Schism

[below text should be presented as an email]

From:                  beckettmnemosyne1@schreckNET.nod

To:                      c_da_man@gmail.com

Cc:                       

Subject:               Reservations

Dear Cesare,

Between Vitel, Pieterzoon, and Fatima’s mysterious patron, we finally have safe passage to Jordan, including a private sunproofed plane. Please make reservations for a five-night stay at the Amman Four Seasons. Ask for an “Ashirra Room,” and it will come pre-sunproofed.

Sincerely,

Beckett

[above email ends]

 [below text follows in Beckett's DIARY script]

Amman Four Seasons Hotel, Amman, Jordan

Cesare rolls his eyes at my printing emails, chat logs and the like. I'll be damned if I entrust this diary's safety to a computer. How am I suppose to take it around with me?

In any case, travel into Amman was uneventful, as was check in at the hotel. Cesare somewhat passive-aggressively booked the room under the name “Smith, John.” Per instructions from Fatima al-Faqadi, I will be meeting this evening at midnight with one Tegyrius, evidently a person of some importance within Clan Assamite. I’m interested to hear what he says, and Fatima assures me he is peaceable and not even a member of the Assamite Warrior Caste. I’m not expecting trouble.

 [above text in Beckett's script ends]

[NEWS REPORT FROM REUTERS or similar]

VIOLENCE STRIKES FAMED JORDANIAN HOTEL

By Farhan Husni, Special Correspondent from Jordan

The famed Amman Four Seasons Hotel was the target of a mass shooting attack by unidentified militants last evening. Police reports indicate as many as 20 gunmen stormed the hotel just before midnight armed with automatic weapons, explosives, and, according to some reports, swords and machetes. Other witnesses reported some guests returned fire against the attackers. The Ministry of Justice has not yet released a statement regarding the attack, and reports are unclear on who, if anyone, took part in the counterattack. Unnamed sources within the Ministry who do not have authority to comment have said no terrorist organizations have taken credit for the attack.

[END NEWS REPORT]

[below text follows in Beckett's DIARY script]

Tegyrius’ private jet, somewhere over the Mediterranean

I think Anatole and Okulos may be on to something. Every time I mention expecting everything to go easily and without incident, cue the explosions and screaming. I literally had my hand on the door knocker of Tegyrius’ suite when a dozen armed men swarmed down the hall and opened fire on me. Most appeared to be mortals or ghouls, but I soon realized several of them were Assamite Warriors. Luckily, they were looking for Tegyrius but were not expecting either Fatima or myself. We made short work of the mortals, forced most of the vampires to flee, and even captured and staked one of them. Nevertheless, it was definitely a reason to check out of the Four Seasons ahead of schedule. Pity. I hadn’t even seen the pool.

Tegyrius thanked me for my help and introduced himself as the Vizier of Clan Assamite. I was aware of a separate Assamite bloodline called Viziers, so I didn’t understand why he was pretending to be the only one. It turns out that the leader of the Vizier bloodline is called the Vizier, which seems impractical, but perhaps there’s a subtle distinction in Arabic that eludes my British ears. Anyway, Tegyrius invited Cesare and myself to join him, Fatima, and the staked attacker as they left Amman for...well, Tegyrius was a bit cagey on the destination, but my natural inclination to flee the scene of gunfire and explosions overcame my normal paranoia. He said one of his foreign contacts had already arranged suitable transportation.

We rendezvoused back at the Queen Alia International Airport and boarded Tegyrius’s private jet, which appeared identical to the one my dear friend Jan Pieterzoon provided for my trip into Amman. Same serial numbers and everything. Funny that. Presently, Tegyrius and Fatima are about to begin their interrogation of our prisoner. The first step involves Tegyrius feeding the man some of his blood, which has the surprising effect of intoxicating the assassin. A curious application of his Clan’s most notorious gifts, of which I was unaware.

[above text in Beckett's script ends]

[below text PRESENTED as transcript of a recorded conversation]

Transcriber’s Note: The following interrogation was translated into English from Arabic.

[Recording begins]

Tegyrius: Who are you and who do you serve?

Prisoner: I am Rashad Mardam-Bey. I serve Haqim, his faithful Shepherd, and the Web of Knives.                                                       

Tegyrius: Why did you attack us?

Prisoner: [laughs] Because the Caliph said to, you fool! You are unclean, a perversion of Haqim’s vision for his childer. You lead the Viziers into weakness and treachery.

Tegyrius: He knows of my plans?

