A City of Masks – Session 7

With Hassan the Younger dead, the coterie wanted to question Marius. They suspected the Tremere magus was targeted because of Balthazar’s connection to Salah, but they needed to make sure. The magus agreed to speak, but wanted to speak to his protege alone. The outsiders may have saved his life, but that didn’t mean they were privy to Tremere secrets.

Salah agreed to leave, but once he was out the door, he used his abilities to turn invisible, and then snuck back in. Rigotto wanted to question the city’s Malkavians, and was happy to leave. Conall left the manor, but circled around to a window, so he could listen in. To his dismay, the manor was warded against him listening in.

Once they were alone, Marius revealed that he had been researching the means to create bigger and scarier gargoyles. It was research into what could be stitched together to create a better bodyguard. It wasn’t any different from what any other Tremere was researching, so Marius was unsure as to why the Assamites would target him specifically. Perhaps Balthazar’s Assamite friend could shed some light on what his clan mates were up to.

“It is, if nothing else, an opportunity to foster a closer relationship with our Saracen brothers,” Marius said.

“Perhaps. He does seem useful,” Balthazar agreed.

“You may want to make sure your haven is properly warded, lest they come for you,” Marius cautioned.

Balthazar agreed, asking Marius to teach him a ritual to ward his haven against Cainites.

Salah was bored. This wasn’t nearly as interesting as he had hoped. He waited for the perfect moment to leave and then departed.

Rigotto went to Elysium to talk to the Malkavians. The members of the Clan of the Moon who attended Elysium were less psychotic madmen and more prophets that no one paid attention to. Rigotto approached Jacobo, one of the Seers that he recognized.

“How are you doing this fine evening?” Rigotto asked.

“Nation is rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” Jacobo replied.

Rigotto was used to him speaking in prophecy. “Have you been in touch with the affairs of the city? Do you have a feeling for what comes next?”

“I see a reign of blood. A city in flames,” the Seer replied.

“You seem to be a true visionary,” Rigotto said.

“I am Priam’s cursed daughter,” Jacobo lamented, his warnings ignored like those of Cassandra.

“I can imagine it must be quite the burden,” Rigotto said.

“I am Atlas, holding up the world,” Jacobo said.

“Are there many of your friends that share this burden?” Rigotto asked.

Jacobo shrugged. “A handful.”

“Are there many Malkavians in the city who have made their way though the streets of Venice in these recent nights?” Rigotto asked.

“We are as constant as the Northern Star,” Jacobo answered. Rigotto took that to mean there was no one new.

“Who are the usual Malkavians in the city? I’m looking for someone, but I’m not certain who,” Rigotto asked.

“Myself, Leonardo, Carlo, and Bernardo,” Jacobo replied.

Rigotto recognized the names. He had seen them at least once at Elysium. He was certain they had been at one of the meetings to decide the path of the Crusade.

“Have you heard word of anyone I might have crossed or inadvertently upset?” Rigotto asked.

“The Venetori are not your friends,” Jacobo warned.

“Do they count many Malkavians among their number?”

“Only those corrupted by their madness,” Jacobo answered.

Rigotto had heard of such Apostates, Cainites corrupted by a dark thaumaturgic ritual and made Baali.

“You’ve also made enemies of the Saracens,” Jacobo pointed out.

“I think they would let me know a different way if they were angry,” Rigotto mused. “I’m interested in information. I’ve clearly wronged someone, but I love this great city and everyone in it. If you hear of someone who appears to feel as though I have somehow wronged them and is looking for vengeance, it would be a great favour to me if you would let me know.”

“You are a friend of Venice, and Venice is a friend of yours,” Jacobo said.

“Someone with such gifts is someone I would look to for help,” Rigotto said.

Jacobo was appreciative that Rigotto did not dismiss him and his gift/curse as most of the city’s Cainites did.

Rigotto had hoped to gain more information, but least he had made some contacts that might be able to help him out.

