The vengeance came without warning. It was a day like any other up till that point: Joshua, Alex, Missy, James and the rest of their pack were kicking back for the day in their nest, about to chow down on some co-eds they’d lured back here. There’d been an argument whether to just bleed the girls dry or turn them to join the pack. The consensus was turn them. Joshua, the strongest and oldest of the group, having been a vampire for the eternity of twenty years, bent his fangs to one girl’s neck as the other two screamed and struggled, held fast by his gang.
That’s when the door burst open and they came on, all teeth and claws and fire in their eyes. They wielded stakes like extensions of their own bodies, and they moved like lightning. Joshua had a lot of experience under his belt. He’d heard about demons, werewolves, ancient vampires—even creatures up to a hundred years old—but he’d never even imagined anything like this. These things, they weren’t vampires. They couldn’t be. They were too savage, and there was no game face. Likewise, he’d never heard of demons that looked so normal save for that preternatural fury.
There were ten vampires in all, including Joshua, and in less than twenty seconds, he was all that remained. The man who had been a biker in life, who stood over six-feet tall, who was an imposing, threatening menace to everyone he faced, fell to his knees and begged for his life.
As quickly as they’d arrived, the hunters were gone, leaving nothing behind but ten piles of grave dust.
The group has been enjoying a couple of weeks of well-deserved down time. Hilda, Yun-Xun, and Danny have been very focused on training. Matthew has not been seen in a few days and the group is told by Anita that she has sent him on an errand. Dr. Armedt remains hospitalized at St. Clair and is slowly recovering from his injuries. Darrek has been to see him several times and, at his direction, is lying low and keeping off of the Rosicrucians’ radar until Armedt is well and able to clear things up; they are quite unhappy about Darrek defying a direct order. Daniel has been transferred to the long term care ward at WPIC and is completely catatonic. Darrek has been visiting him daily. Danny has also gone to visit Daniel several times. Jamie, Daniel’s girlfriend, is often there, and expresses her gratitude to Danny for saving Daniel’s life.
Henry is adjusting to living with the Tinsleys. He enrolls in PA Cyber Charter School and starts working on his high school credits. Being completely on his own on the streets for the past two years, he is not used to his needs and wants being met without question. Darrek provides him with a generous allowance and explains that in addition to his parents leaving a sizeable trust for him, he and Emily are provided a monthly stipend for Henry’s care from the foster care system, all of which is being directed towards his needs.
Henry can sense growing tensions between Darrek and his wife. Over the most recent weekend Darrek does not come home for several days, and Henry has some time to bond with Emily. When Darrek finally returns home late in the afternoon on Sunday, Henry overhears him and Emily arguing. During their fight Emily loses her temper, slaps Darrek across the face, and screams at him to go to his room. About an hour later, Henry sees Emily walk through the house wearing an elegant evening gown and enter the den. Darrek then goes to their bedroom and emerges in a suit. He tells Henry he and Emily are going to dinner at the Le Mont in Mt. Washington, they will likely not be home until late, and not to wait up. Henry awakens during the night and hears the unmistakable sounds of raucous sexual intercourse coming from their bedroom. The next day, things between them appear to have significantly improved.
After Emily fixes them breakfast and leaves for her shift at Children’s Hospital, Darrek takes Henry to use Anita’s occult library, and the two spend an afternoon researching spells. He does not volunteer any information regarding his whereabouts over the weekend, and Henry doesn’t ask.
Over the past week, the group has cleaned out a number of vampire nests. They seem to be springing up all over the place. The group goes to investigate a nest in the Hill District that has been causing issues on campus at Carlow University. Hilda kicks in the door to discover the nest is completely empty, and the group discovers 10 piles of grave dust and a co-ed who appears to have been dead for several days.
Upon examination, Danny discovers that there was significant damage done to the hinges of the door, and that it appears that whoever cleaned out the nest closed it behind them. Questions are raised about who or what could have done this, and the possibility of another Slayer or demon hunter in town given the efficiency with which the nest was dealt with.