Prisoner: He knows you are unworthy of the Blood. That is all that matters.

Fatima: That is...good, I suppose. Better this was an act of personal bigotry towards you than a preemptive strike against the whole conspiracy.

Beckett: Conspiracy? What “conspiracy?”

Tegyrius: [to prisoner] How did you know where to find me?

Prisoner: The Caliph told us the Shepherd spoke to him and said the time of the Culling drew nigh. The Shepherd named you as one of his enemies and said where you might be found. But he did not mention the traitorous bitch would be on hand to save you. Perhaps the Shepherd wished to test her loyalties. [laughing] She failed.

[Silence for several seconds.]

Tegyrius: The Shepherd...spoke...to Thetmes? The Shepherd is awake?

Prisoner: No, not yet. But soon. He speaks to the faithful in our daytime dreams. Those Warriors who are faithful to the false gods will be called to him first and tested. The vitae of those who reject Haqim’s truth shall sustain him until the time of the Culling.

Fatima: [whispering] Merciful Allah.

Beckett: I’m sorry. I’m lost. Who’s the Shepherd? And what’s this Web of Knives? I’ve always thought it just a nickname for Warriors of your Clan. Yet now, it seems that it is only a subgroup plotting against the rest of you.

Fatima: The Web of Knives is, indeed, only a powerful movement within our larger Clan, Beckett. Yet circumstances beyond our control have allowed it to function as the public face of the Children of Haqim for nearly a thousand years. Soon, that will change, one way or the other. Either the rest of the Cainite race will know the true nature of Clan Assamite... or the Web of Knives will kill the rest of us and make their lie into truth.

Beckett: And the Shepherd?

Tegyrius: An ancient of our Clan prophesied to rise and slake his thirst on those Assamites who do not swear allegiance to him.

Beckett: Not another one.

Fatima: Beckett, do not mock the Vizier!

Beckett: I’m sorry, but in the past few months, I’ve lost track of how many Kindred I’ve met who claim to predate Jesus Christ. I’m becoming a bit...blasé about it.

Tegyrius: Add another.

Beckett: Sorry?

Tegyrius: In life, I marched with Alexander the Great. I was already an elder during the purported time of Christ’s ministry, though I never had opportunity to meet the man if he actually existed. I never met nor worshipped the Prophet of Islam either, but I followed his career with great interest while it lasted. So I hope you will appreciate what it means, Mr. Beckett, when I tell you that I am but a mote in the eye of the Black Shepherd of Haqim, who walked the very streets of Enoch itself and whose age is more than five times my own. And as for the Web of Knives — You! Assassin! Speak to this man. Tell him the story of Haqim as it was told to you by your masters!

Prisoner: Gladly, infidel. [laughs] The Most Holy Haqim was the chief warlord of the fabled city of En’esh, a loyal and faithful servant to his king and queen. When the foul Khayyin corrupted his beloved rulers and Embraced them as the first of his childer, mighty Haqim struck them down with his righteous anger. He used the blood taken from the queen to Embrace himself and then took the blood of the king in diablerie so he would be strong enough to challenge Khayyin. But Khayyin Embraced childer who Embraced childer themselves, and there were too many for the Most Holy Haqim to fight on his own. So he fled to Alamut, where he fashioned a mighty army to wage war against the Damned Children of Khayyin. In time, though, the Children of Haqim grew fractious, with many who were too cowardly or too enamored with their books or their wealth to face the Damned Children of Khayyin in battle. Haqim left Alamut, but swore that one night, he would send his Black Shepherd to purge the Eagle’s Nest of infidels, heretics and cowards — Like you, Tegyrius!

Tegyrius: Sleep. Fatima. Please sever this one’s head and dump the remains over the Mediterranean.

Beckett: Does he really believe all that? That Haqim Embraced himself in order to fight against Caine? Do you?

Tegyrius: Yes, for him. No for myself. I suppose it is possible the creation myth celebrated by the Web of Knives is true. It was 12,000 years ago, and no written records survive. But I highly doubt it. The tale I was taught said Haqim was a warrior-scholar whose first childer were Viziers. Only later did he Embrace Warriors and then Sorcerers from the line of al-Ashrad. But the Web of Knives wholeheartedly believes the story this one just related. And at the command of Haqim’s oldest surviving childe, they are ready to put all heretics to the flame. Congratulations, Mr. Beckett. You’ve just learned the darkest secret of Clan Assamite — that for over a millennium, the majority of our Clan has been held hostage to the whims of an insane and apocalyptic death cult.

