Aftermath of Madness

Picking Up the Pieces
Some light is shed on past events

Interloper

Zahra was starving – after last night’s calamity there hadn’t been another opportunity to feed before dawn.  That one sentence still rang in her ears, filling her with dread – Michael knew she was in town, so why didn’t she leave? That was a question for later, for now she needed to feed.

Unbeknownst to her, every approved kindred in the city had received a notification: an interloper was in town, and the Prince wished to speak with her.

Gareth considered the social equation, and decided being owed a favor from Zahra would likely be more useful than a pat on the head from the Sheriff.  When he called her he was unsurprised to discover she had not yet seen any such notification.  She gave him the quick rundown of her situation over the phone, including details about her prior encounter with Etrius.  Crafting lies was a masterwork for Gareth, and this wasn’t an especially large stretch from the truth.

Her position was precarious – her only real card to play here was Etrius.  If she handed the fiend over right away, Michael might re-enact history and quietly dispatch the real threat (and plug the hole in his reputation) whilst prepping to remove her head.  Gareth understood the political landscape perfectly, and together he and Zahra spun a story that would make her survival essential without embarrassing the powers that be.  She notified Michael that she was shadowing a Sabbat operative, and could not previously present herself for risk of exposure; she offered him any intelligence she could garner on the fiend in exchange for clemency.  Whether Michael believed their fiction or not really was irrelevant – whether by faith or reputational convenience, Zahra got the nod she needed to stay in the city.

Cat and Mouse

Gareth returned after a simple night relieving marks of cash and vitae. As he entered the haven he currently shared with Karissa, he noticed a third occupant: the Tzimisce whose lair they had infiltrated just a few nights before.

“Gareth, dear,” his sire began, “let me introduce you to an old friend – This is Etrius.” She gestured to the cainite then back to Gareth. “Etrius, this is my childe, Gareth.  Etrius and I go back some time, in fact I owe him a favor.”

“One could say I saved her life once,” the newcomer interjected.  “I’ve come to collect, and as the childe of Karissa I am willing to accept your services in return.  I understand you’ve been canvassing the kine populace seeking to build herd and network. Well done. I need to know if you can help me find an asset – do you possess any Auspices?” Gareth declared that he did not.  “No matter, I’m sure one with your resources should be able to find her. I’ve learned that she elicits a certain reaction among the kine – they do not see her for what she is, but they certainly know she is something wrong.  I’ve heard some describe it as feeling revolted by something, but not being able to find it.  However,” he continued, carefully considering both of his hosts, “you’ll need to know her mundane appearance, and since you can’t use a mirror…“

Without warning Etrius reached out and grab Karissa’s face in the palm of his talon like hand.  She shrieked in pain as sounds like searing flesh and sloshing water emanated from her head, it was all Gareth could do to restrain himself from ripping the fiend apart right there.  Within a moment, Etrius stepped back to reveal Karissa’s reconstructed face – that of a non-descript woman of maybe forty years, thin lipped and tight nosed.  “Like so, but with blonde hair,” he gestured at the unfamiliar, horror-stricken face.  “Get out,” Karissa hissed at both her assailant and the bystander.  They both obliged.

Messy Business

“All I know is if it was MY job to eliminate evidence of breaches, I’d try a little harder to not let reporters find it first.”  The ghoul had been obnoxiously lecturing Joe about Masquerade protocol for nearly 15 minutes now.  Joe took it all in stride.  Some punks needed the bravado to make themselves feel important.  Joe didn’t care about being important, important was a target, he liked being ­necessary.

The message was loud and clear though, somebody made a mess and the Archon wanted Joe to clean it up.  And what a mess it was.  There were four to five victims, the count made a little more difficult by the way the pieces of the corpses were strewn about.  Limbs ripped off, torsos rearranged… someone was having a very bad night – or maybe a very good one. Cleaning wasn’t an option anymore; police had full control of the scene, which also meant any physical evidence leading to the attacker was likely already gone.  He’d have to use alternative means to discover what happened here.

