Saturday, 13 June 2020

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Sixty Four - Inevitable Betrayals (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 chronicle is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to bring them back under Camarilla control. After a year of plotting, the coterie now controls the three North-Eastern Baronies and has successfully weakened several others. Unfortunately other Barons have used the chaos they have created to consolidate their own positions.
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 L.A.' 
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree, and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Gather'
Story Three Continued - 'Becoming Baron' - Part SixSeven and Eight
Chronicle Two - 'Foothold L.A.' 
Solo Session - 'Hostile Takeover'
Story Four - 'Countdown' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Five - 'The Missing Chantry' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Anaheim Assassination'
Story Six - 'A Meeting of Barons' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seven - 'The Carmelita Situation' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eight - 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One and Two
Story Nine - 'Blood Money' - Part OneTwoThreeFour, Five and Six
Story Ten - 'Anathema' - Part One and Two
Story Eleven - 'Predators and Prey' aka 'The Blount Sisters' - Part Three
Story Twelve - 'Aftermath' - Part One and Two
Story Thirteen - 'The Messiah Complex' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Chronicle Three - 'Incursion L.A.'
Story Fourteen - 'The Rant'
Story Fifteen - 'Ties of Blood' - Part One and Two
Solo Session - 'A Gathering of Roses'
Story Sixteen - 'The Southern Solution' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seventeen - 'The Baker Disappearance' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eighteen - 'Inevitable Betrayals' - Part OneTwo and Three

The PC's
Player controlled characters
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, 'Baron of the North East'
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, 'Constable'
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Spymaster'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, 'Census Taker'
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, 'Seneschal'

The SPC's
Storyteller controlled player allies
Priya Haynes - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Carla Doyle - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Orla Riviera - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Rosalind Perkins -  Thin-blood, Alchemist
Sofia Rivera - Toreador, Michael's contact with Sire

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested, but be warned that the page is usually several stories ahead of the most recent write-up and may contain some spoilers. There's also some minor 'house-rules' HERE that have occurred as we went along.

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 or faction beneath their picture.

The coterie has arranged meetings with a number of kindred of influence in an attempt to manipulate them into actions that better suit the coteries needs. 

Mariel St. John, adopted childe of Louis Fortier is to be made an offer to help resolve her issue with the Brujah Idealists of San Fernando. Political complications have allowed the coterie an opportunity to expand their own domain, if only Mariel can be convinced of it's viability.

Victor Girard and Jesus Ramirez - Rivals for the Leadership of El Hermandad

Also, after much debate, the coterie have decided to ally with Victor Girard in his attempt to remove Jesus Ramirez as leader of El Hermandad. Though for this plan to be successful they will need the cooperation of Gloria Martinez, Baron of Whittier. Unfortunately she is notoriously easy to offend.

Scene Ten - A Confession
Club Confession - Downtown L.A.
An 'Aegis Acquisitions' Company
Mariel had specified Club Confession as the location for their meeting. The club itself is run for Marius Walker by one of his ghouls, Venus Dare and has a number of private rooms available for just such a purpose.

Up until quite recently, Mariel had been banned from all of Marius's establishments due to an unfortunate verbal exchange at one of the cities 'Rants'. Due to the intercession of the coterie this edict has been withdrawn and she has wasted no time in reestablishing Confession as a viable place for her to do business.

Though her patron Louis Fortier has a club of his own called 'Club Zombie', Mariel avoids using it as she is aware that Fortiers eldest childe Catherine Du Bois has all the private rooms bugged. This means that advancing her own schemes is open to interference from her 'sisters' and so she prefers to use one of Marius's establishments if at all possible. Daniel has also discovered that Mariel has been making extremely generous donations to Venus Dare in order to gain preferential treatment and priority access to rooms.

Venus Dare - Ghoul of Marius
Club Manager and Dominatrix
Michael, Daniel and Vin entered the club via the side entrance. Membership cards with the signature of Marius's ghoul Victoria on the rear ensured that there were no delays as the security quickly ushered them through. Venus greeted them personally as they moved towards the roped off stairway leading to the private rooms. "Miss St. John is already awaiting your arrival and refreshments have been provided at her request. Is there anything else you require?"

