Saturday, 20 June 2020

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Sixty Five - Inevitable Betrayals (Part Five)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our chronicle is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to bring them back under Camarilla control. 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 OneTwoThree and Four

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.

Michael has planted the seeds of rebellion in the mind of Gloria Martinez, in an attempt to undermine the El Hermandad leader Jesus Ramirez. This should also further the ambitions of Victor Girard with whom the coterie have sided.

Having decided that disrupting the alliance between the Barons of West L.A. and Hollywood is near impossible and potentially suicidal they have instead opted to ingratiate themselves with the barons instead. They have facilitated their new allies aims in return for domain and other considerations.

Meanwhile, with the Crypts Sons attention diverted by a potential attack by their rivals, the mortal gang of vampire hunters known as 'The Blood', their dissatisfied ally 'Priss' is looking to use the opportunity to elevate her own status.

Scene Fourteen - A Brotherhood Threatened
Jesus Ramirez - Ventrue
El Hermandad
Jesus Ramirez has become quite vocal in his assertion that Marius Walker, Baron of Downtown arranged the assassination of his sweeper Baker. He has stated his belief that this was a conspiracy between Marius and his grandechilde Myranda of the Wilds Pack to facilitate her followers takeover of Covina. Victor Girard who was attempting to mitigate Ramirez's recent confrontational attitude with his own diplomatic overtures has apparently called the statement "Unfortunate..."

Marius rarely responds to accusations such as this as his reputation as a 'Fixer' of problems requires a certain amount of plausible deniability and discretion. However the word amongst the Gangrel sweepers, census takers and those who patrol the baronies borders is that Marius has taken this as a declaration of war. Whether this is true or not, certain actions by his followers and childer would seem to indicate that he is, at the very least, preparing for such an eventuality.

The sewer dwelling horde known as 'The Swarm' led by Marius's childe have been seen with increasing frequency near the border with El Hermandad's barony. The few unaligned Nosferatu who have their havens near to this border have all been keeping their heads down as the swarm has a fearsome reputation for suicidal levels of frenzied violence when commanded by their mistress. 

'Gorgeous' Gary Golden - Nosferatu
Baron of the Nosferatu Warrens
Mr Hertz has been informed that these Nosferatu have apparently been assured by Gary Golden that as long as they stay out of any conflict that he has Marius's assurance that no harm will come to any of them, and that their neutrality will be both honoured and 'appreciated'. This has been taken as an unsubtle way of implying that should they fail to keep their noses out of any conflict that there may be consequences.

These actions seem to confirm the rumour that Marius and Gary met in Marius's Hollywood club 'The Asp Hole' for a discussion that lasted an entire night. Unusually, Marius apparently asked permission from Isaac Abrams to enter Hollywood for this meeting, a courtesy he has been known to 'forget' in the past.

This new found respect for Abrams borders seems to coincide with confirmation of the alliance between Issac and Louis Fortier. Marius might have significant influence and power of his own but even he would hesitate to pit himself against the two most wealthy kindred in the city.

Word from The Wilds Pack is that Myranda has also focused the packs under her control on her Western border with El Hermandad. Pasadena's own border patrol have reported to Hope that they have heard from the Gangrel of the Wilds that Myranda has "Fucking flipped out..." over Ramirez's implication that she is a puppet of Marius's.

It seems that Ramirez's stubbornness in this matter is making El Hermandad more enemies than it ever had before. The only border from which they aren't threatened is between their domain and that of Pasadena. Of course, if Ramirez knew how many of his current concerns had been influenced by Michael Tomassio and his coterie, he may well begin to look in that direction also.

Scene Fifteen - Into the Breach
Marius Walker - Gangrel
Baron and 'Fixer'
Michael has once again been contacted by Hank's ally Priss, to seek his advice on her current situation. 

Priss had been given a domain within the Crypts Sons barony to act as a barrier between the main part of Hank's territory and threats from the direction of what was once the Barony of the Angels. Now the area she is supposedly defending the Crypts Sons from with is a barony in it's own right and overseen by the Baron of Downtown, Marius Walker. She has therefore been looking into the viability of claiming the feeding ground for her own and declaring herself a baron in her own right.

Given the tense atmosphere between many of Pasadena's neighbours at the moment, Michael has taken both Vin and Daniel with him to his arranged meeting with Priss. He has also informed Hank of his presence within the area and arranged a subsequent meeting with him to discuss any advice that he might have given and the consequences thereof.

Daniel had already had her building under surveillance some time ago so was more than familiar with the area. He had however done this behind his barons back so made no mention of it. There were a few security cameras outside some of the apartments windows though there seemed to be no particular pattern to them so he imagined he could probably find a few blind spots if necessary.

The approach to her base had been through an area of considerable social deprivation and Daniel's surveillance teams had already connected the majority of the local crime to gangs under the control of Priss. "Looks like hookers and beggars are the main food source round here..." Commented Vin. "...they look like shit. These assholes don't know how to manage a herd worth a damn..."

Ophelia - Gangrel
'Sweeper' for Priss
Daniel hadn't noticed before Vin had mentioned it but he was correct. It was quite obvious to him now that Priss's feeding ground had a noticeable kindred overpopulation problem. "Do we know anything about these fuckers we're meeting?" asked Vin changing the subject. As Vin never bothered to ask how Daniel gained his information he felt fairly safe letting him know what he and his teams had learned.

"Not much." Admitted Daniel. "There's Priss, four or five Brujah and Caitiff and a couple of Gangrel sweepers, at least one she inherited from another gang. The sweepers are called Arbaaz and Ophelia, those are the only names I have. They run all the criminal enterprises you'd expect. Drugs, prostitution, protection, you know, the usual. They're based at an apartment block which is I guess where we're going." The conversation was then interrupted by Michael's driver Dion announcing that they had arrived.

