Friday, 10 June 2022

Vampire the Masquerade - V5 - Session One Hundred and Sixteen - 'Methuselah' (Part Five)

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. Over a year of plotting allowed the coterie to gain control of two North-Eastern Baronies and a large part of a third. Now they are moving on to the final stage of their campaign and have their eyes on taking over the entire city, either directly or by proxy.
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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. 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.
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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
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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
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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
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Interlude Session One - After Griffith Park
Interlude Session Two - Divide and Conquer
Interlude Session Three - On the Brink of War
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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 OneTwoThree and Four
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The PC's
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, 'Baron of the North East'
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, 'Constable'

The Storyteller
Garreth - 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 (Obviously), Sex Trade.

Introduction
The Sabbat AKA The Sword of Caine
The Baronies of the Anarch Free States are currently focused inwards, as almost all have suffered some kind of incursion by the Sabbat. Though some are cleaning up their own messes, many have turned to 'The Fixer' for assistance. It would not be unfair to say that Marius is taking advantage of the situation as his prices in boons, favours or finance have been bordering on the extortionate.

Inevitably, some Barons are blaming each other for allowing the intruders to sneak through their domains to reach those of their rivals. Others are accusing their neighbours of using the Sabbat attacks as cover for acts of violence that furthered their own ends. As is common with kindred, none are willing to admit their own failings and are looking for a scapegoat to blame for their current misfortunes.

The fact that the Sabbat withdrew before they could be counter-attacked is also causing kindred frustrations to increasingly be focussed upon targets they can actually see...namely their neighbouring Baronies and their inhabitants...

Baron Tomassio has called for a meeting of the Anarch Council to attempt to resolve some of these issues, but the soonest time that all can make themselves available is in three nights. However, in kindred politics, three nights is a long time...

Scene Twenty Seven - Questions and Answers
Antique Silver Ritual Bowl - Blood Sorcery
Vincent Ghast had settled himself in the chamber that he used to prepare himself to communicate with his kindred sire. 

Blood magic did not come naturally to him and he had put considerable effort into mastering the few rituals required of him.

A silver bowl filled with water and a ring that once belonged to his sire had already been prepared by his ghoul Sarah. He submerged the ring in the bowl and slowly let his vitae drip into the liquid. Then he concentrated on the image of his sire as he began the ritual.

As he concluded the ceremony thirty minutes later, he felt the voice of his sire, Desdemona 'Demonmaw' Moore, within his mind. "You have questions, most valued of my childer?" Vincent had his doubts about that but attempted to keep the thought from being broadcast across their link. Instead he stated what had been on his mind. 

Desdemona Moore - Brujah
Praetor and Red Alastor
"Isaac is plotting, Marius provokes the Sabbat and Michael is hiding something from me. Is there something happening of importance that is being kept from me?"

Desdemona's concerns for his safety were clear to him, linked mentally as they were. Nevertheless for a moment he thought that she wasn't going to answer.

"A Methuselah of the fifth generation has guided Los Angeles since it's inception. Long ago this Toreador shamed his sire, and now the sire returns seeking vengeance upon the childe. Your Baron Michael is aware of these facts, despite the latter supposedly being a closely guarded secret. Given his previous associations it doesn't much of a stretch to extrapolate that Carmelita was responsible for enlightening him..."

Vin took a moment to assimilate this information, before enquiring how Isaac and Marius fit into this plot.

"Isaac appears to be assisting the sire in his campaign against the childe. Though perhaps it is more complicated than that, but this is how it looks so far. He is using Marius's contacts to facilitate his scheming. Though the cost of his arrangement with The Wolf Spider is unknown it is likely to be considerable, but regardless Isaac is throwing considerable resources at this project. Those of us with senior positions in the hierarchy of the Camarilla have been given specific instructions not to interfere in the ancient ones activities. You of course may do as you please."

A Gift from his Sire - A New Blade
Vin noticed that his sire was conspicuously avoiding using the names of these Methuselah as if to do do would somehow draw their attention. 

He did however seem to have been given permission to interfere if he wished. Desdemona changed the subject. "Did you receive my gift?" Vin confirmed that he had. 

The weapon had arrived via the kindred delivery service known as 'The Pony Express' and was, to Vin's eyes at least, a work of art. The two-handed weapon was more like a giant cleaver than a machete yet was perfectly balanced. It contained a place for the occult artefact known as 'The Heart of Eliza' he'd received from the former Haven of Maximillian Strauss, that was now known as The Consolidated Chantry of Los Angeles. As soon as it was convenient he intended to dedicate the blade and make it his personal weapon.

Georgiana Landry - Brujah
Missing Childe of Desdemona Moore
"I had something similar for your lost 'sister' too. How goes your search?"

Vin decided to be honest.

"I believe Georgiana to have gone to ground somewhere below Downtown, but given the recent situations with Vannevar and now the Sabbat, the opportunity to investigate has yet to present itself. Even with the Barony of the Angels being open once more, Marius's domain is still off-limits."

"That..." replied Desdemona. "...I can do something about. Xaviar owed me several boons which, given his destruction, he cannot repay. It doesn't seem unreasonable for me to expect his eldest childe to honour those debts..."

Vin doubted that Downtown's Baron would see it that way but Desdemona had considerable influence. If she said she could help, then he was certain that she would.

"Is that all childe?" queried his sire.

Vin decided that he now had more than enough to consider. His other questions could wait. He gave her his thanks and then the link was broken. His watch indicated that exactly ten minutes had passed.

