Friday, 5 May 2023

San Diego 'Galerie Sanguine' Chronicle - Briefing

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players.

Our primary 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. This is the initial chronicle briefing pack for the second of several planned interludes which will centre on the expansion of Baron Michael Tomassio's 'Galerie Sanguine' franchise to other domains.

You have a hard act to follow.

The 'Galerie Sanguine' franchises in Pasadena, Hollywood and San Francisco have all been great successes and it looks like Chicago will follow this trend. Of course none of them have to deal with a cities ruler who is at best a paranoid sociopath and at her worst, borderline psychopathic.

Your Mission
Michael Tomassio has given you an important task to perform now that you are established within the city. Interested parties have began to look in the direction of San Diego and in particular at it's ruler, Baron Tara Kearney.

Michael Tomassio, Baron of the North East
 Arbiter of the Anarch Council of Los Angeles

Two things concern them. 

Firstly, should Tara somehow be removed from power, how the remaining forces would align themselves and secondly, If Tara was convinced to declare for the Camarilla, who would oppose that decision.

You are aware that a Camarilla power broker, Fiorenza Savona, has offered to back Michael's next Galerie Sanguine franchise and it's just possible that should you be a success in this venture that you might be able to gain employment in a city containing far better opportunities than this one.

At worse you would ingratiate yourselves with an up and comer in the murky world of kindred politics where a boon is an invaluable reward and Michael Tomassio's star is certainly on the rise. His census-taker, enforcer, investigator and accountant have all ascended with him and have their peers respect and in some cases fear.

Though first, of course, you'd have to succeed in your task...

'The Galerie Sanguine'
Galerie Sanguine: San Diego - Feeding Ground
The latest of Michael Tomassio's Galerie Sanguine franchises is based in San Diego's arts district. 

Haven 2: Herd 1, Luxury, Resources 1, Security System 1.

It also includes a feeding ground that is well defined by a number of perimeter roads and the small body of water that separates it from San Diego International Airport. 

The Airport itself has been declared a 'No Go' area where feeding is forbidden, due to the presence of some security systems that Tara has been warned are Second Inquisition devices designed to detect kindred. This effectively limits kindred travel in and out of the city to the ports and main roads.

San Diego - Mission Bay at Night

The galleries initial stock has been made up of works via local artists, some of Michael's own pieces and other artwork and sculptures obtained from creative kindred that Michael supports. With three well established branches already acquiring such pieces, the influence of the Baron of North East Los Angeles is spreading amongst the artistic communities of the undead.


Kindred Population of San Diego (34)
Brujah: 11
Caitiff: 5
Duskborn: 3
Gangrel: 3
'The Ministry': 3

'Abstract' Toreador: 1
'Red' Nosferatu: 3
'Free' Ventrue: 1

Gangrel of 'The Oratory': 4


Temporary Residents
This number varies but is rarely by more than a mere handful and all are required to announce themselves on arrival and feed only in the areas temporarily allocated to them. The majority of short-term residents of San Diego, are merely stopping there on their way to Los Angeles. Currently there are only three.

The Baron and her Inner Circle
Tara Kearney - Brujah
Tara Kearney - Brujah
Baron of San Diego
In December of 1944, when the call went out for Anarchs to assist in the Revolt, it was hoped that a few Kindred from the neighbouring cities would show up to help. It was quite a pleasant surprise when Tara, a well-known Anarch from Texas, showed up with fifteen Brujah fighters, many of them veterans of the American Civil War. Their support was a major factor in the defeat of Don Sebastian's forces.

When the Anarchs needed a strike team to go to San Diego, Tara immediately volunteered. She found Maria, the Prince of San Diego, already destroyed. Tara immediately declared San Diego a member of the Anarch Free States and, in the first land grab in the brief history of the States, claimed the area as her own. The Revolutionary Council was too busy to argue with her, and then Tara strengthened her grip on the Barony of San Diego. Many Anarchs believed she had plans to completely break away from the Free States and declare herself Prince of San Diego, which would probably have precipitated a war with the rest of the Free States.

Jenna Cross, Duskborn messiah, and her followers made these rumours irrelevant when they stormed her penthouse apartment before any such plan could be implemented. Once the battle made it's way to the rooftop, Tara was riddled with bullets and shells from a dozen handguns, assault rifles and shotguns, then fell thirty stories to the ground below. Though Tara's followers retrieved the body, no-one was in any doubt that she'd met her final death. Unfortunately the duskborn were unable to capitalise on this victory and instead returned to Los Angeles where they took over Santa Monica pier and claimed it as their own domain.

However, she somehow survived. But with her forces scattered and her influence significantly reduced, she needed allies to regain her former power.

Over the next year her enemies, and those who were happier without her as ruler, began to suffer a series of misfortunes. Some of these merely disappeared, others met their ends in arson attacks, explosions and violent ambushes. All the scenes were then expertly cleaned. Business interests and political contacts were also targeted and within twelve months, Tara was once more the only significant kindred in San Diego, and once more claimed the position of Baron.

San Diego at Night

The hand of the Los Angeles 'Fixer' Marius Walker was suspected. A fact more or less confirmed by the campaign of the cities, then soon to be, new Mayor being funded by Aegis sponsors, and his subsequent granting of significant city contracts to that same company when he entered office. That the Mayor is a blood-bound thrall of Tara is more or less common knowledge amongst the kindred of San Diego, but his public persona makes acting against him a potential masquerade breach. Her hold over the political decisions made within the city gives her a significant advantage over her rivals.

Her experiences have created a mercurial ruler who sees all her subjects as potential rivals, traitors or otherwise plotting against her in some way. Staying in her favour is difficult, but those who manage it can pretty much do as they please within San Diego as Tara considers any actions against her 'confidants' as an act against her.

As far as Tara is concerned, to know her is to love her, to oppose her is to die.

Having had bad experiences with multi-storey buildings, Tara's base is now a 100 million dollar, hilltop home amongst some of the most luxurious mansions in San Diego. Security is discrete, but state of the art, and the more kindred friendly aspects of it's internal layout were designed by the famed Malkavian architect Dillan Fitzgerald. The building itself was modified, modernised and extended by Aegis Construction.

Tara has her own herd, in the guise of an extensive staff at her home and therefore has no need to put herself in danger when feeding. She has additional protection in the form of security teams, the leaders of which are blood-bound to her. Their leader is her ghoul, Jude Duffy, a former special forces commander who was recruited for her by Mercury Security Solutions.

Cassie Rosales - 'Free' Ventrue
Cassie Rosales - 'Free' Ventrue
Emissary of Baron Tara
Cassie Rosales acts as Emissary for Tara when other domains are dealt with or if Tara simply deems the message beneath her notice to pass on personally. She is a recent addition to Tara's inner circle but is considered by most to be an excellent choice for the role. Of course, criticising Baron Kearney's choices in any area isn't exactly a great idea so maybe their private thoughts are different.

