A Split City

[BELOW IS A TEXT MESSAGE BETWEEN BECKETT AND LUCITA]

Lucita (555-487-5555)

___________________________________

L: I need your plane. 11:04

B: Afraid I can't spare it at the moment. 11:06

L: I'm afraid I already borrowed it. 11:07

B: What? 11:07

B: How? When were you in town? What? 11:07

L: No time to chat. Landing in Montreal. 11:09

B: You're leaving me dry, Lucita. In bloody Milwaukee. You owe me. 11:10

L: You already owed me. 11:11

B: Nonsense. What about that business with the Premascines beneath Venice? 11:11

L: Puma Punku 11:11

B: Fie. 11:13

[END TEXT MESSAGE]

[below text follows in Beckett's DIARY script]

Milwaukee Intermodal Station, Milwaukee, United States

Bereft of air transport, Cesare and I are forced to make travel arrangements through the Lupine-haunted wasteland between Milwaukee and Chicago. Travel in that space between is treacherous for Kindred, and most go by air. There was, however, an alternative via my intrepid Clan.

Prince Mark Decker of Milwaukee and Inyanga, elder and sometimes-Primogen of Chicago, operate a sort of underground shuttle service between the two cities. Survival, while not guaranteed, is generally agreed to increase exponentially.

I do know Carna's little coven was visited by Warlocks from across the Midwest, including Chicago. A trip to the Second City might afford me the opportunities to look into some loose ends regarding both the Book of the Grave-War and the Eye of Hazimel.

Chicago stands as a bastion of the Camarilla, but it shows the stress cracks of years of conflict. Conflict with the Anarchs. Conflict between its puissant elders. Even an open war with the Lupines many years ago, which brought Final Death to half the city’s Kindred. It has regrown, in the years since, on its strong, twisted trunk. The gravity of the U.S.'s crossroads city has a way of pulling me in from time to time.

[margin notes in Okulos's handwriting]

As a rule, I'm weary of places that pull me in. Better to go to locations I loathe or that give me an active feeling of foreboding. That is a response I can trust.

[Okulos margin notes end]

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[Below text in italics reads as an extract of the Dr. Mortius translated Book of the Grave-War, with the non-italicised text in Beckett's handwriting]

When love and hate turn strange

And magpies filch the hours

And Judas limbs betray

Know you are a figment

A shadow-sleeper's dream

Remember, remember

Dreams die when sleepers wake

Remember, remember

for Kindred's sake

An excerpt from my fragments of the Book of the Grave-War (translated by Dr. Mortius). Another reference to the shadow-sleepers. Frightful reading when you misplace your pen, only to find it in the pocket you checked a moment ago.

[ART NOTES: A MAP SHOWING THE AREA BETWEEN MILWAUKEE AND CHICAGO. IT'S A TWILIGHT-ZONE, NO-MAN'S-LAND FOR THE KINDRED, PERHAPS WITH ENIGMATIC WARNINGS SCRIBBLED IN DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. VOLO BOG (A BOG ROUGHLY 50 MILES NORTHWEST OF CHICAGO) CAN BE MARKED AS AN "OASIS."]

[below text follows in Beckett's DIARY script]

Truck Stop, Somewhere Between Milwaukee and Chicago, United States

Chicago proper was established in 1833, near Fort Dearborn. Maxwell, of Clan Brujah, became the city’s first Prince a few years later. Then came the Great Chicago Fire, Devil’s Night, in 1871. Many Kindred perished, a disproportionate amount of them being Maxwell’s supporters. Lodin, of Clan Ventrue, took the opportunity to seize praxis. He was known for his particularly violent clashes with the Anarchs. It was all going so well until he was torn apart, literally, in the war with the Lupines. In the years since, the city’s powerful Primogen rule by committee. Though from what I gather, that’s how they operated even when there was a Prince.

I mentally surveyed the city’s history, as my chariot arrived in the form of an ancient police cruiser, relic of a bygone auction, no doubt, kept alive through mismatched, graverobbed parts. Out of the vehicle stepped Malcolm, a Clanmate. I understand he was a narcotics officer, of the kind who go deep undercover and do things that leave track marks on the soul. By the state of his pupils, and the tilt of his head, I deduced he recently supped on someone under the influence of several mind-altering substances. My driver.

At first, our journey brought us south along I-94. Malcolm made odd detours through burnt-out neighborhoods, and consulted vagrants, before weaving back to the freeway. All-night roadside shops blurred by, selling various combinations of cheese, sausage, and pornography.

[ART NOTES: SIGnS FOR 24-HOUR ADULT SHOPS.]

Somewhere before the Illinois border, we tore away from the freeway. Malcolm called these twisted roads the "goblin roads." Through wetlands, forests, small towns, and cornfields. Our route became erratic. We doubled back in places. Malcolm performed odd rituals, like getting out of the car to offer blood and prayers to a roadside memorial, a lonely cross wrapped in barbed wire, dead Christmas lights, and withered flowers. He consulted neither map nor electronic device.