"Why is it always ten minutes?" he thought. He then grabbed his new weapon and got ready. It was time that he and Michael had a talk.

Scene Twenty Eight - Conflict Resolution
The Galerie Sanguine - Pasadena
Michael and Daniel had met to discuss a variety of issues when Vin arrived at the gallery to speak to his Baron. Both could see that he was more than a little agitated.

As he entered the meeting room he leant on a nearby chair rather than sitting down. Daniel noted the wood beginning to split where Vin gripped it. He also observed something which worried him. Vin had been an open book to read, when it came to moods and emotions, when Daniel had first met him. Over the last couple of years they had faded and become less common as he gained greater control over himself. Every one of those tell-tale signs of imminent violence were now bubbling under the service.

Vin took a moment to gain some self-control before speaking.

"I've just communicated with my sire. She chose to share some things with me that I would have thought you'd have already made known. It's no secret that I had my doubts about your plans for taking control of L.A. but I have to admit it's actually working. Now I find that a potential threat to us all is being kept to yourself and I'd like to know why?"

Christopher Houghton - Toreador
5th Generation Methuselah
Michael could see that Vincent was more angry about the possibility of him having a personal agenda than any potential danger that might be imminent. As they were the only two original members of the infiltration team he imagined that he felt slighted by the secrecy.

Michael knew that he needed to be very careful how he justified his actions. Not only was Vin on edge, but he himself had also kept Daniel in the dark too. "Does the name Christopher Houghton mean anything to you?

Vin admitted that it didn't.

"It's not surprising that you are unfamiliar with the name, though you have met him. His bodyguard destroyed Victor Girard at his command before your very eyes. The reason you have no recollection of the angelic blonde haired boy is because he had no desire for you to remember him. I'll let that level of power sink in for a moment..."

Vin decided to sit down. It was obvious that Michael had much to say, though Vin was still annoyed that the revelations had required prompting. Daniel too was totally focussed upon Michael as he had also been kept in the dark.

Michael continued. "I had intended to tell you eventually, but only when I had a tangible plan of action. I didn't keep you in the dark because of any personal scheme of my own. I assure you it was for your own safety."

Sir Matthew Lubbock - Toreador
4th Generation Methuselah
"The number of blonde-haired individuals targeted by the Sabbat leads me to believe that this enemy is within the city, this being his personal preference for 'companions', and perhaps may be the Sabbat's target. A Methuselah of the fourth generation is not only a danger to all, but a tempting target for the diablerist's of the so-called Sword of Caine."

"It has been difficult to know what path to take. The more people who know, the more people we put at risk. As I have already said...your safety has been my primary concern..."

Daniel moved from Michael's side and stood by Vin, then he placed his hand on the Brujah's shoulder to show his support. Michael noted the gesture. It seemed that Daniel too was less than happy about the subterfuge.

"If we're all going to get ourselves destroyed..." stated Vin "...then we do it together, agreed? I can't protect you if I don't know what the fuck you're doing..."

Satisfied that he'd convinced Vin that he had no malicious intent, he continued.

"I believe Isaac to be the childe of Christopher Houghton, which also makes him part of this Methuselah's bloodline, and many elders have the power to influence their progeny through the blood. Therefore, though I used to trust Isaac, now I don't."

This made sense to both Vin and Daniel. It did however remove a powerful kindred from their list of allies. If the Baron of Hollywood was additionally now working with this ancient, then that made their problems even more significant given how powerful he was in his own right.

"What's next then?" asked Daniel.

Scene Twenty Nine - Issues of Trust
Fortunately, Michael had given this some thought.

Sofia Rivera - Toreador
Census-Taker for Hollywood
"There are a few people I wish to speak to. My 'Sister of the Blood', Sofia, is currently in Isaac's service but when I attempted to broach the subject it seemed like she was being prevented from opening up to me. It is my hope that, if anyone might know how to break such controls, It will be Pisha."

Daniel had to admit that this was definitely a left-field idea, especially coming from Michael. Though he supposed that unusual situations like this needed creative solutions.

"I would also like to contact Baron Fortier. He is a dedicated Anarch, as well as being possessed of an honourable personal code, and is capable of discretion."

Daniel had always liked Baron Fortier. In the Banu Haqim's opinion he was one of the few Barons who could be trusted. He dealt honourably with his allies and even had a certain measure of fairness with how he dealt with his enemies.

Vin was of a similar mindset. In his opinion if all the Barons of Los Angeles were like Fortier, then he might have more respect for the Anarch way of life as a whole. Of course he'd never mention that to anyone, especially his own sire. 

While they mused, Michael was still laying out his plans. "We also need to take into account the recent damage to The Crypts Sons. Many Baronies will be vying for that territory and this may will be an distraction to those who otherwise might have also noticed the signs of this ancients intrusion. I don't believe that this was intentional, but merely an unfortunate side effect that we will be forced to factor into our own solutions to the problem. Sir Matthew Lubbock..."

Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
Presumed Destroyed
Vin interrupted. "My sire avoided using his name as if she feared the very mention of it might draw his attention. She's not prone to melodrama so she might be onto something..."

Michael considered what Vin had said. "You're right of course. Considering some of the things that Roach used to be able to ascertain using his powers of premonition, who knows what an ancient one of the fourth generation might be able to do with merely a name..."

Daniel stiffened at the name 'Roach' as the memories of his failure to save the Malkavian unexpectedly flooded his mind. Some believed that he might have survived, spirited away by his insane sire, and though Daniel dearly wished that to be true, he didn't hold out much hope. All the evidence was to the contrary.