Cassie is beautiful, intelligent and hungry for power. Being this close to the throne has given her a taste of authority and she likes it. Though she is far too smart to make a play for the top job, she's not above creatively interpreting the messages given in order to curry favour or inconvenience potential rivals.

She is used to navigating the whims of a morally ambiguous and unpredictable superior. If anything, Tara is less dangerous than her previous employer was. 

Cassie has an apartment in Downtown San Diego. This central location facilitates her role within the city. Her financial needs are taken care of by Baron Tara and she has been granted several surrounding blocks as feeding ground.

Cassie is a common sight in the various feeding grounds of San Diego and has therefore been to the Galerie Sanguine many times to relay Tara's dictates.

The representatives of the gallery know something that only Baron Tara and Blackwell are also aware of. Cassie Rosales is actually the presumed destroyed Arla Hartley, former assistant to Marcelina Black of the Los Angeles 'Farm' of the Circulatory System. It has also been made clear to them that 'Cassie' is a potentially invaluable source of information on both the Circulatory System and other powerful organisations and therefore her position is not to be put in jeopardy.

A change of hair style, and a more casual style of dress has been her only attempt at disguise. It has however been surprisingly effective. Camarilla visitors are rare in San Diego and The Circulatory System has no presence there.

'Blackwell' - 'Red' Nosferatu
'Sticky' Malone - 'Red' Nosferatu, Childe of 'Blackwell'
'Blackwell' - 'Red' Nosferatu
Spymaster for Baron Tara
Dennis Blackwell was, in life, a financial expert and investigator for a powerful investment firm. Embraced in 1929 during the worst stock market crash in history by a Nosferatu desperate to keep the fortune on which their influence was based, Dennis took to his new existence with surprising ease. His sires investments were, unfortunately, already doomed and he, like many destitute investors of the time took his own life. Or unlife in this case.

Never a handsome man, and with little interest in pleasures of the flesh, Blackwell's hideous new appearance made little difference to him. This was fortunate as he has received the curse of his clan in a most extreme manner. His skin is black and blistered, in many ways resembling a burn victim, and even other kindred sometimes find his appearance unsettling. That disadvantage aside, his own spy network is quiet, efficient and ensure that Blackwell always has access to the most up to date information available. He is also unusually tech savvy for a kindred who didn't even see a computer for the first eighty years of his existence.

Blackwell has a single childe who also was somewhat unfortunate with the curse of his clan. 'Sticky' Malone, was recently rescued from captivity at the hands of an Unbound Ghoul gang known as 'The Youngbloods' and returned to his sire. This return has allowed Blackwell to get back to the business of being Tara's spymaster and advisor, and as a side-effect has ingratiated the one deemed most responsible for his liberation. Michael Tomassio's latest Galerie Sanguine franchise within the city was allowed to occur without interference, largely due to Blackwell vouching for them, and Tara's, probably temporary, gratitude at the assistance given to her chief advisor.

Unfortunately, the chance of this goodwill lasting indefinitely is unlikely. Eventually Tara's attention will turn to them, likely with suspicious eyes.

Blackwell makes his home beneath San Diego in the Nosferatu Warrens that run below the existing sewer system. He shares this network with his own childe and 'Cleo', the only other Nosferatu in San Diego.

Blackwell meets only Baron Tara, his closest agents, and on rare occasions the domain's census-takers, in order to pass on information about their targets to them.

Absalom Hood - Brujah
Laurance Truman and Cecilia Baird - Brujah, Childer of Absalom
Absalom Hood - Brujah
Constable of San Diego
Though Anarch domains look down upon many of the Camarilla badges of rank, if San Diego had a Sheriff, it would be Absalom Hood.

A veteran of the American Civil War, and many wars since, Absalom is an imposing individual and rather handsome in that rugged way that many women seem to like. As Tara's favourite enforcer he is as ruthless as you'd expect. Politically unambitious, and content merely to crack heads without caring about the 'why', Absalom is a perfect choice for Tara's hatchet man.

He is a formidable hand to hand combatant and his focus has always been upon the physical aspects of the innate disciplines of his Clan. His only interest in their more esoteric abilities is their usefulness for purposes of intimidation.

It was he who retrieved Tara's body from where it lay after her attempted destruction at the hands of Jenna Cross and her followers, a fact reflected in his opinion of any thin-blooded residents of the city. Caitiff are largely tolerated, but a thin-blood within San Diego can expect their every action to be closely observed and analysed. 

Absalom has two childer, Laurance Truman and Cecilia Baird, who have fought at his and Tara's side for over a century. Their loyalty to their Baron is absolute and should Absalom require aid, it is his childer who will be the first to come to his assistance.

However, when it comes to hunting down those who break the Baron's rules, it is the sweepers who do the majority of the dirty work.

Absalom's haven is somewhere near Seventeenth street in the East Village, though considering his job, he is careful to keep it's exact location to himself. The surrounding blocks along the outskirts of Downtown are known as San Diego's Skid Row and provide easy feeding considering the hundreds of homeless encampments that line the streets. Many kindred feed here and it isn't considered to be Absalom's feeding ground, though he has been authorized by Tara to deal with any kindred whose careless feeding there might draw undue attention.

The representatives of Galerie Sanguine have met Constable Hood on several occasions. On first arriving at the city, when allocated their feeding ground and after a minor dispute with a neighbour over where exactly the border between their respective territories actually were. On that final occasion, Absalom ruled in their favour, and dealt with the other kindreds objection to his decision by breaking their arms and legs and delivering their torpid form to their closest acquaintance in a body bag. 

As messages go, it certainly made a point about questioning the rulings of the cities Sheriff.

Raphael 'Skinner' Hoffman - Gangrel Pack Leader
Rowan Barnes - Gangrel
Delilah Moreno - Gangrel
'Skinner' - Gangrel
Sweeper for San Diego
The pack of 'Skinner' Hoffman have been together since they were neonates and all have the same sire. An Elder Gangrel known simply as 'Jac'

'Jac' met his destruction a year ago in a mysterious fire that ravaged his haven. It's widely suspected that his allegiance was in question and rightly so. His plan to use his childer as a weapon to take control of San Diego was pre-empted by Blackwell, passed onto Tara, and a phone-call from her to a certain 'Fixer' was all it took to seal his fate.

Like Absalom, the three have no ambition outside of their next hunt, and the rewards given to them after each success. The pack are well aware of their sire's cause of final death and have taken the entire matter in typical pragmatic Gangrel fashion. He picked the wrong side and paid the price. His childer have no intention of making the same mistake. They have feeding grounds, respect, and are left to their own devices unless needed.

Though they have been approached by the Oratory representative a number of times, they have made it clear that their loyalty is to Tara, and unless she does something to destroy that relationship, that is how it's likely to remain.

Each of the sweepers has been granted their own park within San Diego as feeding ground, though they tend to all go to ground in the same area and rotate between them. This makes them both difficult to locate and more importantly, to challenge one is to fight them all.

