April 8, 1444, 5:34am
The Lion’s Inn
Just inside the City Gates, Sebeș
Lord Claudius glared at the Lady Ana as she stood before him.
“I sent you to speak with Japheth and you come here to tell me that the Cappadocian himself wishes for me to meet with him?” – Claudius’s voice was cold.
The lady nodded warily.
“Excellent! The Cappadocian has indeed left Erciyes.” – the Italian, rubbing his hands together evilly.
“So you knew?” – Ana.
The elder mouth stretched into a wolf’s grin.
“Misbegotten or not, you’ve proved yourselves worthy of the blood of Caine tonight and will no doubt grow to be proper progeny.” – Claudius, condescendingly.
“You know that the Cappadocian is mad?” – Ignatius.
“Of course I do, young Ignatius, it is this kind of blasphemy that demands swift action.” – Claudius
“If that is so, then what is your angle?” – The scarred young man demanded.
Claudius’s eyes flashed toward him angrily.
“How dare you!”
“If it is so important that the Cappadocian’s acts of deicide be stopped then why the ruse? Why pretend that it is his childe who must be put down?”
“Come with me!” – Claudius, laughing as he put his arm around the young Fiend.
Ignatius’s stomach twisted in fear. Had he gone too far? Was the elder about to destroy him?
“Do not fear, young Basarab, I only wish to sit and have a drink with you.” – Claudius laughed as they crossed the Tavern’s common room.
Even at this early hour there were a half dozen or so men preparing for journeys… or at least they would be if they weren’t, to a man, trapped in a half sleep. All of them stood or sat in a daze, their eyes open but unseeing, their breath slow and rhythmic, their heartbeats oddly steady, weak even.
Claudius sat down next to a particularly swarthy man with thick arm hair and a short, patchy beard and invited Ignatius to sit on the other side.
The man lifted his arms and placed them in front of the two monsters.
Claudius raised the arm before him and inhaled deeply.
“Ah, such a lively vintage, he’s of Saxon and Magyar blood, and prone to fits of bloodlust. In another life he would have made a wonderful Gangrel, perhaps even a Brujah.”
Ignatius had no idea what he was talking about.
“Ah, I had not realized that you do not possess Danika’s rarefied senses, my boy.” – Claudius, obviously enjoying himself.
Ignatius watched another figure enter the room, a young boy looking for his father, but when his foot touched the common room floor his face, too, went slack. He took a few listless steps to a nearby table and took a seat.
“Drink, boy, I hate dining alone!” – Claudius vehemently.
When Ignatius waved the arm off Claudius bit into the man’s arm anyway; it didn’t seem particularly pleasant, even in his current state the man’s breath became distressed and erratic. He clenched his teeth so hard that he began to bleed, having bitten through his own tongue or cheek. The man’s fists were clenched as well.
When he was finished, licking the wound closed as an afterthought, he continued.
“You’ve seen right through me, young Basarab. Long have I wished to be the voice of my Clan, should I sit at my grandsire’s right hand just as my sire sits at his left our family’s stature would rise to the apex of power within our Clan. But we would also have the Cappadocian’s full attention, we could persuade him to turn away from this madness and forestall the calamity of his apotheosis. He is ancient, this is true, and the workings of his mind are inscrutable but, like many of the most ancient of our kind, the old one is quite addled and easily distracted. Without a mad sycophant like Japheth and his issue by his side it is our hope that we can end this… madness once and for all.” – Claudius, before taking another bite.
The man seemed to seize from the pain of the bite.
“What if it’s an act?” – Ignatius.
“An act? So what if it is? He wishes to replace God!” – Claudius, shocked by the question.
“Worry not, my boy. All will end well. Now, the sun will rise soon and we must make our rest. Gather your friends and I will show you where we will rest.
April 8, 1444, 7:24pm
The Lion’s Inn
Just inside the City Gates, Sebeș
Alexander awoke as the sun dipped below the horizon. They’d been huddled in a stone chamber beneath the inn’s cellar hidden by a great wooden door.
It was amazing how vital he felt and how it seemed that he’d only blinked his eyes as the sun rose while at the same time what he felt when the sun rose was so akin to drowning.
Alexander was pleasantly surprised to learn that they’d not been locked in, that the only bolts to the doors were on their own side alone.
The Inn was bustling. It seemed that a man had died there that morning, just before dawn, after having some sort of fit.
“I think we should get out of here.” – Qamar whispered nervously, holding tight to Lady Ana’s arm.
“Stay close, child.” – Ana whispered.
“Yes, we wouldn’t want you to be lost in this crowd. One could never be sure if one were safe in a rabble such as this.” – The Frenchwoman, Amelia, cooed as she seemed to appear next to the girl.
Qamar almost jumped out of her skin and fled completely behind Ana.
“Oh, poor child, Theophana must have done quite a number on the little one.” – Amelia smirked.
Ana smiled at her sire and suddenly the room seemed to lighten from its radiance alone. The dangerous looking men in the room all seemed to glance her way, and a few even managed to blush.
Alexander saw that even Amelia was affected by her childe’s sublime countenance, her initially cool amiability warming as she stood there.
Qamar, suddenly and with a speed only a child could muster, dashed through the crowd toward the Italian general who stood at the far end of the tavern watching the small mob with a fire in his eye.
She held something out to him.
“What’s this?” – Fernando, brusquely.
“It… it’s a letter, from Sister Guadalupe…sir.” – The girl stammered.
“Pathetic.” – Fernando, dropping the letter and returning to his perusal of the crowd.
Qamar flinched away from the missive as if it were aflame and sped back toward Ana.
When she’d returned Alexander had already moved on but Ana and Amelia continued their conversation, somehow going unnoticed in this crowd of rough men.