Once at the rendezvous point they were directed to an underground car-park which seemed to be reserved for the gangs vehicles, by a man of Indian appearance who introduced himself as Arbaaz before telling them that the meeting place was "Not far." A poorly maintained underground passage, riddled with graffiti, whose lights flickered on and off with irritating regularity, led from the parking area to a subway tunnel. This new tunnel ended at a chain-locked gate that was opened from the other side by an unkempt woman in tattered dark clothing. Her nails were long and sharp with encrusted blood beneath them, some of it was fairly fresh, the rest, not so much.

Arbaaz - Gangrel
'Sweeper' for Priss
Arbaaz waits until she's finished locking the gate behind you, and then speaks to the woman who let you in. "Ophelia. Priss wants the sewers checked again, the swarm are all over the place and she doesn't want any sneaking past. They get one warning, then you can fuck them up, yes?" A scowl was her only sign of acknowledgement. "You'll have to forgive my acquaintance..." said Arbaaz "...She thinks any kindred who isn't of our clan is inherently untrustworthy."

"Many prejudices exist within our kind." replied Michael. "It could be argued that we could accomplish so much more united, than separated. Yet still we fight amongst ourselves."

"If it's any consolation." added Arbaaz. "She thinks any Gangrel with a spare set of clothes is suspect as well." He laughed after he said it, but Michael could tell he was only half joking.

Daniel wasn't particularly impressed with the overall security measures he'd seen so far but had to admit that the narrow access corridor could be a problem. Anyone shooting from the other end couldn't fail to miss anyone attempting to get from one end to another. Apparently he wasn't the first person to have that idea as there was a guard at the other end with an assault rifle, using a pile of old crates as a makeshift barricade. The weapon was a Russian AKM with a seventy-five round drum magazine. Not the most sophisticated firearm, but more than adequate for filling the narrow approach with a wall of lead.

Priss - Presumed to be Brujah
Ally of The Crypts Sons
Their final destination was an office in the basement, that presumably once belonged to a building manager of some kind. Priss was waiting for them, along with another kindred in a leather Jacket. He had the stereotypical Brujah look and as they had already met Priss's Gangrel followers this was a fair guess at his clan. 

Arbaaz indicated an old sofa in one corner and a random selection of chairs. After they had made themselves as comfortable as possible, the Brujah next to Priss left and the Gangrel sweeper took his place. If Priss cared that Michael had bought others with him she didn't show it.

"Have you had any further thoughts about my problem?" she asked with a well practised yet slightly unconvincing smile upon her face. Michael had a number of ideas but was in the tricky position of not wanting to offend either Hank or Marius. He therefore needed to seem helpful but still be able to place the blame for any problems back at Priss's door. He was also well aware that it wouldn't take Daniel very long to reach the same conclusions about Priss's mental state that he had himself. Kindred that Daniel reached such conclusions about had a habit of having unfortunate accidents and that could complicate matters if the target was by then protected by someone powerful.

"The problem, as I see it..." began Michael. " that you have very little to offer as bargaining chips. Your domain was granted by another and you have no boons to trade due to your somewhat antagonistic relationship with the other former Barony of the Angels Gangs.

Henrique 'Hank' Boyd - Brujah
Crypts Sons Baron
Priss made no comment, so Michael continued. "What you need is an opportunity to leverage a boon from Hank and I'm afraid that will require patience on your part as such opportunities are few and far between. The other option is to throw your lot in with Marius but that would still leave you neighbours with a subsequently upset Hank..."

"Marius said much the same thing." replied Priss. "If I move to his camp, I'd just be leader of another expendable pack, he certainly wouldn't give me enough territory to call myself baron. At least he was honest about it I suppose. I thought that offering to help with any move against Ramirez's lot might persuade him but I got the distinct impression that he's not worried about El Hermandad at all." Both Daniel and Michael could detect the desire within her for the sort of power that barons like Marius and Hank wielded.

Daniel then recalled what Mr Hertz had told him about the upcoming assault upon the Crypts Sons by the mortal gang of vampire hunters known as The Blood. He had relayed his discoveries to Hank, but Daniel was unsure of just how much of this Hank would have passed onto Priss. He decided to broach the subject subtly at first. "Does Hank have any enemies about which you could make a similar offer to the one you made Marius?" enquired Daniel. "There's 'the Blood' I suppose..." replied Priss. "...but if the attack by them that Hank is expecting was met with a preemptive strike, most of those involved would meet their Final deaths in the assault. They're apparently very well prepared.

'The Blood' - Vampire Hunters
The conversation was then interrupted by an observation from Vin. "In the wars of the past, those first through the breach in an assault were guaranteed promotion. If they survived that is..."

Storytellers Note - This wasn't an approach I was expecting to be perfectly honest. But I liked it, so I rolled with it.

"That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. You mean?" asked Priss, but it was clear from the look in her eyes that she was genuinely giving the idea some consideration. "Do you think Hank would go for it, though?" "I'll see what I can do." said Michael.

Michael arranged a meeting with Hank as soon as they had been escorted from Priss's feeding grounds. As it turned out, Hank was more than open to the idea, depending on Priss's exact price, that is. Michael let Priss know that he had spoken on her behalf and then decided that he and the coterie had interfered enough in this matter and that he would now let it play out without further input. After all, the coterie had far more important matters that needed to be focused upon.

