Friday 20 November 2020

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Seventy Six - Veni, Vidi, Victor (Part One)

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. Over a year of plotting allowed the coterie to gain control of the three North-Eastern Baronies and a large part of a fourth. Now they are moving on to the final stage of their campaign and have their eyes on taking over the entire city, either directly or by proxy.
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 OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
Interlude Session One - After Griffith Park
Interlude Session Two - Divide and Conquer
Interlude Session Three - On the Brink of War
Chronicle Four - 'Conquest L.A.'

The PC's
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 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.

Storytellers Note - Due to a Covid related local lockdown in the area in which I live, our group is currently unable to meet up in person. We have therefore done this session via 
messengers video 'room' app. 

Priss - Lasombra
Baron of 'The Border'
The situation between the baronies is becoming even worse. 

Priss's stand down, apparently at Baron Tomassio's request, was initially taken as a positive move but word has spread about her consolidating the security of her haven and stocking up on weaponry which has mitigated her neighbours optimism somewhat.

Aegis's involvement in reinforcing her headquarters has been seen as Marius taking a side whereas a number of other kindred have pointed out that any kindred with means uses Aegis. The only real exceptions being Isaac and Louis. Both of which have access to their own construction companies anyway. The same insinuations and counters are being made about her recent acquisition of functional high-end weaponry, though this being America, she could have gotten those anywhere.

Storytellers Note - Some players noted that Marius was getting the blame for them supplying guns to Priss and several became concerned about how he might react.

The Gangrel packs of The Wilds have returned from whatever was occupying them in the San Gabriel Mountains and after a brief respite are now an increasingly common sight along El Hermandad's Eastern border. They are staying on their side but seem to be mirroring the patrol patterns of their neighbours. Hanks remaining kindred forces are now almost exclusively stationed along his border with El Hermandad along with many of his mortal gang members.

Ralph Harwood - Ventrue
'The Blue Bloods' Gang Leader
Ralph Harwood is now an increasingly regular presence in San Fernando though has been taking care to avoid Santa Monica. This may have something to do with the fact that both Therese and Jeanette have been seen at the Asylum Club there. If both Voermans have put aside their differences then they must believe that a threat to them both exists.

The Gangrel Oratory has began to talk about Ralph's expansion into San Fernando as a reaction to claims by Harwood about Fortier being a weakening power in the city. The rumours claim that Harwood has criticized Baron Fortier for "Giving Santa Monica to the Voermans for no gain...", "Selling Downtown to Marius for basically fuck all..." and doing nothing when Marius "Stole the Barony of the Angels from under all the other barons noses..." The implication being that Ralph Harwood believes that Fortier isn't the only 'weakening power' amongst the barons. Harwood has been strangely quiet on the subject, which many are taking to mean that there is definitely some truth to the gossip.

Storytellers Note - Michael's player is aware that Ralph has denied it, the Gangrel just aren't spreading that information.

Though perhaps unconnected. Louis Fortier has apparently demanded an immediate meeting with Marius. Even more surprising was that the demand was complied with, leading many to point out that 'weakening Barons' weren't usually in the position to summon 'The Fixer' at will, especially as Marius is a Baron in his own right. 

Henrique 'Hank' Boyd - Brujah
Baron of The Crypts Sons
Michael has been acting as peacemaker and diplomat, attempting to bring the baronies of L.A. back from the brink of war and has surprised many by having had an actual success. Victor has agreed to match Priss's stand-down, but is understandably still patrolling his border with the Crypts Sons as the two still have no reason to trust one another's intentions. This minor but unexpected achievement has further cemented his reputation as the premier arbiter amongst L.A.s Anarchs.

Zipper has reported in and is reasonably sure that he can get full access to two of the three police stations covering El Hermandads territory active in no more than two weeks, he does currently have minor access but it's security isn't fully tested so he doesn't want to push his luck yet. Some minor enquiries can be carried out for you if you wish but he'd like to avoid poking into major investigations just yet. The third police station will take slightly longer as according to Zipper they have updated their entire system so he is more or less working from scratch.

He does however seem to be honouring his agreements to you and is somewhat obsessive about getting the job done to the point that he sometimes forgets to feed. It's very clear to you all that without Rose he'd quickly fall apart as she is more or less bringing him what she apparently refers to as 'Take away' meals. Your rules against killing of kine are being kept to as Rose is seemingly, very talented at manipulation.

'Zipper' and Rose - Caitiff, Residents of the North-East Baronies

Scene One - New Residents, New Problems
Cai Arias - Toreador
Artist and Sculptor
The recent influx of kindred taking advantage of Michael's generous terms for feeding grounds have settled in without trouble. 

The Toreador Cai has created a selection of interesting exhibits for the gallery to compliment Michael's recent move into darker works of art and has already accumulated a small group of sycophants from whom he is feeding sparingly. With some encouragement and guidance he may have potential but Michael still suspects he could go running back to his sire once his 'Abstract Toreador' phase has run it's course. He is therefore unwilling to put too much effort into bringing out his abilities.

