Owls & Ashes
Coda: Crescendo Grave al Fine a Capella Sospirando
The Coterie awaken, trying to decide what to do with the cache. They quickly decide to make copies of a few important figures’ files, while leaving the Kogaion’s and the Ordo in general alone as per the request made in Chinatown nights before. Sascha opts to redact some information from Gabriel and Bishop Esteban’s files as a favor to them, while Mila sneaks a peek at Pryor’s personal information, finding among other things an address for a high-quality assisted-living facility in the city, and a name: “K. Pryor.”
Strangely, no one can find any of their own files. Amelia gave them only copies, so they should be in here as she promised that they were returned to storage. Recalling the scene the night before, they wonder if the Strix that possessed Joanne must have done . . . something to them. Taken with it? Destroyed? Hidden? Unless or until it manifests again, it might have dangerous knowledge to use against any of them.
They bring the cache to Elysium, where the bidding war lasted until sunrise the night before. At the last minute, a winner emerged: Stephen, the leader of the brood of Revenants who have all remained unaligned, but their own separate grouping. Unexpected, but Garrett sends people to find the Cache. Meanwhile the Coterie have smuggled it in, turning it over to Master Pryor, who quickly has it hidden until later. When the team of ghouls and Kindred dispatched to Laguna Honda return empty-handed, Stephen is incensed, and rescinds his offer to Amelia, who is now left without allies, resources, or a means of escape from the domain, and having made a lot of Kindred unhappy with the knowledge that the Prince had files on all of them . . . files that are now “missing.”
The night brings another surprise: Jan has shown up at court, and met with Garrett, making a full confession over the killing of Prince Tiberius. His actions have disrupted the city’s peace, but also removed an unstable tyrant from power. As Prefect Garrett is ostensibly the ruling party, he must still make an example of Jan, whose confession will be met with mixed reactions from the city’s Kindred—he is a dangerous individual, but one who has put an end to a monstrous Prince, and yet has put himself at the mercy of the court.
Garrett says that he could have him left for the sun as an example, to which Jan merely shrugs bleakly. Violet watches silently, before she is taken aside by Pryor, who insists to Garrett that the Invictus have a personal stake in the death of Prince Tiberius and, as such, the matter is partly internal to the Estate. Garrett muses it over, before telling them that they will be responsible for him, but he must meet some sort of punishment. In a quiet discussion, Pryor says that Jan’s bond to Violet, well-known to the community, could be broken by the Ordo, and that he could be placed under a Vinculum to Pryor, or otherwise enslaved to the Invictus in exchange for Tiberius’ unlife.
Violet protests, surprising Jan mildly, who still regards her as someone who has taken his wife’s place. His statements confuse Pryor, whom Violet quickly explains what happened a few nights before. With no idea as to how long his Delusional state will last, but wanting him to suffer as little punishment as possible—and having delivered a major boon to the Estate in the form of the Prince’s cache—requests clemency of some form from Pryor.
Master Pryor reaches an agreement with her: In exchange for a sip of his Vitae and the beginning of a Vinculum to enforce her loyalty to the Estate, Jan will be banished from the domain upon pain of death for at least three years and three nights. Jan makes no protests, only saying that he’s not sure what the Invictus are playing at, but that he’s tired of feeling like their pawn in their weird game, and will gladly leave (especially as he still believes he has killed Violet).
After reaching their decision, Pryor drafts, signs, and notarizes a document with his, Violet’s, and Jan’s Vitae, each signing in their own blood to enforce the power of the contract. After discussing it with Garrett, the Prefect makes a public announcement to the court over Jan’s actions, and the subsequent penalty, which is met with mixed, but muted reactions, as many Kindred are still wondering what became of the Prince’s chest of documents, and thus, their own potential safety.
The assembled Kindred begin to depart Elysium with the night’s events settled for now. After Garrett and the rest of the Carthian court members leave, Pryor and Violet smuggle the chest out of the building, with Mila, Sean, Sascha, and Doctor Rosa providing interference.
In the wake of this night’s events, the Coterie each attend to various matters . . .
Sascha is confronted by Gabriel, who decided to investigate the scene at Laguna Honda in his capacity as Hound after escorting the detachment from the court to the site of the now-disappeared cache. He says that they found a morgue where a bomb seemingly exploded, with what appears to be the ashes of a dead kindred and a badly burned stake inside the drawer. Meanwhile, the ashen remains of another Kindred were found . . . remains that, with the blood sorcery taught to him by Bishop Esteban, point to Sascha as the killer. Sascha counters with his covering of Gabriel and Esteban’s secrets, and Gabriel grudgingly relents, but eyes Sascha with caution . . .
Sean leaves the hotel downtown, watching several Kindred and their associates going their separate ways, each to tend to their own affairs or cover for themselves in whatever ways they can, in suspicion of whatever potential secrets could be used against them. As the last few leave by car or motorcycle or on foot, he spots one more figure quietly leaving long after the others: Amelia, who gives him a wary, fearful glance before darting around a corner. Sean smiles to himself, and begins to follow in the direction she has taken . . .
Doctor Rosa receives a call from Li Nguyen, who says that “she’s gone!” indicating that something has happened to Livia DeWitt, whom Doctor Rosa beat into Torpor. She agrees to meet him at Livia’s haven, tended to by Nguyen as his own for the time being . . . and finds him likewise in Torpor. Bloody splashes decorate the walls, as do human-sized marks in the walls like claws, or talons. Li Nguyen lies on the steps leading to the basement, cold and still. He is intact, but definitely Torpid, and his head has been twisted entirely around facing the wrong way—much like that of an owl . . .
Mila decides to go to the address found among the rest of Pryor’s dealings in the thin ledger from the Prince’s collection. The address is indeed that of an assisted-living residence, very well kept like a resort or five-star hotel more than a medical facility. At the end of a hallway, she finally sees the room number and the name K. Pryor elegantly engraved on a door plaque. Slipping quietly into the room, she beholds a sleeping women of advanced age, and a variety of photos from years and decades previous. Several of them show the woman in mid-century garb, much younger, beside a man in an army uniform . . . then pregnant . . . then on her own . . . then bearing a child in her arms . . . one who over the next few decades’ worth of photos grows to become Adrian Pryor as he was before his Embrace . . .
. . . and outside San Francisco, across the bay, where the hills of Oakland give way to the central valley environs, Violet sees Jan off to the eastern borders of the Domain, escorted by security personnel from the Invictus. She asks him to return to her when he comes to his senses, and that if he chooses to contact her, she will communicate with him even in his exile. In return, Jan almost reaches out to her, but pauses. Rather of touching her—though he seems to nearly want to do so in spite of his delusions—he gives her a long, haunted gaze, before turning away and disappearing into the night.