Friday 7 October 2022

Vampire the Masquerade - V5 - Session One Hundred and Twenty - 'Methuselah' (Part Nine)

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 two North-Eastern Baronies and a large part of a third. 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. There are however a list of potential triggers listed before the introduction. 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.'
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part Six, and Epilogue
Story Twenty Two - 'The Unbound' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Story Twenty Three - 'The War Council' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Interlude Session - Recon
Story Twenty Four - 'Resistance' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - Damage Limitation
Interlude Session - The Killing Spree
Story Twenty Five - 'Personal Agendas' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Six - 'Strange Bedfellows' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive and Six
Story Twenty Seven - 'The Fiorenza Sanction' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Epilogue
Solo Session - 'The Salubri Tome'
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part SixSeven and Eight

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, 'Accountant'
Sofia Rivera - Toreador, 'Hollywood Scourge'

The Storyteller
Garreth - Everyone else...

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.

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. Introductory pieces that I read to the group are in Blue. 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.

Trigger Warnings for This Session: Blood (Obviously), Child Abuse (Implied).

Sir Matthew Lubbock's childe has visited the Galerie Sanguine to demand the return of Michael's 'sister' Sofia Rivera, to him or face the consequences. He has given them twenty-four hours to comply...

Scene Fifty - Premonition
Michael found himself focussing upon the potential of a confrontation with Sir Matthew Lubbock and his new childe. Unbidden, the feeling of detachment that usually came before a premonition began to over take him. Desperate for any information that might help, he let the vision overtake him...

Storytellers Note - I gave the player this as a handout a few days before the session.

Baron Abrams - Hollywood Mansion
You're sitting in a car, one of Isaac's, the driver is some faceless minion beneath your notice. Hope, Vin, Daniel and Sofia are with you, and ahead is one of Isaac's mansions. A fortress disguised as a home. Your allies surround it, hidden in the shadows awaiting your signal to attack. A signal you are yet to make. As long as Lubbock exists you know that such an assault is suicidal. He could kill you all with a thought and wouldn't hesitate to do so. You put them from your mind lest a stray thought bring the ancient ones attention to them...the vision fades for a moment...

...An elaborate door is opened ahead of you and you are without bodyguards. You know that The Brujah, Banu Haqim, Gangrel and your Toreador sister are within the mansion but this meeting is yours alone. They are safer where they are, none but you have been invited and those who enter Sir Matthews inner sanctum without invitation are as good as destroyed...

The throne room is full, yet only seven individuals, yourself included are of any importance. It is these who will decide the fate of a city.


Sir Matthew Lubbock - Toreador
Sir Matthew Lubbock, childe of Arikel, holds court. 

The childe he sought out is before him on their knees, sanity is barely being held onto as catatonic with fear they await the judgement of one without mercy. Christopher's bodyguard and would-be protector lies immobile in a corner, their body torn asunder by claws that have made a mockery of apparently resilient undead flesh. Supernatural speed and reflexes no match for a single-minded dedication to dominance through physical prowess. Though not yet destroyed, their wounds are not healing, making torpor or Final Death more and more likely as each second passes...

Marius Walker stands to one side, blood dripping from his hands. Sir Matthew ignores him completely, a blunt tool that has served his purpose, the scorn that the ancient one has for he and his clan is evident for all to see. For a moment the Gangrel changes within your premonition to...something else. Wings, claws, and flesh like stone. A dark vision of the cost of seven centuries pursuing personal power at any cost and by any means. You are glad that this vision gives you no chance to comprehend what he truly is. 

Yet he is no longer the apex predator within the city, a fact that you are sure eats away at him even now. When pitted against Lubbock's mental strength, all his prowess means nothing to one who could make him destroy himself on the merest of whims.

Your attention turns to the new power within Los Angeles. Power that you can barely comprehend is held in the form of an impossibly old, utterly depraved, corrupter of children. Hundreds, possibly thousands of young lives destroyed without regret. An unliving example of the idiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely. You know that you yourself are only permitted to enter his presence on Isaac's indulgence. You hear the distinctive sobs of children, but where they are is difficult to ascertain. Perhaps it is simply your imagination...