"So..." stated Daniel, as he mentally went through possible plans. "...we're dealing with an Isaac turned to eleven..." Then Vin tapped Daniel's hand, that was still on his shoulder. "You can move that now..."

Daniel had come to some initial conclusions which he laid out. "From a professional point of view, at least we have a home advantage. We know the lay of the land, and the players involved, our uninvited guest doesn't."

Velvet Velour - Toreador
Club Vesuvius, Dancer and Owner
Michael however wasn't so certain and his thoughts matched Vin's own on the situation. "One might also consider Hollywood to be a home field advantage if he's working with Isaac, don't you think?"

Michael then revealed that he knew that Velvet Velour had been tasked with making some arrangements for Isaac but that she had been unwilling to share them with him. The only concession she had gained from Isaac was that he wouldn't force her to involve Michael in her manipulations. VV claimed this was for his own safety and he had no reasons to doubt her.

"I also considered involving Gloria Martinez and Allison Maller..." said Michael. "...but I'm not convinced that Gloria wouldn't immediately tip our hand by doing something...unsubtle..."

Daniel had a good relationship with Allison, and additionally knew several kindred within Gloria's organisation. He too had his doubts about how sensible it would be to involve Garcia's childer in the matter. He relayed these doubts to Michael and Vin.

"Allison can be subtle, but Gloria faces all problems head on and I think we all know that isn't an appropriate response in this situation. The chance of Baron Martinez summoning all her troops and marching straight up to Baron Abrams front door is very high indeed."

"
Nicodemus - Gangrel Elder
'The Wilds Pack'
If we're dealing with an ancient force of destruction why not counter it with one of our own? Nicodemus of The Wilds Pack would be a strong ally in any such confrontation. Fuck knows how old he is, but he's definitively been around as long as anyone can remember...
"

Michael agreed in principle but pointed out that getting his cooperation would be a near impossible proposition as he barely even thought like a normal person anymore. Besides which, what would they be able to offer in return for his help?

"How well defended is the target?" interjected Vin. Daniel presumed he meant Christopher Houghton and agreed that bolstering the target might be an option.

Vin added something else that his own sire had mentioned that he thought might be relevant.

"Desdemona pointed out that despite all the signs being that Isaac is plotting against his own sire, it's all still just conjecture. It could be more complicated than we realise. In her experience it apparently often is..."

Meanwhile, another problem had occurred to Michael.

"Houghton has another childe as well as Isaac that acts as his protector. Being of the same bloodline, it's possible that he could be influenced too. And to Daniel's point about bolstering his defences, that creates another problem."

JoaquĆ­n Murietta - Toreador
Childe of Christopher Houghton
"Christopher is, despite his chronological age, still trapped in the body of a capricious thirteen year old. One day he might be our ally, the next he could act out unpredictably. Who knows which version we might get on the day?"

"Great..." concluded Daniel. "... so he might have a bodyguard who could turn on him at any minute..."

"I doubt it's that straightforward." replied Michael. "As I understand it, elders can influence their bloodlines but I've never heard of them being controlled outright. If Helena was trying to control me, if she knew who the hell I was that is, I imagine I'd just gradually become more in tune to her desires over time."

All hoped that speaking to Pisha would give them more useful information. Of course to do that meant first speaking to Marius and, as time was of the essence, this needed to be done sooner rather than later.

Marius's personal assistant Victoria was as helpful and polite as ever.

"Very well but make it quick. Be here in thirty minutes and I'll try to get him to spare you ten..."

Michael also hoped that Daniel's close relationship with Marius would allow them to discover more than he might have discovered alone. It was also decided that Vin would accompany them, and that Michael's chauffer Dion would drive them all to Hallowbrook House.

Scene Thirty - The Politics of Downtown
Victoria apologised on Marius's behalf and explained that he was running slightly late. She allowed them entry to his living area but first asked that they didn't interrupt until he was done.

Elmer Reid - Brujah
Low Level Drug Dealer
A kindred in his twenties, probably a neonate from his demeanour was sitting opposite Marius. Lyku Wu, defacto Baron of Chinatown was standing nearby. 

Marius acknowledged their arrival with a nod of his head before turning his attention back to the neonate.

"You made commitments to myself and Mr Wu that you are now reneging upon and we are well aware of the circumstances, before you try to make up some excuse. Your rival has undercut you, stolen the product and is now threatening to take over your, if you pardon the pun, fledgling operation."

"Our options as I see it are, one, destroy you for failing us, two destroy the rival who manufactured this misfortune or three, destroy you both, one for failing us and the other for interfering in the schemes of his betters. Lyko Wu has argued for option two as he believes that you have future potential and I have decided, against my nature, to be...generous..."

Both Michael and Daniel could pick up that Lyko seemed pleased at this outcome but was attempting to hide his reaction. Vin either wasn't paying attention or didn't give a fuck.

"Consider this your lucky night, Mr Reid, and fuck off..." concluded Marius

Lyko Wu - Ventrue
Barony of the Angels, Chinatown
He dismissed the neonate with a wave of his hand and they almost tripped over their own feet as they made their way to the door. The young man smiled weakly at the coterie before Victoria escorted him out 

"Your getting soft..." commented Lyko. 

"You can fuck off too..." countered Marius, but there seemed to be no aggression behind the comment and the exchange was almost friendly in spite of the language used. Lyko waited a moment, almost as if he didn't want it to seem like he was treating what Marius said as an order, then he too left.

