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.
“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.
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.