Qamar noticed, then, that she had not once drawn the attention or groping hands of any of the men. In the calm of the moment she realized that the room itself seemed darker, the shadows seemed deeper and the wits of those around her all the more dull.
Of course they didn’t notice her, how could they, the sad cattle?
April 8, 1444, 7:34pm
The Lion’s Inn Stable
Just inside the City Gates, Sebeș
Alexander, busy readying his horse and trying to clear his head, hadn’t noticed the Lady Jadviga’s approach until he felt the swell of her breasts upon his back.
He turned only to be pushed roughly against a wooden beam. The woman who had in the last few days been his lover, mother and, should everything go according to plan, soon be dead by his hand was standing so close that her ruby lips were all that he could see.
“My love, why do you hide out here with the beasts?” – Jadviga cooed, her voice deep and intoxicating.
“I’ve a lot on my mind, milady.” – Alexander whimpered
“Of course you do, my pet.” – Jadviga’s words were more moaned than spoken as she pressed even closer to him.
He couldn’t take his eyes off of her long, starkly white, teeth.
She ran those teeth across the skin of his chest, though how his tunic had become torn was beyond him.
He shuddered suddenly.
“What’s on that cunning mind of yours?” – Jadviga purred.
“Just what Hardestadt said to me, before we left Poenari.” – Alexander
What was he saying?
“You spoke before you fled?” – Jadviga
“Yes, he warned me about you, said you were more dangerous than the others.” – Alexander, smelling the Lady’s red hair.
“Oh, and what did he say then?” – Jadviga
“He told me that of all the conspirators, your destruction was the most central to the ending of your plot.” – Alexander confessed as the Lady ran her tongue across his chest.
Jadviga’s head shot up as if she’d been struck, she stepped back, her hands bent into claws snarled at him, her teeth transformed into horrible fangs, her eyes flashing bloody red.
The seductress was gone, this creature was Fury incarnate.
“He said what? That putrescent, dead-hearted villain! He wishes to destroy me? Should that happen than the founders will reward him! He seeks my destruction for doing the duty he himself charged me with! Well, I will not be so easily removed!” – Jadviga roared.
And then she was gone. She didn’t move, nor did she leave, she simply wasn’t there anymore.
A shaken Alexander returned to the Inn to hear Fernando railing against the Founders as well.
“Who do they think they are? Telling us who we can and cannot kill? I have slain Taifa usurpers, Saracens, Turks, Franks and Greeks! We are not our brothers’ keepers and Caine would not wish for us to pretend to be so!”
“Here, here!” – Leopold laughed.
Domnall stepped into the Inn and for the first time Alexander realized that he hadn’t seen him below.
Even as the knight mulled over where he could have hidden himself away the giant motioned for him.
“My raven reached the founders, Alexander. Lord Hardestadt is demanding our presence.” – Domnall
“I’ll be sure to drop everything and flee to Poenari as fast as possible, perhaps tomorrow.” – Alexander, smugly.
“I am only telling you what the bird told me.” – Domnall
Alexander eyed the giant.
“And did the stones say anything to you?” – Alexander, incredulously.
“No, though the horses are… you’re mocking me.” – Domnall
“Yes I am.”
“Call me mad if you’d like, but ever since we… came back, I’ve been able to hear the animals, and they can understand me too.” – Domnall explained.
April 8, 1444, 7:45pm
The Domain of Japheth
Abbot of Manastirea Sf. Timotei Martirizat
When Sister Guadalupe rose from her day sleep she was momentarily startled. The night before she’d spent much of the remaining evening wandering the Monastery grounds and the halls of the church itself.
When the sun began to rise she was given a place, as promised, within the catacombs beneath the church. Instead of a bed she’d been shown to a loculus where she might inter herself throughout the day.
To awaken within the niche now caused a moment of abject panic and it shamed her that she had so quickly adapted to her undead state.
After crawling from the earthen bed Guadalupe donned the coarse robes they’d brought for her and quickly made her way above ground but with a wrong turn or two found herself completely lost.
Lost within the library.
Many of the books were treatises on God, the trinity, and the role of man in God’s kingdom, but here and there she would find other essays: dark dissertations on the nature of the Damned, on the force that drove them, what the dead called vitae, an obvious bastardization of Vita, or life. the power that Blood possessed over them.
She also found references to Caine, the mythical first vampire, and to his being the Biblical Cain. As she read she learned more of Nod, and of the so-called Cainite Heresy, though she was grateful that they at least recognized the nature of their beliefs.
“I see that you’ve taken to the robes better than the other.” – a soft voice interrupted her reading.
She turned to see a monk standing over her.
“I am sorry, Sister, I did not mean to startle you.” – the Monk, kindly
“I was a nun… before.” – Guadalupe
“Yes, to which order did you belong, sister?”
“I belonged to the Dominican Order, though I have been answering to the Inquisition for some time.” – Guadalupe.
“Oh, truly, than this must be quite the change for you. To be honest, I am surprised that you did not greet the sun at the end of your first night amongst us.” – the monk’s kind voice had grown cold.
“I was bound and unable to do so. During my durance within my captors’ dungeons I had time to think on my state. I came to the conclusion that my current state is God’s will and must adapt to it if I am to know his will.” – Guadalupe.
The monk seemed impressed.
“It is good that you have seen reason, good sister. And yes, I do believe that he has a plan for us all. According to the fragments of our father’s writings we were created by God. It is a shame that it took your conversion to this state to come to this conclusion.
“It is difficult to see the other side of an argument when that side is busy eating your family.” – Guadalupe.
The monk was taken aback.
