London Calling

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

The Calleva Arms, Silchester, British Isles

I made contact with Fatima, but apparently, she’s in London on “business” and cannot meet with me until she’s done, which I assume means after the bodies hit the floor. Oh well, it’s been a long time since I visited any of my old London haunts. Perhaps a visit to Boodle’s is in order. One thing I've missed about Old Blighty is the unique charm of the English gentlemen’s club. I wonder if Artie Basingstoke is in Boodle's tonight. He’s always good for a bit of gossip.            

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Basingstoke: I’ve told you, Beckett, don’t call me “Artie.”

Beckett: What do you have against me, Artie?

Basingstoke: You’re a Gangrel and a reprobate. But I repeat myself. Now if you’re quite done annoying me, my guest and I were having an engaging discussion about the impact of the now-defunct Lhiannan bloodline on the Christianization of Ireland.

Beckett: Yes, that does sound quite fascinating. I apologize for interrupting without introducing myself, Mr. —?

Other vampire: ... Gotsdam.

Beckett: Oh... I was under the impression you resided in Germany, Mr. Gotsdam.

Gotsdam: I have resided in London for some time now, Herr Beckett. Obviously, Aristotle's fucking encyclopedia needs updating.

Basingstoke: Don’t encourage him, Gotsdam. It’s more trouble than he’s worth.

Gotsdam: No, no, mein Freund, I remember this one now. Bindusara mentioned him.

Beckett: Did he really?

Gotsdam: Oh yes, Herr Beckett. Answer the man’s questions, Arthur. Herr Beckett has the claw marks of the ancients all over him. It will be interesting to see what attention falls on him once he learns a secret or two he cannot resist sharing.

Basingstoke: Oh, very well. What do you want to know, Beckett? Bearing in mind, of course, that I shan’t tell you anything truly interesting unless I gain information of equal value in exchange.

Beckett: Start with the basics. I’ve been away from London for decades. What’s the current political climate among the Kindred of London? I assume Anne Bowesley is still Prince?

Basingstoke: Hmph! In a blow against the patriarchy, Bowesley insists on being called “Lady Anne” or simply “the Queen of London.” As I recall, she used such titles informally until she officially claimed praxis over London in her own right instead of merely as Mithras’ regent and announced that henceforth she would be referred to as Her Highness, the Vampire Queen of London.

Beckett: What led her to make the change?

Basingstoke: Because she’s simultaneously arrogant and insecure? Oh, you meant “why did she openly assume praxis?” Well, officially, she got tired of waiting for Mithras to show himself, but that seems unlikely. He’d previously gone walkabout for nearly a century before returning to violently reclaim praxis from his truculent seneschal — Lady Anne’s sire, by the way — so 50 years doesn’t seem like very long at all. There are, of course, rumors he actually did return from torpor but turned London over to Anne in favor of ascending to the Camarilla Inner Circle, the Ventrue Directorate, or even the Inconnu, depending on who you ask.

Beckett: I’d always heard Lady Anne was adept at keeping both Anarchs and Sabbat out of London.                            

Basingstoke: In the earlier years of her reign, yes, but her regime is ill-prepared for 21st-century Anarchs who use computer and phone hacking to destroy the reputations of her ghouls, to say nothing of Sabbat infiltrators who fit in easily among the Camarilla types they seek to destroy. The Sabbat who infest London tonight are primarily antitribu, and they are well-schooled in acting like normal members of their respective Clans in public, instead of the psychotics we’ve all come to expect from antitribu.

[Recording ends]  

[END TRANSCRIPT]

[BEGIN NEWSPAPER ARTICLE]

CELLPHONE HACKING SCANDAL SNARES BANKING EXECUTIVES AND FINANCE MINISTERS IN PROSTITUTION/DRUGS SCANDAL

by Lawrence Sullivan, for The Flag

The ongoing Scotland Yard investigation into the illegal hacking of phones by News of the World has expanded to include an inquiry into whether several highly-placed civil servants in the Ministry of Finance have engaged in what one investigator referred to as “cocaine-fueled orgies with high-class prostitutes” paid for by executives at Wanklers Banking Group PLC. Voice mails and text messages obtained by The Flag outline how bank officials arranged for large quantities of cocaine and other illegal drugs to be provided for the officials’ “entertainment” at the recent World Economic Summit. Allegedly, some of the incriminating voicemails indicate these illicit activities were provided in exchange for government officials ignoring or even actively concealing numerous banking irregularities that may have played in the recent near-collapse of several major British financial institutions, including Wanklers. The losses were so severe the Finance Ministry was forced to oversee a bank bailout in excess of £900 million.

