saying. "Cars coming, have driven round the corner..." Realising they were out of time, Daniel moved out through the back door at supernatural speed, while Hope transformed into a raven and took to the air. Before she returned to where her comrades were waiting she circled the building to see exactly who was coming to investigate.

The men and women emerging from the vehicles outside are neither police officers nor patrolling security men. They are dressed and armed as military teams but they have no identifiable military logos or identification on their clothing and their weaponry is none standard. It seems that Geoffrey Slater was important enough for someone to send a considerable force to investigate in the event of trouble. Several of the new arrivals seem to have unusual physical proportions and moved oddly as if wearing forms that they were unused to. 

Hope decided that when she rescued her sister she would make sure that she didn't come back here.

Scene Ten - Ties of Blood
It seemed that Foxley was sure that Hope would be able to find him. As the only confirmed location they had for them was the trail they'd left after the farm raid, it seemed logical that he and his pack would be waiting somewhere along their getaway route.

AA-12 Shotgun - Drum-Fed
Daniel made a quick call to Victoria to inform her that they weren't responsible for the incident at Mr Slater's home and that someone, presumably Pentex, had sent a team to investigate. As he finished his call he noticed that Vin had unpacked the AA-12 that Michael had recently acquired for him from the arms dealer Mercurio and was loading a thirty-two round drum with shells. Two other drums lay next to several empty boxes of solid slugs that were the Brujah's preferred load-out.

Though many lauded the capabilities of dragons-breath rounds against kindred, Vin had experienced some trouble in several encounters with clans with a resistance to the normal vampiric banes. He therefore preferred to make big holes in his enemies or chop chunks off them rather than rely on gimmicks.

As Vin finished loading drums, and instead began to sharpen his two-handed machete, Hope beckoned Daniel over. Evidently she had something personal to discuss. "If they drain my sister or she's near neath I want you to embrace her for me..." asked Hope, in surprisingly quiet tones for the normally brash Gangrel. "Wouldn't you rather do that yourself if it comes to it?" Daniel replied. "One, I don't think I could bring myself to do it and two apparently my bloodline sucks at parenting..." Was Hope's honest answer. Reluctantly Daniel agreed.

Storytellers Note - This was an oddly touching bit of role-play. It threw me a little, I have to admit.

William Foxley - Gangrel
Pack Leader
Hope had refrained from taking any weaponry. Her claws had remained in an extended state since an unusually intense frenzy some months ago, which made handling melee weapons and firearms difficult, though not impossible. There was also the very real possibility that she simply wished to tear Foxley and his childe Aaron to pieces with her bare hands.

Daniel had equipped himself with his newly acquired weapons and had also taken one of his assault rifles, configured to use as a sniper rifle just in case an opportunity to take a shot occurred.

As they arrived at the beginning of the trail it was far more pronounced than it had been previously. Whoever had used it definitely wanted to be followed, there was no other explanation for the clumsiness exhibited. Especially as they had shown considerable skill the previous time they had travelled this way.

Vin tended to defer to Daniel when it came to anything involving planning as his usual method of dealing with problems was very direct. He was however capable of surprising stealth for a person of his size. "Broadly speaking, we have two options..." Began Daniel. "...either we all go as a single group and deal with anything that gets in our way, though that means they'll more than likely get the drop on us...or...Hope goes ahead as bait and we counter-ambush them when they attack her..."

Hope immediately moved on ahead which Vin and Daniel took to mean that she was going with option two. After giving her a brief head-start he followed with Vin taking up the rear, shotgun in hand.

Blood-Stained Ribbon
Hope saw a piece of material ahead, tied around a tree trunk. It looked like it had been cut from a dress and had been tied in a bow, a few spots of blood were on one end. Slowing her pace she could see no sign of an ambush but resisted the urge to take the material in case it triggered a trap of some kind. She then broke back into a run and continued along the obvious trail.

Daniel arrived a moment later but took a few seconds to closely examine the material. A thin wire ran around the tree, it's end connected to the bow and designed to be released as soon as the bow had been pulled. Vin carefully followed the wire and found it connected to a a peg designed to pull free and release a restrained branch with several wooden spikes bound to it with cord. He grabbed the branch with one hand to prevent it springing loose, removed the peg and then snapped the dangerous end in half. Daniel had already continued ahead and Vin increased his pace to catch up.

A second bow was attached to a tree another half a mile along the trail and this one was considerably more blood-soaked. Not even bothering to check for hazards this time she continued ahead at full pace. This was, in retrospect, a mistake...