“…Quite. I must ask, Sister Guadalupe, if you would join the other in a vow of silence” – The monk, refusing to look the nun in the eye as he changed the subject.
“Perhaps, though I think that I must make arrangements before I was to decide on such a course of action.” – Guadalupe, confused by the strange request.
“It is good then, that you at least are coping with your nature better than she. Welcome to the Monastery of St. Timothy the Martyr. ” – The monk.
“Thank you, brother, but I have to ask who you are referring to when you speak of this ‘other’.”
“The woman; Sister Marianne”
“Marianne survived?” – Guadalupe was surprised.
But the monk was gone.
Though it took a few tries, Guadalupe finally figured out the odd turns and double-backs of the Monastery and, once acclimated, made her way to the Abbot’s quarters.
“You may enter.” – came a soft voice from within before she could knock.
The chamber was too dark to see in at first, being without window or candle, but soon a candle set upon a table began to glow and in its small but warm light she could make out the foggy eyes and blue-gray skin of her host.
“How might I be of service, Sister?” – Japheth, softly.
It was strange watching him speak, as if forming words with his mouth took conscious effort.
“I was wondering about the location of the one called Marianne. We became acquainted before our deaths and I had assumed her destroyed.” – Guadalupe.
The vampire moved to speak but stopped, as if unsure how to proceed.
“I can show her to you, but understand that she has vowed to remain silent and to fast in an attempt to purify herself after the events that led to your current state.”
It was obvious that the idea of removing the curse frustrated the abbot.
“Thank you, Abbot.”
He showed her out of the monastery and past the gardens to a small pool near what looked like a large mountain grotto.
The spring was lined with stones upon one of which sat a small robed figure.
Her robe was pulled back to reveal the long wavy hair that Guadalupe immediately recognized as Marianne’s.
The girl seemed to be studying her reflection in the still pool.
The girl’s head snapped up in a way that was entirely unnatural and the Nun noted how pale she’d become, more so even than the others, her skin somewhat translucent and marked by blue veins. Her cheeks seemed hollow and her lips thin, blue and taught. Her eyes were shot through with dark veins and unnaturally bright.
Like Japheth and the other corpse-monks, she bore the mark of death the way that none of the others had. But in spite of it all she somehow remained almost ethereally beautiful.
“Do you remember me, Marianne?” – Guadalupe
The corpse nodded.
“Why are you fasting?” – Guadalupe
The vampire raised her arm and sleeve fell away to show that she was holding a dead rat by its tail.
The dead girl’s eyes welled up with blood tinged tears.
Guadalupe rushed to embrace her but the girl pushed her away.
“I understand, Marianne, but I promise God has a reason for this, we are not damned!” – The Nun was crying to.
The girl dropped the rat and walked away, leaving Guadalupe alone with her tears.
April 8, 1444, 9:18pm
The Castle Hall
Not far from Sebeș
“You would dare return to the conspirators first?” – Hardestadt demanded of them.
Ignatius, Ana and Qamar stood before him within the castle, Alexander and Domnall having opted to stay outside with the horses. Hardestadt himself paced from one end of the altar to the other. Only Camilla and Adana had joined him it seemed.
“They were closer.” – Qamar, quietly.
“You can be assured that we wish our makers destroyed almost as much as you do. What would you have had us do had we come here first?” – Ana shot back.
Hardestadt drew close to her, his rage flowing off of him in waves.
Ana didn’t flinch.
“She’s got fire, that one.” – Adana, just loud enough for her to hear.
“I can’t decide whether or not I’d like to see our friend snuff it out.” – Camilla chuckled back.
“It was a good plan.” – Hardestadt, relenting.
“Why would you charge us with the destruction of your mole?” – Ignatius.
Hardestadt spun on the scarred man.
“I can take it that she yet exists?” – Hardestadt, coldly.
“She did not leave the safety of her compatriots long enough for us to spring.” – Ignatius.
The elder sneered at the excuse before storming off.
Qamar began to cry.
The pale-haired Italian vampire approached the girl with a kerchief.
“I’m glad to see that you survived your trials thus far. Fear not, child, some of us are actually rooting for your success.” – Adana, wiping the bloody tears from the girl’s face.
“Oh yes, I am so glad that you were all able to make it, I would have been simply horrified if I weren’t the one to tear you limb from limb myself.” – Camilla cooed.
They heard a sigh as the statuesque Mistress Fanchon entered the hall. The boy, Milov and the hideous Joseph followed shortly after, arguing.
“So, tell me child, where are the others? Where is Lupe?” – Adana
“Lupe?” – Qamar, confused.
“Yes, the Nun, did she not survive the ordeals?” – Adana, cautiously.
“Oh, no, no, she elected to remain at the Monastery with Japheth. Did you think we were going to die?” – Qamar
“Oh, yes, I was sure you wouldn’t last the first night. The ones that made you are particularly unhinged and it was assumed that they would kill at least a few of you.” – Adana, matter-of-factly.
“Oh.” – Qamar could feel the panic starting to rise again.
“Don’t mind the others, they fear that Claudius might succeed in usurping Japheth’s place at Cappadocius’s side through wanton diablerie and turn him against our experiment. Their hostility to you is due to the fact that you’re a reminder of their failure to defeat them.” – Adana, giggling.
“But what if they’re right? The Conspiracy of Isaac I mean, what if the Cappadocians can eat god?” – Qamar, insistently.
Adana laughed as she turned on her heel to sit next to the girl. It was only then that Qamar noticed that she was dressed as a man would.
“Oh, my girl, those are just rumors spread by the Giovanni bastards to excuse their murderous motives.” – Adana, ruffling the girl’s hair.
“But he’s crazy.”
“If the rumors are true.” – Adana agreed.
