Friday, 11 September 2020

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Seventy - The MacNeil Protocols (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 OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Nineteen - 'The Marius Contracts' - Part One and Two
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - 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, 'Fixer'
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

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 now has a number of clues regarding 'MacNeil's system', a computer network allegedly tied into every police district database in Los Angeles.

They have obtained the names of the four suspected mortal operators, and eliminated three potential locations for the system. They have also discovered that at least two groups are also on the same trail as them. One group is a kindred paramilitary organisation calling themselves 'The MacNeils' who see themselves as protectors of Jeremy MacNeils legacy. the other is an expert Hacker and his sire who Daniel suspects may already have partial access to their goal.

Scene Eighteen - A 'Gift' from Gary
Barabus - Nosferatu
Gary Goldens Enforcer and Spy
As Michael, Hope and Daniel headed back to their car they had an unexpected encounter.

A bulky figure emerges from the shadows, he is undoubtedly Nosferatu and was apparently a physical specimen when mortal. Despite his musculature he moves as if his size is no impediment to quick action.

He has his hands raised to indicate he means you no harm. Or no immediate harm at the very least. "My name is Barabus. Gary asked me to intercept you and pass on some information on the last of the locations that interested you..." he is holding a large manilla envelope.

Michael was experienced enough of a politician to know that any information mentioned but not immediately passed on was going to have a cost attached. He was, as usual, not to be disappointed.
Barabus then continues talking. "It is Gary's opinion that this may have been a storage area for compiled information. If it is, he would be most grateful if you could acquire any files relating to an area of Hollywood called Toluca Lake."

Gary Golden - Nosferatu
Leader of the Hollywood Nosferatu
None of the three coterie members present could identify the area as having any importance to them. Hope and Daniel had already moved to either side of their baron in anticipation of any trouble should he refuse. Hope's claws were permanently at the ready and Daniel casually loosened his jacket so as to have quick access to his modified Browning Hi-Power. "I believe we had already negotiated terms in conjunction with this matter..." Began Michael. "...However if you have additional information, and the task causes us no extra difficulties, then I'm sure we can pick up any items that Gary requires." Seemingly satisfied with the reply Barabus handed over the envelope and then disappeared once more into the shadowy alley from where he had emerged.

It was fairly common knowledge that Barabus was Gary's chief spy and enforcer. The fact that the Nosferatu leader had sent him rather than one of his usual messengers was unusual. Perhaps his other servants were busy or more worryingly, perhaps Gary had expected trouble of some kind so had sent a more powerful delivery person. With no answers likely to become immediately apparent Michael handed the envelope to Daniel to look at.

The envelope contained a map of Downtown with a substation near to city hall circled in red. Two other substations had been crossed through, presumably to indicate that these aren't the entrances that the coterie required. There was also a patrol schedule for a local security firm covering the next three days. In a resealable plastic bag at the bottom of the envelope was a key which appeared to be a replacement copy rather than an original. As the use of the key was currently a mystery, Daniel slipped the key into his pocket and then he and Hope began to study the other documents.

Scene Nineteen - A Circle of One
Marius 'The Fixer' Walker - Gangrel
Baron of Downtown
Michael had once again pulled Hope from her duties as census-taker to accompany Daniel to the fourth and hopefully final of the potential 'system' locations. This particular former haven was in the middle of the barony of Marius Walker, Baron of Downtown. A notoriously unpredictable and slightly paranoid Gangrel.

Hope had become increasingly concerned about Daniel's significantly increased levels of aggression, seriousness and lack of empathy. She had used to enjoy going on jobs with the coteries own problem solver as they had, up until recently, shared a sense of humour and interest in popular culture. She said as such to Daniel but the comment was once again brushed off. "I'll find out what's wrong you know..." said Hope. She meant it too.

As they travelled, Daniel attempted to contact Marius to explain that they were travelling through Downtown, though had no intention of explaining why. Instead he got Victoria who didn't seem in the mood to chat. "I'll try to contact the sweepers for you..." was all she would commit to before hanging up.