[lengthy silence]

Beckett: Good to know.

[Recording ends]

[END TRANSCRIPT]

[below text follows in Beckett's DIARY script]

Palais-Royal, Paris, France

During the rest of our time before sunup, Tegyrius explained the history of the Web of Knives to me. According to him, the Clan founder was actually something of a recluse who moved his whole Clan to a hidden mountain fortress just to avoid the Jyhad. It didn’t work, and eventually he grew frustrated and left because various factions of Assamites got too involved on both sides of mortal and immortal conflicts. Afterwards, the conservatives of the Warrior Caste, who outnumbered the other two castes combined and also had all the spiffy combat experience, seized control of the Clan, which is why, for most of the last millennium, less erudite Kindred assumed all Assamites were bloodthirsty warriors obsessed with diablerie. Indeed, according to Tegyrius and Fatima, even that was a fairly recent development. The blood addiction plaguing Assamites in the Middle Ages (which still plagues antitribu today) was the result of a curse levied against the Warrior Caste by the Baali sometime in the 5th or 6th century. According to Tegyrius, anyway. Frankly, I think the Baali are too often cast as the mysterious boogiemen responsible for all the bad things.

We had a layover in Athens during the day which, mercifully, passed uneventfully. We took off after sunset, arrived at Charles De Gaulle International in Paris, and were met by a smug, smirking Jan Fucking Pieterzoon. After some typical Ventrue pleasantries, Pieterzoon invited the three of us into a stretch limo, which transported us to the Palais-Royal, just across the street from the Louvre. By day, the Palais-Royal holds government offices. Tonight, it hosts an emergency Camarilla confab of some sort. I am amazed Pieterzoon is allowing me within a mile, let alone inviting me inside. I wonder what Francois Villon will do when he sees me — kill me, seduce me, or both at the same time.

[above text in Beckett's script ends]

[below text PRESENTED as transcript of a recorded conversation]

[Recording begins]

Pieterzoon: Before we go in, let me make one thing clear, Beckett. I know you’re carrying a recorder. And that’s fine. To be honest, I want you to be able to review what’s going to be discussed in this meeting because I’d like your thoughts later. Besides, most of the Kindred inside are too old to have any idea what a digital recorder is. So as long as you don’t pull out parchment and a quill pen, no one will care. That said, there are a lot of very conservative Kindred inside, including the Princes of Paris, London, and Berlin. Don’t be an ass!

Beckett: Fine. But Francois Villon had better not hit on me.

Pieterzoon: Villon is a Toreador and a Lombard. He hits on everyone. Luckily, there will be Kindred inside who are prettier than either of us, so as long as you don’t make eye contact with him, you’ll be fine.

 [art notes: have the transcript tear off here, with the next section a new page with a separate tear across the top]

Tegyrius: Thank you, Jan, for your kind words of introduction. I am pleased to have already met many of you, and I hope to meet the rest before this conference ends. I am a diplomat by training — astonishing, I know, for an Assamite — and I normally favor measured words and subtle nuance in the pursuit of successful negotiations. Unfortunately, sometimes events move far too quickly to allow for either nuance or discretion, and so here we are. Before I continue with my prepared remarks, there is a video recording I wish to share with you. The language is Arabic, but there is a voiceover translation in English. Mr. Pieterzoon has already had the translation reviewed, he will vouch for its accuracy. Miriam, please start the recording.

[Brief delay]

Taped Voice:  He is coming. The Black Shepherd comes to cull the flock. The Hateful Spawn. The Herald of Destruction. As the Lord of Death culled his childer at Kaymakli, the Black Shepherd shall cull the Children at Alamut.

[Margin notes in Beckett's handwriting]

Visual description —  the tape depicts an elderly Middle Eastern woman in a trance state who repeats the previous message several times before she begins to bleed from the eyes, lapses into convulsions, and quickly expires.

[Beckett margin notes end]

[art notes: have the transcript tear off here, with the next section a new page with a separate tear across the top]

Tegyrius: Some explanation is in order. The woman in the video was a mortal seer devoted to the service of al-Ashrad, the Amr, or chief Sorcerer, of the Assamite Clan. Her reputation as a prophetess is acclaimed, her track record for accuracy unmatched. The names she used to describe the being who is “coming” — Black Shepherd, Hateful Spawn, Herald of Destruction — are all sobriquets applied over the millennia to a Fourth Generation childe of the founder of my Clan, a being known historically as ur-Shulgi. Although ur-Shulgi has not walked among the Children of Haqim in well over 2,000 years, there has never been any evidence of its destruction. If the records of my Clan are correct, ur-Shulgi was Embraced during the Baali Wars of antiquity, and was active during the time of the Second City. The reference to the Lord of Death and Kaymakli refers to an alleged incident in the Middle Ages when the Cappodocian Antediluvian culled the majority of his Clan for failure to adhere to his own personal standards.

