Rigotto and Salah awoke for the evening and prepared for their meeting with Lady Catrina. The fact that they were still alive (as it were) said much. They didn’t trust Catrina and Federico, but at least the Brujah had kept their word. Exiting the guest room, they were surprised by how empty the castle was. The night before, there were mortals everywhere. Now, there was no one.
Rigotto poked his head in the former count’s bedchamber, finding one of DuBois’ henchmen poking through Scarmiglione’s belongs. The Cainite recalled the henchman was named James. Clearing his throat, Rigotto drew James’ attention. The human was startled by the interruption.
“What do you want?” James growled. Not the reaction Rigotto was expecting from catching him so brazenly stealing from the dead.
“Where is everyone?” Rigotto asked.
“Father Lucien wanted to perform a memorial service for the old count. The new count ordered all the servants to attend. My horse threw a shoe, so I decided to stay behind,” James answered. A lurid grin appeared on his face as he added, “So did Warden DuBois. The poor warden was so grief-stricken that a few of the men went and got him a little something special. He’s cheering himself up with her right now.”
“I’d like to meet with the warden. Take me to him,” Rigotto ordered.
“Why would I do that? You can wait until he’s done. I’m not interrupting him for you,” James replied.
Rigotto looked at Salah and then back at James. “One of two things is going to happen. Either you take me to the warden, now, or we see who would win in armed combat. You, or my friend here.”
Salah smiled, putting a hand on his sword.
“Jesus. Fine. Last I checked this wasn’t Jerusalem. His kind aren’t as frightening over here. The warden’s chamber is this way.”
False bravado masked his fear. Both Rigotto and Salah easily saw through it.
James led them down the hall to DuBois’ bedchamber. From within they could hear the sounds of a creaking bed frame, DuBois grunting, and an occasional sob in a distinctly feminine voice. Owing to his heightened senses, Rigotto recognized Juliana’s voice.
“Open the door,” he commanded, barely containing his rage.
His mind entranced by Rigotto’s supernatural abilities, James opened the door and stepped aside. Juliana showed signs of a severe beating. She alternately sobbed and muttered prayers under her breath. It was clear she was in shock and barely aware of her surroundings.
“Get off her,” Rigotto ordered. DuBois was still under and dismounted, standing beside the bed, traces of Juliana’s blood on his body.
DuBois knelt as ordered, unable to resist.
Rigotto looked to Salah, giving him a nod. Salah returned the nod, drawing his blade as he severed the warden’s head from his body. James screamed in terror, running down the hall for help. In a blur, Salah was suddenly in front of James. The assassin used his quietus abilities to eliminate all sound in the area. James tried to scream but no sound emerged. Salah grabbed the human by the throat and lifted him into the air. With the henchman subdued, he dragged James back to DuBois’ room. He dropped his quietus globe.
“You will tell no one about what happened. If I ever see you again, you will die. Do you understand me?” Salah threatened.
James weakly nodded, his pants darkening in colour as they became soaked with urine.
Salah used his obfuscate abilities to assume the warden’s form, perfectly mimicking his voice. James fell to his knees muttering prayers, making the sign of the cross.
While Salah dealt with the lone witness, Rigotto scooped Juliana up in his arms, walking out with her. She was all he could focus on. She was a work of art and someone had destroyed that. He made his way to the stables, setting the comatose Juliana on his horse as he mounted it, holding her close.
Conall woke up the servants quarters, alone. He realized he didn’t actually know which room in the castle was Rigotto’s and Salah’s room. He wandered around, looking for anyone when he came across Lady Catrina’s room. The new countess was in front of her mirrored cabinet, her handmaiden Lucille fixing her hair for her.
“You’re here alone? I was expecting the rest of your group,” Catrina asked, speaking to Conall’s reflection.
“The rest of my group?” Conall was confused. He hadn’t met Catrina with the others, and was unaware both that she was Kindred and that she knew who he was.
“Venice’s representatives in this little succession matter, the Toreador and his guard dog. We planned to meet this evening to settle things amicably,” she replied.
“I was actually looking for them. Do you know which room is there’s?” Connal asked.
Catrina waved Lucille away. “Lucille, take our new friend to his companions.”
“Of course mistress,” Lucille bowed. “Please follow me.”
The handmaiden led Conall down the hall. They passed Warden DuBois as they headed for the guest room. The Warden winked at Conall as he passed, the Ravnos unaware that it was Salah in disguise.
“Here you go milord,” Lucille took her leave, Conall saw the door was ajar, but neither of his companions were within.
As he considered where to look next, an unearthly shriek echoed through the castle. Connal suspected the shriek had come from the crypt and headed for the stairs to the main level. Salah was already at the landing between the first and second floor, the path blocked by two robed monks armed with swords. On their right ring fingers rested the same “VII” ring as the Heretic that Rigotto had previously encountered in the crypt.
“Two more. Kill them both,” one of the monks ordered to the other.
Salah was eager for a fight. He drew his Saracen blade, blurring with speed as he mauled one of the monks. The other slashed at the vampire with his short sword. Salah effortlessly dodged the attack, cutting the monk down.