[ART NOTES: A SPOOKY-LOOKING ROADSIDE MEMORIAL, AS DESCRIBED ABOVE.]

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

[Sounds of an engine and the road]

Beckett: Would it be terribly rude of me to enquire about what you are on? Purely toxicological curiosity, I assure you.

Malcolm: Who?

Beckett: Pardon?

Malcolm: The question is: who am I on? Special blend. That worry you?

Beckett: Not nearly as much as it ought to. I see the interplay of chemicals and the Beast boiling in you. Yet you're steering it all with iron nerves. Remarkable self-control for someone under the influence.

Malcolm: Now you're sweet talking me. Back at you. Spooked out of your gourd and still keeping polite.

Beckett: What makes you think I'm…spooked?

Malcolm: Your fangs are showing.

Beckett: How embarrassing.

Malcolm: No shame. The goblin roads have that effect. Can practically hear Rod Serling monologue and grin, monologue and grin.

[MARGIN NOTES IN AISLING'S HANDWRITING]

We have numerous reports of unidentified preternatural activity going on in that area. The occasional Tremere neonate braves the field to study this phenomenon. It never ends well.

[AISLING MARGIN NOTES END]

Beckett: What brought you to such a hazardous enterprise?

Malcolm: Needed something to do. A focus. Fresh air. [chuckles] Back when I first got my fangs, I was a real avenging angel. Renegade vampire cop bringing Chicago's drug syndicate to its knees. Ha! Was there ever anything so completely fucking 90s? Guess I was trying to live like my life never ended.

Beckett: What happened?

Malcolm: We all grow up. Realized the War on Drugs was bullshit. Who the fuck was I avenging? I was no killer of killers. I was a user of users. Still am. But now I drive.

Beckett: You're scared.

Malcolm: Terrified.

Beckett: But excited.

Malcolm: Yeah.

Beckett: I like to get into frightfully out of the way places too. Still, this is a hazardous environment, even for our pedigree.

Malcolm: A room is just a place where you hide from wolves. That's all any room is.

Beckett: Hmm?

Malcolm: Don't know. Read that somewhere. Out here it's just another flavor of fear. I've seen city horrors. Even as a breather. As a narc. Saw what happens when someone hides a stash of junk inside their living infant son, and the bag breaks. Then I died. I saw worse. Chicago dread clings to you. Seeps into the pores and marrow. Wraps around your head like cellophane. Everything's a fog. And the only time I noticed, really noticed, was when I was twisted on some user's juice. Freed my thoughts.

Beckett: Freed?

Malcolm: I get to asking myself, why do I suddenly hate that Lick? Had nothing to do with her a month ago. Why'd I suddenly stop hunting on that particular street? Why do I never look directly at that particular house? Then everything’s melted wax. Then I notice, despite overcomplicated Casablanca plots choking the city, all the blood in the gutters is flowing in one, maybe two directions. Then the alley pavement turns to tongue meet, tasting my soles, and the sky is all eyes looking gigantically down.

Beckett: I see.

Malcolm: No. You don't. But it's polite of you to say so. Out here, on the goblin roads, my head's clear. Just the wolves and the weird and me. Sudden death in the briar patch, and I keep running. The Lupines can pull out all of your guts, but that's all they can take from you.

Beckett: I think— Wait. What was that?

[Sound of car braking]

Malcolm: Fallen tree.

Beckett: Can you get around?

Malcolm: Shhh.

[Sounds of wind and frogs]

Beckett: Quiet, Cesare!

[Unidentified sounds]

Beckett: What is that? Whispering? Is that the bloody corn?

Malcolm: No.

Beckett: Drive.

Malcolm: Yeah.

Beckett: Drive!

[Sounds of scraping gravel, screeching tires, roaring engine]

[Recording ends]

[END ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

[below text follows in Beckett's DIARY script]

On the Road, Illinois, United States

The road only gets weirder.

Malcolm drives. I jot down these notes as best I can. I compulsively look back, certain some Grimm boogeyman or black dog is in pursuit. Insane, really. I myself have played both the black dog and the boogeyman. This fear is...fascinating.

In this peculiar wilderness, there is an oasis for the dead.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[ART NOTE: PAMPHLET FOR VOLO BOG. IT IS AN ACTUAL NATURE PRESERVE.]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

Volo Bog, Illinois, United States

Malcolm dropped me off at the bog, before driving away with Cesare to refuel. Standing under the lone street light illuminating the nature preserve's tiny parking lot, I raised my head and sent out a call.

The light flickered under the impressive response of leathery wings. I spoke to the little ones, and they fluttered into the dark, to the bog's center. They returned a minute later. I shouldered my bag and proceeded.

