Friday 5 July 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Thirty Five - The Carmelita Situation (Part Three)

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. Now with a barony of their own it's time to consolidate their position and then plan their next move.
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. 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.
'Infiltrate LA' Chronicle
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
'Foothold LA' Chronicle
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 One and Two

The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador, Baron of Pasadena
and Hope Romero - Gangrel, Scourge
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian, Seneschal
Dave as Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, Sheriff
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
The NPC's
Marie - Clan Carna, Occult Advisor

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested. There's also some minor 'house-rules' HERE that have occurred as we went along.

As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure 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. Anything covered via player handouts will also be in blue as they're written in the same style as introductions and the like. Where particular NPC's have a mention in a faction profile you will be able to reach it by clicking on their name beneath their picture.

While acting as escort for the renowned Camarilla archaeologist and archivist Carmelita Neillson the coterie have encountered a deluded cult of Brujah who believe the artefacts she possesses lead to the tomb of an ancient of their clan. The coterie on the other hand now believes that the tomb is likely that of an elder but not ancient Toreador and that the ancestor cults new leader has their own agenda...

Scene Eight - Sweep and Clear
Just in Case There's Trouble...
Michael has summoned his census taker and scourge, the Gangrel Hope Romero to accompany Daniel to the building that their Nosferatu acquaintance Alonzo has identified as the hideout of the Brujah they seek.

Though the operation is meant to be a simple infiltration followed by a search, the pair arm themselves heavily as if a problem does arise, fighting a small army of Brujah is not something they want to attempt bare-handed. Along with his usual selection of bladed weapons the Banu Haqim took an M4 assault rifle from the hidden armoury beneath the gallery along with a Mossberg shotgun and some night vision gear just in case. Hope had turned up with her Beretta Handgun, her shotgun and a fire axe. Hope liked the fire axe because as a weapon as they were freely available and if you needed a spare, many buildings had them just lying about.

Brujah Guard - Ancestor Cult
The location given to you by Alonzo is a well constructed stone building that may once have been a church or temple but has at some point been converted into a hostel of sorts. Several individuals in leather jackets are standing casually by the entrance, another two are near a side door and it appears they have one man on the roof.

Daniel was professionally offended by the defences as there were multiple entry points, the 'guards' didn't seem to be even trying and there wasn't a single camera or alarm system he could see. Many of the windows were locked or boarded up but that was the limit of it's security precautions. Getting inside should in his opinion be simple, though a distraction for the external guards might give them more time to search the building. He wasn't entirely sure the distraction would be necessary though.

As he watched, two of the three guarding the front entrance went inside and Hope asked Daniel what exactly the plan of action was. Daniel laid out the circumstances of the coteries involvement, their search for the remainder of the pieces of the stone tablet that they believed were held by the cultists within and his plan to infiltrate the building with hope as back-up.

"Cool..." said Hope, who was as usual worryingly cheerful at the thought of impending violence " a video game then?" Daniel who tended to take such jobs slightly more seriously than his Gangrel ally, nodded noncommittally before indicating that he intended to approach the building from an angle he doubted they'd expect. Hope watched him slip into an alleyway by the building next to their target structure where he promptly disappeared into the shadows.

Dr Daniel Matthews
Banu Haqim
Using his supernatural talents of camouflage the Banu Haqim disappeared into the shadows before scaling the side of the building with a combination of his uncannily strong grip and a talent for parkour. Once on the rooftop he found a shielded position from which to observe the guard opposite as though functionally invisible it wasn't worth taking any chances.

The suspected kindred was armed with a well maintained but unsophisticated bolt action rifle and Daniel surmised that his job was observer rather than there to guard the roof entrance. The assassin was also slightly concerned that as many of the group held fragments of the tablet that bypassing guards might mean them not locating all the pieces. On the spot he decided that this mission would need to be a sweep and clear rather than a simple recon. He doubted that Hope would mind.

Judging the distance between the two buildings to be a mere three or four metres he leapt across the gap, landing with supernatural levels of stealth and quickly but quietly approached the unsuspecting observer. With one motion he drew his falcata and with a precisely aimed blow sliced the guards head from his shoulders, catching the falling head with his off hand as the body slumped to the ground and began to decompose rapidly.

