Friday 1 November 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Fifty Two - The Messiah Complex (Part Four)

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.
Chronicle One - 'Infiltrate LA' 
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree, and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Gather'
Story Three Continued - 'Becoming Baron' - Part SixSeven and Eight
Chronicle Two - 'Foothold LA' 
Solo Session - 'Hostile Takeover'
Story Four - 'Countdown' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Five - 'The Missing Chantry' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Anaheim Assassination'
Story Six - 'A Meeting of Barons' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seven - 'The Carmelita Situation' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eight - 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One and Two
Story Nine - 'Blood Money' - Part OneTwoThreeFour, Five and Six
Story Ten - 'Anathema' - Part One and Two
Story Eleven - 'Predators and Prey' aka 'The Blount Sisters' - Part Three
Story Twelve - 'Aftermath' - Part One and Two
Story Thirteen - 'The Messiah Complex' - Part One, Two and Three

The PC's
Player controlled characters
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, Baron of Pasadena
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, Sheriff
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, Scourge
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, Mob Accountant
The SPC's
Storyteller controlled player allies
Priya Haynes - Gangrel, Hound
Carla Doyle - Gangrel, Hound
Orla Riviera - Gangrel, Hound

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 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.

The deeper the coterie gets with their enquiries the more it seems likely that the kidnappers, weapon thieves and those mapping the sewers are part of the same giant conspiracy. Unfortunately their latest lead has created new complications as Daniel, Hope and Vin have failed to prevent the latest robbery from occurring. They have however saved the life of the victim of the crime, arms dealer Fat Larry, and their hope is that he'll have some useful information for them.

Storytellers Note - This story begins at the exact moment the last session ended so there were no hand-outs this time. It's also another epic double session so get a drink and make some popcorn...maybe two went on for a while...

Scene Twenty One - 'Fat' Larry
'Fat' Larry - Arms Dealer and Fence
Aided by Vin's vitae, Larry has made a swift recovery from his brutal beating though his main concern seems to be having to rebuild his weapon stocks from scratch.

Though his exterior security cameras were destroyed at range, the hijackers failed to discover his concealed internal monitoring methods. After the stealthy retrieval of these from Larry's base of operations the coterie now has clear views of a number of suspects. At least five are known kindred from 'The Rats' gang from the Barony of the Angel's and four more are vaguely reminiscent of Thin-bloods from the pier. Most interestingly, the remaining pair are most definitely the two kindred who were monitoring Daniel.

With four dead in the altercation that still leaves at least seven who escaped. Larry also estimates that even with the front vehicles destruction along with it's cargo, that at least fifty assorted rifles and shotguns were still now in the enemies hands along with a significant number of small arms, SMG's and ammunition.

Andrew Francis - Ghoul
Dr Daniel Matthews's 
More helpfully, one let slip a name while believing that Larry was unconscious and this name belonged to another who was known to Larry though he apparently didn't know that he'd been recognised. It is Larry's opinion that it was this bastard who led the others to his base. The 'bastard' in question was also the man who had been observing Daniel.

Daniel and his ghouls had made some enquiries of their own and discovered that the three vehicles used in the robbery were all stolen and had obviously been taken by experts as the police had neither forensic evidence nor any camera footage from or of the thefts. The now destroyed pick-up truck had been taken from Santa Monica, the Van from West LA and the SUV from South Central LA in what was until recently known as 'The Barony of the Angels.

The man identified by Larry, Gregory 'Gergo' Mora was evidently mortal recently enough so that he still had a traceable presence on social media and via actual documentation. There's also a girlfriend in some of the older pictures who matched the description of Daniel's other stalker. His ghoul Andrew has discovered two likely addresses from which to begin making enquiries. One is a disused storage unit on the new border between Marius's Downtown domain and that of Hank Boyd of the Crypts Sons, the other is a basement flat in Downtown LA.

While Vin was ensuring that his own business ventures had suffered no more losses in his absence, Daniel went to see Michael to discuss their next move.

Jenna Cross - Caitiff
De facto Duskborn Baron
Though there was some discussion about making enquiries with Jenna Cross, De facto duskborn baron and her chief enforcer Laki, these were eventually rejected in case the leaders at the pier were indeed part of the conspiracy.

Daniel put forward the idea, in as subtle terms as possible that Jenna might need to be removed as a threat, from as far away as possible. Michael was however unwilling to sanction such an assassination until they were one hundred percent sure she was behind the conspiracy. The possibility of obtaining information from Laki via some form of bribe was also considered but Daniel pointed out that he had already tried to recruit him without success.

Their other avenue for information was the Baron of Santa Monica, Therese Voerman but this was also abandoned as a plan for one very good reason. Namely that consulting the thin-bloods primary local enemy could easily be construed as the coterie taking a side in that particular conflict.

Daniel and Vin had already discussed Larry, and the Brujah was quite clear that he had no interest in taking on Larry as a ghoul and had merely used his own vitae to save the arms dealers life and speed up his healing process for information gathering purposes. Michael mentioned that some-one might want to give Larry some information on ghouls in broad terms so he was prepared for the effects of Vin's vitae within his system. Though the effects of the blood would only last a month without Vin renewing the supply they could do without Larry accidentally punching some-ones head off in the mean time.

Scene Twenty Two - Gregory's Basement
Basement Flat - Gregory's Haven
With their options seemingly limited, Daniel asked to borrow Hope from her patrol duties once more to aid him in investigating the leads on the two locations they had just acquired. With three 'Hounds' now at his disposal already patrolling his borders, Michael agreed. Daniel tasked his ghouls with watching the storage unit while he and Hope investigated the flat.

The basement flat had, as far as they could tell, a single entrance and only one window which was protected by a heavy blind. Such places made more than serviceable, cheap havens for kindred of low means, being fairly easy to make sun-proof.

Detecting no sounds from within with his preternatural senses Daniel approached closer and had a careful look through the window. It looked like boards had been placed across the window, just behind the blinds, which was another cheap precaution favoured by kindred of little or no means.

Shotgun Trapped Door
Conscious of their previous quarry being fond of booby traps, Daniel carefully picked the lock and slowly opened the door. As expected there was a wire attached to the door handle.

Putting his phone through the gap, Daniel filmed the inside of the room and the footage revealed a double-barrelled shotgun aimed at approximately neck height, fixed to some scaffolding bolted into the floor. After carefully cutting the wire, they entered. The shotgun had been loaded with dragons-breath rounds so would have been a nasty and possibly fatal surprise for any kindred entering.

Blood Bags
Much to Hope's amusement, Daniel turned on the lights and so she then spent the next five minutes mimicking Daniel's usual pet phrases about stealth and taking care to be unobserved. The kitchen area contained no signs that a mortal had used it being entirely devoid of food and drink.

The fridge however contained three blood bags whose containers broadly matched the generic ones that they'd discovered in the kidnappers warehouse base a few days before. This was another connection between the various crimes they were investigating that pointed to a grander conspiracy. Taking the blood bags and shotgun with them to match with the other crimes, they left to check out the second location.

Storytellers Note - The trap was either fairly obvious or I'm getting predictable. Apparently I'll have to step my game up in future sessions. It looks like another internet search that'll probably put me on an FBI watch-list is order., lol. "Hey, it looks like that weirdo who was looking up how to liquidise a human body is at it again..."

Scene Twenty Three - The Storage Unit
Abandoned Storage Units
Relieving his ghouls from their observation duties, he instead sent them to observe Santa Monica pier from a safe distance and told them to report in if they saw anything of note. He and Hope then went to see what, if anything the storage unit contained.

As reported by his ghouls, the whole area looked abandoned. The gate was accessed by a swipe card reader that looked like it hadn't worked in years and the fence was near collapse. many of the storage units had been broken into and the camera's on the walls had been smashed long ago. Both the kindred cleared the six foot tall fence with little effort and checked out the unit on the far end that the records claimed was owned by Gregory.

The main shutter on the front could be opened as a complete unit but also contained a separate door. Now knowing that Gregory was apparently fond of traps Daniel carefully picked the lock and as before discovered a shotgun aimed at head height.

Upon entering both he and Hope were glad that they had used the door not the main shutter as the Gangrel noted the large number of explosives rigged to detonate upon it's opening. As before they emptied the shotgun and took it with them, though it was Hope's opinion that disarming the explosives was too big a risk so they left them alone. The shotgun itself had had the serial numbers filed away.

