A City of Masks – Session 6

Conall awoke, the memory of a particularly vivid sex dream involving an Arab woman still fresh in his mind. When he stood up from his resting place, the woman from his dream was standing near him, her throat slit. Her white nightgown was stained with her blood. She opened her mouth to speak, but only blood poured out. He leapt up to press his hand against the wound. The moment he touched her, she vanished, leaving no trace she was ever there.

He whirled around, looking for trouble. He had a sixth sense for danger, but sensed nothing. That troubled him. He knew he had seen the woman somewhere before, but couldn’t place where. He headed for the stairs to the main floor of the house he was squatting in, his paranoia demanding he check the house out. It was surprisingly empty, dust on the floor indicating it had been sometime since anyone had been here. Yet, he knew it was occupied when he had checked out the place earlier. He could recall the scent of old paper in the library, the smell of spices from the kitchen. He was certain the necklace he had stolen from a jewelry box in the master bedroom was real.

He smelled his own clothing, wondering if he smelt musty. Had he been sleeping for years?

Time didn’t seem to have passed for him, although it did seem to have passed in the house. He carefully checked the rest of the house out. He could smell alcohol in the living, but there were no bottles. He could smell paper in the library, but there were no books. In the courtyard outside the house, he could smell jasmine and honeysuckle, but the flowerbeds were empty. He could hear the sound of a fountain running, but the somewhat risque and tacky fountain of a satyr frolicking with a nymph was dry.

He was starting to freak out, realizing he was sensing things from the past. He knew he needed help explaining what was going on. He left the yard, heading towards Rigotto’s.

After rising for the evening, Rigotto headed downstairs to check in with Francesco. While his retainer was usually alone when Rigotto arrived, tonight the store was occupied by several of his employees. It seemed that the night earlier, one of Vetrina’s employees, Gia Scordato, had hanged herself in the public garden from the infamous “Suicide Tree”, a particularly popular place to hang oneself. No one was aware she was depressed, and now the employees were holding a memorial for her.

“How incredibly sad,” Rigotto lied, feigning sorrow. He only barely remembered that the girl even existed. He attempted to share a story of a time he recognized her existence.

A toast was made in Gia’s honour. While he was no longer able to consume food, Rigotto raised a glass alongside his employees. It tasted like ash in his mouth. He knew the drink wouldn’t last long in his stomach. It was only a matter of time before he would noisily, messily, and bloodily eliminate it via regurgitation.

While the employees shared stories of Gia, Rigotto’s attention was instead drawn to a knock at his door. He opened it to see Conall, offering the Cainite a glass of wine, explaining the situation.

“That’s a terrible occurrence,” Conall said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable toasting someone I didn’t know.”

“What can I do for you on this fine night?” Rigotto asked.

“I went to sleep in an inhabited manse,” he began before Rigotto interrupted him.

“Perhaps we should speak outside,” Rigotto said, closing the door behind him as he stepped outside.

“…very unusually I went to sleep in an inhabited manse,” Conall continued, “I awoke in a place that looked like it hadn’t been inhabited in years. I had a very unusual dream, and when I awoke, the woman from my dream stood next to me with her throat slashed. When I reached out to her, she vanished.”

“Is one of your friends playing tricks on you?” Rigotto asked.

“It’s entirely possible,” Conall replied. “But I couldn’t find any evidence of it. You may have realized I am quite paranoid, and aware of my surroundings at most times, so I’m quite disturbed. Have you heard of anything like this before?”

“No,” Rigotto answered. “Perhaps we should investigate this person’s domain that you so rudely crashed in and decided to take as your own?”

“If it’s another Cainite, I didn’t realize it,” Conall explained. “I thought it was a human’s inhabitance. But what I saw could very well be someone from my clan, as I possess some of the same powers of illusion.”

“So we’ve established there may or may not be something wrong with a place that may or may not belong to one of the Kindred…”

“This is why I need help,” Conall said.

Rigotto focused his mental powers, psionically compelling Salah to come to him.