Scene Sixteen - A Brotherhood Divided
Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
The former Barony of the Angels gang, 'The Liberated' had found themselves within the barony of El Hermandad when the former neutral barony was split between the neighbouring baronies. An unusually democratic group of kindred they had been requesting control of their own domain for some time only to be repeatedly and dismissively turned down. They were however somewhat surprised when a messenger from the neighbouring barony of Whittier offered them exactly what they had been asking for.

Despite this requiring them to abandon their own feeding grounds, Gloria's messenger assured them that as long as they were happy to maintain their no territory in her name and caused her no trouble that they could run it as they pleased. She offered them an area centred around Rossmoor as it was well defined on the West and Southern sides by Interstate 605 and 405 respectively and also granted them feeding rights to the various shopping centres on the Eastern side of the area. Another factor in the choice of location was that it was far enough from El Hermandad to make reprisals against the gang, very difficult.

Given that this area was significantly larger than that which they had left, they leapt at the offer. Several buildings abandoned by Steve Booth's people when his barony had narrowed but extended along the coast, had already been adapted for kindred. The only additional rule that had been imposed upon them by their new Baron was that Gloria didn't allow feeding upon children and they were therefore told to avoid the several schools in the residential area. They had no objections to this condition as none had inclinations in that area anyway.

Victor Girard - Toreador
Media Magnate
Understandably, Ramirez is very unhappy indeed. Not only did Gloria's people wander into his domain to escort 'The Liberated' to their new home without asking permission, he had also, quite specifically, told Gloria to keep out of the matter on a previous occasion. To add insult to injury, Ramirez's messenger was met at the border between his and Gloria's baronies and told in no uncertain terms that the matter was not open to discussion.

Meanwhile within El Hermandad itself, a significant number of it's kindred residents have increasingly been siding with Victor over Ramirez. Victor has been seen as fighting a losing diplomatic battle to counter increasingly negative sentiments from the neighbouring baronies. An old hand at navigating kindred politics at the highest level, the Toreador media magnate has unbeknown to the Brujah of El Hermandad actually been undermining Ramirez at every opportunity.

The coterie of course have been destabilising the situation even further. 

Marius Walker - Gangrel
Murderer and Baron of Downtown
Vin has been actively interacting with the Brujah of a number of baronies stoking the discontent amongst the already rebellion prone clan. Daniel meanwhile has been using the same approach but with the more philosophically inclined Brujah and Caitiff as well as his Nosferatu contacts.

With Michael's reputation as a skilled negotiator with a proven track-record of neutrality, his word carries a great deal of sway amongst the power players of the city. His negative opinion of Ramirez's recent stubbornness has therefore carried considerable weight amongst those with influence.

The coteries second plan was considerably more dangerous. Through their contacts, Mawla's and others who they had influence they had been gradually leaking rumours to Marius about the accusations both true and fabricated coming from Ramirez and those loyal to him. Conversely they had been drip-feeding information to Ramirez about Marius Walker's mobilisation of resources to the border. Though exaggerated at first, these rumours have now become fact.

The Fixers own sweepers were increasingly ignoring the agreed borders between Downtown and El Hermandad and the Mistress of the Swarm who made her haven below ground had been sending her own corrupted horde, deeper and deeper into the barony of Ramirez. It was now a matter of when Marius finally snapped and sought Ramirez's destruction, rather than when.

Interlude - A Suicide Mission
"So we're agreed then?" said Priss, her impatience evident.

Hank had considerable respect for Michael's opinion and he knew that what he had said was correct. If Priss and her people could disrupt 'The Blood' with a preemptive strike, just as they were preparing for their own attack on the Crypts Sons, then his casualties would be significantly reduced due to the disruption this would cause. 

If the Nosferatu accountant, Mr Hertz's investigations were correct then The Blood had invested a lot of time and effort into acquiring the locations from which to launch their assault. If he could counter it then both their vampire hunter elements and mortal gang members would cease to be a threat for the foreseeable future, perhaps permanently. He had also allocated several of his own people to assist with Priss's mission. It was, of course, no coincidence that these were members of his own gang that he'd be quite happy to never see again.

Priss's price was reasonable enough in the circumstances. An increased hunting ground, complete independence and Hank's word that if she chose to ally with Downtown rather than the Crypts Sons that there would be no reprisals unless she attacked first. She also wanted access to the Crypts Sons armouries to prepare for the attack, and to keep the weapons should they survive.

Hank had used the information gathered by Mr Hertz to locate three significant staging points as targets for Priss and her people. If she destroyed all three, then she would get what she asked for. Of course the ideal result for Hank would be if they destroyed each other and he got to keep the promised domain for himself and robbed Marius of another potential ally.

Still, Hank was a kindred of his word. If she succeeded, he'd keep to his agreement. "Yes. We're agreed..."

Scene Seventeen - A Foot in the Door
Helena - Toreador Methuselah
Mariel had been in touch with the coterie, and wished to discuss with Michael the result of her conversation with Baron Fortier and his Hollywood ally, Baron Abrams. Michael had offered to absorb the portion of San Fernando containing the problematic Brujah Idealists into his own domain in return for a number of boons.

One of these was permission to open a club in Hollywood, specifically a franchise of the infamous Succubus Club, made famous by the notorious Toreador Methuselah, Helena. Having concluded that the alliance between the baronies of West L.A. and Hollywood was impossible to prevent, they instead elected to support the venture and gain what they could for themselves. 

Mariel once again specified Club Confession, as she preferred it as a meeting place to Club Zombie in her own barony. Mainly because she knew that the private booths in Louis's club was bugged, and the rooms in Marius's clubs were not.