Hope Romero - Gangrel
Ready for Action
Reassured that he was correct about the security being kindred he quickly searched the vampires belongings and was relieved to also find a piece of tablet wrapped in red material. He sent Hope a message informing her that this was no longer a reconnaissance. Sitting in the car the young Gangrel received a message from her colleague that went "Recon is now Search and Destroy.". Her reply of a skull and crossbones followed by a question mark prompted a thumbs up in return. Hope grabbed her gear from the backseat of Daniel's car and began to walk towards the entrance.

With his heightened senses turned to their maximum Daniel could hear a guard moving about on the floor below and some shuffling from deeper into the building. The figure patrolling below had an Uzi sub-machine gun in his hand but seemed to be focused on the floor below him rather than the rooftop entrance above.

Uzi 9mm
Seeing no point in changing tactic, the Banu Haqim once again attempted to remove a guards head from his shoulders but his victim turned at the last minute and the blow glanced off his shoulder and failed to strike anywhere as deeply as Daniel would have liked. As he drew his arm back for a second attempt the guard fired back at point blank range hitting his attacker several times with 9mm rounds.

As she approached the building hope could see the two guards at the side entrance turn and run into the building, followed mere moments later by the guard at the buildings front. She quickened her pace, swiftly making up the gap between her and the defender of the front door who had his back to her. Extending her fingers into deadly claws she tore her talons into the mans throat from behind and then tore inwards.

Feral Claws - Gangrel
One set of claws penetrated deep enough for her to grip the kindred's spine while the other gripped what was left of his lower jaw. With a twisting motion she tore the Brujah's head from his shoulders as the other pair guarding the side entered the corridor. They arrived just in time to see the brutal death of the now headless kindred as the Gangrel hurled what was left of the mangled skull at them.

Daniel struggled with the Brujah who had shot him as though less skilled in combat that the Banu Haqim his enemy had formidable unnatural strength. Risking letting go with one hand for a moment the assassin pulled free one of his karambit knives and drove it into his opponents throat, attempting to saw through his neck from the side.

Striking more quickly than the gunman could heal the wounds caused, Daniel began to gain the upper hand and as the fight became more and more one-sided he managed to hack the head of the enemy from his shoulders and free himself.

Dr Daniel Matthews Falcata
Hope leapt the length of the corridor bringing the one guard crashing to the ground as his distracted friend watched the recently torn off head of another of his group bounce off his chest and hit the floor. Recovering from the shock he drew a combat knife and attempted to drive it into the Gangrel's back but she deftly moved aside and fended off the blow with one clawed hand. Daniel had meanwhile retrieved his sword and was running down the stairs to the commotion that he was sure was being caused by his impetuous ally.

Daniel reached the ground floor to find Hope crouched over a fallen figure trying her best to slash them to final death while avoiding a second foe who was trying to stab her in the back. He emptied his pistol into their back of the knife-wielding Brujah as he was running but was slightly to slow to prevent them stabbing Hope several times with the heavy blade. The natural resistance to damage shared by all kindred had made the damage minimal at best and Daniel prepared himself for his third fight in as many minutes.

Hope Romero - Gangrel
Hunger Frenzy
Utilising so many of her supernatural abilities in so short a period of time had drained much of the Gangrel's reserves of Vitae and the blood of the kindred below her and the pain from the blows into her back allowed the beast to gain control and she felt the familiar feeling of frenzy overcome her. Unable to resist a moment longer she used the last of her reserves of will to focus the attention of the beast within on the grounded figure and then tore out it's throat and began to drink deeply from the flowing Vitae.

Unable to risk being attacked from two sides the remaining Brujah turned his attention to Daniel, withstanding another hail of bullets before caving the Banu Haqim's ribs in with a Potence enhanced punch. Momentarily stunned, the assassin's attack in response was just to slow and his foe ducked beneath it before responding with another powerful blow.

The Stone Tablet - Almost Complete
Now sated with vitae from the grounded enemy the beast within became quieter and Hope regained control of herself. With his attention entirely focused upon avoiding the blades of Daniel there was nothing he could do to prevent Hope driving her foot down into the back of his knees sending him crashing to the ground. Sliding one hand beneath his chin and another on the back of his head she tore the unfortunate creatures head around the wrong way and then as her claws sliced through their spinal column she ripped upwards removing the head messily from their shoulders.