Baron Walker then indicated the now vacated seat and removed a bottle of 'wine' and several glasses from a nearby cabinet.

"Sorry about that. What can I do for the Arbiter of the Anarch Council of Los Angeles, then?"

Michael decided to get to his point via a somewhat roundabout route rather than be too direct. He therefore started with a subject that was on the mind of all the kindred of the city. "I wanted your opinion on the current state of affairs in the Anarch Free States, ahead of the council meeting that is. The Sabbat for example is going to be a hot subject."

Unsurprisingly, Marius had an opinion on the subject.

Marius Walker - Gangrel
Baron, The Barony of the Angels
"They've made their 'no-one is safe' point. They tried similar tactics in 2004 though they only tried fucking with Isaac, the Nosferatu, Hollywood basically. Downtown too, there was a cult, not sure what happened to them, they disappeared when the Sabbat did last time, no sign of them this time around...The Brotherhood of the Ninth Circle they called themselves, or some such bollocks..."

"...anyway, the overall plan was the same. Draw mortal attention to areas where you want to drive kindred away from or attack the infrastructure such as the information brokers, or the like...throw in a mass shovelhead attack at significant kindred meeting places and you have Sabbat tactical acumen in a nutshell. The new packs operate a bit more like terrorist cells, the old bastards haven't changed a bit though. The Crypts Sons attack though...that was personal..."

All present knew that Marius had fought the Sabbat many times, and had also infiltrated them both personally and by proxy so had no reason to doubt his assessment. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Vin still didn't trust him. He seemed to have no loyalty to anything, and that bothered Vin a lot.

While Vin had been musing, Michael had begun to speak once more.

Deacon - Brujah
Former Crypts Son Recruiter
"Deacon is now based within my own domain. He's not a leader, and has no desire to return to his haven within that territory. Understandable considering that if the Sabbat truly wish to completely eliminate the Crypts Sons, then that just leaves him as their final member."

Daniel noticed that this news elicited no response from Marius. That meant that he already knew, or that he just didn't care about Deacon. Either was a possibility.

"I have concerns..." continued Michael. "...about the possibility of The Crypts Sons absent domain being absorbed by it's neighbours. I'm aware that you are one of those adjacent Barons so I have a proposition to avoid any threats to your borders and to prevent any conflicts that might result from too many kindred making a play for that feeding ground."

Marius had been listening carefully and asked Michael for the details of the proposition. As it happened, he did.

"For a start I'll need a vote on the council, so I can help guide them to vote for a suitable candidate to take over the vacant Barony. Failing that they need to permit me to select a neutral party to manage the area until the aforementioned suitable candidate for leadership emerges."

Mr Hertz - Nosferatu
Kindred Accountant
"I'd suggest Mr Hertz. He has no Sabbat rivalries, experience of governance and knows how to manage areas where the profits come from...less than legal methods..."

"After all, stability is what's required right now."

Daniel had to admit that it was a good argument, Vin too. Though both knew that when dealing with kindred, that sometimes wasn't enough.

"That sounds reasonable enough, though I doubt all the other Barons will necessarily feel the same." replied Marius. "I'll agree to support you getting your vote, but someone else will need to put the idea forward. If I come out with it at least four Barons will vote no just because they'll presume I'm up to something. As for the 'Neutral Baron', we'll have to wait and see..."

Marius being reasonably always put the coterie on edge. It was usually a prelude to them getting royally screwed over in some manner. Michael's finely tuned empathy led him to believe that Marius was being honest about his support for their vote, but was deliberately stalling on the second matter.

"On the subject of Barons and Baronies..." said Michael, segueing neatly to his next subject "...I'd like to discuss Isaac..."

Scene Thirty One - Artefacts
The Blood Sommelier's Art
Marius poured himself a glass of blood wine and pushed the bottle over to Michael to top up his glass. Daniel had noticed that Marius often did this as a delaying tactic while he was pondering something. Evidently Isaac was on his mind too.

Michael took this as his cue to begin.

"Isaac has been keeping me in the dark. Sofia seems unable to talk, Velvet is unwilling. I know only that Isaac had plans for myself that VV refused to involve myself in. I have a feeling that you're also involved in this scheme and I'd like to know what exactly is going on and how it might effect myself, my own people and the Free States as a whole."

Daniel noted that Marius poured himself another glass of wine. 

Isaac Abrams - Toreador
Baron of Hollywood
It seemed that something significant was about to be shared. Vin noticed Daniel become more alert so moved closer. He also subtly loosened his new weapon in it's scabbard. If something was about to kick off then he wanted to be close enough to do something about it.

"He asked to borrow something, well demanded it actually. I nearly had a fucking aneurysm resisting the urge to just stroll over to my vaults with an inane grin in my face and fetch it for the bastard there and then..."

Despite his attempt to hide it, the anger was, to Michael at least, almost palpable and was therefore probably genuine for a change. "I'd never violate Isaac's trust..." lied Michael. "...but if this is something that effects us all?..."

Daniel decided to be less subtle in his enquiries. "So what was it then?"

Marius's reply was not reassuring.

"A sword. Well it was his second choice actually. His first choice of blade I didn't have, despite rumours to the contrary. He had heard that 'The Sword of Nul', a demon forged blade, was in the possession of a Gangrel collector of artefacts and presumed it was me. In fact it was acquired by a notable member of my clan called Beckett who, fearing it's power and a red lister who sought it, dropped it in the Mediterranean sea...apparently..."