From the stairs, Conall was still unaware that the “warden” was actually Salah. Instead, he believed DuBois to be a vampire. He headed down the stairs to join “DuBois”, eager to find out what was going on here. From the corner of his eye, he could see Father Lucien’s body, horribly mutilated. The man’s entrails were tied around his neck in a twisted parody of a hangman’s noose. A wild, insane, cackling came from the servant’s quarters.
At the edge of the village, Rigotto saw flames rising from the church as it was engulfed in flame. His only concern was for Juliana and her well-being. He kept riding, ignoring the distant flames.
Before the two vampires could investigate, the front doors to the keep opened. A priest with angelic facial features, wearing a necklace of human fingers, entered flanked by two other monks. The monks shared their master’s angelic features. The priest bared his lips, revealing fangs. “I am Remus. You would stand in the way of the Church claiming Scarmiglione as its own, and thus you trespass against the Lord. That transgression will be punished with Final Death.”
Above them, Lady Catrina replied, “I did not come here seeking conflict, but I meet your challenge willingly, weakling. Make peace with the God your very existence shames!”
The countess leapt from the balcony, engaging Remus in unarmed combat. The two monks loaded crossbows, aiming for Salah and Conall. The Ravnos mimed throwing something at the monks before having the room erupt in illusionary fire. The Red Fear awoke in Salah, compelling him to run from the fire. He fought the urge the run, holding his ground. He knew Conall was a sorcerer, but was also aware that the Irishman dealt in illusions. Feeling no heat from the flame, the Kurd held out a hand to test if the flame was real.
The monks loosed their bolts at Salah. One bolt struck true, while the other was dodged. Now aware that the flames weren’t real, the assassin charged his foes, slicing quickly with his blade. Conall hung back. He suspected the warden might be Salah, but it was also possible the warden had stolen the blade. He was content to let whoever was fighting the monks deal with the problem.
From his vantage point, Conall could see Lucille in the dining room. She had been staked through the heart, her head removed. It was clear their enemy knew they were vampires.
Salah stood victorious over the monks and turn towards Remus and Catrina. The priest ripped the countess’ throat open with his claws, sending her flying across the room. He moved to finish her off, but Salah stood in the way.
“Go to your false god, Saracen,” Remus growled. The priest was faster than Salah, but the assassin had luck on his side. Salah struck true with his sword, crippling Remus with a series of quick blows. The Kurd grabbed his foe, sinking his fangs into the priest’s neck, drinking the sweet vitae. He kept drinking even after Remus’ blood was gone, draining the fiend’s soul. Salah felt strong. Stronger than he had ever felt before. His illusion was dispelled, revealing him for who he truly was.
He turned around, to see Conall feeding some of his blood to Catrina, saving the countess’ life. Their reunion was cut short by insane laughter emanating from the servant’s quarters. The Count of Scarmiglione stepped out of the room, still wearing the white nightshirt he had been wearing at death, still pale and withered from age and disease. However, he was also spattered with gore. He stared at the coterie with a mad hunger in his eyes, and bits of flesh between his teeth and hanging from his lower fangs. He carried the severed head of one of DuBois’ assessors, a final look of startled horror etched on the assessor’s face, in one hand. In the other he dragged an unconscious girl. She was naked and covered in blood, but she appeared to be alive.
“Only I may deflower my peasant women,” the count stated firmly, in a regal tone of voice. “It is my right as master of this domain! And now that I have my youth restored, I shall deflower them all and drink their virgin blood even as my seed corrupts it!”
He let out another gout of mad laughter. “My foolish son thought he could rule me. I punished him for his presumption, and now his youth has been added to mine. You, messengers from my good friend di Marino, you are clearly creatures of the night, as am I. I would that you serve me. Here, you may have this maiden, and I will claim the wife of my foolish son. Her blood shall be mine. By God, it’s good to be young again – young again, and filled with more power than I have ever dreamed of!”
Salah stepped aside, the count tossing the girl at the Kurd’s feet. As the count walked past Salah, kneeling to feed from Catrina, Salah brought his sayf down, giving the count his Final Death.
“What happens now?” Conall asked. It seemed everyone in the castle was now dead.
“He left with Juliana. Perhaps he took her back to her cottage?” Salah suggested.
“It’s as good a place as any to start looking for him,” Conall said.
The two grabbed their horses from the stables and rode for Juliana’s cottage, taking the unconscious Catrina with them. They still needed to figure out what to do with her. The church still burned. Conall realized in horror that the castle staff had been sent to the church for a memorial service for the count. They were likely now all burned to death. It was now too late to save any of them.
They kept riding for the cottage, where they met up with Rigotto. “The warden destroyed a work of art. How could anyone so callously destroy something so beautiful?”
“What are your plans for her?” Salah asked.
“I’ll take her and her brothers back to Venice with us. They can work in my shop, and be free of this place,” Rigotto answered.
“What do we do with the countess?” Conall wondered. “If she’s the new ruler of Scarmiglione, and she’s loyal to the Prince of Ravenna, isn’t she a threat?”
“I’ll deal with her,” Salah replied. He took her into the woods where she wouldn’t be found, sinking his fangs into her neck, diablerizing her as he had Remus. Her body dissolved into ash as her soul was consumed by Salah. Now control of Scarmiglione would fall to Venice. There was no one left to contest Narses’ control over the county.
End Session 2.