Curiosity was enough to get Gareth and Vincent involved.  Vincent had proven quite adept at divining the histories of murder victims, and Gareth could be counted on to verbally trip up whichever poor soul was low enough in rank to guard a crime scene at 2 AM.  Joe proceeded to remove a few choice pieces that could be missed in the carnage, making sure to collect at least one eye.  Vincent had a thing with eyes.  A couple of hours later, Vincent described the scene to the other two through the open car window.

A woman who wasn’t really a woman appeared to be returning home when a gang of five street toughs approached her. Their mockery turned to violence with malicious intent quite early on – they knew there was something different about her, and they reacted as many youths like this tend to: stupidly.  The walking talking facsimile of the corpses found in the Tzimisce’s lounge tore through them rapidly and with ease.  It was carnage unlike anything Vincent had seen before – and you see some pretty messed up stuff growing up Giovanni.

Joe and Vincent produced a sketch of the thing’s disguised form, which Gareth should have guessed would appear just like the visage forced upon Karissa earlier that week. (She had since recovered, but was still moody about the whole incident).   Fearing this may soon have the attention of a Tzmisce and the Tremere chantry, they decided to call Zahra reconvene at one of Gareth’s open apartments. After a quick detour, Gareth noticed a team of Tremere poking through the crime scene while the heavily Dominated officer looked on.

The Wretched

Following up on some retro-active leads, Gareth was able to locate the creature’s residence – a simple low rent apartment.  The coterie left to investigate the place, only to be caught looking down a shotgun wielded by the very thing they were looking for.

After much explaining and negotiating, they were able to convince the creature, known as a Wretched¸ to take sanctuary in Zahra’s cave.  After settling her in, she began to tell her story.

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Some Nights later
A new horror is emerging

Some stuff happened.  To be filled in later.

Let's see what we remember… the order may not be entirely correct.

Broken Badly

After much work and many called in favors and a few more promised, Joe managed to arrange for Jarek to be smuggled across the southern border.  It didn't take long for one of those markers to be pulled in as Salvador Jorge, a made man among the cartels, asked Joe to look into some disappearances.  Some of Jorge's acquaintances (who just happened to be pushers) had not been seen in some time.  Joe promised to see what he could dig up.

Calling on Gareth to aid him in the interviewing process, Joe canvassed the lower downtown area looking for whoever had contact with the low-rent dealers.  They learned that all three of them (Melanie, Johnathan, and C-Turtle) had been last seen at gatherings protesting Trump's election.  To a couple vampires with a few years of death behind them, people disappearing in large mobs was nothing special.  However, one witness did recall a man speaking to Melanie, and leading her out of the crowd without so much as a response from her.  When the witness described the man, Joe and Gareth had a pretty clear picture of what happened: after all, the stranger was none other than Nathaniel Schmidt, Tremere.

Needs Clarification

  • Zahra gets a call from disguised voice warning her the chimera man is back in town, near Stapleton
  • Joe and Gareth call Vincent because he was working w/ Tremere, call Zahra for historical context (if needed)
  • The episode in the Freak's Lab when Vincent Feeds. Creepy tables.
  • Vincent shows them stitched arm, trying to reanimate as a single unit.  Recognize's C-Turtle's tattoo as one of the experiments (stitched arm) that Tremere tried to get him to reanimate.
  • Coterie sneaks into abondoned airport, see 3 corpses practically identical laid out.  all appear to be stitched together.  They are nearly spotted by a Vzohd. Tehy book it outta there.
  • Zahra unsuccesfully hunts in park and is identified by Adam Guest, a publicly known ghoul of Michael's

 

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Buried Secrets
Should the past remain in the shroud?

Joe, Gareth, Vincent and Zahra all awoke within their respect havens this evening.  Zahra, wishing to keep tabs on the assamite interests in the area, had Ranjit drive her to an area in Castle Rock where she could lie in wait for the vehicle she had seen the night before:

I guess I should have known I couldn’t hide forever. One way or another, I’m sure someone would have found me. At least this way, it was more or less on my terms…

I had managed to avoid detection by other Kindred for awhile. Keeping to the hills and letting my ghoul go to town for me (if I ever needed him to) was working just fine. Until I got that blasted phone call. A call alerting me that an Assamite was looking into my whereabouts. If my heart could still beat, it would have been hammering against my ribs just then. What would an Assamite want with me? I’ve had enough dealings with them to stay away at all costs. The mystery caller wouldn’t identify himself or the reason this Assamite wanted to find me. That left me no choice. I couldn’t let any Cainite surprise me on my haven. I would have to find this Assamite and learn what he was up to.