The representatives of Galerie Sanguine are yet to have a direct meeting with the Census-Takers of San Diego. This can only be considered to be a good thing. Though they have been seen within their domain, this is part of their job and isn't therefore something that can be objected to without raising Tara's suspicions about what they might be hiding.

'Baron Tara's Brujah'
Of the fifteen Brujah who followed Tara to Los Angeles and then to San Diego, only nine survive into the modern nights. Four lost their unlives attempting to defend their Baron from the assault by Jenna Cross's overwhelming forces and a fifth was destroyed by Absalom when questions were raised about Tara's competence to rule before her resent ascension. He was granted trial by combat, but against Absalom that was effectively an execution, as his skill in combat exceeds that of his fellow Brujah within the city by a considerable margin.

Absalom, and his two childer make up a third of the remaining nine. The other six have been granted some of the best feeding grounds within the city as reward for their continued loyalty.

The Oratory
As would be expected considering Marius Walkers pivotal involvement in Tara's return to power, The Oratory and Aegis acquisitions have a strong presence in San Diego. The price for Marius's aid in her return were exceptional favourable terms for his own business interests as well as access to the port, associated transport links and some infrastructure.

Though their arrangement was complete upon Tara's rise once more to the rank of Baron, it is in both of their interests to continue to support the other.

Constance Carson - Gangrel
Constance Carson - 'The Oratory', San Diego
The Oratory representative within San Diego is Constance Carson. A fiery red-head considered something of a loose cannon amongst the hierarchy of the Oratory for three reasons.

Firstly she is unrelated to Marius Walker and therefore immune to the strange influence he has over his bloodline. Secondly she isn't Bahari so isn't guided by either of Marius's proxies within the Chosen of Ennoia, Mary or Aviana, and thirdly, the Gangrel pack allocated to San Diego are all her childer and therefore are loyal to her first and foremost.

However, she is also ruthless, efficient and very careful to ensure that her plots benefit both 'The Oratory' and herself in, broadly speaking, equal measures. She maintains her position with a formidable success record, and what might be considered excessively generous terms when undertaking tasks for Baron Tara. 

Ingratiating herself with those who can help elevate herself is one of her many talents and she is unusually politically minded for a Gangrel. Possibly this is why she got the job in the first place. Marius does like surprises and one thing that Constance can never be accused of being, is boring.

Constance and her Pack are based at one of Aegis's logistics hubs in the financial centre of the city, though their exact sleeping places are unknown.

'The Untamed' - Gangrel
Cole, Garrett and Eleanor make up the appropriately named 'The Untamed' Gangrel Pack.

All are childer of Constance, number only three and are a blunt tool at best. Information gathering is mainly achieved through traditional surveillance methods by ghoul led teams who answer to Constance, with The Untamed being held in reserve for what might be diplomatically called 'Sweep and Clear' operations, though the original military term 'Search and Destroy' is more appropriate.

There is somewhat of a rivalry between this Pack and Tara's sweepers. As the only two Gangrel packs in the area, they'd really like to know which is the dominant one. Unfortunately, the local situation makes this difficult to achieve without a lot of political fallout. 'The Untamed' are older, more experienced and more potent in the blood, but are predictably direct in their methods. This lack of tactical acumen on their part might be enough to give the pack of 'Skinner' Hoffman an edge.

The Galerie Sanguine's representatives have had no need to deal with either Aegis or the Oratory so what they know of them is merely hearsay.

Other Kindred of Note
'Cleo' - Nosferatu
'Cleo' Nosferatu
'Cleopatra', Madam and Sex Worker
Given it's usefulness as a convenient food source, the Sex Industry of any city is always much contested amongst kindred. Within San Diego, the majority of the prostitution is controlled by a Nosferatu named Cleo.

'Cleopatra' is a derogatory term used by the Nosferatu to describe those of their clan that were Embraced because of their extraordinary beauty. Cleo has taken the term and turned it into a badge of honour, and few in the city even remember her real moniker. In fact she was a pornographic film actress and model for many years. Drug use forced her into prostitution and by the time she was discovered overdosing in a back alley, she was a shadow of her former beauty. Some might have believed that she had suffered enough, however the Nosferatu who embraced her apparently did not.

Her sire survived just long enough to teach his childe the skills she needed to destroy and diablerise him. The black veins have long faded from her aura, but her bitterness remains and she has very little time for others of her clan.

Cleo controls several brothels and the majority of the cities street girls, via a series of proxies who extort protection money from the cities pimps. Those who refuse to pay don't stay in business for very long and currently over half of the sex trade in San Diego pays tribute to Cleo, whether they know it or not.

Cleo is a master of Obfuscate and uses this discipline to disguise herself as the sexual beauty she once was in order to feed. If a client proves to be particularly unpleasant then she may well show them her true form, before draining them dry and disposing of their exsanguinated corpse.

Cleo makes her home somewhere in the Warrens below San Diego. It's also rumoured that she keeps a herd of imprisoned former 'customers' there on which to feed, draining them dry when she grows bored of them and replacing the dead one with a new candidate.

'Dr Moses Lyn' - The Ministry
Clarence Hanna - The Ministry, Childe of Dr Moses
Naomi Reid - The Ministry
Dr Moses Lyn - The Ministry
A conman in life and an evangelical preacher after his death, some might say that his career hasn't actually changed much.

His congregation is substantial, though access to his more intimate ceremonies is reserved for those with money, influence or both, which gives him a considerable herd from which to feed. It also allows him to gain power in the mortal world through manipulation of those who listen to his words.

Given the many scandals surrounding his chosen profession, Moses is careful to ensure that enough money finds it's way into the coffers of local churches to justify his claims as a benefactor of the community. Of course this is a mere fraction of the actual donations.

His words have, to his disappointment, had little effect upon the cities Baron who has little time for religion, kindred or otherwise. As far as she's concerned the only figure in San Diego worthy of worship is herself. In light of his failure to place himself as advisor to the Baron, he has instead turned his attention to her emissary. If he can't manipulate Tara directly, then perhaps he can do so via another route.

He is assisted by two Ministry Neonates. Clarence Hanna is his childe, and the other, Naomi Reid, has effectively been adopted as such. Between them they run the more mundane aspects of the cult that Moses has begun to establish.

If an alternate, and more malleable, candidate for leadership was to emerge then the Ministry might well lend them their support instead. It's also likely that Tara is aware of this, which makes it all the more important that they do nothing to draw her wrath upon them as she is certain to be looking for an excuse to do so.

Moses and his followers have a number of churches and halls of congregation around the city. Where they lie at night is unknown but they probably have resting places beneath one or more of these.

Justin Rush - Brujah
Justin Rush - Brujah
One of the few Brujah within San Diego who isn't directly beholden to Tara, Mr Rush is about as far from a warrior philosopher as is possible. Many mistake him for a Ventrue on their first meeting though it would be wise not to make such a comparison to his face.