The Saracen assassin sat in his armoury, in full armour, sharpening every sword he owned. His sire knew he was in Venice. That frightened him.

He vanished in a blur, rushing to Rigotto’s side as quickly as he could. He used his obfuscate abilities to vanish from sight, ensuring that the Masquerade would not be broken. Once he arrived at Vetrina, he reappeared. “What’s the urgent need?” he asked.

Rigotto gestured towards Conall.

Conall explained his problem to Salah. The situation had left him baffled. He normally could sense danger.

Salah, instead, suggested they leave Venice immediately. The Assamites were on their way.

“That is troublesome,” Rigotto said. “I have businesses here, but perhaps time away is a good idea. Is it worth investigating Conall’s weirdness?”

“It seems irrelevant, but whatever you think is best,” Salah replied.

Rigotto suggested putting things in place to follow the Fourth Crusade when it left Venice for Dalmatia. Salah did not want to follow the Crusade. It sounded like a terrible plan to him, following a bunch of Crusaders to the Middle East.

“Our goal is not to get to the Middle East,” Rigotto said. “Our plan is to travel with a bunch of flesh bags.”

Salah agreed that perhaps being surrounded by Crusaders was the safest place when one was being pursued by Assamites. In light of those issues, solving a Gypsy’s problems seemed minor. The Saracen suggested maybe they should check out Conall’s problems before they became the coterie’s problems.

Conall was troubled by this, and he was making it the coterie’s problem. He wanted them to show interest in it. He was willing to ask them for a favour if that’s what it would take. They agreed, following him back to the manse.

As they passed through the living room, the coterie caught a glimpse of an Arab woman in the reflection of the window. Then, she was gone. Rigotto tried to use his soul sight abilities, but could find nothing. Conall had the taste of whiskey in his mouth, while Salah had the taste of sex in his. Salah noticed the woman in the reflection was not veiled. This house was full of sin.

Conall checked his pockets, finding the necklace he had stolen, showing it to his companions as proof the manse was inhabited. Salah recognized it as a ta’wiz. Typically these amulets contained Qur’anic verses, intended to ward their wearers against evil. Instead of a verse from the Qur’an, it instead contained an exaltation to Shaytan. While he had initially dismissed the issue, Salah was now legitimately interested in what was going on in this house.

Wanting to follow up on a lead in the Kine world, Conall suggested it might be a few days before he had more information about the house. Nevertheless, he wanted to continue staying here, intent on unraveling the mystery.

Each night, he slept in a different room, having dreams of the house and its inhabitants. While sleeping in the master bedroom he had visions of domestic abuse, erotic encounters, and sleepless, angry brooding. He caught glimpses of the woman with her throat slit, bleeding all over the sheets. He could smell sex and booze and hear the sounds of individuals enjoying rough sex.

In the guest bedroom, he received flashbacks of the couple performing tag team S&M on a prostitute, followed by clinical cleanup of the room afterwards. There was the scent of sex, and the smell of opium and hash given to “good” slaves mixed with an odour of blood, fear, and hot metal when things went wrong.

As a test, he spent one night in another house, wondering what dreams would come. None came to him. It was proof enough that the house was the cause of his dreams.

After a couple of days, his contact in the human world was able to provide information about the house. Twenty years ago it had belonged to a merchant named Nazario Magnus. After a trade deal fell through, he experienced financial ruin. He murdered his wife, Aiesha, and then vanished from Venice. Since then, there had been numerous attempts to sell the house, but no one was interested in buying a haunted house. Anyone who had spent a night in the house could testify to bleeding walls, wracking sobs, and awakening to the snarling and barking of dogs.

While Conall was dealing with his house, Rigotto was having his own issues. One night after returning home to Vetrina, he found someone had broken in and wrecked the place. Most troubling was that the marble statue of Juliana had been destroyed. He checked in with Francesco, hoping his retainer could provide answers. Alas, he could not. All Francesco could remember was that a man had come to the door, and then an hour later, he was on a bridge walking out of the sestiere in a stupor.