Back at the Hive Arcana, it is business as usual. Dana is handling things at the counter in Jamie’s absence, who is taking some personal time off from work. The group notices Sandra Stephens, a regular of the Hive who lives upstairs from Matthew, sitting by the window and nursing a coffee. She looks like she hasn’t slept and is wearing a tee shirt, no makeup, and has her hair pulled back in a ponytail, all of which is highly unusual to anyone who knows her. Darrek makes an offhanded comment about not seeing her like this since finals week during graduate school and seems genuinely concerned. Henry, who knows Sandra from the soup kitchen at the homeless shelter where he used to stay, goes to say hi to her. Her sarcasm is significantly more biting than usual and borders on being cruel.
The door to Anita’s office suddenly bursts open and she loudly yells, “EVERYBODY. GET. OUT!” Danny then watches as multiple spirits come flying out of her office and down the stairs. Anita emerges and proclaims, “I feel great! My office is clean, my Jag is fixed, and I’ve got CRAZY in my eyes! The bitch is back, babies!” She grins from ear to ear, and then calls all of the current employees of Blake Investigations into her office for a briefing.
She pulls from her desk a black envelope with a black invitation inside written in fancy script and informs the group that there is going to be a conclave in Pittsburgh in a few days. A conclave, she explains, is a gathering of all of the movers and shakers in the Gifted and supernatural communities, including powerful demons and vampires, in the world. There has not been one in 275 years. Whatever the reason for it, it means something big and very bad is on the horizon.
Anita has been asked to send two representatives from Blake Investigations and chooses Hilda and Yun-Xun for the job. She explains that there is a non-violence agreement during the conclave and warns them, “Don’t make us the ones who violate it.” The conclave is being held at Club Apocalypse.
While the group is talking, there is a knock at Anita’s office door. A pale woman with dark hair, long features, and an Italian accent apologizes for interrupting and introduces herself as Delia Borgato, explaining that she was sent by Joe Knonaem and is the biochemist who has been analyzing the substance the Joker used during the attacks at WPIC. Delia reads as a mundane human, but Darrek senses that there is something off, almost twitchy, about her. She is accompanied by a man whose resemblance to her is striking, and she introduces him as Alistair, her twin brother. He says sheepishly, “I’m an artist; I’m just along for the ride.”
Anita yells downstairs to Dana to make a note that they need to look into adding a conference room to the floor plan and the group convenes in the theater as there is not enough room in Anita’s office for everyone. Delia apologizes again and says she’s been unable to make much headway on figuring out what exactly the substance is. She says it has the base of a nerve gas, but is unclear on how it is activated or works to create the facial distortions that those exposed to it are left with. She encourages the group to contact her if she can be of further assistance to them and makes a final comment, “If I believed in such things, I’d say it was magic.”
After the Borgato siblings take their leave, the group informs Anita about the vampire nest and their work being done for them. Anita appears disturbed by this news and comments that there is only one other ‘team’ of vampire hunters that she is aware of in Pittsburgh—Sandra and Father Bob. She explains that the two of them being divinely Inspired, their Gifts uniquely equip them to handle dealing with unholy creatures.
When Darrek goes on to say that the girl they found in the nest appears to have died over the weekend, Anita comments that it couldn’t have been them because Sandra was with her and Darrek all weekend. She then warns the rest of the group, “And if anyone of you repeats that I said that to his wife, I’ll personally hand you your ass.”
After their meeting with Anita, the group has the rest of the afternoon off to do with as they please. Yun-Xun contacts the Storm Dragons and Klaus to inform them about the conclave. Hilda and Yun-Xun go shopping, and Danny tags along. Henry goes to volunteer to serve lunch at the soup kitchen with Megan. Darrek goes upstairs and coaxes Sandra into joining him for lunch outside in the park to get some fresh air and sunshine. She goes with him, but remains very upset and is unwilling to discuss why. Darrek doesn’t pry and just offers whatever support he can.
The next day, Joe comes into the Hive to follow up regarding Delia Borgato and encourages the group to make use of her if she can be a resource for them. He tips them off that there are whisperings of “gang activity” in Homewood Cemetery. The group goes upstairs to alert Anita and find her in her office with a very beautiful woman who reads as supernatural. Anita introduces her as an old acquaintance, Amara, who is a different type of vampire than the group has encountered before…she has a soul.
Amara explains that she is here in Pittsburgh for the conclave, having received intelligence that whomever orchestrated the conclave is actually after an ancient artifact called the Night Stone. A millennia old, it is rumored that under the right conditions and with the right rituals, the Night Stone can blot out the sun. Amara says that she doesn’t have very much information about the Night Stone, but has heard whispers that it was created by a vampire alchemist.
Suddenly, the sounds of furniture being overturned and shouts can be heard coming from downstairs. A vampire in full game face covered in blankets and smoking bursts into Anita’s office and slams the door shut behind him. He collapses in her chair and after catching his breath, introduces himself as Jeffrey, and says that he needs protection from a group of vampire hunters that killed everyone else in his nest. Jeffrey comments that there are six hunters total and says, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think there were six Slayers running around.” The group debates what to do with Jeffrey and decide to have him wait out the remaining daylight hours in the theater. After dark, they will use him as bait to draw the hunters out.
Hilda takes Jeffrey down to the theater. Amara continues her discussion of the Night Stone and suggests using the occult resources of Blake Investigations and the Rosicrucians to glean as much information about it as possible. She tells the group that she was present for the last conclave 275 years ago. The head of the conclave is an entity known as the Other, an ancient being whose true identity is unknown. She says the non-aggression agreement of the conclave has no mystical reinforcement to back it up, and that back stabbing and behind the scenes manipulation is commonplace.
Amara advises the group to focus all of their energies on the Night Stone rather than the hunters and says, “I would not worry too much about them; after all, it would seem that they are doing your work for you.” She then takes her leave of the group, walks outside into broad daylight, hops into a red Corvette convertible, and takes off. Shortly after she leaves the group hears a scream from the theater and goes to investigate. They find the emergency exit wide open, a broad stream of sunlight flooding into the theater from outside, and a pile of dust just inside the door. The group wonders how someone could have known that Jeffrey was in the theater.
Darrek goes to the Rosicrucian library to research while the rest of the group scopes out Homewood Cemetery. Upon arriving at the Masonic temple, he receives a hero’s welcome from his brothers, as word of his defiant rescue of Daniel and Dr. Armedt has spread amongst the ranks. However, he quickly realizes that his actions have earned him a few more enemies as well. He sees Aimee Harris glaring at him, and learns that she is being sent to represent the Rosicrucians at the upcoming conclave.
Darrek asks around and discovers that things have been quite tense during his absence. James Franklin from the New York chapter has been sent to Pittsburgh to temporarily fill in for Armedt. He is a bureaucrat and there is little love for him. Now that Dr. Armedt is recovered and is being released from the hospital, he wants Franklin to leave and return to New York so that normalcy can resume; however, New York is of the opinion that Pittsburgh is renegade and needs to be brought to heel, and from the looks of it, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Darrek worries that the order he received to stay away from Mayview and abandon Dr. Armedt and Daniel may have been more politically motivated than he realized.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group arrives at Homewood cemetery just in time to see a group of people running out of a crypt towards a van. There are six of them and they are cloaked, hooded, and wearing masks. Some of them move incredibly fast, and two of them disappear before the group’s eyes. To Hilda, they sense as vampires, with the same kind of energy about them as Amara.
Henry attempts to use his magic on the hunters and is surprised when his spell is negated. He manages to catch the license plate of the van as it drives away and writes it down. Yun-Xun expresses concerns about Amara’s insistence that Blake Investigations not concern themselves with the hunters and questions whether she knows something more than she is saying. Joe runs the plate and informs them that the van is registered to a very wealthy businessman by the name of Sebastian Powell.
Darrek spends most of the day in the Rosicrucian library researching the Night Stone. From what he can gather, extensive efforts have been taken to wipe all references of the Night Stone from written records. The information he manages to gather about it he piece-meals together from what is not there, rather than what is.
The Night Stone was created by a vampire associated with a group called the LaSombra shortly after the fall of Rome and is supposedly imbued with the essence of shadow itself. Darrek finds passing references to something called Obtenebration and an Antediluvian or ancient vampire. The more he digs, the more confusing and jumbled the information seems.
Darrek finds references to the Stone in the early days of Islam (early-mid 600s AD) around the time that Mohammed wrote the Koran, then in the 8th century around 738 AD, which Darrek recalls is the year that Abdul Alhazred was torn apart on the streets of Damascus. He finds mention of a five day long solar eclipse that covered Eastern Europe in the early days of the Crusades, which coincided with the last major Reckoning.
The Stone then goes missing until 1453 where it resurfaces during the Hundred Years’ War and was brought to the New World. Darrek finds more references to the Stone during the French and Indian War and the Salem Witch trials. Utterly exhausted, his head swimming with more questions than answers, he decides to call it a night and goes home.
The next day, the group shares their concerns about Amara with Anita, who is not pleased to hear someone she trusted has been keeping secrets from her. She calls Amara and proceeds to tear into her over the phone. Amara then shows up at the Hive Arcana shortly after this accompanied by a British gentleman who reads as very powerful and not human. He introduces himself to the group as Sebastian Powell, the Prince of the City. Henry shakes his hand, which feels cold. Sebastian explains that he and Amara are members of a group of vampire clans known as the Camarilla. He refers to himself and Amara as Moroi or kindred, and tells the cast that the vampires they are familiar with are known as Strigoi.
Sebastian confirms that the group of hunters the group has been pursuing are also Moroi, and have been hunting the packs of Strigoi so that the group could focus their attentions on bigger issues, referencing a “coming storm” and an “infection” of Pittsburgh.
He briefly describes some of the clans of the Camarilla, which are not entirely dissimilar to the Covenants of the Gifted. Each clan possesses different abilities, known as Disciplines. Sebastian tells them that his clan is known as the Ventrue, and Amara is a Ravnos. He also tells them of the enemies of the Camarilla, known as the Sabbat. The vampires of the Sabbat are unconcerned about peaceful co-existence with humanity and view them as little more than a food source. The Camarilla believes that the Sabbat are after the Night Stone and have hired an assassin to murder the Other at the conclave. Sebastian assures the group that the Camarilla are not a threat to them, and that the last thing they want is a war in Pittsburgh. Darrek responds that as long as the Camarilla doesn’t interfere with them doing what they need to do, they’ll have no quarrel with them.
After Sebastian leaves, Amara offers to answer any questions the group may have about this new revelation. She shares more details about some of the abilities the kindred possess, and how best fight them, as many of the methods for killing Strigoi are ineffective against the Moroi. Amara explains that the politics between the Camarilla and the Sabbat are a bit more complicated than ‘good guys’ verses ‘bad guys.’
Before returning to the Rosicrucian library to continue researching the Night Stone, Henry suggests using the spell from his mother’s journal to see if they can learn any more details about it. As he did previously, Henry is able to successfully include Darrek during the spell to ask questions of the mystic spirit of Kokumthena. She confirms that the Night Stone is in Pittsburgh, that the Sabbat are the ones who are after it, and says that it cannot be located using magic.
The group then resumes researching the Stone and find references from the 1860’s just before the Civil War about a werewolf protecting it from a group of African vampires and something about groups called the Followers of Set and Assamites. According to the information they find, the vampires were seeking the Stone to bring about the end of the human world in retribution for slavery. The Night Stone was then smuggled north to Pittsburgh via the Underground Railroad where it was buried.
Darrek finds a specific passage referencing its location which states, “A place where shall stand a great tower, a monument to knowledge whose stonework hearkens a legacy of centuries past.” He immediately recognizes this as a reference to the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Researching the ritual required to activate the Stone, Darrek and Henry discover that when infused with the blood of a sorcerer at least a millennia old, the Night Stone can blot out the sun from the sky and replace it with an eternal blood moon.
There are vague references to something called the Book of Nod, to an ancient deity called the Crimson Caliph, the Blood Imperator, Ornduhl, Sang-Xiu and a wealth of other epithets. Darrek finds a symbol which is apparently associated with this deity which gives the group the same feeling as the Yellow Sign.
Finally they discover some concrete information: Four groups of vampires-the LaSombra, the Assamites, the Setites, and the Salubri-have to combine their powers in order to make the ritual work. Darrek finds a warning that awakening an Antediluvian could herald the ending of the world; due to this, many sects have sought to protect the Night Stone through the ages. Darrek recalls that there are tunnels under the Cathedral which run underneath the neighborhood of Oakland. He, Henry, and Danny plan to head there to try to find the Stone, while Hilda and Yun-Xun take their leave to prepare for the conclave, which is starting tonight.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Re: Hilda calling Anita “Frau”
“I’m not married. Almost but not quite doesn’t count!”-Anita.
“He can be such a smart ass.”-Danny
“Can’t we all?”-Anita
“I certainly hope so!”-Darrek
“I hope that I live long enough to be able to sass Anita without dying!”-Henry
Re: Hilda and Yun-Xun dress shopping for the conclave
“That’s Japanese, you racist!”-Robert
“So how have you been?”-Megan
“Really good, actually. I got foster-adopted by a Rosicrucian and a psychic.”-Henry
“Look, I’m just a young undead guy trying to make my way in this world. I’m not a threat to anyone.”-Jeffrey
“Except, you know, anyone with a pulse.”-Darrek
“I heard that you help people, so…”-Jeffrey
“You’re not people.”-Henry
“That’s racist! I resent that!”-Jeffrey
“I like this one.”-Amara
“Point of order? When we stop worrying about things, it never ends well.”-Darrek
Re: Amara asking the group to look into the Night Stone
“You’re in luck. I just got my library card back.”-Darrek
“I’m Mexican, you asshole.”-Danny
Re: The Moroi hunters
“Oh come on! We just want to talk! You’re being very rude!”-Henry
Re: Darrek not coming home until late due to researching the Night Stone.
“He learned his lesson and called this time.”-Emily
(Darrek arrives home utterly exhausted. His wife comes over and kisses him on the cheek)
“So, how was your research?”-Emily
“Confusing. Ever try to put together a puzzle when you’re missing loads of pieces?”-Darrek
“Yep…every time I look into someone’s mind.”-Emily
(To Darrek) “Welcome home! I made you dinner!” holds up a Subway bag-Henry
Re: The van
“He says it belongs to Vampy McVampireson.”-Mike
“Oh, COME ON!!!”-Julie, lobbying for Tom to get a Drama Point
Re: “The coming storm” referenced by Sebastian
“The Doctor is coming.”-Mike
“Winter is coming.”-Don
“So, how do you say that in Oriental?”-Danny
Re: Sebastian describing the clans of the Camarilla
“You don’t even know what you are, do you? We can work on that.”-Amara
“So, what you’re saying is, the Strigoi are like mass produced in China crap vampires, and you guys are like the tailor made in America vampires.”-Henry
Yun-Xun shoots Henry a look
“What? You know the products China sends to the US are garbage!”-Henry
Re: The Rosicrucians
looks at Danny “Oh, my brothers are just going to love you.”-Darrek
“Practice safe sects!” laughs uproariously-Darrek
“You know, I’m beginning to rethink what I said to you about going to visit the Mockers.”-Anita
Re: The ritual
“So…by their powers combined, they make Captain Planet?”-Julie
Re: Going to the Cathedral of Learning
“Want me to let the super friends know?”-Henry