The Sword of Nul - Demon Forged Vampiric Artefact

"The one he then asked for was one of half a dozen or so made by the legendary Seer Durga Syn. The two most famous are the Sword of Dracula and its sister blade Ainkurn, but there were others made separately. One of which came into my possession. They are very effective for eliminating supernatural creatures of all kinds, so I wasn't about to hand it to Isaac without good reason. Especially as we're not exactly what you might call friendly..."

"Anyway, he made me an offer for it's loan which was both agreeable, and none of your fucking business, before you ask..."

Dracul's Talon - Vampiric Artefact - Forged by Durga Syn

Daniel was reasonably sure that he knew the weapon that Marius was referring to. It was one of two very peculiar weapons that 'The Fixer' often kept nearby.

Michael had decided not task about the terms of the loan, and instead mentioned that he didn't see the Baron of Hollywood as the sword-wielding type. "You'd be surprised what Isaac knows how to do..." replied Marius, somewhat cryptically. "...but that aside, he's very fast, and sometimes, that's enough."

Carmelita Neillson - Toreador
Archivist and Archaeologist
"Do you think it has anything to do with the rumours of someone...very old...heading to Los Angeles?" asked Michael, as casually as he could manage as he had no desire to cause Carmelita any problems. Marius might presume that the information came from her, but Michael had no intention of incriminating her.

"I heard about that. I'm sure we share suspicions about who that might be and who they're looking for. If its connected to what Isaac asked for then I imagine he's picked a side...fortunately I have some safety precautions in place...specifically I can retrieve the blade any time I wish, regardless of where it might be kept."

As users of blades themselves this intrigued Vin and Daniel on a practical level, and intrigued Michael because it offered a potential safeguard should Isaac use the weapon against them.

"On a complete change of subject..." stated Marius addressing Vin directly. "Your request for permission to search within Downtown's warrens for your 'sister' is granted. Tilly, Quinn and the other two have been made aware of the situation. Don't take the piss though..."

Vin had always known that his sire had power and influence but the speed with which she'd accomplished this surprised even him. A moment later Daniel offered him any assistance he might need. Vin wasn't sure what he was going to do yet, but having some back-up couldn't hurt. Especially back-up as sneaky as Daniel was.

Sofia Rivera - Toreador - Club Vesuvius
"I have another issue connected to Isaac that I also need your assistance with." continued Michael. "You are aware of my 'sister of the blood', Sofia? I mentioned her earlier."

"She's an excellent dancer, beautiful if a bit severe. One of Velvet's from Club Vesuvius. Other than that I know very little. I avoid poking my nose into Baron Abrams business or interfering with his agents unless there's absolutely no other option. What about her?"

Michael was pleased to note that his next statement seemingly caught Marius completely by surprise.

"I'd like to visit Pisha and see if she can help me break through the controls that Isaac currently has over Sofia. Hopefully then she can tell me exactly what's going on."

Storytellers Note - It wasn't a plan I was expecting either to be honest.

Marius apparently had no objections. "Of course you may see her if you wish. The haematology centre is up and running now so you'll need appropriate security passes. Victoria will provide you with what you need. I could, however do with a small favour in return..."

Leopold Schmidt - Mortal
Ceo, Opticar Innovations
Well it was bound to happen sooner or later, thought Michael.

"Aegis is entertaining a local businessman in  a weeks time in order to facilitate a joint construction project. While he's in Pasadena looking at some work they're doing in the tech sector, I could do with an escort of some description be provided to do the actual tour of the area. You have mortals capable of such a task?..

Michael confirmed that he did, as Marius explained his predicament.

"Normally I'd have such services provided myself, but the tech centres of Pasadena are werewolf central and they're not big fans of me or the majority of my bloodline. It's just simpler all round if you do it. You are somewhat of a local celebrity in your mortal guise, and the gentlemen's associate is somewhat of an art fan so I get what I want and there's a possibility that you gain too. Of course if you used the opportunity to negatively effect the deal I'd be very upset....."

The two VIP's were Leopold Schmidt and Miriam Greene. The first was CEO of Opticar Innovations, who specialised in lenses for a variety of applications. The latter was their Financial Director. Michael had heard of her as she had a side-line in buying and selling art. As far as Michael knew, she did this mostly for financial gain rather than as an appreciator of art. 

It being a fairly trivial boon considering what he himself had asked for, he readily agreed.

Marius's Garden Shrine to Lilith and Ennoia
"I believe that Daniel has some more private matters to discuss." Concluded Michael. "So I'll take a walk in your garden if you don't mind? While you have your discussion that is."

As Michael moved towards the stairway to Marius's garden and shrine, Vin dropped into place behind him. As they neared the top, Michael could hear the sound of the armoured shutters being raised so as to reveal the view of the city. At least now he'd have something to look at while he waited.

Daniel began to share what he had on his mind. "Eric has been doing some investigating..."

Marius interrupted. "I thought I'd heard the last of young Eric...and you say he was investigating something that his goldfish level attention span allowed him to actually complete? Please continue..."

"Well that's not entirely fair..." replied Daniel "...to the goldfish, that is..."

The San Gabriel Mountains at Night
Daniel explained about the area within the San Gabriel mountains that Eric suspected was a potential Sabbat hideout. The area he had highlighted contained a disused mine, a cave network and a set of cabins abandoned due to subsidence of the nearby cliffs. Any or all of these would make a serviceable temporary haven for the Sabbat. He also mentioned Eric's claim that this avenue of investigation had been overlooked by Zipper, who happened to be his rival.