"I'd like to keep an eye on things from out here, if you don't mind?" Vin asked of Venus, though he was clearly talking to Michael. As Michael nodded, Venus replied. "Feel free to use the upper walkway if you wish, you can access it from the private stairway.". Vin often waited outside the meeting rooms to ensure that his baron had suitable escape routes and to keep a look out for other potential threats and Venus was quite used to him doing so. Him asking permission was, however, a first. "Do you require some refreshments sent to you separately?" was her next question.

"No thanks." Replied Vin. "I ate before I left..."

Storytellers Note - Vin has a heavily secured basement haven beneath one of the brothels that he manages for the coterie and two separate herds so is rarely hungry for long when he wakes.

As the others climbed the stairs, Vin took a slow walk around the club. Two well dressed groups of handsome young men and women caught his attention as the pounding industrial music currently playing was somewhat out of keeping with their outfits. Vin could see no weapons, presumably because they had arrived via the customer entrance, but was reasonably sure that they were security from the Fortier mansion.

Catherine Du Bois - Ventrue
Childe and Mistress of Baron Fortier
They were no doubt there to keep an eye on Mariel though whether they were her own people or sent by Catherine Du Bois was debatable.

Another group caught his eye as he doubled back towards the stairs. The majority were heavily tattooed and pierced mortals, but the woman commanding their attention was undoubtedly kindred as Vin recognised her.

She was the last surviving member of a gang that the coterie had destroyed who had referred to themselves as 'The Purgatory'. She had been spared on the condition that she would leave L.A.but quite obviously she had not. After a moment, Vin recollected her name as 'Aida', or at least that's what she had said at the time. Noticing Vin observing her, she excused herself from the group and walked over to him. "We told you to leave L.A." Said Vin, skipping any preamble.

Mary - Gangrel
'Mother' of the Children of the Wolf
"I did, but then I came my mistress commanded..." was the reply. Vin was surprised that she showed only the slightest nervousness at his presence. Given his abilities and reputation, few kindred and fewer mortals could help but be intimidated when confronted by his piercing stare. The fact that she was capable of controlling herself so well, interested the hulking Brujah. "Mistress?" queried Vin as he briefly focused his gaze upon Aida and used his powers to add a supernatural element to his ability to intimidate. He was satisfied with the response as she suddenly seemed much keener to placate him with an actual explanation.

Aida explained that she was a disciple of Mary, 'Mother' of the Bahari cult known as The Children of the Wolf and had been tasked with infiltrating The Purgatory as they "...had been misguided in the way in which they honour the Dark Mother..." and that she "...was to see if they could be converted to the true path...". None of this meant much to Vin though he knew that Mary was either a childe or grandchilde of Marius and therefore destroying one of her disciples in the middle of one of 'The Fixers' own clubs was probably a bad idea. "Fine..." Said Vin. "...but as you're well aware of what 'Leave L.A.' meant, and you didn't, then you still owe us a favour. Agreed?" Aida nodded in agreement, smiled insincerely and then hurried back to her circle of mortal sycophants.

Club Confession - Private Stairway
Vin noticed that Venus had been watching the exchange, presumably concerned that trouble might have been imminent. Once she was certain that the incident was over, she returned to the business of running her club. Seeing no other individuals of interest, Vin made his way to the stairs so as to continue his vigil from the overhead walkway mentioned by Venus earlier.

The doorman positioned at the private stairway recognised Vin and moved aside to let him pass. When at the private rooms he checked to ensure that there were no immediate threats and continued past Venus's office to the raised gantry that ran around the perimeter of the clubs upper floor. Once he had found a place from which to observe both the offices and the approaches to them, he loosened his machete in it's scabbard beneath his jacket and waited for Michael and Daniel to finish their negotiations with Mariel.

Scene Eleven - An Ideal(ist) Solution
Mariel St. John - Ventrue
Adopted Childe and Mistress of Baron Fortier
Mariel was alone in the room as they entered. Placed on the middle of the table was one of the 'special' bottles of wine that Venus kept for kindred guests. Judging from the bottle it was one of Leanna's creations so would have come at a significant premium. "Help yourself to some wine and tell me this solution to my problem that you've come up with." Said Mariel, betraying just how keen she was to resolve the issue and further her status within the Fortier household.

