Friday, 28 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well they threw me quite a lot this session. The plan they came up with was nowhere near what I was expecting so I had to improvise like crazy and Daniels player basically being willing to commit suicide to provide the rest with information means they've jumped past a few more preparation scenes than I would have liked. scene is ever wasted, I just file them away, change the names and use them for something else, lol.

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

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Ten - The Pasadena Problem (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...
Our campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Some in-roads have been made but there's still much to do...
Why LA? - Well it contains a lot of different baronies giving me a lot of interactions to play with, allows me to use some of the more interesting characters from the Bloodlines PC game (which two of the players were familiar with) and is a setting not yet experienced by the players familiar with the Vampire RPG which gives me a chance to keep them on their toes. I've also changed quite a lot and inserted some new characters of my own to make things a bit more interesting...well...interesting for me at least...

The now obligatory warning bit - Unlike my other RPG write-ups this one will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. If you can't tell the difference between real peoples opinions and grown-ups role-playing predators who crave blood then this probably won't be for you. I've also used actual photographs to represent some characters which I'll give acknowledgements to at the end if I've any idea who they are.
The introduction to this campaign, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order...
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'

The Storyteller
Garreth as Everyone else...
The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
Dave as Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah
Due to time constraints and availability of players this session only featured Vin and Roach for a fairly short period.
The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested.
As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure Malkavian premonition will turn up in purple. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red...

With the advice gained from the Nagaraja 'Pisha' the coterie now has a starting point from which to look at ways of defeating the necromantic force that's protecting the Baron Edward Vignes. However obtaining the items she requires is not without problems of it's own so the coterie has split into two halves. Vin and Roach are looking at ways of getting the results required without continued reliance on the cannibalistic Pisha, while Michael and Daniel are heading to the Vignes mansion...

Scene Thirteen - A Poor Reception
Victoria - Ghoul of Marius
Victoria's response to Roach's request for another meeting with Clara and Sylvia was to say the least unenthusiastic and it was obvious that she wasn't in the best of moods. Nonetheless she agreed to arrange for them to be available but specified quite clearly to keep any interactions brief.

Marius's personal ghoul assistant was even by her standards abrupt when they arrived at Hallowbrook and even through her normally stable aura the Malkavian could detect impatience and not a small amount of irritation. Reasonably sure he'd done nothing to warrant such poor treatment he presumed that it must be some-one else's fault though was somewhat distracted by the thought of once again plundering the witches considerable supply of exotic drugs. Though not a student of human behaviour Vin was however quite adept at detecting threatening situations and could sense that the atmosphere wasn't as relaxed as usual during their visits to Marius's haven.

Almost stampeding into the Drake sisters suite as he headed towards the cabinet he was somewhat surprised to find it closed and firmly locked. Somewhat irritated he strolled over to their laptop where as usual music was playing and attempted to change the song to something else only to be confronted by the password protection screen. "We both like this album..." stated Sylvia " we decided to stop you messing around with it" finished Clara. "So what can we help you with this time?"

Uncharacteristically Roach asked Vin to explain the coteries problem while he sidled as casually as possible back to the drugs cabinet and slipped a lock-pick into his hand. The Brujah explained in a matter of fact manner what they'd been told by Pisha and asked if with this information they could help so Roach didn't have to deal with the hospital dwelling cannibal. The mentioning of his name bought the ladies attention back to Roach whose frustration had increased to new levels as he realised that the lock seemed to be changing internally every time he came close to getting it to unlock and that now they were staring in his direction he wouldn't be able to continue.

"It's no use messing around with the lock, I'm afraid..." this time Clara started the sentence "...Victoria has queried our expenses this month, specifically the need to spend another twenty thousand dollars on exotic hallucinogenics" completed Sylvia. "So I'm afraid you've reached the limits of our generosity." "Apparently your acquaintance Vin here needs you to explain the rest of your problem...and we are quite busy..." Roach who had been paying at least some vague attention filled in the more esoteric gaps in the matter of fact account of Vin's but given the mages current attitude didn't expect much help. He wasn't to be disappointed in his assessment.

