Owls & Ashes
Eleventh Movement: Capriccio Mosso con Spirito
Upon their return to their shared haven in Berkeley, Sascha and Mila discovered that Joseph was in a very energetic state, seemingly as if topped up with fresh Vitae and more. The house was completely cleaned from end to end, and Joseph admitted that Jan had completed his project with Joseph’s help, dosing him with a small sample of his concoction to test on a human subject before finally proceeding to a Kindred subject (Jan himself).
Joseph was unable to sleep for some days following the procedure, as if on a steady stream of powerful stimulants, but was seemingly healthy, although in their next meeting to discuss matters (including the upcoming real estate deal, their individual projects, and how best to find the remaining siblings of the Sixth), Mila brought up her concerns with Jan, who was mildly chagrined, but pleased nonetheless that his work was so effective—albeit excessively so, and with potential dangerous consequences if it was done again.
Jan also admitted crossing paths with the Sixth while out hunting; it had apparently tempted him, still joyriding in his sister’s flesh, telling him that he and his coterie-mates could be so much more if they could only let go of the things that held them back.Despite this odd interlude, the Sixth had not presented anything of use, and the Coterie were at a loss exactly how to draw their prey in beyond some vague fragmentary ideas turned up by Joseph and Jan. Some spirits, especially things that emulated birds of prey or carrion, might either be drawn to impending violence or bloodshed or be the cause of it, or both. How best to use this knowledge, no one could yet say.
In between his research with Jan, Joseph had continued his work in home improvement, even going so far as to single-handedly tear up the back yard of the house, digging up old stumps and tearing out overgrown blackberry brush, and was still awake all night and into dawn when Mila and Sascha finally retired to the basement space. At some point after dawn, however, the two were awoken by Joseph, himself barely awake as his ‘high’ was beginning to wind down. His presence was accompanied by the smell of smoke and the sound of wood crackling: The front of their house was on fire!
The two Kindred managed to escape the flames with only some injuries, mostly from their brief exposure to the late-morning sun as they fled to Joseph’s truck with its blacked-out camper shell. After re-awakening in the evening at a parking lot far from the house, he explained that he had been awakened by the sound of glass breaking, when someone had hurled a molotov cocktail through a front window to start the fire. The house was badly damaged by fire, its entire front end burned away before the fire department had stopped the blaze, and was being treated as a crime scene for arson.
Given all of the various enemies and antagonists the Coterie had accumulated, and the insecure nature of Sascha and Mila’s haven, their list of possible culprits was far too long to easily be sure who had done so: another agent of Miles Barton, an angry member of the Tilden Park werewolf pack, someone working for Livia DeWitt, or the Sixth keeping them on their toes, or some other individual. The two Kindred and the ghoul returned to the house to salvage some more of their possessions—luckily, Sascha had brought the ‘nightmare catcher’ with him when he fled that morning—and Mila attempted to uncover who had started the fire; unfortunately, despite her talents in Auspex, she was unable to find out who had done so even with her talent in the Spirit’s Touch.
Meanwhile, Jan presented his research to Doctor Kaintz, and continued his own studies into the Coterie’s predicament, while Violet visited the open house event and moved around without being disturbed thanks to her talents. However, after scouring the old Victorian house from top to bottom, all she discovered were a few empty secret hiding spaces in the house’s framework—and a suspiciously empty spot in one of the dusty enclosures. After becoming alert to the presence of at least one other Kindred, she discovered that Livia DeWitt had also gotten wind of the open house, and had apparently found a journal there. The Circle priestess briefly taunted Violet with this bit of information, without disclosing exactly what was in it, and departed “to do a bit of light reading.” Thwarted, but unable to respond in any meaningful way, Violet left the open house to meet with the rest of the Coterie.
The matter of the fire was discussed, but without any further clues as yet, the matter was delayed, and Sascha still had to make the presentation to his potential investors in developing the SoMa property where his favorite club was located. Fortunately, with a wealth of Majesty at his disposal, the small team of investors were able to be easily persuaded, especially with the information provided by Violet and Mila previously.
In the meantime, Mila decided to contact her family again (as her parents were aware of her ‘situation’ but had kept it to themselves) to ask if they could help with providing shelter. After visiting their home, though, she discovered that they already had a guest—the Sixth had decided to pay a visit, this time in her father’s form, having eagerly opened every portal and container in the house and in the process terrorizing Mila’s mother, who could only stand by helplessly. It gleefully welcomed her to the home, and presented her with another gift ritual as it had in the past, but warned her it would be staying around until they showed more results. The Sixth continued to be evasive about why exactly it would not handle the matter itself, but strangely true to its word had not brought any of its subjects to harm—yet.