The floating boardwalk swayed side to side with my weight. The motion, combined with the sloshing of water and the sound of boot to wood, reminded me of walking on the decks of old ships. The trail cut through the concentric rings of the bog's vegetative zones. Sphagnum moss formed a layer over the water, supporting plants and even trees. One could walk on that quaking surface, but one would never know when it might swallow one up.

At the center, the open water of the bog's mouth reflected the sky. In that obsidian mirror, I counted two sets of glowing eyes other than my own. Xaviar stared into the water, arms crossed. He glanced up at me with that pinched bat face.

Inyanga perched on the boardwalk railing, as perfectly balanced as a resplendent bird.

A sandhill crane called out, a positively Mesozoic sound. Fitting, I suppose, to announce the meeting of three old things. Vitae, like bog water, preserves the corpse indefinitely.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]]

[ART NOTE: POV PICTURE OF WALKING ON THE BOG'S BOARDWALK. CAN GOOGLE "VOLO BOG" FOR SAMPLE IMAGES OF THIS.]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

[Sounds of sloshing water]

Beckett: Former Justicar, I'm honored to receive an audience in your more…reclusive years.

Xaviar: [grunt]

Beckett: Mother Inyanga, always a pleasure.

Inyanga: Likewise, Beckett. I am pleased you made the journey from Milwaukee in safety.

Beckett: Thanks to you. Though I have to ask, are you aware that your driver is a high-functioning junkie?

Inyanga: I am. In fact, it was I who steered him to a particular mixture of plant extracts, to make his mental journey more… productive.

Xaviar:  What do you want, Beckett?

Beckett: I was in the neighborhood, as it were, and thought I might skip through an ocean of Lupines and Midwestern weirdness for a chitchat and —

Xaviar:  God's teeth, you prattle on like a hyena infatuated with its own cackling.

Beckett: Not an entirely inaccurate —

Xaviar:  What do you want? I don't like this place.

Beckett: I thought it was an oasis.

Xaviar:  Yes, the Lupines won't approach within miles of this spot. But why? What do they know? Thousands and thousands of years ago, a glacier buried something in the earth. Something very old traveled in a coffin of ice, something that suffocated all the fish and turned the plants into predators, and every time I come here I feel a wriggling in my guts. So bury your banter and get to it.

Beckett: I should like to talk to you about the Eye of Hazimel.

Xaviar:  I've already told my story.

Beckett: I prefer firsthand data when I can get it.

Xaviar:  I and a band of my clansmen were decimated by an Antediluvian’s horror and —

[Pause]

Xaviar:  I will rip that grin out of your face. You weren't there, tomb thief.

Beckett: My business is to piece together events I was not present for. All the evidence suggests a young Toreador sculptor named Leopold stumbled upon a very nasty artifact.

Xaviar:  The earth vomited fire and chewed our corpses.

Beckett: I appreciate your position. Were I Justicar, I'd have told everyone I fought three Antediluvians if a Toreador neonate had thrashed me.

[Sounds of growls and sloshing water]

Inyanga: Xaviar!

[Growling and sloshing sounds cease]

Beckett: [choked] Easy…Xaviar. Don't want to rock the boardwalk.

Xaviar:  [grunt]

Inyanga: It is in the smiling scholar's nature to be sardonic. As the crow must mock, and the skull must grin.

Xaviar: …yes.

Inyanga: And you should be clever enough to temper your smile when perching in a crocodile's mouth.

Beckett: Xaviar, I do not doubt that you and yours faced something truly powerful. But that does not an Antediluvian make. There are other terrors in the world. You've seen enough of it to know that.

Xaviar:  Perhaps.

Beckett: Look about. Years later and the world still spins. We have not been devoured. Gehenna never occurred.

Inyanga: You all speak of Gehenna so singularly.

Beckett: Beg pardon?

Inyanga: Everything has its seasons and cycles. Death and birth. The world is always ending. There is always another Gehenna coming. The question is which ones can be endured, escaped, or reshaped.

Beckett: Shall we call that the Poly-Gehenna theory, then? Yes, I recall having heard something to that effect in the mythologies of the Laibon.

Xaviar and Inyanga: [simultaneously] Yes.

Beckett: Interesting.

Inyanga: What?

Beckett: We'll get back to that. Right now, I should be honored to have Xaviar's personal account of the Eye.

Xaviar: But you already have all the information.

Beckett: I came to the realization, long ago, that I would never have all the information…and I never got over it. I don't have the account in your words. Every tiny detail gives better context to the whole.

Xaviar: Very well. For the boon I owe Inyanga, I will tell you everything I can. But first, you will turn that off.