Justin controls a logistics business, based at the Port of San Diego, that has branches at most of the major routes in and out of the city.

Smuggling is his main source of income, though he has a side-line in providing transport services for kindred with the need to travel outside of the city limits. He keeps his Baron on side by providing services for her for free and by providing for the needs of his own clan at, slightly, more favourable rates than he does for the rest.

He and Constance Carson have a begrudging but stable working relationship as both have interests in the port area. Justin is steadfastly resisting her attempts to muscle him out of the logistics business and some have theorized that for some reason she isn't trying as hard as she could be to eliminate him as competition. 

Unknown, but likely within the dock area. 

Josef Moyer and Sapphire Khan - Caitiff
Given the ties between Sire and Childe it isn't surprising that guilt by association is a common problem amongst kindred of dubious heritages. Josef and Sapphire have been careful to distance themselves from any association with the forces of Jenna Cross and make a point of continuously pledging their loyalty, and that of their followers, to the Baron.

The truth is less straightforward as Sapphire was one of the very followers of Jenna who riddled Tara with gunfire and watched her plummet to her apparent final death. More surprising to her is that Baron Tara has stood no more than an arms length away from her, and looked her straight in the face, without any hint of recognition.

As mortals, both were veterans of the civil rights movement within America and so are accustomed to prejudice. They hoped that unlife as an Anarch would be different yet once again they find themselves fighting for the same rights as their peers. Though disappointed, neither was particularly surprised.

The pair currently have two caitiff and three duskborn under their protection, and all are struggling to feed consistently given that their allocated feeding grounds are undisputedly the worse in the city. One of their number, a third Caitiff, was beaten into torpor by Absalom for venturing into another's feeding ground.

His body is being stored in a secret location just in case Absalom decides to pay them a visit to finish the job. None of them have potent enough vitae to bring an end to his torpor and, without outside assistance' will just have to wait for enough time to pass.

Unknown, but given the quality and size of their feeding grounds, probably wouldn't take much finding.

Tianna Bartlett - 'Abstract' Toreador
Tianna Bartlett - Toreador
San Diego Zoo
San Diego's Zoo is the domain of Tianna Bartlett, a Toreador who sees beauty in the natural world, rather than in the artistic creations of mortals or kindred. She is also what kindred refer to as a 'Farmer', feeding only on animal blood.

She has no time for other members of her Clan as she finds them to be shallow and petty.
A laboratory on the Zoo's grounds extracts blood from a variety of exotic creatures under the guise of research into disease, though they are careful to cause no harm to the donors as Tianna reacts poorly to any who might bring such natural wonders to a premature end. Tianna will occasionally allow kindred to feed from the more mundane of the zoo's fauna, and sometimes it's visitors, in return for minor boons and favours.

Baron Tara has granted Tianna the area as her feeding ground, mainly because no-one else particularly wanted it, and partially as Tianna seems to be one of the rare Kindred within San Diego capable of navigating Tara's increasingly erratic moods.

Though many suspect that Tianna influences her Baron by use of disciplines, others point to the fact that she is highly empathetic and may simply just be better at reading her than the rest of the cities population.

San Diego Zoo. Given the amount of buildings, enclosures and rarely used storage areas, finding a place to sleep within would give her little trouble.

Temporary Residents
Anika Norton - 'Free' Ventrue
Temporary resident of San Diego
There are currently three temporary residents within the city. All arrived less than a month ago, but not at the same time.

Anika Norton, Alec Doherty and Jaime Bartlett each arrived separately but were allocated temporary feeding grounds in the poorer areas of the city which were within a few blocks of one another. They have therefore pooled their resources in order to make unlife a little easier for them.

Anika is a 'Free' Ventrue, with the usual tale of one seeking a path were age and heritage are less of a factor and where one is judged as an individual. Alec and Jaime are Brujah who left the Camarilla when the majority of their clan did, pushed out of their havens and domain by several new Banu Haqim arrivals.

Each has stated their intention to continue their journey to Los Angeles and they plan to travel together. Though they act as if they are equals, outside observers have commented that old habits die hard and that the pair of Brujah seem to look to the Ventrue for guidance. They are also showing no real signs of leaving, leading some to believe that perhaps they might petition Baron Tara for permanent residence.

With the reins of power within the city firmly in Tara's favour, a tight unit such as this could easily upset the balance if they were to pick a side other than that of the Baron.

Outside Threats
The Second Inquisition
The Second Inquisition is a name guaranteed to make any kindred in the modern nights pay attention.

Though they have yet to make their presence known in San Diego, some of the standard precautions they employ have already been noted. XScopes designed to detect kindred have apparently been recently installed in San Diego airport.

The Second Inquisition - Assault Team

In response, Baron Tara has declared the area to be completely off limits to kindred for both travel and feeding. She has made it clear that anyone breaking this rule will be executed by the cities Constable in order to ensure that no repeat offenses are possible. If one must meet their Final Death to ensure her safety, and that of her city of course, then she will do so without mercy.

Rumours of a new 'Special' unit based at San Diego Naval Base, that in many respects matches SI units seen in other cities, may turn out to simply be paranoia on behalf of some inhabitants.

The Sabbat
The Sabbat are seemingly focussed upon Los Angeles, rather than smaller domains such as San Diego, and there are currently no indications that this is likely to change. Of course, anything is possible.

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 Matt Bomer, Fiorenza Savona is Jamie Lee Curtis, Tara Kearney is Melissa Rauch, Cassie Rosales is Claudia Black, Absalom Hood is Jamie Dornan, Raphael 'Skinner' Hoffman is Richard Norton, Constance Carson is Dina Meyer, 'The Untamed' are some of the cast from 30 days of Night, Dr Moses Lyn is James Marsden, Justin Rush is Armie Hammer, Josef Moyer is Sterling K Brown, Sapphire Khan is Uzo Aduba, Tianna Bartlett is Paz de la Huerta and Anika Norton is Sarah Paulson.