Joseph and Jan worked tirelessly to decipher the ritual, written in fragments of various old dead languages, finally translating it as something meant to draw a subject to a site by offering it ‘carrion’. The ritual had to be performed with a sacrifice, however, and had to be performed in a space meaningful to the Coterie and the situation. After some debate, they finally settled on a BDSM club that they and many of the Bondage-A-Go-Go crowd frequented, and one that they could get easy access to.
The Coterie prepared the ritual, drawing a large circle on the cleared floor of the club (which was currently closed on a weeknight), and opted to make a sacrifice they hoped would be potent: their own Vitae, in large quantities. The air became heavy with the sweet, rich tang of their mingled blood and the gathered potency of the ritual, but for some time, nothing happened.
Over an hour passed as they waited within the circle; Finally, Sascha, very hungry after being in hiding the last couple of nights without feeding, opted to visit a nearby bar, even finding himself so lucky as to be able to feed from multiple subjects, including a young woman whom he found himself drawn to for the richness of her Vitae. Upon his return to the BDSM club space, he bumped into Jolene, who had been passing through the area (since it was relatively near to the dance club owned by Ricky O’Neill), and, unable to resist, invited her up with him.
Upon Jolene’s stepping into the building, the Coterie had another hallucinatory vision of their room built of stone, and lit by old oil lamps. Unwittingly crossing the circle in the main area, Jolene sprung the trap suddenly awoke, and she attempted to flee in seeming terror at the gory setting—but rebounded against a barrier erected by the circle drawn during the ritual. Her agitation and horror revealed to the Coterie that their ritual had indeed worked: The spilled Vitae had drawn Jolene, possessed by one of the Striges, and now, trapped in the circle, it was fighting to escape.
With Jolene’s voice, bolstered by Dominate and Majesty, it pleaded with Sascha to help free her, and he very nearly succeeded in breaking the circle as the rest of the Coterie fought to restrain him, while at the same time trying to drive the entity from Jolene’s body, first with ashes, then with fire at their own risk. The hellish bird thing erupted from the young woman as she died, having been set ablaze with alcohol and a road flare, and it cursed them in tongues, shrieking and screeching, its very ‘voice’ causing agony and madness.
Finally, in between battling the creature and Sascha as well, they activated the ‘nightmare catcher’, whose central phial had been smeared with ash and blood; the object sprang into a spiralling funnel shape, tearing the smoky owl entity out of the air and trapping it inside the glass bottle. Upon its being expunged from Jolene and being trapped, some of its effect on Sascha was broken: The several times Jolene had privately flirted with Sascha and tempted him with her charms, it had actually emerged, convinced him to feed from her until he was attached by the Daeva curse, and then Dominated him to forget the incident.
Impulsively, Sascha forced his Vitae down Jolene’s throat, remorseful over her part as a victim of the entity’s machinations as much as he was. As he held tightly to her body and shared some of his own life with her, in a morbid miracle, she was drawn into the Embrace, her wounds slowly healing as she became Kindred. Upon her ‘recovery’, though, Sascha realized what he had done: cursed someone else with undeath, and also having broken one of the Traditions he was instructed to uphold by the Prince and by his mentor, O’Neill.
Matters were soon to become even worse, though—O’Neill had followed Jolene after she disappeared from his club, and stumbled into the space where the ritual was held. O’Neill was shocked by the scene, and enraged by Sascha’s having Embraced Jolene, his closeness to her, and having fed from his prized ghoul. With the trapped Strix’s effect on him broken as well, he could now smell their Vitae mingled in each other. Before their eyes, he lost all reason, and verged into Frenzy.
But the Coterie had also spilled a very great deal of their own Vitae, providing a source of carrion so rich that it drew something else: another of the Sixth’s siblings, which had gone unnoticed amid the dramatic events. In this moment of ultimate vulnerability, O’Neill was a perfect subject for it to possess, and it did so. Upon recognizing the scene for what it was, and the possible impending threat to it, the entity fled in O’Neill’s body, leaving a stunned Coterie, a terrified, partly amnesiac Neonate, and a very precarious turn of events.