[Recording ends]

[END ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, United States

I catalogued more of the terrible nuance of Hazimel's gory orb. Xaviar also gave me the name of the only other survivor of that encounter, a Gangrel neonate by the name of Ramona. Inyanga joined Malcolm, Cesare, and I, and we made the remainder of the journey to Chicago without incident.

Cesare has taken lodgings in a hotel. Inyanga brought me to Graceland Cemetery. I will sleep the day away in the grave soil of Kate Warne (1833-1868), the first female private detective in the United States. I like to keep good company.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[ART NOTE: IMAGE OF GRACELAND CEMETERY.]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Inyanga: Always prying. Always testing.

Beckett: Yes.

Inyanga: Even now.

Beckett: You're not actually a Gangrel, are you, Mother Inyanga?

Inyanga: And how is it you think you know this?

Beckett: I did not. Just a theory I'm testing. I know that in his younger days, Xaviar traveled Africa extensively.

Inyanga: Yes.

Beckett: He made acquaintances among the indigenous vampires. It is said he even learned some of their supernatural tricks.

Inyanga: I have heard the same.

Beckett: He must have had at least one mentor. You yourself have displayed strange abilities that you attribute to the mysticism of your mortal days. Also, with a single word, you calmed a creature as tempestuous as Xaviar. It’s more than the simple fear we might have for an elder; he respects you absolutely. I can tell the difference, because he fears the Eye of Hazimel absolutely. I think you and he have known each other a very long time.

Inyanga: Perhaps.

Beckett: When I said, "Laibon," his eyes darted straight to you.

Inyanga: [chuckles] Clever child.

[Recording ends]

[END ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

[MARGIN NOTES IN AISLING'S HANDWRITING]

I find it surprising that so many Laibon have lived, unknown, in a Camarilla domain for so long. Even more surprising that one should ascend to such prominence as a cuckoo within a surrogate Clan.

[AISLING MARGIN NOTES END]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

University of Chicago, Chicago, United States

Inyanga pointed me to one of the more affable of Chicago's elder monsters, Critias. He was teaching a class, and I was permitted to sit in as a visitor. I sit now, at a desk, penning this entry.

The lecture hall is mostly empty, save six Brujah and myself. Critias sits, mostly silent, behind a great desk, occasionally commenting or writing notes. His protégés, Dre and Damien, stand in as teachers tonight. Three neonates sit as students. There was a lesson in Ancient Greek, followed by history (both Kindred and kine). The class grew more active with lessons in debate. Critias joined in these. The man has a dizzying intellect for rhetoric.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Brujah students: [in unison] Enkrateia. Reie. Sophrosyne.

Critias: Entelechy. I think we will adjourn here for the evening. Dre will give you your assignments. I will see you all next week.

Beckett: Thank you for letting me observe.

Critias: Thank you for honoring my request not to record it.

Beckett: I know better than to try pull a trick against a mind like yours.

Critias: Flattery, Beckett, will get you everywhere. Please sit.

Beckett: I hear you've become quite active in teaching the youth these nights. Tempering the iconoclast kids with philosopher ideals? Bearing the torch for Carthage?

Critias: No, I used to bear a torch for Carthage. We all did. We raged and we mourned for something old, cracked, and dead. We buried it in the mausoleum of our heads and hearts. What stung us the most was the knowledge that it was broken. But revolutions turn in a full circle. Old becomes new. What?

Beckett: You are just the second elder to say as much in the same number of nights.

Critias: It is true. Old ideas can rejuvenate. Carthage, the ideal, is old and new again. It is something we no longer passively mourn, but actively live. There are new, vital minds being born in this new age. Old ideas run through young minds. That is true immortality. Carthage is the invisible structure that bridges our old minds to their dynamic youth.

[MARGIN NOTES IN OKULOS’S HANDWRITING]

I have heard of a sudden and synchronized resurgence of ancient Brujah teaching the Clan's youth, across the globe. Some say they aim for a full-fledged Path of Enlightenment, silencing the Beast with disciplined intellect.

[OKULOS MARGIN NOTES END]

Beckett: Idealism is not always my strong point, but I can respect erudition. But why the renewed pedagogy, Critias? Why now?

Critias: …do you not tire of the fighting? Do you not wish to build?

Beckett: Pardon?

Critias: …I apologize. My mind wandered. Yes.

Beckett: So is council rule by the Primogen part of your enlightened experiment?

Critias: More of a serendipitous opportunity, I would say.

Beckett: I would have thought some brazen Kindred would have risen to claim praxis of such a prized city. I heard Capone made a real run for it a few years back.

Critias: That brute?

Beckett: He has a famous name, among living and dead. He has a famous Ventrue pedigree.

Critias: [sighs] Lodin’s swollen brood is still unnaturally large. It’s his contentious legacy. But no, no I do not think Chicago needs a Prince. Definitely. Not.

Beckett: Didn’t mean to strike a chord.