It was clear the supernatural was at work, but Rigotto didn’t know enough about other Cainite abilities to know what was responsible. He asked Francesco to check on Juliana, while he checked in with Balthazar. As the coterie’s resident occult expert, Rigotto hoped the Tremere magus would know. Dementation was the suspected culprit.

Salah awoke to news that a package had been delivered to this house during the day. This troubled Salah. No one knew where he lived. Not even Conall or Balthazar’s espionage attempts had been successful in locating Salah’s haven. Within the package was a red finch and a note. The note contained a location on Venice’s mainland and said “Meet me” in Arabic. The meaning of the finch was obvious: Amaranth.

The Assamite now felt that his problems trumped those of the others. A haunted house and burglary were minor compared to a blood hunt. He wanted to attend the meeting, but brought the others with him. If things went poorly, Balthazar would serve as useful bait. Salah wasn’t willing to risk Rigotto’s life, but the Tremere was a different story.

They found the location on the mainland. It was a small house in a poorer area, with a bodyguard stationed outside. Salah noted immediately that the bodyguard wore typical Ayubbid dress. Rigotto used his auspex on the bodyguard, informing his companion that the bodyguard was human. His aura was gold, suggesting he was spiritual. That made sense to Salah.

Cloaking himself with obfuscate, Salah told the others to remain hidden while he checked the house out. He snuck around back, entering through an open window. Inside the house, an Arab man knelt on a prayer rug, reciting the evening prayer.

He then rose, greeting Salah with a “Peace, brother.”

Salah was paralyzed with fear. Anyone who was able to see him while he was obfuscated was more powerful than Salah. That was not good.

“I mean you no harm, brother. If I wanted you dead, I would not have sent you a warning. My name is Zayn ibn Ishaq, and our father is angered by your betrayal, yet also impressed that you found, and stopped, his assassin,” Zayn began.

“Personally, I find framing you and your coterie distasteful. Perhaps it is the years spent fighting the Christians, but I prefer facing my enemy on the battlefield. We should fight, and die, with honour, in glorious battle. Alas, this is not a popular point of view, as you well know. Although it seems some of us are better at serving from the shadows than others.”

Salah kept quiet, letting Zayn speak.

“If you wish to prove yourself as an assassin, and complicate our father’s plans, you might be interested in knowing that the Serpent is not the only target in Venice. The Children of Haqim seek the death of a sorcerer in your city,” Zayn grabbed Salah by the shoulders in a friendly gesture, “Worry not, my brother, your whoremonger is safe. Should something happen to the assassin that targets this sorcerer, it would be a thorn in our father’s paw.”

Salah spoke at last, “What does the brotherhood have to do with a random inconsequential sorcerer in Venice?”

“Ishaq has assigned the murder of this sorcerer, a Tremere named Marius, to Hassan the Younger, a neonate Assamite. Intelligence suggests Marius is a low-ranking member of House Tremere, and it should be an easy solo mission for Hassan. Unless a more skilled assassin got there first. Maybe Marius dies before Hassan gets there, embarrassing him, or maybe Marius lives and Hassan dies. Either outcome would upset Ishaq,” Zayn replied.

“And if the assassin dies, will another be sent?” Salah asked.

“Perhaps. At least until it is no longer economical to remain in Venice,” Zayn answered.

Salah suspected the target was not chosen at random. The Assamites targeting a Tremere seemed like a setup.

“What are you doing in Venice?” Salah asked.

“I’ve been in the city for about a week,” Zayn replied. “I came to deliver a message. I don’t necessarily agree with everything our father does. We are brothers after all.”

“How is the cause going? Ishaq notwithstanding,” Salah inquired.

“It’s going,” Zayn answered. “Our plans for the Christian’s crusade has hit some bumps. We would have preferred sending the crusade against the Serpents to weaken their holdings and strengthen our own.”

“Thank you for the warning. And for being so hospitable,” Salah said.