Michael made himself comfortable before pouring himself a generous glass of the blood infused wine. Daniel remained standing and politely declined a drink.

Daniel distrusted Mariel as rumours about a Banu Haqim being in the city which had come dangerously close to undermining his disguise as a Brujah, may well have come from her. He had no evidence but just couldn't shake the feeling that she had been involved. Though none of the mistresses of Baron Fortier were exactly innocent, at least they were fairly open about their activities. Mariel on the other hand always seemed to have an ulterior motive to even her most seemingly innocence of requests.

"The fundamentals of your problem, as I see it..." began Michael. "...isn't expanding into San Fernando as such, but more the perception that you're supplanting a group with a legitimate claim over part of that territory." Mariel shrugged noncommittally. "But, if they maintained their territory but it was no longer part of San Fernando, you could absorb the area between yourself and Baron Abrams without those objections."

Jeremy MacNeil - Brujah
Anarch Baron of all Los Angeles
Presumed Destroyed by the 
"True, but I presume you have a way to accomplish this rather than just listing hypothetical solutions?" Interrupted Mariel. Michael then explained that given his own baronies proximity to the territory of the Brujah Idealists, it would only take a relatively minor adjustment of the borders to encompass the disputed area. "In essence, I would oversee the area as I do with Burbank and Glendale. It being no longer part of San Fernando you could absorb it without interfering with an edict of Jeremy MacNeil." Michael now had Mariel's complete attention.

"Any blame would be aimed at myself of course, but I do have a history as a facilitator of inter-kindred issues and have turned down territory in the past. This should enable me to weather any potential accusations of expansionism." Mariel of course wanted to know how Michael would expect his generosity to be repaid.

Michael explained that as he would be taking the flack and that Fortier and Abrams would be getting the benefit that a boon from each of them would be a reasonable 'Thank-you'. He also added that he'd be requiring one from Mariel too as she would no doubt be claiming the idea as hers when reporting back to her baron. "There's also one more tiny thing..." added Michael. "...I'd like to open a club somewhere in Hollywood, a franchise of the Succubus Club in fact. I'm sure you can explain the benefits to Issac or persuade Fortier to influence his ally of them."

Isaac Abrams - Toreador
Baron of Hollywood
Mariel agreed though requested a few nights to make the arrangements. "I would also consider my help in this matter to be payment of the boon you requested of me a few moment ago..." Not wishing to potentially derail his gains with a refusal, Michael agreed to Mariel's terms. She also pointed out that Abrams might well consider allowing a club to be opened in his domain to be payment of the boon requested of him as well. Michael agreed that if that was the price for the cooperation of the baron of Hollywood then he'd reluctantly accept.

Storytellers Note - I had to add a 'boons owed' section to the players characters profile page just so I could keep up with them. The Succubus Club idea had already been discussed with me in preparation for the player spending his XP on the relevant loresheet dots. I was expecting him to put it in Pasadena to be honest but apparently he saw an opportunity and went for it...

Daniel's concerns about Mariel St. John were in no way lessened by his observations of her during the meeting. Her ambition was quite palpable and he was concerned that too many political victories of this sort might push her from the number two spot to number one in Louis Fortiers favour. She had already supplanted Elena Gutierrez and almost certainly now had her eye on the number one position currently held by Catherine Du Bois.

Aida - Gangrel
Bahari, Children of the Wolf
"Your sure you can get the Idealists to agree with this plan?" asked Mariel. "Quite sure..." replied Michael having already sown the seeds with the Brujah Idealists in his meeting with them a few nights ago.

As they left, Vin intercepted them and relayed what he had learned from Aida and his observations of security teams of Fortiers being in the club. The teams were hardly a surprise but Daniel wasn't happy about the reappearance of Aida whom he hadn't particularly trusted the first time. The fact that she was both Bahari and one of Mary's followers complicated any attempt at teaching her a lesson about the consequences of her actions. Daniel mentally added her to his list of problems before strolling downstairs to see if he recognised any of Fortiers people that Vin had noticed.