Critias: You know… In an enlightened age, a mind like yours would be most welcome, Beckett.

Beckett: Flattery, as a wise man once said, will get you anywhere.

Critias: You must teach a class here.

Beckett: Perhaps that could be arranged. I do have a favor to ask, though.

Critias: Yes?

Beckett: I need to consult the city's Tremere. I'd like to speak to Primogen Nicolai.

[Recording ends]

[END ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

The Plutonian Shore Gallery, Chicago, United States

I entered the art gallery perhaps a touch underdressed, but my name earned me entrance, and a man with no neck led me through the gallery, to a private section in back. This room contained only a single painting, and a little boy in a dark suit. He stared at the painting with rather chilling eyes. A cursory glance of his aura showed the vibrant, innocent colors of a living child. However, I knew that the dead thing filling that suit was far from innocent. A Warlock trick? He held a moldering teddy bear in one hand.

[MARGIN NOTES IN AISLING'S HANDWRITING]

The Inner Council has made a habit of infantilizing Nicolai Antonescu. I do not. Allow a mind like that to enter the playground of centuries, with blood magic as its toy, and see what happens.

[AISLING MARGIN NOTES END]

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[Art Note: Creepy boy in a dark suit gazing into a strange painting.]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: Primogen Nicolai Antonescu, I presume.

Nicolai: Mr. Beckett.

Beckett: Nice teddy.

Nicolai: Is it? A ritual component.

Beckett: DuSable said I might find you here and have an audience.

Nicolai: Yes. Will five minutes suffice?

Beckett: It will have to. I wanted to speak to you about Carna and Milwaukee. You see, I—

[Sound of stomping steps and a slamming door]

Man's voice: No. No! You've got to be shitting me. A fucking kid?

Nicolai: You do not belong here.

Man's voice: You snatched the last of the Yaanek Cycle paintings out from under me. I have all the others.

Nicolai: The rules of the auction did not dictate that they had to be sold as a set.

Man's voice: I'm not going home with an incomplete set because some spoiled brat with inheritance took a shine to the pretty picture. Do you know who I am?

Nicolai: Please do me the kindness of forgetting how to breathe.

[Choking sounds]

Beckett: Is he…? Did you just…?

Nicolai: No. The body's involuntary functions are not so easily controlled. When he loses consciousness, he will begin breathing again. But my control is strong. He will likely wake up and forget again, and again, and again.

[Continued choking]

Beckett: Um. Should we move…

Nicolai: He is fine right there. Continue.

Beckett: Yes, well…I want to talk about the Tremere of Milwaukee. Talk about Carna. The Book of the Grave-War. Dr. Mortius.

Nicolai: Do you know where he is? The doctor.

Beckett: I'm afraid I don't.

Nicolai: Pity.

[Continued choking]

Beckett: Quite. But I'm to understand that Carna acquired an original copy of the book in question. I also understand that, before she fled Milwaukee, she occasionally invited various Midwestern Tremere to meet in her chantry. Would you—

[Sound of a body collapsing]

[Choking sounds cease]

Beckett: … would you know anything about that? Did you attend? Have you seen the book? And I… I'm sorry. Is there something watching us from the skylight?

Nicolai: [whisper] Yes. Ublo-Satha. [much louder] Carna is now an Anarch and a traitor. I never entered Milwaukee, and I never attended those meetings. I'm afraid I can't help you, Mr. Beckett. You should leave now.

[MARGIN NOTES IN AISLING'S HANDWRITING]

Milwaukee has always been off limits to most of my Clan. Only Tremere specifically sent to that city are authorized to go.

[AISLING MARGIN NOTES END]

Beckett: If I could just ask —

Nicolai: Of course, my more impertinent childe, Erichtho, is little better than an Anarch herself. It would not surprise me if she had attended several of these sessions just to spite my wishes.

Beckett: Are you saying…?

Man's voice: [gasp] What… wha — [sounds of choking]

Beckett: Thank you, Primogen Antonescu. For your time.

[Continued choking]

[Recording ends]

[END ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois, United States

There exists a wickedness of such purity, one only ever finds it in serial killers and children. I have seen youths torture frogs with the same look on their faces as I saw on Nicolai's when he stared at the man who forgot how to breathe. It was disturbingly human.

More peculiar was the way Nicolai looked up at the winged horror at the skylight. Was that fear? I thought the Gargoyles were the timorous slaves of the Warlocks, not the other way around.

[MARGIN NOTES IN AISLING'S HANDWRITING]

Ublo-Satha is one of the oldest Gargoyles still in our service. Cunning and dangerous. She has served as the personal bodyguard and agent of at least one Inner Council member. She actually volunteered to be sent to keep an eye on Nicolai's activity.

[AISLING MARGIN NOTES END]

The rest of the night, I found myself looking fearfully up.