Clara and Sylvia Drake - Mages

"As we told you before Necromancy is a very specific and dangerous field of study in which Pisha is the undisputed expert..." "...If she has offered you a solution to the problem..." "...then I suggest you follow her instructions..." "...or abandon the plan completely." they informed him as they finished each others sentences. Roach had been paying close attention to their auras as they spoke and though he couldn't detect outright deceit he did get the distinct impression that this was less about their ability to help and more about their willingness to do so. He doubted that it had anything to do with his changing their music and helping himself to their herbal supplies presuming that something else was going on. Having little as a focus for his abilities of premonition he instead concentrated on the two sisters in an effort to pick up some clue to what was going on here. Unfortunately his mind was also on the horrors that he had witnessed at Pisha's haven...

The Malkavian saw the two mages with three others in a circle deep in the woods somewhere, a young man lay on a slab between them blood gushing from a slash across his neck along grooves in the slab into a ceramic bowl. He has also been brutally eviscerated and his chest bisected, his heart, lungs, kidneys and liver are sitting in an identically marked silver bowl along with what Roach believed to be his reproductive organs. Several empty jars are nearby You hear a voice you recognise firstly as Clara's and then as Sylvia's "We require only a share of the blood and the other fluids we specified..." " may keep the rest for your mistress as we agreed...".

As the vision fades you see both the sisters staring at you intently. "You may leave now!" they say simultaneously. You can't help but feel that they know exactly what you saw and now does seem like an ideal time to leave. Sensing the tension Vin moved between Roach and the mages as they made their way to the door, hand close enough to his weapons for ease of access but given where they were not close enough to potentially cause offence. The hulking Brujah may have been direct but one thing he wasn't was a fool and though he knew perfectly well how to start trouble he also knew when to avoid it if necessary.

Scene Fourteen - Alliances
Lisa - Michael's Ghoul
and Retainer
Daniel arrived at the Galerie Sanguine slightly before the agreed upon time as he wished to have a look at the local area and perhaps peruse the gallery a little before his meeting with Michael. He noted that the shutters, doors and the attached locks were also extremely high end and that the doors were also subtly reinforced beyond that of even standard security doors. As he entered his attention went to the security cameras within as he as a matter of course checked out all such systems in any structure he entered. He had to admit that he was impressed by the quality of the system and the cameras had been located so no area was uncovered. He introduced himself to the attractive red-headed girl behind the reception desk who he presumed was the ghoul that Michael had mentioned before being directed to the rear ground floor exhibition area.

Michael was making small-talk with a number of men and women who seemed more interested in the handsome artist than his actual work though he was giving most of his attention to a small group of pretty young ladies who were hanging on his every word. Seeing the Doctor approaching he bid the disappointed admirers goodbye as he informed them that he had an important business meeting. Michael had already informed the Vignes that he would be visiting in order to continue his work on Vera's portrait and that he would be bringing a kindred acquaintance who wished to formally introduce himself. Daniel offered to drive and once alone they began to discuss the specifics of the plan once they arrived.

Storytellers Note - If you haven't read THIS session write-up then the following plan will make very little sense...sorry, lol.

Dr Matthews - Hunting
Michael had made a replica of the number '2' they planned to acquire from the dating plaque that was the only old item they could think of that embodied the house for the talisman that Pisha was to create for them. In order to locate whatever 'fetters' bound the supernatural defender to Edward Vignes they needed to acquire something that embodied both the Vignes home and a sample of the vitae of Edward himself. Though the item from the house was something they'd acquire themselves they'd need the assistance of Vera and her lover Henry to obtain the other. After some discussion Daniel decided that taking the item on their way in would be more likely to lead to their discovery than liberating it as they left though if a better opportunity came up he'd take it. Michael deferred to the doctor because as he pointed out "In matters where its best to be unseen you're much more proficient than I am" With the plan itself discussed Daniel had other matters of concern that he wished to talk with the Toreador about.