The unit itself contained a dark SUV, very much like the one Daniel's observers had escaped in but nothing else of interest. However inside the vehicle could be seen a bundle of receipts, a street map and a strip of paper with something scribbled upon it.

Now suspicious about the number of traps they'd discovered, Daniel checked the exterior of the car, discovering a grenade with it's pin removed had been wedged between the tire and the wheel arch. Had the vehicle been moved without this being removed the explosion would have been considerable, despite the grenade being a fairly old model.

Deciding that it might be worth looking to see if there was any sign that the vehicle had been moved recently, Daniel checked outside once more and in his opinion the tyre marks were fairly recent, definitely within the last few days and led directly to the gate Though the card reader wasn't working, Daniel could see that the manual lock on the gate was functional. Upon returning to the unit he discovered that Hope had gotten bored and had driven her claws through the car's door and ripped it off the car. With a sigh of relief that no explosions occurred, the Banu Haqim investigated the items within.

The receipts were all from the same twenty-four hour gas station and the scrap of paper had the address of Larry's warehouse written on it. Daniel carefully examined the map and noticed a pale area on it, near to where the gas station from the receipts was located.

After a more careful look he could see that some-one had marked a location in pencil with an 'X' on the street map and then attempted to rub it out. They now had iron-clad proof that the owners of this vehicle had been part of the team that had robbed Larry's weapon stockpile and that the location on the map was apparently important enough for them to want it obscured. The gas station itself was barely a five minute drive from the marked area.

Detonated Storage Unit
Daniel wanted to go to the gas station and see if they had any security footage of the suspects or their vehicle. Hope however thought this was an unnecessary risk as they knew their quarry used the area and were based nearby. Daniel however could not be dissuaded. Hope decided to do a flyby of the 'X' marked area and then to meet Daniel at the gas station where she was reasonably sure he would need her help in some way.

She also decided that as her colleague had seemingly abandoned any pretence of covering up their tracks she would leave a message for their prey. She scratched 'Fuck You' into the removed door and placed it near the gate, then set up a trigger of her own timed to detonate the existing explosives a few minutes after they left.

Storytellers Note - I think 'Hope' is going through a phase at the moment, lol.

Meanwhile, at Michael's request, Vin had been explaining certain differences that Larry might experience over the next month that he'd have to be careful of. Larry apparently was broadly aware of kindred and so had some idea of the concepts Vin was attempting to pass on.

Venus Dare - Marius's Ghoul
Club Manager and Dominatrix
The arms dealer had been involved with Marius's people at several points in his dubious career and it was, in fact he who had introduced the Gangrel 'fixer' to Venus Dare. It seemed that his usefulness had outweighed his potential threat to the masquerade and so he had been spared from having the unfortunate accident usually reserved for those with such knowledge.

As the task had taken less time than he'd allocated to it, Vin left and began to organise the armoury of weapons he'd transferred from the gallery. He had a feeling that the shit was about to hit the fan soon and that Hope and Daniel were going to need his particular expertise's. As the Brujah placed the carefully cleaned and reassembled AA-12 Assault Shotgun to one side, he began to carefully load solid slug shells into the first of half a dozen thirty-two round drums. Once that was done he'd give his two-handed machete a quick sharpen before getting to work on his handguns.

The Brujah had learned many new skills since he'd been in Los Angeles but his core skill-set was very much in the area of making things very dead indeed.

At the gas station, Daniel was having more trouble than he expected persuading the young man behind the window to let him in to look at the security tapes. He had tried showing him his private investigators license, recently acquired for him by his ghoul Andrew and then when that failed, he had made a vague attempt at manipulation. The answer was however a consistent statement about needing to contact his head office first.

Harassed Employee
Even this became a problem as Daniel discovered that the head office worked standard office hours and was shut at night. He was now giving serious consideration to breaking his personal policy on harming the innocent. Hope circled around the gas station, found an unobserved area to transform back and then joined Daniel. Her approach was somewhat different.

Hope was very attractive and so seduction was definitely an option, however she much preferred intimidation through veiled threats and almost never used her appearance to her advantage. Though Vin was the coteries undisputed master when it came to scaring the crap out of people, Daniel had to admit that Hope was no slouch in that area as the employee agreed to let her in to look at the footage and allow Daniel to take pictures of any persons of interest.

They discovered that the two kindred that Daniel was searching for had used the gas station several times to fill up their SUV and later to do the same to a dark red sedan. Though this confirmed that they had been using the vehicle it gave them no other information of use so they decided to investigate the location on the map. Under the presumption that it may be another Thin-blood and Caitiff staging area of some kind, they gave Vin a call to drive down and give them a hand.

Scene Twenty Four - 'X' Marks the Spot
Hope let him know that her aerial reconnaissance had revealed that the 'X' indicated a small electrical sub-station that looked to be out of use at the moment, surrounded by a fairly easy to bypass, metal fence.

It looked like it now simply allowed access to some below ground service area being disconnected from the electrical grid as it was. Daniel parked out of sight of the area and did a sweep of the surroundings, looking for security devices or surveillance cameras. He observed a small camera that had been recently installed, as the wire could be seen threaded through the mortar between the bricks and the mounting was clearly not part of the original design. Pointing towards the door as it was, a covert entry seemed to be out of the question.

As Daniel and Hope conferred upon a plan of action, Vin arrived. "It looks like 'surprise attack' is out of the question." said Daniel pointing at the camera. "Well cant we just shoot it?" asked Vin in his usual naive fashion. "I mean at least then they don't know what's coming..." It wasn't a bad plan to be fair so they prepared their weapons, readied themselves and then Daniel put a round through the camera a moment before they made their move.

As they moved towards the door, it flew open and a hulking figure with a handgun came to investigate why the camera had stopped working. Daniel reacted instantly, putting a full magazine of 10mm rounds into it's chest, but the kindred attackers undead flesh made the damage far less effective than it would have been to a mortal. Their return fire winged Daniel slightly as Vin missed with his shotgun and Hope was knocked back with considerable force by the surprisingly skilled foe.

Switching to his falcata, the Banu Haqim leapt forward but his swinging blow was dodged as the kindred guard punched him in the face. Enraged at being thrown aside like a rag-doll, Hope shoulder barged the culprit into the enclosed area and tore into their throat with her fangs. As she began to drink, Vin took advantage of their surprise and drove his machete through their heart. Concerned that all the enemies within would be as tough, Hope decided to even up the odds and sent a pair of grenades bouncing down the stairway within the doorway. As one of them was sent flying back up the stairs, Hope had a moment to regret not 'cooking' them both before being caught in the detonation.

Fortunately for her the supernatural resistance for which her clan was infamous saved her from the brunt of the damage, as her comrades instead used their clans relative talents for speed to simply move from the blast radius. Hoping that the culprits wouldn't be expecting an instant response, the Gangrel ran down the stairway straight into the gunfire of an indeterminate number of weapons.

Realising that Hope had hurled herself into danger once more, Daniel followed her downstairs with Vin a few moments behind. With their reckless friend in the way, neither the Banu Haqim or Brujah could use their supernatural speed to get to the bottom of the stairway ahead of her, nor could they get a clear shot at the four gunmen that Daniel estimated were waiting them below based on the gunfire aimed at them.

Healing the few wounds that managed to bypass both her innate and enhanced resilience, Hope then savagely ripped into the nearest assailant with her claws. Several more rounds struck her in the back before Daniel and Vin emerged onto the floor alongside her and joined in the fight. Though possessing the basic abilities shared by all kindred it was obvious that these were far less capable than the guard upstairs had been. Daniel quickly overwhelmed his target and then fed upon them as solid slugs from Vin's shotgun obliterated the torso of the third enemy as he fired it one-handed while gripping the final foe around the throat. As the Brujah began to crush their windpipe Daniel yelled that they needed one to question. Somewhat reluctantly, Vin dropped them to the floor though he did kick them brutally in the ribs as they hit the ground to emphasise that he wished them to stay where they were.