Various others: [Sounds of argument.]

1st voice (identified as Prince Wolff of Berlin): This is bloody preposterous. You brought us here to listen to vague prophecies about long-dead Methuselahs dating back to an age of myth? Antediluvians rising to judge their Clans? It's this hyperbole that made me abandon the Sabbat! Does Hardestadt know about your sudden interest in Noddist fantasy, Pieterzoon?

Pieterzoon: I am here tonight as the Voice of Hardestadt, Prince Wolff. Draw what conclusions from that you wish. Regardless, it is irrelevant to us whether or not this ur-Shulgi truly dates back to the birth of our species, or even whether he exists at all. What matters to us is that the dominant political faction within the Assamite Clan believes that he exists, and worse, that he desires a pogrom against every Assamite who is opposed to genocide against all Kindred.

2nd voice (identified as Ian Carfax, Tremere Justicar): With all due respect to our esteemed guests, Pieterzoon, if the Assamites want to kill each other off over superstitious twaddle, I say let them. Even if the genocidal faction wins out, they present no danger to us so long as the Tremere Curse bars them from diablerie.

Fatima: Your respect is noted, Justicar Carfax. But know this: The Black Shepherd is no mere Methuselah. He is the progenitor of the Assamite Sorcerer Caste with an unparalleled mastery of blood magic. Are you so certain that your precious Tremere Curse cannot be broken by one such as him?

Carfax: Don’t insult my intelligence, woman. The curse levied against the Assamites by my Clan has endured for more than six centuries! It is as far beyond the peasant magic of your Sorcerer Caste as your trickery is above a mortal street magician!

Fatima: [unintelligible curse]

Tegyrius: —Yes, yes, it was indeed a most impressive working of magic, your Clan’s curse. I am not a practitioner of blood magic myself, but the Amr and I have discussed the matter at length over the centuries. If I remember his description properly, he said the Tremere probably used a ritually-prepared papyrus scroll marked with Egyptian glyphs of command and hierarchy, and black ink laced with the vitae of a slain Assamite elder when drafting that particular copy of the Treaty of Tyre. Then, you simply had our Eldest, who had authority to speak on behalf of us all, sign the treaty and thereby bind the entire Clan via a sympathetic blood link. The Amr speculated the ritual probably required at least one blood magician of the Fourth Generation to perform, more if they were less skilled, but he did marvel at the vitae requirements. Out of curiosity, Justicar Carfax, do your allies in the Camarilla know just how many of your own clanmates you ritually murdered in order to levy your curse against us?

[lengthy silence]

Tegyrius: Believe, Tremere, if it pleases you to do so, that you and your kind know more of blood magic than one who mastered it before the rise of Sumer. But I tell you now — your Clan did nothing to mine that we did not permit.

3rd Voice (identified as Diana Iadanza, Toreador Justicar): Perhaps we’re getting off track here. Even assuming that there is something to this prophecy, what is it that you want us to do about it? Destroy a Methuselah who slumbers in a hidden location, if he exists at all? Or simply go to war on your behalf against the extremist elements of your own Clan?

Tegyrius: Justicar Iadanza, the conflicts that tear at my Clan have been brewing for centuries. Long have the Viziers, the Sorcerers, and even the less doctrinaire Warriors chafed under the dominance of the Web of Knives. But it is only in recent nights their conduct towards us has become unconscionable. Continued subjugation to the Web of Knives is unacceptable, let alone to the Black Shepherd should he arise. Yet a conflict between our factions might lead to extinction and would certainly lead to the destruction of the Masquerade, which I assure you is as treasured by my people as it is by yours. Accordingly, the only solution I and my fellows can see is...separation.

Iadanza: What sort of separation?

Tegyrius: [Throat clearing] I, Tegyrius, childe of Anath, called goddess of war and love, grand-childe of Haqim the Hunter, speak now to this council on behalf of the Viziers of Clan Assamite, on behalf of the Sorcerers of Clan Assamite, and on behalf of those of the Warriors of Clan Assamite who reject the Web of Knives. Collectively, those who follow my banner make up more than one third of the entire world’s Assamite population. And on behalf of those followers, I hereby request sanctuary from the Camarilla and recognition for my Clan as a member of your organization.

[Shouting and other confusion]

[Recording ends]

[END TRANSCRIPT]

[below text follows in Beckett's DIARY script — the italics are handwritten by the same author, but a little stressed, if possible. make it look like it was written at a different time.]

Palais-Royal, Paris, France

Well, that put the bat among the pigeons! The meeting, which included numerous Princes and Justicars, descended into chaos after Tegyrius’ request for Clan recognition. The entire Tremere contingent stormed out of the meeting. I thought Jan was going to have to start banging a shoe on the table like Khrushchev at the U.N. to get order.

Post-script: It is now several months since the meeting between Tegyrius and the Camarilla Council in Paris. The motion to recognize the Preservationist Assamites (as Tegyrius calls his little conspiracy, though Schismatics is perhaps a more popular term) is moving at a snail’s pace, mainly due to Tremere intransigence. The Warlocks are telling all who listen that Assamites cannot be trusted and should never be allowed into the Camarilla. It doesn’t help that if the proposal goes through, the Amr will be the one to join the Inner Circle in a seat right next to Etrius, and Tegyrius will probably become the first Assamite Justicar (and be an older and more powerful Justicar than anyone else currently in the position). Unfortunately, my cautious enthusiasm for that prospect is tempered by the document I received a few days ago  another “screenplay” scene from Prince Alexander of Birmingham. He says he based the scene on a dream he had. It may well be Malkavian nonsense (no offense, Anatole, when you read this), but it is deeply troubling nonetheless.

[Margin notes in Anatole’s handwriting]

You were wise to share this with us, especially with Lucita and Fatima. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. I will meet with Alexander when I can, and with others of my Clan who have the Sight. Perhaps there are clues not contained in Silverson’s manuscript that might warn us as to when these events might occur.

[Anatole margin notes end]

[above text in Beckett's script ends]

[FOLLOWING TEXT WRITTEN IN A SCREENPLAY FORMAT IN A DIFFERENT FONT. IF POSSIBLE, MAKE IT LOOK AS THOUGH IT WERE typed on a manual typewriter with a few strike-throughs and whatnot]

[INTERIOR SCENE. NIGHT. The scenery consists of a fairly large subterranean cavern illuminated by flickering torches. There are small recesses carved into all the walls full of dozens and dozens of black clay pots. One recess is conspicuously empty. Aside from background music, which should be appropriately creepy, the only sound is an adult male voice, obviously frightened, somewhat hysterically muttering “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” over and over again. Camera pans across to reveal the speaker as an older man (HASSAN) in Arabic dress on his knees in front of a clay pot that is light gray instead of black. As the camera focuses on HASSAN, a dark figure (the MYSTERIOUS VILLAIN) moves behind him and then around so that a shadow falls over the wounded man.]

CAPTION: The Secret Lair of [Mysterious Villain] somewhere in Jordan.

HASSAN: Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!

MYSTERIOUS VILLAIN: [In an unintelligible language with English subtitles.] Your faith is commendable, Hassan, even if it is misplaced. You have chosen martyrdom. And so you shall have it.

HASSAN: Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!

[HASSAN’s voice rises in mounting terror only to turn into a scream as some invisible force seizes control of his body, jerking his head backwards and stretching his arms out to the point they almost dislocate. The sound of breaking bones can be heard.]

MV: I commend your soul to Allah, if your god exists to receive it. Your blood, however, is mine.

[Suddenly, HASSAN his head forward and begins vomiting blood into the clay pot while MV laughs cruelly. As the vomiting continues, the pot slowly turns black. After about fifteen seconds of this, HASSAN’s emaciated corpse falls over and quickly dissolves into dust which blows away along with his clothes in a mysterious wind that picks up out of nowhere. MV picks up the now blackened pot and places it into the last recess before returning to the center of the room.]

MV: Now, let us see what these trembling wizards are made of.

[Camera resets to show MV from behind as he throws off his robes to reveal himself. In build, he looks like a young man, perhaps a teenager, but his skin is marked with orange-red veins the color of lava which give off a light that pulses in time with the music. The musical score now increases in intensity from prior “creepy music” to full on “Damien on a Rampage” frightening.]

MV: [An occult incantation in an unknown language. No subtitles. Only the following words are intelligible: Haqim. Tremere. Moloch. Shaitan. ur-Shulgi.]

[As the incantation progresses, all the black pots begin to shatter, with the vitae contained within them flying through the air around MV to form a massive blood vortex. As the sound and fury reaches its apex, MV’s incantation ends and he begins laughing maniacally.]