I dined at a city park.

Returning to the cemetery, I toured the gravestones to clear my head. I was staring at Allan Pinkerton's tomb when I became rather lost in thought. Then I felt that dreadful sensation, like losing one's keys. I found something in my pocket that had not been there a moment ago, a little wooden box. Inside the box, a scarab amulet of brass. I looked about the graveyard, with all the senses at my command, but found no one.

"Ublo-Satha?" I whispered.

The statue of a broken-winged angel failed to reply.

 [Art notes: gargoyle vampire poised upon a gravestone]

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, United States

Nicolai has a rebellious childe. Nicolai is curious about what Carna is up to, but is under the burden of too much stone monster oversight to risk a trip to Milwaukee. Nicolai orders childe to go there? More likely, he would not have to, simply bait her, tell her not to go.

[MARGIN NOTES IN AISLING'S HANDWRITING]

Erichtho has numerous contacts with mortal magi in America, and does well by Nicolai's protection. In fifty years, Ms. Graves might tire of rebellion and run her own chantry.

[AISLING MARGIN NOTES END]

Contacting Erichtho proved easy enough, and she was surprisingly eager to meet, though she made sure it was in a public place. A British-style pub (how quaint) across the street from where John Dillinger was killed.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: Do I smell defensive rituals on you, or are you just happy to see me?

Erichtho: I am certain, Beckett, that your powers of banter are the stuff of legend, but for tonight, let us keep things simple and swift.

Beckett: Very well. You know what I'm after?

Erichtho: Yes. I have been to Milwaukee. I attended Carna's gatherings. I saw her book. And there are many things I could tell you, but…

Beckett: But you would like a favor first.

Erichtho: Yes.

Beckett: How may I be of service?

Erichtho: There is a woman.

Beckett: A woman?

Erichtho: A young Toreador. She goes by the name of Portia. She… She has her hooks in Nicolai. He's completely enamored. Completely blind.

Beckett: And what do you want done?

Erichtho: I want to know what she's up to. I want her gone. I… What?

Beckett: [burst of laughter] I… I’m sorry. Apologies. [more laughter] I just… You're jealous.

Erichtho: I am no such thing! He is a 700 year old magus, not some foolish whelp. She lurks in the Chantry at all hours. She has access to parts of it no one outside the clan has, places I’m not permitted to go. DuSable doesn't seem to even notice her. And Ublo-Satha just keeps her distance and watches. It is not natural or right a neonate should have that sort of sway over an elder. Something is terribly wrong. She is just too…much.

Beckett: The Toreador have a knack for seeming to be more than they are. But point taken. Perhaps I can look into it... What do you think of this?

Erichtho: It's an amulet of brass. A beetle, perhaps a scarab. There is a mystical energy to it.

Beckett: My assessment as well. And the nature of the enchantment?

Erichtho: I would need more time and study to be sure, but at a guess, based on the feel and these markings…a protective charm. Protection from a malevolent influence or attention, perhaps.

Beckett: Thank you.

Erichtho: You will investigate Portia then? She must be stopped.

Beckett: My god. You truly are jealous. And I heard that your relationship with your sire was antagonistic. Did… Oh. Did Nicolai blood bo —

Erichtho: I said to keep it simple and swift, Beckett. Do as I have asked, and I will tell you everything you want to know. But if the words "blood bond" touch any other Kindred ear in Chicago, I will summon something to come for you, something with a name not even you could pronounce.

[Pause]

Beckett: That…was the seventh most peculiar threat anyone has ever made against me. And effective.

[Recording ends]

[END ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

Outside the Succubus Club, Chicago, United States

I find myself detestably entangled in a love triangle between a child-elder, an Anarch Warlock, and a young Toreador punching above her weight. It is, however, the most direct way to my goal. I know just where to find this Portia. I am about to enter the Succubus Club.

[MARGIN NOTES IN ANATOLE'S HANDWRITING]

Wait. How did you just "know" where to look? Beckett, you do know about the current state of the original Succubus Club?

[ANATOLE MARGIN NOTES END]

I put on the scarab amulet tonight. A hunch. A gut feeling. A muffled and distant scream in the back of the mind.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[ART NOTES: INTERIOR OF THE SUCCUBUS CLUB. ONLY IT IS NOW CLOSED DOWN, DESOLATE, BOARDED UP. ]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

[Silence]

Beckett: Portia, I presume.

Portia: How did you find me?

Beckett: Never mind that. I want to talk to you about a powerful undead magus.

Portia: Little Nicolai. What do you think of the Succubus tonight?

Beckett: I don't follow.

Portia: Describe it to me.

[Silence]

Beckett: A large, opulent night club. Industrial…that's the correct term, yes? Crowds of writhing people and…

[Silence]

Beckett: … and loud music…

[Silence]

Beckett: No… It's empty? Desolate. Boarded up.