Daniel's questioning was getting them nowhere as the kindred that Vin had spared seemed to have the courage that only fanaticism or insanity bestowed on a person and their responses were limited to profanities and defiance. Concerned about how much time they had before others attacked them, Daniel decided to hand the prisoner over to the 'care' of his two compatriots. Then he heard the distinct noise of an automatic weapon being readied to fire. As he hoisted the prisoner into the air to use as a shield, armour-piercing rounds punched through them and into his own body, barely even slowed by his kindred shield.

Hope transformed into a Raven and flew down the second stairway, bobbing and weaving as the machine-gunner attempted to get a bead on her. Healing themselves as they did, both Brujah and Banu Haqim covered the distance in a mere second. What was seemingly the last remaining attacker realised they were unlikely to escape and instead turned and raked the coterie with weapons fire. As Daniel engaged them in return, Hope returned to humanoid form and hurled herself upon them.

Confident that the two of them combined could take the last of their enemies, Vin circled around to see where they had been heading.

The basement wall has been demolished, seemingly by hand judging from the sledgehammers and tools propped up nearby. The space occupied by the few inhabitants is only a small part of the overall area and it seems obvious that this was, up until very recently a weapon storage area. It seems you are too late.

Swearing to himself Vin carried on down a tunnel that showed significant signs of use leading to another knocked down wall. This in turn lead to an underground car-park below a closed down supermarket. The area could easily have held enough vehicles to move the kind of volumes that must have filled the empty space in the staging area he'd just passed through. After a brief investigation he returned to see how the others were faring with their enemy.

Daniel was shooting as he ran, putting bullets into any part of the floored kindred that were visible past Hope. Hope herself had decided that they needed someone to question and pulled a stake from her belt and drove it through their chest. Unfortunately, the victim was a thin-blood and closer to mortal than to vampire and therefore the wood that pierced their heart killed them instantly. Considering what they'd been through at their hands, neither Hope nor Daniel were overly concerned about their final death. Having expended considerable quantities of Vitae during the engagement both kindred fell upon the dead duskborn and fed.

Vin's assessment was agreed with by Daniel. Some seven or so fairly defined areas had been the sleeping quarters of the rebels and this was a mere corner of the overall area. Scrapes along the floor clearly indicated the movement of heavy crates and tire marks in the underground car-park were sure signs of many vehicles in and out.

The weapons had indeed been stored here, but where they were now was anybodies guess. Daniel was sure that none they had fought were leader material and definitely failed to match the descriptions of the gang leaders they knew were active so in his opinion at least one important figure had escaped them from this location.

Frustrated once more, they used some fuel from their vehicles to burn those bodies that indicated the presence of the unnatural and then they left no wiser than when they had arrived. With dawn near, they all returned to their havens. Vin and Daniel did do by road, Hope by air, wishing as she did to keep her resting place a secret known only to her.

Interlude - Miss Black
Marcelina Black - Ventrue
The Circulatory System - LA
Michael - Your phone begins to ring. The number matches that of the one on the black card with the bronze edging handed to you by Marcelina Black of the Circulatory System. Of course this is slightly concerning as you never gave your number to her in return. "Mr Tomassio, I presume?"

"It is indeed, Miss Black. I won't ask how you obtained this number but I presume you have something important to discuss as you bothered to obtain it?" As it turned out she did have something of worth to share, there was of course to be a price.

"It is my understanding that you are still searching for the whores and other human detritus taken by Mr Weber that was too mundane for my own organisations needs?" Michael was well aware that the Circulatory System treated their mortal vessels as commodities, not people but her terminology still bothered him. "We are still looking for the young women kidnapped by Weber and his ilk, yes." Michael replied

"I have obtained some information that would facilitate this search greatly. It can be yours in return for an equivalent boon." She then continued without waiting for a response, correctly assuming that the baron would want to hear what she had to say. "I require an assurance from yourself that neither you, nor any-one within the North-Eastern domains under your influence will interfere with the activities of the Circulatory System in any way. I'm aware that those you take exception to have a tendency to be plagued with misfortune and I would spare myself that concern."

The Circulatory System
A'vessel' about to make a donation
Michael was aware that his coteries reputation for problem solving and as effective intermediaries was spreading and it was inevitable that those with resources would want to keep their interference to a minimum.

However with what he knew of the System's activities, he had no intention of giving them a blank cheque. "I have a few stipulations before I'd agree to such an all encompassing agreement..." He replied.

Michael was adamant that such an agreement would need to work both ways and so if he was to stay out of their activities they would have to agree to stay out of the North Eastern territories of Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank currently under his protection. He also specified that he would in no way prevent his allies from taking action against them should they take issue with her or her organisations activities. What he was offering was a pact of mutual none-interference, not a position as their ally.

The Morningrise Psychiatric Institution
There was a pause as she considered his counter-offer but Michael was reasonably sure that she would accept his terms, which she did a moment later. "We are agreed then?"

"There is an abandoned Insane Asylum within what was the Baron of the Angels in the territory now controlled by El Hermandad to the East of Downtown. The facility is named the Morningrise Psychiatric Institution."

"The dregs are being held there by the gang known as 'The Purgatory' who incidentally also helped Mr Weber acquire many of the missing girls. They believe the location to still be unknown to others so you should have the advantage of surprise at least." Michael began to thank her, purely as a matter of protocol but she had already hung up. At least Daniel would be happy that he would have some time to prepare for this assault rather than having to 'wing it'.

Scene Twenty Five - 'The Purgatory'
Daniel was aware from his observations of the gangs within the former Barony of the Angels that at least one of the Purgatory's leaders was a Ventrue. This implied they would have a certain level of organisation and strong leadership. Michael lamented that a member of one of the cornerstones of the Camarilla would be a petty gang leader kidnapping blood dolls.

Patrolling Gang Member
'The Purgatory'
Daniel pointed out that the Ventrue weren't always a 'High Clan'. Michael countered this with the assertion that they'd been one for long enough to have some standards.

Daniel expressed his desire to do some reconnaissance of the area while Michael informed those under his command that they would be needed for a mission of some importance. The baron decided to include Priya in the group along with Hope and Vin, leaving the former Huntington Beach Gangrel recruits Orla and Carl to maintain the security of his domain. While they prepared their weapons, Daniel began his recon.

Daniel - The facility is surrounded by a poor quality metal fence that is broken in many locations and the structure itself has collapsed in a number of areas. Graffiti covers much of the exterior and no doubt the outside isn't much better. There seems to be no sign of activity in the immediate area. No doubt their security measures will be closer to the Asylum itself.

There was a kindred patrolling the outer perimeter dressed in army fatigues and despite walking casually, was definitely paying attention to his surroundings he also had several weapons about his person. It made sense to Daniel that exterior guards would be fairly low on the ground so as to not draw too much attention to the facility, though the lack of a guard closer to the building was surprising.

Kindred Discipline - Obfuscate
Switching his senses from the merely preternatural to the supernatural he scanned the area once more, detecting as he did an obfuscated figure closer to the crumbling structure. They seemed to be mirroring the patrol of the exterior guard which meant they'd need to be taken out at more or less the same time.

Suspicious of the lack of any ranged support, he began to take a closer look at the roof and spotted a sniper overlooking the main entrance that hadn't been there a moment ago. Presumably this meant that they patrolled the roof rather than having a stationary post. Satisfied that he'd identified the outer defences he did another sweep of the area to see if he could find an alternate way of getting in.

Unfortunately the side entrance was buried under rubble and the loading bay had the burnt out remains of a car wedged in it which had also caused the wall to subside on top. Resigned to a frontal assault, the Banu Haqim took one last look before contacting the others.

As he turned to find a secure place to contact the team he saw the main door open and another man emerged to speak to the obfuscated guard he'd identified. They had no trouble locating them which worryingly meant that at least one of the gang could see through supernatural methods of cloaking. They also looked annoyingly familiar, and he began to suspect that they were one of the two kindred who had been observing his apartment.

Hope's Feral Claws - Protean
With all he could do now done he relayed the relevant details to Hope so she could prepare the rest. Unsure of Priya's abilities, Hope checked to see if like her she could assume an airborne form in case they needed a quick escape or aerial recon and was satisfied to discover that she could. Priya was armed with a pair of suppressed handguns and a heavy combat knife, reminding Hope that her fellow Gangrels methods were closer to Daniels than her own. Since discovering that her claws no longer retracted, Hope herself had spent far less time bothering with ranged weaponry.