As Mariel left the club, the two groups identified by Vin arose and dropped in place beside her so were obviously her own people. Daniel recognised some of them and tried to remember the faces of those he did not for future reference. Vin nudged Daniel to indicate that Aida was heading upstairs with a man and a woman from the group she'd been with earlier. 

Knowing better than to make a scene near the private rooms, the coterie left the club. A fleet of vehicles had arrived outside to transport Mariel and her teams of ghouls, presumably back to Fortiers heavily protected mansion. This being L.A. such scenes were barely worthy of notice and garnered little attention from the club patrons.

The Brujah Idealists didn't take much convincing that Michael's arrangement was the best they could hope for. This way they kept their havens, feeding grounds and local contacts though they would lose a modicum of independence. Michael assured them that as long as they complied with the reasonable terms that he expected of the other inhabitants of his barony that he would leave them alone. He also pointed out the benefits of having a baron who was actually available to speak to, rather than some legendary Anarch like MacNeil who had probably been destroyed.

Sir Ralph Hamilton and his Blackmailer Dawn Cavanagh

Daniel also added that as long as whatever Dawn Cavanagh had over Sir Ralph didn't contravene Michael's rules or bring trouble to the barony, then quite frankly the coterie couldn't care less. This wasn't strictly true as Daniel had every intention of discovering what it was when he had the time, but Ralph seemed to believe him which was good enough for now. Especially as this seemed to convince him to agree to the same terms as the other three Idealists.

As they left, Vin told them that some of his contacts had let him know that several of the baronies were beginning to express their doubts about how much "Just looking after..." of other baronies that Pasadena had been doing. Michael and Daniel both agreed that it was a strategy they would be best avoiding for a while. Besides which, they needed time to consolidate what they had.

Interlude - The Left Behind
Victoria - Ghoul of Marius
Psychopath, Torturer and Fleshcrafter
Todd Garrison, one of the survivors of the Second Inquisition's recent incursion into L.A. awoke once more to find himself suspended from restraints in the torture chamber of his interrogator. The three of them had long since divulged all the information that they had though it had taken several more weeks before 'she' was convinced that they had done so.

He couldn't even remember now which of them had broken first though he had the horrible suspicion that it had been him. The sounds of screams and the dripping of blood were now as familiar as his own heartbeat.

It was then that he noticed that for the first time in months he wasn't in any pain. Looking down he was surprised to see himself clothed and that his body had been restored. The vile creature who had extracted all their secrets had been able to mould their flesh at will, mutilating and restoring them, before starting all over again. This was, however the first time that she had bothered to return any of them to full health.

As he looked around he could see that both his partner Rachael and their back-up Charlie were in a similar condition and were also clothed for the first time since the first day of their capture. The grid below them had been cleaned of blood and other bodily fluids and the counter along one side was for the first time free of the myriad of tools that had been used on them, over and over again.

Leanna - Duskborn
Manipulator of Minds
Keeping track of time had become problematic but he was sure it had been three or more days since the psychopath had visited them. For a moment he almost missed her but couldn't explain why such an evil creature could inspire such an emotion.

"I guess we die now then." said his partner, resigned to a fate that would be a relief compared to what they had endured up to now. "Not necessarily..." said a melodic voice they'd never heard before.

Marius and Victoria watched the exchange from the monitoring station as Leanna's voice wormed into the captives minds once more and added another layer of directives into their subconscious's. The prisoners believed that this was their first encounter with the duskborn manipulator though it had occurred many times before. Victoria broke them physically, Leanna mentally and then the process was repeated. Each cycle bought them closer to compliance and despite seeing the process before, Marius was still perversely fascinated by it. "How much longer?" asked Marius.

"A week, maybe two." replied Victoria. "Then they'll be ours and convinced that it was their own idea, that the Inquisition betrayed them and that we are their only hope for survival. They'll even be grateful"

"Excellent." Said Marius as he left the room." I have several interesting tasks lined up for them..." After her master had left, she returned her attention to the monitors. Leanna might be an insufferable, self-obsessed whore-wrangler, thought Victoria, but she had to admit to a begrudging admiration for certain of her more esoteric abilities.