[END NEWSPAPER ARTICLE]

[BELOW TEXT SHOULD BE PRESENTED AS AN EMAIL]

From:             mammon33@digitaldraculas.biz

To:             hurricane_chicago@digitaldraculas.biz

Cc:            

Subject:    RE: link to Flag article

>> Hey, um, did we do this?

No, we didn’t “do this.” We inflicted some damage on Wanklers during Operation Grand Slam but haven’t touched it since. Coven says Queen Bitch was using Wanklers as a slush fund to use against the Sabbat and someone found out and leaked it. He still doesn’t know who the leaker was working for – Sabbat or Anarchs – but will keep us informed. Financially, the issue is serious. Lady Anne is already pulling so much money out of the British financial sector to pay for her counterrevolution that it’s threatening to crash what little British recovery there has been. And now there’s a sex scandal! I would advise divesting British banks, but I’m not sure there are any safe investments if this blows up.

[ABOVE EMAIL ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: Another round of drinks for you gents. So where are the Tremere in all this? If there’s a problem with Sabbat infiltrating a Camarilla city, you’d think they’d have some sort of blood ritual to test for that.

Gotsdam: She wouldn’t accept the results of any Tremere test, nor would she place herself in Tremere debt by asking for it. Save perhaps the Setites...and Giovanni...the Tremere were Prince Mithras’ greatest rivals, and she is extremely paranoid about allowing them any beachheads in London beyond what Mithras himself was forced to allow over a millennium of political intrigue. The Tremere didn’t do themselves any favors when one of the Regent’s top lieutenants was caught in a serious Masquerade breach. She punished him rather harshly for it.

[Recording ends]  

[MARGIN NOTES IN AISLING’S HANDWRITING]

There is no such “Sabbat detecting” ritual. Don’t you think the Camarilla would have us use it on every Kindred on a monthly basis if there were?

[AISLING MARGIN NOTES END]

[END TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT SHOULD BE PRESENTED AS AN EMAIL]

From:             adriana.parkinson@wessexarchaeology.co.uk

To:             aislingsturbridge@fiveboroughs.com

Cc:    

Subject:    See attachment

Attachments:    <<pranking_the_Bitch.mp4>>

Aisling,

I need input from someone both brilliant, tech-savvy, and respected both inside and outside the Clan, and you’re the only Tremere who fits all three. I’d like you review the attached video file labeled as “pranking_the_Bitch.mp4" and verify its authenticity. It appears to depict an unidentified vampire undergoing fleshcrafting by a Tzimisce so as to be made to resemble Jackson Montcrief of the London Chantry. It also purports to show the fleshcrafted vampire deliberately executing the Masquerade violation for which Montcrief was later brutally and wrongfully punished by Anne and her cronies. Give us proof this video is genuine that we can take to the Justicar and get some measure of justice for Montcrief, and I’ll get you that alchemy treatise by Pliny the Elder you’ve been after.

[ABOVE EMAIL ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: All right, so we're binge drinking. Artie, you obviously think there’s some elder behind Anne’s Anarch and Sabbat problems. Who is it?

Basingstoke: Don’t put words in my mouth, Beckett. Just because I believe in the Secret Masters doesn’t mean I know who any of them are or, indeed, that I want to. Besides, I told you I wouldn’t give you any big secrets unless you gave up something equivalent. All I’ve heard from you tonight has been stupid questions. But thank you for the drinks.

Beckett: You mentioned earlier Mithras might have taken a spot on the Inner Circle.

Basingstoke: I mentioned there were rumors. Piffle. I don’t see Hardestadt stepping aside.

Beckett: [Pause] Sometimes it’s not about stepping aside. Sometimes old people just need some time off.

Basingstoke: [Longer pause] That is news, if true. A resurgent Mithras might well be the obvious choice to take the place of Hardestadt. And it would explain why Pieterzoon has been so randy lately.

Becket: “Jan Pieterzoon” and “randy” are words I don’t want to hear in the same sentence.

Gotsdam: Nevertheless, he’s been working his charms with gusto on our Lady Anne. He’s the reason the Queen ransacked what little treasure the British Ventrue hold to finance global war against the Sabbat. Supposedly, Pieterzoon persuaded Anne that financing his splendid little war will give her enough status to move to the international stage. Perhaps even a Directorate position.  

Basingstoke: I suppose that’s enough for a name, Beckett — Coven. He’s probably the most prominent Sabbat pack leader in London. Would likely be a Bishop if the city ever fell. Clan unknown.