The ground below her collapsed as the thin layer of twigs, covered in leaves snapped under her weight and sent her plummeting into the carefully prepared, spike filled pit below. Caught completely by surprise, she attempted to grab the edge but missed. Twisting aside as she landed, she protected the few remaining vital areas of a vampires anatomy but still suffered deep wounds to her arm and side. The wounds burned in a way she'd never felt before and as she slid herself from the impaling spikes she could see they were coated with a red substance like congealed blood. Obviously Foxley or one of his pack had some talents uncharacteristic of the typical Gangrel.

Less than a minute later, Daniel reached the triggered trap and leapt over it as he tried to gain upon the rapidly moving Hope. Stopping at the third bow, she noted with growing concern that this one seemed to have been dipped in blood, half-way up it's length.

Now wary that each bow coincided with a trap she hopped over the trip-wire and began to move ahead once more before stopping and considering the situation for a moment. Realising that Daniel or Vin could easily be caught themselves she made a cross from a pair of twigs and dropped it a few metres before the wire and then continued her pursuit.

As Vin reached the pit-trap he decided that the trail was becoming a dangerous place to traverse and instead moved into the forest and moving in parallel to it, moved on. Daniel found the warning cross left by Hope and disarmed the trip-wire, unknowing that Vin had abandoned the trail. The wire led to the trigger of a double-barrelled shotgun, wedged between two tree branches and loaded with dragons-breath rounds. Popping the cartridges in his pocket, but leaving the shotgun itself in case it was connected to any of the packs crimes, he returned to his pursuit.

Deciding that their prey had no time to trap an entire forest, Vin had stopped looking for traps along the parallel route he was taking and was therefore beginning to gain on Daniel. Daniel meanwhile had discovered a second cross warning of a trip-wire. This time the trap was a more mundane, improvised device consisting of a number of stakes, attached to a rock, designed to swing into the chest of whoever triggered it. Perhaps, thought Daniel, they only had one shotgun spare, or more worryingly that they had something more potent awaiting further along this deadly path through the forest. The material making up the bow near to this device was almost three-quarters soaked in blood, a brief taste indicated to Daniel that the donor was not kindred, but mortal, and more than likely belonged to Hope's sister.

Storytellers Note - 'Daniel' has a Blood Sorcery power called 'A Taste for Blood', that allows him to discern basic information such as this.

The fifth bow was in it's entirety red, apparently soaked deeply in Emily's blood, but had no accompanying trip-wire. So covered in blood was the material that if not for those previously discovered red could easily have been mistaken for it's true colour. Now entirely focused on the fate of her kin she didn't even slow her pace. Now close behind, Daniel saw something unusual just ahead of Hope, past the bloody bow that had so concerned her. It looked like a small camera and seemed to be pointed at a similar device opposite. The Banu Haqim who was experienced at sneaking past a wide variety of security precautions recognised the devices as a transmitter and receiver of a light beam. Though normally used to trigger an alarm, Daniel was positive that this would be attached to something farm more deadly.

Hope felt a hand on the scruff of her neck as she was pulled backwards with considerable force by Daniel. He had covered the distance between himself and her in an instant by drawing upon the power of his blood and had halted her progress in the nick of time. "What the fuck are you doing?!?!?" shouted Hope. Daniel pointed downwards at the electronic devices and Hope mentally admonished herself for her lack of care. As some-one whose mortal career had been locating such IED's she should have been on the look out for such things. Seeing his comrades had halted, Vin emerged from cover to see what the problem was.

With Hope's knowledge and Daniel's extraordinary dexterity they disarmed the four Claymore mines which would have reduced even the resilient Gangrel to a bloody smear. Once they were sure they were disarmed, Daniel placed them in his back-pack, they might come in useful later after all.

Storytellers Note - Daniel's player is a notorious scavenger, lol.

The three decided that they might as well stick together from this point on as if their prey was relying on traps along the trail, the ambush site must be somewhere else.

Scene Eleven - Showdown
The forest became more dense and the trail itself was more like a corridor through it before opening out into a clearing. As they got nearer they could clearly see the form of Emily tied to the trunk of a tree directly opposite. Where the strips had been torn from her dress were clearly visible and she was bleeding from multiple cuts and abrasions. "Well at least we know where the ambush is going to be..." said Daniel, though this time his voice lacked the humour it normally did when uttering such a statement.

"Vin, see if you can circle around while I look for a good angle to set up. You still okay to trigger the trap, Hope?" asked Daniel. As it turned out, triggering the ambush was unnecessary as William had other plans.

Hope's sire stepped out into the clearing, directly in front of her sisters bound form. The arrogance was clear in his voice as he spoke. "Care to try your luck a second time, little one? or are you going to run away again?"

William Foxley - Autarkis Gangrel
Sire of Hope Romero and many others...
Though this version of the events surrounding Hope's departure was far from the truth, it was clearly designed to provoke a reaction. It got one, as Hope stepped forward into the clearing.