“No, ma’am, we met the Cappadocian and he is indeed mad.” – Ignatius.
“Oh, dear, of course you did.” – Adana laughed, patting his hand.
“What’s going to happen to us when this is all done.” – Qamar
“We are of different opinions, of course, but if Hardestadt promised you that you’ll live than you shall.” – Adana, standing.
“You were born bastards and bastards you shall be as long as I suffer you to live.” – Joseph interjected as he helped the blond vampire to her feet.
“Oh, Joseph.” – Adana laughed.
The man’s breath was horrifically bad but Qamar made her way to her feet.
“Your breath is bad, and you’re ugly.” – Qamar, defiantly.
The boil covered vampire glared into her with hate filled black eyes, his lips pulled back to reveal a mouthful of pitted, vicious fangs.
Qamar prepared for the worst while Ana and Ignatius moved to protect her.
The vampire’s mouth opened wide and he bellowed with laughter.
“I like this one! Milov, you could learn a thing from this childe!” – Joseph laughed.
“Go to hell, Leper.” – Milov growled.
“Qamar! Apologize! That is no way to talk to your elder.” – Ana admonished nervously.
“Have no fear, girl, she’s in no danger, at least not now. As for the conspirators, all you need to know is that Claudius and his ilk are parasites on the Cappadocian clans. If they, and by “they” I mean the Giovanni, they’ll use this ruse as an excuse for their crimes, I have never met a more devout vampire than Japheth of Cappadocia. As for his sire, if he even exists anymore, there is no way that he would attempt something so vile, I’ve heard tell of his destruction of much of his own clan after the rise of Christendom. There’s no way that he would attempt something so sacrilegious.” – Joseph
“The Giovanni, on the other hand, are young enough and power hungry enough to sunder the walls between the living and the dead in the hopes of gaining power in both.” – Adana added.
“Yes, and, Camarilla be hanged, this must be stopped, should they bring the infernal lands here all will be lost for us and for those living in the sun. You get that right?” – Joseph, earnestly.
“Good girl, have a mouse.” – Joseph, producing a small gray mouse as if from nowhere and placing it in her hand.
“Can I name him?” – Qamar, holding the thing in her hands.
“I don’t care.” – Joseph, having lost interest in the conversation.
“I think you are meant to eat him, Qamar.” – Ana
“But I don’t think that he would sate me, no I don’t, do I Joy, no, not a little mouse like you.” – Qamar, playing with the mouse.
“Are you hungry, my sweet?” – Camilla having appeared over the girl’s shoulder.
Qamar dropped the mouse, which ran from the room post haste.
“uh, y-yes?” – Qamar, nervously. She looked around the room to see that the others were having their own conversations.
She could feel the anxiety rising in her chest.
“Oh, don’t worry my dearie, we’ll get you someone to drink, and everything will be all better. And as for these big questions, don’t worry about Claudius. If fact, would you like to hear a secret?” – Camilla, leaning close and whispering conspiratorially
“The cobweb tells me that a soul-storm draws near. That on the night we tear out Claudius’s withered heart the heavens will open and a maelstrom shall let loose a deluge to rival any save that sent by God to destroy our kind so many millennia ago. Get yourself to safety my precious, bundle up your soul in a cloak of purity.” – Camilla, whispering excitedly and taking the girl’s hand.
“Okay.” – Qamar was beginning to whimper.
“Hold fast at the storm’s heart and wear stout boots of courage lest you fall into hell where you belong you spiteful little bitch! Now, let’s go get you that blood.”
The matron turned on her heel and dragged the frightened Qamar out of the hall with surprising force.
Though Ana followed, fearful of the girl’s fate, it became obvious that Camilla was true to her word, having led the girl to a small chamber filled with naked, reclining men and women.
Ana watched as the girl was shown a trio of sisters. Each girl was marked by great ruptures on their necks.
Camilla joined Ana as the girl fed.
“Isn’t she a glorious little monster?” – the Matron.
“Are you going to let her kill them?” – Ana.
“It is life that we feed on, milady. Something you should learn, but watch, I don’t think she’ll kill all three.”
She was right. The girl only drained the first of the sisters, though she drank from a second as well. It was only after she had her fill that she realized that the first had become cold.
“No, no-no-no! Camilla, what do I do?” – Qamar
“I am sorry child, but I cannot allow you to embrace her, though her sister, from whom you’ve drank too much, might still be saved with by giving her back the blood you stole.” – Camilla instructed.
Qamar did as she was told with no small amount of glee.
The woman’s breathing steadied and her color came back as well before her eyes flitted open and she sat up with a start.
“I’ll call you Daisy.” – Qamar tittered.
“What? My name is-”
“Your name is Daisy!” – Qamar roared at her, striking her across the face.
The woman screamed.
Ana couldn’t help but weep.
April 8, 1444, 11:15pm
The gypsy camp
To the west of Câlnic
Ignatius, Domnall and Alexander had followed the instructions of the odious Joseph to find Durga Syn and, true to his word, they found her with a band of Gypsies.
They’d made relatively good time, free as they were of the ladies and the coach that they would have been forced to bring along with them.
The camp was still relatively lively, even this close to midnight, each wagon had a lantern at the door and a campfire under an awning and in the center of the camp was another, larger fire.
None of the vampires wished to get too close to any of it.
“Durga Syn!” – They took turns shouting from the camps edge before surreptitiously slipping into the camp proper, trying their best to keep their distance from the flames.
The gypsies, for their part, seemed to be doing their best to ignore the three interlopers as they made their way through the camp.
“Durga Syn!” – Alexander bellowed.
A couple of the gypsy children looked in their direction but then, looking at each other, returned to throwing things into their family’s fire.