Storytellers Note - After about her thirtieth frenzy I made Hope's claws permanent. Or should I say every-time she awakens I go "No, they're still there..."

Vin had his ubiquitous machete as well as a Heckler and Koch MP5-SD with a built in suppressor that looked more like a machine-pistol in his giant hands. Daniel's ghoul Andrew had been instructed to retrieve the fifty cal. sniper rifle from the armoury and set up a nest from where he could reliably take out the roof sniper at the asylum. His other ghoul Keith was to act as spotter and guard for Andrew.

Sniper Team - Waiting in Ambush
Storytellers Note - Daniel's player likes to plan his assaults like military operations which to be fair has enabled then to beat superior numbers and more powerful opponents on a number of occasions. Hope and Vin's players are a bit more reactive than proactive.

As his counter-sniper set up and the rest of the assault team moved as close as they could without detection, Daniel moved in closer in case he'd missed something. Obfuscated he made his way to a burned out car, which was fairly obscured from the rest of the building. While awaiting his comrades he spotted another guard, close to the loading bay. It seemed that they, like him had identified the place as somewhere good to hide which is why Daniel had missed him during his earlier reconnaissance. Silently he drew his falcata and advanced.

Daniel had already worked out the best approaches to the guards and had briefed all present on the timing necessary to minimise any risk. As the gangs sniper moved to his position covering the asylums main entrance, Andrew noted that the patrolling guards were as far as possible from each other and the outer one was within striking distance of the coteries teams. Taking this as his cue, Daniel's ghoul took careful aim and sent a high calibre armour-piercing, incendiary round into the snipers skull, removing their head in spectacular fashion. At the same time as the guard on the roof was slumping to the floor, Hope and Priya approached the outer guard from opposite directions.

Vin's 'Weapon of Choice' - Kukri
The first the unfortunate guard noticed of the first Gangrel was her claws eviscerating them as the second pulled their head back and sliced through throat and then spine with a single drawn stroke of a razor-sharp, heavy combat knife. Before Daniel's stalker, who was guarding the entrance could react, Vin appeared around the corner of the building and removed their head from their shoulders with a single blow. Before the body had even struck the ground, the door opened and the kindred whose job it was to check on the exterior patrols walked straight into the hulking and surprisingly stealthy Brujah. Reacting with supernatural speed, Vin clasped his hand over their mouth and drove his blade up under their ribs and into their heart before ripping it out sideways. He then somewhat unnecessarily removed their head as well.

Daniel's 'Weapon of Choice' - Falcata
It was a testament to the swiftness and precise planning of the initial assault that the kindred Daniel had discovered lurking at the rear didn't even realise that an attack was occurring.

The Banu Haqim's enhanced senses revealed to him the success of the rest of the operation as he moved forward without a sound and ended his prey's unlife with a single precise blow. As the body hit the ground Daniel noticed the extensive scars, piercings and other mutilations on the body. It seemed that some of what he had heard of the practices of this particular gang were true. He then moved to meet the rest of the coterie at the buildings entrance.

Daniel noted the decomposing corpses of both his stalker and the unexpected bonus of another dead gang member disposed of by Vin. "Let's hope the rest of the job goes as simply..." said Hope.

The Morningrise Psychiatric Institution
Ground Floor - Main 
Within the entrance is a lobby area containing a now disused reception counter, several piles of garbage and a single long corridor that is seemingly the only accessible way forward. It is also the only direction that shows any signs of use.

The three who had military backgrounds dropped into a staggered formation, with Vin following their lead, creating two offset columns of two. All had weapons drawn and advanced slowly but steadily ahead on full alert for ambushes or enemies.

They were nearly halfway to the stairway downwards when Priya signalled to the others that she could hear something from one of the side-rooms ahead. From the signage it looked like it was once a canteen area. Given that it would no doubt contain tables and chairs it made sense to those present that it might now be utilised as an office or guard room of sorts.

The Morningrise Psychiatric Institution
Ground Floor Rooms
Indicating to the others to find somewhere to take cover, Daniel moved closer to see if he could gain information on numbers and perhaps pick up some conversation via eavesdropping. Judging from the back and forth there were only two kindred within, the topic of conversation being mainly about whether they needed to move "the herd in the basement" again and whether the deaths of the "dumbass ghouls" was going to be a problem. Presumably the ghouls referred to were the gang of Denzel Weber who the coterie had eliminated a few days before. The reassuring part of the conversation was however the information that at least some of the missing individuals were seemingly being held here as Marcelina had indicated. The female of the two then changed the subject. "Where the fuck is Carmen? He should have been back by now. I swear if he's chatting shit to Milo again instead of doing his job I'm going to tell Lorenzo. If he's lucky he'll only chop his balls off..."

Footsteps then began to move towards the door and Daniel slipped into a nearby alcove, making it in the nick of time as the women apparently went to see what was keeping the kindred named Carmen from reporting in.

The woman must have had supernatural senses of her own because she'd barely walked five metres before she turned around suddenly and reached under her jacket for a handgun in a shoulder holster. Hope jumped out to prevent her from sounding the alarm but the gang member dodged the attack, pushed her aside and then with one fluid motion shot Daniel as he emerged from cover.

With her comrade alerted by the gunshot the door was hurled open and a second gang member attempted to join the fray but Vin shoulder barged the new enemy back into the room from which he'd emerged and grappled them to the ground. Priya hurled her combat knife into the first enemies throat and then charged into the canteen after Vin.

Despite being outnumbered two to one and having a dagger embedded in her neck, the gang member still managed to wound Hope before she was torn to pieces by bullets from Daniel's silenced handguns and the Gangrel's claws. As they rushed to the canteen they found Vin holding the male kindred firmly to the ground while Priya used the saw edges of a Gerber Mark 2 Combat knife to messily remove their head at the neck. Though all except Daniel were now covered in their enemies vitae at least their enemies now numbered two less. The concern now was whether the single gunshot had alerted those yet to be located.

The Morningrise Psychiatric Institution
Basement Staircase
A single set of footsteps echoing from ahead were the only sign that they had company. Though whether this was an investigation or a routine patrol was yet to be discovered and so the team once again took cover. After a few minutes of waiting it became evident that if they had attracted any attention whoever it was wasn't stupid enough to stroll down the corridor towards them. With a sigh, Daniel faded from view and scouted ahead for the second time.

Braced at the top of the downward stairs ahead, a single kindred had positioned himself with an assault rifle aimed along the passageway. Every now and again he panned across the space ahead but it was obvious to the Banu Haqim that he hadn't been detected. Having no desire to be shot again, he edged carefully alongside the corridor using any available cover as though he was obfuscated, it wasn't in Daniel's nature to take unnecessary chances.

Hope Romero - Gangrel - Metamorphosis
His precautions paid dividends as the awaiting vampire died unaware that an enemy even shared the stairs with him and Daniel grabbed the body before it could tumble downwards. Concerned about further ambush attempts, Hope shifted to raven form as the others descended the stairs after her, towards the basement.

The basement is apparently where the more difficult inmates were kept as it looks more like a prison than a hospital. The re-purposed cells have had their locks replaced in a number of ways ranging from actually installed door locks, to chains and latches with pegs wedged in them. Weak from blood loss, hunger and abuse the twenty or so occupants have stood little chance of escape.

Two men are waiting at the prison levels far end. One is tall, well dressed and apparently unarmed. The other holds a sword with a basket-hilt casually in his right hand and is wearing hard wearing, practical clothing. Both have the fresh scars, piercings, burns and tattoos that seem to be mandatory for members of the gang. You imagine that these are the Ventrue, Simran Daugherty and his Caitiff enforcer Lorenzo Brookes. The leaders of the gang known as 'The Purgatory'.

Wasting no time with pleasantries, Daniel drew his gun and attempted to put a round through Simran's forehead as Hope flew halfway along the passage, shifting back to humanoid shape as she did. Vin and Priya were mere moments behind.