Scene Twelve - The Seeds of Doubt (Part One)
Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
The converted warehouse, bar and pool hall that acted as clubhouse come base of operations for Gloria's gang was much the same as when they had last visited. Several mortal or possibly ghouled gang members were hanging around outside near several well maintained motorcycles and a muscle car with blacked-out windows. The unusually large mastiff that belonged to the Gangrel sweeper Owen was curled up to one side of the door chewing on a large animal bone.

Daniel noted that the car-park and entrance were still adequately protected by security cameras but as before he was reasonably sure that Gloria's people relied on the large compliment of mortal bikers to defend the establishment during the day. Of course, having at least half a dozen Brujah inside was a more than adequate security measure past nightfall.

They were escorted upstairs by the Brujah Josie who had seemingly been promoted to a lieutenant position after the previous kindred in that position had been destroyed by Daniel in an honour duel. Daniel had been expecting hostility after the act but it seemed that none of Gloria's gang had actually liked Jeremiah even slightly. The fact that he had treated his childe and granddaughter Josie so badly had also no doubt been a factor. Though the Brujah clan's reputation for violence was well deserved, the majority also had a rudimentary code of honour that Jeremiah had apparently not shared.

Josie Parrish - Lieutenant of Gloria, Jeremiah Parrish - Destroyed

The upstairs area of their club was reserved for the kindred members of the gang, their most loyal ghouls and the occasional blood doll who was aware of what the gang really were. The Toreador Velme, Owen, of Clan Gangrel and Alessandro Kaye, a House Ipsissimus blood mage were the only none Brujah within Gloria's gang. Gloria apparently treated them no differently from the other members of her crew as despite her dubious reputation for impulsive acts of violence, her main priority had always been loyalty. If she had that then your clan of origin was largely irrelevant to her outside of how useful to her it made you.

Velme - Toreador
Possible 'Daughter of Cacophony'
Velme intercepted the group as they entered the private rooms. Their voice was as melodic as ever. "Feel free to mingle and enjoy our hospitality while Michael talks to Gloria." The clear implication was that this would be a private conversation and that nobody but Michael was invited. Both Vin and Daniel looked to Michael for his response. "I understand completely." responded Michael and followed Velme to an office in the corner of the room.

"I fancy a game of pool." said Vin, somewhat unconvincingly, "I'm heading downstairs." The Brujah had already mentioned to Daniel that he wanted to see how strong the mortal gang of Gloria's was so was apparently about to do some recon. Though long-term threats were Daniel's purview, and Hope dealt with kindred incursions via the other sweepers, Vin still considered any direct threats to be his problem to deal with and if Michael's plan went wrong then they would almost certainly end up in a war with at least part of El Hermandad.

While Vin assessed the mortal assets of Gloria's gang, Daniel decided to speak to Josie. As she still considered herself to owe Daniel a considerable debt for ridding her of her abusive and cruel sire, she was happy to answer his questions about a number of topics. He learned that Gloria had started to actually have the border between her barony and El Hermandad patrolled, something she had never bothered with previously. According to Josie, Gloria had grown sick of "Ramirez just wandering in like he owns the fucking place..." Daniel agreed that Ramirez had become stubborn in his views of late and was seemingly even alienating elements within his own gang. Gloria was "Not surprised in the least..."

Baker - Gangrel
Unpopular 'Sweeper', Destroyed
On the subject of The Wilds with whom Whittier shared a considerable border, Gloria only knew that Owen had been tasked with maintaining contact with the Gangrel there. According to him they were respecting the borders and showed no signs of expansion in the direction of Whittier.

His contact was one of the new residents of the Wilds, someone called 'Pope', acting on behalf of a Gangrel pack leader called Connor. According to Owen he was "A bit short on winters..." but Josie wasn't quite sure whether that had been a condemnation or a compliment. Then Josie asked a question of her own. "You were looking into the Baker thing on the quiet for Victor, right?"

Daniel admitted that he'd been asked to undertake an independent enquiry, that Baker had been killed quite professionally but that there were certain sloppy aspects to it that were incongruous with the skilled method of dispatch. "Victor's been saying that it was Ramirez's half-arsed investigation that gave the Wilds Pack the opportunity to take Covina." prompted Josie. Given the timeline that Daniel had discovered this was a blatant untruth but considering what Michael was trying to accomplish, he decided not to say so. 