"Perhaps you could have someone nearby have a brief look at the general area to see if there's any truth to Eric's suspicions. One of The Wilds Pack, perhaps?"

Marius agreed to send "...someone appropriate..." but didn't specify who. Daniel also put forward the idea that a head on fight might not be necessary. If the Sabbat had chosen the mineshaft, for example, then perhaps the treacherous nature of such places could be exploited. "Let's see if they're there first." countered Marius. Daniel then shared his intention to meet with Chick, Leo and Alonzo to see what information they might have. 


Charlie 'Chick' Abbott was one of a small number of kindred within L.A. who knew that Daniel was Banu Haqim, not Brujah as he claimed. She had kept the information to herself and was, broadly speaking, an ally of his, when it suited her. 

Leo Frost - Brujah
El Hermandad Lieutenant
Leo Frost was Daniel's contact within Gloria Martinez's Barony and despite being a habitual gambler, was actually remarkably trustworthy. The most useful was going to be the Nosferatu elder 'Alonzo' who, as well as actually making his home beneath Hollywood, was also an obsessive collector of information.

"I wouldn't meet Leo in El Hermandad's territory if I was you." advised Marius. The Banu Haqim was of course curious about why. "Because Gloria is currently paranoid as fuck and trusts no one, with the possible exception of Allison, and even that's debateable. Leo having discussions with a kindred from another Barony, especially one she knows is more than he pretends to be, is hardly likely to be looked upon favourably. Those who fall out of favour with Gloria have turned up missing for far less..."

Daniel then spent some time trying to subtly extract from Marius what exactly he was doing for Isaac and what deal they'd made but to no avail, as it soon became obvious that 'The Fixer' had no intention of sharing anything more.

As Michael and Vin returned from Marius's garden, Victoria arrived with the passes they'd need to access Pisha at the hospital. After Daniel made a parting offer to help Victoria if she needed anything, the coterie left Hallowbrook and journeyed to meet the Nagaraja Pisha.

Scene Thirty Two - Flesh and Blood
Haematology and Medical Research Centre
As a primarily research based establishment, the hospital itself wasn't particularly densely populated especially at night. It was however, slightly better protected than one might expect, having high walls, a secure gate and a checkpoint at the main entrance. Fortunately the credentials provided allowed the coterie unrestricted access and they were directed to a unit deep within the facility.

The indicated unit had five different coloured doors along one side and a sixth door, currently sealed with an armoured shutter held shut by an extremely heavy duty lock. The building itself was heavily constructed, presumably justified by the disposal of hazardous materials that is meant to be undertaken there. A security camera above the door is protected by a secure armoured dome. The door itself had an intercom to allow access.

"Do you have an appointment?" Michael confirmed that they did, and they were 'buzzed' in. 

Waste Disposal Facility - Pisha's Lair
A door to their left led to whatever facility the coloured doors accessed, while the room in front contained a reception area. Two women and a man were the only staff within the facilities reception. 

The man was wearing a generic security guards uniform with a Mercury Security Solutions logo on one shoulder. He was openly carrying a Glock handgun, a 'Tonfa' style baton, and a taser as well as cans of mace, pepper spray and tear gas.  He looked quite capable, though all things considered was still merely human. The taller of the two ladies addressed them as they entered.

"Miss Pisha is expecting you. Head down the corridor to the stairs to the basement area, then to the lift at the end of that room, and hit the button for the sub basement. Good luck..."

Little had changed since their last visit, except perhaps for the atmosphere which felt more oppressive. 

Blood Sorcery - Warding Circle
Those with the ability to perceive such things could see that the area was saturated by occult wards. Though Daniel made an effort to convince himself that they were there to keep Pisha in, he knew in reality that they were to prevent her prey from escaping. Despite what the Barons of the Free States thought Pisha was not, nor had ever been, a prisoner within what was once an abandoned hospital. This was merely a cover story to prevent them becoming too concerned about a vampiric cannibal living in the heart of L.A.

The elevator door looked very similar to the armoured one below Hallowbrook, a familiarity confirmed when the heavy double doors opened and they realised that there were no controls on the outside. The elevator was far cleaner than the access to her previous lair, though the occasional blood stain was still discernible to Daniel. The elevator travelled downwards quickly but still took some time to reach it's destination. Apparently Pisha's haven was several levels below the hospital. 

Once within the elevator, Vin loosened the restraining clip on the scabbard of his two-handed cleaver-like weapon. Though the Nagaraja had always been straight in her dealings with them, Vin honestly couldn't bring himself to trust someone who ate human flesh, whether it was willingly or not.

Nikita Taylor - Ghoul of Pisha
The double doors opened to reveal a lobby with off-white walls and a tiled floor. Another security door was ahead of them with yet another security camera dome set in the rooms ceiling.

The doors opened as they approached and they found yourself looking into the ante chamber of Pisha's domain. A slightly built, pale-skinned young woman with short hair had opened the doors for them. A slight odour of decay could be discerned from her clothing, yet she nonetheless seemed quite healthy.

"Greetings. My name is Nikita. Welcome to my mistresses home and laboratory, please don't touch anything on your way through..." she then turned and led the group to Pisha's office.