As he had expected the precisely aimed rounds glanced from the Venture's flesh as he had been foiled by the marble-like flesh of masters of Fortitude before. He also knew however that this invulnerability came at a considerable cost in vitae and that if one was quick enough a second attack could often penetrate such a defence before their invulnerability returned once more. As he and Hope hadn't discussed this previously he was banking on her realising what he had planned. Daniel smiled as razor-sharp claws took out the Ventrue's throat from two directions, and as Lorenzo turned in shock at the final death of his fellow gang leader, The Banu Haqim covered the fifty metres between them in a second and destroyed them with a lethal series of blows with his falcata.

Hope Romero - Feeding
'Possibly Enjoying Kindred Vitae Too Much'
Both Hope and Daniel's expenditures of blood had pushed their hunger to dangerous levels so they both fed upon the kindred at their feet.

Storytellers Note - That was meant to be a bit more of a battle but I can't really punish players for good planning and carefully implemented strategies. Well...not this time anyway...

As they began to free the girls, Daniel used his skills as a healer to tend to those in the worst condition. As with Weber's operation there was improvised transfusion equipment set up but unlike there, this location also had considerable stocks of refrigerated blood as Priya soon discovered. Presumably this was where the stockpiles had been stored in readiness for whatever operation the rebel kindred were conspiring to commit. As they discussed what to do next a young woman emerged from a room on the opposite corner waving a handkerchief as a white flag. Even the normally impetuous Hope was curious about this unexpected occurrence and so they beckoned the lady forward.

Caleb - Nosferatu
Childe of Gary Golden
"I have some information to trade for my unlife if you're interested in making a deal?"

The kindred who said her name was Aida purported to have been a recent addition to the gang, indicating her lack of mutilation as proof and therefore claimed to not be a willing participant in the kidnaps. Daniel was unconvinced but asked her to continue with the information that she believed was important enough for them to spare her.

She then claimed to have overheard the others discussing the location of the missing Nosferatu, Caleb. In return for their guarantee to release her unharmed and take no action against her for the activities of the rest of The Purgatory, she would divulge what she knew. As he had given his word to Gary that he would do what he could for Caleb, Daniel reluctantly agreed to her terms. He did however specify that they would expect her to leave LA by the most expedient method available or all deals were off.

"They took him to the Santa Monica mountains. He's in an old burnt out hippy camp...well...underneath it actually, in the tunnels dug beneath. You know, the one that weird cult disappeared from..." The majority of the coterie were well aware of the location as the two House Tremere blood mages now residing in the Downtown chantry had been using it as a haven when they first met them. Apparently they weren't going to be getting any rest next evening either.

Storytellers Note - The first part of that 'The Missing Chantry' story is HERE should you be interested. It's not essential to enjoy the rest of this story however, but it is pretty good so you should definitely read it at some point.

Scene Twenty Six - Caleb
Black Spiral Dancers
Werewolf Tribe
The former commune in the Santa Monica mountains had two issues associated with it that made journeying there problematic. Firstly there was no road directly there so a hike through the hills was necessary and secondly it was dangerously close to lupine territory. In fact it was as close to lupine territory as it was possible to get without being in it.

The coterie had also been informed by several of their allies over the past year, that the particular tribe that controlled that area were vicious and sadistic beyond measure. Apparently even the other werewolf tribes feared the Black Spiral Dancers.

They decided on this occasion that given the lack of cover and other problems associated with the trip that only Hope, Vin and Daniel would undertake this mission and that Priya would go back to her patrol duties.

Travelling as close as they could via jeep, they then proceeded on foot. Well, except Hope who immediately took to the air. her earlier reconnaissance had revealed a snipers nest on one of the remaining structures in the burnt out camp and it was her job to distract the gunman and his spotter while the others approached. Michael had obtained permission to contact the blood mages at the so-called Consolidated Chantry of LA and had been informed by their House Tremere representatives that there were indeed tunnels beneath their former home. The entrance was below the temple, or what was now left of it, and led to a natural cavern where they had "Stored raw materials..." It apparently contained a number of "Secure areas..." as well. In other words they had kept their prisoners there, which made it an ideal place to hold Gary Golden's childe, Caleb.

The Enemy Sniper
As they drew close, Daniel dropped to the ground and aimed his modified M4 at the nest, as Vin ran across the open towards it. As the kindred within took aim, Hope dived downwards, changed shape in mid-air and landed in between the sniper team. As the spotter reached down for a weapon in a bag within the nest, Hope tore into him, leaving Daniel to take out the actual sniper. However, the kindred was tougher than he had expected and the 5.56 mm projectiles failed to complete the job. Promising she'd never let Daniel live this down she turned to finish his task, and promptly missed.

As Daniel saw the sniper duck beneath Hope's clumsy swing he promised that he'd never let her live this down, swung his rifle behind him and ran forward to help. Deciding she was going to blame having to fight in a confined space against an opponent Daniel should already have inflicted final death upon for her poor performance, she eventually tore the kindred apart. The fight however was unlikely to win any awards for either speed or style.

Storytellers Note - Two of the players then bickered in character for ten minutes about whose fault it was...It was admittedly amusing but difficult to transcribe in a session write up, I'm afraid...

The entrance is exactly where you had been informed and is curiously unguarded. Perhaps as Aida had hinted, the area was considered secret enough so that no guards other than the sniper had been deemed necessary. The hatch leads to a precarious ladder and the raging inferno that destroyed the temple above has increased the potential of tunnel collapse considerably though thankfully it doesn't appear to have been booby-trapped. 

Once the more precarious area had been passed, the tunnels began to widen and become more sturdy as they angled downwards. Though the team were as quiet as possible, the tunnel system seemed to amplify every sound.

The area opens out into a natural cavern with old rusty cages along both sides but only one is occupied. Caleb is being held in the furthest of these on the right, it's obvious even from here that a large number of explosive devices have been rigged around the cell.

"My, my, aren't you fuckers persistent." Says a slim, dark-haired girl, who is also the second of Daniel's stalkers. In one hand she has a revolver, in the other a detonator, presumably to trigger the explosives around Caleb. "In a few days he'll no longer be of use to us and we'll let him go. Take another step forward and I'll turn him into a smear across the wall." A number of green and red dots appear upon your persons from laser sights attached to a dozen or so weapons wielded by her fellow rebels, concealed around the cavern. "I'll give you the til the traditional count of ten to decide." "One..."

Storytellers Note - When I created this scene I was concerned I'd wrote myself into a corner as I had no real ideas about how they could get the job done. I therefore decided that I'd accept any reasonable plan. I'll leave you to decide on the quality of their solution...

Hope could see that the devices were relatively simple but the speaker was correct in that there was more than enough explosives to destroy Caleb, his cell and most of that corner of the cavern.

She could also discern from her training as a specialist in locating IED's as a mortal in the military that whoever had placed them, had placed them poorly. Often such traps would be placed so as to maximise the damage by using the environment, causing cave-ins, collapses and the like. It was Hope's opinion that the amateur who had placed these had accidentally created the potential for just such an event. In short, if the woman pressed that detonator they were all going to be buried under several thousand tonnes of rock. Hope interrupted their enemies dramatic countdown to explain this and was quite amused when they stopped counting and began to look at the exact parts of the cavern that she herself was pointing out.

"I'm afraid..." Said Hope, matter of factly. "...that unless you're planning on committing suicide, your threat is meaningless. If you want us gone, you are going to have to do it the old fashioned way..."

At this was occurring Vin tapped Daniel on the shoulder. "Just out of interest, if I were to chop that woman's arm off would she press the button or would her finger stay where it is?...You, she's actually dead..." The doctor had to admit that he had no idea. He also sincerely hoped that he wasn't going to find out anytime soon. "Let's keep that as a last resort..." Replied Daniel. Apparently deciding that Hope was sincere, the dark haired kindred moved to her own back-up plan. "Fuck it. Shoot the bastards..."

Hope took the bulk of the initial wave of gunfire but her clans reputation for resilience was once more well deserved as she reached the closest enemy still very much able to fight. She proved this by ripping their heart out with her claws.

Suppressing Fire - Vin's AA-12
Vin and Daniel both reappeared a considerable distance from the spot's they'd been occupying a second before. Vin caught a kneeling enemy completely by surprise and pushed them to the ground with a foot to the chest, before crushing their skull to powder with the same booted foot. Daniel's prey meanwhile had obviously expected to be a target and dodged the falcata swung at her head, countering the attack with one of her own as she drove a dagger into his side.