The club was packed with it's usual eclectic mix of customers from all walks of life and, of course, unlife. Venus Dare, a ghoul who ran all three of Marius's clubs, was there to greet them and escorted them to a private room that Mariel St. John had reserved. As they traversed the club they noticed several other notables who were apparently taking advantage of Marius's hospitality.

Ralph Harwood, 'Fat' Larry and Amanda McBride

These Included Ralph Harwood, a Ventrue Gang Leader who now resided within West L.A., the mortal trader and small time arms dealer 'Fat' Larry and Amanda 'Mandi' Mcbride, a Blood Sorcerer from the Tremere Chantry in Downtown. Though they were apparently all engaged in their own affairs, not meeting one another.

Evidently the rumours that Marius was about to go to war hadn't put off those who sought out his services. Presumably this was because they believed that he was going to win.

Mariel St. John - Ventrue
Mistress of Baron Fortier
Mariel had once again acquired the best of the rooms available, which went further to confirming that she was indeed paying off Marius's ghoul Venus, in return for preferential consideration. Mariel had also acquired several bottles of preserved blood of the highest quality though this time they were unopened, despite there being glasses available. Michael imagined that they were there to celebrate the completion of their deal, if indeed they could agree terms.

On this occasion Daniel and Mr Hertz had accompanied Michael as Vin was busy looking into what criminal elements the barony were inheriting along with their expanded North Western border. 

They would either be bought into the fold, or disposed of, depending on how flexible their response to Vin's demands they were. He had already liaised with Hertz about what could be integrated into their affiliated mortal gang 'The Apostles' and what was superfluous to their requirements. Vin had told Daniel that he'd let him know if any unwanted personnel needed to be 'retired'. Mr Hertz disliked the word 'killed' and used a variety of synonyms, some of which Vin liked and had started to use.

As soon as they were seated Mariel got straight down to business "Isaac has agreed to allow you to open a Succubus Club franchise within Hollywood as payment in full for the boon he owes you for resolving the 'Brujah Idealists' situation. Though with some stipulations." It was of no surprise to Michael that there would be some conditions attached as almost no deal between kindred was ever free of them. "Please continue." said Michael.

Isaac Abrams - Toreador
Baron of Hollywood
Isaac's agreement was predicated on a number of points. Firstly, the club would need to be established on a location agreed by him and he had already provided Mariel with a number of potential areas for it's construction.

Michael noted that all of these placed the club a significant distance from Jeanette Voermans 'Hollywood Asylum' and Velvet Velours 'Club Vesuvius'. Understandably Baron Abrams didn't want two kindred businesses within close proximity.

Michael slid the map over to Mr Hertz who quickly narrowed it down to two locations that he considered most suitable from a business point of view. Michael himself then selected the one that was located in the most fashionable of the two areas. "This one will be ideal. Mariel...and Baron Abrams other requirements?"

The remaining stipulations were relatively minor and included a percentage of the profits to be paid as a 'tribute' to Isaac himself and memberships for a number of individuals, both kindred and mortal. Michael ran his finger down the list of names noting that it included Isaac himself, Velvet Velour, Louis Fortier and his mistresses, several members of the Bartholomew family and a few mortal celebrities that were presumably affiliated with Isaac in some way.

Louis Fortier - Ventrue
Baron of West L.A.
A moment after Michael nodded his agreement, Mariel opened the bottle of 'wine' and poured a glass for each of those present including herself. With the deal done, Michael took the opportunity to subtly ask a question or two of his own. "I imagine this deal was somewhat simpler than the negotiations between Fortier and Abrams over the division of San Fernando?"

"Somewhat..." replied Mariel. "...though Isaac's main interest was in the various media industry related businesses as you'd expect. Though I have new found respect for his information gathering network, he has an enviable talent for second guessing every decision. If I wasn't on the receiving end of it, I'd have been quite impressed."

"I've met very few of Isaac's kindred assets." admitted Michael. "There's Velvet of course and his 'Census Taker' Nicholas, oh and one of Velvet's dancers of my acquaintance is also kindred but I've never met his associates Dawn Cavanagh or the notorious Jeanette Voerman."

"I know of no others..." confirmed Mariel. "...but he's getting detailed information from somewhere. Dawn, Jeanette and Velvet are useful gatherers of rumour, no doubt but I'd really like to know from where he gathers his more substantial information."

"And how about Therese Voerman?" asked Michael. Mariel grimaced slightly then caught herself. "She made certain demands and as you'd expect, Fortier approved them all. She's another one who seems to have altogether too much knowledge of things that you're never quite sure how she discovered" Mariel St. Johns points about Isaac and Therese also piqued Daniels curiosity as removing these resources would be useful if they ever needed to make a move against those particular Barons. He added these tasks to his already considerable list.

The Succubus Club - Chicago
The conversation from then on was effectively small talk covering minor matters of kindred interest and revealed nothing substantial. Once Michael was sure that the social niceties had been covered he made his goodbyes and the coterie left. "It'll be nice to have a base of operations, within Hollywood." said Daniel after they left. "As long as it actually makes money..." added Mr Hertz.

"Philistines..." thought Michael.

Meanwhile, Vin's consolidation of the criminal elements in their new area of influence had been surprisingly simple.

The leader of the one gang of significance had been somewhat reluctant to surrender control to The Apostles as had their second and third in command. Fortunately by the time Vin worked his way to number four he found that this particular gentlemen was now very keen to cooperate. Leaving his people to clean up the mess, Vin returned to Pasadena to let Mr Hertz know that he'd need to allocate one of the gang's lieutenants to keep an eye on the new recruits.