Portia: Only us and the dust and rodent kind. Now tell me, how did you find me?

Beckett: I…I investigated… That is, I…no. I tracked —

Portia: You came because I called.

Beckett: You!

Portia: Shhh. You are disturbing the sepulcher. You do not want to cause me trouble, do you?

Beckett: No.

Portia: Take off your hat and glasses. You won’t need them anymore.

Beckett: Yes.

Portia: What beautiful eyes. Now, take off those gloves. You won’t need them anymore.

Beckett: Yes.

Portia: What beautiful nails you have. Hard as steel and so, so sharp. They would rend flesh and bone. I just want to…bite them off. Mmm…

[Crunch]

Portia: One.

[Crunch]

Portia: Two

[Crunch]

Portia: Three. Soon, you won't have any nails at all.

Beckett: [gasp] …yes.

Portia: What a pretty, pretty bauble you wear. Its eyes are glowing… Now, come downstairs with me. I'm going soon. East. But there are a few things left to attend to here.

Beckett: Yes.

[Sounds of feet walking down stairs]

Portia: Turn that off, child. You won’t need it anymore.

[Recording ends]

[END ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

[ART NOTES: THE HANDWRITING SHOULD BE ERRATIC AND PAGES BLOOD STAINED.]

An Alley, Chicago, United States

Covered in blood. I ran. How far? On two feet or four? Who did I kill under the Red Fear?

The amulet did it. The scarab. Little teeth buried in my neck. Acid pain burning through my body. I came to and tore it from my throat. Regained my mind. Little ruby eyes glowed red with heat a few minutes more. Protection from malevolent influence, that's what Erichtho said. The bloody talisman called to the only thing nasty enough to resist that kind of influence — the evil brother that lives in our breasts, chainsaw in hand, waiting to horribly protect us. The Beast.

Miraculously, my bag is still with me.

I'm flying out of here.

[ART NOTES: PICTURE OF BECKETt'S HAND. THREE OF HIS FORMIDABLE CLAWS BITTEN CLEAN OFF.]

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[BELOW IS A TEXT MESSAGE BETWEEN BECKETT AND CESARE]

Cesare (555-919-1079)

__________________________________

B: Ready the plane. Leaving. Immediately. 12:14

[END TEXT MESSAGE]

[BELOW IS A TEXT MESSAGE BETWEEN BECKETT AND ERICHTHO]

Erichtho (555-224-9900)

___________________________________

B: Regretfully, I must cancel our bargain. If I might offer some advice that won't be followed: leave Chicago. Leave now. 12:18

[END TEXT MESSAGE]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

Above Midway Airport, Chicago, United States

In the air now. That doesn't mean we're safe. I'm paranoid that a sudden urge to leave the plane will take me. That my Judas fist will bash the window open, sending me tumbling back to Chicago. Out that window, the city skyline looks like a row of tombstones for dead, titan gods, or maybe a jagged overbite gnawing on the sky.

Malcolm’s disjointed words make more sense. I know why he runs those wild roads, risking Final Death to keep his mind. I think of how fearfully the reigning Tremere Regent looked at his Gargoyle servant. I think of Critias and how his voice changed when he said, "Do you not tire of the fighting?" How it sounded like someone else's words on his tongue.

What frightens me most is not brushing up against the power of the ancients, but that my intellect failed me. I knew of the two Methuselahs quietly warring in Chicago. On a previous trip, I even stood in the presence of one. They never entered my thoughts on this visit. I charged blindly in, unable to pick up the obvious clues screaming at me. My brain failed to warn me when I walked into that den.

The agony of the amulet and the savagery of the frenzy cleared my mind. I remember everything now.

[MARGIN NOTES IN CESARE'S HANDWRITING]

Mr. Beckett said to write this down (well, he motioned me). Every time he tries to write down what happened in the Club, it all comes out as scribbles and nonsense. Tore the pages with his pen. He tried to record it out loud, but just babbled gibberish and sweated blood. He smashed his computer and gave me a black eye, then apologized.

[CESARE MARGIN NOTES END]

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

The Second City

Chicago is the quintessential Kindred metropolis, forefront in the campaign to retake the American South, and yet it has been without a Prince since the death of Lodin. Many contenders rose to claim the throne, but none gained traction in the decades since. Those in the know realize the reason is because Chicago hosts a particularly powerful group of elders amongst its Primogen. This Primogen council has always ruled the city. After Lodin's demise, they saw no reason to raise a puppet.