Friday, 28 April 2023

Vampire the Masquerade - V5 - Solo Session - 'The Mithras Seal' - 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 over four years of plotting, one of their number is now leader of the Anarch Council of the Free States and the rest have privileged places within the Anarch hierarchy.
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. There are however a list of potential triggers listed before the introduction. 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.
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.
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 OneTwoThree and Four
Chronicle Three - 'Incursion L.A.'
Story Fourteen - 'The Rant'
Story Fifteen - 'Ties of Blood' - Part One and Two
Solo Session - 'A Gathering of Roses'
Story Sixteen - 'The Southern Solution' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seventeen - 'The Baker Disappearance' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eighteen - 'Inevitable Betrayals' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Nineteen - 'The Marius Contracts' - Part One and Two
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
Interlude Session One - After Griffith Park
Interlude Session Two - Divide and Conquer
Interlude Session Three - On the Brink of War
Chronicle Four - 'Conquest L.A.'
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part Six, and Epilogue
Story Twenty Two - 'The Unbound' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Story Twenty Three - 'The War Council' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Interlude Session - Recon
Story Twenty Four - 'Resistance' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - Damage Limitation
Interlude Session - The Killing Spree
Story Twenty Five - 'Personal Agendas' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Six - 'Strange Bedfellows' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive and Six
Story Twenty Seven - 'The Fiorenza Sanction' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Epilogue
Solo Session - 'The Salubri Tome'
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Epilogue
Galerie Sanguine - 'San Francisco'
'Anarchs' -  ZeroOneTwoThree and Four
Chronicle Five - 'Blood Cults of L.A.'
Story Thirty - 'A Plague of Blood' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive,
Story Thirty - 'A Plague of Blood' - Part SixSevenEight and Nine
Solo Session - 'The Mithras Seal' - Part One

This Sessions PC is...
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Sherlock'

The Storyteller
Everyone else...

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.

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. Introductory pieces that I read to the group are in Blue. Where particular NPC's have a mention in a faction profile you will be able to reach it by clicking on their name or faction beneath their picture.

Trigger Warnings for This Session: Blood, Imprisonment, Slavery, Torture.

Farouk - Banu Haqim
Silsila, 'Keeper of the Blood'
Dr Daniel Matthews identity as one of the Banu Haqim, rather than the Brujah he has claimed to be, has been discovered by a senior member of his Clan.

However, he has been offered an alternative to an unlife hiding from his sire. If he retrieves an item held by one of The Circulatory system within L.A., then Farouk will use his authority as one of the Silsila to cut Edward Kaya loose. Without the rights of judgement, and the resources of his Clan, he will be a greatly reduced threat to Daniel.

Having accepted the contract, Daniel has penetrated the outer defensives of the Circulatory System's 'Farm' and now needs to search within for the Seal of Mithras, sought after by Ur-Shulgi, Eldest of the Banu Haqim.

Scene Six - The Farm
Having evaded the guards, and bypassed the exterior locks, Daniel has managed to enter the main building of The Circulatory System's 'Farm' without being detected.

The office he found himself in was luxuriously decorated, containing a single desk, chairs for customers and a sofa against one wall for additional guests to use. The only other exit was a door in one corner with a single round window in it's upper section. There didn't appear to be a lock on this side. The only decorations were a landscape painting of Los Angeles viewed from the water and a plant on the desk, which looked to be a Venus-fly trap. There was also a closed laptop on the desk.

Marcelina Black - Ventrue
Director of the L.A. Farm
Daniel recalled that on the coteries previous visit, Marcelina had opened the side door without leaving her desk. Presumably there was therefore some way of opening it near where she had been seated. He utilised the various scanning devices he'd acquired from Marius's armoury and located a signal emanating from the desk, which seemed to be synched to the door.

Beneath the desk he found a single button. After debating with himself about the possibility of it alerting every guard in the building, he decided his options were to try it, or abandon the mission. He was therefore very relieved when a small keypad slid from the front of the desk, rather than the room flooding with guards. The keypad had a digital display on which were three buttons. They were labelled 'Access', 'Seal' and 'Alert'.

After first checking that there were no guards in the other room, he made an educated guess and pressed the button marked 'access', and heard a satisfying click as the door unlocked.

On the other side of the door was a small antechamber with a set of double doors on the opposite side. Several locked filing cabinets were to the right, in addition to a pair of fridges to the left, alongside a counter on which was a wine rack. Daniel wasn't exactly a connoisseur of the vintages created by the Blood Sommeliers of the 'Elite' of kindred society, but he imagined that these were probably good ones, perhaps even Marcelina's own stock.

The filing cabinets were sorted alphabetically, but were also quite empty. Possibly they were part of an early filing system that had been modernised, computerised or moved. The fridges contained blood bags, carefully labelled by blood type. Several of these were quite rare. Less than one percent of the population had AB Negative blood, yet this stockpile contained several bags of it.

Daniel resisted the urge to help himself. The less items he disturbed, the less likely he was to leave any clues to his presence there.

Interlude - Doppelganger
Jane 'Mannequin' Doe - Gangrel
Childe of Marius Walker
If Victoria was surprised to find two Marius's sitting in his living room, she didn't show it. Ignoring the one on the sofa, she instead walked directly to the one standing nearby. 

"Just because you fooled Farouk for an hour or two, doesn't mean that you're tricks work on me..." began Victoria. "...and I believe you have a task to perform?"

Jane Doe, occasionally known as 'Mannequin', second youngest of Marius childer, allowed her cloak of obfuscation to drop, and simultaneously used her powers of Vicissitude to restore her original appearance, or the default one at least. Within moments, Victoria stood opposite a woman who was average in every way, with features designed to be instantly forgotten.

"My 'Marius' is apparently better than my 'Victoria'..." Janes voice, like her appearance, was equally forgettable. " it fooled Mr Matthews, and Yukio..."

Victoria conceded the point. "Well we're here now, so you can continue with your previous assignment, if you'd be so kind?"

Marius's eldest ghoul had a way of phrasing requests, that made them feel like orders, and in a way they were. All his childer knew that Victoria Anezka had access to all the keys to the kingdom. A word from her, to all intents and purposes, was an order from him. Nevertheless, on principle, Jane waited for Marius's nod before leaving.

"I may need to reinforce my authority with that one..." stated Victoria, once the two of them were alone once more.

Florence 'Fox' Mercado, Gangrel - After a 'Lesson' of Victoria's

"Like you did with Florence?" replied Marius. Victoria paused for a moment, not sure if the question was for confirmation, or an admonishment.

"Not quite. Something a little more creative will be in order for Miss Doe."

Marius didn't ask, though he decided to have a quiet word with his childe about the level of deference she should show to his most loyal follower. If she didn't listen, then the consequences would be on her own head.

Scene Seven - Cattle
The Circulatory System - Cell Block
The corridor beyond the doors was flanked on both sides by cells, each had a heavy duty door, with only a small viewing window in the centre. Each door was protected by a keypad entry system.

In each cell, an unfortunate man or woman, and one girl barely out of her teens, had been fitted with a device attached to their wrist which seemed to be for the extraction of blood.

Evidently these were 'stock' rather than subjects provided for 'lease'. Their cells contained a bed, a chair, and some scattered belongings, though judging from the remnants on the plates in several cells, the occupants were well fed. Each had a vacant facial expression, that might indicate that they had been drugged, or more likely have been dominated into subservience, by a powerful kindred mind.

Vitae Extraction Tool
As Daniel carefully navigated the corridor he had a closer look at the 'vessels', and decided that they hadn't been drugged. He knew that any chemicals in the victims bloodstreams would effect the drinker. In fact there were many kindred who fed exclusively from drug addicts so as to experience highs not available to them in any other way.

He also made certain conclusions about the food and drink.

