VTR: Aftermath

First Night
From the journal of Gregor Lutzavic

Six weeks is not long to adapt to a new way of “life” and a massive culture shift. What’s worse is the expectations held of me. But they are no different than the expectations held by any fledgling to the circle in the last few hundred years. But many of them started at least nominally in the Invictus. I have to be super polite. I can’t show the Circle up nor insult the Invictus lest I risk instant and final death.

The blood feast is something to behold. The First Estate knows how to party. It’s odd really they surround themselves with the heard and then play as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Watching them wager on their seduction of the kine. The four of us kept close enough to each other to begin with and announced our presence early. We did not want to be open to an early gaff in their etiquette. Naturally soon enough we revert back to our natures. My Lady Hella amusing herself in the hunt on the floors below, Dodger running his own games whilst Fagin delighted in snubbing Authorities nose. I circled the kindred and notice that the fledglings like me are being kept a narrow eye o. they are already being weighed for their use. I know the Three and the rest of the circle have done much the same with me. Here I am an unknown quantity.

Like any party though there’s always one who can’t handle it. And this is no exception. Arnold McFinn a bookish type to me clearly high and running his mouth to a Carthian and a known harpy. I’m here to build bridges and I figure not letting him make a total fuck up of his first Elysium might win more friends than enemies, hey it is an Invictus bash, and I approach him and remind him to think of what he is and where he is. I don’t even lay a hand on him.

Then someone turns up a high up in the Ordo. Now I’m told these guys have some interesting thoughts on the nature of our kind but given how he moves about the assembled wolves I know one thing. Here is a man not to be fucked with. He talks briefly to the man of the hour Ken Tucker. This arrival is followed soon by the Alpha. The Prince is a scary man I don’ feel it like I’m told others do but I also have been warned to keep my tongue in check and civil lest the Crone pluck it out.

That’s when I watch the train wreck happen. And the night goes south. McFinn is running his mouth again, and hasn’t heard the herald, hasn’t noticed the hush or the look of fear on his audiences face. He turns and meets the gaze of Thane Abraham. You could see the kindred check out and the beast simply go in to flight. He doesn’t freeze he bolts down the stairs and out the window. Hell does not ensue, calm rational order ensues. The Coterie I’d been told I’d join is formed without ceremony or pomp and dispatched in a test to bring him back here. So it is I meet Ken Tucker and Jack De Coeur.

So these Invictus seem paralysed by something so simple. The longer we wait the bigger the lead the prey gets. Ken we send to try and get a possible destination address whilst Jack and I head to ground level to get the first lines on our prey. Jack it seems has a talent for the hunt picking up on McFinn’s scent, he was heading away from the shared haven and the hunt was on.

The one thing that I love of my new life is the freedom I’m granted from the fatigue or breathlessness. I can run forever unfortunately so could our prey. McFinn had hidden himself but his presence fleeing in fear could not be hidden. We followed in his wake my parkour giving me a sense of freedom following directly. A chase I’d have described as exhilarating in my mortal days lost something in the absence of adrenaline. Through London and in to Hyde Park. We lost McFinn at the lake. And then Ken used his head. We had assumed McFinn had adjusted to his new condition. So it was we followed the Man McFinn not the kindred and headed for his family home.

We arrived ahead of McFinn and Tucker worked his own form of magic and coercion, remember DO NOT trust him, on McFinn and we bundled the near starving McFinn in to a taxi. The cabbie asked no questions and we soon were back amongst our own kind. Tucker went to report back, De Coeur went to bring back some blood and so I took a risk. I started a bond with McFinn. I think Jack suspects but can prove nothing. And I fear McFinn will not last long. The Prince was talking of his research in to something that it appears the Carthians want to know about, McFinn’s inhibition and being played by the harpy are no coincidence. I’ve fed this back to my Lady. We shall have to see what happens.

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Prologue: Embrace
Journal Entry - Unknown Author

Friday 1st January 2016

Field Note:

My source was correct. While the city was distracted by the celebration and revelry of the end of another dismal year these monsters met, lit by a back drop of fireworks flooding through stained glass. Yesterday, I booked myself on to a viewing of the Ceremony of the Keys and was able to slip away while all the British pomp and ceremony was being carried out. As he had mentioned I was able to find the hidden passage near the base of Wakefield Tower. The passage was narrow and long disused. I was barely able to squeeze my way down the cobweb filled opening in to what seemed a natural warren running beneath the rock. I crawled my way along, my night vision goggles illuminating the gloom, before reaching a sheer rock face. As my source had advised, hand and footholds had been chiselled out of this subterranean cliff face and I began to climb. Eventually rock gave way to stone and the make shift ladder continued on. Finally I reached my goal, the top of this climbing wall opened out in to a small cavity with the tiniest of openings in the stone work. And from here I could look out and down upon the majestic stone pillars of the Chapel Of St John.