Lubbock's Childe - Toreador
5th Generation Kindred
If anything, the Toreador Methuselah's new childe is even more arrogant that his sire. A creature that young should never be gifted such abilities that have been granted to him. Though his sire is truly a monster, you are convinced that this one will eventually surpass him in depravity, many, many times over. Inexplicably it is he who you feel the most hatred for. 

He disrespected you within your own haven, in front of your most loyal followers. Such an act must be punished if you are to to truly be respected as the foremost kindred of the Anarch Council. A voice whispers to you, encouraging the reasoning that cruelty is a necessary part of leadership and that it is far easier to respect one that you fear. You dismiss the voice. Your namesake Michael Unther met his end at your hand and is therefore in no position to lecture you about strength...


Isaac opens a dark case and withdraws from it a silver handled sword with a blade like glass, dark red in colour. "A Gift..." he says as he too kneels before Sir Matthew. The blades hunger for kindred vitae is palpable. That such a weapon found it's way into Marius's hands is no surprise to you. The pair seem well suited to one another. Sir Matthew makes no move to take the weapon. Likely he wishes to enact his vengeance in a far more personal manner...

As the premonition fades, you become completely certain of two things...

Firstly that it is in that room and that one alone that Sir Matthew Lubbocks unlife can be bought to an end, though how this can be accomplished escapes you. Secondly, that regardless of your actions, of the seven kindred within the room you observed, three will never leave it again. The only mystery is which three...

Scene Fifty One - Matters of Trust
Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
Presumed Destroyed
Daniel was amazed at the amount of crap Roach had accumulated in his brief time in Los Angeles. When they had moved it into storage after his disappearance they'd made no attempt to organise it in any way. In hindsight that was probably a mistake.

Firstly Daniel piled all of the conspiracy theory string boards in one corner, then he began to box up the many books files, magazines and newspaper cuttings that Roach had apparently considered important. This left a pile of items that Daniel could see no conceivable use for whatsoever to wade through. 

Amongst a chaotic mix of random rubbish and other detritus was the item for which he was searching. The 'jar' was covered in a gaudily coloured bird cage night cover. Within was a strange and mismatched selection of internal organs blended together by Vicissitude or some other similar nature defiling discipline. It had withered away, presumably from lack of whatever sustained it, and it's single eye was closed. He had no idea what it's function was or if it was even still alive, dead or something in-between.

It was however the price specified by Hamish for his services.

Daniel bought the strange artefact to Michael's office where they had agreed to meet to discuss strategy. Specifically, who they were willing to risk asking for help.

'Skelter' - Gangrel
Nines 'Crew'
"Damsel and Nines will certainly help, as will Skelter, if Marius hasn't gotten to him." stated Michael with certainty. Daniel agreed, but was also sure that Skelter's loyalty was to Nines first, regardless of what others of the Gangrel clan might wish.

"Fortier is also a likely ally..." continued Michael. "...He is dedicated to the Anarch cause and has no fear of Marius. Though he has been a close ally of Isaac, which might cause some conflict, I think we can safely rely upon his aid...though via Mariel, not Catherine. We know she has assisted Sir Matthew Lubbock, albeit via Velvet and possibly unknowingly. Regardless there is a conflict of interests there that might result in complications..."

Daniel had a few suggestions of his own.

"I could speak to Allison Maller, and through her recruit Gloria Martinez. We could pass on some of what we know about the final death of Salvador Garcia's childe, Carlyle. I'd keep Sofia's name out of it of course and lay the blame firmly at the door of Sir Matthew Lubbock. We also have a contact within the Chantry..."

Vin had some reservations about the last suggestion. One of the chantry members had taught him the basics of Blood Sorcery necessary to enact certain rituals, as a favour to his sire, Desdemona Moore and so he had spent enough time there to pick up a thing or two.

"One of Marius's brood, Eleanor Braun, acts as liaison to the Chantry, she even has a room there. Their feeding grounds are effectively granted by the Baron of Downtown and we all know the whole 'Barony of Angels' independence thing is bollocks. The way I see it he can apply pressure internally and externally and they've got it too good to piss that away..."