It was then that Ignatius noticed their washed out appearance and the muted quality of the flames.
“Its like we’re looking through smoke.” – he mumbled to himself.
“Of course it is, you Basarabi fool.” – came a croaking voice from behind them.
The three turned to see the stooped old woman with the lambent eyes from the castle.
“I cannot have you traipsing about my camp and causing a fright.” – Durga Syn, chiding them.
“I found her.” – Alexander.
“Come to my wagon, we can speak there with some privacy.” – Durga, biding them follow to a lone dark wagon.
Once they entered the wagon the color seemed to return to the world, though the hideous old woman they knew was somehow replaced by an image of a sweet old gypsy woman.
“You’re casting spells over our eyes you gypsy cunt!” – Alexander barked.
“Of course I did. Would you prefer I had let you come into my camp and terrify my people?” – Durga, chastising the knight as she lowered herself onto a huge pillow.
“Please, have a seat, can I offer you refreshments?” – she asked, amiably.
“We came in search of knowledge, old mother. I am sorry that I don’t know the custom, do I offer you a gift before asking you questions?” – Ignatius, humbly.
The old woman waved her hand.
“What can I help you with, my chick? I suppose you’re here to ask about the Ritual of the Egg.”
“No, mother, we are here on other business.” – Ignatius
“Hmm, a shame. What is this business you have with old Durga?”
“We wish to ask what you might know about the Cappadocian.” – Ignatius, respectfully.
“I know that he is one of the Original. That his name was all but lost even before the floods came. Legend has it that he marked Noah’s own son with the curse of Caine when the boy went north. He is said to be among the most powerful of blood sorcerers and his understanding of the Curse and Death is without parallel.” – Durga Syn, thoughtfully.
“Do you think he could devour God?”
“Wow. Ummm. The Cappadocian is a most dangerous Antediluvian, since he has tampered with forces well beyond the kenning of mortal and kindred before I would say that his research shows promise. He has personally uncovered passages of the Book of Nod from the Erciyes Mountains penned by Irad himself. It’s said that that ancient childe of Caine knew the secret to lifting the Mark of Caine from the soul of one of the damned. Such a ritual, should it have been found would, according to Noddists, bring about a golden age for Kindred and Kine alike. It’s more likely that we’d all be destroyed instead.” – Durga Syn, not exactly answering the question.
Alexander noted that the old woman didn’t sound particularly upset at the thought of their destruction.
“So you’re saying that he might be able to do it? Because he’s going to try to do it.” – Ignatius, more nervous still.
“If the Cappadocian Antediluvian believes he can do it than he will try to do it, of that I’m sure. Just as I am sure than his power is beyond our comprehension… look I understand that you are new. Let me explain: I have existed for thirteen generations, since before the gypsies came to these lands. They are not my people, though I have adopted them and consider them my own. Mine are a far older people from far to the north of here, and the Cappadocian was ancient long before they walked the earth. When the Christians speak of the coming of the flood Cappadocius was an old evil even then, some claim that he is death itself. I believe that he could destroy the curse with ease… though if it is true that we were cursed by the God of the Jews than I don’t know if he could truly devour him.” – Durga Syn, thoughtfully.
“It’s strange, when we brought these questions to the Founders they only laughed.” – Ignatius.
The elder chuckled.
“The founders are… myopic. Even Mistress Fanchon, the sorcerer of their ranks, a skilled aurar in her own right, is prone to disbelieve prophesy or the tales of the most ancient of us.” – Durga Syn
“Short of a suicide mission to try and run him through the heart, is there any way to stop him?” – Alexander, darkly.
“Why would running the Cappadocian through the heart kill him?”
“Whether we kill him or not is irrelevant, is there any way to stop this?” – Alexander, becoming frustrated.
Durga Syn did not answer for some time.
“I don’t know. The truth of the matter is that the Augury of Egg was no small thing. I restrained my reaction in front of the secularists but I have never seen anything like it, save once, for the one who will perhaps save or destroy us all… but his time has not yet come. Whatever is in store for you, I do not believe this to be your end… yours will be a long existence filled with tribulations and woe. The fact that you have survived proves the prophesy to be true, so if any can find a way, sir knight, it is you and ilk.” – Durga Syn
Alexander and the others exchanged a look.
“You asked if you should offer me a gift, how about instead you do me a favor. Before you accept it I must warn you of the dangers inherent in it. Should you interfere with the Necromancers of the House Giovanni you will earn yourself the ire of a powerful family who wield magics unseen by the damned until their induction. If you can, keep the Conspirators from capturing Japheth’s soul. Their infernal arts are powered by souls and Japheth’s own is ancient and powerful. They will bring with them a vessel to capture it as he expires. If you can you must cover that vessel with the blood of a Giovanni. In doing so you will rob them of their prize.” – Durga Syn.
“I will do this, Durga Syn.” – Ignatius before turning and leaving.
“We should probably go with him.” – Alexander, to Domnall.
Alexander turned to follow.
April 9, 1444, 12:38am
The Abbots Chambers
The Domain of Japheth
Abbot of Manastirea Sf. Timotei Martirizat
“I cannot have you do this.” – Japheth, vehemently.
The Room was oppressively dark, with only a single candle lit upon a desk near the back of the room when Ignatius was granted an audience with the ancient. Now, having told him of their plan to protect him from his treacherous nephew the room seemed darker still.
“What!?” – Ignatius, incredulously.
“I don’t want you to fight in my name. My master has forbidden that any risk death in his name or in my own.” – Japheth, sadly.