Zayn nodded. “That’s what family is for.”

“I hope your interests and my own are never at odds. I would like to call you brother,” Salah warned. He slowly backed towards the window and exited the house.

Returning to the coterie, he warned them that a frightening vampire lived within. Rigotto wondered what they were going to do about it. Salah informed them about Marius. Balthazar immediately recognized the name. Marius was his mentor.

Salah was of two minds. On the one, maybe he shouldn’t antagonize his sire further. On the other, maybe it was too late for that. Rigotto pointed out that Ishaq’s actions were a direct insult to Salah. He suggested asking the Prince for permission to kill Hassan.

Rigotto set up a hasty meeting with Guilelmo. Revealing an assassination plot, and Setite infiltration of the Ventrue, had earned the young Toreador some clout. “Someone has insulted me by destroying my home, and I wish permission to seek them out and punish them,” Rigotto began. His problems, of course, trumped the rest of the coterie.

“And do you have proof a Cainite is involved?” Guilelmo inquired.

Rigotto explained that his retainer had been waylaid, likely through Dementation.

“So you suspect a childe of Malkav,” Guilelmo said. “I cannot give permission for a blood hunt without more information. There are a number of Malkavians in Venice. We can’t have you accusing all of them. I’m certain you can appreciate our concern when it comes to false accusations.”

Rigotto understood. He simply wished to inform Guilelmo so that everything could be kept above board. Given the recent troubles, Guilelmo appreciated that.

Salah cleared his throat, wishing to draw attention to his problems. “A Tremere named Marius is set to be assassinated,” he blurted out.

Guilelmo was confused. “We have given no permissions for blood hunts against the Usurpers.”

Balthazar disliked the sobriquet for his clan.

“As it stands, we have acquired intelligence that name an Assamite who has been dispatched to kill Marius as a test. We wish to stop this from happening. But should said assassin be destroyed, I believe my Assamite friend would like to ask for permission to dispatch him in the Assamite fashion,” Rigotto explained.

“Very well, I will give permission,” Guilelmo said. “The Assamites have already caused enough trouble in Venice, and it would be good to send them a message to stay out of the city. I trust your…associates…will keep things quiet. We don’t need any scenes being caused.”

“We will do our best to ensure that none of this spills out into the streets,” Rigotto assured him.

“Milord, a moment?” Conall interrupted. “I have a personal problem that I wish to solve, and I was wondering if you could favour me with a name or direction. I wish to find a necromancer. Is it possible to point me in a direction?”

Rigotto was suspicious of Conall using the city’s political structure for his own ends. The Ravnos typically didn’t speak up at Elysium, when he attended.

“There are a number of Cappadocians in the city. I believe they have a cadet branch that favour the necromantic arts. ‘Nigrimancy’ I believe they call it,” Guilelmo replied.

Conall thanked him profusely for this help.

Salah wanted more information from Balthazar about who Marius was. The Tremere explained that Marius was his mentor, and was a talented magus, although his skills were overlooked.

The Assamite wished to adopt Marius’ form, keeping the real Marius somewhere safe until the assassin could be dealt with. Rigotto suggested that Conall use his illusion powers to create a fake wall to hide behind with Marius.

Suspecting that they had some time before Marius was assaulted, however, Rigotto first wanted to check on Juliana. The coterie decided to spit up. Salah and Balthazar would head to Marius’ villa, while Rigotto and Conall would check on Juliana.

When they arrived at the farmhouse, they found the farmer’s wife, Fiorella, panicking. She ran over to Rigotto. Something was wrong with Juliana. She had gone mad, speaking in tongues. Fiorella feared the Devil had a hold of the currently. She was inside, holding Fiorella’s husband Emiliano hostage. She wanted Rigotto to handle the situation. He brought Juliana to stay with them. The mad girl was his responsibility.

When Juliana saw Rigotto, she again called him her angel, but it was more panicked then previously. Instead of the emotionally deadened girl she’s been for the past few months, she was maddened.