Below me in the sparsely lit gloom of the chapel figures moved and talked. They were dressed in all manner of paraphernalia, one individual wearing some kind of old religious vestments in red and gold, another a full suit of armour complete with long sword which appeared to be Norman in design. His coat of arms, displayed a stylised “I” with a skull in its centre on a field of yellow and blue check. I must make a note to research this heraldry later. The pews from what I could see had been moved to one side and in the place where the altar would usually be a large wooden throne sat, currently vacant. Switching my goggles to infra red my suspicions were confirmed, the majority of those moving and conversing did not register a heat signature. Most worrying was the group in the centre of the nave who did. I counted 25 of them, they were bound, their heads covered and from the sounds of their whimpering, they were afraid; and there was nothing I could do but watch.

One of the monsters stepped forward. He began to talk in a loud, authoritative voice.

“My fellow Kindred of quality, assembled guests, privileged Kine. I beg your pardon for interrupting your discourse and prey for your silence. I announce the arrival of The Right Honourable Alder Thane Abraham, Most Merciful Marquis Of London, Prince Of The City, Childer of the Alder Lady Easter Alishire, Prince Of The City, Childer of the Alder Baroness Bernadine Fisher, Prince Of the City, Childer of the Alder Lord Ford Stephensen, Prince Of The City, Childer of his grace Pompeius of Ostia, Duke Of Londinium, Prince Of The City.”

There was deafly silence as another man entered the chapel. He was of average height though some how appeared to tower over everyone else in the room. He moved with an air of unquestioned authority and power. The sense of fear even among these ancient monsters was palpable, needless to say I felt it to. He stood in front of the throne for a moment before slowly taking his seat, the man who announced his arrival standing in position at his right hand. He surveyed the room before beginning to speak in a slow deliberate baritone.

“My fellow kindred. I welcome you to my court happy in the knowledge that we have once again weathered the storm and found peace after such troubled nights. I have called this Elysium for one purpose and one alone, to rebuild. The struggle may have been an Invictus affair but as always our affairs engulf all and many of you lost sires and childe in the strife. Our numbers must be replenished, that task begins tonight. Seneschal,” he turned his head to the man at his shoulder “bring forth tonight’s stock.”

And then it began. The “seneschal” as he had been called would order one of the captives to be brought forward by one of the other monsters who would hold the poor soul and remove the hood. The prince from his throne would look them over, his features implacable as he considered whether to allow the person the power to decide their own fate. In silence, with a slight rising of his left hand the captive would be found wanting, the hood replaced, and the individual moved off to one side. With a slight rising of his right hand, equally silent the spectacle would continue. The Seneschal would step forward and address the individual.

“Privileged Kine, do you know what we are?”

The individual would reply in the affirmative though obviously terrified. My guess is though they knew these things existed they had never been confronted with these kinds of numbers before or the true horror of what they were.

“You are to be embraced in to the ranks of the Invictus human.” The seneschal continued. “Do you swear to keep our secrets, further our honour and uphold the holy traditions of Longinus?”

Again a reply in the affirmative. At this point the monster in the vestments steped forward and took over the proceedings.

“And Longinus did say, ‘I return to my teacher, now my friend, and I reveal to him the holy knowledge that I keep within my heart. I tell him of the centurion, of the crucified Christ and of the blood, of the angel and the purpose God has for my kind and me. I reveal to him the nature of the beast.’ Ipse Longinus Id Dixit, The Torments Of Longinus 14:3-7. As the dark prophet did many centuries ago for his teacher I now do for you. In joining the ranks of the Invictus, human you will join the wider community of the damned and serve almighty god in penance through your damnation. Never again will you see the sun or feel its warmth on your skin, never again will you know the satisfaction of pleasures of the flesh and food will turn to ash on your tongue. Your nights will become a never ending battle to master your own beast which will be awakened by your damnation. Only the taste of blood will sate your appetite. As the Lion of the lord did with his childe so I offer you this final choice, become damned, or die a clean death by my hand.”

Some upon hearing this blasphemous sermon, realising the grave reality of what it was that was about to happen did indeed choose a clean death. The reaction of this dark priest to this was not of anger as I would have expected but of marked and noticeable respect. He despatched them of their lives with a terrible strength but in such an expert way that they would have known no pain. I suspected his was a practised hand.

I suspect those who chose to become damned regretted it in an instant. As the decision was made their captor would violently rip the clothes from their very body as no less than 12 of the monsters descended on the poor soul in a feeding frenzy of blood and teeth. At the point where the individual was all but exsanguinated the last of the monsters would open their wrists and drizzle their own blood on the individuals lips before they were wrapped in a black cloak and laid off to one side to recover, various trappings laid around them. Upon their rising one of the unfortunate individuals whom the prince had found wanting was brought before them and they fell on them like the animals they now were. Finally the cloak was reversed to reveal a purple or gold lining depending on which group of monsters the initiates had now joined and the individual presented with new fine clothes by the monster who had shared their blood with them.

