Eighth Movement: Aria Malinconico

The Sixth, as it called itself, having taken up residence in Judith Hamp’s body for now, remained steadfast in its demands that the coterie find its remaining kin and bring them to it, but “urged” them not to inform their superiors in the Covenants, leaving the neonates to puzzle out why they should do so.

Amid their various plans to try and track down the Sixth’s related entities, the coterie made their own plans as well:

Jan’s research into Ordo Dracul training continued with surprising rapidity, although his superiors had begun to impress upon him the need for study in the Scales of the Dragon as well as its Coils and Mysteries.

Mila continued gathering information and preparing a presentation for Master Pryor, while trying to avoid giving him any impression that they were seeking other matters for themselves—namely the escaped Sixth and its ‘siblings.’

Violet requested an audience with the Kogaion . . . and also struck a deal with Doctor Kaintz to take control of Timothy’s apartment building in exchange for a future favor, then subtly manipulated the building’s owner for subletting contracts, blood binding him and then gradually working to replace the building’s tenants for higher rent. Her mentor, Madame Kerensky, was suitably impressed, but urged her to continue working to improve herself not only economically, but socially, in order to join the Cockscomb Society.

Sascha spoke briefly with his mentor, Sir O’Neill, about the thought of any other entities in the city’s past. During a discussion about strange events, the matter of the previous year’s fire came up; rumor was that the fire that started during the riot in the mission (as people celebrated the Giants’ World Series victory) was not entirely natural, given its scope.

Mila and Sascha visited the “Barrens”, the swath of burnt-out territory between the Mission and Hunter’s Point districts: several blocks of ground where houses and other structures formerly stood, still in contest by various real estate and city agents as to how to develop said area nearly a year later. Various homeless people had taken up residence, squatting in tents and shelters erected among the concrete shells and open ground, and after accosting one of the people for information, the two discovered a few facts:

At least two Kindred called the area their territory, a pair of Unaligned named Donny-Dog and Andrea. A few others drifted in and out of the area, but only one other consistent visitor would arrive to attempt to minister to the Kindred there: Someone referred to as “Father G”—who turned out to be Gabriel Brennan, the Sheriff’s childe. At least one (if not more) of the homeless there were also Vitae-addicted, if not blood bound, to those who controlled the area, but at least one mortal had gone missing, after taking shelter to sleep in a basement left behind long after the house above it had burned away.

The two found Donny-Dog, Andrea, and Gabriel in Donny-Dog’s own shelter where he kept an eye on the Barrens’ homeless populace, and made a deal with him to pay a ‘toll’ any time they should be in his area, then paid a visit to the basement mentioned by the man they had spoken with. The rest of the Coterie joined them, and in attempting to dig out the basement, were driven away by what appeared to be some sort of terrifying entity composed of living flames. Attempts to extinguish the entity with water from a hydrant and stolen fire department hose proved fruitless, and the Coterie waited until the next night to try again.

This time, equipped with fire extinguishers and other paraphernalia, the neonates found the basement empty and undisturbed, although Jan refused to go in, stating that he could still ‘see’ the flames deep inside, remaining convinced even when the rest entered and left the basement repeatedly without incident. As he remained on the surface, the remaining three Kindred and one ghoul dug their way through the rubble, finding the months-decayed remains of a man pinned under collapsed rubble, and a hidden hatch leading to a sub-basement, now partly flooded by the water pumped in from the night before.

The sub-basement appeared to have been someone’s haven, well appointed with good furniture and a small library, albeit unused for years or decades, judging by the dust. A sealed, heavy iron safe was also found, submerged under the waist-deep waters, and the coterie carried it outside, where they found Jan missing—and were suddenly set upon by several of the Barrens’ squatters.

In the ensuing melee, Andrea appeared seemingly from nowhere, yellow-eyed and shrieking wildly as she lashed out with clawed hands. Every single one of the attacking mortals was also ghouled, moving with terrifying speed and strength. Jan finally reappeared amid the fight, having left the basement opening to track down something he sensed: the entity possessing Andrea.

In the fight, two of the ghouls were killed, and the other two badly wounded, while Jan lost himself in an uncontrollable frenzy as he attempted to draw the Beast out to fight harder to aid his wife Violet. The coterie managed to force the entity out of Andrea by using some of the ashes pressed upon them by the Sixth during its daylight visit, and it spilled from her nose and mouth in a cloud of blackness, finally taking shape as it streamed into the air: a shadowy owl-shape, with lambent yellow eyes.

The neonates and Mila’s ghoul husband managed to catch the thing before it could escape, confining it to a large mason jar lined with a dusting of the same ashes, but Jan could not control himself, first attacking Sascha, then hurling himself at Violet as she attempted to calm him. His frenzy only ended when he realized he had just wounded his wife and Regnant; the realization shocked him into terrified calm again.

Andrea, meanwhile, regained her own senses, confused as to the missing last couple of nights and her sudden change in location. Donny-Dog appeared in response to the commotion, and while enraged at the damage done to his territory and to his people, grudgingly listened to their explanations (and was suitably disturbed by the thing roiling inside the mason jar), and accepted their assistance in patching up the two living ghouls, before ordering them out of his territory and not to come back.

Eighth Movement: Aria Malinconico

Owls & Ashes Zsander