William seemed somehow more imposing than when she had escaped from him all those years ago, though this didn't lesson her resolve. She had learned a few things herself and from far deadlier Gangrel than this piece of shit. The bastard who he had replaced her with and had then joined in the attempt to destroy her was also in the clearing as were the rest of the pack. They were spread almost equidistantly around the nearly circular area though made no signs to move forward. "Whatever happens, my sister goes free." Hope demanded. "Of, course..." was her sire's unconvincing reply.

Both Daniel and Vin respected her wish to finish this in personal combat, but were also alert for any treachery. Any who interfered would meet their final death, this they both resolved.

Vincent Ghast - Brujah
Hope waited for her sire to act first, reflexes poised to counter but even then she was surprised when he covered the distance to her in an instant. She had seen both Daniel and Vin utilise the abilities of their clans for such an effect but had only ever witnessed it used by two Gangrel, those being Marius and Nicodemus and they were elders of considerable power.

Storytellers Note - That particular epic battle occurred in this session HERE

A powerful blow staggered Hope as she countered with her own claws, but the resilience for which their clan was infamous reduced the damage from each others blows to next to nothing. Their second attacks damage was also negligible though this seemed to concern William not one jot. His followers were less confident however and one stepped forward to intervene in the combat.

He made it barely two steps before Vin drove his blade through their chest, grabbed them around the neck and pulled them back into the overgrown forest. A single, savage blow removed their head from their shoulders. The rest of the pack barely even reacted, seemingly desensitised to violence, even against their own.

The combat had become a battle of attrition as each chipped away at the others stamina until Hope detected a moments distraction as her sire's attention was briefly drawn to his followers form disappearing into the forest. Taking advantage she leapt forward, the slashing blows from both claws almost decapitating William. He hurled her aside, then diverted precious vitae to heal the damage, before attempting to regain the advantage by pressing his attack.

Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Sniper
Aaron Saxe, the second childe of William, and Hope's replacement as well as attacker opened his jacket and reached for a gun. A known expert marksmen it was obvious that his intention was to even the odds in the favour of his sire. As he stepped forward and took aim, so did Daniel. Aaron never saw the controlled burst which decapitated him. The death of her other arch enemy before her very eyes unfortunately distracted Hope momentarily. William wasted no time in taking advantage.

A thunderous blow shattered Hope's ribs, driving jagged pieces of bone through her flesh and pulverising undead flesh and driving her to the ground. Vin stepped forward, shotgun in one hand and blade in the other, Daniel clicked the safety from his automatic weapons and took aim. Though both intended to keep to their vow to allow Hope the honour of single combat, neither intended to let the rest of the pack survive long enough to enjoy their sires victory.

Had William pressed his attack at that moment then victory would have been his. Instead he hoisted Hope into the air and hurled her across the clearing like a rag doll. As she attempted to regain her footing her kicked her in the damaged ribs before stooping to pick her up once more. This was to be the final mistake of his unlife as his floored childe sliced his grasping arm with a backhanded blow of her claws, leaving it hanging by mere threads of flesh. Forcing herself to her feet through sheer force of will, she drove both sets of claws into his recently healed throat, gripped tightly, and then ripped his head from his shoulders. Overcome by frenzy she fell upon his corpse and drank deeply. Very deeply in fact.

Diablerie had never been her intention but as she tasted the rich vitae she lost control, drinking until all was gone and then continuing, consuming his very soul.

As William Foxley's body turned to ash, Hope saw that the rest of the coterie were poised to eliminate the four remaining Gangrel. She raised her hand and called for them to lower their weapons. Though guilty of many crimes, she could hardly condemn them for following the orders of William, a mistake she had once made herself.

"Leave now and I'll spare you all..." Announced Hope, much to Daniel's surprise. "...take different directions, you're a pack no longer, just get out of my sight before I change my fucking mind..." Having no desire to meet their final deaths as their sire had just done, they disappeared as quickly as they could.

Vin had cut down Emily, and with uncharacteristic care, carried her over to Daniel to see what he could do for her. Daniel had some basic medical gear with him and did the best he could though Emily had many wounds on her, some deep. "I can stabilise her, but she's going to have some nasty scars..." Said Daniel, deciding honesty was the best policy under the circumstances. "...she's also suffered severe psychological trauma. That I can do nothing about, I'm afraid."

"It's okay..." said Hope, surprisingly calm. "...I know someone who can help with both of those problems, the price will probably be steep though..."

Interlude - The Last of the Pack
Jaime, Flora, Nicholas, Tasha and Ryan - Gangrel
Though the Gangrel who had destroyed their sire had been quite specific with them, the remnants of William Foxley's pack nonetheless regrouped at the cabin in the mountains they'd used as a Haven since arriving in LA. All they had left was each other, after all.