“Why haven’t you fucked me Rigotto? I’ve seen the way you look at other women. Am I not pretty enough for you Rigotto?”

She ran the knife in her hands along the side of her face, not cutting deep enough to draw blood yet. “You said you’d protect me Rigotto! Why didn’t you protect me from him Rigotto?! Do you know what it felt like when his bulk was on the top of me, penetrating me? The stench of his breath on my face as he raped me? This is your fault Rigotto!”

Juliana slit one of her wrists, laughing madly as the blood hit the floor. The Beast within Rigotto hungered for blood, but he forced it back down. Not now.

He sighed with resignation. “I am sorry for what happened to  you. I should have been there for you.”

He then used his psionic abilities to entrance her. For the next month she would be little more than his puppet. He bound her wrist, staunching the flow of blood. His favourite toy was broken. That saddened him.

He took her with him, wanting to keep her close by, and safe, until he figured out what he was going to do with her.

Before they headed for Marius’ villa, Conall wanted to meet with a Cappadocian named Cosima Giovanni. Like the rest of her clan, she looked like a walking corpse. She fit the look of a necromancer. He explained his issue, wondering if she’d be able to help. Cosima took the ta’wiz from him, explaining that it was the spirit’s fetter. While Aiesha Magnus was bound to the house, the ta’wiz would allow the necromancer to attempt to contact the spirit.

She worked her magic, but was only able to get fragmented answers. “He returns.” “Be careful.”

Salah and Balthazar met with Marius. The magus was excited to see his favourite student, wondering what brought him to the villa.

“I come bearing bad news,” Balthazar said.

“Oh? What news brings you here?” Marius asked.

“Apparently there’s a threat against your life,” Balthazar replied.

Marius chuckled. “There have been many over the years. None successful.”

“This one comes from a heathen assassin,” Balthazar said.

“He is an Assamite,” Salah added.

“And what have I done to anger the Children of Haqim?” Marius wondered.

“Very likely, it has nothing to do with you,” Salah answered.

“Then why am I being targeted?” Marius asked.

Salah vaguely explained that he and his sire were not on good terms, and that since Balthazar was an ally, perhaps it made Marius a target.

“We are here to deal with the situation,” Balthazar explained.

“What do you need from me?” Marius asked.

“We need you to hide,” Salah said. “If you have someplace safe you can go, it would be best for you to go there.”

Marius nodded in understanding. “Try not to damage the furniture. And do put a pot of tea on before you leave.”

The Beast still hungered. While Rigotto was able to resist feeding from Juliana, he needed vitae. Not knowing how long they would be at Marius’ villa, he found a woman to seduce, feeding from her. Conall was left to babysit Juliana. While she sat, entranced, he stole a crucifix from her, pocketing it.

Two nights later, the coterie heard the sounds of combat outside. Rigotto, Conall, Juliana, and Marius sat hidden behind an illusory wall, while Salah and Balthazar sat at a table in the main room. Salah had adopted Marius’ form, almost mimicking him perfectly.

Looking through a window, they saw two of the villa’s gargoyles in combat against a Saracen. Hassan the Younger. The neonate assassin used his celerity to quickly kill the gargoyles. When he attempted to enter the villa, there was an explosion of magic as one of the wards was triggered. Moments later, all sound in the main room deadened.

Salah knew what was coming. Hassan was using obfuscate and quietus to hide himself, but Salah was ready. The moment Hassan struck, he appeared, his blade striking Salah’s armour. There was a moment of confusion, wondering why a robed magus had armour, but then Salah revealed himself, drawing a blade hidden under the table. The two Assamites fought, both using their celerity powers to move at supernatural speeds. The fight was over in mere seconds, with Salah standing triumphant.

He considered drinking Hassan’s blood, and soul, but there were too many witnesses. That was a side of his monster he wasn’t willing to show them yet.

Balthazar knelt down with a vial, collecting some of Hassan’s spilled blood. It would be very useful in his rituals.

End Session 6.

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