Interlude - Presence
Quinn - Gangrel
Eldest Childe of the Swarm Mistress
Victor and two of the Brujah who had pledged themselves to him in light of Ramirez'a apparent recent unpredictability, waited in the long abandoned section of the sewers near the border of Downtown.

"Don't go for a weapon unless I give you the go-ahead." warned Victor. "This is going to be a difficult enough negotiation as it is without giving these lunatics an excuse..."

As his informant had stated, the Swarm indeed were using these old parts of the water and power access corridors to enter El Hermandad's territory. The horde of blood bound mortals, ghouls and recently embraced cannon-fodder, were led by the kindred that Victor knew of as Quinn, supposedly the eldest childe of the Gangrel referred to as The Mistress of the Swarm. Victor had also been informed that he was, despite his appearance, the most likely to listen to reason. 

'The Swarm'
Childer, Ghouls and Blood Bound
"I have done you the courtesy of not killing you on sight, say your piece quickly before the rest of the horde's impatience surpasses their fear of my wrath." said Quinn, his voice surprisingly melodic and completely out of keeping with his appearance. "Well at least he's eloquent." Thought Victor, before laying out his proposal.

Quinn had absolutely no reason to listen to this pompous fool, yet for some reason found himself doing exactly that. The bloodthirsty creatures at his back who would normally be climbing over him to get at their prey were surprisingly subdued. 

He had encountered creatures with supernatural force of will before. His own mistress could cause her followers to explode in rage or cower at her feet on little more than a whim. This was, however a different order of magnitude and he could somehow sense that this Victor was not the source of the power, but merely benefiting from it.

Either way, the beast within screamed at Quinn to tear this fop into tiny pieces, yet he could not. Those behind him were similarly effected and so their aid was not an option either. "Your proposal seems more than reasonable, given the circumstances." Replied Quinn, the pragmatism for which Clan Gangrel were famous coming to the fore. "Please step aside, my mistress is impatient, and in this matter her own master is even more so..."

Victor stood aside and indicated for his guards to do the same as the monsters he was addressing snapped out of whatever trance had held them back and they charged along the passageway. Resuming their murderous rampage but now with a specific target in their minds. 

A golden haired child, invisible to all but Victor, gave him a brief, radiant smile from the shadows. The smile became an irritated scowl as he wiped a cobweb from the shoulder of his impeccably tailored and inconceivably expensive jacket. Victor stepped back in fear, conscious that it was he who was responsible for this angelic creatures presence within an environment unworthy of his presence.

Victor relaxed as the scowl became a smile once more, then the child disappeared into the darkness.

Newspaper Clippings

Scene Eighteen - A Messenger
Central Los Angeles is in chaos. The mortal gangs loyal to The Crypts Sons are in open warfare with their rivals The Blood. Priss's preemptive strike against the vampire hunters secretly leading The Blood caused untold devastation amongst mortals who had thought their preparations were a secret. Of course they were still experienced in the destruction of kindred and were equipped to do so, making casualties inevitable.

Four of the kindred under the command of Priss have met their destruction during the attacks along with at least three of the Brujah sent by Hank to accompany them. Realising that their plan had been uncovered, The Blood immediately ordered their own teams to launch a counter attack.

Unfortunately for them, and largely thanks to the intelligence provided to the Crypts Sons by Mr Hertz, Hank was ready and waiting. Knowing exactly what businesses and buildings had been acquired by their enemies had enabled Hank to predict with a great degree of accuracy which of his operations were to be targeted. His forces had been rearranged so as to make these areas a death trap for an unprepared assaulting foe.

Despite this, the Crypts Sons confidence in an easy victory had made some of the kindred under Hank's control slightly too complacent and the hunters facing them fought with a fanaticism that was completely unforeseen. Rumours of mortals burning kindred with holy symbols and their bare hands,  and causing them to flee in fear by force of will are now spreading through the Anarchs of L.A.

The Crypts Sons for their part, are downplaying their own casualties but many suspect that they were far more significant than they are letting on. Fortunately for the Crypts Sons, their main enemy amongst the kindred baronies and the one most likely to take advantage of their weakness has significant problems of their own.

One of the coteries four sweepers, a Gangrel named Priya, previously in the service of a disgraced and now destroyed former Archon, escorted a messenger into the coteries bar where Michael tended to hold his meetings. Michael had met Velme several times before, including once at a gathering of Toreador where their singing voice had bought him to tears long with most of the other listeners.

"What a pleasant surprise Velme. What can I do for you?" asked Michael, though he was almost positive he knew what the answer was going to be. He wasn't disappointed.

"The Swarm, ripped apart Ramirez's haven and tore the inhabitants into pieces last night." said Velme, getting straight to the point. "The place is such a mess that Victors people have no idea how many of Ramirez's people were there or even if he was present himself. But regardless, no-one has heard from Ramirez since."

'Mistress of the Swarm' - Gangrel
Childe of Marius
"...and the swarm?" enquired Michael.

"Still infesting the sewers as far as we can tell. It looks like they've dug in somewhere and Marius is refusing to ask their mistress to pull them back, probably because he sent them in in the first place. Though he denies it of course." Michael indicated that Velme should continue. "Victor has gathered what's left of El Hermandad to him and is securing them in a number of his own back-up havens which he claims should be safe as their whereabouts aren't generally known."

The brief investigation into Victor Girard that Daniel had made before being warned off had indeed indicated that he had havens in a variety of places. Some of these were even concealed in other baronies though these he claimed were from before he'd thrown his lot in with El Hermandad.