[SCENE CHANGE. Interior scene. Night. ALEX SILVERSON’s hunting lodge near Birmingham, Alabama, where RANDY HOPKIRK is talking with his boss, the dashing Prince.]

CAPTION: Birmingham, Alabama

SILVERSON: So how are your new friends assimilating?

HOPKIRK: So far, so good. There’s obviously a little friction. Several of them are pretty devout Muslims, and, no offense, but we have a lot of bigoted vampires here in BirminghAAHH! [Clutches head in sudden pain as if suffering a migraine.]

SILVERSON: Randy? Are you all right? [Sounds of disturbance coming from outside. SILVERSON goes to the door and steps outside, followed by an obviously distressed HOPKIRK.] What the hell…?

[SCENE CHANGE. INTERIOR SCENE. NIGHT. The front yard of SILVERSON’s hunting lodge. The Prince looks on aghast at the scene. Several Middle Eastern vampires are attacking his other supporters while in the grip of violent hunger frenzy. SILVERSON tenses as he hears a vicious growl behind him. He turns just in time to see the face of his Sheriff Randy HOPKIRK as it twists in to a mask of fury and...desire? With an animalistic rage, HOPKIRK flings himself at his Prince, knocking him to the ground and then biting deeply into his neck as SILVERSON screams.]

[SCENE CHANGE: EXTERIOR establishing shot of a mountain range somewhere in the Middle East. NIGHT. Cut to INTERIOR scene. A large open area within a central chamber of the Assamite fortress of Alamut. In the center of the courtyard are several dozen vampires of different clans. Some have been staked. Others have been chained to poles driven into the ground. Surrounding them is an even larger number of Assamites (predominantly male, but with a few women) who stare vacantly at them while chanting in Arabic.]

CAPTION: The Secret Assamite Fortress of Alamut.

ASSAMITES: [Subtitled.] All praise to Haqim. All praise to the Shepherd. All praise to Haqim. All praise to....

[Abruptly, the Assamites go silent, and their faces are overcome with expressions of delirious joy. Then, all of the Assamites simultaneously frenzy and charge their helpless prisoners. Shouting and screaming off-camera as we pan away.]

[SCENE CHANGE. EXTERIOR shot to a private villa overlooking the Mediterranean. Cut to INTERIOR shot of a bedroom with double doors that open up to a balcony. The lights are off but the room is clearly illuminated by the full moon. FATIMA AL-FAQADI stands on the balcony looking out over the sea. LUCITA DE ARAGON enters the bedroom looking for her. The frightening music of the previous scenes fade away to something more tender and elegiac.]

CAPTION: The Spanish Villa of Lucita de Aragon

LUCITA: Fatima, there you are. I was calling for you...Fatima? What’s wrong?

FATIMA: I am sorry, Lucita.

LUCITA: Sorry? Whatever for?

FATIMA: We tried so hard to fight against our fates, Lucita, but one might as well fight the tides. [FATIMA turns to face LUCITA. She has been weeping blood.] He is awake, Lucita. The Black Shepherd is awake. I feel his power. I hear his laughter on the wind. He has broken the curse. He has shattered it, and, Allah help me, your blood calls to me!

[FATIMA growls as frenzy overtakes her and she rushes LUCITA. The camera does not follow to show how the fight concludes. Instead, we cut back to EXTERIOR SHOT of the villa with a blood-red moon in the background. In the distance, there is a woman’s scream, but it could be FATIMA or LUCITA. Then, we can hear in the distance MV’s mocking laughter as we FADE TO BLACK.]

[END screenplay script]

What Rough Beast...

As the Final Nights approach, each of the Clans struggle with the signs of Gehenna in their own way, but the Assamites perhaps the most. Known to the Camarilla for centuries as a Clan of bloodthirsty assassins, the Assamites have always been more complex than most knew, but their diversity has been hidden away for centuries due to the machinations of the warrior-led death cult known as the Web of Knives. That faction, which venerates a vision of Haqim as a blood god who desires the extermination of all other Kindred, has ruled the Clan of Silence for centuries, presenting an image of Clan Assamite as a family of assassins obsessed with diablerie. Of course, that image was itself the product of centuries spent under a blood-curse inflicted on them by the Baali during the nights of the Roman Empire, a blood-curse unwittingly neutralized by the Camarilla when the Tremere Clan placed all Assamites under a newer and more potent curse with the Treaty of Tyre. Denied the chance for regular diablerie, the Web of Knives turned to contract assassination in exchange for vitae, leaving the Viziers and the Sorcerers to their own devices.