The room beyond was simultaneously like and unlike Pisha's previous accommodation. Surgical tables were present as were the large fridges, trays of surgical tools, and shelves of books and documents. Though the layout and equipment were the same, the area itself was brand new, a technological and state of the art updating of her previous domain. Pisha could be seen in an office at the rear, all glass windows and plush furniture. 

The only indication of what Pisha truly was, was a half empty glass on her desk containing a smoothie of a suspiciously deep red colour. Traces of a similar liquid could be seen in an empty glass next to it.

"It's been a long time. What can I do for you this evening?"

Pisha - Nagaraja
Necromancer and Occult Expert
Despite the pleasant nature of the greeting they all still had the feeling that a fly might when addressed by a surprisingly welcoming spider.

"I'm afraid I can't offer you anything from the vein, and my own diet is unpalatable to most not of my kind, but I do have some of Leanna's creations somewhere if you'd like?"

Michael politely accepted as Pisha removed a dusty bottle of 'wine' from a cabinet along with three equally unused glasses. Michael wiped his own glass clean before he poured himself his second glass of the evening. This wasn't quite of the quality that Marius had served earlier but still had the distinct taste of one of the Leanna's creations. Leanna was one of the most renowned Blood Sommelier's in Los Angeles and was known both for the quality of her products and the exorbitant prices she charged for their creation.

Daniel also took a seat, though Vin had instead positioned himself by the door where he could see both Pisha, the rooms entrance and several side-doors that led god knows where.

Michael decided to get straight to the point as he had no desire to sit in the lair of an organovore for any longer than was strictly necessary.

"I have a contact who works for another Baron, another childe of my own sire in fact, who seems to have had her inclination to share with others restricted, presumably by blood bond or other means. I thought that if anyone would know how to bypass such prohibitions it would be you..."

Blood Sorcery Rituals
Pisha thought about this for a moment before asking a few questions of her own.

"Will you be able to obtain a sample of their blood? I'm afraid a pint or so would be necessary. There is also the added complication that many such rituals also require the vitae of the one who instigated the bond. One imagines that this is also a difficulty?"

Michael had to admit that though the former might just about be doable, the latter most certainly was not.

"How about location?" continued Pisha. "Could you persuade this 'sister' of yours to meet you somewhere pre-prepared? Though I must warn you that the ritual I'm considering would require preparing the room in a manner that will be somewhat obvious..."

Obvious how? was the next question.

"The room would be closed, crossed bones and skulls are required atop of every entry into the room, including windows and similar openings. These would also be sealed by various occult glyphs drawn in my own vitae. Within the room, no lies can be told and direct questions will be answered immediately. Any bonds that the individual is under will be unaffected once they leave the locale and the one responsible will be unaware of any disruptions."

'Raw Materials' - Pisha's Haven
Michael and Daniel had to admit that that sounded perfect. Even Vin was impressed.

"There is however a small issue that I should mention..." admitted Pisha. "...namely that this applies both ways. Any question asked of the interrogator in return would be answered with equal honesty."

Michael pondered this for a moment. He was certain he could persuade Sofia to meet him, but one question had yet to be asked. "Your price?"

"My immediate needs are amply cared for, though in the future something may occur to me. Let's just say that should I need a favour of equivalent effort to perform that I will get in touch."

Somewhat hesitantly, Michael agreed. After all, he had no other options that he knew of.

"I also have a question." Daniel interjected. "Have you ever considered taking on a student? I have a basic knowledge of Blood Sorcery and would like to learn more if possible."

Storytellers Note - If I'd been making a list on potential ways that the Daniel character met his final death, 'as a smoothie', wouldn't have been on it...until now...

Pisha, somewhat noncommittedly said that she would give it some thought. With one problem, at least partially, solved. It was no time to visit Baron Fortier.

Scene Thirty Three - Noblesse Oblige
Elena Gutierrez - Ventrue
Childe and Mistress of Baron Fortier
The Fortier's mansion was as well protected as ever and still maintained the level of security that it had upgraded to after the Camarilla infiltration of the city was discovered. 

Unusually they were met at the entranceway by Elena Gutierrez, not Mariel or Catherine. "We were intrigued by your request for a meeting, especially with a gathering of the Anarch Council already scheduled..."

The coterie made some inconsequential small talk as they were escorted to the meeting with Baron Fortier.

"Catherine is otherwise occupied this evening with her entertainment duties. Several important clients of hers are in need of...distractions..."

Catherine Dubois, most favoured of Louis's childer ran a very special out-call service for a select clientele who appreciated, and were willing to pay very well for, unique experiences. Her stable of stunning debauched beauties of both sexes provided entertainment on a level of excitement that only the very wealthy and very bizarre could appreciate.

"Mariel will be meeting us in Louis's meeting chamber...unless the matter is a personal one between you and Louis alone?"

Michael could tell that she was definitely using casual conversation to draw information from them. She was also very subtlety using the discipline known as 'Presence' to relax them all in order to facilitate this.

Mariel St. John - Ventrue
Mistress of Baron Fortier
"I'm sure Louis will share anything we would discuss with his own, and much beloved, childer so I see no reason why you would need to be excluded from our meeting" replied Michael, somewhat diplomatically. Daniel wasn't entirely sure about this. He was still convinced that initial rumours of his presence within the city, as well as his true clan, had originated from the Fortier household. His primary suspect was Mariel, but that didn't mean that he trusted Elena.

This meeting was in the more formal of Baron Fortier's meeting areas which more resembled a throne room than anything else. The seat at his right hand, normally reserved for Catherine, was empty. Mariel was seated in one of two seats to his left.