All but one of the captives had been put through this macabre ritual, by the look of him a tall and well built man. Though his strength was impressive he was still held motionless with ease by one of the monsters. 5 of his fellow captives had since become monsters themselves, 3 joining the ranks of a group called the Invictus and 2 another group called the Lancea Sanctum. One poor soul remained off to the side, hooded, unsure of his fate. The rest one way or another were dead. I felt sick. There was a long delay and I realised something must be a mis. The monsters were getting restless.

The Seneschal turned to address the prince

“Most Merciful Marquis we cannot wait any longer, this delay is an affront to your authority. By rights the circle representative should have been here before your honour and still they are absent. Let us put an end to these proceedings and on your word I will see that this insult does not pass without an appropriate response.”

The Prince said nothing but simply looked upwards, it seemed directly at me. Then a voice rang out.

“Absent my dear, why I certainly haven’t felt absent. It’s been a great privilege for one as ’umble as my good self to witness the merry dance of you city elites.”

A dark figure dropped from the arches what must have been only two metres to my right. The monsters scattered where he landed, his long overcoat spreading out on the floor as he rose to reveal a tall lanky frame crowned by a victorian top hat. The man was the most hideous thing I have yet seen. Grotesquely pale and covered in boils he had a large pointed nose and scraggy long side burns that extended right to his chin and looked like they were composed of wire. All the monsters in the room bristled, all but the prince who remained unmoved. The knight moved in to the nave sword drawn and barked at the new comer.

“Mr Fagin, this sir is an outrage. This is Elysium even the circle know the laws regarding the use of disciplines of the blood. I should send your ashes back to the heirophant in an urn for such disgraceful behaviour.”

“Begin’ your pardon Ser De Warrene,” came the grotesque’s reply. “But I ain’t used no disciplines of the blood my dear. Why I can hardly be blamed if your all so caught up in the momentousness of said occasion that none of you thinks to look up now can I. Most careless, you never know who might be watching.”

My blood froze, did he know I was here. The Seneschal spoke next.

“So they sent you? I would have expected the heirophant to see to this personally. You wouldn’t be here alone so tell us, where is the rat that accompanies you like a shadow?”

Fagin smiled a crooked smile showing several rotting and yellowed teeth, “The heirophant is somewhat busy making preparations to receive the boy. My associate is waitin for me close by until I finish my business here. After all, we aint really got no reason to trust you. Sufficed to say my dear I may well be sent back to the heirophant in an urn yet.” He laughed with a strange phlegmy cakcle at his own joke. “No, No sense in risking two of our number when ol Fagin alone is more than sufficient. So put that oversized kebab skewer away good sir knight before you get hurt. I’ll be takin the boy now if you’d be so kind.”

There was up roaor, a cacophony of angry voices. “Unacceptable!!”, “An Outrage, I say an outrage.” “He must be embraced here according to the ancient rites.”

Mr Fagin seemed unconcerned by the seething mass of indignation in front of him, in fact he seemed to be relishing it. That was until the Prince slowly began to rise from his throne and walk slowly down towards the man. Only then did a look of concern and fear start to cross his face as the man made his way slowly, step by step, towards the monster, each step silencing another voice until he stood toe to toe with him. For what seemed like an eternity there was silence, before the Prince spoke.

“We in the Invictus understand tradition, we respect tradition and treat it with honour. Your actions today Mr Soloman show a distinct lack of respect.”

Fagin winced at the use of the name and a genuine look of concern crossed his ugly visage.

“I should make an example of you. I am sure my good friend the bishop would agree. I should, however, I will not diminish this illustrious event by carrying out your execution. I will show respect to this occasion. I will honour the boy and indeed the other neonates among us tonight. I will hope my example will serve to educate you young one.”

Fagin relaxed, his tone more deferent now.

“Oh you are most wise your magnificantness prince my dear, most wise, so I’ll just be takin the boy and be off then now, leave my betters to get back to things beyond ol Fagin’s comprehension.”

“There is a price,” the Prince said. “In order that he may be embraced according to your traditions, your ways, I demand that he be presented before the court at Elysium six weeks from now. One of my heralds will bring you word as to where the event shall be held. There he shall be inducted in to a coterie with Invictus neonates, schooled in our ways alongside your own, act as a bridge between our respective covenants. This is how it shall be.”

The smile faded from Fagins face,

“Erm, begin your pardon your princeliness but I don’t know whether the heirophant will agree to that.”

“That is my price. Should it not be paid then I swear to you as I am Invictus that the boy will die before the next night is out, as will his sire, as will you. You know how seriously an Invictus takes their oaths, and the heirophant knows how seriously I take mine. This Elysium is over. Take the boy.”

The prince walked slowly past Fagin’s shoulder before pausing and saying without looking back,

“I will not forget this Mr Soloman.”

And then he was gone, seemingly melting in to the shadows. Fagin lead the boy away removing his hood as he went. The poor remaining captive’s neck was broken and carried out along with the other bodies.

I stayed in my hiding place motionless until morning. Unable sleep, unable to move.

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