Sabir – you were unable to find a haven in the earth that was safe from the rolling blaze of the consuming fires. Unsure of how fire would effect your slumber, and with less than an hour before the sun would rise, you retreated to the top of an abandoned building made from solid stone and metal. You hid inside the rafters of the building’s now-dead infrastructure, in a room on the 3rd floor: Room 308 – you intentionally avoided 303.
You’re awakened by the sound of footsteps… you identify at least 6 sets of footsteps outside your room. They are treading lightly, obviously trying not to make a sound, and but for all the broken glass outside the room, they might have been successful. You smell smoke… but it’s a different odor than what you experienced yesterday in the streets. This fire doesn’t stem from the uncontrolled emotions of a confused mage, but burns with the assistance of man-made accelerant, and it doesn’t come from the streets, but from outside the door to your solid concrete room… the footsteps stop outside your door, you can hear the sound of glass crunch against the soles of their boots. Then there is only silence.
Alain, Lydia, and Rejric – You wake from another day of unnatural slumber to the ringing sound of Alain’s cellphone. It’s Valerie’s Caller ID.
The dark basement of Corpus Christi is illuminated from the unnatural light of the cellphone as you open it to answer. Alexander’s voice is on the other end, “Vidal has decided to spare your two friends, Valerie and Dmitri. You may pick them up just outside of the Palace. Vidal instructed me to give you one final warning… he wants no more incidents like this to pop up. He will not tolerate any more lies, or “mistakes,” and he advises that you learn to control your Beast, or he will do it for you. I don’t know why I keep covering for you, but I never told him about the incident with the gang at the cemetery. If Vidal knew how weak Valerie is to her Beast, and that she’s lost control of the Beast twice in only a couple days, he might conclude that she’s too much of a liability. Look, all I’m saying is watch yourselves. I know how hard it is the first year as Kindred, and I don’t want to see Vidal diabl… nevermind. Just be careful. I can’t cover for you anymore.”
Together, you manage to push open the concrete slab. Strangely, the fires are gone, without a single ember left glowing – a seemingly impossible accomplishment for mortals to have procured in a single day. Father John must have been successful finding Jessica some help. The complete darkness of night is a welcome return from the constant glow of the firelight, and the thick fog feels reassuring as it envelopes you; however, your sight is limited to merely 30 feet.
You see the faint red light of a video camera-phone, which is being held by a man crouching behind a parked vehicle. He is pointing the phone at you as you rise from the debris of Corpus Christi. He is apparently attempting to be concealed to get voyeuristic footage. He doesn’t seem to realize you spotted him.
The characters charm the man, and discover that there are 6 other hunters like him in the city – they told him to stay here and watch you exit the church. He tells them about his hunter network called Morpheus Coalition. They take the man to the Prince’s Palace since they have to pick up Valerie and Dmitri anyway.
Damna – The taste of sweet blood wakes you from slumber. The last thing you remember was the feeling of your corpse being torn apart by long talons and sharp teeth, after letting one named “Alain” into your haven. You thought you made a new friend who shared some of your unique interests, but at the first sign of danger, you were left to fend for yourself, against a formidable foe. It must have been a setup.
Somehow, however, you are still alive. You recognize one of Vidal’s coterie, Anya, as the one tending to you. You’ve seen her once or twice before, but that was enough to make a lasting impression.
You must be in one of Vidal’s holdings. You feel the drain of blood as you heal the last of your injuries. You watch with morbid amusement as the slashes across your arms fade away, leaving behind flawless skin.
Anya breaks the silence, “Well, about time you woke up. I was afraid I might have needed to hunt for more blood. There’s still a liter left, if you’re hungry – it’s fresh.” She smiles menacingly.