Chicago is a city of terrible possibilities. One can find just about everything here, in the multilayered, crosshatched conflicts playing out at any given time. The city contains one of the highest populations of undead in the New World, and a sizable group of potent elders. The Anarchs subvert from the outskirts, Sabbat packs seethe in the shadows, and Lupines stalk the streets. At the center of all these webs, two Methuselahs plot against each other. They do not control every drama of the city, but their actions send ripples that everyone eventually feels. In recent decades, Helena held the upper hand, having awoken from torpor and acclimated herself to the new age. Though his body is still, Menele's mind is not idle. He finally begins to stir.

The following are chronicle threads offer opportunities and snares for enterprising coteries.

• Inyanga, the Gangrel Primogen of Chicago, is actually a Laibon. The Laibon, in fact, have long colonized the rest of the world, often under the guise of Kindred or Cainites. Inyanga has aided in this diaspora. In this, she receives aid from Lucian, the Gangrel elder of Gary, Indiana. Lucian controls the shipyards and docks. He owns the Gary Export Company and, through this, he controls the passage of many vampires traveling to and from Chicago via the Atlantic. He's just opened the boxes containing a brand new coterie of Laibon, fresh to the New World, and ready to meet Inyanga.

• Khalid, the Nosferatu Primogen of Chicago, is one of the few Kindred independent of the games of Helena and Menele. He became aware that two Methuselahs control the city some time ago. Through his tremendous powers of Obfuscate, Khalid has kept his independence. It was years before Helena and Menele became aware of him and, by that time, each assumed the other controlled the Nosferatu. Recently, things came too close. In a fit of paranoia, Khalid vanished. He doesn't attend Primogen meetings. He's faded from view, and in some cases memory. He tries to subtly direct and guide vampires still independent of the Methuselahs. These wild cards usually include neonates, including a particular coterie creeping beneath the notice of the ancients.

• Since leaving the Camarilla, former Justicar Xaviar preaches word of the rising Antediluvians to any who listen. These days, he lies low in the Midwest, convincing Gangrel to abandon their meaningless Sects. In the northwest suburbs of Chicago, he's assembled a coterie of Gangrel from all banners. These disparate Outlanders must work together to battle the ancients and stem the coming season of Gehenna. Their first mission: deal with whatever is sleeping beneath the dark waters of Volo Bog.

The Goblin Roads

The space between Milwaukee and Chicago is treacherous for Kindred. Angry Lupines infest the wetlands and small towns. Stranger things crawl from the nooks and crannies, less definable supernatural beings and phenomena — the weird. There's a group of Gangrel who take on the dangerous task of shuttling Kindred between the cities. They are led by Mark Decker and Inyanga. They are called the Psychopomps.

• The goblin roads take their toll on the Psychopomps, and their numbers dwindled. Decker and Inyanga command the Gangrel Malcolm to recruit and train a new coterie. He must teach the routes, the secrets of Kindred travel, and the more esoteric tidbits to help a roadtripping vampire survive the weird.

• Nicolai is sending Tremere neonates (and their coterie) into the field to study the odd supernatural phenomena occurring between Milwaukee and Chicago. The coterie must contact a Psychopomp and convince her to be their guide. Just what is "the weird"? This is an opportunity to introduce Kindred characters to packs of werewolves, covens of mages, changelings, wraiths, or any number of otherworldly beings.

Trouble in the Chantry

A microcosm of the Chicago Jyhad plays out within the chantry walls. Helena thoroughly controls Nicolai. She doesn't realize Menele has his own pawn within Chicago's Tremere. Long ago, before Ublo-Satha became a Gargoyle, she was a vampire. She met an ancient Brujah who conditioned her mind so powerfully the dormant commands survived her transformation.

• The Tremere neonates of Chicago discover a horrible thing. Both their Regent and Gargoyle protector are under the sway of powerful, warring forces. What can they do? Do they side with Nicolai or Ublo-Satha? Do they keep quiet and hope for the best? If they go over Nicolai's head and contact the Inner Council, will they even be taken seriously? They must tread carefully.

• Erichtho is desperate. She knows something is terribly wrong with Portia, a supposed Toreador neonate. Portia has improbable influence over the smitten Nicolai, even sleeping at the chantry. Erichtho needs a coterie to investigate Portia and put a stop to her.

Brujah School

Menele is tired of the fighting. He is concerned about why he fights Helena, what influences them to carry on this eternal war. The ancient Brujah desires to give it all up and go back to his original pursuits of constructing an enlightened society, both of Kindred and kine. At his subtle urging, Brujah the world over have begun teaching the Path of Entelechy (an ancient Path of Enlightenment). Menele will wake soon, and everything must be ready.

• Critias, still unaware of the presence of his sire, believes the recent reinvigoration of his pedagogical drive came from his own thoughts. If Chicago is the new Carthage, he will include enlightened minds from all Clans. Critias will conduct an experiment, taking a hand-selected class of Kindred, of various Clans, and begin training them in the Path of Entelechy. Chicago's Ventrue take exception to this experiment, of course, and assemble a coterie to bring it to an end.