Nicholas had been left behind at the cabin while the rest of them had travelled with their sire to the confrontation. He had been entrusted with cleaning up any suspicious traces left behind and with gathering together their meagre belongings ready for them to leave. Though anxious when the other four had returned without William, he wasn't exactly devastated to find that Aaron and Eli were also gone. The pair had been the favourites and had therefore been intolerable bullies. "So what now?" said Jaime, a computer expert that William had 'recruited' to help track down Hope and her sister.

'Flora' - Gangrel
"Well that 'Hope' girl and her pals seemed awfully sure about what they'd do to us if we stayed in Los Angeles." Replied Flora. She had been a prostitute when William had decided he liked her enough to keep her around forever. She was also a talented thief and had been very useful when they needed to supplement their income subtly. "That's easier said than done though isn't it?" Interrupted Nicholas. "The mountains are full of werewolves and the three who tracked you lot happen to work for the baron who runs the domain we'd need to cut through to get to a main road." Though the weakest of the five left he was however a font of useful and useless information having been an avid reader when alive as well as having a photographic memory. If he remembered those things as facts they were probably true.

The two who were yet to speak were now what passed for the 'muscle' of the group. Tasha had been a security guard at a store they'd robbed and had put up such an impressive fight that William had embraced her on the spot. Ryan was a giant of a man and strong as an ox but in spite of his physical capabilities didn't really like confrontation. Having been physically and mentally abused as a child he was easy for the charismatic and dominating figure of William to break to his will, first as ghoul and then as kindred. Most comfortable when obeying the orders of another he kept quiet, deferring to Tasha as he normally did.

Nicholas - Gangrel
"I'm open to suggestions, as I have no fucking idea what to do." admitted Tasha, brutally honest as always.

The group turned to Nicholas, almost as one. Though the weakest physically he was pretty good at coming up with ideas on the fly and it looked like they were hoping he'd come up with one now.

"If we skirt the borders of the baronies and stay in the mountains we could avoid any trouble till we hit the far side of Covina..." As no-one interrupted he continued. "...William said they were in some kind of dispute with some South-Western neighbour so they're probably looking that way. If we're careful we could skim the Eastern edge of their domain and try our luck in the Wilds..."

"I thought..." Interrupted Jaime "...That William said that the Wilds were full of Gangrel nutters who ate every kindred who went near them." "True." agreed Nicholas. "But they are Gangrel. Maybe they help, maybe they eat us, either way it's worth a try." Gathering the remainder of their guns, gear, money and valuables they slipped into the night. A travelling pack once more.

Epilogue - A New Life
Leanna - Duskborn
Alchemist and Deprogrammer
Though the coterie never asked Hope the exact terms of her deal with Marius it can't have come cheap. Leanna's skills as an influencer of minds was much in demand amongst kindred who had problems with mortal lovers, blood-dolls, ghouls and on occasion even kindred and she was capable of re-writing a mind like a computer expert might do to a program. She had systematically erased every traumatic memory from Emily's mind and had altered her perception of the events experienced to a new reality specified by her sister.

Victoria had utilised a millennia of experience with the flesh-crafting discipline of Vicissitude to remove every trace of injury from the girl's flesh and bone. Once the pair had finished their tasks all trace of the event with Hope's sire and his pack was erased as if they never happened. After the service for which she'd paid dearly was complete she then visited Michael, her Baron.

Hope explained that she needed some time away from others. She would fulfil her duties as the domains census-taker and come to the aid of the coterie whenever needed but outside of those commitments she would be keeping out of the way. As empathetic and considerate as always, Michael agreed to her terms.

To be Continued in 'A Gathering of Roses'

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...

With Hope's character's short and long term goals completed, I discussed with the player what he wanted to do next. With her now at Humanity four, her player wasn't quite sure how to approach her and having exhausted her personal goals was at a bit of a loss in regards to further character development.

My suggestion was to move her into the background for a period while he considered what to do with her and to try a new character for a bit just for a change. Next session will therefore be a solo between the two of us so he can get a feel for his new creation. A member of Clan Toreador named Sofia.

This happens to work for both of us as I was looking for an excuse to create an event where all the Toreador of Los Angeles turned up and basically tried to 'Out Toreador' one another.

So that's next weeks little project then....

Acknowledgements

Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Entertainment AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information please visit white-wolf.com.

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 Matt Bomer, 'Vin' is Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Emily Nicholson is Hayden Panettiere,Marius Walker is Tony Curran,  Yukio is Jamie Chung, Victoria Anne is Lilith May and Leanna is Leeanna Vamp. Also used were many of the cast of the John Carpenter film vampires. 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...

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