Karen Anatos - Gangrel
Baron of Burbank, Anathema
"Anyone else you'd consider?" prompted Michael, but to no-one in particular.

It was Daniel who replied. "Well there's a few I'd have to eliminate as options..."

"Karen Anatos is apolitical and though she's well inclined to us, she's also fairly friendly with Marius too. There's no guarantee she wouldn't pick the wrong side."

"Alonzo rarely leaves the ancient warrens, so would probably only be of use as an information source. Unfortunately he's also somewhat reliant on Isaac's goodwill, and was already warned off once. I doubt he'd push his luck, even for me."

"Harvey could be recruited as an ally in exchange for information on how Lubbock got into the city via his docks, but that would involve throwing those involved into the limelight. I doubt he'll be in the mood to forgive and forget so his help likely comes at the cost of the Water Rats unlives..."

"There's also a longshot that might be worth considering. Lyko Wu controls Chinatown, but only does so based on a whim of Marius's. If Marius wasn't around the domain would effectively be his..."

Michael was surprised at Daniel mentioning Marius's potential destruction as he and 'The Fixer' had always been close. It showed the seriousness of the situation that he was even considering this eventuality. The Toreador Baron then changed the subject slightly.

"Mr Hertz wasn't in my vision so we should leave him to rally the, are we any closer to deciding who we actually ask for help?"

Daniel however had another question.

Marius Walker - Gangrel
Baron of Downtown
"I think we're missing something? What exactly is Marius's motivation for helping Lubbock? If we knew that we might have a better idea of how many of the Barons will side with us and how many might take his side?"

Michael considered this for a moment.

"It has to be something that will increase his personal power so diablerie is the obvious answer. However I doubt he's insane enough to believe that an attack on Lubbock would end with any other result other than Lubbock walking around wearing a Marius suit..."

Daniel had to agree. He doubted that a Methuselah of Sir Matthews power could have their soul overpowered by Marius. He was strong-willed to be sure, but there were limits.

" perhaps he's set his sights on a more attainable victim. This new childe perhaps, or even Christopher. If, as we suspect, Marius is of the 6th generation then lowering this to 5th would considerably increase his potential power and the potency of his blood."

Daniel still wasn't convinced, despite this seeming to be the most likely explanation. At least this meant that Marius was unlikely to involve many others in his scheme as others might be tempted to take this prize for themselves if given the opportunity. He then answered Michael's original question.

"Nines can certainly be relied upon, Leo may be able to convince Gloria to help so I'll try to contact him, and that only leaves one kindred I'd trust. He's also the only Baron in L.A. skilled enough to match Marius tactically..."

"You mean Baron Fortier." stated Michael. Daniel nodded.

"Much as I hate to admit it..." added Michael. " L.A. without Marius might actually be worse than one with him..."

Marius Walker - Undisguised

Daniel shrugged. Though this might be true, he couldn't see a way to stop Marius that didn't result in the destruction of either 'The Fixer' or his attacker. Surrender was not in his nature, and had seven centuries of experience to draw upon, during which many kindred supposedly his superior had fell to his claws. Daniel had also seen what Marius truly looked like when his obfuscations and disguises were dropped. It wasn't a pleasant sight.

Scene Fifty Two - Convincing Gloria
Vin reminded Michael of the time.

If they were to speak to potential allies, and meet Hamish to conduct the ritual to free Sofia from her blood bond, then they needed to leave pretty much immediately.

Michael's Cadillac Escalade - Armoured Vehicle

Michael used his own vehicle for the journey. Of those available to the coterie it was the largest and most heavily armoured. Daniel and Vin transferred their armouries to their Barons car. Daniel also added several grenades and a stake launcher they'd acquired from the vampire-hunting Young Bloods ghoul gang. The weapons had been supplied to the gang by agents of the Second Inquisition and were therefore extremely well made, not to mention combat tested.

M4 Carbine with Stake Launcher

Hope rarely carried weapons since an unfortunate frenzy had caused her raven-like claws to become a permanent fixture. Most animal features that Gangrel were cursed with during frenzies faded within a night or two. Hopes had not. She suspected that the diablerie's that had increased her blood potency had also had some unfortunate side-effects. This explained why so many elders of her clan had become monstrous hybrids of a number of creatures. Of course, knowing the reason didn't make it any the less inconvenient.