Salah hungered. He had used a lot of his inner reserves fighting Hassan and his body demanded vitae. Using his eldritch abilities he broke into a house, feeding on the person within.

His hunger sated, his attention turned to Rigotto. It disturbed Salah that someone was fucking with the Toreador.

He headed over to Vetrina, asking his friend how comfortable he’d be with the Assamite questioning all of the employees. Salah was also aware of certain Cainite techniques that could be used to restore memories that had been ripped away. He suggested that Rigotto might want to find someone capable of rebuilding Francesco’s mind.

Rigotto wanted a conversation with Juliana to see what she remembered, first. If she was unable to provide any information, he considered having her memories rebuilt as well. He sat the girl down, asking if she remembered a visitor. She did.

“A man came to the farm that I hadn’t seen before,” she said.

“What was he there for?” Rigotto asked.

“He wanted to buy milk from Emiliano,” she answered.

“Do you remember a name? Or an accent?” he asked.

“He spoke Venetian without an accent,” she replied.

Rigotto asked her to describe the man, sketching a picture based on her description. It didn’t look like any of the Malkavians he was familiar with. Conall recognized the man, though. It was Nazario Magnus.

Realizing that none of the coterie had paid attention to his haunted house issues, he explained the story of how Magnus had been financially ruined, killed his wife, and then fled the city. Now it appeared someone was wearing his face. Given that Magnus appeared to not have aged, Conall surmised that Magnus was Cainite.

Rigotto didn’t recognize the name, and had no idea why Magnus might have an issue with him. He wanted to go through his records, and those of the business from when his father was still alive, to see if he had ever done business with the man.

Conall wanted to use his own contacts within the city’s mortals to find out more as well.
Balthazar revealed that he had ties with a noble family, and perhaps they’d be able to provide information as well.

When Balthazar reached the estate, there was a flurry of activity. Odd, for how late an hour it was. He checked in with the staff, learning that during the day his ward, Anselm, had been kidnapped!

Balthazar checked in with some of his spies that were installed in the house as servants. It seemed that a lot of children had disappeared from various walks of life. There seemed to be no pattern in who had been taken.

The Tremere magus used his thaumaturgy to view the past. He saw Anselm approached by two black-garbed men. The child appeared frightened, initially, but he quickly smiled and got into a carriage with the men.

Angered, Balthazar went to speak with the guardsman responsible for watching Anselm. He recalled the carriage pulling up and the men getting out, but they seemed like okay people and didn’t pose a threat, so he didn’t stop them.

Balthazar’s anger grew. He realized the description of the effect sounded like what Rigotto was capable of doing. As it was during the day, it wasn’t a Cainite, but someone with similar abilities.

The magus placed a devil-touched coin in the guard’s pocket. The enchantment would ensure that for the next day, everyone the guard talked to would be consumed with enmity for him.

The Tremere wanted to see if his spymaster, Flavia, had any information on these kidnappings. She had heard whispers that the street children were frightened of something they called “the black men”, but were otherwise unwilling to speak with adults. Perhaps, she suggested, they’d speak to a child.

Knowing that Salah was capable of changing his form, Balthazar relayed the information to him, suggesting that the Assamite make himself appear as a child. Thinking that two paths of attack would be better than one, Salah suggested that Conall speak with the Gypsies, to see where street children might hang out.

Disguised as a child, Salah approached such a group and asked if they had any food they might share. They offered cooked rat. Salah revealed the many knives he was carrying, frightening the children. He told the kids of the carriage, wondering if they knew who the “black men” were.

The black men had been taking kids off the street for a while. They’d return, a day or two later, with stories of how the black men had “touched” them. Lately, however, the children they were taking weren’t coming back. It used to just be poor kids that were being taken, but now the rich were being taken as well.

Salah tried to gather more information, but the children knew nothing else except that they were being taken in carriages. Return to Nordic Fur, Salah relayed this information to Balthazar who had his spy network start looking for the carriages.