He also had enough personal wealth and mortal contacts to make good on a promise to protect the remnants of the baronies kindred populace. Vin had followed up these investigations with his own army of street people and had been able to confirm some of these locations but not all. Unfortunately, Michael had been obliged to call off his peoples investigations when Victor had discovered a number of Daniel's mortal investigators and so their information was incomplete.

"The matter is complicated because under normal circumstances Victor would name himself Baron and take control, however..."

Salvador Garcia - Brujah
Absentee Baron of El Hermandad
"However, Ramirez wasn't in fact a baron as the barony is in theory Salvador Garcia's..." said Michael, completing her sentence to indicate that he understood completely. "...I also sense that there's another difficulty?"

Velme went on to explain that Victor had said that though he was happy to use his resources to protect the kindred within the barony for as long as necessary, that he didn't consider himself to be a competent enough warleader to deal with the more martially orientated problem of forcing out the invaders. Michael, had already told the coterie that he believed that Victor would find a figurehead to act from behind and was pleased that he had been correct. "How do the Brujah under his protection feel about that? Surely one of them could take on the role?"

Velme sighed and then explained another issue that had occurred which was preventing a solution from being reached. "None of them individually have enough support and as Brujah problem resolution involves punching the other party in the face, there's a very good chance they'll kill each other before the swarm gets a chance to...well..." said Velme, considering their last statement. "...maybe not, but it's certainly not helping them to organise a concerted response. Also..." Velme, paused for a moment, perhaps considering her next statement. "...It's possible that Marius and members of The Circle have followed the swarm into the underground, and if the Gangrel 'Fixer' has been angered enough to involve himself personally...". 

Hybrid Bat Form - Gangrel
Descendent of Xaviar
There was no need for Velme to complete the sentence. Michael and his coterie were some of the few kindred in the city who had seen Marius kill with his own fangs and claws and he knew that there was little that could stop that rampage. Michael had personally seen him survive the penetration of multiple stakes and concentrated firepower at close range without even being slowed down. They had also witnessed his transformation into a hybrid warform that was unlike anything he had witnessed before. Even Vin had been impressed, and that took some doing.

Storytellers Note - That particular battle took place in this story HERE, scene Twenty Seven to be exact. Though I'd suggest reading the story from the beginning HERE if you're really interested.

"I, sympathise, of course." Said Michael. "But how exactly is your own Baron involved? It was my understanding that your barony and that of El Hermandad were no longer on friendly terms."

Michael of course was well aware of what all parties wanted, but he wasn't going to be the one to offer to resolve it. Especially as some powerful individuals within the Anarch community were beginning to suspect his motives. However if they asked him to help, then that was a different matter entirely.

"Gloria would like you to host a meeting between her, Victor, Marius and a few other interested parties. You've done it before, quite successfully and you are also the closest thing left in the city to a neutral party. She would, of course, be most grateful should you be instrumental in bringing the situation to a satisfactory conclusion."

"I'll be happy to help in any way I can." said Michael. "I'll start on the arrangements immediately."

Scene Nineteen - The Ramirez Ultimatum
"So we're hosting a meeting between Victor, a manipulative two-faced, power mad Toreador, a Baron who likes to kill people who interrupt her and Marius, who likes to beat kindred to death that interrupt him?" Asked Daniel somewhat incredulously. The fact that Vin seemed inexplicably amused by the idea wasn't helping much either.

"You're all well aware why this is necessary." replied Michael in his most conciliatory tone. "If this works, we will have an El Hermandad leader in our debt, with an adviser at her side who is sympathetic to our long-term goals." Daniel knew that his Baron was correct, but disliked any situation that didn't allow him time to plan out all the contingencies. "I'm well aware that we can't allow El Hermandad to collapse completely as that would let the Crypts Sons take over, even weakened as they currently are...and yes, I know that the last thing we want are any strong Anarch baronies, but..." Daniel paused as he was trying to find a way of making his objections sound better than the truth, which was that he didn't like Gloria very much and really wanted to blow her head off with a sniper rifle. "...are we sure that Gloria is the best person to place in that role?"

"It's her, Victor, or Marius kills them all..." interrupted Vin, summing up the situation in his usual direct manner. "Fine, then." said Daniel conceding the point and simultaneously pushing Gloria several places up his 'Kindred that need killing' list.

Orla - Gangrel 'Sweeper'
North-East Baronies
Storytellers Note - Both the character and the player do indeed have such a list, though I think most of L.A. is on it by now. Apparently I'm better at making dis-likeable characters than likeable ones.

Michael had altered his usual parameters for such meetings. This time it was to be the interested kindred only. No guards, no advisers, just Gloria, Marius and Victor. The only participant not alone would be Michael himself who would have Mr Hertz, Daniel and Vin with him in order to discourage any aggressive actions that the others might take.

All the guests were to arrive separately, their vehicles were to be parked in separate locations and a different sweeper would escort each one to the bar via a different entrance. All four of his Sweepers, including Hope would then be stationed at strategic points around his bar, the location he'd selected for the meeting. Marius was his only real problem should violence occur but Michael hoped that Vin, Daniel and Hope as well as three highly skilled Gangrel would be a threat that even Marius might think twice about taking on. He knew little about Mr Hertz's abilities in a direct confrontation so hadn't factored him into his calculations.

Storytellers Note - Mr Hertz is actually quite handy with guns, blades and his fists but though the players know this, their characters don't.

Rosa - Duskborn?
Visionary and Seer
Once all parties were seated at the meeting room table, Michael began. "Thank-you all for attending and for keeping to the conditions I deemed necessary to gain the best resolution possible." "In order to avoid any misunderstandings later I think it would help if you each laid out what your requirements are and we can use them as a starting point from which to move towards a peaceful solution."