Searching the decomposing bodies for fragments of the tablet they found several more. Based on Carmelita and Michael's estimates they were missing at least two to complete the tablet. It was time to search the rest of the building to see if they had any stored within their base or if they still had targets to destroy.

Scene Nine - The Search Continues
Tools of the Trade - Lockpicking
As they made their way into the basement Daniel could hear the sounds he'd noted earlier were coming from a locked door to what was apparently once a storage area. Upon listening at the door he could hear sobbing noises from within and so picked the lock to gain entry.

Storytellers Note - Broadly speaking if the character isn't under any pressure or otherwise handicapped I don't make them roll to perform any task that could be accomplished by an average number of successes. In other words if picking a crappy lock could be done with three successes (moderate difficulty) I wouldn't make a character with a dice pool of six or more roll to unlock it unless one of his arms had been blown off or a werewolf was chasing him, for example.

Within the room were a young man and woman. The girl was sobbing quietly to herself while cradling an anaemic looking man lying in her arms. Conscious that she was covered in blood and bits of decomposing kindred, Hope stayed out of sight while Daniel reassured the young couple that they weren't there to cause them any harm.

The Cults 'Refreshments'
The handcuffs restraining them were a simple matter for him to remove and as he did so the girl visibly relaxed, beginning to believe that he was there to help. Using his extensive medical training he quickly assessed that the man was suffering from blood loss of which the cause was quite obvious. The girl was apparently being saved for later as other than being slightly dehydrated she was seemingly unharmed.

Using his best bedside manner he established that they believed they had been kidnapped by some maniacs from a cult and hadn't made any connections to vampires or the supernatural. This was a relief as neither he nor Hope would have felt good about killing the two to preserve the masquerade. Figuring that it would take the pair some time to find help given their condition and that they themselves would be gone by the time any authorities investigated the ramblings of  two students they told the two prisoners to make a run for it. The 'run' was more of a slow hobble as the girl half dragged and half carried her friend out of the building to safety.

The Cults Leader - Brujah?
Identity Unknown
While the Dr had been dealing with the cults on site refreshments, Hope had discovered another flight of stairs downwards towards some kind of sub-basement further below the building. As stealthily as they could manage, the hunters descended the stairway and opened the door at the bottom.

The unlocked room doesn't appear to contain any stone pieces though it is well stocked with ancient parchments and quite a lot of books on burial rituals, ancient tombs and archaeology. There is one other exit from the room, a door in the far wall. A woman turns as you enter and draws a wavy bladed knife from a scabbard on the table beside her. She is of average height with dark brown hair just past the shoulders, of athletic of build, with intense brown eyes and is wearing a simple dress cinched at the waist with a leather belt with a dark jacket thrown over the top. "Now, Now, What do we have here?"

Before Daniel could reply the woman addressed him again. "I can only presume that you have been assisting Miss Neillson with her search and have relieved my followers of the pieces they possessed." It was not phrased as a question. "I have an offer for you...Hand them over and tell me where the rest are located and I won't kill you..." Not one to take threats lightly and reasonably sure that the deal would not be honoured regardless Daniel drew his guns and emptied the clips into the woman before him.

As Hope entered the room behind Daniel she watched him open fire at a dark-haired lady a moment before she appeared right in front of him and drove a blade through his stomach and out through his back. The bullets had impacted with the rear wall and not one had hit it's target. Hope leapt forward to attack but the lightning fast knife wielder shifted Daniel between them giving her no angle to attack. "Perhaps you are more open to negotiation..." The conversation seemed almost casual despite her holding the Banu Haqim impaled on a blade before her. "...give me what I require or die." She withdrew the blade from her victim and stepped back. "I owe you that much for disposing of the foolish ancestor worshippers so I didn't have to." Daniel summoned the blood within his body to power the healing process and drew his sword as Hope flexed her claws and stepped beside him. "How disappointing..." The voice sounded anything but disappointed. "...One at a time then or both at once?"

The Mysterious Enemies Sacrificial Blade
Daniel moved with supernatural speed, covering the distance to the woman in an instant as Hope leapt forward simultaneously. Their target fended off both attacks before darting in and slicing her razor sharp weapon across Daniel's chest before ducking out of range once more. The Gangrel had seen the speed that the Banu Haqim was capable of moving at and the fact that their opponent was quicker was a concern. As they pressed their attack more superficial wounds were inflicted upon them and it looked more and more likely that Daniel would soon fall. Realising he may well not survive this encounter he decided that at the very least he would give Hope an opportunity to escape and threw himself at their powerful enemy with the last of his strength.