This state of affairs continued until a seer predicted the rise of ur-Shulgi, a Methuselah of unimaginable power who sought to lead a culling of the Assamites. Galvanized into action, Tegyrius, the leader of the Viziers, and the Amr fashioned a conspiracy of Viziers, Sorcerers, and moderate Warriors wishing to defect from the main Clan in the event of ur-Shulgi’s rise. During a Conclave held in Paris, Tegyrius reveals the prophecy concerning the rise of ur-Shulgi and officially asks that his conspiracy be allowed to join the Camarilla. The motion is not immediately acted upon, but Jan Pieterzoon and others strongly support it, mainly out of a desire for a powerful Clan of warriors capable of replacing the disloyal Gangrel. The following plot threads spin out of these developments.

The Diaspora: While the Camarilla dithers, Assamite refugees stream into its domains. While many domains refuse to accept known Assamites, others are more openminded, particularly when the refugees can help defend domains against the Sabbat and other threats. Other Assamites are subtler, posing as Caitiff or as members of other Clans. Few western Kindred know anything at all about the Vizier and Sorcerer bloodlines, and the Viziers can easily pass as Toreador.

Magic by Other Means: The Tremere Inner Circle is livid at the prospect of a bloodline as magically puissant as the Assamite Sorcerers gaining admittance to the Camarilla and threatening their occult monopoly. Local chantries do whatever they can to make Assamite refugees feel unwelcome while Princes who disdain the Tremere welcome the newcomers as a magical counterweight. Kindred of any Clans not gifted at sorcery get caught in the middle.

Ancient Terrors: For aspiring Noddists, the prophecy concerning ur-Shulgi (when it inevitably gets out) is both terrifying and emboldening. There are signs of rising elders all over the place, but ur-Shulgi is a named and well-known Methuselah who supposedly dates back to the Second City. The revelation of his apparent existence sets off a flurry of research into the ancient horror’s history. Rumors that ur-Shulgi’s Embrace somehow involved the Baali as well as Haqim further darken the reputation of the Assamites as a Clan, even as they stoke fears of a Baali resurgence among the Sabbat Inquisition and various Camarilla occultists.

Other Pathways: Not every Assamite goes Camarilla. Many Anarchs openly welcome Assamite refugees who agree to follow the rules of whatever barony accepts them. Monty Coven actively recruits Assamites to his banner in London as he prepares to take the city, not for the Sabbat but for himself. The Sabbat as a whole is divided on the question of what to do with the Schismatic Assamites, particularly as it seems that for every Schismatic Warrior who joins the Sabbat, another Assamite antitribu (usually an elder) abandons the Sect to return to their original Clan.

...Slouches Towards Alamut

If it is not prevented somehow, eventually ur-Shulgi will rise fully to power. Possibly the most powerful Cainite below the level of an Antediluvian, ur-Shulgi immediately purges all disloyal Assamites who have not already fled Alamut. He begins at the top, with Jamal, the current Eldest, whose devotion to Allah outstrips his loyalty to Haqim; the vampire is martyred for his faith. Others follow as the remaining leadership of Alamut is summoned to ur-Shulgi’s lair to either swear allegiance to Haqim (or at least, Haqim as depicted by the Web of Knives) or else surrender their vitae and their lives. The annihilation of the remaining moderate leadership only accelerates the departure of younger terrified Assamites from Alamut, even as it emboldens the hardliners. When ur-Shulgi reclaims enough vitae from the disloyal elders of the Clan, he shatters the Tremere Curse before journeying to Alamut to seize direct control of the Children of Haqim.

And then? What complications might arise after such world-shaking events?

Unexpected Bloodlust: The immediate impact of the breaking of the Tremere Curse is the reactivation of the Assamite’s older blood-curse: the addiction to Kindred vitae magically imposed on Assamite Warriors by the Baali, which currently afflicts only the Assamite antitribu. At the exact moment the Tremere Curse is broken, every Assamite Warrior in the world (and quite a few members of the other two castes) immediately feels the effects of the Baali Curse and, if in the presence of any other Kindred, likely frenzies. Though the effects on these Assamites last only a single scene, many Assamites who survive the initial effects have a difficult time adjusting to the blood addiction now a part of them. The Tremere point to these events as further proof of the inherent danger of allowing Assamites in their midst, conveniently ignoring the fact their new rivals among the Sorcerer Caste were hardly affected at all by the sudden blood rage.