Vin swung his AA-12 shotgun in the direction of the most dense concentration of enemies and emptied the thirty round drum of 00 buckshot, attempting to minimise the amount of return fire they were experiencing. Hope meanwhile leapt onto the top of a nearby cell where an enemy had shifted their aim from her to Vin, presumably to stop his suppressing fire. The Gangrel's analysis of her foes were that they seemed to all by fairly young in kindred terms and were biased towards guns over melee. One of the things Marius had taught her was that weaker vampires often compensated for their lack of personal power with an increase in firepower. This group seemed to be proof of that basic premise as she overpowered her enemy and destroyed them in seconds.

Both Vin and Hope were then caught in the crossfire as the remaining attackers took pot-shots at them in the brief seconds it had taken Vin to reload his shotgun. Daniel's opponent was clearly the exception to the gangs preference for guns as she stabbed him in the opposite side, blocked another swing and sliced him across the chest. Clearing fifteen meters in a single jump, Hope landed in the centre of a group of three attempting to flank Vin, granting final death to two and maiming a third. The gangs reliance on their initial plan to deter an attack had proved to be their undoing as the had positioned themselves badly for a gun battle and also had no counter for close-combat specialists of the quality possessed by the coterie.

Storytellers Note - After forty-five sessions together (more or less) it's understandable that both players and characters work well together.

Hope tore the throat out of the third of the group she was amongst and took her fill of their vitae as Vin used the stock of his once-again empty shotgun to turn a kindred's skull to mush. Daniel had begun to get the measure of the woman he faced and had pushed her back enough to leave her open for an unlife ending strike. He was therefore mildly irritated when Hope appeared behind them and ripped off their head, depriving him of the kill. He made himself feel better by emptying a clip of 10mm rounds into the back of the head of a fleeing gang member as Hope investigated the explosives.

"Fucking amateurs..." Was Hope's considered opinion as she disarmed the devices around Caleb's prison. Though her job in the army had been to locate such devices, not defuse them, she still had more than enough experience to handle explosives as amateurishly set up as these.

Alonzo - Nosferatu Elder
Ally of Daniel Matthews
Once freed Caleb was obviously agitated and started to speak the instant his cell was opened. "You need to warn Marius that they've moved up their time-line though it may be too late now. If Jenna contacts you about a meeting then you must go if only to buy him some time. I can say no more, in fact I've said too much already but I do owe you my unlife, for that you'll always have my thanks."

"So Jenna is involved in this?" Asked Daniel "It's all her..." Caleb replied " please remember what I said..." and with that he vanished.

Daniel tried Marius, Victoria and Yukio's numbers but received no reply from any of them. He then relayed Caleb's warning to Michael before phoning Alonzo. Alonzo was also uncharacteristically flustered. "You need to be careful Daniel. Something big is happening and I'm not sure what." This was also a concern as generally Alonzo had his fingers on the pulse of all that occurred in L.A. "Marius has been summoning his brood to Los Angeles, something he almost never does even as individuals, let alone 'en masse'."

Storytellers Note - The look of panic and surprise on the players faces was very satisfying, I have to admit.

Michael returned Daniel's call to confirm that Jenna had requested a meeting mere moments ago to take place in a wooded area of their own domain of Glendale. He had informed Jenna that he would bring his own security given the problems across the Free States and apparently her answer had been "Bring them all, they should all find what I have to show them to be very interesting indeed..."

Scene Twenty Seven - Messiah
Jenna Cross - Messiah of the Duskborn
The area to which you have been directed is a semi-circular area in the middle of dense woodlands. Jenna Cross is standing at one end of the area surrounded by some thirty heavily armed guards, the rest of the perimeter consists of caitiff, thin-bloods and many quite obvious neonates who are nonetheless full kindred of various clans. You estimate the numbers present to be close to a hundred, maybe more.

In the centre you can see a kneeling Marius with harpoon like hooks piercing both arms, each on ropes held by a pair of kindred. Standing behind him are three other kindred, each armed with an assault rifle with an under-slung attachment that looks like a grenade launcher adapted to fire stakes. Though far less advanced than the models you've seen used by the Second Inquisition the effect will no doubt be much similar. Victoria is standing nearby, Jenna's enforcer Laki has a heavy combat knife held at her throat. This state of affairs probably explains the twenty or so corpses scattered around the clearing.

For some-one on his knees with arms spread, Marius seems oddly amused by the situation. "Michael, Welcome to the execution of the enemy of the true goddess of the kindred of Los Angeles." It is quite obvious that she means herself, and the religious fervour is clear in those around her. "He attempts to bring the worship of Lilith to my city and the city of Angels needs only one goddess and I am she."

Smiling Jack - Brujah
Jenna had clearly gone insane. Smiling Jack had bought her to LA, claiming that her crescent birthmark proved that she was the 'Last Daughter' spoke of in the portents of Gehenna and that she had turned from a ghoul into a vampire without being first embraced. Though the latter seemed to be true, few paid any credence to the claims that she was some kind of messiah until forces under her control had allegedly destroyed Tara, self-proclaimed prince of Los Angeles. For whatever reason, Jenna now seemed to truly believe she was the messiah that Jack had foretold her to be. Michael realised he was going to have to tread very carefully.

"I have decided to forgive you your trespasses against me, manipulated as you were by this worshipper of a demon spawning whore...I may even let you keep some of your domain within my empire..."

Hoping that Marius would do nothing to exasperate the situation until he had finished, Michael launched into an impassioned speech that he hoped would sway the religious lunatic he now addressed. He pointed out that executing Marius could well be enough of a catalyst to unite the other barons against her out of fear of the same fate and that despite her being a goddess to her followers, the rest of LA's kindred were yet to recognise her divinity. He also put forward the argument that a true goddess also understood the value of mercy and that if the Gangrel Fixer's faith offended her then she could always choose to exile him rather than destroy him. As he spoke, Michael hoped that Marius understood that the suggestion of exile was to save his unlife.

Marius's expression has gone from amused to bored. "I believe the condemned is usually allowed some last words?" Jenna looks in your direction. "What do you think, perhaps he'll beg for his unlife?"

Marius Walker - Autarkis Gangrel
Prisoner of the Duskborn
Realising that there was little else he could do he shrugged and indicated that she might as well listen to what he had to say. As he did, Hope, Daniel and Vin formed a semi-circle between their baron and the duskborns messiah.

Marius as you predicted, doesn't help the situation at all "The fundamental problem with your plan is that those implementing it are weak and stupid." He began. One of the stake wielding guards, smacks Marius in the base of the skull with the butt of his rifle at this, though he doesn't seem to notice. Jenna gestures at the guard to back off and Marius continues."Even with the inconveniences that my manipulations have caused, your army still numbers over a hundred. Yet the majority hid in the woods until I was bought down." he nods towards the corpses scattered around. "The only ones of you worthy of respect are those." "Anyway, this has become boring..."

Harpoon Grappling Hook
All of the coterie who were present detected the change in the Gangrel's posture, Michael could also clearly perceive the defiance and hatred in his voice. Something very bad was about to occur....

Three things happen simultaneously...
Firstly, Marius stands up, wraps his hands around the ropes attached to the grapples in his arms and pulls, almost casually. A blow with his right fist pulverises the first guard propelled towards him and shatters the rib-cage of his compatriot. One of those on the left, wisely releases his rope and is spared the fate of the other as the Gangrel grabs him by the throat and begins to squeeze. The guards to his rear fire as one, propelling three wooden stakes through Marius's heart. Secondly, Victoria turns in Laki's grip, effectively slitting her own throat and back hands him across the neck and chest causing improbably deep wounds which begin to instantly blacken as necrosis spreads from each slash. Thirdly, the previously silent forest becomes filled with the cries of the forest creatures of both the ground and air.

Marius Walkers Aura
According to Michael's Premonition

Michael began to feel the increasingly familiar separation from reality that indicated the onset of a premonition. Since he had begun to use the ability he had found that more and more often, these visions now came to him unbidden.

You see a coin spinning, Marius's face is on one side, Jenna's on the other. Victory for one or the other is not yet certain it seems.

As your attention is drawn to the image of Jenna you can see two figures whispering in her ear. One is Rosa, the other seems familiar to you, for a moment it looks like Therese Voerman, though Therese never wore that much make-up, or to your knowledge ever has her hair in pigtails or dresses like a schoolgirl.