Hope could see what Daniel was planning but rather than use the opportunity to escape she instead pressed her own attack and managed to slice her claws into the stomach of their foe as Daniel hurled himself at her. The wound was barely a scratch so the pair were somewhat surprised as their foe skilfully disengaged from them and promptly disappeared. The only sign of her destination was the sound of the rooms rear door clicking shut.

Carefully checking the door for anything resembling a trap and finding none, Hope guardedly opened the door and found that it led into an access tunnel that appeared to connect to the sewer network. Not wishing to engage the powerful kindred once more, especially in a confided space that they no doubt knew well she checked on Daniel. He was a mass of cuts and stab wounds and would need blood to heal fully but could still move under his own strength.

Masquerade Breach - Prevented
Conscious that they'd been occupied for far longer than they had intended and that the authorities might be on their way they grabbed anything that looked of importance from the archive rooms contents and left. The time they'd allocated for clean-up was now exhausted so Hope instead used her experience of IED's and other booby traps gained during her time in the war to sabotage the gaslines and old boiler that powered the building. This combined with a number of cleaning products she'd discovered would make a considerable bang which should make enough of a mess to cover up kindred involvement.

As they drove away they passed several police cars, one of which contained the couple they'd allowed to escape though fortunately they were to focused upon leading the authorities to the location of their imprisonment. Moments before they arrived the improvised detonator created by Hope ignited the gas filling the building and combined with the chemical mixture she'd created caused a spectacular explosion that would hopefully erase all signs of their presence.

Interlude - Win Some, Lose Some
A significantly battered but healing Daniel and heavily bloodstained Hope tidied themselves up before reporting back to Michael. "So, how did the operation proceed?"

Michael Tomassio - Baron of Pasadena
"This is going to be bad news isn't it?"
Daniel explained that they had experienced somewhat mixed results. He had successfully infiltrated the facility but in obtaining the tablet fragments he had experienced some resistance and Hope had assisted with dealing with the escalation that had occurred. They then had an unfortunate encounter with the groups leader and she had been beyond both of their abilities to deal with.

Both the Gangrel and the Banu Haqim were loathe to admit that they had been significantly outclassed by their foe and the revelation that she had been faster than one and able to fight both him and the extremely competent Hope simultaneously was definitely a concern. One consolation however was that their theory that this leader had been using the ancestor cult for her own ends had been confirmed from her own mouth though her intention for the torpid elder was still unknown. The other was that they had acquired a significant number of documents that might contain useful information.

It seemed like now was an excellent time to return to Alonzo's underground haven and submit their new evidence to Carmelita who was till there busy interviewing the Nosferatu elder.

Scene Ten - Final Preparations
Carmelita Neillson - Toreador
Archaeologist and Archivist
Judging from the piles of notes in front of her, Carmelita's interview with Alonzo had gone well and they were still chatting when the coterie arrived with the results of their search. The remaining pieces of the tablet almost completed it leaving only a small corner missing enabling them to read most of the directions and cryptic clues that it contained.

The documents and maps retrieved from the basement of the cults base covered many ancient sites across Los Angeles but only a few had been marked out. Of the marked sites, one matched the location of the newly occupied Tremere chantry that they knew was highly unlikely to contain anything like a tomb and another was very close to the Neillson Library.

Given the extensive use that the library had and the fact that it had been constructed for it's current purpose it also seemed to be a poor candidate for a hidden tomb though there was the outside possibility that it was simply nearby. While Carmelita and Alonzo began to decipher the almost complete artefact Daniel made a suggestion that he was reasonably sure he was going to regret. "Could we see if Roach could force a premonition? He's done it before..." Had he realised that he was going to be volunteered to fetch him he may have kept the idea to himself.

Heather - Ghoul of Marius
'Galerie Sanguine' Employee
On his arrival at the gallery he enquired if the staff knew where Roach was as Michael needed him for a task. Heather who usually kept track of the Malkavian's location specifically to avoid him told Daniel that he was in his usual place on the fire escape. Roach had chosen this as his preferred place of relaxation from before the gallery was even completed and still kept the same decrepit old chair that he had discovered in the building before Michael had replaced the furniture with more stylish decor. "He's being an asshole today..." was Heather's considered assessment " expect him to be especially annoying..."