Not-So-Unexpected Bloodlust: As Anatole notes, forewarned is forearmed. Tegyrius and his allies fully realize ur-Shulgi seeks to break the Tremere Curse, and prophecies from several Malkavians suggest his rising is imminent. This sets off a flurry of investigation around the world, as the Schismatic Assamites and their allies search desperately for more information from seers, from ancient prophecies, and from any other source that might reveal when the Breaking will occur. If the Schismatic Warriors can be warned with some specificity of when the Tremere Curse will fade, they can avoid contact with other Kindred until they have gained some control over their newfound affliction.

The Tremere Response: The breaking of the Tremere Curse is both humbling and infuriating to the Warlocks — one of Clan Tremere’s signature achievements, undone practically overnight. The Council of Seven is divided over the event, which prevents a unified Clan response. One faction, led by Etrius, believes no Assamite can be trusted now the Curse is broken and the only option is to exterminate the Clan completely. The larger issues surrounding a Second City Methuselah who seems a match for the entire Council of Seven is eclipsed by Etrius’ hysterical fear of diablerie. He is opposed by Meerlinda, who sees the breaking of the Curse as proof of blood magic in the world equaling or surpassing Thaumaturgy, and that the Assamite Sorcerers may be the key to mastering it. Accordingly, she covertly assists Jan Pieterzoon’s efforts to assimilate the Schismatic Assamites into the Camarilla in the United States in exchange for access to Dur-An-Ki, the Clan’s approach to blood magic.

The Ventrue Response: Of course, Pieterzoon has his own problems. For some time, he's abused his status as the “Voice of Hardestadt” to advance his own agenda: an aggressive response to an approaching Gehenna from the Camarilla, a Sect which officially doesn’t acknowledge Gehenna's reality. But sponsoring the Assamites for inclusion in the Camarilla — in Hardestadt’s name, no less — finally catches the attention of his peers, some of whom openly wonder whether Pieterzoon truly speaks for his sire in these matters. The Ventrue walks a razor’s edge, particularly after the Breaking of the Curse, since his enemies likely try to hold him responsible for every negative consequence of accepting the Assamite refugees. Depending on how things play out, the Assamite Schism may eventually trigger a Camarilla Schism, with Jan Pieterzoon unwittingly creating a faction that is essentially a moderated Sabbat.

The Sabbat Response: With the Curse broken, there's no longer any real difference between Assamite Warriors and Assamite antitribu except ideology, and that doesn’t trump blood. At ur-Shulgi’s summoning, almost the entire Assamite leadership of the Black Hand defects back to the parent Clan, in the process revealing that the Black Hand itself has been effectively controlled by a Gehenna cult for centuries. The revelation rocks the Sabbat and further complicates the approaching Fourth Civil War, as contestants for the position of Regent scramble to disassociate themselves from what was previously one of the Sect’s most esteemed factions. Simultaneously, the Sabbat is inundated with new recruits — Schismatic Warriors who find their newfound bloodlust is much more acceptable among the Sabbat than the Camarilla and who have direct evidence that Gehenna is at hand.

The Other Curse: Sometimes, however, there is opportunity to be found within disaster. The Breaking of the Tremere Curse may allow the Baali Curse to reassert itself, but it also gives insight into how such curses could be broken in general. The Amr believes if he can forge a detente with the Tremere and persuade the Camarilla as a whole of the Baali danger, he can win support for removing the Baali Curse as well, curing the Warriors of their bloodlust and returning the Assamites to their original (and highly manageable) curse of unusually darkened skin. Such an endeavor would take years and send the Amr’s agents into the foulest pits of degradation in the world in pursuit of Baali lore. The potential rewards might be incalculable, but so might be the risk of damnation.

The Black Shepherd: Trumping all political concerns is the sheer magnitude of the threat posed by ur-Shulgi. Those who study the mystery of ur-Shulgi (and who survive the experience) learn many frightening things about the Black Shepherd. Most notably, he cares nothing either for the Web of Knives or his sire, Haqim. Ur-Shulgi used the heart’s blood of scores of disloyal Assamite elders to break the Tremere curse. To what ends will he put the untold thousands of Kindred who will die at the hands of the blood cult he now leads? Perhaps the answers lie in the lost libraries of the Viziers, hidden away before the founding of Alamut, or in the ruins of Chorazin, the cursed spot where Haqim Embraced his most fearsome childe. And perhaps resourceful characters can learn the truth about ur-Shulgi before he burns the whole world in hellfire.