“But, it’s my duty, Lord Japheth.” – Ignatius
“Then I absolve you of your duty, young Ignatius, go back to Alba Iulia, and forget about this place.” – Japheth
“But all we have to do is smear Giovanni blood upon the object meant to be your vessel. I need not lift a finger in your defense, but I can at least protect your soul!” – Ignatius, growing desperate.
“Even if I knew where to find the blood of a Giovanni I would not get it for you.”
“I trust in my faith in the Cappadocian, he has foreseen all of this and he tells me that all will be right.” – Japheth, but his voice wavered even if his conviction did not.
Ignatius, defeated, left.
He was in the garden when he saw Guadalupe, but she was too busy following after another robed figure to see him.
“I need to speak with you.” – Ignatius, having snuck upon her.
The nun was startled.
“What are you doing here?”
As quickly and quietly as he could Ignatius filled her in on what had transpired since they’d left her the night before.
“And how do you propose to taint the vessel with Giovanni blood? It’s pretty clear that our kind do not bleed lest we wish it.” – Guadalupe, incredulously.
“I have no idea.” – Ignatius, honestly.
The nun’s eyes went wide and she spun around.
“Where did she go?” – She demanded
“Marianne, she was turned by Claudius, I’m sure of it.”
Immediately they began to search the monastery grounds.
They found her, once again, at the pool.
“Marianne, I need to speak with you, I only ask that you listen.” – Guadalupe called to her.
Marianne turned to look at her but then looked over her shoulder. The nun turned to see Ignatius.
“It’s okay, he’s a… a friend.”
“What’s happened to her?” – Ignatius, shocked by the girl’s appearance.
“She’s hardly fed since the change and I think that she’s like Japheth and the other monks. I don’t think that they’re completely free from death’s hold.” – Guadalupe explained.
“Ignatius is a friend, we both are. We can’t undo what was done to us, but Ignatius has a way to stop what they are planning. Claudius wants to take Japheth’s soul and bind it to a vessel, but if we can contaminate that vessel with his blood we’ll be able to stop it. Do you understand?”
Marianne nodded and without hesitation held up her hand, palm out, wrist up. Though she didn’t make a sound the meaning was clear.
Ignatius revealed a wineskin, like those that had been used to feed them after their torture and held it out to the girl to put her hand over it.
The girl, for her part bit into her own wrist before doing so, the blood within ran dark and slow. It smelled dead.
She gave them enough to fill the skin, at least two pints worth, before the wound finally closed.
“Thank you, Marianne.” – Ignatius, reverently.
She nodded and then left.
“Will you return to Câlnic Castle with me?” – Ignatius.
“No, I think that my place is here with Marianne and the other monks. I may not stay here, but I’ll make this place my home for as long as possible.” – Guadalupe.
Ignatius left but before he was completely out of earshot he turned.
“It fits, you know!” – Ignatius called after her.
“The Founder, Adana, she called you Lupe!”
And then, he was gone.
April 14, 1444, 11:49pm
The Trinity Rock Grotto
The Domain of Japheth
Abbot of Manastirea Sf. Timotei Martirizat
The monastery’s inner garden was surprisingly large for a courtyard sanctuary.
Beyond the gardens and the clear, clean pools of water, the garden lead to the gently sloping foothills of the Făgăraş mountains. Where the hills and mountains met were three great stones, these stones were called the Trinity and were the reason why the Monastery was placed here in the first place.
The natural wall of the trinity rocks were filled with a handful of natural caves, caverns and natural springs, the largest of which could be used for services in even the worst weather.
The path to these grottos was not without danger, however. Decades ago thorny bushes, thistles and roses had been planted to remind those who entered of the pain that must be suffered before the perfection of God’s own heaven could be attained.
The largest grotto had also been marked by a semicircle of rocks that had been, over the course of centuries, been chipped away at until they could be used as seating for those in attendance.
Three of those seats stood out as particularly impressive, much like the trinity rocks of the mountain.
The centermost and largest of these seats was marked by a curious symbol, a bowl-shape with a central stem with one parallel line to either side.
Though many did not know it, this was the mark of the Cappadocian, perhaps the closest thing to a name he still possessed.
The grotto’s seating was large enough to hold as many as three dozen individuals comfortably but tonight only a quarter of that was currently present.
Japheth sat in the left most of the three seats, to the right of his father’s place. Another, older-seaming figure sat to its left.
This figure was heavyset with iron-gray hair cut short in the style of a roman. He wore extravagant sable clothing of the finest fabrics and though his features were that of a much older man, death marked this man far less than it had the hollowed face of the man to his right.
This, then, was Augustus; patriarch of the Giovanni house and last of the Cappadocian’s childer.
Marianne sat next to Guadalupe. Though they’d not spoken to each other at all in the last week, they’d spent nearly all of their time together and the Sister knew that her silent friend was glaring at the old man with nothing less than burning hatred in her eyes.
As the moon moved toward its apex of the sky Claudius appeared at the mouth of the cave. Behind him stood the seven conspirators, each prepared to defend their ally on his way to meet his destiny. Behind them strode Alexander Habsburg along with his Sire.
Walking before him was the Lady Ana; in her arms she carried a pure white dove.
There was no doubt that this ‘offering of peace’ was in fact the vessel about which she’d been forewarned.
Guadalupe had known that Ana had chosen to return to the Conspirators out of some strange loyalty to her sire, but she was surprised to see Alexander at Jadviga’s side.
In the end, though, it seemed that it didn’t matter.
Each of the conspirators bowed as they stood before the elders of the clan.
Claudius went so far as to kneel.
Only Alexander and Lady Ana remained on their feet, Alexander holding a lantern, Lady Ana the dove.
The Lady stepped forward meekly, not unlike a bride and brought forth the dove, holding it out to the elders, though never leaving the light of the torch.