The spies reported in later that the carriages were leaving Venice for the mainland, heading to Mestre. Balthazar knew there were no vampires in Mestre. At all. Anyone who was embraced in Mestre died rather than rising. The last prince of Mestre died a century ago, and any vampires who tried to live in Mestre found themselves compelled to leave.

While they looked for information on the missing children, Rigotto spent more time at Elysium. He wanted to speak to Cainites involved in one of Venice’s businesses. He found a Ventrue named Angelo Ferrari, checking if Angelo remembered the name Nazario Magnus. Rigotto specifically drew the name out, as though he was struggling to remember the name. “It was a couple decades ago, I think,” Rigotto added.

Angelo was silent in thought. “He killed his wife and then fled town, correct?”

“That’s what I thought too,” Rigotto lied. “His name came up recently in something I was dealing with, and it’s curious, because I haven’t heard that name in so long. I was trying to think if there was any trace of what actually happened to him.”

“I could ask around, see if any of my contacts remember anything,” Angelo said.

“If you could. It’s a curiosity of mine more than anything. It’s something that might start creating a stir in the city,” Rigotto said.

“You’ve helped out the Ventrue, so sure, I’ll ask around,” Angelo said.

The coterie prepared for the journey to Mestre. Balthazar brought his bodyguard, Lucius Pullo, with him, just in case they needed to do anything during the day. Rigotto brought Juliana with him. He didn’t trust her alone.

Arriving in Mestre, the coterie learned that the carriages were traveling to the Duomo of Mestre. They wondered if the Venetori were involved. Rigotto and Balthazar had the humans remain in the carriage while they investigated the outside of the church. The Tremere warned that he didn’t want a frontal assault; he couldn’t risk Anselm’s life. They saw no one around, stealthily scouting the perimeter of the building.

Balthazar sat down, preparing a ritual that would allow him to incorporeally pass through solid matter. Salah used his powers to appear as a child once more, while Rigotto used a black cloak to disguise himself, leading the shapeshifted Salah up the steps. Conall followed behind.

The doors to the monastery were not locked. Yet, the church’s massive oak doors didn’t seem welcoming. The doors didn’t so much prohibit entry as disapprove that they were even on church ground. One of the doors entering the monastery was ajar. When the coterie entered the narthex, they saw signs of a struggle. The holy water stoup had been knocked over, spilling the water across the floor. Once they entered the nave, they saw the source of the struggle. A figure in liturgical dress hanged crucified to the cross at the back of the chancel.

Conall moved forward to investigate. The crucified priest was dead, but the body was still warm. The Ravnos inspected the body, wondering if the priest had been part of the Heresy. In addition to the wounds on the hands and feet, a wooden stake had been driven into the priest’s heart. The idea of a vampire hunter nearby worried Conall.

Salah noticed that a metal door in the east transept sat open. On the other side were stairs heading down to the undercroft. The undercroft itself was an old chapel – the remnants of the original church located on this site. On the altar lay a bleeding man, barely clinging to life. Again, Conall was the first to step forward to investigate. The bleeding man looked as though he had lost a sword fight. With Balthazar’s direction, Rigotto bound the man’s wounds.

“Who attacked you?” Conall asked. The injured man looked around in confusion, seeing no signs of his attacker.

“Who are you?” the Ravnos instead asked.

“My name is Sebastian, I am a member of the Poor Knights of the Passion of the Cross of Acre,” he replied. His Latin was spoken with a German accent, not unlike Balthazar’s. Conall made a mental note to investigate who these Knights of Acre were. Balthazar thought it sounded like a military order akin to the Templars or the Hospitallers. Sebastian appeared to be a Crusader. That bothered Salah.

“What happened here?” Conall inquired.

“My commander, Benoit de Renard, sent me to Venice to investigate rumours of the Devil being present in Scarmiglione. When I passed through Mestre, I heard rumours of street children being raped as part of an initiation into a cult. It led me here. The priest was a vampire, and paid for his sins against God. When I came down here to the undercroft to investigate, I was ambushed,” Sebastian answered.