Both Gloria and Victor had broadly the same requirements. Firstly that Marius had the swarms mistress withdraw her forces from the contested area and secondly that he make reparations for an unprovoked preemptive strike on his neighbour. Marius terms were far simpler, he wanted Ramirez reduced to ashes. 

"Ramirez is gone and no-one knows where he is..." claimed Victor. " fact we had presumed that your childe and her brood had destroyed him in their initial attack." Marius conceded that this was a possibility as the swarm weren't exactly a precise weapon, but would want one of his own agents to examine the scene for verification. Specifically he wished to send Rosa.

Rosa was a duskborn seer and visionary who had joined the fixer just before the destruction of Jenna Cross's thin-blood army. Some even claimed that it was her betrayal that had led to Jenna's downfall. Her dubious history aside, if anyone could be sure of Ramirez's fate, it would be her.

"And if she discovers that Ramirez survived?" queried Victor, emphasising the word discovers to underline his doubts about her integrity. "Will you then use that as an excuse to continue your invasion of our barony?" Daniel and Hertz both picked up on the use of the phrase 'our barony'. Clearly Gloria and Victor had already decided the future of El Hermandad and Whittier. Marius shrugged, but gave no answer til Michael prompted him for a reply.

"If Ramirez has indeed been destroyed then I'm satisfied that other kindred will think twice before throwing baseless accusations in my direction. If he has not, then any cessation of hostilities on my part would be conditional on Ramirez no longer being a resident of El Hermandad's barony or that of it's allies." All present with even a modicum of judgement could tell that Marius meant every word. "In short..." he continued. "...You can have Ramirez, or a peaceful resolution to the current hostilities, not both."

Storytellers Note - The players like to plan, which is, of course, perfectly fine. However it's not always spectacularly interesting to read so sometimes I skim over that bit in the write-ups, especially if some of it is out of character. Like I'm going to do now...

Michael could clearly see that both Victor and Gloria were quite happy to accept those terms but were looking for a way to do so, that shifted any responsibility from themselves. After all, Jesus Ramirez had been left in charge by Salvador Garcia himself and none could be sure how Garcia would react to word of his right hand man's exile or destruction. Fortunately this was one of a number of situations that Michael and the coterie had foreseen and discussed. Michael then laid out his proposal.

"Though I'm sure that Salvador Garcia would prefer someone of his choosing to rule over El Hermandad, surely one of his own progeny would be an adequate alternative?" he paused for effect as Gloris leaned forward, her attention now fully focused upon Michael. "As a childe of Garcia, could not you Gloria take over the mantle as de-facto Baron of the domain? Victor could aid with the transfer of responsibilities as one who is familiar with the running of El Hermandad and has the trust of those kindred who remain within it. This should stabilise the issues within the barony and the removal of Ramirez from power should satisfy Marius.

He turned to Marius as he said his name, giving him the floor for his response. "Define 'reparations'." was the reply.

The negotiations went back and forth for some time, with Marius eventually agreeing to owe both Gloria and Victor several minor boons as compensation for what he described as "The minor inconveniences you have suffered at the hands of my impulsive brood..." His agreement to honour the borders between their respective territories was however entirely conditional on Ramirez holding no position of authority within El Hermandad. 

He was also quite clear that any kindred that sided with Ramirez against himself would be hunted down and destroyed with extreme prejudice.

"You leave us little choice." conceded Gloria.

Scene Twenty - Inevitable Betrayals
Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Baron of North East L.A.
Once all the other baronies kindred had left the coterie met up once more to discuss what had occurred

Michael's empathetic abilities were preternaturally acute and he had picked up on several things during the negotiations. Though their own abilities were more investigatory in nature, both Mr Hertz and Daniel had come to conclusions of their own.

Daniel spoke first, keen to relay to the others that his distrust of Gloria was justified. "Victor was expecting the swarm and Gloria wasn't surprised either. I think she invited them in." Michael agreed with Daniel, but would certainly have phrased it differently. 

"That would be my assessment of the situation also." confirmed Michael. "Marius, for all his faults, doesn't go off half-cocked. I'm increasingly of the opinion that he plans everything and that most of his outbursts are calculated to give the impression of unpredictability. His campaign against the thin-bloods of Jenna Cross must have taken a year of planning at the very least, yet he acts like it was a spur of the moment retaliation for their attack upon him."

Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, Vincent Ghast - Brujah

Mr Hertz had a slightly different perspective. "The negotiations between Gloria and Marius over reparations were well rehearsed. I'd be surprised if any of the things promised are ever delivered, and even if they are, I'm reasonably sure that they were built into the original price. I've seen thousands of negotiations between people of power and certain patterns become apparent that weren't there in this situation." He paused briefly to take a drink of blood from his flask and then continued. "We may have planted the seed of rebellion within Gloria, but she then took the idea and went even further with it..."

"So..." interrupted Daniel. "...your saying that Gloria effectively put out a contract on Ramirez? Though that seems like something the bitch would do, I doubt she'd know where Ramirez had his haven and I'm positive that he would have hidden the location from Victor."

Christopher Houghton - Toreador
5th Generation Elder
Michael had a suspicion that he knew exactly where the information had originated from but kept it to himself for now. Revealing what he knew of the presence of the Toreador Elder, Christopher Houghton in the city would create complications. Specifically, that Daniel's inevitable curiosity might well result in his final death.

"That is a concern for another time. it's important that we don't overextend ourselves" said Michael, with unusual finality. Daniel had only heard that tone from Michael once before, when he'd warned him to stop his investigations into the mayor and his connection to a mysterious golden haired childe.