"I've spoken to Marius about your coterie" started the doctor "and he has stated that my goals and your might be compatible though he wouldn't elaborate. He did however say that he believed I could trust you..." Deciding to start without revealing too much of their allegiances to the Camarilla he instead discussed their plans to remove Edward with the aid of Vera and Henry who would then abdicate leaving the barony free for a more forward thinking kindred ruler. "By which you mean you of course?" stated Daniel.

Michael then explained that he had a vision of a much better future for Los Angeles without the petty power struggles of two dozen baronies and then laid out a layman's version of the history of 'The Dream' a plan of a Toreador elder with whom Michael shared a name who had lived in the ancient city of Constantinople. Though the more romantic concepts were of less interest to Daniel than the idea of a united city under the control of some-one he was allied with he nonetheless could see the passion which Michael bought to the telling of the tale.

Feeling he could trust his new ally and wanting to offer something personal to show that trust he informed Michael that he was being pursued by his sire with whom he'd had a number of differences. Chief among these differences were the fact that though he had no objection to killing he did believe that death should only be inflicted on those deserving of it and that his sire had deceived him into taking a number of lives that in the doctors opinion were innocent. As a result his sire had pursued him relentlessly and he had taken shelter in Los Angeles where he had met the Gangrel Marius who had created him a new identity and a safe haven in return for his service when necessary. Michael who was aware of both the Banu Haqim's skill-sets could easily see how this arrangement would have suited Marius down to the ground giving him access to both a medical man and some-one skilled in stealthy assassination.

Taking on board this revelation the Toreador pointed out that they first required a barony to enable them to interact with their peers at an appropriate level before moving to expand both their mortal business interests through Roach's plans and their political power via Michael's own skills.

 Sebastian LaCroix and Tara, Former Princes of Los Angeles (Deceased)

He also expressed that they would need those with more aggressive skills in order to deal with some of the more violent aspects of any regime change. The future he envisioned would need to be implemented gradually and carefully in order to avoid the disasters that befell LaCroix and Tara, the two previous kindred to attempt to declare themselves 'Prince'. He further elaborated that the roles of Prince, Seneschal, Sheriff and Scourge would go to those who had supported the plan from the very beginning. The implication was clear that one of those roles would be the doctors should he support them. "I think we can do business" confirmed Daniel

Feeling that they'd reached some level of rapport the doctor expressed his doubts about potentially giving over control of Edwards guardian to the Nagaraja Pisha but as Michael pointed out they may have to take the risk unless Vin and Roach had made any progress with the ghoul mages Clara and Sylvia.

Scene Fifteen - Close Encounters
Edward Vignes - Baron
Henry was of course waiting for them as they arrived at the Vignes Edwardian mansion ready to escort them to their meeting. While Michael set up the tools of his trade, Daniel was shown into the Barons office so as to formally introduce himself.

Having considered that as far as he was aware there were no others of the Banu Haqim clan operating in Los Angeles and given their reputation as assassins and diablerists Daniel decided that a small measure of subterfuge might be in order and introduced himself instead as a member of clan Brujah while making a mental note to inform the others that he'd done so at the first opportunity. "You seem surprisingly well dressed, well spoken and aware of etiquette for one of the rabble" queried the baron in a manner that had the doctor actually been of the Brujah would have been a definite insult.

He decided to explain this by pointing out that as a chauffeur for one of the Toreador he was expected to maintain certain standards. The idea of a brushed-up Brujah at the beck and call of a member of the Toreador clan seemed to amuse Edward enough for the explanation to be excepted and the flattery that Daniel was also including at every opportunity seemed to help also. "It's refreshing to see one of your clan capable of showing the traditions the appropriate level of respect. Consider yourself welcome to accompany your artist master in my domain whenever necessary." "You may now leave...I have several hours work to accomplish before the evening is my own" Considering himself dismissed Daniel left the room where he was met by the ever present Henry who took him to meet his comrade upstairs.