Leo Frost - Brujah
El Hermandad Lieutenant
On the way, Daniel phoned his friend and ally, Leo Frost. One of the coteries two technical experts, Eric Moore, had integrated sophisticated encryption devices into several of the coteries phones. He claimed this prevented tracking software from picking up kindred keywords that might alert the Second Inquisition to vampire activities. He hoped Eric was as good as he kept telling them all he was.

"Leo? Not to be overdramatic but this is a matter of life or death..."

Leo knew that his friend wasn't one for hyperbole, so listened intently.

" elder creature, not just old, methuselah old is pulling a lot of strings in Los Angeles. Specifically it looks like he's influencing Isaac Abrams and Marius Walker..." Daniel paused while Leo absorbed this. Or at least Daniel presumed this is what Leo meant by the statement "...Oh fuck..."

"They conspired to have Carlyle destroyed just to keep Garcia distracted. Isaac certainly knew, and yes, I have proof, specifically a witness." Daniel was trying to avoid incriminating Sofia as she had acted under duress but nonetheless felt the need to back-up his accusations. "I believe that something serious is going to go down tonight and we need all the soldiers we can get."

Leo's answer was not as reassuring as Daniel would have liked. "I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for help from El Hermandad. " admitted Leo. "Gloria will take some convincing...but, I'll try my best..." Daniel thanked his friend, then broke the connection. 

"Well?" asked Michael. 

"We're relying on Gloria listening to Leo, and trusting us..." replied Daniel. 

Vin grimaced. "So we're on our fucking own..." he summarised. Daniel hoped Vin was wrong, but he feared he was all to correct.

Scene Fifty Three - Armando 'Nines' Rodriguez
Damsel - Brujah
'Den Mother' of Nines Crew
Given their previous difficulties when travelling through Downtown, Michael left Hope and Vin in his vehicle to protect his 'sister' Sofia, while He and Daniel went to speak to 'Nines' Rodriguez and his crew.

Michael could see the look of surprise on Damsel's face as he entered the bar. Personal visits by Pasadena's Baron were rare as he normally sent Daniel in his place. The Brujah of the Last Round were all under the impression that Daniel was of their Clan as he had hidden the fact that he was Banu Haqim from the majority of the cities inhabitants. It was far too late to own up now, especially as he had fought in the Brujah only 'Fight Club' ran by Ike Griffith on more than one occasion. Ike would be likely to look upon this subterfuge as a personal insult, and his displeasure was something that one was unlikely to survive.

Daniel noticed that the bar was unusually packed. The usual faces were there but, it seemed like all the regulars were in this evening, not just a few. Damsel led the way to the upstairs section of The Last Round were Nines could usually be found. Skelter, one of his two closest allies, was also present

"Good evening." began Michael, with his usual politeness. "I'm afraid I must be brief as my presence is required elsewhere on a personal matter of some importance." he explained "There is no other kindred within the city who I can come to with this problem. We are at risk of losing all that we have fought for to a new Prince."

Nines Rodriguez - Brujah
Anarch Notable
At the word 'Prince' all present became tense. Nines experience of those with that title had not been good.

"There is a kindred in the city of such power that even mentioning him by name could draw his attention. He is a Methuselah, a childe of Arikel, the Toreador Antediluvian. He also has both Marius and Isaac under his influence and as I'm sure I don't need to explain, that is an alliance which could bring about the fall of the Anarch Free States unless opposed by all the help we can muster."

He paused for a moment and looked at his audience. Nines, Damsel and Skelter were listening intently, their expressions deadly serious.

"I have had a premonition, one so vivid that I believe it to be a true representation of the future. Seven kindred will be present at this pivotal meeting, The Methuselah, a long abandoned childe on whom he seeks revenge, that childe's sworn protector, a new childe of unparalleled arrogance, Isaac Abrams, Marius Walker and myself. The vision indicated that three of those seven will not survive the meeting, but not which ones. Whether you believe this or not, I am certain of  the truth of it."