“Can you explain more? What cult?” Rigotto asked.

“I don’t know,” Sebastian replied. “I was attacked by black-robed men, and left for dead. If not for you gentlemen, I surely would have died.”

“Do you know where the children went?” Balthazar asked.

Sebastian shook his head no. “They were here, and now they are not. Perhaps there is a hidden door.”

Still in his incorporeal form, Balthazar tried walking through the walls, finding a false door leading to the crypt beneath the undercroft. Once he had seen Balthazar pass through the wall, Conall noticed the faint outline of a hidden door.

Sebastian tried to rise, but was unable to, grimacing in pain. Conall told him he’d only be a hindrance, to stay in the undercroft, and to not die.

The coterie headed down into the crypt, their torch the only light. Chained to the wall were a number of anemic children, but no Anselm. Belthazar realized the children hadn’t been drained by a Cainite, but had cuts on their palms and the soles of their feet, as if made by a knife. The magus was beginning to suspect the infernal.

Deeper in, they saw five black-robed men around a summoning circle, with Anselm tied to an altar in the middle. Each of the men stood at the point of a pentacle. Rigotto used his soulsight on one of the “black men”. He expected a pale shade to the aura, like most Cainites, but was surprised to see it was not. The aura was violet, suggesting the man was excited, and there was a myriad of sparkles, suggesting magic-use.

The cultists were shocked by the appearance of four intruders. Before they could react, Rigotto shouted “The Poor Knights of the Passion of the Cross of Acre will not stand for this!”

“Burn!” one of the cultists screamed, as he and two of his comrades hurled eldritch balls of flame at the coterie. One of the others drew a shortsword, attacking Salah, while the fifth attacked Conall. The Irishman deftly dodged the blow.

Rigotto used his dread gaze on the cultist who had attacked him, the man running away in fear. Balthazar used his magic to telekinetically lift Anselm off to altar, holding him safely against the ceiling of the crypt. Conall used his powers of illusion to make it look as though Anselm had become a full grown werewolf. Salah drew his blade and charged forward. With his celerity, he incapacitated one of the infernalists, crippling another.

The Assamite struck again, crippling a third cultist. Conall dropped to his knees, feeding off of one of the crippled cultists, the warm vitae pouring down his throat. The remaining cultist hurled another ball of flame at Salah, who effortlessly sidestepped it.

With his telekinesis, Balthazar held the cultist, and the one dread gazed, against the wall. They struggled to escape, but were unable. With his sword, Salah killed one of them. The remaining cultist was given a choice: answer their questions, or Salah would break his arms.

While Salah was dealing with the prisoner, Balthazar checked on Anselm. The boy was roughed up, but physically he was okay.

Rigotto used his awe abilities on the prisoner, making him more compliant. “Why are you taking children from Venice?” the Toreador asked.

“As a sacrifice to our dark lord,” the cultist answered.

“What is the name of your dark lord?” Rigotto asked.

“Ai’tahe,” the infernalist replied. None of the coterie recognized the name, though none of them were that well versed in the infernal.

“Do you know a man named Nazario Magnus?” Rigotto inquired.

“No,” the cultist replied. “Who’s that?”

“Why did you take Anselm?” Salah asked.

“We were grabbing any children we could find,” he answered.

“From a nobleman’s house?” Balthazar asked.

The cultist smiled, “He looked like he’d be a good fuck.”

“Did anyone send you to his house specifically?” Conall asked.

“No,” the cultist replied.

“Are there more of you?” Rigotto asked.

“Probably. Ai’tahe has followers all over the world,” the cultist answered.

Salah broke the cultist’s arm in anger. “Do you know of any more of you in Venice?”

The cultist fought back tears of pain. “No. We’re not that organized.”

Satisfied there was nothing more to learn, Salah decapitated the cultist. He was extremely disgusted with these people.

End Session 7.

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