He then continued. "The Crypts Sons are reduced in number. They have also lost the services of Priss, and her new status as an independent baron reduces their assets further, meaning that Hank's reliance on us as an ally is increased. El Hermandad now has a leader who is in our debt and she has an adviser with Camarilla sympathies. We also have a foothold within Hollywood from where we can monitor the alliance between Fortier and Abrams. Not only that but we have an increased domain, acquired at no cost to ourselves. In fact in real terms we've been paid to take it on..."

For the first time since the coteries arrival in Los Angeles, Michael truly believed that they might be actually able to accomplish the seemingly impossible mission with which they had been tasked.

Victoria - Ghoul of Marius
Psychotic Personal Assistant
Feeling somewhat more confident about their overall situation in the city he finally caved into Daniel's desire to meet with Marius and find out for certain if he was responsible for the disappearance of the Gangrel sweeper Baker. It was his disappearance that had triggered the events that had enabled The Wilds Pack to absorb Covina into The Wilds.

Marius's ever present assistant Victoria arranged for a meeting that same night, Michael was somewhat concerned that she was also in one of her rare good moods. This usually meant that someone was about to, or had recently suffered at her hands. Generally this was fatal for the recipient.

After navigating the multiple layers of security that protected Marius's penthouse apartment they found themselves in the lounge section of one of the four floors of his private rooms. Several of his followers were relaxing on sofa's within the spacious area. The three sweepers, collectively known as the Circle were sitting at a table, talking in low tones, though they stopped speaking when Michael and Daniel entered.

Marius was already seated and awaiting their arrival. As they sat down in the chairs indicated by Victoria, Marius turned to his sweepers. "Shouldn't you three be doing something useful?" Though phrased as a question, it was clearly not and the three rose and left.

"So, I presume this isn't a social call?" Said Marius.

'The Circle' - Gangrel
Downtown 'Sweepers'
Michael's negotiation skills were based around his natural empathy, supplemented with the use of his more supernatural talents, neither of which were particularly useful against Marius whose outwardly projected personality seemed to change on a whim. Daniel's own talents in that area were more in the area of profiling personalities. Though he did have a talent for detecting when he was being lied to.

After some brief talk about their earlier meeting, the conversation turned to the still unresolved mystery around The Baker Disappearance. Both of the coterie members tried unsuccessfully to discover if Marius was responsible. Michael could tell that this was a game to the Gangrel who was seemingly enjoying their attempts to extract the truth from him. Eventually however he seemed to grow weary of it and became more direct. "You could just ask me, what you're trying to ask me..." Daniel then did just that. "So did you destroy Baker?"

"No..." replied Marius. "...I had him destroyed, I didn't do it myself. It suited Alice's unique talents so I delegated." With the conversation now apparently open. Michael asked a question of his own. "May we ask, why?"

"It was a simple plan to sow dissent between El Hermandad and Covina." admitted Marius with unusual honesty. "Three allied baronies is an inconvenience, so I decided to remove one from the equation. However, as Daniel suspected, the simplicity of it was ruined by Ramirez's half-arsed investigation. I therefore went to Plan B and arranged a diversion that would push one of Jenna's little rebel groups deeper into Covina. Myranda did the rest. Fortunately the improvised plan, as is often the case, worked out better than the original."

Portrait of Aviana Marie
Sire of Myranda
"So now Covina's territory is yours?" prompted Daniel. Marius's subsequent laughter seemed genuine. He then responded. "You've met my grandechilde, yes? She listens to my council of course, but I assure you that she very much considers that domain to be hers. Her final decisions are very much her own, She's very like her mother in that regard."

Not wishing to tempt fate, neither Michael nor Daniel asked him to elaborate on the comment about Myranda's biological mother and sire. Both had heard from several sources that Marius was exceptionally touchy about the subject. Daniel accepted the response but wasn't entirely sure he believed all of it.

"I thought your policy was to not act directly against barons?" asked Daniel. "Ramirez is not a Baron..." responded Marius. "...and Covina had none. Therefore the only true Baron involved was Gloria Martinez, whom I took no actions against."

"I think we've taken enough of your time." Said Michael. "Dawn approaches and we have some distance to travel..."

As Dion drove them back to Pasadena, Michael asked Daniel what he thought of Marius's confession. "Too easy..." admitted Daniel. " was like he wanted us to consider the matter closed so we wouldn't investigate any further." Yet another thing to add to the task list, thought Daniel.

To be Continued in 'The Marius Contracts' (Part One)

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

This was a long session that ended a very complicated run of political story-lines. The players planning and role-playing was exemplary and therefore I only felt a little bit irritated that they once again succeeded so well. 

Moving the plot forward, it's going to become more difficult for the players as working behind the scenes is now less of an option. Important kindred in the city have grown suspicious of just how selfless Michael's motives are, Daniel is going to have to work harder to keep his covert activities a secret as he now has a reputation as an active participant in a number of high profile kindred deaths, Vin's infamy is beginning to put other kindred leaders on the defensive and Mr Hertz's name is clearly associated with the coterie.

Let's see how successful they are with the full attention of the Anarchs of L.A. firmly upon them...

Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Entertainment AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information please visit

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, Jesus Ramirez is Javier Bardem, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Ophelia is Krysta Rodriguez, Arbaaz is Naveen Andrews, Henrique 'Hank' Boyd is Michael Clarke Duncan, Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles, Victor Girard is Bob Hoskins, Ralph Harwood is D.B. Woodside, Mariel St. John is Kate Moss, Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman, Louis Fortier is Eduardo Verastegui, Quinn is Oliver Parker, The Mistress of the Swarm is Anna Paquin, Rosa is Mahafsoun 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.

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