As your focus switches to Marius you begin to feel a throbbing behind your temples and see, just for a moment what you imagine those able to perceive auras can see. You're reasonably sure however that what you see beneath Marius's cloak of normality is most definitely not what a kindred's aura should look like. Black veins so fill his aura that they encompass it completely and flow around his form like a cloak. The only other colour is a red, like blood, flowing from the eyes and occasionally seeping through the blackness. How close this is to reality is however uncertain...

Marius Walker - Descendent of Xaviar
Hybrid Bat Form
Seeing Michael slip open his jacket and reach for his gun was a rare sight indeed for the coterie as violence was always the last resort for their leader. Still unsure of which side he was going to pick, if at all, his three protectors reached for their own preferred weapons and awaited some signal from their baron. Daniel moved so as to offer medical assistance to Victoria should the opportunity aise.

Marius shows no concern about the wooden spikes embedded in his form as he tears into the throat of the victim in his grasp. His form begins to shift, becoming larger as his skin darkens and fingers become dagger-like claws, membranes are forming between his arms like wings and as he increases in size the stakes and spikes perforating his body begin to splinter and be ejected.

Victoria's form is also changing though not as severely as that of he master. Her height increases, bone armour forms on the exterior of her body and she reminds you all uncomfortably of the Tzimisce from the sewers albeit in female form. Though she lacks the wings and bulk the similarity to the form taken by the Blounts is also disturbing. Despite her new appearance she moves with a grace and speed that belies the cruelty of her actions. None she attacks, she kills, instead crippling and maiming, letting the venom of her claws do it's work. The joy is evident even on her altered face.

Even transformed as they are the surprise on the caitiff army is swiftly overcome and they raise weapons to fire, just as the forest and the air above explode into activity. Birds, both predatory and mundane dive down, pecking out eyes and slashing at undead flesh with beak and claw. The forest itself seems to have emptied as innumerable creatures explode from between the trees and leap upon the rebel army with suicidal fury.

Nicodemus's Swarms - Vitae fed Spider
Then the ground begins to open as insects and arachnids burst forth from the earth through tunnels dug by things that should not exist naturally. Spiders ranging from the size of a hand to those with bodies a foot across add to the havoc. Several of those present seem to consider your coterie to be part of the attack, especially as you have been conspicuously unaffected by the onslaught and are moving towards you, weapons raised.

Michael briefly considered helping Jenna and her forces to repel the attack and joining forces with her against Marius and the other kindred of Los Angeles. However his mission was to bring Camarilla rule back to the Free States and that goal was better served with the duskborn army gone. Drawing the high calibre revolver from his shoulder holster he put a round directly through the centre of the forehead of the closest of the advancing thin-bloods.

Storytellers Note - This was completely their choice and I had three endings written based on whether they sided with Marius, Jenna or stayed neutral. I have to admit though that Michael's player signalling his intent in such a dramatic and cool way was something I enjoyed a lot.

The three fighters of the coterie dropped back, forming a wall before their baron, absorbing the first volley of gunfire with their own undead flesh. Vin's machete was already in one hand, his MP5 in the other. The magazine was loaded alternately with armour piercing and incendiary rounds salvaged from the team who had attempted to destroy their now ally, Karen Anatos. Daniel had his modified Browning Hi-Power in one hand and one of his pair of 10mm handguns in the other.

Hope Romero - Gangrel
A Taste of Kindred Vitae
As Vin and Daniel fired into the mass of approaching rebels fairly indiscriminately, Michael fired between the gaps at whatever targets presented themselves. As her baron and fellow fighters stopped to reload, Hope threw herself into the surprised horde sending many of the survivors of the first round of shooting tumbling to the ground as she herself rolled back to her feet and began to slash this way and that.

The Gangrel census-taker burned through her Vitae, increasing her resilience and strength to supernatural levels and as the first kindred blood touched her lips, allowed the Beast to take control and frenzied quite willingly. As Hope disappeared beneath a mass of thin-blood and caitiff bodies, Daniel with his usual pragmatism decided that Jenna Cross needed to meet her final death, even if this cost him his own unlife. "Vin, get Michael out of here." He shouted and took aim.

At this range a head shot would be necessary and he took careful aim, waiting for a gap in her bodyguard to appear. Several more enemy bullets struck Daniel but he ignored the impacts, awaiting his chance. As the side of Jenna's head became visible he took the one opportunity available and fired, swearing as the round glanced off her temple.

Victoria - Ancient Ghoul of Marius
Vicissitude Warform
Those guards not already attempting to bring down the rampaging, mutated form of Marius then turned their attention to the Banu Haqim. The air between them now filled with the deadliest of the Duskborn's purloined ammunition.

The coordination between the transformed pairing of Marius and Victoria indicates that this isn't the first time they've fought together. Marius's claws slice through undead flesh seemingly without resistance, driven as they are by a physical strength beyond anything the coterie have ever seen. Incendiary round explode in his body with no more effect than a normal bullet and the rents left by armour piercing rounds flow shut like water. Something that big shouldn't be able to move with such speed and grace let inexplicably it does. Victoria's movements however make him look clumsy in comparison, flowing between bullets and blade as if they're moving in slow motion before venomous claws slice through vulnerable areas.

However even as the hordes of suicidal forest creatures, guided as they are by unseen forces shield them with their own lives it is obvious that weight of numbers will eventually take their toll. For every Thinblood or Caitiff that falls, two more seem to take their place.

Realising that Vin and Michael's retreat was blocked, Daniel utilised his supernatural speed to cross the distance between them in a mere blink of an eye. Vin seems to be holding himself upright through sheer willpower as the cuts and craters in his body are no longer being healed, his reserves of vitae nearly spent having had no chance to feed. Daniel moved between them, slicing a short, muscular kindred nearly in half with a cut enhanced by a surge of blood to his arms, enhancing his strength.

Samael - Gangrel
'The Wilds Pack'
"For fucks sake Vin feed, I'll hold them back for a second..." shouted Daniel as more of the gathered kindred identified the coterie as enemies of their duskborn messiah. Hope's frenzy meanwhile had taken her far from the rest of the coterie, though at least it had drawn some enemies away. The chances of them surviving for more than a few more moments were unlikely.

More machine-gun fire and shotgun blasts can now be heard in the distance but far from the panicked attacks of the duskborn these are the controlled, precise bursts of experienced search and destroy teams. They are also evidently have no fear of the obviously supernatural goings on. many of the Caitiff army are beginning to flee but they don't get far as the Wilds Pack, led by Marius's grandechilde Myranda join the fray.

Nicodemus's venom liquidises internal organs as he drains the fluid with his fangs. Lola and Lezebel's creatures die by the score protecting them from attack before the survivors fall upon the aggressors tearing them to pieces. Samael is wielding a chainsaw like a sword and is wearing the skinned face of a recent victim as a mask, seemingly held in place by sinew. Myranda is being defended by four kindred you've never seen before though she needs little help, matching their combined body-count by herself.

Michael's field of expertise was politics, not combat, but the strategies were analogous enough so he understood what had occurred. Marius had used the coterie to prod the duskborn rebels just enough to keep them agitated and their operations disrupted and had held them back when their activities might have made Jenna delay her plan.

He had then drawn them into a single location, setting himself up as the 'prize' of Jenna's campaign knowing she couldn't resist pitting her divinity against his status as most active supporter of the Bahari.

'The Circle' - Freelance Gangrel Scourges
Grandechilder of Marius
While the ragtag armies focus had then entirely on Marius and his most favoured servant, his own allies had been closing in from a significant enough distance so as to not alert any look-outs of their approach.

There is no doubt now that the tide has turned. Through the trees you can see members of the swarm dragging down lone victims, more like the creatures involved in the attack than the kindred. Three women can be seen periodically, fighting as one but rather than destroying their prey these are incapacitating them and shackling them with chains. It seems that Marius wants at least some prisoners.

Hope finally allowed herself to emerge from her frenzied state as reinforcements arrived. This was the closest she had been to torpor and final death in her entire unlife yet she felt strangely elated. She then began to feast on the fallen forms around her, finding that she could now tell the difference between the thin-blooded and kindred of clan. Whether this was a good or bad thing would remain to be seen.