Storytellers Note - Members of traditionally Camarilla clans in the Anarch Movement are referred to as Unchained Malkavians, Red Nosferatu, Abstract Toreador, Ipsissimus Tremere and Free Ventrue.

Alex Ivanov has become an increasingly regular attendant at the debates of the Brujah Idealists and his differing perspective has bought new life to their debates. Something they sorely needed. The other Brujah, Haydon and Sabine, have been fairly quiet and are causing no issues according to the coteries Sweepers who are keeping an eye on them. Meanwhile the Gangrel 'Max' and their ghoul have more or less disappeared, making themselves known only when a sweeper patrol comes through their feeding ground. That was until yesterday...

Alex Ivanov, Sabine Fisher, Haydon Monroe - Independent Brujah

One of the Sweepers, Orla, has been in touch with the coteries decision makers. It seems the Gangrel 'Farmer' Max and their ghoul had a run-in with two unknown kindred making their way through the feeding ground allocated to them. When confronted the interlopers opened fire. As the Gangrel was unprepared they withdrew, before doubling back. Max then tracked them to see where the intruders were going. These unknowns scouted the area near the border then headed back towards El Hermandad.

Orla - Gangrel
Sweeper for the North East
Orla also relayed a question from Max who wanted to know if Michaels 'No Killing' rule applied to kindred poachers and trespassers. Orla has told Max to err on the side of caution, but decided that she'd best ask anyway.

Michael told Orla to relay to Max that defending oneself was entirely reasonable, especially with trespassers who attacked first. Both Hope and Daniel knew that Michael wouldn't condone murder outright, though he accepted that in kindred society it was an evil that was sometimes impossible to avoid.

Max had  described the interlopers as a short black man and a tall white one, though Max also observed that the short one "...seemed to know the rudiments of wilderness survival..." whatever that means in Gangrel terms was somewhat debateable. Orla also believed it unlikely that Max would be caught the same way twice. She relayed her distinct impression that Max was cautious but not cowardly by any stretch of the imagination.

Michael pointed out that 'towards' El Hermandad didn't necessarily mean 'from' El Hermandad. Despite this, Hope and Daniel were more or less convinced that these trespassers were scouts from their neighbour mapping the area for some nefarious purpose. Vin withheld judgement but made a mental note to put all his own spies and lookouts on full alert once he left this meeting.

Scene Two - Mr Hertz Investigates
Jeremy MacNeil - Brujah
Former Baron of Los Angeles
Mr Hertz had been spending his spare time between managing the coteries criminal endeavours, searching through the many interesting files given to him by Michael. The coterie had substantial files obtained about the Vignes estate, gifted to them by Vera and files purported to belong to Jeremy MacNeil sent to them by a mysterious benefactor.

They also had many informative files extracted from the repository below City Hall. The Nosferatu had bene busy deciphering and cross-referencing his discoveries.

While the coterie was gathered to discuss the issue of trespassers, Hertz shared his own conclusions with them. 

After deciphering the coded language used by MacNeil, Mr Hertz had found out that Jeremy believed that Mohammed al-Muthlim, former leader and founder of the Crypts Sons was a Sabbat infiltrator, possibly as high ranked as Bishop, though also was of the opinion that only one of his two childer was close enough to him to be a trusted confident. Annoyingly he hadn't specified which one. As Hertz's Nosferatu contacts had confirmed that Henry 'Slash' Taylor apparently didn't survive the purge by the Kindred of the East, there was a 50/50 chance that the Sabbat influence over the gang ended at that time. 

Mohammed al-Muthlim
Lasombra, Crypts Sons Founder
It was also entirely possible that any Crypts Sons kindred that survived the purge were Sabbat or at the very least sympathetic to it's aims and perhaps still were. "Your guess is as good as mine at the moment..." stated Mr Hertz. Daniel, who was already suspicious of Priss, was quite willing to believe that she was both Mohammed al-Muthlims other childe and a Sabbat operative.

Mr Hertz's second piece of information from MacNeils files was interesting but less useful to them currently. It turned out that it was MacNeil who had had the Malkavian Baron of Burbank known as Bela 'removed' as the Second Inquisition became a new and significant threat. Bela was a Malkavian who firmly believed that he was Dracula as embodied by the 1930's actor Bela Lugosi. Though he was both beloved and laughed at by the rest of the Kindred in Los Angeles, his disappearance was considered to be a blessing. Such an individual could easily have attracted the Inquisitions interest. However from the language used in the notes Hertz believes it's possible that Jeremy had him put Bela torpor rather than destroyed him. He used phrases like "Put to sleep." and "Removed as an immediate threat.", but never "Destroyed."

'Bela' - Malkavian, former Baron of Burbank, Presumed Destroyed

The coterie agreed that this wasn't something they needed to act upon any time soon, but might become relevant at a later time.