I flew off, literally, into the city I swore I would stay out of. I found this Assamite and a couple of others. One looked like a child. A very well-dressed child. I followed them to this child’s haven. After some time, I found out where this Assamite wanted to go.

I had my faithful ghoul, Ranjit, drive me and one of my dogs to Castle Rock. I would have taken the whole pack, but that would have been too conspicuous. After waiting for some time, I saw a black Cadillac pull into the parking lot of the storage facility. It was the Assamite. If he noticed me, he didn’t retaliate. I waited a few minutes before I decided to snoop around his car. Not much luck. And to top it off, the other two from the previous night’s entourage showed up. I hissed (not quite like a snake, I’m not that far gone yet), knowing there wasn’t any good in running. I would have to stand my ground.

After some heated introductions, I reluctantly followed the group. All hairs were standing on end as we walked to one particular shed. Everything was telling me to run, but I was frozen in place. The Assamite unlocked the freezer that was in the storage bay and pulled out a familiar body. Jarek. I took in an unneeded breath, praying to whatever benevolent creator, that Jarek would not wake up. 

Shit. Of course he did. Jarek’s eyes turned to me. He asked my name. I gave it, knowing better than to be on this Assamite’s bad side. Jarek wondered what had happened to our old coterie. I answered what I could, trying not to reveal too much with the other Kindred around. Jimmy -disappeared. Prince Beaumonte -dead. Eli -dead infernalist. Jarek was surprised at this outcome. The other Assamite, Joe, interrupted. He kept going on about wanting to transport Jarek out of Denver. Jarek refused to leave. Finally I volunteered my place. There are some perks to never being on the grid.

After leaving Jarek at my haven, we went back to the morgue. Joe believed this Dorian . might know how to take care of Jarek’s Internet problem. When their talk was done, Dorian gave me a knowing look. Somehow, he knew something of what happened all those years ago. What was more, he seemed to understand and was on my side in the matter. He said there were others who felt the same and wished for the wrongs to be righted, or some shit like that.

As I was absorbing this information, the child, Vincent, received a call. He’d been waiting for this call. And it was of utmost importance that I go with him… to the Tremere chantry. Ugh, I can’t deny a child’s request, even a creepy one. 

We all went to this library. Fortunately, not many people were about. We filed in and were led to a certain section and were told to give a sample of blood to bypass the Tremere security. Joe decided to sit this one out. The rest of us gave up a drop and continued on our way. Their wizardry freaks me out, but security is vital. Especially with what happened to them years ago.

We were led to an area of the library where the Tremere  points Vincent to a severed body part. I look away, completely disgusted. The Tremere want answers to how and why their chantry was invaded. Vincent performs his sorcery and this wraith appears. However, Vincent isn’t able to control it and these black tendrils attacked us. I screamed. Somehow, Gareth was able to control this darkness. Next thing I know, these images are flashing through my head. It seems everyone can see them, for the Tremere demands to know who these two are. I have to tell them what I know. What humanity I have left demands that I do.

I tell all present who these two abominations are. Eli and Martuk. They had a small army of ghouls and kine break into the chantry, during the day, and staked most of the Tremere in their sleep. The pinned warlocks were easy prey for the conspirators.  What’s more, Eli was a infernalist. The Tremere demanded to know their whereabouts. I explained how Jarek, Scruffy Jimmy, some others, and myself had taken care of the bastards. “Even though Elise had ordered the bloodhunt on Eli, she still wants our heads because we took care of him without explicit permission,” I explained, a bit hot-temperedly. “She didn’t clear it through the proper channels.” 

The Tremere thanked me. They, too, believe that what we did was right. And should I need them, I could call on them. I thanked them, stunned by their offer. These nights, you need all the help you can get.