In regards to Damn’s attackers, she explains everything: “They know who you are now, and have learned their lesson. Vidal will not tolerate another blunder on their part. To ensure as much, he is sending you with them to find out who this new group of Hunters are who have been causing problems in Kumanovo and Tetovo, to the North and West of us. He is concerned that if they’re not dealt with, they may start becoming our problem, too, assuming they’re not already our problem. I will inform your coterie that you are being assigned to a different mission for an indeterminable amount of time, and that you will not be joining them in their crusade for expansion. They will need to be successful in our conquest to the East without your help. …and I am here to assist you, when needed. …Any questions?”
“You can meet your new coterie just outside the Palace, where they’ll be waiting for you.”
Valerie & Dmitri – Valerie, you wake up from the sound of Alexander slamming shut the outer gate of Vidal’s Palace. “Vidal will be sending someone with you today. I think you might remember him. Try to play nice.” You’re lying on the other side of the gate, on the sidewalk. Alexander disappears into the thick fog, but you can hear his footsteps continue walking towards the Palace. The fog is especially thick tonight, and you cannot see more than 30 feet in front of you. As you look around, you notice a corpse lying next to you with a stake through its chest, and on the other side of him are your backpack and all your belongings.
A large, black dog materializes from the fog and growls at you from across the street. It bares its fangs as it slowly stalks towards you.
Valerie, befriends the malnourished dog (weighs about 100 pounds, even in his shape), communicating with the dog supernaturally. Tonight, she taught the dog: Sit, Down, Stand, Roll-Over, Shake, Play Dead, Stay, Come, Heel and Fetch. She is in the process of teaching the dog combat prowess.
She has the dog remove the wooden stake with the Fetch command, and Dmitri reflexively gasps from the burst of pain as he re-enters the world consciousness.
Sabir, you hear whispers from behind the steel door, “One, two, three!” And with an explosive burst, the doorframe flies across the room as the door slams open. You hear debris pelt the walls. “Neck Biter! We know you’re in here, and we know what you are! We have you surrounded. There is no escape. Come out facing the back wall, with your hands interlocked behind your head. If you resist, we will respond with lethal force, and we will not give your comrades the same opportunity we are offering you. If you comply willingly, the experience will be far more pleasant for everyone, including your comrades.”
(Sabir attempts to surrender, but the men are obviously not interested). A deafening blast echoes against the concrete walls, and the smell of gunpowder fills his nostrils. As the gunshot rings out, you feel something like a hammer blow against your back. Even after all these years, the realization of pain is no less excruciating than when you were a mere mortal. You collapse to the ground, feeling a wrenching snap of vertebrae. You can’t move your legs.
You feel the drain of blood as your injuries begin to heal immediately, and are on your feet just in time to catch another metal slug in the leg. Gunfire rings out again in repeated staccato bursts. More impacts like the pinching of flesh and the stabbing of bone blossom on your torso. In the back of your mind, through all the pain, you recognize the hiss of a flamethrower come to life.
Your body is dead, but your wounds still hurt like hell. You can feel the Blood oozing through your corpse toward the holes in your flesh, your body trying out of habit to bleed, perhaps. Your teeth grind. Your fingers tremble. The Beast has its hands in yours, wearing you like a disguise. It tries to cover your eyes, push you down, and take control. Utter control. It’s never been like this before.
Sabir, are you willing to relax even your faint remaining grip on the Beast to get out of this? Do you let the Beast off its leash at the risk of your Humanity, or hang on as best you can at the risk of your Requiem?
If you shut your eyes, hide inside yourself, and let the Beast take utter control, it will ruin this place, and you will have let it happen. If you don’t, you and the Beast take your chances together, with the usual force of frenzy and whatever odds you think you have here.
Let go of the Beast, and you will survive this scene but have to deal with the aftermath, morally and materially. Rein it in, and the character gets just the normal frenzy effects.
The world seems to move in slow motion during this internal struggle between you and the Beast, when in reality, it is just a second of fleeting correspondence between intellect and instinct… like the mental go-ahead that tells a desperate bladder to go ahead and piss.