The drinks appeared to be pomegranate juice, the foods were fatty fishes and leafy greens, all of which were regarded as being good for blood flow and circulation. The rest of the meals provided were rich in iron, another staple of good blood health. If Daniel had hated the Circulatory System before, the feelings reached new heights now. Keeping humans as brain dead cattle, albeit well fed ones, made Daniel very angry indeed. The fact that he could do nothing about it without compromising his mission, made it even worse. Despite these provocations, he forced the Beast within back down using tricks learned from the Bahari during his brief stay with them.

'Mary', 'The Mother' - Gangrel
Bahari, The Chosen of Ennoia
He had been given tuition in their methods by Lia, one of the childer of Mary, known as 'Mother' and high priestess of L.A.'s Bahari, as a favour to Marius, who was Mary's sire. Daniel had been grateful for the teachings, but certainly didn't consider himself one of them. In many ways they were as worthy of judgement as The Circulatory System, but at least they were honest about it.

A double door at the opposite end was the only other way in or out of this area.

Sure that there would be security nearby, Daniel extended his preternatural senses and listened for anything that might give him a clue to what was ahead.

There were at least four men inside, having a discussion about how boring their night shifts were, what an asshole their boss was and how they weren't paid enough. then, a far more commanding voice cut the rest off and began issuing orders.

"Seth. Go check on the vessels in 'economy', Reid. Go make sure the other guest is still behaving himself. And for fucks sake don't go inside whatever you do. You saw what was left of Ellis, right? Bastard didn't even try to escape, just turned him inside, fucking out..."

A moment later the door opened and a guard, presumably 'Seth' entered the corridor. the door had a mechanism that began to slowly close the door a moment after it was released by the guard. realising that he might not get another opportunity, he slipped through the gap a moment before the door slammed shut.

Interlude - Mirror, Mirror
Jane was one of the few of Marius childer who had permanent rooms in Hallowbrook, the others preferring their own Havens.

A Wall of Mirrors, Jane Doe's Quarters at Hallowbrook

An outside observer might have thought her vain, as her rooms had mirrors on every wall. Some were simply squares of reflective material, others were elaborate and ancient, but all were scrupulously clean. The only other decorations were placed on several long shelves upon one wall. These contained masks from a myriad of cultures. 

A Wall of Masks, Jane Doe's Quarters at Hallowbrook

Masks for celebrating the Mexican day of the dead stood next to Venetian Carnival masks, Chinese new year masks, and many others from Japan, Africa, Austria, Venezuela, and other locations, as each jostled for position on the overcrowded racking. Five masks of similar style had a shelf of their own, one was made of plain ash wood, while the others were gold, white and obsidian, with a final one seemingly carved as a replica of some ancient kindred. Above all of these was a single featureless white mask without any holes of any kind.

Cappadocian Masks of The Clan of Death

She entered a room at the rear, and stood in the centre. This had five mirrors allowing her to see herself from any angle, with one behind her to complete her view of herself, that also doubled as monitors. A pair of keyboards were set to allow her to operate them from any angle, and she activated the state of the art computer system that had been installed there at incredible expense. She entered her password and the screen ahead was filled with biographical data, as the screens began to stream pictures and voice samples of her next target.

This one was going to be complicated, but she had accomplished much more difficult duplications than this.  

"Yes we have..." said another voice in her mind, and a dozen others agreed. She took comfort in their encouragement, then continued with her work.

Scene Eight - Special Guests
Fancy but Impractical
The room Daniel now found himself within, contained a console area with security screens, one observing each cell and another pointing down the corridor itself. A guard was sitting behind a desk in the opposite corner with one foot resting on the top. He had a coffee in one hand and was idly playing with a combat knife with his other. In Daniel's opinion the knife was completely impractical, though he had to admit it wasn't bad to look at.

 A weapons cabinet mounted on the wall behind him contained assault rifles, submachine guns and shotguns. All except the shotguns were fitted with suppressers. Presumably any actions within the facility were expected to be done quietly.

There was another door opposite, and a third on the left. Daniel made a brief mental assessment of the buildings dimensions and concluded that the third door likely led to the heavily guarded door he had observed from the outside of the complex.

The guard observing the security screens turned to the other man, presumably his superior and pointed out something on one of the screens. Then checked a list on a tablet to his right. "Hey Luke. The kid...Haylee? hasn't eaten again. We might have to have her force fed again..."

The Circulatory System - Security Room
Luke didn't seem particularly interested, but replied anyway. "Let 'days' know during the handover, they can deal with it..." He then returned his attention to his coffee.

Daniel was once again frustrated by the fact that executing them all wasn't an option currently available to him.

The opposite door opened and the guard identified as 'Reid' returned. "He doesn't look that dangerous..." he commented as the door slowly closed behind him. "That's what Ellis thought too..." replied Luke with a grin. He didn't appear to be particularly concerned about the fate of the aforementioned Ellis, but then Daniel hardly expected an employee of The Circulatory System to be particularly compassionate. 

Once again taking the opportunity provided, he slipped by 'Reid' and entered the next section of the complex.

This area was broadly similar to the cell block described as 'Economy' by the guards, though the rooms were much larger and considerably more luxurious. However a cage was still a cage, no matter how expensively decorated it might be.

Of the four rooms within, only one was occupied. It contained a neatly groomed Bangladeshi man in 
his late thirties. He was sitting at a desk, sketching something, he appeared oblivious to Daniel's presence. Considering he had apparently recently sliced to pieces one of the guards, presumably in this very room, the Banu Haqim could see no evidence of the act within his cell. 

The outside of the room however revealed to him several signs of what had been done. A spot of blood here and there had escaped the cleaning efforts, and given their locations, Daniel could only imagine that the unfortunate Ellis had ended up in a lot of pieces.

Daniel could see that the picture was an anatomical study of a man sliced into sections and had been expertly and vividly drawn. To the doctors expert eye, it was anatomically correct and indicated a detailed knowledge of anatomy, or possibly, based on the fate of Ellis, a very good memory. As he observed, Daniel heard the man speak and it was clear that he was addressing him.  "Are you a new interrogator, or a representative of Marcelina's with a better offer?"

Daniel was an expert at obfuscation, so the casual way that his shields had been bypassed, was somewhat disturbing.

The prisoner, seemed to be patiently waiting for a reply.

Interlude - The Path of Blood
Victoria had given Farouk access to a well equipped and secure set of rooms, blood dolls when he requested them, and his movements around the 'guest' areas of Hallowbrook were fairly unrestricted. As hosts went, Marius's hospitality couldn't be faulted, though at his prices, one expected a certain level of service.

He had been informed that Daniel had began his infiltration of the Circulatory system 'Farm' and Victoria was confident of his chances of success. She too was of the opinion that is was only matters of morality that limited this individuals chances of success, and he had no such feelings about these traders in vessels.