Now it was Guadalupe’s turn. She strode out, head held high, and took the offering, nodding her thanks and the thanks of the elders whom gave her the duty.
Over Ana’s shoulder she caught sight of Fernando looking at her with baleful eyes, a sneer twisting his face.
She returned to Japheth who rose from his seat and accepted the dove graciously and bade Guadalupe step aside.
“Brother Claudius, please step forward, this is a sacred place to our Clan. There is no reason that you should not cross its threshold fully.” – Japheth, stiffly.
Claudius lifted himself from his knee and strode forward, a sly smirk twisting his cruel face.
When he finally reached the ancient he fell to his knees in a mockery of penitence.
“Forgive me, Brother, I have sinned against you!” – Claudius, contemptuously.
“That you have, Brother, but my sire forgives all, as does my father in heaven and so I forgive you.” – Japheth intones.
Claudius rose, dusting off his hosiery as he did so. Japheth, still holding the dove in one hand, placed his other gently upon the Giovanni’s shoulder.
“Go forth, and sin no more.”
Claudius, his eyes ablaze stepped back aghast.
“What’s this? No kiss for your brother? No kiss of peace and forgiveness?”
In an instant his face was inches from the ancient’s chest, his fangs, short and wickedly sharp, a mere inch from the coarse robes. He was held back only by the ancient hand which held it steady.
“Hear me well, Brother, I am he who sits at the right hand of our Father. I obey his will and word. Remember well what happens to those who stray from the path and his will. Now come, for I crave your ‘kiss of peace’, I am ready to know your soul.” – Japheth, releasing the monster’s head.
Without hesitation Claudius buried his head in the vampire’s chest. The dove, crushed and dead, fell between their feet.
Japheth, for his part, seemed to be in prayer, his eyes closed and his face placid.
If it weren’t for his clenched fists Guadalupe would have thought that he wanted this.
All the other monks fell to the ground in supplication, each having descended from Japheth. It seemed that they believed their prayers might save his soul.
Only Guadalupe herself and Marianne remained standing.
With a cry of rage other figures appeared in the grotto.
It was the Founders, their weapons drawn, charging forth with righteous fury.
“Death to the betrayers! Death to the Necromancers! Death to the Conspirators!” – Hardestadt.
Japheth turned his head to the General and cried.
“Stand back! Let no blood be shed in the name of the Cappadocian Clan!”
Suddenly Alexander, his weapon drawn, was thrusting his blade into Lady Jadviga.
“You traitorous shit!” – Jadviga roared.
The rest of the conspirators rushed forward to protect their diabolical ally.
Amelia, Ana’s sire, strayed behind, though she was attempting to move forward with a long wooden shaft protruding from her breast.
The lady collapsed then, her flesh and her clothing collapsing as she did so, leaving nothing but an empty, translucent husk.
Guadalupe looked behind her to see the giant, Domnall, a great bow in hand, a victorious smile, the first she had ever seen on him, splitting his bearded face.
She turned back and eyed her sire. If she was going to act it would have to be now.
She charged Fernando, swinging with all of her might. He moved to dodge her, vanishing from the spot on which he’d been standing, but when he paused she was there, waiting for him. Her fist connected with his jaw, sending him flying back.
Having created an opening Guadalupe was glad to see that Ignatius used it, jumping through it with what looked like a wineskin. The skin burst over the dove, drenching the tiny corpse with dead but potent blood.
Alexander was not alone in his assault on Jadviga who was now boxed in by the knight and Hardestadt. Unfortunately she was a capable fighter in her own right.
Even as Hardestadt struck a seemingly ineffectual blow upon her she did the same to him.
“Cease your violence! This is a holy place!” – Cried one of the monks.
Unfortunately, it did little to stop the frenzied monk that fell upon him and tore out his throat with black fangs.
Ana, having failed to reach her sire before she expired, backed herself into a corner.
Throughout the violence, Claudius continued to feed until finally Japheth relented, his pale skin shriveling into a gray skin and dusky husk, his features rotting away.
When Claudius dropped the ancient corpse it shattered upon the dirt floor like brittle pottery, leaving nothing behind but dust.
Claudius shuddered as his skin seemed to grow paler still. Blackened veins appeared in his ashen flesh.
He cried out triumphantly as winds began to whip through the cavern.
“Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood shall have eternal life and I shall raise them up on the last day and I shall grant them eternal life!” – Claudius cried out in triumph even as a look of confusion crossed his face.
Why had he said those words?
Lightning crashed outside, startling the newly empowered methuselah and the room began to fill with a cold greenish light.
The fighting stopped.
The wind stopped.
Everyone turned instinctively toward the central seat, the symbol upon it seemed to be the source of the illumination.
From that light a form took shape.
It was a small, dark man with ashen skin and deep set ethereal eyes.
Guadalupe recognized him immediately.
“The Cappadocian!” – Claudius moaned.
Guadalupe found herself falling to her knees, as did almost everyone else present.
He looked much as he did before: a luminous being, a projection of some other, terrifying consciousness. But this time he seemed more real, more solid.
She looked at his feet and saw that, indeed, they were standing upon the earthen floor.
The pressure in her head began to mount as the Cappadocian took a fully corporeal form.
When he did so the winds picked up again, the garden outside was surely sundered by its force
If the Cappadocian was a god than he was a very angry god.
CLAUDIUS GIOVANNI, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?- the Cappadocian’s voice seemed to shake the mountain.
Claudius looked fearfully toward his sire.
Augustus, for the first time since his appearance, rose to his feet.
“He did as I bade, sire. He has taken the place of your son just as I shall take your place.” – Augustus, his voice consoling.