Vera Vignes - Baroness
Michael had apparently been awaiting the return of his fellow kindred before discussing their plot and had spent the time productively making some progress on the preliminaries of the painting of Vera in the meantime. Daniel informed Michael that all had gone well and that Edward had claimed to be busy for the next couple of hours so was unlikely to disturb them.

The necessity of acquiring a sample of Edwards Vitae was laid out to them and despite the risks Henry was assured that it was essential to all their plans. In order to preclude the possibility of a direct question from Edward causing the blood bound servant to divulge their plan the Toreador chose to keep as much detail as possible to himself. Henry informed them all that as the baron was religious about reinforcing the blood bond he was due to partake in a couple of days time so would attempt to avoid consuming enough of the blood for them to have a sample. Michael also arranged a coded signal that should the worse occur would indicate that they should evacuate the mansion, he chose the phrase "Is Vera sure about the frame?" as vague enough to avoid arousing suspicion. In his brief look at the mansion Daniel had came to exactly the same conclusion as Vin had done previously and that was that the physical security was laughingly bad. Evidently Edward relied solely on his supernatural defender to protect his home and person. "Is there any chance of a brief tour of the mansion and grounds?" asked Daniel "It'll give Michael some peace and quiet to work." Henry of course knew that there was more to it than a simple desire to look at the decor but he was now so involved in the plot that he doubted he could get in any more trouble than would occur if they failed so agreed.

The few rooms in the house that he observed held no surprises and were as poorly secured as the rest of the building and the grounds seemed to be the same. The assassin did however notice that along one side of the building an extension had been built and though it had been carefully constructed to match the rest of the property it was very obviously a more recent addition. The external door was fitted with the first sturdy lock he had observed in the building and he guessed based on it's position any internal access from the house would be from Edwards study where he remembered there was a door in the corner behind the desk. As they returned to the front of the house Daniel excused himself claiming to have left something in the car and that he'd find his own way back, where he was left alone by Henry. Taking the opportunity he chose this moment to replace the number on the date plaque with the replica created by his Toreador accomplice.

The Vignes Entity
As you remove the number from the sign the nearby shadows coalesce and you feel a dark tendril wrap around your wist with a vice like grip and several more flow from unlikely locations around the veranda, stairs and door-frame. Within a few seconds you are completely immobile though not harmed and an approximation of a face flows into existence and moves next to your ear. You here a quiet, raspy voice whisper into your ear. "Take care, if the Baron discovers what you're attempting, at his command I'll tear you all into tiny, tiny pieces. I cannot help you but I can choose not to hinder you unless you threaten him directly or disturb my prison, he has mundane spies careful..."  The grasping shadows become intangible and you are free once more as they fade as if never there. Towards the end of the speech the voice seemed strained as if speaking to you had cost it dearly.

The normally calm and collected doctor took a moment to get himself together before finishing off his task. The speed of the attack and his complete inability to escape the shadowy grip had shaken him considerably especially as his speed had always been his primary advantage. The knowledge that had the entity chose to destroy him it could have done so at will was completely unnerving and he knew that he had to inform Michael immediately, but as far away from this place as possible.

Michael, Toreador Artist - At Work
Even some-one without a single iota of empathy couldn't help but notice the extreme agitation of the Banu Haqim and so to Michael he might as well have been screaming it at the top of his voice. "We need to, right now...I'll explain in the car..." Seeing that something significant had occurred he gathered his artist supplies, made his apologies and left with Daniel.

Daniel drove far too fast while constantly checking the rear view mirror until they were out of view of the house before he even spoke to his companion and even then it was difficult to get any sense from him. "It spoke to me, it, spoke, to me..." "You know I'm fast right? you've seen how quickly I can move, yes?" "Tentacles grabbed me, actual tentacles and claws made from shadows grappled me and I couldn't move at all" Attempting to make some sense of the doctors stream of information he attempted to clarify some points but was getting nowhere as the brakes were slammed on and Daniel physically pulled Michael from the car and started babbling again. Seeing little alternative he attempted to calm the situation by focusing his disciplines on the doctor and though he had reservations about using them on an ally he could see no other way to gain the information he needed. A combination of the confused state of the one kindred and another's desire to resolve the situation caused the Toreadors powers to overwhelm the Banu Haqims will significantly.