Dr Daniel Matthews intrigued him. He had successfully convinced the majority of the cities Brujah that he was one of them, even gaining membership to the Brujah exclusive fight clubs of Spicilus, or 'Ike' as he currently went by. This showed a considerable talent for subterfuge, impersonation and infiltration that matched, or in some cases exceeded, that of Farouk's own agents.

Edward Kaya - Banu Haqim
Sire of Dr Daniel Matthews
Daniel's sire was another matter. Farouk didn't use the term 'traitor' lightly, but Edward Kaya had put his own needs above those of his clan, and Ur-Shulgi himself had ordered Farouk's Silsila's to ensure that the clans judges were without reproach. It was the Eldest's intention that the Path of Blood, and the teachings of Haqim, be the sole religion of the Banu Haqim. Word had also reached Farouk that Kaya had had dealings with the demon worshipping kindred bloodline known as The Baali. He had kept this information from Daniel, as it was currently unconfirmed, but given what else he had learned about Edwards activities, he wouldn't be surprised to discover that it was the truth.

If Daniel succeeded in retrieving the Mithras Seal, then Farouk would keep his word, and sever the clans ties to Edward Kaya. Daniel's sire would certainly seek revenge against his childe for his part in this, and Farouk was interested to see who would emerge victorious. If Daniel survived then he might be worthy of serving his Clan in a more significant matter.

His musings were interrupted by a knock at the door. "Marius would like to know if you'd be interested in another training session?"

Farouk confirmed that he would. It would occupy the next few hours at least.

Scene Nine - Doctor Banerjee
"Perhaps if I knew who you were, I might be able to answer your question..." stated Daniel, though he was reasonably sure he knew exactly to whom he was talking.

Doctor Henry Banerjee - Hecate
Surgeon and 
"I am Doctor Henry Banerjee, formerly of London, now a humble traveller selling my skills when and where they are required. Currently I am a guest of Marcelina Black and the pretty new girl, to whom I'm yet to be formerly introduced."

Something about his tone bothered Daniel. He was a little bit too calm, too friendly, as if his outward personality was an disguise behind which his true nature hid. Daniel decided that he might as well be honest. Concealing his true purpose would gain him nothing at this point.

"I'm looking for an item, a seal that once belonged to a kindred of importance. I'm informed that it is in this place, in your possession in fact. Though in all honesty, I expected you to be on the other side of one of those cells." replied Daniel. It seemed that Dr Banerjee had also decided to get straight to the point.

"I have the item. The price offered was insultingly low considering it's unique nature, and so Miss Black has now resorted to less hospitable tactics. Quite impolite of her considering the many services I've provided for The Circulatory System on a freelance basis over the last decade, and directly while in their employ over the last year." he then continued.

"I currently find myself in a poor negotiating position and, apologies if this sounds petty, I'm inclined to take a considerable loss on this deal just to inconvenience Miss Black. Of course, my freedom would be an integral part of any arrangement..."

Daniel had figured as much, though he wasn't about to free what was quite probably a psychotic mass murderer, without proof some proof that they could hold up their part of the bargain.

Vampiric Artifact - The Mithras Seal

A small disc of pure darkness appeared in the centre of the doctors hand and a moment later it was replaced by an ornate seal, like those used on old documents and letters. "Not often one gets to handle something owned by a god?" stated Banerjee. A moment later the process was reversed and the seal disappeared back into the Abyss. "The item for my freedom. Transfer to be completed once I'm out of this complex and somewhere that would be objectively considered to be we have an accord?"

Daniel reluctantly agreed, though he had taken some time to consider the consequences. "I presume that the guards in the next room will be alerted the moment that cell door opens?"

The prisoner shrugged, though whether this indicated that he didn't know, or didn't care, wasn't immediately apparent.

"The code to my cell is 1876. A fact revealed to me by the unfortunate Mr Ellis, a few nights previously. It needs to be entered in that tiny little box on my cell door, It is warded against my abilities so I'm unable to activate it remotely, and I have no access to it from within my confinement..."

Daniel drew one of his pistols, deactivated the safety, and ensured that it was fully loaded and ready to go. Then he carefully typed the number into the keypad. He heard several heavy locks disnegage, then the door slowly opened. His heightened senses immediately heard the sound of an alarm coming from the security room. Apparently the doctors escape had indeed been noticed.

A moment later the doors flew open and three of the four guards from the ante room entered the two doctors location. Without hesitation they raised their weapons. At the same time Daniel noticed the room growing darker despite being well lit and the the few shadows within grew darker and began to spread like oil across the walls and floor. Two of the guards pointed their weapons at Dr Banerjee, the last pointed his assault rifle at Daniel. 

One Shot, One Kill - Unerring Aim
Before the guard targeting Daniel could even pull the trigger, the Banu Haqim had put a 10mm round through their forehead.

Murky tentacles had emerged from those shadows that hadn't existed a moment before, and the two remaining guards find themselves constricted in their grasp. Henry was quite still, his eyes as black as the Abyss, he stretched out one hand and began to slowly close it into a fist. As he did so, the tentacles wrapped tighter around their victims, slowly suffocating them. Within moments they lost consciousness, alive but incapacitated. The doctor then produced a scalpel from somewhere within his clothing and walked towards the incapacitated men.

Had Daniel been unsure about the guards morality then he might have interfered, but he had heard these bastards talk about their prisoners and so had no sympathy for their fates. The first guard received a cut along the femoral artery that would result in death within minutes, the second had the blade slipped beneath his body armour, convulsed, then died instantly.

Doctor Henry Banerjee, 'Tools of the Trade'

"They were very unpleasant..." he explained, as if this was sufficient reason for their deaths. "Shall we depart before the others arrive?"

Daniel mentally added Dr Banerjee to his list of kindred who the world would be better without, before heading to the security door. As he stepped over one of the dead guards he noticed that they had a security pass on a lanyard around their neck and he ripped it free, just in case it was needed to get through any of the doors between them and the way out.

Trying to both look ahead, and keep an eye on the former prisoner, he headed back through the cell blocks towards the office.

Interlude - Round Two
Farouk made no attempt to block the last few blows as slowing their momentum would have been almost impossible. Marius was wielding a two-handed weapon almost nonchalantly in one hand, and Farouk had been forced to elevate his level of effort considerably from their previously encounter.

Two-Handed Sword - Marius's Personal Armoury

He had modified his technique to compensate for the level of power he was facing, and an almost equivalent increase in ability with the blade. Farouk knew he was still the superior swordsman, but on this occasion he was actually having to use more of that skill. Marius apparently wasn't simply playing anymore. This was a real test between two warriors. Farouk decided that it was time to show this Gangrel who he was really up against.

Farouk's Ornate Curved Blade
Farouk moved at supernatural speed, and attacked Marius from the side, forcing his opponent into a defensive posture with a weapon poorly designed for such manoeuvres.