He reached out and took the antediluvian by the shoulder.
“I want your blood, father.”
Ignatius took a step back, fearfully. Many others followed suit.
Only Augustus stood his ground, though only through constant exertion and Guadalupe realized that he was trying to move forward.
MY BLOOD IS NOT MINE TO GIVE, DEAR AUGUSTUS, IT BELONGS TO GOD, AND I CAN ONLY HOPE THAT HE FORGIVES YOU FOR SPILLING IT. AFTER ALL, MY CHILDE, HIS FORGIVENESS IS FOR ALL, EVEN THE LIKES OF YOU.
Somewhere in the distance a tunnel collapsed.
Augustus strained against his sire’s presence inching ever closer as the death god spoke.
“You sanctimonious sot, I will destroy you!” – Claudius roared over the growing winds.
THINK ON WHAT YOU DO, MY CHILDE, MY GRANDSIRE, CAINE, HAS COME TO ME AND TOLD ME TO BECOME AN ETERNAL SACRIFICE THAT ALL LIFE MIGHT BECOME ETERNAL. I AM TO BRING HEAVEN ON EARTH, DELIVERING ALL OF US, LIVING AND DEAD, FROM GOD’S CURSE.
“Heaven on Earth? Never!” – Augustus mocked, finally reaching his sire.
YOU CANNOT STOP ME, I HAVE GIVEN MYSELF FREELY AND SO I SHALL CONTINUE ON LONG AFTER THIS EARTHLY VESSEL IS EXTINGUISHED.
“But I shall have your soul as well as your power!” – Augustus crowed as he grabbed hold of both of his sire’s shoulders.
Augustus bared his fangs and buried them in the death god’s neck; his own body began to glow with the same eerie light.
The Cappadocian reached out to cradle his childe’s head as a mother might cradle a suckling infant as the old man drank ever deeper.
Rivulets of black blood poured out of the sides of Giovanni’s mouth and down his face and the ancient’s chest. Where it touched the younger of the two his skin began to smoke.
Finally, after an eternity of minutes Augustus pulled away.
“IT BURNS" – he roared within all of their heads as great gouts of black smoke erupted from his mouth and nose. Through the glow of his shining skin Guadalupe could make out great black fissures, as if the blood itself was burning him.
Hardestadt had, through sheer force of will, gotten to his feet and was beginning to approach the foul diablerist.
“Blasphemer! Blood Traitor!” – Hardestadt roared before the winds finally took hold and threw him against the cave wall.
More shocking still was that Guadalupe saw that both Ignatius and Domnall had somehow gotten to their feet.
Moving as one they slowly inched their way toward the two blinding figures.
As they drew ever closer their skin began to smolder and darken but still they persevered and, digging their fingers into cracks and fissures in the stone they moved closer still until they too began to smoke.
Somehow, finally they reached the eye of the storm and, as one, they bit into the Antediluvian.
They held on for less than a second but in that time they too began to shimmer and then glow. When the wind finally took hold of them it threw Ignatius from the grotto entirely, where he was caught up in the maelstrom and vanished.
Domnall too was thrown, but he flew deeper into the grotto where he slammed into the stone wall, his glowing skin erupting in black smoke that seemed to evaporate into the ground.
At the center of the storm the two beings glowed ever brighter until the light finally began to fade.
Only Augustus remained.
Columns of hellish red light radiated from the methuselah’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth. For another moment he was born aloft by the power of the maelstrom before his feet once again touched the ground.
CLAUDIUS, HIS SOUL, IT FLIES, GET THE DOVE! CATCH IT!
Claudius rushed to grab the dove but when he saw the blood that had sullied its feathers his shoulders slumped.
“Come Back!” – Claudius, chasing after something that was beyond Guadalupe’s vision.
The winds died down and the moonlight began to flood into the now wrecked garden.
Guadalupe rushed to Marianne’s side when she heard her scream. The girl lay on the floor of the Grotto, her eyes alight with the same hellish glow that had been in Augustus’s own. Soon that glow was running through her veins and illuminating her very skin. Whatever was happening to her was obviously very painful.
And then, just like that, the infernal glow was gone and Marianne lay very still for some time.
When she opened her eyes they no long shone with unnatural paleness, her skin was, though still as pale as Guadalupe’s own, no longer translucent and, most astonishingly her cheeks began to fill out.
“Marianne, are you alright?” – Guadalupe asked the newly rejuvenated fledgling.
Her only answer was the terrified look on the girl’s face.
April 28, 1444, 1:12am
The Domain of Hardestadt
Prince of Bavaria
No evidence was found of the bodies of either Ignatius Basarab nor of Domnall O’Brien and it was soon concluded that they had been destroyed as a result of their actions. The Lady Ana Golescu had vanished in the melee. The vampire childe Qamar was never found.
Lord Alexander Habsburg and Sister Guadalupe, for their part, had been very helpful in binding those Conspirators who had not escaped following the destruction of the Cappadocian Founder.
Though neither Japheth nor his Sire had been saved, Hardestadt couldn’t help but feel that the actions that night had been a success.
Three conspirators, Theophana Montpellier, Leopold Valdemar and Jadviga Almanov had been successfully captured and would be dealt with swiftly.
The Diablerist, Claudius Giovanni, had also successfully been captured but was released a short time later into the custody of his progeny, Vendramino Giovanni.
Hardestadt had made it very clear that Devil-Kindred of “Clan Giovanni” would never be recognized or accepted by the Camarilla, that they would hunt them to the very ends of the earth.
Despite this setback he was sure that no one would ever learn the truth, that Jadviga was in fact a childe of Hardestadt the Elder, and had been instrumental in the formation of the Camarilla and the end of the Conspiracy.