"If it means that this Methuselah is one of those destroyed then I would gladly count myself as one of the other two. Of course, I'd rather it wasn't me, I'm not suicidal..."

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Nines smiled and then spoke, but addressed his question to Daniel. "What would you rate our chances in a pre-emptive strike?"

Daniel's trigger finger began to itch as he remembered Isaac commanding him to cut it off as punishment for a failure to show proper respect. He had regenerated the digit at a considerable cost in vitae but it still throbbed when he stood in Isaac's presence. He had also once attempted to put a crossbow bolt through Hope's heart at the voiced command of a kindred he had been hunting. Neither of these kindred had been anywhere near the potency of their enemy.

Kindred Mind Control Discipline
Daniel was therefore brutally honest in his assessment.

"None. This ancient needs to be destroyed for us to have any chance of success. With him still amongst the unliving he could kill us all with a mere thought. I have seen what Isaac can do and I doubt his abilities are anything when compared to this bastards."

Nines had seemingly made his decision.

"Skelter has half a dozen allies who will fight at his side, and I have a dozen more. Damsel too is I'm sure eager to lend her skills to the upcoming battle. How sure you that Isaac and Marius are against us?"

Michael had considered this and the coterie had already discussed it at length. He summarised their debate in reply to the question.

"Marius has a predilection for diablerie, one might even call it an addiction. He also has a lust for personal power that drives many of his schemes. It is therefore not out of the question that he intends to diablerise, or at least attempt to, any of the three kindred present who surpass him in generation. Hopefully during our meeting I can discourage him from this, but the possibility is a definite one. If he can be made to see sense then my chance of success increases, If Isaac has a similar scheme in mind then perhaps they can be used to counter one another? In truth I do not know for sure, but it is my opinion that we should presume them both to be our enemies until it is proven otherwise."

Nines nodded. It seemed that he had had the same thought.
"Isaac has a newfound focus that has once more made him dangerous in the extreme and Marius is, well...Marius...Between them they encompass the gamut of both mental and physical disciplines. It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous combination, without this Methuselah being added to the mix too. That being said...I will not allow the Free States to fall without putting all possible effort into defending them. I would rather face Final Death than survive knowing that I could have done more, and did not. I will have my forces ready for when you call us to arms."

"On a separate matter...should we survive this encounter then I will add my weight to the idea that the status of Arbiter be more than a mere referee for squabbling Barons. Your dedication to the Free States should be rewarded...of course we'll probably all be destroyed so I could pretty much promise you anything at this point..." It's the closest Nines had ever come to an attempt at humour which ironically indicated to those present just how serious he must consider the situation.

Michael looked at his watch.

"I must go. My 'sister' was in service to Isaac, her loyalty reinforced through blood bonds and mind-control, and I have a meeting scheduled with one who claims he can break that bond."

As Michael and Daniel moved to the stairs they heard Nines address Skelter and Damsel.

"Fetch, everyone..."

Scene Fifty Four - Staging Points
The phone in Michael's car rang. As soon as it became obvious that it was Eric on the other end, Michael immediately indicated that Daniel should deal with it. As Daniel was driving at the time he hit the speaker button and braced himself for Eric's unique brand of helpfulness.

"Yo, so, like plans for that mansion are unavailable, like gone, nowhere, disappeared into the matrix..."

Hope rolled her eyes. She hadn't yet decided whether Eric was a useful idiot, or just an idiot. There was however some good news to come.

'Zipper' - Caitiff
Eric Moore's Rival Hacker
" and Zipper, mainly me, have however managed to acquire maps of nearby sewer access points and the surrounding road networks. By some clever cross-referencing of traffic camera's, other known local surveillance and some stuff you old gits wouldn't understand, we, well me mostly, have come up with a short-list of blind-spots where awaiting forces could wait and get the jump on the mansion of doom. Of course as these are well within Hollywood, it's possible that they might get observed as they crossed into his turf. It's possible however that this is a risk that you'll choice but to take cuz your other options are zero. Anyway, I'll send them to your phones..."

They then heard a muffled voice in the background that sounded like Zipper.

"Of course I told them it was a joint effort..." lied Eric to his fellow hacker as he hung up.