The great-sword moved in a figure of eight and Farouk appreciated how the 'Fixer' wielded his weapon so as to leave little gap for an opposing blade to slip through. The Banu Haqim however had centuries more experience than his foe, and knew exactly what to do next.

The master swordsman found the tiniest gap in his opponents defence, and slipped his blade through. As Marius tried to deflect the attack, Farouk twisted the blade in such a way that Marius had to switch back to a singlehanded grip, and the assassin sliced into the Gangrel's wrist forcing him to drop the heavy weapon. 

Gangrel - Feral Claws
Moving from a low attack to a high one, he aimed for the neck of his host.

Farouk found himself slammed against a wall, Marius's good hand was at his throat, claws digging into the flesh. The Banu Haqim's blade meanwhile rested upon the edge of his enemies neck. Farouk was somewhat surprised to find that Marius released his grip first. After a moments pause he lowered his own blade.

"Thank-you for the lesson..." said Marius, as he repaired the damage to his wrist with a thought. " seems that I need to practice a little more before meeting one of your skill on equal terms. Perhaps I can offer you some sustenance while we wait for Daniel to return?..."

Farouk had learned something too. If he ever did decide to have Marius assassinated, he would have it done from a good safe distance.

Scene Ten - Celia
Celia Monroe - Malkavian
The Circulatory System, 'Recruiter'
In the office ahead, Daniel and Henry discovered a pretty young lady, possibly in her late teens when embraced, the security chief Daniel had encountered earlier was at her feet mumbling incoherently to himself.

"I think we should talk, before the thirty-five heavily armed gentlemen outside enter here and shoot you both to pieces...if you'd please take a seat?"

Daniels curiosity had been aroused, so he took the seat as offered. Dr Banerjee meanwhile had remained standing, his bloody scalpel held lightly in one hand.

"The way I see it, I have two potential courses of action..." began Celia "...One. I foil your escape attempt, and gain favour with Marcelina Black, who will in turn use the item you possess to enhance her own position considerably. Or two. I help you to escape, embarrassing Miss Black who has promised the item to several very important kindred who do not reward failure, an act for which I cannot be held responsible as I'm definitely not here. You have two minutes to convince me that the second course is preferable to the first..."

Seeing little alternative, Daniel began.

"I'm no friend of the system, nor have I any interest in its politics or power-plays, but I see no benefit to you should Marcelina's position become more secure, unless perhaps she gets promoted out of this job, and you take her place. That however will take time, and you don't strike me as a particularly patient individual as indicated by your presence here..."

Celia's expression remained impassive, so Daniel continued.

Mithras - Ventrue
Methuselah, The Prince of Light
"...but should Miss Black be suitably embarrassed by her failure, then that will effect her reputation indefinitely, and make any moves by yourself to undermine her seem less like internal politics, and more like further incompetence by Marcelina. The fact that the kindred ultimately involved are so powerful and well known should make that impact upon her reputation even worse..." Daniel then played a hunch. "...but this is all just another power-play isn't it? You'd already made your decision..."

Celia smiled, but Daniel could see that there was nothing genuine about it. Over the years he'd encountered many kindred who manipulated others, and who enjoyed watching their victims dance to their particular tune, and Celia was certainly such an individual. He wondered if The Circulatory System sought out kindred such as this, or if the very nature of their trade attracted them to it.

"You're correct of course..." replied Celia. "...I just wanted to see what you'd say. If it's any consolation, you were quite convincing. Not that Doctor Banerjee seems to be listening..." The surgeon had been occupying himself with the incoherent security guard, and the unfortunate mortal was now bleeding profusely from a dozen incisions, and would likely be dead within a few more minutes of the surgeons attentions.

Celia moves to the wall on which the landscape had been placed, and traced her hand along the skyline. A section of the wall then silently moved backwards revealing a stairway behind.

Incendiary Device
"The tunnel emerges about fifty metres outside of this complex. There's an incendiary device on the exit hatch so be careful on your way out. Needless to say this Postern will be rendered useless as soon as you've left so don't be silly rabbits and try to come back in this way..."

Seemingly bored with his 'game', the doctor finished off the doomed guard with a single scalpel thrust, and joined Daniel.

The tunnel was exactly as Celia had described, and the device was easy enough to deactivate, from this side of the exit at least. Soon the pair found themselves out in the open.


Once free, the doctor handed Daniel the Seal, with only the merest moment of hesitation. "Tell Farouk, that I'll be in Hollywood should he have any questions on that particular artefact. I think it's time that I joined the family reunion..." With that he stepped backwards into the shadows and was gone.

Worryingly, Daniel didn't recall mentioning Farouk at all.

Epilogue - The Mithras Seal
Daniel handed over the innocuous, yet ornate item to Farouk, who examined it briefly before slipping it into a velvet pouch and placing it within his jacket.

"Dr Banerjee asked me to inform you that he'll be in Hollywood, with the rest of the Hecate, should you wish to meet with him. I didn't mention your name, so he must have already been aware of you." said Daniel.

Marius Walker - Gangrel
Pack Leader of 'The Oratory'
Farouk gave his thanks for the item, and the information, and confirmed his intention to fulfil his promises to Daniel regarding the status of his sire. Then, without further comment he was escorted out of Marius's quarters by Victoria.

Daniel noticed that Marius didn't seem particularly pleased.

"What's the matter with you?" asked Daniel, somewhat more aggressively than he'd intended.

"If I was actually Marius, it's likely that your tone would have got you into trouble." replied the individual, who Daniel now realised must be Jane Doe. "But as your asking, the reason I'm slightly perturbed is that if I was to compile a list of kindred whose attentions I'd like to avoid, then Mithras and Ur-Shulgi would be high on it and now we're apparently involved with both. Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"

The sudden change of subject threw Daniel for a moment, and Jane spoke before he had a chance to reply. "Do you ever wonder how easily you could have become like Banerjee?"

Daniel didn't reply, and as he turned to leave, Jane made one final comment.

"If anyone happens to ask, Marius isn't in L.A."

Daniel remained silent. Marius's plotting wasn't his concern, well, not at the moment.


Storytellers Conclusions
I sometimes 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 that went remarkably well considering how much could have gone horrendously wrong. It also now nicely lines up the inevitable future confrontation between Daniel and his sire. As the players characters grow in power and influence, It makes sense that their activities will come to the attention of more significant power-players within the World of Darkness.

Even if they don't turn up, it gives the players something to worry about, and I'd hate for unlife to get boring for them...

Song Lyrics
Also, the quote in the header is from the following song, should any-one be interested.


Further Acknowledgements
Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Entertainment AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved.

I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Dr Daniel Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Farouk is Faran Haroon Tahir, Marcelina Black is Carrie-Anne Moss, Florence 'Fox' Mercado is Camila Fox, Victoria Anezka is Lilith May, Edward Kaya is Laurence Fishburne, Doctor Henry Banerjee is Sudhanshu Pandey, Celie Monroe is Elsie Fisher and Marius Walker is Tony Curran.

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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