Heather's opinion seemed to be uncannily accurate as Roach was unnecessarily awkward from the offset, eventually relenting when the importance of the situation was explained to him. Daniel was reasonably happy with the progress he'd made in retrieving the coterie's seer right up until he began to hear the mission impossible theme tune playing in his head. Still weak from his battle with the mysterious Brujah he lacked the willpower to block the Malkavian's telepathic intrusion and so resigned himself to a tedious trip back to the Hollywood warrens.

Alonzo Guillen - Autarkis Nosferatu
The journey was made even worse by Roach's refusal to use Daniel's car instead insisting they travelled in his own van. At least this time it was merely painted in black with flaming skulls rather than the multi-coloured unicorns that had graced the outside of the previous now happily destroyed version.

By the time he'd returned with his passenger the archaeologist and her knowledgeable Nosferatu assistant had deciphered much of the tablet's obscure directions and inexplicably the directions did seem to lead them to a location almost exactly matching that of the Neillson library.

It was of course possible that the missing pair of pieces somehow radically altered the interpretation of the information but it seemed certain that the tomb was somewhere in the Hollywood cemetery that held Carmelita's library. Perhaps Roach would be able to discern more using his talents as a seer.

After greeting Carmelita with a preposterously elaborate bow, he waved his hands theatrically over the partially reassembled stone pieces that had caused them so much trouble.

A number of locations flashed through the Malkavian's mind. A nineteenth century passenger ship seemingly plagued with a strange disease that caused the passengers to become anaemic and listless, a near empty cemetery that began to fill with monuments and elaborately ostentation gravestones, a dark haired woman arguing with another beauty, an elaborately carved rose and a building in the Barony of the Angels that turned to ash as quickly as it appeared.

The argumentative woman from earlier in his vision became clear once more and as he shared the image with those present both Hope and Daniel recognised their opponent from earlier before the many images appeared once more and blurred into one.

From the mass of images a clear picture coalesced of a mausoleum within Hollywood cemetery and the fearsome enemy from earlier waiting patiently at the entrance to the Neillson library nearby. It seemed that their foe was waiting for them or at least would be when the sought out the tomb.

Deciding that his job was done the unconventional Malkavian found a corner to sit in and began to play with a strange two-headed rat in one of the unlocked cages along the far wall containing Alonzo's vermin horde of spies and scouts. If Roach's vision was accurate it seemed that they now had a location for the tomb and that they would have an enemy waiting for them when they did so.

Daniel's preference was always for engaging an enemy on his own terms and he was reasonably sure that a good sniper location could be found at the cemetery now they had an accurate location for their inevitable confrontation. If their enemy was indeed waiting near Carmelita's repository of knowledge then it would be a perfect place to put enough high calibre bullets in her to put her down permanently.

The possibility was of course that the vision might not be entirely accurate and that the kindred woman would need to be lured into a suitable locale to ensure a clean shot. The only member of the coterie with the resilience and stamina to survive a confrontation with the swift and strong opponent was of course Hope and there was the danger that even she might not withstand her onslaught.

Yukio Hayashi - Ghoul of Marius
Assassin and Enforcer
The other problem was that Daniel's sniper rifle had been involved in a number of instances already and Michael was hesitant to have any evidence of it at another potential crime scene.

Fortunately as Carmelita's sponsors were footing the bill for the operation they might be able to obtain a weapon from the Gangrel 'Fixer' Marius or one of his operatives. As she had the most political leverage and resources, Carmelita made the call.

Thanks to Carmelita, Daniel found himself with an appointment to see Marius's favourite ghoul assassin Yukio at Hallowbrook Apartments to obtain a suitable weapon for the job. Yukio's quarters consisted of half of an entire floor of the building with the other half apparently been taken up by his other favourite Victoria's own rooms.

Her accommodation was decorated in a Japanese style and if not for the modern accessories could easily have been mistaken for a traditional Japanese home. Though the aesthetics were pleasing enough it was Yukio's massive armoury that drew his attention.

Within the cabinets along one entire wall were a wide variety of handguns in a variety of calibres though she seemed to have a preference for Glock's as she had several of each model. Other racks held shotguns from pump-action to full auto varieties, sub-machineguns, assault rifles and an impressive selection of sniper weapons as well as pretty much the entire FN P90 range. Daniel noted that many of the weapons were bullpup configuration presumable for issues of comfortable handling as Yukio was fairly small in stature. "So doc, what exactly are you hunting?"