Daniel slowed down slightly. The last thing he wanted to do was crash while his focus was split.

He eliminated one of these staging points as too exposed, and a second as being slightly too close to a local police station. Of the five remaining, none were perfect, but they are definitely more viable than the two he rejected. These included a small wooded area next to a main road. This was less than five minutes drive from the mansion. A multi-storey carpark closed for refurbishment that Zipper and Eric assured them that they could disable all internal security of. This was slightly further away than the park but was less than fifteen minutes drive away at normal legal travel speed.

Fumigation in Progress
Of the remaining three, one was a warehouse currently vacant while being treated with chemicals that though noxious, would cause no harm to kindred. Mortals and ghouls however might be better off being stationed elsewhere, that is if they didn't want long-term respiratory problems. This was a similar distance away as the carpark though in the opposite direction. Another was a fenced off vacant lot currently up for sale. It was surrounded by a sturdy fence but had only one entrance/exit. This was a mere walking distance from the mansion but it's proximity could be considered a negative as well as a positive, for obvious reasons.

Finally there was an abandoned subterranean railway station that had at some point been removed from public records, presumably by the Nosferatu or their allies. It was about twenty minutes from the nearest sewer access outside the mansion and about twenty five to the one below the target. Of course the entrance below the mansion was certain to be heavily defended. Obviously this would also only be of use to those on foot.

"Nines won't bring ghouls, so the warehouse might be okay for his lot. They also wont mind the smell..." theorized Daniel, "...Though on second thoughts, lets station him in the carpark. No idea if those chemicals might be flammable or explosive, and that could cost us our best allies."

The Tunnels Below...
"The underground entrance is off the table. It's too easy to defend and those tunnels will be a death-trap if they have fire-lanes worked out and the firepower to defend them. If we end up with El Hermandad support I'll send Leo to the vacant lot.

Hope had a suggestion of her own "We can station my sweepers in the wooded area, they're all Gangrel so that should suit them fine and they're all tough enough to take a few hits if they have to go in first."

"Daniel agreed as he had been about to suggest the same thing."

Michael had a point to make too. "After we sort out this blood-bond issue I intend to petition Baron Fortier for aid too. If he agrees he'll also need a staging point."

Only one location remained, and they decided that the vacant lot would be ideal for them.

"We're nearly at Chick's place." Interjected Vin.

Daniel snapped back to attention. He had been concentrating so hard on the staging rea issue that he had driven almost to Santa Monica basically on auto-pilot.

Scene Fifty Five - Descendent of Vasantasena
Charlie 'Chick' Abbott - Banu Haqim
Santa Monica Scourge
They had been instructed to bring Sofia to a warehouse which was a haunt of Charlie 'Chick' Abbott. Hamish had asked for the use of what he described as 'Charlie's murder basement'. Daniel was fairly certain that the statement was in no way meant to be ironic.

The warehouse was much as it was when Hope and Daniel met 'Chick' there several nights ago while the pair of Banu Haqim 'played' at killing one another. With hindsight and knowledge of it's purpose the structure is more sinister than a casual glance would reveal. The razor-wire topped fence would be childs-play for a kindred of skill to bypass but nearly impossible for a mortal. The windows were subtly armoured and the grills covering them were far more sturdy than their ornamental nature indicated. It was apparent that in her own way, Charlie Abbott, like Hamish, also "played with her food".

Within the maze-like interior of crates, boxes and storage containers, Charlie approached one that looked very much like the others. A sturdy combination lock kept it secure, yet once opened a concealed stairway downwards was revealed.

Chains hung from the ceiling, each ending in manacles or restraints of some kind, over a long drain for fluids to flow away into. A low table contained a bewildering variety of blades of both combat and surgical varieties. An armoured door to the left was sealed by a double combination lock as well as a keyhole. Whatever was kept there was very securely protected indeed.

Edward Kaya - Banu Haqim
Sire of Daniel Matthews
One set of chains was far more sturdy than the others. Restraining even the strongest of mortals should never have required such precautions. Evidently they were designed with stronger prey in mind. A matching set were attached to the floor by rings bolted securely through steel and concrete.