LET GO OF THE BEAST
You feel your blood catch on fire, and your mind drifts into semi-consciousness. You are only quasi-aware of what is happening through the red haze of your blurred vision. The Beast destroys your enemies, biting open arteries, standing on throats, stabbing out eyes and slashing open bellies. Most of them bleed out; a few die quicker.
When you resurface in your mind, your nose is clogged with blood. Your eyes are practically stuck shut with a gooey red paste. Your clothes are soaked through; your shirt is stuck to your skin like you’ve been sweating in it. In your hand is a fistful of hair. You’re standing on a corpse with its head facing the wrong way. There’s a long hair caught between your teeth.
The place is thick with running gore, handprints, footprints, and debris. You have totally fucked the Masquerade. So now what do you do?
As you’re leaving, your eyes are drawn to a blinking red light beneath one of the bodies. You find a state-of-the-art camera-phone.
You recognize this particular camera as the one hyped up in recent advertisements. It’s still in Beta testing, and has not yet been released in mass production to the public. It was developed in a joint effort by Apple Computers and World Federation Technologies. Only a true Internet geek would be dropping thousands of dollars on this model, and a geek that has a good reason for wanting it.
You see another flashing light on the Touch Screen – it says “Streaming” as it flashes on and off in Red.
The phone is locked, but the screen saver has a fancy background that reads, “Morpheus Coalition.”
The home page looks the same as it did before… lame, with the same picture of “bigfoot” beneath the homepage banner that reads “Morpheus Coalition.” It appears that whoever constructed the homepage was an amateur webpage designer who didn’t spend any more time on it than was necessary.
However, you notice something unusual about this webpage’s design code that indicates there is more to it than meets the eyes. If you could hack into the server that is supporting this page, you may be able to see what the phony webpage is really hiding.
Your screen flashes an electric green, sending neon shadows behind you. And you see a video of someone you think you know… Sabir. The image is blurry, like Sabir is moving too fast to be caught on film. But you’ve known Sabir long enough to recognize him, even in this video.
You see the Beast in his movements, in his posture. It’s not really the Sabir you know. He’s slaughtering a group of men and woman with a level of cruelty and brutality that you have never seen before – and you’ve seen a lot the past couple weeks. The video repulses you. Sabir repulses you. The masquerade is completely fucked. Sabir was caught on video in the act of his frenzy and that video was posted on the Internet for the world to see.
Below the video of Sabir, are blurry pictures of the rest of you, at various times over the past couple days, as well as other kindred you don’t know. You can identify yourselves only by the indicative circumstances pictured in the photo (there are 6 of you, the same heights and sizes, wearing the same colors as your usual outfits, and the pictures were taken at locations you recognize as places you have been). There are also pictures of what appear to be regular mortals, whom the Coalition suspect of being witches or wizards.
Lydia destroys the website, by hacking into the server it was hosted on. She later gets a threatening phone call from its creator, Morpheus, who knows her location and what she did.
Fearing that her identity and location has been given away, Alexander provided her with the means of acquiring a false identity and the funds to purchase a secure, government-type Panasonic Toughbook, which she ordered online from a Internet Beer Bar named “Beer Beer” for overnight delivery.
The characters find haven in the usual Sanatarium. When they wake, they are told by Alexander that 8 Kindred have been murdered – dragged out of their havens and exposed to sunlight while they slumbered during the day. Anya knew many of the murdered Kindred – they were part of her coterie.
They stumble upon Moldanato while investigating the murders, finding him with a strangely dressed man with an ornate gold ring with the roman numerals “VII” on the face. Moldanato tells them to leave, and that he’s the one investigating the murders. He tells them that if they want to be helpful they’ll go to this address, and hands them a piece of paper with the hand-written address on it.
Sabir decides that it would be prudent to call Alexander before heading to the location given to them by Maldonato, and letting Alexander know what happened and what they are doing.