Storytellers Note - Michael's player couldn't fail a roll, Daniels player only rolled a single success. Needless to say once I'd explained the effects of presence I had trouble keeping a straight face as Matt role-played the now hopelessly infatuated Doctor...

Almost instantly Daniel regretted his hasty actions towards what he was now sure was his best friend in the world. The thought that he might have caused him any distress caused a pang of regret and he immediately apologised for his hasty and completely uncalled for reaction. Michael assured him that he would forgive his hasty actions if he just explained what had occurred and Daniel desperate to please calmed down and relayed the events as they'd happened in between frequent apologies and compliments. Realising that the others needed to be informed and anxious to discover how Roach and Vin had got on at Hallowbrook Michael asked Daniel to get back in the car and drive them to the gallery which he was happy to do. After all he'd been asked by the most wonderful person he knew and wanted to keep him happy. A phone call to Roach proved uninformative due to one word answers but it was obvious that things had not gone to plan.

Scene Sixteen - Return to Pisha
'Roach' - Malkavian Seer
When they returned to the gallery, Michael's ghoul Lisa informed them that Vin had gone out 'for a snack' and that Roach had gone immediately upstairs on his return and hadn't spoken to any-one. As expected the Malakvian was in his usual location on a tatty chair perched near the fire escape smoking something foul smelling. "So I gather the mages couldn't help?" queried Michael. The tone of the reply had all the petulance of a grounded teenager "Couldn't maybe, more likely wouldn't and they wouldn't let me change the music or 'borrow' any drugs because of that bitch Victoria putting them on a budget..." Michael waited for a pause in the litany of complaints before making the statement that he knew was going to create another argument. "Well then it looks like we'll have to deal with Pisha as planned, there's no need for you to go after last time, just give me the map and I'll take Daniel instead."

"No, you can't have it..." As Michael feared Roach was fully committed to protecting them from Pisha by with-holding the one thing they needed to reach her and after a variety of negotiation tactics failed he was forced to resort to using his vampiric disciplines on an ally for the second time that evening. Unfortunately the malicious voice that existed in the souls of all kindred that some called 'the beast' took the opportunity to take advantage of the Toreadors frustration and dark thoughts began to worm into his mind. Despite his efforts to maintain his focus he couldn't help but feel that Roach should have handed over the map simply because he had asked for it and that it was about time the sulking junkie learned who was in charge.

The sheer force of his will, combined with the residual blood-bond from when Michael had used his own vitae to revive Roach a few days ago overpowered the unprepared Malkavian's mental defences. Under the power of Michael's presence he handed over the map completely unsure of why he'd earlier refused to do so, after all Michael wouldn't have asked without good reason. The elation of imposing his will on another soon turned to shame as the realisation that he had succumbed to the beast in spite of his personal quest to elevate himself above such petty desires. It didn't however stop him taking the map and keys from his companion.

Storytellers Note - Michael's player got a stain on his humanity for that. Though some of it was due to him getting a critical failure on the hunger dice he did break his own rules on maintaining his humanity.

The route you take back to Pisha's lair matches that by which you left and as you reach the basement via the elevator you are greeting by the same severed head dangling from the ceiling though there are three decaying corpses slumped against the wall this time rather than two. As you enter a voice you now recognise as the necromancers once again comes from the mouth of the decapitated head "So you chose to return...Marius's hedge wizards would not or more likely could not help you no doubt...". The partially dismembered bodies in the next room are now missing several more chunks of flesh and limbs and the catering blender is full to the brim of what you now know to be the liquidised remains of Pisha's unfortunate meals. "You have bought the items I requested?"

Pisha - Nagaraja Necromancer
Michael handed over the piece of the mansions plaque which he hoped had the sympathetic link to the magic within the home that the necromancer had claimed she needed and explained that the blood she required should be in their hands within a couple of days. Pisha traced the outline of the number from the plaque with a finger "Yes, this will do fine. It has just the resonance for which I was hoping" She paused a moment "I sense you have something else to tell me?"