MiKaIl of Constantinople
'The Dream'
Across the clearing, Vin brutally drained his third kindred victim in as many minutes, expending their vitae almost as quickly as he consumed it as he healed the myriad of wounds he'd experienced. Even Daniel who avoided consuming kindred vitae due to it's addictive nature on those of his clan had been forced to feed in order to stave off torpor.

Michael was disgusted with himself. His body-count was insignificant next to the carnage surrounding him yet it still felt like he'd failed in some way. He resolved that nothing like this would occur again, he would give all the kindred of Los Angeles an example to follow. The urge to spread the dream of his namesake to the Anarchs of the Free States would now become paramount in his endeavours.

Storytellers Note - I'll leave you to decide whether 'The Messiah Complex' in this story belongs to Jenna, Marius or Michael...

Those still fighting, surrender as Marius emerges from the forest and hurls Jenna's crippled body into the centre of the clearing at the exact same spot where he was kneeling minutes before. One of the three women you saw taking prisoners hands him a stake which he slowly and precisely pushes through the messiah of the duskborn's heart. It is obviously a moment designed to make a statement to those survivors who might still have the urge to rebel. "This is your fate if you challenge me..."

Scene Twenty Eight - 'To the Victor...'
Nicodemus - Mutated Gangrel Elder
'The Wilds Pack'
Some fifteen prisoners have been dragged into the clearing to witness Jenna's prone, staked form. Yukio is directing heavily armed and armoured teams as they gather decomposing kindred bodies and throw them into the backs of two large garbage trucks along with some of the more unusual of the creatures killed in the battle.

A dozen of Marius's armoured escort vehicles have also arrived including what looks very much like a prisoner transport. The efficiency of the clean-up is worrying as you can imagine your own bodies also being disposed of in the same matter of fact manner had you selected the other side of this conflict.

The horrifying form of the Gangrel Elder Nicodemus emerges from the woods with several more exsanguinated bodies in his many arms, several of which are little more than bags of skin in torn clothes. These latter victims no doubt victims of his own unconventional feeding methods. The rest of The Wilds Pack are involved in the clean-up in one way or another.

Leanna - Duskborn
'Shepherdess' of Marius's Herd
Leanna emerges from one of the cars, walks along the line of the shackled and selects five of the female prisoners who are escorted into the transport vehicle, broken spirited as they are they make not even token resistance, resigned to whatever fate awaits them.

Hearing Marius's voice emerge from what is effectively a nine-foot tall, humanoid bat is disconcerting. "Well Michael, what shall we do with the rest of them?" He gestures towards the nine remaining prisoners. "I was tasked with eliminating the thin-blood problem and these are all terrible traitors..." The mocking in the tone is obvious..."I imagine you and your coterie have questions first..."

"You used us..." Said Michael. It wasn't a question as such and Marius didn't take it as one. "Yes, I did." Replied Marius. "In light of that, All the boons your coterie owe me are, as far as I'm concerned paid in full. I have been, to be frank, manipulating you into harrying the thin-bloods and disrupting their plans for months now, your success in that area I consider adequate payment." Michael wasn't satisfied with that as a response and pushed further. "You didn't trust us to simply do as you asked though, did you?" Marius seemed in a conciliatory mood, presumably triggered by his victory.

"I didn't trust you for two reasons. Firstly, your former Seneschal Roach had been courting the Thinbloods in general and Miss Cross in particular for nearly a year. He also attempted to betray my infiltrators to Jenna." He paused a moment as he shed the monstrous form he was wearing, presumably to make Michael less uncomfortable. "The fact that he rang her from my own rooftop temple was to be frank a further insult. Did he honestly believe I couldn't hear his every word?"

Victoria - Ghoul of Marius
Mass Murdering Psychopath
Michael noted the use of the word 'temple' instead of his usual descriptor 'garden' but treated the question itself as rhetorical. The now humanoid Marius continued. "Secondly, your personal morality might have motivated you to interfere so instead of asking you, I manipulated you. The difference being that I am in no way obliged to consider this a payment of your boons. The fact that I did so should therefore be accepted as an act of generosity on my part." Michael took this to mean 'So don't ask for anything else'.

Daniel had a disconcerting chat with Victoria that had started with her being a foot and a half taller than him, and covered in segmented layers of bone armour. He discovered that she had apparently been amused by his concern for her well-being despite not actually needing his help. He had been busy assisting the mortals in Marius's employ wounded during the attack when she had approached him, surprisingly free of gore.

Vin meanwhile had been chatting with Yukio about some cross-training between her security teams and his own as he had been impressed with their teamwork and combat tactics. His own forces, he had to admit, were nowhere near up to that standard and he no longer had the time to deal with every little problem personally.

Noting that Michael was talking to Marius, Daniel decided to see if he could obtain a small favour. "May I interrupt a moment?" Began Daniel. Once being assured that he could do so he continued. "Have you any plans for the weaponry that the thin-bloods had acquired for their rebellion?" Daniel discovered that the majority of the seized gear would be used to set Fat Larry back-up in business but that there was far more armaments available than were required for that purpose.

"Can I have a truck's worth of weapons and ammunition then?" Marius raised an eye-brow at the question though Michael was fairly sure he knew who Daniel wanted them for. "I don't see why can call it an apology from Yukio for shooting you in the kneecap, twice..." The assassin grimaced at the memory, though Yukio hadn't been top of his list of culprits, he had began to suspect her involvement when Marius's involvement had been revealed this very night. He then phoned Mr Hertz to send one of The Apostles gang lieutenants to bring a truck to one of the weapons cache's offered to him by the Gangrel 'Fixer'. Their instructions were to deliver the vehicle and it's contents to Steve Booth, Baron of Long Beach to even the odds a little in his dispute with his neighbour, David Geduld.

Storytellers Note - This is very much a case of them picking a side. Whether Baron Geduld finds out will depend entirely on how subtly Daniel handles the shipment. That is a problem for another session however.

Marius then bought the conversation back to the original subject of what to do with the remaining nine prisoners. Michael stated quite clearly that he considered that there had been more than enough bloodshed for one night and that exile from LA should be punishment enough. "Who the fuck are you to..." began one of those in chains. He never got to finish his sentence as Victoria stepped behind them, sharply pulled back their head and then slowly drew, three inch long segmented claws, dripping with venom across their throat. Veins and arteries began to blacken as the substance spread through the thin-bloods body, liquefying flesh and corrupting and destroying each bodily system it touched. Fortunately for them their death came quickly, their screams of agony ending within seconds. "and then their were eight..." said Marius.

Michael quickly concluded that despite what Marius might say at this particular time 'exile' actually meant "I'll kill them somewhere else..." and he cast his eye over the eight remaining prisoners.

Three of them still had the defiance and religious fervour in their eyes that spelt trouble in capital letters and though he wished to spare them their fate it was likely that one of his people would be forced to execute them regardless, sooner rather than later. The other five however exhibited only fear of final death and despair at the situation that Jenna Cross had put them in. "Those five I'll take..." Said Michael. indicating his selection "...exile the others..." Daniel, however decided that he'd be looking into their five new guests very carefully. Any that were even slightly suspect were going to have fatal accidents.

It seemed that the Anarch Free states of Los Angeles were changing. All that remained was for the coterie to turn it too their advantage.

To be Continued in a new Chronicle 'Incursion LA'

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...

No-one wanted to leave before the dramatic finale so we finished approximately ten hours after we started. I increased the tension considerably this session and it was satisfying to see the players get caught up in the situation and seriously consider each choice they made. I also made it very dangerous for them indeed.

I know these bits are usually longer but I think the session speaks for itself this time. It will also be time to start a new chronicle to see how they're going to finish off their job of taking over Los Angeles. They've got rid of the Barony of the Angels, taken the North-East for themselves in it's entirety and removed another major player from the board. I think they're Incursion is doing rather well.

I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Michael Tomassio is represented by Matt Bomer, 'Vin' is Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Andrew Francis is Ray Stevenson, Jenna Cross is Rhona Mitra, Venus Dare is Sophie Howard, Marcelina Black is Carrie Anne Moss, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Myranda is Shannyn Visceral, Leanna is Leeanna Vamp and Victoria is Lilith May. 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...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails