The Shenandoah Reports

Time for a Vacation
... but not a relaxing one.

But not a relaxing one.

After a bit more talking with the Houndsman, and going over what he wanted, Hugo thought he had the contract secure. The team chose him to negotiate, for though the Houndsman seemed the brutish type, at his core he was Fey. And Hugo found out exactly what that meant.

The team was to recover an artifact from a guarded location- they would receive information on the security measures. They were then to bring the artifact, and only the artifact to a specified location where the veil was thin, and set the artifact on the ground, drawing a circle that would attune it to a similar location on the other side, letting the Houndsman know it was done. At that point, the spirit of Kai would be freed. Hugo was so focused on the fate of Kai (correcting the point about freeing Kai’s spirit, to driving out the entity and restoring Kai’s spirit, freed and of his own mind and will, to his body. He was quite pleased to find that nuance), that he ignored the nature of the artifact. The Houndsman did give them a container to hold the artifact in, but he didn’t explain the need for it- something that Hugo caught also, but thought that it was probably better if they didn’t know. Though he did include a clause about their condition afterwards, and the fact that the Houndsman wouldn’t send someone to clip loose ends, Hugo didn’t really focus on the nature of the artifact, what it was currently being held in, and would it’s retrieval cause harm. This is because, for all that his mental capacity was way beyond the ken of normal mortals, the level of trickery didn’t approach the Fey. The answer to those three questions was very salient to the problems at hand. But that revelation was far away, and would have very real consequences.

They received the promised information. The artifact was in a chalet in Wengen, Switzerland… Cortina d’Ampezzo. The chalet overlooked some of the most scenic landscape in the Alps, with tight switchbacks leading up the side of the mountain. It had been used for majestic action shots in many movies, and was a well known site. The security profile that the Houndsman provided was quite thorough, which considering the source, was more than a little concerning.

Hugo decided to reach out to one of the contacts they’d been given by Reidel- Myles West. They give him what they have, and he promises to get back to them ASAP. In the meantime, the others followed different leads- all to dead ends. But Myles was very accomodating, if not hopeful about their chances. Putting them in contact with Luther Benzinger- a broker of information out of Switzerland. Taking a plane, they arrive at his location, and are taken aback to find out that he lives in a literal castle, well protected by the landscape, the fortification, and a small army. Only he and his daughter, Helga actually live there- the guards are rotated out regularly. Luther, it appears, has more than a touch of paranoia. He goes to make further preparations, and leaves the group in the able hands of his daughter. The beautiful blonde flirts shamelessly with Alucard and Hugo… and it is more than a little apparently that she doesn’t know how to ‘handle’ Kassandra, so keeps her at arm’s length. She informs them that for all of their contacts, and all of the information that they’ve been provided, it was still going to be impossible to break into the Chalet. The defenses are reinforced with personal information- information that only the guards on duty have, and that is changed regularly. From someone who lives in a paranoid’s fantasy fortress, that is a daunting endorsement. The only other way to get the information is perhaps from Hottinger and Compagnie- a family owned Swiss bank. Apparently, whomever lives there does business with the bank. But Swiss, other than being well known for their cheese, are also well known for the privacy of their banking. She wasn’t able to retrieve the information through normal channels, but perhaps they could?

In the meantime, Arcas, since the last meeting, ran afoul of Lea- the Fey caught up with him after he dropped the others off. It seemed that Winter had a vested interest in the situation of the artifact once it was recovered, and the box. Arcas was told it was ‘in his best interest’ that he have it for Mab before the Houndsman gets his hands on it.

The group is able to get to the bank president a lot easier than they thought- but getting him and getting the information are two different things. They do get the information, but not before Alucard has to do some things to him the others find questionable. Gerard Reitmann apparently set up the account- a bearer account. Someone comes in monthly (and has a safe deposit box) and checks on a wire transfer- one that is to be happening in the next few days. He is very prompt- but varies the time that he comes in. But always within a day or so of the transfer.

Arcas goes to secure the box from the Sanctum, where Soup keeps guard over its contents. But someone has already been there, and apparently has the box. And they used ‘questionable’ means also. Forgetting about his problems, Arcas ministers to Soup. He’s able to broker help from Lea, but it’s a bit touch and go. Not physically. His changeling form strengthens his stamina enough where he’s in no physical danger. But the mental rigors- whatever they did to him, Lea shudders to know, which says something about the nature of the violation. They are able to get out of him that whomever it was, was powerful- but was only an agent of another power, even at that level. The other part about it- they are Fey. Soup was able to garner that. But Lea Knew that it wasn’t Winter, nor sanctioned by Mab.

Boring surveillance- not something that this particular group excels at- is the next order of business. To determine who this mysterious agent is, and intercept him before he makes his withdrawal. The first day goes by uneventfully. Helga is able to get a clean car for them, so it’s a lot of rich food and uncomfortable positions as they watch, and wait. Changing cars as the night approaches, they switch out the watchers. It seems that they have it all under control. And it also seems that their prey might not show. But, their guard lapses during the wee hours of the night- at that point where the attention drifts, and sleep descends like a brick. That hour that counter-intelligence makes use of right before the dawn. And that same point that the unknown agent makes use of on them! It goes badly- but not as bad as it could have. The Agent outmaneuvers them at every turn- until Hugo starts to use his abilities. Fracturing the figures’ concentration with staccato bursts of psychic energy, he is able to turn the tables just enough to get them out of there alive. But now, they have no information, and they’ve blown their chance to capture the only link. It seems like they will have to go in blind.

About that point, Arcas decides to call the rest of the group, and share what he’s learned. Alucard and his investigative skills is able to make some connections that reveal a bit about the subject, and more importantly he’s able to find some fibers that make a metaphysical link back to their assailant. A quick trip through the Nevernever, and Arcas is with them again, and casts a ritual to find out where their subject is. He notes that the link feels of Summer, but not totally – it’s a bit off. But it proves to be enough to get them a lock on the target, in the general location of Trümmelbach Falls near Lauterbrunnen – close enough to the villa that it is not inconceivable that this is their first break.

But after the events of the night, and the fact that this unknown ‘agent’ has the box already, they’ll have to strike soon, or risk losing everything!

In the Cold
Both Literally and Figuratively.

Arcas’ timely appearance made things a bit easier. Or it should have. When he arrived at the sanctum, everything seemed normal- until they told them where they needed to go. Kai was in the desmesne of an unknown greater power that was carved out of Winter, and beholden to the Winter Queen and one of her Houndsmen. Not a good pairing- but Arcas’ reaction seemed a bit over the top.

It took some wrangling, and some hemming and hawing from Arcas, but Hugo was able to get Arcas’ agreement to convey them to the Never Never, and direct them towards the desmense. But he wouldn’t budge on going in. He gave them a totem instead- to let them have some way of communicating when they were ready to leave, if their host was less than forthcoming. Cryptically, he let slip the fact that the power should be- which immediately triggered Soup’s interest. But it was nothing he could follow up on- just something filed away for later.

After waiting for Alucard and Kassandra to get off work, the group watched as Arcas literally rent reality, and cold washed out of the tear. Hugo remarked that it was a bit overt for Arcas, but he replied that they had to hurry, sparking everyone’s danger sense. They were hurried through by the Wizard, and found themselves in a lush forest. After taking a moment to orient, Arcas took them through the woods, though it was obvious that he was a bit jumpy. A mournful baying of a not-far-enough-away wolf made him hurry them even more, and set them on edge also.

After apologizing for the abrupt arrival- which earned him only questioning glances- Arcas again tore a hole in reality… right beneath the party’s feet! The hole closed immediately, leaving them in a rocky tunnel they didn’t recognize, lit only by luminescent lichen on the walls. One way led to some sort of light… while the other way held darkness. Having a distinct lack of options, they decided to go towards the light- though Alucard mused that the choice was one that was probably expected, and thus wrong if something malicious was there.

The distance was longer than they had thought, and as their eyes became accustomed to the brighter light, they could see that the walls were slowly becoming smooth stone, rather than jagged rock. They could also inexplicably smell the scents of a fresh forest as they progressed. The tunnel finally gave way to a precipice over a wild and elemental forest. There was an almost too narrow path leading down to the floor, and hints of movement as they observed the forest, but nothing certain.

Again, a lack of options made them descend to the forest floor. As they did so, a low thrumming vibrated in their chests, though their ears heard nothing. Their pulses began to increase, and adrenaline sang in their ears. It was telling them to run, to hunt. To find their prey, take it down, and drink it’s lifeblood. The urge became stronger the closer they came to the forest. Only Hugo was unaffected, though that was balanced by Kassandra and Alucard having problems keeping their own natures in check. For his part, Soup felt very unnerved, but for no reason that he could put his finger on.

Suddenly, as they reached the floor of the cave, a blur shot out of the forest towards Soup, nipping at his leg and carrying on. Then another. They couldn’t make out what it was, so fast was it. That is, until Kassandra could hold it no longer, and drew on the blood within her that she hated. Her increase in speed allowed her to see that they were wolves. Hugo noted the flushness of Kassandra’s skin, and tried to reason with her, even as his increased cognition began to make him aware of the wolves. At that, he shouted out a challenge- one that could not be ignored, calculated to get the leader before them. The wolves began to herd them- not hurting them at all, but nudging and nipping. It took all that was within Kassandra not to lash out, but she was able to regain control with Hugo’s help.

As they broke into a clearing, they saw hundreds of wolves of varying sizes, surrounding a huge seat made into the trees. It was almost as if they were holding court- and looking at the man sitting on the throne left no doubt as to the truthfulness of the statement. The hounds parted, and they got a good look at the man… larger than life, he must be close to 8 feet tall, and heavily muscled. He reclined on the throne, lower body clothed in fur kilt-like accoutrement, and his upper body draped in furs. A wild mane of hair almost obscured his facial features- it looked more like fur than hair, rough and thick, and jet black. The one eye that was visible burned into them with its intensity, the blue of it clear and cold as ice. He regarded each of them as they moved towards the throne, and his power became almost overwhelming as they reached the front of the court, making them want to bow. He smiled and that feeling became more intense- though it was not a forcing- but more a call for submission. Alucard felt the rage struggle to burst from within, to challenge the man’s dominance, and Kassandra felt her blood sing. Again, Soup felt like running- very discomfited, like the main course at a feast. But they all kept their feelings under control.

They parleyed, Hugo speaking for them all. It seemed to be going quite well. He was a Houndsman- one of the White Queens servants, that supplied her with the wildlife for her coach, and through a pact with the Huntsman, kept his Hunt well supplied with members. But that was not the capacity that he met with Kai. Kai was a natural hunter, and he knew this. But he also was not able to- under pain- supply Kai with what he wanted. So he made a deal with him. But after Kai found out the full extent of the bargain, he broke the agreement. Now, something else inhabited the Oathbreaker, forcing him to complete his contract.

That was the point where things went to hell- the Houndsman caught the scent that had been eluding him- the smell of Arcas’ magick! His demeanor became different… demanding word on the Wizard, and threatening the group. But Hugo reminded him that they were guests. He even used the fact that Arcas wasn’t there as a positive- it was out of respect for his power.

Taking it down a few notches, the Houndsman said that they could free Kai. All they had to do was complete a task for him. Without much choice in the matter, they all agreed.

Spooky Sayings
A meeting with a Shadowy Agent Turns Fruitful

The team definitely got a Snoddy feel from this Reidel character. He told them to meet him on the mall, and some skatepunk dropped off a box of cupcakes from Capellino’s Crazy Cakes. After a bit of back and forth… and some tasty treats, they found a phone number. A distorted voice on the other end said that he had to make sure they weren’t being followed- and were who they said they were. A visit to a local Staples to buy a particular USB stick, then directions from that stick were their next tests, along with a password encoded file on the stick. That password allowed them on a WiFi network set in a pirate pickup, that finally led them to a familiar location- the area where they first were put on to Harris.

This immediately put them on guard, but they noticed that things had changed since their earlier adventure. People were outside, and there was a shopping mall built into the back with an open air park and newly paved roads. There was also an industrial art shop in the bottom- and that’s where the address led them to. Walking in, there was a real air of community- people helping people to learn how to do hands on work and create works of art. And in the process enrich the area- there was a lot of the artwork apparently created in the shop on display in a community gathering place right outside of the shop.

As they watched and marveled at the change, a voice from behind said, “You’ve done really good work here.” Turning, they saw who they assumed was Bruce Reidel- a handsome man sliding into middle age, well built, with an air of true charisma and confidence around him.

He’d brought them on their little trip in order to have time to check them out, and he liked what he saw. The help they did, the strides they were making in breaking the vampires’ hold on the city. He was impressed. And so, he’d decided to help them out, rather than just appropriating the USB drive.

It was apparently meant for a dead drop- one that someone in his immediate operational area had been waiting on. Apparently, Kai had dealings with some covert alphabet agencies- dealings that the Warden had set up to help him get more information on his background. This was information that they already had- but it did help to cross reference Reidel’s bonifieds. He did confirm that the mission was a hit, but it wasn’t supposed to go down like it did. Something or someone took over Kai- and he was acting and appeared out of nature. There was also information that was supposed to be retrieved. And Reidel needed that information and was willing to help in order to get it.

Taking them into the back, they found out that at least part of the changes to the area were a front- but their dealings really did help out with getting things going for the community. And the residents were really benefiting. It’s just that the covert ops were helping that move along.

The USB drive turned out to be a wealth of information- but a lot of that wouldn’t have context without Reidel’s input. But in the end, because it went into mystical realms, he didn’t have a lot of the puzzle, and he hoped that they would be able to get the rest of it. They were wondering what they would do without Arcas nor Nikodemus- when Arcas called on Hugo’s cell. They decided to accept the agent at his word, and told him they would get back to him after they dealt with the magical side with Arcas’ help.

A Little Help from My Friends
With their resources tapped, the group starts to look to unconventional means

A mesopotamian cult ritual. An encrypted USB Drive. White powder. What do these things have in common?

Even with Alucard’s increased investigation skills and all of their normal resources, the group has no ideas. So they start to look towards other avenues.

Snoddy isn’t likely to touch this again, and they don’t have a way to get him to do so. There’s nothing in this that is likely to get the Order’s attention. Arcas hasn’t been around- and Hugo doesn’t really want to push his luck with the magical rituals. Officers Ramirez and Ingrey aren’t likely to have any information in this area. Drexl Wallace does have a pretty good reach. And Jefferson Green does owe them quite a bit. Killian has some.. dodgy contacts also.

It is decided that Hugo will contact Wallace, Soup will take Green, and Kassandra will take Killian. In the meantime, Alucard has a few ‘things’ to look into also.

Pulling up to Wallace’s mansion, Hugo can’t help but think that crime really does pay- if you get out fast enough. But then, thinking about how close things were with Trish reminds him the Devil will always have his due. He’s lightly screened by the security Wallace has currently- they don’t know the extent of Hugo’s involvement, but they do know that he has a free pass to see the man. Wallace doesn’t really have anything for him, regrettably. He seems sincerely sad about that fact- and Hugo realizes that this is not a man that likes to be in debt to anyone. But the meeting goes favorably if non-productively, and Hugo is sent on his way empty handed.

On Soup’s part, he finds out the Green is out of contact. He is put in contact with one of Green’s aides, but he doesn’t feel comfortable relaying the information to anyone other than Green. Another dead end.

Kassandra, on the other hand, has a pretty good time of it. Killian himself doesn’t have any information, but he does give her the name of Bruce Riedel- and cryptically says he might be able to help with the drive if the markings are any indication. Looking it over, Kassandra asks him what he’s talking about, and within the normal markings one might find on a USB drive, a tactile message was present. It didn’t mean anything to Killian, but he did know it was ‘spook stuff’.

Meeting up again, they are congregated together when they contact Riedel. He seems a bit skittish at first, but when they tell him what they have, his attitude changes. It will take him a while to get there from DC, but he says that he will meet them the next day.

An Unexpected Surprise

Arriving back at the Sanctum, Soup and Hugo set to work on the drive, but it confounds them. They find that they can’t find any indication of the geolocation that the drive has to be taken to in order to open safely. Alucard, bored of waiting on the two, comes into the room while Kassandra changes. He notices runes on the underside of the drive, hidden within the patterns on a label that Soup and Hugo had overlooked. Once his attention is drawn to it, Hugo realizes they are the components of a spell. But the other part of it is gibberish. Alucard knows that they are significant, and they tickle the back of his mind- but he can’t place it, even with the power of his relic backing him up. Kassandra is able to tap a contact from her college to research the issue while Hugo deciphers what the spell does. And Soup, thinking it might come in handy, starts to work on another variation of his elusive will-infused potion.

After many hours of work, all of them are successful to varying degrees. Hugo realizes that the drive is a more insidious device than he’d thought- it had a magical component on the surface- apparently the drive itself is sealed within, protected from the magical energies. If you get the spell wrong, and don’t have the geolocational key, the power of the spell is released, with presumably negative effects. Kassandra’s contact found out that the inscriptions were from a little known mesopotamian cult- an encrypted dialect that he could not decipher. But that information was enough for Alucard and his relic- he was able to figure out that the location was on the campus, in Garrett Hall- the same building where Dr. McIver worked before her untimely demise. That couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?

As it’s already the dead of night by the time the group finishes their research, they decide to try Garrett Hall at that time- no one will be present to see them do their investigation, and no one will be present if something goes wrong. The fact that the spells held in abeyance will release their power explosively is very disconcerting, but they go ahead with the plan. With Arcas who knows where, it falls to Hugo and his eidetic memory to attempt to unravel the protections with the spell. Soup surrounds him with a protective circle- not to protect Hugo, but to contain whatever happens.

Hugo makes his preparations, and begins the torturous unweaving. Painstakingly, he formulates the symbols in his mind, then begins the incantation, slowly constructing the spell. When it feels he must explode from the energy he contains, he releases his will into the spells surrounding the device.

For a pregnant moment, everything is silent. A few more moments pass, and held breath is released as the tension breaks. But then, there is a pulse from the drive, then an explosion of… powder. It radiates out to the circle Soup set, then stops, the particles falling and covering Hugo. But nothing seems to be wrong. Hugo looks closer at the drive, and notices there is a blinking red light, and a recessed button has become visible. In for a penny, in for a pound, he thinks as he depresses it. A seam appears, going along the drive, and it opens- revealing a simple USB stick.

What could be on this USB drive that would be worth the effort that was put into hiding it? And is it still viable?

That's What Friends Are For
As they find out more about the situation, the group wants to bail, but loyalty keeps them going

At the mall, the group goes through the song and dance to get Plotius to help, and realize that the obvious solution was right in front of them- the wall itself. Few people know, but the wall is not only an expression of free speech, but it is also a point where the veil between worlds is quite thin after a long time as the focus of much Will in action.

The images drawn every once in a while by local artists? Sometimes, they’re just innocent expressions of unrealized Will. Other times, they’re portals, making use of the massive battery of energy to pierce worlds. It does have it’s dangers, however, and the way that Plotius emphasized this made the group think that this was something they wanted to table for now.

Heading to Kai’s studio, they hoped they’d find something that would at least let them know what they were getting into. Using Alucard’s infrequent help of Kai with classes, they were able to pretty easily get past the manager he’d left- the man had seen them around enough to take them at their word. Pressed a bit more by Kassandra, he admitted that he’d been more than a little concerned as he’d not heard from Kai in a couple of weeks.

They learned little from what he was willing to show them, however, an obstacle that Hugo solved with his growing powers, convincing the manager that he should leave since he’d had such a long, trying day.

Once they were able to get upstairs in the studio, they worked with his computer a bit, but didn’t find anything that was of note, even after finding his password taped under the keyboard. Bad practice- but it almost convinced them that there was nothing to find. Alucard’s new investigational powers and change in focus from just hitting everything came in useful as he was able to locate a second computer- one that they were not able to crack. And indeed, when they tried, the computer erased itself. They knew that it had also sent out a signal, so figured they had little time before there was some sort of response to their snooping. But their investigations had also turned up a hidden safe, and Hugo didn’t think they should leave without trying to get past that, for anything of value would surely be sanitized if someone knew they’d been there but didn’t find them.

There were no magical alarms or other paranormal security precautions- and so it was a simple, more tangible trap that caught them- the simple needle trap. But the poison was of a different payload, and Hugo started to almost immediately feel his mind splintering. His recent work in that arena both helped and hindered him; he was able to self-diagnose what it must have been- one of a class of toxins that Henry had told him about that target the psyche, and he’d actually used to help expand his abilities. But in this uncontrolled environment, and in the dosage taken, he was having a hard time purging it. In the end, he was saved by Alucard’s quick thinking and abilities- Kai wouldn’t leave such a trap around without having some way to neutralize it, and thankfully, Alucard was able to find it.

That done, they found a flash drive in the safe- hardware encrypted. Still not knowing if someone was on the way, they decided to decipher this particular puzzle somewhere else…

The Battle's Done, and We Kinda Won...
Everyone's cheering, so why isn't anyone happy?

A long time coming, the group should feel some measure of success at stopping Harris. But the fact that they couldn’t bring that to a ‘final’ conclusion stuck with them. Especially after losing Nickodemus in the bargain. Though Hugo seemed ok, and assured them that he was, that close call made them realize that they were perhaps underpowered. But, as is usual in such cases, they were victims of their own success. Their ability to identify and take down the threat- even with their lack of wizardly support- convinced Ramirez, and by extension The White Council, that the area was in good hands. And with no Wardens to take up the mantle, they left Hugo as their liason once he contacted Beatty on awakening. Their charter was to assess, investigate, and protect- until they couldn’t. And the White Council would send in help in those cases.

But somehow that wasn’t the vote of confidence it should be.

The White Council was also able to intervene on Alucard’s behalf, and his standing was restored- something that many in the Order were not too keen on. And their star was on the rise. But with only the four of them now, it seemed like a lot to lay on their shoulders. Which begged the question- where was Lumin? Where was Kai?

An e-mail pointed to more serious things, though they knew not how to take it… other than it must be from Snoddy. And he seemed more paranoid than usual. After figuring out his needlessly cryptic message, and jumping through many hoops, they determined that he wanted to meet.

Snoddy? Setting up a meet?

Maybe it wasn’t so needlessly cryptic after all. So they met him on the mall. Well, not him. He was still as paranoid as ever. But someone that gave them a flash drive and a note.

“This is all I can do. Good luck.” – S

The key that they’d deciphered earlier to get the location and time of the meet unlocked the file on the drive- and a whole lot of trouble.

Apparently, Kai had been following his own agenda- one that started with the Warden’s help, to look into his past. Someone showed up that made it not seem even less benign that they had thought- Sir Windsor Beck. Head lawyer for Haring and Drake- the law firm that Blackthorne worked for. Maybe their case wasn’t as closed as it seemed to be. Snoddy had apparently been running support for Kai in some tit-for-tat information gathering for someone in the DC area. Someone that definitely didn’t want to be known, and someone that even Snoddy wasn’t going to look into. Things went bad- real bad. Kai had gone undercover to get the information, and had gotten blown. What they saw on the surveillance footage wasn’t something fit for casual consumption, as the reconnaissance seemed more like a hit, and Kai barely escaped- only to get whisked away by a rift into the NeverNever.

With no magical heavy hitters, this was going to be tricky. How were they even going to get into the NeverNever… let alone deal with anything there.

It seemed it was time to call in one of the few supernatural favors they had, and pay a visit to Plotius at the wall.

Stick a fork in it, Morton
When all choices are bad, what do you do?

As Hugo made an arrangement to meet Drexl and get the money for Trish’s ransom, he received a call from a number he didn’t recognize- for an unlisted number, that was happening more than made him comfortable. Andrew Morton, a representative for Councilman Harris called to congratulate them on their strides to clean up Charlottesville, and arrange a meeting to discuss finishing the job, and a mutually beneficial relationship. It seemed that Councilman Harris didn’t agree with Mac’s latest decisions, the way that business was being handled, and the information that he was seeking. He was also interested in the information that the group had retrieved from the warehouse. Hugo told him in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t deal with anyone other than Harris, and to call back when he could make that possible before hanging up.

About the time that they had retrieved the money from Drexl and had to decide how they were going to handle the situation, Hugo received another call- this time from Raymond Harris himself. He offered to meet them to arrange the transfer of information for Trish- and that Mac would be taken care of also. But in the meantime, Hugo had availed himself of having a direct line to Wizard talent again- and Ramirez was able to tell him from materials that they had retrieved from Drexl that Harris didn’t have her- she was still at Mac’s club. Drexl had also been able to tell them that the club was a fortress, and always open- it was going to be a bloodbath one way or another assaulting it to get Trish, and it was very likely she’d be killed if they didn’t follow Mac’s instructions.

The group had two choices- either trust Mac’s intentions, and that he was very interested in covering his tail by taking Harris out, or trust Harris’ intentions, and that he would be interested in trading honestly for Trish. In either case, one of the bad guys would be left holding the cards. That’s when Soup came up with a third choice- to get enough firepower to back them up, make the trade, and kill Mac in the bargain. An intricate plan unfolded…

Arriving at the club with a briefcase full of cash, the group was let past several layers of normal security- the entrance had a high end security scanner, and while they were scanned, they were in an enclosed space, with guards watching their every move. Though there was magical security- the downside of it being a club was no threshold. So veiled, Soup slipped in beside Hugo, Kassandra, and Alucard. Once in the club, they were escorted through a sea of innocents dancing on the floor to the rear of the club. Alucard saw that the club was laid out specifically to deter anyone that might be trying to get to the back quickly, with dead spots and switchbacks to make it impossible to take a straight path, or even to go if you knew where you were going. But being subject to public codes meant that it had weaknesses related to adhering to fire codes, and they were taking them right to where they needed to be to exploit it. There were still intricacies to work out, but so far things were going according to plan.

As anticipated, they made Alucard wait outside, completely ignoring Kassandra as only eye candy, and completely missing Soup. Near the back of the club, there was a hidden trap door underneath the DJ booth that led down to a hidden lounge underneath the dance floor. The glow from the area underneath blinded them as they descended down the stairs, and as their eyes adjusted, they could see that the area was longer than it was wide, with a bar next to the stairs (with a man making drinks, no less), a sectional that ran along the walls with LCD TV panels embedded above them, and a long, minimal coffee table running the length between. Standing in the space there were two huge guards and Ephraim Law. Mac, Trish, and one other man they didn’t know sat on the couch. Other than Mac, everyone else in the room was tense. But he said relaxed as if he didn’t have a care in the world, watching a game on TV.

As Hugo took the briefcase to lay it out on the table, Kassandra maneuvered to give the unseen Soup space to pass. Then, all hell broke loose. Soup protected Trish, keeping her out of the line of fire as he took the man beside her out as he tried to rise, pulling Trish away from Mac. But Mac wasn’t interested in her, pulling a nickel plated revolver even as Hugo lashed out at Law, having seen him in action and deeming him the greatest threat. He found that the man’s secret was a demon that possessed his body, and as they tangled, Law fled through the Nevernever, but not before taking a shot at Hugo. The bullet seemed on target as it hit him in the head, but did nothing. Mac gaped at the sight, and took a shot with his revolver, also hitting Hugo in the forehead to no effect. In the meantime, Kassandra made short work of the other three, taking them out with precisely placed blows, as Hugo unleashed the power from the shots that he had taken into Mac with spectacular effect.

Up above, Alucard had maneuvered himself to be close to the exit door. It was there as a necessity as a fire exit, but it was sealed against code. But that didn’t last long, as Alucard gathered himself and kicked it open, pulling the non functional door bar off of it and making a bloody mess of the guards around him. The calvary came in the now open door, Warden Ramirez, his junior Warden Bethan, and Kai making short work of the Mac’s security measures in the now panicked crowds.

After the fight in the basement, Hugo fell insensate to the ground. Ramirez took a look at him, but was unable to figure out what might have happened to the man. They took his unconscious form and Trish and beat a hasty retreat before the authorities came on the scene. Before they were back to the Sanctum, Hugo awoke, a bit worse for the wear, but still with no tangible evidence of the trauma he had received. But he was out of it enough that Soup had to field his call from Morton. Morton made threats on Harris’ behalf, but they were half-hearted; Harris had already left Charlottesville, and it appeared that the group had carried the day.

Caritas in Veritate
In which the path to truth is found in a charity

After Soup found the keycard at Drexl Wallace’s estate, the group decided to pay another visit to Harris’ Charity. All roads seemed to lead there, and they were running out of other options to get to the bottom of the crimson snow epidemic. They came up with a plan for Alucard to attempt to take an extra shift at night, then head down into the basement area, and hopefully get through the secured door there with the keycard. Hugo also attempted to make contact with his handler on the White Council, but wasn’t able to secure any help for the mission. He left a message, with a report of what they had found and what they were going to do… but they couldn’t wait for a response.

For once it seemed that things go according to plan. Alucard was easily able to get the night guard to switch with him- his want of an extra shift to get extra money raised no eyebrows. They decided to strike a couple of hours past midnight, and as they put their plan into motion, everything seemed quiet. Nickodemus shorted out the CC TVs, and they made a beeline through the offices to the secured door. Nickodemus took a look at the door again to make sure that nothing had changed, and after they were sure of this, they swiped the card, and were rewarded with a simple click. They opened the door into a sterile light shining on tiled floors and plain walls. Nickodemus probed before them for magic, and came up against a hotspot of magic- some sort of sensor. By interspersing these magical sensors with technological ones, the designers of the area where they were had effectively left the short cuts out of the equation- they could not short out the cameras without setting off the magical sensors. But the cameras covered the area they had to go through. But they had not counted on the combination Hugo and his growing mental abilities, and Soup’s faerie magic. Utilizing the cloak and veil with Nickodemus’ magic, they were able to disable the cameras, one at a time.

Finally coming to the end of the corridor, they breached one final door before coming into an area that was a strange mix of a drug den and a medical facility. Unfortunates drugged out on crimson snow were being bled dry by an elaborate set-up to distill their saturated blood for some purpose. There was also a darkened pit in which they heard growling at the other end of the floor, and guards patrolling the hallways. But the group had the feeling that this was just the tip of the iceberg, kept going, veiled by Soup, to see what else they might find.

Heading up the stairs, they came into a warehouse area, patrolled by even more guards. It was surrounded by a catwalk and office space upstairs. There were several guards patrolling the warehouse floor, but once again they made their way through, veiled by Soup’s magic. As they made their way up the stairs to the office areas, things became a bit more murky- literally. Some sort of darkness that they had a hard time penetrating inexplicably covered the whole office area- walking through it was even a difficult task. They attempted to continue their sneak, but it was quite hard to do so in the dark. So Nickodemus decided to cast a light.

In the office surrounding them were a combination of faerie creatures, apparent vampires, and a mage. Not what you want to run into in the dark. One of the faeries barreled through the thin drywall, cutting off the group’s escape. The vampire wanted to know what they know and how they found out. He let them know that they knew of the group’s coming from the moment they used the keycard, and that he knew it was Mac’s extra card, cursing the man for his carelessness. But for all of that, he seemed pleased at the way that things turned out, and stated that if the group wouldn’t tell them what they needed to know, they could find out from their bound spirits.

Nickodemus decided not to wait on that, and let loose with a powerful spell, hoping to take out of a few of the faeries and neutralize the mage. A beam shot forth from his hands as he channeled it forward, cutting two of the fairies in half with the concentrated light as he drew a line towards the mage. But she was ready for him. As the light outlined her, he could make out everything, from her startlingly green eyes to her skimpy leather outfit and chains and piercings- more befitting some Harajuku Girl than a true mage. But the outfit belied her power as she held forth her hands to catch the channeled energy. The light from the beam began to be snuffed out as the two mages battled for control of powerful magical energies. In the darkening light, the teeth of her master could be seen as he bared his fangs in delight seeing her bearing down on Nickodemus. Strands of darkness invaded even the light on Nickodemus’ end, and he knew that he couldn’t beat her. His choices were few- ground out the energy, in which case everyone would take the brunt of the resulting blast. Or internalize it, and die. But in these two choices, he found a third.

“I curse you…” he whispered. And everything went blindingly bright. There was an explosion centered on Nickodemus, and beams of light streaked out from his person, going not just through the office space, but spearing through the drywall separating the catwalk from the warehouse and caressing the guards. One became transfixed as he ran through the door, instantly turning to ash. But the others were not far behind him, as their inhumanity was burned out of them. In proportion to the portion of their mortality given up to supernatural powers, they were burned from the inside. The vampire lord streaked out of the warehouse, screaming as he ran through the boarded over window into the night.

As the light subsided, and the group could once again see, they saw piles of ashes, and wrecks of humans with half or more of their bodies missing in a macabre display. The mage was strangely untouched… but her eyes stared out into nothing, her mind gone. And of Nickodemus, there was no trace.

They made their way back through the warehouse into the basement. The power of Nickodemus’ death curse had apparently made its way down here also, but was weaker by the time it did. The addicts had the drug burned out of their system, and were in various states of panic. But the calvary had arrived- Ramirez, Warden of the White Council from the West Coast, and one of his subordinates had made short work of the guards that were left. They had also uncovered what was in the pit- transformed vampires that had gone out of their minds. One of these they actually recognized from the pictures in Drexl Wallace’s house- it was his son Colin. They were able to convince the Wardens of the importance of recovering him. Nothing was promised after so long, but they said they would do what they could. And if not, they would put him out of his misery. The mage, they killed. They also searched the grounds, and found definitive information that could possibly, with a lot of work, help to implicate Harris.

Still they had no more information than when they came, though the felt like they had done a great good. But it was still disappointing. That is, until Hugo received a call from Drexl Wallace. Mac had taken Trish, and wanted the group to meet him at his club… to ‘discuss’ the situation, what they had found, and what they planned to do with it… and to bring payoff money from Drexl so that Mac could get out of town.

The Devil You Know
Where the group makes a deal with the a crime kingpin looking to leave his old life behind.

Soup was able to break into Mac’s room on Drexl’s Wallace’s estate and find a keycard- one that he hoped would let them into Harris’ charity.

In the meantime, Hugo and the others were having a conversation with Wallace himself, both to distract him from Soup’s covert operations, and to discern Wallace’s true involvement with the Crimson Snow. Hugo, with subtle cues from Kassandra, was able to reason out that Trish, Wallace’s daughter was the reason that he’d tried to leave the life behind. That, and the death years ago of his son Colin made him see that he needed to make a better environment for her. But his old associates weren’t so willing to let him fade into the background. Mac was for all intents and purposes running the show, which explained his stay in the in-law suite, and the presence of his crew in force in the house. But the detente between them had become strained when this new drug hit the streets and Mac made other alliances that made a lot of scrutiny come down on Mac and his operations- scrutiny that the group had started. As long as they were able to keep Wallace- and by extension Trish- out of any fallout from Mac’s fall, Wallace was willing to give them as much help as he could.

Wallace let them know he couldn’t do anything overt because of the presence of Mac’s men, but told them where his room was (not knowing that Soup had already cleared that area), and where his other hangouts were. He also confirmed that there was a link between Mac and Harris- something that the group had suspicions of, but hadn’t been able to ascertain for truth.

This bit of information, along with the keycard that Soup lifted from Mac’s rooms let them know where they were going next- Harris’ charity to clean up loose ends and hopefully get some solid evidence.


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