The characters follow the address to the docks. There’s a faint smokey smell detected by the dog and Dmitri, which leads to a small building constructed with no windows, no chimney, and only a single front door. Upon further investigation, the characters find a tunnel 8’ in diameter that leads from the bottom of the house, into the water, and back towards the city.
Valerie enters the front door, after Lydia picked the lock. Sabir held his bow at the ready. Dmitri poised himself outside the door. Anya stayed beneath the docks. Damna stood opposite Dmitri.
The door immediately slams shut behind Valerie, but she comes out only seconds later, reporting that there’s nothing to see and that they’re wasting their time here. She returns to the van with Sabir, who notices that her dog is acting strangely – growling and barking at Valerie.
Meanwhile, Lydia, Anya, Damna and Dmitri enter the structure and find the symbol “VII” painted with blood all over the walls, as well as strange symbols the characters don’t recognize. In the middle of the room, is a young soldier dressed in formal uniform attire. His name tag reads, “Sergent McKenzy.” He makes emphatic gestures with his hands, drawing the letter “V” in the air. In apparent frustration, he gives up and blows over Anya as he runs by, making a line for Valerie. Sabir readies a shot at him, but misses, and the soldier ignores Sabir as he runs past him, too. Finally, the soldier reaches the van, and tackles Valerie, with proficiency and skill in martial arts. The dog viciously attacks Valerie, clawing and biting. Dmitri detects their auras, and finds the solider to have that of a vampire, and who appears to be Valerie to have a vibrant bright green color – an aura Dmitri is unfamiliar with.
When the rest of the party catches up – Dmitri, Lydia, Sabir, Damna, and Anya – Valerie takes off at full speed. The dog chases her for about 100 yards, barking as growling, but eventually stops and returns to the group.
Once Valerie is out of sight, the soldier’s form starts morphing until he starts looking a lot like Valerie… in fact, exactly like Valerie, because it is Valerie. She explains what happened in the building, and what she can only guess that thing was – a shapeshifter.
The party re-enters the building, and investigates. They find a trap door that is extremely well concealed, which leads to the pipeline below the house that was 8’ in diameter. The find the tunnel well-worn, like there’s frequent traffic through it. The tunnel seems to go all the way into the heart of the city. They don’t get too far when they all hear voices and footsteps coming towards them in the tunnel. They flee to the docks, waiting to ambush whoever exits the trap door. Damna jumped up into the rafters like a monkey. Sabir aimed his composite bow. Lydia concealed herself. Anya, Dmitri and Valerie positioned themselves outside the door.
The trapdoor opens, and the Prince walk up, with Maldonato on his heels, and 10 of the Prince’s guard. Maldonato cries out, “There they are! They are the culprits who have been committing the murders of our Kindred and brethren. They’ve been using this building and tunnel system to destroy us. You’ve caught them red-handed, Prince Vidal!”
The Prince chains the group easily, despite half-hearted resistance, any of which was obviously futile. Lydia speaks up, telling the Prince that Maldonato was the one who sent them to this location, and they had the hand-written paper to prove it. The rest of the party also remember that Sabir called Alexander.
The Prince asks to see the paper, and as he’s looking at it, he calls Alexander to confirm their story. His face turns red with anger as he turns to Maldonato, who starts backing away. The Prince forces him down the tunnel, and makes Maldonato tell all his sins… unspeakable evils, many of which the characters didn’t even suspect. He was behind the murders, the hunters, and some of the fires. Although Jessica really was out of control, Maldonato saw it as an opportunity to further his own agenda under the guise of a confused mage, and started fires strategically around this city.
The Prince has Maldonato taken away, and apologizes to the group for everything that has happened, especially to Dmitri, who he had tortured by Maldonato for questioning Maldonato’s loyalty to the Prince. So give the apology some weight, Vidal gave the characters Maldonato’s keys to his silver mercedes, and offered them a safe haven at his guest house until they found a place of their own.