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Introductions
Denver's new residents explore the city

A Cavalcade of Corpses

The Pariah

A Means to an End – c. 2010

A functionary showed the coterie into the room where the upstart Prince, Elise Marx, was still making preparations for the evening's announcement with her Sheriff Michael standing idly by.  "Milady," the ghoul started, "these kindred wish to report on tonight's… interests."  The Toreador looked up, confusion briefly in her eyes as she recognized Zahra and the her two companions, Simon and Glump.  "Thank you, Martin," she addressed the announcer. "Be a dear and see if Hector plans on actually making an appearance." She turned her gaze on the visitors, "Now, what brings you back so soon, neonates?"  The last word was laced with venom propelled by her Presence, making it perfectly clear her time was not to be wasted.

Simon gave a brief report – the hunt for Eli hadn't taken long, he had found them.  They were able to dispatch the suspected infernalist and a couple of ghoul minions without a single casualty to their own group.  He did not, however, mention Jimmy's indiscretion.  Elise did not receive this news favorably. "I thought you told me this individual was dangerous," she seethed,"if he was such a threat, how did you neutralize him so quickly?  How will the Primogen react when they hear that a band of upstarts," she gave the coterie a dismissive wave, "were able to conclude a blood hunt before it had even been officially called?  Before we had the chance to affirm his guilt?"  The bookish Tremere could not give an answer.

"Very well," Elise said coolly, "We will need to reconvene on this matter later.  For now, I must prepare to explain to your elders exactly why I wasted so much of their time tonight; an explanation I would prefer to give before they arrive."  She stood and left the office, leaving the coterie alone with Michael.

"I must recommend you leave the city." The imposing Malkavian said, a disappointed look in his eye.

"Why?" Protested Glump, "We only did what was asked of us!"

"Yes," Michael conceded, "but in managing to do it so effectively you have risked making Elise look weak, something which she will not tolerate.  It will be advantageous for her to portray you all as conspirators, having concocted false allegations so you may enact a personal vendetta.  Once that story is cemented, you will be portrayed as guilty of destruction and subject to the appropriate punishment."

"And why tell us this?" Zahra interjected.

"Because I believe you have done the city a service tonight," he admitted.  "I am also indebted to you for finding and waking me, and I do not forget my debts.  Nor will it hurt the Prince for you to disappear; should you flee before she 'discovers' your transgression, she may make any accusations necessary without needing to act on them."

"It also keeps us from trying to set the record straight," mentioned Simon, failing to hide his contempt.

Michael gave a teeth-baring grin, "A small price to pay, should you wish to see tomorrow night."

Predator or Prey – Present Day

Zahra woke in her cave to the playful yipping of her dogs.  All seven of them. The loyalty of a good dog is hard to beat, but a blood bond can do wonders.  When the only barriers between her resting corpse and prowlers in the day were her pets, Zahra found it best to go big and plentiful.

She was in the middle of grooming the runt of the pack when one of her burner phones went off.  She didn't know who had supplied the thing, nor who it was that occasionally called, but whoever it was wanted her safe – and close.  There were times she had considered leaving Colorado like Simon and Glump had done, but she liked knowing who her enemies were – and knowing that someone wanted her alive.

"There are Assamites about," The scrambled voice started as soon as she answered. "There seems to be an interest in your old coterie.  That's all we know at this time."

The 'conversation' ended as abruptly as it had started, but the significance was not lost.  The contract killers of the kindred world had become a collective wild card ever since coming free of their shackles, and Zahra did not find the idea of coming into their cross-hairs a desirable one. She pulled out a second phone.

"Ranjit, I need you to pick me up…."

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The Cleaner

Business as Usual

Joe entered the bar via the kitchen and stood in the shadows against the back wall. He carefully scanned each dimly lit smoke wreathed face. It was the third time he’d stopped by this bar. A childe had gotten into a fight. The mortal had been bigger and stronger. In order to survive with its pride unwounded the neonate had broken the masquerade. Joe had gotten the call. The only thing left undone was to make sure there weren’t any hunters nosing around asking questions about scrawny childer with superhuman abilities. So far the story about drugs and bad company seemed to be satisfying the locals.  As for the culprit of the breach – well, that wasn't any of Joe's concern.

Joe’s inner pocket vibrated. The phone that should never be called was now silently doing so. He took a minute to scan his current location to make sure the job was done; very much wanting to spend the night ignoring whomever was on the other end of that call. Joe knew better. To leave anyone who had access to that specific number unanswered was the last decision he would make in this unlife. He exited after one more scan of the bar.