Mercurio - Unbound Ghoul
Arms Dealer
Clues within the Vignes files had clarified enough so that Mr Hertz was also now sure that one of Mercurio's three Baron donors was former Baron Edward Vignes as there were definite links within the files from Vera that were given to him to sort through.

He now believed that this was how Edward kept the loyalty of the gangsters he had under his control at the time. His blood was certainly part of the payment for the weapons provided. Rumours surrounding LaCroix's former ghoul had always stated that he had three kindred donors who kept him supplied with Vitae in return for access to his arms dealing contacts and information sources.

Using this as a starting point he was now also certain that Amethyst was his second contact due to connections he has discovered from her distribution hub to areas in Pasadena. Specifically the warehouse where Edward Vignes was 'destroyed'. The aforementioned hub was given later to Hugo Snyder and is now controlled by the Gangrel 'Hunters' Pack. This hub received regular shipments from the half of the docks then controlled by David Geduld. Though merely a guess on his part, Geduld would have likely been donor number three.

As all three of these kindred are long destroyed, yet the ninety year old Mercurio still looks in his thirties. Hertz logically extrapolated that he must have found a new meal ticket. Mr Hertz thought the three most likely suspects were Marius Walker and Therese Voerman (As Mercurio knew them both from his time working for Prince LaCroix) and Victor Girard (Due to his connections to the Camarilla that Mercurio may have learned through LaCroix). 

Edward Vignes, 'Amethyst', David Geduld - Mercurio's Destroyed Donors

There were other possibilities but these three seemed to him to be most likely. Mr Hertz hadn't taken his investigations any further as he wished Michael to make the decision yay or nay. He was well aware of the potential complications of investigating the activities of these three kindred in particular. Michael was adamant that the Voermans were not to be investigated as he was soon to meet with Jeanette Voerman and wished the meeting to be free of complications.

Jeanette and Therese Voerman - Malkavian

Daniel suggested simply asking Marius if he was or knew Mercurio's current supplier. They could then decide whether to pursue an investigation based on his reply. Vin had taken a dislike to Mercurio during their meeting to buy weapons for the coteries protection. He was at a loss to adequately explain his feelings against him but had learned to trust his instincts. Regardless of whose thumb he was under, Vin resolved to keep an eye on Mercurio from now on.

Scene Three - Victors Dirty Laundry
Victor Girard - Toreador Media Magnate
Daniel's priority at the moment was to find away of distracting Victor Girard long enough for Michael to be able to undermine confidence in him with the two Barons he was attempting to unite. He had done some preliminary investigations but was now looking to expand on what he already knew. 

He was also aware that a kindred as experienced as Victor would easily be able to deal with single problems. Daniel's intention therefore was to hit him with so many problems simultaneously that there was absolutely no way of him dealing with them all. His primary target was the three news publications that formed the core of Victor Girard's media empire.

Daniel knew that Henry Vaughn, Editor in Chief of the L.A. Click, a celebrity gossip magazine, paid bribes to employees at many major hotels in the city to give him advance notice of any celebrity relationships, or even better, affairs. Daniel had also discovered that some of these discoveries were held back in return for later exclusive stores from the celebrities in question. Others were blackmailed for more immediate financial gain. 

Using his investigation teams combined with his own expertise, Daniel had isolated several of these informants and convinced them via bribes and threats to turn on Henry. He had also pressured them for the identities of celebrities they'd informed on to Mr Vaughn. The problem was that he had no idea which ones were blackmail victims without cross-referencing with the relevant news stories. Fortunately he had operatives to whom he could delegate such menial tasks.

A more straightforward, yet not necessarily easier mark was Lilly Hodgson, Publisher of the L.A. Horizon. This financial newspaper regularly withheld financial scoops and the release of certain stories for Victor so he could benefit from the situations financially or politically. Daniel and his agents had traced several such events to Victor and had also ascertained that Lilly used the information herself. The coteries investigator and fixer was sure that a sufficiently juicy yet spurious story would be too tempting a target for both Lilly and Victor. Hopefully, once they attempted to profit from the fiction he could then pull the rug out from under them and fuck up both the paper, it's sponsor and it's publisher.

His third target would be the L.A. Vanguard, a newspaper known for it's hard-hitting factual stories and exposés. It had been the recipient of a record number of lawsuits yet somehow it always beat these easily. Witnesses had inexplicably changed their stories, some had then even passed lie detector test to verify their new version of events. Records also had a tendency to disappear and sometimes people too. Daniel knew that a kindred such as Victor could easily influence a mortal into believing almost anything using the Toreadors unnatural levels of charisma. Based on his investigations the Banu Haqim knew that Victor also almost certainly had the ability to bend mortals to his will in the manner of the Ventrue.

One story in particular stood out as something he could work with. An actress, Izabel Lopez, was suing over claims she was unfaithful to her husband with several other actors while high on cocaine. 

The paper had anonymous claims from a number of actors she'd worked with and testimony from a known drug dealer. Her film company had a 'bringing their name into disrepute' clause in her contract so the claim could not only ruin her career but cripple her financially. A win on her part would have the opposite effect of course. The film company was a rival to Victors on a number of projects and script bids, so a scandal would also help him. Clearly this last fact was not a coincidence.

Using the coteries many street contacts, Daniel discovered the dealers name was 'Finbar'. Though he was a dealer, there was no evidence that he ever supplied to Izabel. Possibly he'd been bribed, brainwashed or both. He was also reasonably sure that the 'anonymous' actors were completely made up as he his investigators and surveillance teams had found zero evidence of any infidelity on her part. If this high profile case could be resolved in Izabel's favour, the financial repercussions to Victor would be considerable.

Further digging had revealed even more corruption at the L.A. Vanguard. Their legal advisor, Shane Hooper, had used his expertise to cover up a number of assault claims filed by women he'd worked with and Anwen Derrick, their editor in chief had also covered for Shane Hooper. This was almost certainly as a result of him being aware of her fondness for heroin. This gave Daniel plenty to work with though the real issue was timing all his 'distractions' to unfold within close proximity to one another.

Storytellers Note - I gave the player some bonuses to a few rolls to take into account their basic access to MacNeils system. It took them ten sessions to find it so I figured I should probably let them gain some benefit from it...

The newspapers parent company, Woodland Media, had gained a broadcast license but it's enterprises had suffered a number of setbacks and so it's launch has been delayed until later in the year. These setbacks had included three unexplained accidents that required safety investigations, several technical problems and the death by overdose of Tayah Witt, their project director. Edmund Metcalfe was her ambitious and apparently quite ruthless replacement.

Daniel suspected, but couldn't prove, that Edmund had arranged a hot dose to kill his rival, but wasn't sure if this was unrelated to any kindred interests. Information provided by his contact in police records led Daniel to believe that Edmund was a sociopath as several of his rivals had been victims of unfortunate 'accidents' on his way up.

He could however connect the deceased Tayah Witt to the L.A. Vanguards heroin addicted editor in chief as they had been close friends and likely were mutual addicts. It was possible that Edmund had used that relationship in some manner. Daniel decided to see if he could get hold of the coroners reports and see if his medical expertise could uncover any more evidence against Edmund.

What was certain was that Victor has a talent for finding corrupt individuals he could manipulate. Daniel was also sure that what he had discovered so far was going to be merely the tip of the iceberg.

Scene Four - The More Things Change...
Eleanor Braun - Gangrel
Childe of Marius, Occult Expert
Michael had contacted Marius's ghoul Victoria about paying a visit to the Nagaraja, Pisha. She was one of the Fixer's occult advisors and he had been informed that if anyone had information on the location of the occult item he sought, then it would be her.

Marius's childe Eleanor Braun, a Gangrel with a surprising amount of sorcerous knowledge had given him some background on Martinelli's Ring, or what Eleanor had called "El Anillo del Pensamiento Claro, or The Ring of Clear Thinking." She had theorized that it's powers to clear the mind of derangements and other mental issues would be of significant worth to an elder kindred but almost worthless to a younger one. She had also warned that the item was rumoured to have had several drawbacks if used then removed. Unfortunately she only knew that the ring wasn't in the occult collections of any of the cities kindred.

Michael had initially been planning on taking Vin, Daniel and Hope with him as to be frank, Pisha terrified him. Vin however had claimed that he needed to take care of a number of issues this evening and wouldn't be available until tomorrow night. As the documents provided for the visit were specifically dated for this evening he'd have to manage with just the two bodyguards. After some consideration Michael decided that this might be a blessing in disguise as Vin was occasionally known to antagonise other kindred by reputation alone.

Victoria - Ancient Ghoul of Marius
Victoria has sent you some Aegis I.D.'s dated for that evening and a spurious document identifying you as inspectors checking the integrity of the 'Infectious Waste Disposal Centre'. No-one seems to be curious about the reasons for it being completed first.

Daniel drove as his car was less conspicuous than Michaels own but still armoured. Given the situation between the baronies at the moment every precaution needed to be taken. It was probably because of this that Michael hadn't made his usual comments about the armoury that Daniel kept concealed in his trunk. Hope had tidied herself up a bit so she more closely matched the image of the inspectors that they were meant to be.

The formerly abandoned hospital is now a building site, though is quiet at this time of the evening. several armed security guards in the uniform of Mercury Security are patrolling inside the perimeter and a pair are stationed at the main entrance. The building itself seems near completion but still has a lot of scaffolding across the front and side, and construction vehicles within a fenced off internal area.

Ever the diplomat, Michael introduced himself to the two guards, asking their names as well as giving his own, or more correctly the names on the fake documentation provided by Victoria.

The guards names were Marcelina Alston and Sean Partridge and they were expecting visitors. They had a map of the site ready as well as a set of keys to the unit and a card with a six digit security code on it "For the internal security door..." and two torches "Just in case...". Michael also asked for their contact numbers, which they handed over on another card marked 'Security Office'. 'Emergency Contact Number' had been underlined.

The indicated unit has five different coloured doors along one side and a sixth door, currently sealed with an armoured shutter held shut by an extremely heavy duty lock. The building itself seems to be far more heavily constructed than you would deem strictly necessary for it's purpose. A security camera above the door is protected by an unnecessarily secure armoured dome.

Aegis Acquisitions
Daniel pointed out conversationally that the colours were to divide up the varying types of medical wastes. One of the keys on the keyring opened the heavy lock on the shutter revealing a door behind with a keypad beside it. The code they'd been given caused the door to open with the sound of several  disengaging locks. Daniel noted that as with any facility associated with Marius's construction company, Aegis, that the security was first rate

The room beyond is a reception of sorts, though currently unoccupied. The coloured doors each has an inactive conveyor beyond it, leading through a plastic curtained hatch. The only one that shows any sign of use is the red one.

Odd that it's the anatomical waste section that they've tested first observed Daniel with a smile. The elder members of Pisha's bloodline were required to consume flesh as well as blood, a fact well known to Michael and Hope. The Toreador gave Daniel a scathing look as this was a fact that he felt no need to be constantly reminded of.

A speaker in one corner, crackles into life, next to another shielded camera. You recognise Pisha's voice. "Through the door ahead, the right one, down the stairs and you'll find an elevator, wait, and I'll send it up for you..."

As a surgeon himself, Daniel was more than familiar with medical facilities. This one broadly matched what he would have expected to see in a normal disposal centre of this kind. He imagined that the real domain of Pisha was beneath as it was unlikely that her activities would go unnoticed in the area they currently were travelling through. He also noted that his supernatural senses could detect no occult wards at all. This changed when he entered the sub basement area.

Walls, floor and ceiling were a mass of wards and occult defences. They currently glowed only faintly to the senses of all present, no doubt they had been deactivated to allow the coterie to pass.

The elevator door looks very similar to the armoured one below Hallowbrook, a familiarity confirmed when the heavy double doors open and you realise that there are no controls on the outside. Unlike the access to her previous haven, this elevator is however, quite spotless. The elevator travels downwards quickly but still takes some time to reach it's destination. Apparently Pisha's Haven is deep below the hospital.

"It's not as blood-stained as you led me to believe it would be." observed Hope. "Give it time..." responded Daniel.

Scene Five - ...The More They Stay The Same
The doors open to reveal a lobby with off-white walls and a tiled floor. Another security door is ahead of you with yet another security camera dome set in the rooms ceiling.

Something about this particular security dome put those sensitive to such things on edge. All three of them were aware whatever was viewing them from within was certainly magically animated and highly unlikely to be a camera in any traditional sense of the word. Remembering the severed head hanging from the ceiling of her last haven, Daniel used his preternatural senses to observe the device more closely. He may have been mistaken but he was reasonably sure that what was behind the camera lens was an eye. Hope pointed out that the security door ahead of them had just made a noise indicating that it had been unlocked.

The room beyond is simultaneously like and unlike Pisha's previous accommodation. Surgical tables are present as are the large fridges, trays of surgical tools, and shelves of books and documents. Though the layout and equipment are the same, this area is brand new, a technological and state of the art updating of her previous domain. Pisha is in an office at the rear, all glass windows and plush furniture. It seemed that Marius had made every effort to make Pisha comfortable in her new domain. The only indication of what Pisha truly is, is a smoothie in a glass on her desk of a suspiciously deep red colour.

Pisha - Nagaraja
Occult Expert and Organovore
"Please come in, and make yourself comfortable. What do you think of my new home?"

"It seems a fitting location for you to continue your researches..." replied Michael. Anxious to avoid thinking too hard about what those researches might be. Not wishing to spend any longer here than necessary, Michael got straight to the point.

Hope noticed another door towards the rear that looked more like the entrance to a cell block than to a storage area. Though In Pisha's case they probably amounted to the same thing, thought the Gangrel scourge. Daniel had greeted Pisha in a friendly fashion but now waited while Michael laid out his request. The Banu Haqim was one of the few members of the coterie not horrified by Pisha. As he saw it, she could no more help her addiction to flesh than his clan could to the vitae of other kindred. Some vampiric flaws could not be cured, only endured.

"I wanted to ask for some information..." began Michael. "... on a specific ring that intrigues me. My association with Abrams has caused me to develop more of an interest in jewellery and knowledge of this particular vampiric artefact has come to me. I know only that it was referred to as Martinelli's Ring and was last known to be in the possession of the ghoul of a destroyed Malkavian known as Ezra..."

As usual, Pisha's encyclopaedic knowledge of occult items did not disappoint.

Martinelli's Ring - Vampiric Artefact
"Ezra was indeed a Malkavian of the Camarilla, her ghoul was a former mage of the Akashic Brotherhood, a tradition of mages who are self claimed masters of the mind, body, and spirit. They pursue the arts through personal discipline. The ghoul created the ring to assist their mistress who was, quite frankly, on their way to becoming a wight."

This at least confirmed some of what Michael had been told.

"Had the Anarch Revolt not occurred and with her sanity restored she would have no doubt once more become an important representative of her clan. Unfortunately for her, six Anarchs burnt her haven to the ground then hacked her to death as she attempted to escape. It seems that she removed the ring, gave it to her ghoul and then as her sanity left her, frenzied and assaulted her attackers allowing her trusted servant to make their getaway. I believe that the two survivors of Ezra's attack pursued the ghoul but made no real attempt to locate her after they lost her. It seems they deemed her unimportant."

Michael enquired if she had acquired a new master or mistress.

Evergreen Cemetery - East L.A.
"Such was her love for her mistress that she made no attempt to find another source of vitae and died of old age a month later. She's buried in Evergreen Cemetery, in East L.A., technically Marius's domain but I believe in the area covered by your Barony of the Angels free passage agreement."
 "As far as I'm aware the ring would have been buried with her. Her fellow mages who interned her would have had no interest in a Vampiric artefact. I believe her name was Tomoko Morita."

"She was Japanese?" interjected Michael. Pisha confirmed that she was and that was one of the reasons why she was buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Unlike many such locations, Evergreen was notable for never having banned African-Americans from being buried at the cemetery and had sections for Armenians, Japanese, early white settlers, and a large section of Mexican graves. 

Michael then enquired if these Akashic mages were likely to object to the grave of one of their own, albeit a ghoul, being disturbed. The Nagaraja was sure that there were not. In fact, according to her, there were only two traditions of mages with in the city. The Verbenae and one other. It was obvious to Michael that Pisha had no desire to discuss these 'other' mages so didn't press the point. Daniel was concerned about the grave being protected mystically and asked how likely that was.

Akashic Brotherhood
Mage Tradition
"Knowing her association with our kind it's possible that her burial site is protected mystically. It's only a possibility of course. Her grave may be entirely mundane...The other danger of course is that Ezra was familiar with the discipline known as Oblivion and the art of Necromancy. If the burial sight had been selected in advance then it's possible that she herself had created some defences for it, just in case." "I wouldn't be too concerned about necromancy in this case..." continued Pisha. " animated 'aggressive corpse' would be quite deadly to a mundane graverobber but would be of little threat to the kindred you have at your disposal. Arcane wards are more of a danger, of course, but I'd be surprised if any mage would put that much effort into protecting a former ghoul."

Daniel still wished to know if there was any precautions he could take. Pisha had a different solution. "I could come with you, if you like?"

This made the coterie pay attention. It had always been stated by Marius that Pisha was, while not exactly a prisoner, sealed within the hospital boundaries so as to allay the worries the other barons had about a cannibal wandering the streets of L.A. The coterie had always been dubious about whether a kindred as powerful as Pisha could be kept in one place, now their suspicions were confirmed. Pisha seemed to note from their expressions the thought process they had just went through.

Pisha - In Her Previous Lair
"I think you're all intelligent enough to realise that I have always been able to come and go as I please. I simply chose to stay where it was convenient. I was gifted any resource I needed and provided with...sustenance...when I required it. Mine and Marius's arrangement kept the more nervous of the cities supernatural population feeling safe. Now he controls all of Downtown and it's surrounding area, there is no longer any need for subterfuge."

"Shall we meet at midnight then?" asked Michael. "The hour seems appropriate. of course I may not involve myself in the actual retrieval process though I will observe..." Hope and Daniel exchanged a look as they realised who was going to be doing all the digging.

With the details of the collaboration confirmed the members of the coterie left Pisha's new Haven and returned to the gallery to prepare.

Scene Six - A Conflict of Interests
'The Blossoms' - Toreador
Controllers of the Downtown Sex Trade
Vin had finished his scheduled meeting with 'The Blossoms', the Toreador who ran the Downtown sex trade for Marius. They had agreed to trade blackmail information on several political figures who would enable Michael to fulfil his political promises to Priss, the Baron of the domain referred to as 'The Border'.

This Barony separated Marius's downtown Barony from that of The Crypts Sons. She had been given the territory in return for spearheading an assault against a group of vampire hunters who had concealed themselves within a mortal gang known as 'The Blood'.

Vin had agreed to a reciprocal arrangement in the future should The Blossoms need similar leverage but for the moment they had no such requirements. Their leader Tayla had deemed it unlikely that they'd ever need to call in the boon but revealed that as the political situation in the city was so volatile currently they had received a directive from Marius which had broadly speaking boiled down to "No freebies..."

Vin was also becoming increasingly concerned that the coterie were straying further and further from their original goal of disrupting the city so as to enable a Camarilla takeover. It seemed to him that their goal was now to place Michael in a position where he could influence the Barons of the Anarch Free States, not destroy or weaken them. Though this could be beneficial, particularly to Michael, it was most definitely not why they had been sent to Los Angeles.

Desdemona Moore - Brujah
Camarilla Praetor
His recent conversation with his sire, via blood sorcery, had not been the most pleasant of experiences. Desdemona had informed him that many senior Camarilla kindred were now pushing for a military solution as they were growing impatient with the coteries more subtle approach.

Several influential figures were talking about simply giving Prince Vannevar access to enough Archons and other personnel to roll over the the Anarchs of San Jose and use that as a staging point to destroy the Free States. He would then also become their first choice to become Prince. Desdemona also spoke of rumours that Talley, a Lasombra assassin of some renown, had left Chicago to attend a meeting at which at least one Justicar was present. His sire had heard that Los Angeles had been the subject of that meeting.

According to her, Fiorenza Savona was the only voice in favour of giving the subtle approach more time, siting multiple examples of ways in which the Free States had been undermined by the coterie. The elimination of the neutral area known as 'The Barony of the Angels', the destruction of several high profile and influential Barons and internal squabbles between baronies caused by the coteries interference, amongst others. She was, however, currently in the minority. Desdemona's recommendation was to make some progress of significance sooner rather than later to give Fiorenza more ammunition with which to defend their methodology.

Dark Selina - Brujah Antitribu
Sabbat Cardinal
Vin had some questions of his own. Firstly he wished to know if she knew of any other threats to the Free States that they might have to deal with and secondly he wanted to know what his sire wished him to do. He had, after all, travelled to the Free States for her, not some random kindred in the Ivory Tower that he'd never even met.

Desdemona had seemingly anticipated both these questions. "There are two potential threats, though I can confirm neither so how much of your resources you put into preventative measures are up to you." Despite himself, Vincent smiled. His sire had always been one step ahead.

"A Brujah of the Sabbat, erroneously believed destroyed, has supposedly been seen in America. My spies within the Sabbat believe she has been moving between Anarch held cities recruiting from them. She has used Anarchs before to implement her schemes, sometimes willingly, other times through trickery. The Free States are therefore a logical place for her manipulations. She goes by the name 'Dark Selina' and is not to be underestimated. She is powerful and quite ruthless. My spies believe she has an important contact within your city, unfortunately they do not know their identity."

Vincent then enquired what the other potential problem might be.

Fiorenza Savona - Ventrue
Camarilla Power Broker
"This one is more general. You are aware of course that your on, off, and on again, ally Marius has recently summoned a number of his more malleable childer to his service?" Vincent listed the ones he knew and his sire confirmed his count. "Well, the Camarilla in general and Fiorenza specifically has been monitoring the activities of the rest of his progeny. None of his brood are exactly normal, though neither was his sire so perhaps it's a fault with the bloodline, but I digress. Well they're on the move.

Vincent wanted to know how many and the reply was a concern. "All of them, as far as we can tell. Of course there are less now as several have encountered each other as they travelled and the Bahari amongst them have culled the weakest. Whatever their reasons are for heeding his call must be extremely compelling, especially as he habitually diablerises childer he finds disappointing."

Vincent decided to relay this information to Michael and the rest when next he saw them, including the need for them to make some visible progress. "You didn't answer my last question..." prompted Vincent, though he did so respectfully.

"Do whatever you think is right, most favoured of my childer." was the reply and it caught Vincent by surprise as he had no idea she held him in any particular regard compared to the others. "I'll protect you as well as I can from any political consequences of your actions as my power within the Camarilla has grown considerably. However, ultimately your decisions are your own and I will respect them and if necessary defend them...within limits..." Self-determination had always been a virtue she held dear, apparently that had not changed but even Vincent could tell she was counselling caution. Then without further comment his sire broke the connection.

Vin now had a lot to think about, and to whom his ultimate loyalties belonged.

Scene Seven - Evergreen Cemetery
Inside Evergreen Cemetery - East L.A.
With the wealth of information available online it wasn't surprising that a search could be made for specific burial plots. Finding Tomoko Morita's grave had therefore been childishly easy. Hopefully the rest of the plan would be as simple.

Michael had bought several bunches of flowers as at least it would give them a vaguely plausible reason for being at the cemetery. Daniel had also done some initial reconnaissance as he was the most stealthy of the coterie. His supernatural senses had detected vague auras of energy around both the target grave and those nearby. Unfortunately he lacked the knowledge necessary to understand there significance.

Daniel then returned to the vehicle until the agreed upon hour when they were to meet Pisha. When Daniel and Hope returned to the cemetery gates, the Nagaraja was awaiting them. she was wearing a dark dress and had an old leather satchel slung over her shoulder.

Daniel paused a moment as he noted a previously vacant security hut was now occupied. The occupant however seemed to be quite asleep. As Pisha seemed unconcerned, Daniel presumed she had something to do with the guards inactivity. He also decided not to mention it to Michael.

Gangrel Feral Claws - Protean
Storytellers Note - Daniel's players dice also hated him for some reason so he utterly failed his medical roll.