"That's probably a fair assessment..." lied Daniel. " fact Victor seems a lot more level-headed than Ramirez." The truth was Daniel did think that Ramirez had been sloppy but not in the way that Victor was claiming, he also thought Victor was a patronising prick. He kept both these thoughts to himself.

Vin's technique for winning pool games mainly consisted of scaring the crap out of his opponents so they let him win, or making them too paralysed with fear to play well. Either way he was three hundred dollars up and had learned that the bike gang was actually about a dozen loosely affiliated chapters, not a single large gang.

One of the losers had needed their teeth loosening a little but after spending some of the cash he'd won on a few rounds of drinks for the bikers and their companions, the crowd seemed to loosen up a little and got a little more chatty.

He decided to give it until Michael emerged from his meeting to see what else he could discover before he ran out of other peoples money or accidentally killed someone.

Scene Thirteen - The Seeds of Doubt (Part Two)
'Hank' Boyd - Brujah
Baron of The Crypts Sons
Gloria was seated at a standard looking office desk and was dressed in casual but expensive clothing. After offering Michael a seat on a nearby sofa, she emerged from behind the office furniture and took a seat on a chair opposite Michael. "I hear you and your people have been on quite a tour of the city. Even your accountant has been out and about..." Began Gloria. Michael could tell from her tone and posture that this was going to be hard work.

"Mr Hertz had some dealings with the Crypts Sons Baron, He's still quite independent and free to do as he wishes..." began Michael before making a neat segue into a bit of flattery. "...and Hank, like yourself is worthy of respect that he seems to not be receiving. Of course Hank isn't being insulted by his own allies so perhaps the situation is a little different..." The last comment got a raised eyebrow from Gloria, who then shifted forward in her chair. "Not strictly true..." countered Gloria. "...Hank's only real ally is Priss and she's been quite vocal in her satisfaction with her current position. As you well know as I'm sure she mentioned it during your recent clandestine meeting with her..."

"Priss, simply was simply seeking my advice as I'm on reasonably good terms with the leaders of both the barons she's currently squeezed between." Gloria was understandably curious about what his advice had been. Michael answered truthfully as he gained nothing by lying in this case. "I told her I'd give it some consideration. Her position is a difficult one to resolve without making at least one enemy."

Priss - Brujah
Ally of Hank Boyd
Gloria made no further comment on the subject and Michael suspected that her intention had merely been to point out that she was aware the meeting had taken place, rather than really caring about the subject matter. He decided he'd mention it to Daniel later.

"I hear you've had some meetings of your own too?" asked Michael, though it wasn't really a question as Daniel had already reported to him that Allison Maller, baron of Anaheim had met with Gloria near the border. "Just reaffirming our none aggression pact." replied Gloria, brushing off the comment. "Of course..." countered Michael. "...What could be more innocent than two childer of Salvador Garcia having a cosy chat. Did the discussion involve mention of Jesus Ramirez at any point."

Michael's empathetic nature detected that Gloria's mood had lightened somewhat during the verbal sparring but she definitely reacted negatively to Ramirez's name. Not wanting to miss an opportunity he bought the conversation around to his real reason for being there before her mood hardened once more. "I spoke to Victor recently on matters of clan and he happened to mention that he thinks that Ramirez is damaging El Hermandad with his recent errors of judgement. He was quite concerned about the effect he is having on both their reputation and their ability to do business with others effectively..."

"Victor has been alternating between diplomacy with everyone over Ramirez's attitude and then blaming him for the problems he's trying to smooth over. Problem is..." concluded Gloria. " that Victor would make a fucking awful leader. He's always been a 'right hand', if he could handle being a Baron, he'd be one by now..."

Salvador Garcia - Brujah
Absentee Baron of El Hermandad
"So.." replied Michael. "...You'd rather be at the beck and call of Ramirez then?..." The remark was a calculated risk on Michael's part as he knew it would raise Gloria's ire. He then continued before she could respond. "...because between the two of us, the same thing could be said of Ramirez. He's effectively what the Camarilla would consider a Seneschal, he's always been able to defer to Garcia when things got tough. By your own reasoning he's not a leader either, not like you are anyway."