"We are the judges of kindred..." offered Chick by way of explanation. "...and those judged need to face punishments that fit the crime..."

Daniel nodded in agreement. His own teacher in the ways of his clan had taught him only what was necessary to control and manipulate him. The realisation struck him that through Chick he might actually learn the truth, or at least a more objective version of it then had been fed to him by Edward Kaya.

Once all were present, Hamish explained the process in an uncharacteristically precise manner. 

"Secure me first, then bring the thrall close enough for me to taste her vitae. It needs to be fresh from the vein I'm afraid. You'll just have to trust me to take only what I need. Then I suggest you get to a safe distance...just in case..."

Hamish Moody - Malkavian
Descendant of Vasantasena
They did as they were asked, though Michael gave Vin a nod as they stood back. Vin understood completely. If there was any treachery he was to deal with it swiftly.

Hamish, frenzied in possibly the calmest manner they'd ever seen. Muscles tensed and spasmed yet he made only a minimal attempt to free himself from the chains. His expression was blank, though his eyes were in constant movement as if analysing his situation with the low cunning of a trapped animal. His 'Beast' was apparently a far more patient hunter than that of most kindred and was a far cry from Hamish's usual somewhat erratic behaviour.

Sofia dropped to her knees. Black blood flowed from her eyes, mouth, ears and nose before she vomited a disgusting mixture of blood, and vitae onto the floor in front of her. The expelled liquids begin to bubble as Hamish's own form mimicked Sofia's expulsion of fluids. Both screamed in triumph as coagulating fluids turned to dust and blew away,  scattered by a wind that shouldn't have existed in such an enclosed space.

"You can free me now..." said Hamish, quite calmly. "...and unless you have any betrayals planned, I'd like to leave with my prize?"

Daniel noticed that he had somehow already managed to free one hand. Evidently there was far more to the Malkavian than met the eye. After Vin had removed the remaining restraints, Daniel handed over the atrophied abomination obtained from Roach's junk pile. Hamish seemed pleased with his prize though what he had planned for the strange creature was probably best not thought upon for too long.

'The Odious Chalice'

Michael approached Sofia and offered her some of his vitae to replace that which she had lost. She took a small amount but seemed reticent to take more. Having escaped one blood bond it seemed that she had no desire to risk another.

As they readied themselves to leave, Charlie 'Chick' Abbott approached Daniel.

"You have been separated from your own kind for too long." she began. "There is much that I can teach you, but now is not the time. When this current situation is over, and if you survive, seek me out and we can discuss this further."

Scene Fifty Six - The Baron of West L.A.
"Fortier?" queried Vin

Elena Gutierrez - Ventrue
Mistress and Childe of Baron Fortier
"Yes..." confirmed Michael, though he had formulated a plan first. He had decided to make his request to Louis via Elena Gutierrez, rather than Catherine DuBois. This was partly as he knew that Catherine had acted behind Baron Fortier's back already and may be compromised and also as it suited him for Fortier's three mistresses to be closer in influence. Acting through Elena would be certain to increase her profile within the Fortier clan and hopefully her influence. Fortunately he had contact details for all of Fortier's childer and adopted childer.

He could tell from Elena's tone that she was surprised to hear from him.

"Elena? I wish to be honest with you. I need to discuss a very important matter with Baron Fortier and I wish to do so without Catherine being aware of the meeting. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without Louis's help, The Free States themselves might fall and we have strong evidence that Catherine may have made...a possibly misguided move, that has directly contributed to this problem. You understand what a conflict of interest that might be? I fear that Catherine may attempt to sabotage this conversation in order to cover up her...error of judgement..."

Michael could almost hear Elena's mind going through the possibilities for elevation within the hierarchy as he had been speaking. He was therefore unsurprised when she decided to be helpful.

Catherine DuBois - Ventrue
Mistress and Childe of Baron Fortier
"I appreciate you coming to me with such an important matter. If you wish to avoid Catherine, you would need to be here within the hour and gone an hour after that. I shall speak to Louis personally and inform him of your imminent arrival."