As they entered, Louis indicated several seats in front of his own. "What is of such urgency that it cannot wait til a Council meeting that you yourself scheduled?"

It was a fair question.

"What I wish to share with you now will not be discussed at the council meeting, though it does effect the entire of The Free States. But first I have some lesser matters that are also of importance."

Sensing Michael's sincerity, Baron Fortier dismissed his guards.

"What is your opinion on the now vacant Crypts Sons domain?"

Henrique 'Hank' Boyd - Brujah
Presumed Destroyed
"It's a pity really." replied Louis. "Hank had the makings of a forward thinking Baron, with the care for the wellbeing of his followers at heart. Unfortunately the mistakes of the past returned to punish him. Now a vast domain is empty and the carrion will begin to gather to pick at the corpse...a corpse created by the Sabbat..."

It was obvious from Louis's tone that he hated the Sabbat with a passion. His next statement confirmed this.

"The Sabbat are animals led by kindred who fail to follow the principles that they inflict upon their underlings. Fortunately I'm more than capable of clearing up the majority of the mess that they caused without lining Marius's pockets. He can dispose of the bodies for me, but that is the limit of his involvement that I will allow in my domain. Catherine's projects aside, of course."

All present were aware that many kindred were involved in the sex trade, in fact Vin himself had considerable interests in that area of business. The two major kindred players in this area within Los Angeles were Catherine DuBois and Marius Walker, with Velvet Velour being a distant third.

Michael then broached the more important subject.

Louis Fortier - Ventrue
Baron of West L.A.
"An ancient creature with ties to the Camarilla is heading to, or worse may already be within, this city and one of the council members is involved with them, though to what extent I can't be certain."

Baron Fortier exchanged a glance with Mariel who then spoke a single name. "Isaac?" Evidently they weren't the only ones who had become aware of the plotting of the Baron of Hollywood. Michael confirmed this with a nod of his head before continuing.

"This ancient is of Isaac's bloodline being the sire of his sire and therefore could conceivably be influencing both Isaac, and Isaac's own sire. Unfortunately against a creature of the fourth generation, and the powers that that implies, we stand no chance as individuals. Nor is a direct confrontation desirable considering what kindred of even our generation can do with merely their voice. Still, we are all Anarchs, and the most influential, and subtle of us need to group together to defy this interloper."

Fortier agreed that this was not a matter to share with those within the city who may act rashly, and foolishly. He then shared what he himself knew.

"Isaac is scheming. Of that there is no doubt. He is also dragging Marius into his plans and not entirely willingly. If Marius himself is concerned about the consequences, then the plot must be dangerous in the extreme. This is going to take some consideration..."

Michael then chose to share that he had made arrangements to obtain information from his sister of the blood, Sofia. He did however skim over how this was to be accomplished. Fortier agreed that this was something that should be kept to those who could be trusted and offered any assistance that the coterie needed.

"How does this tie in with The Crypts Sons domain?" asked Louis, bringing the conversation full circle.

Michael relayed his concerns about the potential for the kindred of the city to become distracted by petty infighting and made the same requests of Fortier that he'd made of Marius. Though he diplomatically refrained from mentioning that he'd asked Marius first. This turned out to be a wise omission when he heard what Louis had to say about the matter.

"I have no interest in the territory, but will not allow it to be taken by any kindred with designs on my own domain. If I need to take it then I will, regardless of the competition, but I would rather not...nonetheless, I will not allow it to come under Marius's control, either openly or by proxy. He has expanded enough."

Michael's plan to place Mr Hertz as Baron of the vacant domain was initially less well received.

"One of yours? That may be an issue. The move to make the Arbiter more than it was intended, moves dangerously close to the role of a Prince. Effectively granting you a second vote, is, in my opinion, a move that might corrupt even one as outwardly honourable as you currently seem and under normal circumstances I would never consider it. But these are not normal circumstances. Give me some time to think upon the matter and we shall speak again soon..."

The Toreador Baron then deferred to Vin and Daniel for their input. Though Vin had nothing to say, Daniel did. He bought to Louis's attention what he had learned of the possible Sabbat stronghold in the San Gabriel Mountains and obtained a promise from the Baron of West L.A. to provide manpower and firepower should they be needed.

By then, the night was moving dangerously close to day, and Pasadena was some distance away. They made their farewells then headed back to their havens to sleep out the day...

To be Continued in 'Methuselah' (Part Six)

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....

I'm not sure I'd have involved that many kindred straight away...we'll see if it was a good move or not....

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 Michael Tomassio is represented by Matt Bomer, Vincent Ghast is Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Desdemona Moore is Amanda Donohoe, Georgiana Landry is Mila Kunis, Sir Matthew Lubbock is Michael Douglas, Sofia Rivera is Eliza Dushka, Johnny 'Roach' West is Kurt Cobain, Velvet Velour is Ilona Lab, Joaquin Murietta is Danny Trejo, Elmer Reid is Rollo Weeks, Lyko Wu is David E Collier, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Deacon is Michael Ealy, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman, Carmelita Neillson is Salma Hayek, Leopold Schmidt is Dennis Haysbert, Charlie 'Chick' Abbott is Lena Headey, Leo Frost is Danny John-Jules, Nikita Taylor is Evan Rachel Wood, Elena Gutierrez is Emmanuelle Vaugier, Mariel St.John is Kate Moss, Henrique 'Hank' Boyd is Michael Clarke Duncan and Louis Fortier is Louis Fortier is Eduardo Verastegui.

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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