Daniel noted that no-one seemed to have intercepted them as they entered Marius's barony which he took as a good sign. As usual he parked some distance away from the target location so as to avoid his vehicle being connected to any incidents. This habit always annoyed Hope who quipped that she would remember to "...Bring a bus timetable, next time..." This would normally have gotten a reaction from Daniel, but as with their last job together, didn't even raise a smile.

Kesara - Gangrel Sweeper
One Third of 'The Circle'
As you'd expect for the main city hall of somewhere as large and as important as Los Angeles, the building is still moderately busy even throughout the night. Though there is nowhere near the activity that you would see during business hours. According to Gary's diagram, access to the 'haven' was via a tunnel leading from a nearby substation basement to another sub-basement beneath the hall.

A dark haired, slim, almost skinny, pale-skinned woman in a business jacket and white blouse approaches you purposefully. You recognise her as one of the Sweepers collectively known as 'The Circle' though she is one of the two to which you have never been formally introduced. This would make her either Kesara or Nessa, as you have already met Ria. she got straight to the point. "Marius made no mention that you had requested to travel through his domain..."

The Banu Haqim explained that Victoria had been informed about their visit but had apparently not passed the message on. The kindred, who then introduced herself as Kesara, seemed to believe their explanation but still had questions. "So what is your particular interest in this location? I'm sure Marius will want to know, if not him then certainly Victoria..." Hope shrugged and deferred to Daniel. He used the excuse that they were looking into several missing people on behalf of their Baron and that he hadn't been given any explanation of why. Kesara nodded sympathetically. 

'The Circle' - Gangrel
Grandechilder of Marius, Bahari
Daniel had correctly assumed that she would accept a 'just following orders' explanation as he doubted very much that Marius revealed the full details of the reasoning behind tasks to a mere Sweeper, even one that was his grandechilde. It then followed that she would presume the same of others. The sweeper then gave Hope a plain business card with a number on it.

"If you have any problems, send a text to this number with your location in it. Don't use any kindred related keywords though, I'm sure you know the potential drawbacks with that. If, on the other hand, you were to create any problems, then I'm afraid I and my sisters would have to clean-up ALL the loose ends, I'm sure we understand each other."

Once Kesara was sure that they understood the vague threat, she left them to their own devices. Hope doubted she'd go far though. If the circumstances were reversed, Hope would certainly still keep her eye on any visitors through her Baron's domain. She doubted that any of the members of The Circle were any different from her in that regard.

Scene Twenty - Beneath City Hall
'Abandoned' Substation
The substation appears to be currently unused and the main door is secured by a heavy duty lock, through a metal bar attached to the wall on either side of the doorway. Several signs are on both the door and the wall beside it, warning about everything from high voltage to generic danger signs and the obligatory 'Authorised Personnel Only'. An occasional patrol by an official looking uniformed guard is the only exterior security you can see and corresponds almost exactly to the schedule you have received from Gary via Barabus. There doesn't even appear to be a security camera.

The key supplied by Gary fit this lock perfectly. Hope was slightly concerned that given that the lock fit through a bar across the door that it might well be noticeably unlocked to any passerby. After some discussion it was decided that nothing could be done about that and so they entered regardless.

The access door to the corridor is exactly where Gary specified it would be and the lock on the outside could (in your opinion) be bypassed by a small child with a paper-clip. It's worth noting however that the generators within are emitting a background hum which would seem to indicate that they are, in fact, entirely functional.

Daniel picked the lock with the ease he had anticipated and he and Hope navigated the narrow corridor to the door at the opposite end. After a brief check for additional security systems, Daniel picked this locked with the same ease as the previous one and they entered.

Daniel's Lockpick Set
Storytellers Note - Unless under pressure or otherwise impaired I rarely make players roll for tasks that their characters would find to be completely routine. Also, nothing makes a player more paranoid than when everything seems to be going fine...

There's a large room full of filing cabinets, paperwork in box files and desks piled high with various official looking police files, list of phone numbers and other information indicative of police investigations. There are, however, some obvious gaps where sections of paperwork have been removed. Other than the door from which you entered there's another in the far, right corner that unusually appears to have no handle on this side.

Seeing no obvious dangers they began to investigate further.

The room is divided up into sections that broadly correspond to the baronies of Los Angeles as they were a decade ago. Any incident that could be attributed to a kindred has been logged though the majority, no doubt were mundane incidents with no supernatural connections. Murders, missing persons, unexplained suicides, drug overdoses, etc. These have been stamped 'no further action', others have vague notes attached along the lines of 'refer to' followed by initials or other coded abbreviations'.

You can only surmise that MacNeil passed on information to appropriate kindred or their agents to minimise or remove problems and kept hard copies 'just in case'.

It occurred to the two investigators that this could of course mean that some of the more intuitive kindred of L.A. might be aware that MacNeil had some kind of insider knowledge, though may not have known exactly how it was obtained.

The Blounts - Toreador
Serial Diablerists
Downtown's section, what was the Barony of the Angels at the time, was found to be missing entirely as was most of that relating to Hollywood, Santa Clarita, Simi, West L.A, and The Wilds though these seemed to have been removed some time ago based on the dust. A significant amount of the Santa Ana section was also gone though this has been taken far more recently, weeks in fact, rather than years. MacNeil also quite obviously knew about the depredations of the Blounts sisters as Glendale's file was three times the size of any of the other baronies.

Storytellers Note - The Blounts story-line can be found HERE, HERE and is later concluded HERE.

You hear voices from the approach corridor.

Daniel indicated for Hope to keep silent and then turned his supernatural sense of hearing to it's most acute and attempted to ascertain who these uninvited guests might be.

"So you're informant says this is where all the old files were kept?" Another voice confirms this information before continuing to talk. "We need to find some info on where Jeremy's people were instructed to move the system in the event of his destruction and there might be a clue in the old files. Specifically we need to find it before that hacker and the whore that's pulling his strings gets hold of it..." You hear the first voice again. this time much closer. "...and what about the Gangrel?" There's a pause before any reply is forthcoming and the voice doesn't sound particularly confident with their reply "He doesn't even know the system exists...Hey? shouldn't this door be fucking locked?" You then hear several weapons been drawn and readied...

'The MacNeils' - Kindred Paramilitary Force

Hope metamorphosised into her raven form and flew up onto one of the ceiling supports. Lacking such abilities, Daniel moved to the side of the door and then blended into the shadows. The leader of the group outside spoke again, anger evident in his voice. "It will be a good idea for anyone inside to step out now. Don't make us do something you wont live to regret..." Daniel and Hope ignored them, awaiting their chance to escape or attack.

Hope - Flight Form
The centre of the door is shredded by shotgun blasts and several grenades are thrown into the room through the newly created hole. You have only seconds to react...

Daniel crossed to the far corner of the room in the blink of an eye to avoid the blast as Hope flew through the newly created hole to the access corridor. A squad of four men in military style body armour and carrying assault weapons were focused on the door as she burst through the shotgun shredded hole and over their heads. Their reactions were supernaturally quick and two opened fire on her avian form as the other pair moved towards the room still containing Daniel.

In such a narrow corridor, Hopes small size was very little defence as several bullets struck her in the air, shredding one of her wings. Transforming back to humanoid form as she hit the ground she then rolled to her feet and carried on running. As she did so she reached into her pocket, pulled out a thankfully intact mobile phone and hit the button for the number she'd entered mere minutes earlier. Hopefully Kesara would bring help before she and Daniel were shot to pieces.

The two MacNeils not concentrating upon Hope appeared within the room in a blink of an eye. The first shooter systematically filled the room with gunfire while the other scanned for any movement. As several rounds tore into the Banu Haqim's side the second shooter shifted his weapon to point exactly at Daniel's location. Not confident about surviving concentrated gunfire from two foes, Daniel covered the distance to them in a moment and attempted to grapple the closest shooter hoping to minimise the amount of damage he was about to receive.

Daniel enhanced his strength with his dwindling reserves of Vitae as he healed as many of his wounds as he could. His opponent was as deadly up close as at range, perhaps even more so as the Brujah enhanced his own capabilities and broke several of the Banu Haqim's ribs. Now too low on vitae to even heal himself, he took the dangerous step of driving his fangs into the Brujah's throat. Kindred vitae had an unpredictable effect on those of the Banu Haqim clan but Daniel had no other choice if he wished to survive.

Hope felt several more rounds enter her back, as the natural resilience of her clan reduced the damage but couldn't eliminate it fully. Realising that her pursuers were slowing she turned to face them, hoping to draw them further from Daniel. At the same time she hardened her body against the banes of all kindred in case the MacNeils had more weapon options than she had yet seen. They opened fire, the narrow corridor focusing most of the projectiles into her body but once again her clans endurance and powers of resilience saved her from destruction. Realising that she would not survive another such assault, she was torn between abandoning her friend and saving herself or hurling herself into their midst and taking at least one of them with her. The decision was, fortunately taken out of her hands.

One of your attackers radios beeps before a panicked voice can be heard. "We've got incoming..." followed by a scream then silence. The team begins to withdraw towards the door, their attention now split between yourselves and this new mysterious threat.

Hybrid Bat Form - Descendents of Xaviar
Daniel pushed his opponent aside, as they paused momentarily and risked a glance down the passageway, praying that Hope had managed to elude their ambushers.

A pair of large winged creatures, like humanoid bats are moving down the corridor at speed. Though they are almost impossible to miss in such a narrow space, most of those rounds that are on target flatten against their undead flesh. The few that penetrate do next to nothing to slow their momentum despite apparently doing significant damage. The door in the corner of the file room is opened from the opposite side and another of the creatures clears the room in a single leap and tears into your enemies. The new attackers movements are nigh impossible to follow and each blow destroys utterly whatever it touches either pulverising flesh and bone or slicing limbs from torso's. Body armour is made a mockery of.

The assault is short and brutal, there are no survivors. It seems that taking prisoners was not even considered as an option.

Nessa - Gangrel Sweeper
One Third of 'The Circle'
"About fucking time..." snarled Hope.

The three creatures begin to change shape, reducing in size, dark skin flowing into clothing as the three sweepers known collectively as 'The Circle' are revealed. Kesara is wearing the same outfit she had on when she confronted you upon entering Downtown. Ria who the coterie has encountered before is wearing combat style trousers and jacket, a high calibre handgun is holstered at her side and she is holding a P90. The final member of the group must be Nessa. She is a few inches shorter than her sister's but judging from the assault is by far the most vicious. Kesara is the first to speak. "Did I fail to explain myself adequately or are you all slightly deaf?"

"They attacked us without provocation, and we contacted you immediately as you specified we should..." replied Hope, making no effort to conceal her anger. "...what the fuck did you expect us to do? Roll over and play dead?" Strangely, Hope's anger seemed to do more to placate Kesara more than mere platitudes would have. "You're right of course..." Kesara replied. "...without the benefit of surprise and our hereditary advantages we might have had some difficulties ourselves against that concentration of firepower."

While the Gangrel talked, Daniel sated himself on the blood left within the mangled and dismembered remains of the destroyed MacNeils, healing his wounds then feeding once more until his undead flesh was restored. Though they clearly noticed what he was doing, none of the Gangrel made any comment. He was sure they had done much worse themselves.

Ria - Gangrel Sweeper
One Third of 'The Circle'
All of their phones ring simultaneously though only Ria answers. After listening for a moment she hands the phone to Kesara, who also listens intently, though speaks only to confirm that she understands whatever the caller is saying. After a moments pause she then addresses you both, her tone becoming serious once more. 

"If you want to retrieve anything in particular from this mess then you have ten minutes to do so, then I'm to dispose of everything left in the room...and I do mean 'everything'. We'll wait outside."

Unsure of what to make of such uncharacteristic generosity, the pair reentered the file room before anyone changed their minds. After a brief search they noticed that a piece of plaster on one wall had been knocked loose during the engagement. Some kind of recess behind it had been revealed. Daniel reached in and discovered a small metal box, similar to a petty cash tin. 

Not sure whether their benefactors would consider this find as part of the arrangement, the pair slipped it into one of the file boxes. They then grabbed anything they could carry that related to the baronies under Michael's control before leaving as fast as possible. A moment before they left, Hope remembered that they'd promised a file to Gary Golden so quickly retrieved it before their time limit elapsed.

"We're just taking these files..." stated Hope as she passed Marius's sweepers in the corridor. "...if that's okay?" She took the shrug as a 'Yes'.

Scene Twenty One - Consequences
Rosalind Perkins - Duskborn
Thin-Blood Alchemist
Once the files and their extra discovery were safely packed in Daniels vehicle, Hope finally lost patience with Daniel. "What the fuck happened!?!?!"

"I lost control." admitted Daniel. "Not for the first fucking time..." countered Hope. Daniel confirmed that his control had been slipping lately but that it was something that he was getting on top of. Hope severely doubted that claim but could see Daniel becoming evasive again. Once more she offered to help him, this time as a friend, not merely a concerned colleague. She also hinted at her own battles with addiction. Attempting to show that she trusted Daniel implicitly and that he should think of her in the same way, she allowed herself to be dropped off at her haven. A location previously known only to her and her thin-blood herd.

Storytellers Note - Hope can only gain sustenance from kindred vitae. She has a duskborn alchemist under her protection who thickens blood from her thin-blood herd, and in turn Hope keeps her own herd fed with mortal blood. This is something that she'd very much like to remain a secret as it's both an abuse of her position as Sweeper and definitely something that her Baron would take issue with.

As soon as Michael saw Victoria's number flash up on his phone he knew that something had gone wrong with Hope and Daniels reconnaissance. Michael tried his best to sound relaxed when he greeted her. "Marius wanders if you could make time to meet him to discuss a somewhat eventful evening that two of your people had in Downtown. You'll have to meet us at an alternate location as he'll be occupied here for the next few evenings. I''ll send you the address." Michael noted that Victoria seemed amused about something, which usually meant bad news for somebody. Hopefully it wasn't going to be him.

Glaser Safety Slug
Once Daniel arrived back at the gallery he explained what had occurred to Michael who then passed onto him the bad news. "Get back in touch with Hope and find me Vin. I need to make a few calls of my own in case this goes badly..." While Michael attempted to cover their backs, Daniel finally got around to opening the box.

The box contains a business card for a company called NikNak Computing, a deed for a property in the Hollywood Hills area known as Griffith Park with the specific address information deliberately removed, a seven digit number on a scrap of paper and a pair of speed loaders for a .44 Magnum revolver, both full. There are also several loose .45 ACP rounds with blue tips.

Vin recognised the blue-tipped rounds as Glaser ammunition. These bullets contained shot, like a shotgun cartridge and were designed to minimise collateral damage. Vin casually dismantled one with his bare hands and emptied the shot into the palm of his hand. It was made of silver. The Magnum rounds were hollow-points that someone had filled the tips of, also with silver.

Fiorenza Savona - Ventrue
Camarilla Power Broker
As Griffiths park was considered to be werewolf territory, a worrying thought occurred to all present about the kind of location that Jeremy MacNeil might have moved his system to. One that necessitated having silver bullets to hand, apparently.

Michael handed the documents over to Mr Hertz and gave instructions for the other items to be concealed in their escape tunnel. He also stated that he wanted them and the other clues to MacNeils system split up so as to minimise the chance of a thief managing to acquire them all in one go. Finally he left a message for Fiorenza Savona making it quite clear that if he disappeared tonight that Marius was the prime suspect.

When the address for the meeting was finally sent to Michael's phone it was for somewhere in a residential area of Downtown. The specific location was something called 'The Temple of Enlightenment'.

Michael knew of the place due to it'a connection to a number of Los Angeles celebrities. It had been actively recruiting members with it's philosophies of self help through meditation, martial art style exercises and diet and was considered by most outside observers to be a gimmicky health club rather than a religious organisation. They also offered a wide variety of services typical to luxury health clubs and those who availed themselves of such services were apparently left relatively free from exposure to the temple's religious philosophies other than being passed the occasional leaflet.

Apparently there was far more to it than he had been aware of.

Scene Twenty Two - The Temple of Enlightenment
The Temple of Enlightenment
The 'Temple' is in a gated community on the edge of a residential section of Downtown. Entry via the exterior gate is a simple matter of stating your intended destination and having the make, model and licence plate of your vehicle logged. Your names have already been added to an approved list, presumably by Victoria.

The houses are luxurious and judging from the vehicles parked outside, the residents are successful people. There are regular security patrols from a private firm called 'mercury security solutions' judging from the vehicle logo, and clusters of security cameras are mounted on poles at strategic intervals presumably feeding into a secure office somewhere on the site.

Daniel noted that the guards seem professional and alert. Vin pointed out that if the guards on the gate were armed, so presumably were the patrols. 

Mercurio - Ghoul and Arms Dealer
It was also noted that the guards were employees of 'Mercury Security Solutions', the legitimate business wing of Mercurio's arms dealing organisation. The coterie knew that Mercurio was formerly a ghoul of the now destroyed Prince LaCroix and had been desperate to maintain his supply of kindred vitae afterwards. Rumour had it that three of Los Angeles Barons took turns in providing his needs in return for access to his resources. If true, his benefactors were very good at keeping secrets as their identities were completely unknown.

The Temple of Enlightenment is a far older building than the modern community surrounding it, possibly an old church or similar. It's own walls are tall and solidly constructed and topped with decorative but obviously wickedly sharp ornamentation.

Security cameras have been mounted in armoured housings as have the cables running from them. The ornate gate at the entrance has unusually thick bars, mounted close together, the hinges are also reinforced. The physical security has been concealed as much as possible amongst the ornamentation but is still formidable and state of the art.

"I wonder if all this security is to keep people out, or in?" enquired Daniel. Michael was reasonably sure that he didn't want to know the answer and simultaneously concerned that he was in imminent danger of discovering exactly that. Vin slid his hand beneath his jacket and loosened his machete in it's scabbard, just in case.

The gate opens as your vehicle approaches and a guard points towards a parking space near the front of the building. A parking area to one side is accessible only via another guarded and gated section and it's impossible to see the vehicles clearly from where you are parked. The only other vehicle favoured with a place at the front of the building is an armoured SUV that dwarf's your own vehicle. Standing by the vehicle door is a tall dark-haired woman in a stylised and somewhat impractical version of a chauffeurs uniform. If she feels self conscious in the somewhat sexualised outfit she doesn't show it.

Unknown Gangrel
Children of the Wolf, Bahari
A blonde-haired woman with extensive tattoos and piercings is waiting by a heavily reinforced set of doors at the temples entrance. An armoured security camera is mounted in the corner, observing both the door and the area in front of it. "None initiates aren't normally allowed access to the temple during gatherings to honour the Dark Mother so be careful what you do and say. Your status outside these walls means nothing within, remember that..."

"Thank-you for the advice." Replied Michael in a carefully neutral tone. Daniel was more interested in the fact that they hadn't been searched or for that matter even asked about any weapons they might be carrying. This seemed to him to be carelessness bordering on arrogance when compared to the other security precautions.

You quickly move through areas that seem no different to that of any luxurious hotel, health farm or spiritual retreat and beyond towards the central section of this surprisingly expansive structure. Your guide reaches another door and swings it open with a flourish.

Storytellers Note - Irritatingly, everyone was to pass the Willpower Tests I was about to make them take...

The smell of both mortal and kindred blood is almost overwhelming as you enter the courtyard garden at the temple's centre and you have to strongly resist the urge to turn and run. The feeling is similar to that you have felt in Marius's presence on the rare occasions that he has decided not to shield his aura from you all. This is not as powerful, but seems to assail you from a dozen different directions. 

Bahari Initiate
Children of the Wolf
Some of those present you recognise, many you do not. 

Those who had been to the compound in the Santa Monica mountains, formerly a Verbena mage commune and later home to the mortal followers of a trio of Tremere blood sorcerers recognised a significant proportion of those there. It seemed obvious now that the bodies discovered soon after it's alleged destruction were not of the cult, but rather their victims. It was also evident that the ever adaptive cultists had found a new patron.

Mortals and kindred alike are engaged in acts ranging from the purely sexual, to those closer to torture and others somewhere in-between. The focus is on pain and suffering as those surrounding you seem to be competing with one another to see who can inflict and endure the worst that the imagination has to offer and beyond. It is also evident that some of those here are, if mortal, highly unlikely to survive the experiences without medical intervention.

Daniel's knowledge as both surgeon and assassin led him to a different conclusion. The mutilations were actually more precise than was at first apparent. The victims survival was in fact quite likely, though the precision shown did indicate to him a worrying level of ability implying a great deal of previous practice from many present. The point of the activities seemed to be pain, not death or destruction.

Victoria - Ghoul of Marius
Crafter of Flesh
Victoria is one of the few fully clothed individuals present and is moulding the flesh of a plain, slightly overweight young blonde woman into a new configuration. She is peeling away flesh and re-sculpting the bone beneath, then rebuilding the muscles over the top as if merely sculpting clay. As she works the subject begins to look disturbingly like Victoria herself as if she is creating some bizarre self portrait. 

Aida who was the only survivor of your assault upon the kindred gang called 'the Purgatory' is, along with Mary's high priestess Esther drinking from a mortal woman though seem to be taking blood from her stomach rather than the throat.

The coterie members with knowledge of the occult had heard rumours that the Bahari considered fertility and sex to be sources of strength, with some factions placing special prominence on blood or vitae taken from the womb.

Other notable attendees are Vinicius Santos, leader of the Gangrel pack known as The Hunters, who currently is having his skin gradually peeled away by half a dozen mortals, ghouls and kindred equipped with a variety of bladed instruments. 

Vinicius Santos: The Hunters Pack, Lola and Samael: The Wilds Pack

Lola of the Wilds Pack is sitting cross-legged along one wall, covered in blood, smiling as if to some private joke only she can hear, as her own flock of predatory birds peck and claw at her flesh. Watching her intently is a male kindred wearing a mask of skin, presumably her pack-mate Samael. Central to the courtyard, Marius's ghouled Verbena Mages, along with a third woman you've never seen before, are gathering blood and other bodily fluids from a number of willing donors in a bowl over which they are enacting some strange ritual. Dark flames surround the bowl and the mages and ghostly female faces can be seen in the air around them.

At the far end of the garden, Marius is seated on a stone slab, naked from the waist up. His childe Mary, Mother of the Children of the Wolf is behind him to his left holding an ornate, wavy-bladed knife, dripping blood that is nearly black in colour. To his right, his grandechilde Myranda has a similar weapon, also covered in the same dark vitae. Marius facial expression is blank. Occasionally he looks across the assembled Bahari though there is no sign that he is actually interested in any of the activities going on.

Michael's empathy was acute even by the standards of his clan and he could see Marius was not just vaguely disinterested but actually bored by the activities before him. Then a micro-expression flashed across his face so quickly the Toreador almost missed it. The expression was one of contempt or disdain. Who the target of this emotion was is impossible to distinguish. It could have been an individual or the gathering as a whole. Michael filed the information away for future reference. It may come in useful in the future. If they survived this meeting that is.

"I'm sure it amused Victoria no end to drag you to this place, let's talk somewhere a little more private."
As he rises and walks to a wooden doorway in one corner you can see that the skin has been completely removed from his back, as have a number of the larger muscles. Black blood flows into the spaces as the damage is restored in an instant, he then grabs a crumpled coat from the floor and puts it on without looking back.

There was a small and unremarkable office beyond the door. Marius seated himself behind the desk and the asked Michael an odd question. "Have you ever been so disappointed with something that you created, something that you originally looked upon with pride but that now seems worthy only of fire. Like the only solution is erasing it from existence?"

 Michael agreed that he had felt that way about works of art in the past but that he usually attempted to improve them and learn from his mistakes. He did however admit that he had destroyed works that he thought were irredeemable. The Gangrel Baron then snapped out of his melancholy with startling speed and his attitude became far more confrontational. "So what the fuck happened in Downtown today?

Michael decided against outright lying, instead masking their actual goal with half truths and plausible side steps of certain questions. He also pointed out that Victoria had been contacted and informed and had apparently been "Too busy..." to pass on the message to Marius's Sweepers in Downtown. "That being true or not, I am still left to clean up a mess that your people created while looking for MacNeils system" countered Marius. Ignoring the bombshell that Marius was aware of their potential prize, Hope then interrupted.

"I remember having a mentor once tell me that there was nothing wrong with withdrawing from a fight you couldn't win. In fact your own Sweepers confirmed that they would have done exactly the same in the circumstances and it was Kesara who told me to ring her if there was trouble. Which is exactly what we did..." Another emotional switch occurred as something about the situation seemed to suddenly amuse Marius. He then rose from his chair and opened a door in the opposite side of the office. "I think I have a way you can redeem yourselves." said Marius and indicated that they should follow him.

Scene Twenty Three - An Execution
The corridors they now walked were in complete contrast to the areas through which they had initially travelled. Rooms that could only be described as torture chambers were interspersed with prison cells of various sizes, though none of them appeared to be currently occupied. They also noticed that they were no longer alone as several of the ceremonies attendees were now following them into the catacombs. It seemed that the facilities above were not sufficient for the tortures they were currently enduring. After descending several levels they eventually reached a heavy wooden door, reinforced with heavy iron bars and bolts, through which Marius indicated they should go.

Kneeling chained upon the viscera stained floor were three of the MacNeils that they had encountered at the former Haven of Jeremy MacNeils in San Fernando. Each had been beaten, tortured and left with just enough vitae to stave off torpor, but not enough to heal themselves. Behind each was a member of 'The Circle'. "Some of these fuckers tried to kill me once you know?.." said the erratic Gangrel, almost conversationally. Almost out of habit, Michael began to appeal for clemency, but knew that realistically these kindred were about to be destroyed and that there was nothing that could be done about it.

Marius continued as if Michael hadn't spoken. " as two of your people have spent their evening inconveniencing me, and did so on your orders, that makes three of you that need to redeem yourselves. By a fortunate coincidence we have three enemies here that need executing...that's one each."

Michael had always prided himself on his humanity and fairness. Executing a kneeling, defenceless kindred was something he just couldn't bring himself to do. Yet he was also quite certain that his choices were to comply with the request and abandon his morality or risk the un-lives of all present with an outright refusal.

"Vin..." said Michael. "...resolve this for me..."

The powerful Brujah walked over to the closest kneeling kindred, lifted them off the ground by their throat and with a backhanded blow, decapitated them. Hope and Daniel removed the heads of the remaining pair with claw and gunfire respectively. All then waited for Marius's reaction. He leaned in close to Michael and whispered into his ear. "I knew you wouldn't you know..." He then addressed his most loyal ghoul who had just entered the room.

"Victoria, escort our guests out will you. They weren't as entertaining as I hoped they'd be..."

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 session got a bit heavy towards the end, though it was an intentional change of pace from the action orientated earlier scenes. The players enjoyed themselves which was the most important thing.

They also more or less did what I expected for a change so I actually had a lot of stuff I could read out unchanged. Hence there's a lot of 'reading to the group' stuff in blue this write up. I doubt it'll last though.

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, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Victoria Anne is Lilith May, Kesara is Eiza Gonzalez, Summer Glau is Nessa, Amanda Tapping is Ria, Fiorenza Savona is Jamie Curtis, Unknown Gangrel is Shelly D'Inferno, Vinicius Santos is Liev Schreiber, Sylvia Drake is Elisanth, Clara Drake is Absentia and Diedrie Drake is Daedra and Myranda is Shannyn Visceral.

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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