Hope looked at the spade handed to her by Daniel and then spread her hands to indicate the four inch raven claws extending from the tips of each finger. The Banu Haqim gave a sigh as he realised he would be doing the digging alone. Pisha also seemed to be disturbingly comfortable strolling through a graveyard at midnight. Both Hope and Daniel suspected that she had no fear of the bogeyman because in this scenario she was the bogeyman.

"Whoever enchanted this area was an amateur at the Necromantic arts..." stated Pisha. " apparently Ezra wasn't as talented as she led other kindred to believe." She then indicated the grave of Tomoko and another nearby. "Only these two contain sufficient necromantic energy to raise the corpses within. The ritual was attempted on many others but the sorcerer was to weak to extend the enchantment that far from the initial target."

Hope indicated that she'd ready herself by the adjacent grave while Daniel began to, reluctantly, dig.

After some time his shovel hit wood and he cleared the remains of the soil from it. Then using his bare hands he pulled the lid off and looked within. The corpse within was female and surprisingly well preserved, a gold ring on one of the emaciated fingers of it's right hand. "Go one then..." said Hope from the relative comfort of the surface.

As you reach for the ring, an emaciated hand grabs your arm with supernatural strength. Simultaneously the earth on the grave being observed by Hope also begins to shift.

Daniel placed his foot on the animated creatures chest and pulled as hard as he could with his corpse grasped arm. With a sickening crack the wrist separated leaving him with a dead, and unmoving, hand attached to his own wrist. Then another hand grabbed him by the ankle and yanked him off his feet. 

Confident in her compatriot's ability to handle himself Hope waited till her own target crawled from it's own resting place. Leaning down to it's level she grabbed it's hair with one hand and sliced it's head from it's shoulders with a single back-handed blow with her feral claws. Apparently all that time she'd spent watching zombie films hadn't been as wasted as people had insinuated.

Daniel reached for one of his blades, then leant over and stabbed it in the head several times to no effect. "Do you need a hand?" asked Hope, in an annoyingly innocent tone. "I already have one..." replied Daniel, indicating the one clasped around his own wrist. Switching to one of his silenced pistols, he emptied several rounds into the limb holding onto his foot until it also separated, then clambered to his feet. The corpse then began to crawl towards him once more. "I chopped the head off of mine..." said Hope conversationally. "...that seemed to do the trick." Pisha then turned to Hope. "He's not very experienced at this sort of thing is he?"

"He takes some time to get warmed up..." replied Hope, clearly enjoying herself immensely. "...but I don't want to dent his confidence by doing the job for him." Making a mental note to get his own back on his supposed friend, the Banu Haqim emptied the pistol into the throat of Tomoko Morita's animated corpse then finished off the removal of the head with his knife.

Martinelli's Ring
Vampiric Artefact
The fact that Hope and Pisha were having a pleasant conversation while he stood in a grave now full of body parts was not helping his mood at all. He peeled the hands from his own wrist and ankle and tossed the one with the ring to his Gangrel ally. She removed the disappointingly plain gold ring from the finger and threw the hand back into the grave along with the severed head of her own target.

Something then occurred to Hope as she turned once more to Pisha. "Do you want any of these bits before we fill it back in again?" They were rewarded with a rare smile from the ancient necromancer. "No thank-you, I will have a look around before I leave though..." She then strolled from the scene as if this was the most normal way possible to spend an evening. Perhaps to her it was.

A surprisingly clean Gangrel, and an uncharacteristically messy Banu Haqim returned to Michael with their prize. Daniel had cleaned it with a handkerchief in which he had also wrapped the ring.

"Do you still wish to speak with Marius?" asked Michael from the back of the car. Daniel confirmed that he did, but that he'd quite like to get cleaned up first.

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...

The cemetery scene was meant to have a little bit more gravitas but once it became more light hearted I just let the players have fun with it. We've had (and are soon going to) quite a lot of heavier story-lines so a bit of comic relief doesn't hurt even in a game of horror.

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

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, 'Priss' is Sofia Boutella, Ralph Harwood is D.B. Woodside, Henrique 'Hank' Boyd is Michael Clarke Duncan, 'Zipper' is Johnny Galecki, Rose is Thylane Blondeau, Cai Arias is Brian Molko,  Ales Ivanov is Oleg Taktarov, Sabine Fisher is 'Pink',  Haydon Monroe is Henry Simmons, 'Bela' is Bela Lugosi, Mercurio is Taylor Kitsch, 'Amethyst' is Paula Patton, David Geduld is Zachary Quinto, Jeanette and Therese Voerman are Whitney Moore, Victor Girard is Bob Hoskins, Eleanor Braun is P.J. Harvey, Victoria is Lilith May, Tayla Quintana is Alyssa Milano, Karla Bray is Rose McGowan and Lottie Noble is Holly Marie Combs (The Blossoms), Desdemona Moore is Amanda Donohoe and Fiorenza Savona is Jamie Lee Curtis.

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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