“Hello?”

A voice answered and Joe was given a name. Jarek. Joe was to extract the foot soldier and deliver him to allies. The subtext was that Jarek was of some importance to a minor elder. A price was set.

Running Errands

A few nights later Joe found himself amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver.  He thought for a minute, he’d need to reach out. It would be dangerous if the powers that be caught wind of his arrival second-hand. He sighed. Then he straightened and took out a different phone.

“Slim, I need the car. Now. We’re going to pay our respects.”

A black Cadillac pulled into an alley to pick Joe up. Once inside, he started the dominoes tipping. You didn’t just pop in on the prince after slouching around Denver cleaning up assorted messes for low level flunkies. Bureaucrats hate surprises.

The car eased up to the curb of the Museum. Joe got out and swaggered in. There was a functionary who showed Joe into his audience, likely a ghoul. Joe did his best to seem dutifully impressed as he conveyed his respects laconically. He tensed as the door burst open and the sheriff walked in with a bloody bat. Joe had been checking his six for Michael ever since he arrived in town.

The exchange was brief and rife with feigned outrage. Something was going on within the lower ranks that needed checking into. Hopefully nothing that would interfere with Joe’s contract. Returning to his car after his dismissal Joe made some inquiries – it was some business with a Nosferatu. It sounded minor and none of Joe’s business and Joe intended that it would stay that way.

Joe called some friends about Jarek. A few minutes later his car was parked at the city morgue. He entered and found a late night employee. A quick feed and I’ll render the man unconscious. His reward for jumping the mortician was a pair of scissors sticking out of his thigh.

“There’s blood in the back if you're desperate.” said the Nosferatu, one Dorian Martin,as he let his perceptual mask fall.  Joe covered his mistake by going back for a blood bag.

“I’m looking into an incident involving cybernetically enhanced hunters and an interrupted ritual.” Joe filled in the other cainite on details as he knew them: location, date, other victims, and the types of injuries on the victims.

The Nosferatu was clueless other than a case file.  Apparently the alleged 'enhanced' corpses had been spirited away from such a low security facility rather promptly.  The other victims, with no recorded importance or next of kin, had been promptly cremated over 5 years ago.

“Maybe you can call a friend…”

Minutes later a twelve year old walked through the door.  This isn’t the time or place to see a kid in an Italian suit; this was clearly the Rat’s implied “friend”.

“Hey kid, I’m looking for some information…”

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The Afflicted

When one suffers a malady or a curse long it enough it is only natural to seek escape.  In Vincent's case, ending his suffering could only occur two ways:  a necromantic breakthrough otr catching a sunrise.  Sure, being a sixty year old predator in a ten-year-old's body had its perks, but when you've never inhabited an adult body in those sixty years you can't help but feel you're missing a crucial perspective.  After decades of experimentation, he still had not found a way to transmute his own body or possess another.

Denver.  He wished he could be certain what it was he was looking for here.  If intelligence they'd gathered at the séance those years ago was worth anything, there was definitely an answer here – he just couldn't be sure what the question was.  Spirits could be impossibly cryptic sometimes.  He had gotten permission from the anziani to investigate independently, with the promise of regular reports back to the family.  His first step was to establish a reporte with the local Tremere, who rumor had it was gaining strength once again. Well, second step, niceties had to be observed first. His presentation to the Prince was relatively uneventful, she seemed nonplussed of his intentions; it wasn't unusual for people to be dismissive based on his appearance, and appearance can be EVERYTHING when a Toreador is in power.

After a few years of preparation, he made his way to the Commerce City Morgue, where he'd been told he'd be given a way to make contact.  The local proprietor of the establishment was a Nosferatu by name of Dorian Martin.  Dorian explained that the Tremere may welcome the services of a necromancer, that they were looking for answers to an attack they'd suffered years ago.