Daniel explained the situation and the target. "So, high calibre, long range, max damage. You're familiar with the Barrett range I imagine?" He confirmed that he was though his current model was somewhat hot and so using it was problematic.

Victoria Anne - Ghoul of Marius
Personal Assistant
"I only use the bullpup XM500 model, it's easy for me to handle than the M107 but as Carmelita's footing the bill I guess I can provide you one. The serial numbers have been physically and chemically removed so it's quite untraceable." The Banu Haqim expected nothing less so moved onto the subject of ammunition.

"If she's a tough as you seem to think you'll need something special." She opened a locked cabinet against the far wall and removed a box of ammunition. "This is high-explosive incendiary/armour-piercing ammunition so bound to draw attention so be careful. It also goes without saying that you can keep the rifle. Once I hand it over the consequences for using it if caught are you own problem. I'll let Victoria know so she can add it to Carmelita's bill...or whoever is funding this project for her at least."

Curious about the fact that half of the wall was taken up with illegal weaponry that was openly on display Daniel enquired about if they ever had any trouble with the authorities. "Not really..." was the reply "...any inspectors get shown around by Leanna, and then leave believing whatever she wants them to." Daniel was vaguely aware that Leanna managed Marius's herd of blood dolls so presumably had abilities over the minds of mere mortals.

Isaac Abrams - Toreador
Baron of Hollywood
Michael meanwhile had gained permission to travel through Hollywood from Baron Abrams but hadn't given any details. Isaac Abrams was always seemingly more interested in the formalities than specific details though Michael imagined that very little went on within Hollywood that wasn't under his influence. Most of Michael's visits to Isaac's domain were related to the Neillson Library or the Nosferatu information brokers in the warrens beneath the Hollywood streets and he was happy to let the Baron believe that this was also the case on this occasion.

Hollywood Cemetery itself suffered from the rather unusual problem that occasionally the dead rested uneasily there and the caretaker Romero had the dubious honour of making sure none of those interned there decided to go for a stroll around the cities streets. Michael had learned from his first visit with agents of Marius that the best way to ensure that Romero looked the other way when business needed to be undertaken in the cemetery involved providing him with female companionship. This time however he needed him out of the way completely so had arranged for Vin and Roach to deliver several ladies of the night and a significant quantity of narcotics to a nearby hotel room ensuring he would be out of the way for the duration of their operation.

Scene Eleven - Hollywood Cemetery
Romero - Ghoul of Isaac Abrams
Custodian of Hollywood Cemetery
As it turned out the cabin that served as Romero's home within the cemetery grounds had also been built on a high point with the central part of the grounds and had a nice sturdy and flat roof which made an excellent sniper location. This made sense as Romero himself was on occasion required to put down restless dead within the grounds and would presumably like to do that from as far away as possible.

While Daniel set himself up with a good place from which to focus upon the location that Roach's premonition had told him would contain their enemy, the Gangrel scourge Hope looked for a trail to follow. Hope was a skilled tracker both from her training as a soldier and the gifts granted by her clan and soon picked up on the route their quarry had taken.

The mysterious enemy was waiting for her in a worryingly casual manner, leaning against the supposedly secret location of one of Carmelita Neillson's repositories of knowledge. It was immediately obvious that she would need to lure their opponent towards them in order to give Daniel a clear shot as annoyingly a tall monument was currently obscuring the view. Moving into the open, Hope could see that their prey was clearly waiting for someone to come for her. "Ding, Ding...Round Two..." yelled Hope in order to draw the attention of the target.

Mysterious Adversary - Possibly Brujah
Before Hope could prepare herself the enemy covered the fifty metres between them in an instant and lashed out with supernatural strength, tearing muscle and splintering bone. Hope instinctively drew upon the powers of her blood, enhancing her own resilience and reducing the blow from torpor inducing to merely crippling. Daniel had Hope in his sights as the woman they were seeking appeared next to her but she had moved too quickly for him to get a clear shot. Swiftly refocusing the woman once more was within his cross-hairs and he squeezed the trigger.