"You think that El Hermandad needs both?" asked Gloria, her rage at the mention of Ramirez subsiding. Michael smiled and then caught himself, the last thing he needed at the moment was to look smug. "That might actually work." said Michael.

Gloria was still unsure about the viability of just declaring herself Baron of El Hermandad as Ramirez still had the loyalty of many of the baronies Brujah. "Not as many as you think." explained Michael, trying to avoid sounding patronising. "Many are now looking to Victor for guidance, if not leadership. Some who have doubts about both Ramirez and Victor are nonetheless nervous about him throwing accusations of conspiracy at Marius."

"I told him it was unwise to poke Marius now he was sandwiched between his domain and the Wilds Pack. Especially with Hank below and ready to roll in and take advantage of a weakened Brotherhood. He was quite dismissive of my opinion, which was...irritating considering he'd be dragging us into a fight he caused..." Michael could see the emotion in her eyes was far beyond irritation as she recalled Ramirez's dismissal of her input and so he decided to risk pushing her once more.

Marius Walker - Gangrel
Unpredictable Baron of Downtown
"I imagine that's why he told you to stay out of the problem he's having with 'The Liberated', maybe he thought you'd reached the limits of your leadership capabilities." Gloria stood up suddenly but Michael could tell that he wasn't the source of her anger, though he easily could be if he didn't play his next hand, perfectly. "Personally I'm of the opinion that they'd be better off under your protection, but if you don't want to offend Ramirez I completely understand. Perhaps Marius might have room for them..."

"Ramirez can go fuck himself." interrupted Gloria, her raised voice and indignant tone indicated that she meant it too. "I'll have a messenger offer the Liberated's leader domain within my borders and I don't fucking care how Ramirez feels about it..." Michael could feel her anger reduce as she decided to ignore Ramirez and do as she pleased. "...and tell Victor to come and see me, I think we need to have a serious conversation about the future of both Whittier and El Hermandad."

"If that's what you want, Baron Martinez..."acknowledged Michael. "...I'll get onto it immediately." Satisfied that he'd helped Victor Girard, undermined Jesus Ramirez and focused Gloria's anger in an appropriate direction, he thanked the Baron of Whittier for her time and then left.

Storytellers note - That scene was a bit intense for both me as storyteller and Michael's player so we decided to call the session there. Besides which it was getting a bit late.

"Did it work?" asked Daniel. "So far." replied Michael. Vin emerged from the pool hall and intercepted them as they left. "I gather you put a fire under Gloria." he said with a smile on his face. "Because word came down to the bikers in the pool hall a minute ago to tool up and be ready for trouble. They're to spread the word to the others Whittier biker chapters as well."

To be Continued in 'Inevitable Betrayals' (Part Five)

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...

So they've successfully juggled three different plot-lines which is both impressive and slightly irritating.

They've used their individual vampires contacts and specialities to great effect and so fucking with their progress now would undermine their characters in a way that I would rather avoid. A shock here and there is great but making your players believe that their stats are irrelevant isn't how I like to do things. The fact that they still spend their xp on role-playing abilities and not just their primary abilities is quite pleasing and I don't want to mess that up, lol.

Of course they have absolutely no idea what's going on behind their backs at the moment so I'll still get the chance to fuck with them in a few sessions time. After all, I have to have some fun as well...

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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, Victor Girard is Bob Hoskins, Jesus Ramirez is Javier Bardem, Venus Dare is Sophie Howard, Catherine Du Bois is Margot Robbie, Mariel St. John is Kate Moss, Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman, Professor Habersohn is John Hurt, Countess Visconti is Elizabeth Hurley, Dr. Shiraiwa is Masi Oka, Sir Ralph Hamilton is Pierce Brosnan, Dawn Cavanagh is Emma Stone, Victoria is Lilith May, Leanna is Leeanna Vamp, Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles, Josie Parrish is Rebecca Ferguson, Hank is Michael Clarke Duncan and Marius Walker is Tony Curran. Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement.

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