The events outside the mansion were relayed in all the detail they could remember and Daniel recollected a few more pieces of information as Pisha prompted him at certain points and asked him to repeat others which in turn inspired new avenues of questioning. Once she was sure she had all the facts that they were able to supply she retrieved several books and began to peruse them while the Toreador and Banu Haqim waited patiently. After a short period of contemplation she appeared to have reached a startling revelation.

"Something I suggested as an outside possibility now in light of this contact now seems more likely in spite of it's rarity." "It's possible that a living creature has been bound somehow and that rather than fetters one of these items that you seek is focusing and amplifying it's powers while the other is enabling Edward to control them. Of course there must also be something binding it or it would simply escape" Daniel and Michael were both curious about the consequences of releasing whatever the entity may be as though they were happy for Edward to be destroyed they really needed Vera and Henry to survive, or more correctly to survive long enough to abdicate control to them. Pisha reiterated what she'd said previously about such things being unpredictable but also reminded them that it seemed to have some manner of self control which indicated that it might be open to reason should they be able to converse with it once more.

Nagaraja Blood Magic
As the Nagaraja was very clear that if Edward had such abilities she'd know about them it seemed obvious to Daniel that whatever this was it must have been bought by the Vignes with them from their original place of residence and he made some enquiries in this regard in between attempting to engage her in more casual conversation as he presumed that she might be more helpful towards some-one she considered a friend. With nothing further left to discuss they requested the map they'd need to leave but before they departed Pisha had a request of her own.

"It will take me three days to craft the talisman you require and will necessitate me utilising a number of resources that I have in only limited amounts. Tell the Gangrel I'll need three more 'gifts' to replace what I use to create your trinket..." "...and something for my library, I grow weary of what I have here"

Having little option but to accept her terms they agreed and then left, map in hand. Once safely out of the abandoned hospital Michael decided to phone Marius about Pisha's price as he had apparently been feeding her up to now. Unfortunately he could only get to speak to the much less reasonable Victoria who was very obviously in a foul mood, dispensing with even the semblance of pleasantries "He is currently unavailable, what do you want?" His somewhat long-winded explanation of their request was immediately summarised by the irritated ghoul of their patron.

"So what you're asking is that we murder three people and re-stock an occult library so you can murder a Baron and put yourself in his place? I think we've reached the point that this is beyond 'a favour' or even the trivial boon Marius allowed you to retain and puts you firmly back owing us a boon and a considerable one at that and by 'You' I mean your coterie also. Including your doctor friend who appears to have thrown his lot in with you all" "I'll also need the map...I'll provide you with the most recent version once I've returned"

Michael still feeling guilty about his treatment of Roach and to a lesser extent Daniel came up with a counter offer that enabled them to keep the boons they had accumulated and instead put himself further into debt with the Gangrel 'Fixer'. He offered to personally owe Marius a major boon if the others were considered to be no further in his debt. Victoria informed him that his terms were acceptable and he couldn't help but notice that she didn't seem to feel the need to check with her regnant first. With their short term issues of payment for the cannibal in the basement sorted Michael could only hope that the rest of their plan proceeded without any more boons added to his growing tally...

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

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...
There was some excellent role-playing this session and even my issuing of the first 'Stain' of the campaign was accepted without argument. The majority of the session was in character conversation which despite meaning I had to make a lot of notes made it fairly easy to run and I didn't use as much pre-written material as I expected. I do however have a lot to prepare for the next session as some of their plans have gone in directions I wasn't expecting...

I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order, Michael Tomassio is represented by the actor Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is quite obviously Kurt Cobain, 'Vin' is the actor Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Victoria is a model called either Lorelei Swan or Lilith May depending on where you find her, the Drake sisters are a model called Absentia and another called Elisanth, Vera Vignes is Helen Mirren and Michael's ghoul Lisa is the actress Amanda Righetti. Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement...

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.
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