Either by luck or skill the target moved at the last minute and put Hope in line of the shot, supernatural reflexes enabled him to move the sniper weapon at the last minute, missing his ally but unfortunately losing his the opportunity to target his true enemy as well. As the rifle round sped uncomfortably close to her head, the Gangrel once again went on the offensive, lashing out with her claws in a flurry of blows. Each blow was blocked before it could strike undead flesh and the smiling face of the powerful enemy was beginning to get on Hope's nerves.

The Gangrel could also feel the hunger within rising and the beast gnawing at her self control as she used more of the precious vitae within her to heal the wounds she had suffered. Changing tactics, Hope risked taking another hit and hurled herself at her foe, who nimbly stepped aside at the last minute.

The Banu Haqim attempted to keep the mystery kindred in his sights as Hope pushed on with her attack. As he watched Hope leap at them he saw his opportunity as the enemy who had defeated them before stepped away from his ally and into the open. Without a moments hesitation he sent a high explosive incendiary round at their centre mass in order to give him the greatest chance of a hit. As the woman turned to re-engage Hope in combat, Daniel's round struck her in the side. The high calibre shell penetrated undead flesh before detonating in an explosion of fire and fragments of undead body and bone.

The sniper watched in amazement as the kindred staggered back to her feet, dark blood flowed into the hole within her side and began to rebuild their shattered form. Realising he needed to act quickly he fired again just as the rapidly healing woman turned away to make her escape, the round striking her in the back as she did so. Daniel's frustration rose as though the impact tore flesh apart once more, the incendiary effect seemed to cause far less inconvenience than it had previously as if she somehow had the ability to circumvent one of the primary banes of all vampires. He was reassured by the fact that she made no attempt to heal from this dire injury, her reserves of blood perhaps depleted. Then his frustration returned as in a blink of an eye she promptly disappeared.

Hope's reserves of Vitae were almost depleted and the only potential source of blood that could sate her hunger had promptly disappeared. This combined with the proximity of the flaming explosions caused the beast within her to demand that they left immediately. Failing to resist the terror frenzy, the Gangrel used some of her dwindling blood to instinctively change into her wolf form and then fled. As Daniel evacuated his snipers nest, he switched to an assault weapon in case their enemy returned but found only a small red bundle containing the remaining two pieces of the stone tablet. Of their foe and his ally there was no sign.

Interlude - One with the Pack
Hope awakened in an unfamiliar place with little recollection of the events of the night before after her fight with their opponent and rival in the Hollywood Cemetery.

As her wits returned she realised that she had somehow broken into the wolf enclosure at the local zoo and buried herself under one of the sheltered pens within. The zoo was closed for the evening and so Hope carefully made her way from the enclosure and avoiding the camera's made her way out of the perimeter and headed back to the gallery.

As she returned she began to have flashes of memory, a man slapping a woman in an alley, herself crouched over his exsanguinated corpse, the same body dumped unceremoniously in a dumpster and then it and it's contents on fire as she herself once more ran away from a blaze. Realising that the beast had claimed a life in her name while under it's control she vowed to have more self control in future and to ensure that Michael never found out what she had done.

Scene Twelve - The Final Pieces
As Hope arrived back at the gallery she met Daniel entering the building having used his contacts in the medical profession to check on the well-being of the two prisoners of the cult that he and Hope had released from their basement prison.

Carmelita Neillson - Toreador
At Work
Carmelita meanwhile had set herself up in the galleries meeting room and had uploaded pictures of all the documents discovered to her computer. She was cross-referencing each piece of information with the now completed tablet and this along with another conversation with the Brujah Idealists and a brief visit to Alonzo had enabled her to decipher the coded text. As the Camarilla had strong ideas about the storing of such information in electronic form, Carmelita began to transfer it to a more traditional pen and paper format.

As they had suspected the references pointed not to a Brujah ancient but instead to a Toreador elder of not much more than two centuries. The directions had used the monument above the Neillson Library as it was one of the oldest structures within the area rather than due to any connection with the repository of knowledge it now contained. The instructions were not as convoluted as first expected now the final two pieces had been added as the language seemed to be more poetic than an attempt at misdirection. The only mystery remaining was why their rival had gone to such efforts to subvert the ancient worshipping Brujah cult to assist her with locating the tomb for herself. Of course as they had been unable to locate where she had retreated to after receiving such grievous wounds from Daniel's sniper rifle it was perhaps something they might never know for sure.