Judging from the number of subtly armoured transport vehicles within the front courtyard as they arrived at Baron Fortier's mansion fortress, he had already been preparing his ghoul army for war. Michael had hoped this would be the case. Louis was no fool and had likely seen the signs of the conflict to come.

As expected, Elena met them as they arrived and personally escorted them to Fortier's meeting room, before leaving them alone. Daniel was reasonably sure that she'd be eavesdropping on the conversation, as he would have done in her position.

Michael explained to Louis all he had learned, leaving out only his 'sister' Sofia's part in the conspiracy. He relayed his premonition, his certainty that it would come about and the necessity of eliminating this Toreador Methuselah before he became prince of Los Angeles in fact, if not in name. As he explained the involvement of both Isaac Abrams and Marius walker in the plot, Fortier's expression became grim.

"I have also contacted Nines Rodriguez and Daniel has attempted to gain the assistance of El Hermandad. Unfortunately his contact was less than hopeful about Gloria's likelihood of offering any aid at all."

Baron Fortier - Ventrue
Baron of West L.A.
Louis shook his head, seemingly disappointed that a fellow Baron would put petty political concerns against the future of their city.

"I came to you via Elena because I have undeniable proof that Catherine may have been involved in this scheme also...." he paused as Louis rose from his chair. A flash of anger clear on his face. Michael continued. "She was influenced in this matter by the 'pleasure' of Velvet Velour's company though I will leave it to you to decide if that is a sufficient excuse ..."

It was clear from Baron Fortier's expression that he did not.

"I have sixty ghouls..." replied Louis  "...armed, armoured and with transports at the ready, but I'm sure that your aware that a Toreador of the generation you attribute to this visitor to our city could have them killing each other with but a thought? I will assist you, but will not sacrifice the lives of those who pledge themselves to me in a futile cause. I have, however, come to trust your judgement and that of those who follow your lead. If you believe that they can make a difference then I will have them stationed nearby, awaiting your signal. How do you intend to proceed?"

Michael deferred to Daniel for the answer. 

Daniel explained that he had suitable staging points prepared for both Louis, Nines and their own forces and also that he, Vin, Hope and Sofia would be within the mansion when Michael had his meeting and could hopefully "wreak some havoc" from within. However any hope of success would pivot upon this Methuselah not surviving the meeting.

Michael walked over to Louis Fortier and looked him straight in the eye before speaking.

"If I have to sacrifice my unlife to ensure that Lubbock never makes it out of that room then I will make the sacrifice gladly. The Free States will not fall as long as I have any say in the matter. I hope you believe that?"

Fortier nodded solemnly and then replied. 

"As soon as you give the word, me and my men will do whatever is necessary to vanquish this foe or be destroyed in the attempt."

As they returned to their vehicle, it was Vin who broke the silence. "I think that's the very definition of a blood pact..."

As they stood in the courtyard, Michael's phone rang. The number was Isaac's as was the voice on the other end. 

"There's someone I'd like you to meet. There will be a car waiting for you and your entourage outside the Fortier's in ten minutes. Wear something nice. You're going to want this guest of mine to be impressed. The rest of your followers can wear what they please, they'll be waiting outside anyway...

Michael turned to his coterie.

"It's begun..."

Storytellers Conclusions
I sometimes 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....

Did someone say "dramatic finale"?

Well even if you didn't, that's what you'll be getting...

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, Vincent Ghast is Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope Romero is Deborah Ann Woll, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Sofia Rivera is Eliza Dushku, Sir Matthew Lubbock is Michael Douglas, The Childe of Sir Matthew Lubbock is Lucas Till, Johnny 'Roach' West is Kurt Cobain, 'Skelter' is Vin Diesel, Karen Anatos is Christina Hendricks, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Leo Frost is Danny John-Jules, Damsel is Irina Delnova, 'Nines' Rodriguez is Luis Carazo, Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman, 'Zipper' is Johnny Galecki, Charlie 'Chick' Abbott is Lena Headey, Edward Kaya is Laurence Fishburne, Hamish Moody is Pablo Schreiber, Elena Gutierrez is Emmanuelle Vaugier, Catherine DuBois is Margot Robbie and Baron Louis Fortier is Eduardo Verastegui.

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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