Not long after, Vincent found himself on the quad of Colorado University Boulder Campus.  "Don't worry, they'll find you." Dorian had assured.  Not long after he arrived, he got a call – just not from whom he was hoping.  It was Dorian, "Look, pal, I don't normally call in boons this quickly, but…"

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The Con Artist

New City, New Marks  

For Gareth Morne, the city was an apple ripe for the picking. Being new in town he wanted to know the correct players – but he didn't necessarily want to know them the correct way.  He and his sire, Karissa, had so far not made any inconvenient trips to stroke anyone's ego just yet.  There were times, however, when he wished Karissa would be a trifle more transparent with him.  For example, he wasn't entirely sure how she knew the Tremere convened on the campus here.  "Common knowledge, my pet," she had crooned, but he suspected she was merely disguising whatever boon she had to call in for that kind of intel.  While she was at it, she could have given him a little more detail as to what he was supposed to be doing here – counting noses wouldn't proffer much, it wasn't like the warlocks paraded around on broomsticks in Harry Potter attire.

There he was – a little boy.  A little boy wandering the quad this time of night, unsupervised? Sure, this place had some wackos, but this was too much.  He made his way closer, inconspicuously, as to better ascertain what he might.  Italian suit, macabre lapel, and no steamy breath?  Gareth could put three an three together.

It didn't take his sire long to answer the phone. "Hello, dear."

"You didn't tell me the Giovanni had a stake in this area." Gareth muttered into his mouthpiece.

"That's because they don't, or haven't until recently," she admitted.  "Are you telling me you've run afoul of them?"

"No," he assured her, "just one – and he hasn't seen me yet.  It's a little boy."

"Don't be deceived," she chided, "the Necromancers tend to be tight knit.  If he really is alone there must be a good reason.  See what you can find out; the Tremere will wait."

Gareth watched as the boy arranged transportation through a micro-taxi service, and made to do the same.  His car followed the boy's to Commerce city, where they both disembarked – cat and mouse – and made their way to the morgue.  Neither one of them noticed the raven following them overhead.

"Fitting place for a Necromancer," Gareth mused, as he scouted out a place where he might listen in.  As best as he could tell, there were two other cainites inside.  One of them was looking for information about an attack occurring about 7 years ago and wished to employ the boy in order to divine information from the victims.  The story seemed jumbled – a number of original victims were slaughtered by two assailants – hunters, he thought he heard – who were in turn attacked by a cainite.  This kindred was the objective, after he killed the hunters he had discovered they were cybernetically enhanced: they had registered his face digitally.  Rather than risk being the subject of a manhunt by whomever equipped them, he had hidden in torpor the past several years.  Now the terse guy inside was supposed to revive the hunter-killer, but needed to find out where was napping.  The alleged techno-hunters' corpses had ben vanished from local authorities, but the original victims might be able to tell them something – especially considering the brutal nature of their demise.

"This has got to be the worst way…" Gareth complained to himself, and he planned to interject at the first opportunity.

To help.

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The Lost

Calling Cards

Unfortunately for Joe and Vincent, the bodies of the victims had been cremated years ago, which would make interrogating their departed souls just a trifle more difficult.  Dorian was, however, able to give them two names and a case number, enough to visit an evidence locker and perhaps acquire some of the deceased's personal affects.  They made their way to the police station, neither one of them suspecting they were being followed. 

At the evidence locker, Joe used his status as a minor forensics journalist as a cover for their interest in the affects while concocting a story about Vincent being the offspring of one of the victims.  A little bribery helped them avoid some of the necessary red tape.  There were, however, much stricter rules about leaving with the evidence.  Enter Gareth.  With light sprinkling of fast gab and a heavy dose of Domination, the clerk let the three abscond with the cheap jewelry.

The three left for Vincent's home, where he had arranged a hidden basement laboratory.  Not one of them noticed the raven following them.  Once they were inside, Zahra resumed her regular form and called a small army of mice to her.  One by one she instructed them to spy out the events inside the Giovanni's haven and report back.

Inside the lab, Vincent was able to summon one of the women killed at the event in question.  She had in fact followed Jarek after her demise, and reported his final resting place as a storage facility in Castle Rock.  Both Vincent and Gareth recognized an opportunity to strengthen a boon with the third newcomer, so they exchanged contact information and arranged to meet at the Jarek's resting place.  For now, dawn was nigh, and two (and three) of them needed to return to their havens.

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