Now sure that she had a definitive location she decided to call in a final favour from Los Angeles resident fixer in order to secure the site.

Marius's most loyal assistant Victoria had made arrangements with Baron Isaac Abrams to enter the cemetery with a significant force to secure a location for the Toreador archaeologist Carmelita Neillson.

Apparently the name dropping of a significant member of Clan Toreador had been enough to placate the notoriously territorial Baron though Michael was sure that some form of payment had no doubt been exchanged as well. He was also positive that any cost had been passed on at least threefold to Carmelita's sponsors by Victoria's regnant Marius.

Half a dozen armoured vehicles arrived at the cemetery as multiple teams of Marius's own security teams deployed, led by the fixer's enforcer and assassin Yukio. Experienced and well trained they moved into covering positions and secured each area before allowing Carmelita to continue. Yukio's focus was upon protecting Carmelita, leaving Daniel to look after Michael as her own heavily armed and armoured retinues kept a look out for any danger while Carmelita followed the deciphered instructions.

Their final destination was if anything an anti-climax. That the mausoleum was of superb workmanship wasn't in doubt but nonetheless it was fairly plainly decorated with the only real decoration being an elaborate rose carved into the stone slab that acted as door. A recess to one side however seemed to be shaped exactly to fit the reconstructed tablet that had been their guide. The experienced explorer of ancient resting places checked carefully for traps both mundane and arcane but found none so proceeded to push open the door.

"I don't think we need twenty armed guards traipsing around inside, do you?" said Carmelita to Yukio who with a wave of her hand signalled for the teams to form a perimeter and wait. Yukio did however still take her mission seriously and had chosen to presume that the comment in no way related to her as she accompanied the pair of Toreador and Daniel into the depths.

At the bottom of the stairs they reached a stone room decorated with a simple but effective repeating pattern of delicate roses etched into the walls. In the floor a piece of marble had been inlaid with a plaque within it bearing the legend, 'Countess d'Adhemar',who was a descendent of Helena and a direct ancestor of Michael's.

Countess d'Adhemar - Toreador
Childe of Madame Guil
Though not entirely alien to a belief in fate, Michael Tomassio, the Toreador Baron nonetheless suspected that his selection to join the group tasked with taking Los Angeles for the Camarilla might have involved someone with their own agenda. The chance of a missing ancestor of his being concealed in the very city to which he had been sent seemed too miraculous to have been an accident.

"I see nothing to be gained by awakening the Countess from her torpor..." stated Carmelita "...she is not so ancient as to possess knowledge that would be critical to our sect or clan so I suggest we let her sleep." Michael nodded in agreement. "Of course..." Carmelita continued "...she will need a guardian and custodian to ensure that less scrupulous kindred do not have a different plan for her. Will you take on this task, Michael?". The Baron confirmed that he would consider it an honour. Carmelita then laid out her plan "I shall of course personally arrange for more significant security precautions to be implemented upon her resting place and inform Baron Abrams that the site is important to our clan and should be watched. I shall also make him aware that it is you to whom the responsibility of care has been given so as to prevent any misunderstandings should you wish to inspect the tomb."

It seemed that Michael now had another responsibility to add to his growing list, as well as several new mysteries to ponder...

Storytellers Note - Three sessions just so Michael's player could have a 5 Dot Lore he wanted. That's what a kind and generous Storyteller I am: 5 Dot, Ancestor’s Tomb: Carmelita has entrusted you to guard the supposed resting place of one of your ancestors. As long as you keep it safe, you can call upon her for a major boon once per story. Should you fail to keep it safe, there will likely be… other consequences.

To be Continued in 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One

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...

Okay...I'd be the first to admit that this one is a little conveniently wrapped up in a nice neat package...well...except for the mysterious enemy of course.

Michael's player had expressed a desire to take the 5 Dot Loresheet background that I mentioned in the Storytellers Note earlier. Just letting him have it would have been difficult to explain given his background so I decided to turn it into a story of it's own. This not only made me happier as it made sense but gave the player a greater connection to the responsibility as it had taken some effort to earn.

In order to keep things even in terms of experience points I gave the other characters and players involved an equivalent xp reward in abilities related to their activities.

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, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Marie is Eva Greene, Carmelita Neillson is Salma Hayek, Victoria is Lilith May, the Mysterious enemy is Mila Kunis, heather is Liz Viciousand Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman. 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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