Beckett: Not terribly helpful, Artie, old boy. I’m not inclined to look up a Sabbat pack leader for an interview, no matter how influential —

Basingstoke: — As it happens, Coven is also the internet handle used by one of the most prominent Anarchs in the city. I would call it a remarkable coincidence, if I actually believed in such things.                    

Beckett: That’s more like it. Is he Sabbat manipulating Anarchs, or an incredibly reckless Anarch manipulating the Sabbat?

Basingstoke: Or someone quite beyond mere recklessness who seeks to manipulate both Sects to his own ends?

Beckett: How old is he?

Basingstoke: I am reliably informed that he was Embraced in the 1990s. Late 80s at the earliest.

Beckett: So, either an elder with an exceptional mask or a pawn of someone more powerful. Or a neonate punching far above his weight class. I’d like to meet Coven.    

Basingstoke: I can make inquiries, but I would want something in exchange. You know how it is, old boy.

Beckett: Oh, now I’m old boy instead of Gangrel reprobate. What do you want?

Basingstoke: What I always want, Beckett. Information. I want to know what’s she’s doing in London.

Beckett: Fatima's a friend. Well, friend of a friend. I won’t betray her, not even if she’s here as an assassin.

Gotsdam: She is not here to kill. We already know she’s acting as a bodyguard for an important personage. I invite you to contemplate what category of personage would need someone like al-Faqadi to act as a mere bodyguard, as well as who could afford to procure her services. I assure you we represent no threat to her charge. But knowledge of that charge’s identity may be invaluable in preparing for future events.

Basingstoke: Quite so. The movements of any elder will disturb the course of anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path. Destiny and gravity often seem to work the same. We need to know what new pieces are on the board to know how to chart a new course around them.

Beckett: I’ll see what I can do... Before I go, one last thing. Gotsdam, if I may ask, what did Bindusara say about me? And when?

Gotsdam: It was in 1906, lad, shortly after you left Britain. Bindusara was owed some kind of boon by Prince Mithras, and he took the opportunity to speak on your behalf and plead your case.

[Recording ends]  

[END TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

In a black cab of all things, London, British Isles

I left Boodle’s pensive, confused, and poorer. The price of a pint of vitae's ridiculous in London.

When I left London in 1906, I wasn’t under a blood hunt, but I was close. The idea that Bindusara, a figure whom I barely knew at that point, would stick his neck out for me before the most autocratic Ventrue Prince in the world? Unexpected. Meanwhile, I felt it strangely necessary to meet this mysterious “Coven,” if only to satisfy my curiosity. I first realized things were going to get more complicated when Fatima showed up a night early, surprising me in my hotel room as I prepared for the evening.

According to Fatima, her charge, an Assamite elder named Tegyrius, met the elusive Coven during his stay in London. In fact, he surprised the two the previous night at the compound where they were staying as honored guests of the Toreador Justicar! I honestly don’t know what’s more astonishing: Assamite elders being feted by a Justicar of any Clan, or the idea that anyone could get the drop on Fatima al-Faqadi. She said when she moved to attack the intruder, Coven barked out something to Tegyrius in a language she didn’t recognize, and Tegyrius told her to stand down. He then took Coven away for a private conference, at the conclusion of which the elder announced he was leaving London. He told Fatima Coven wanted to meet with me and she was to deliver the invitation. She invited me to meet Tegyrius in two weeks in Amman, Jordan for an informative summit.

Soon, Cesare and I will head for our meeting with Coven at the offices of Syndexioi Ltd. in the London Shard. Syndexioi is a growing British firm specializing in cyber and physical security. The name is Greek for “those united by a handshake.” Syndexioi’s main London offices are on the 56th floor of the Shard, London’s tallest skyscraper.

I'm such a tourist, even here.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[ART NOTE: A POSTCARD OF THE LONDON SHARD WITH A BLOODY THUMBPRINT IN THE CORNER]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins. Montgomery Coven’s accent is strongly identifiable as Jamaican — sometimes. Speech is transcribed phonetically whenever he is using his Jamaican accent and transcribed normally when he is not.]

Beckett: For recording purposes, I am currently in the rather swanky waiting room of Syndexioi Ltd. I've been subjected to various tedious, but thankfully noninvasive, security checks to ensure I'm unarmed. The dozen or so Sabbat members glaring at me right now seem annoyed for some reason.

1st Unidentified voice: You’re damned right we’re annoyed, Beckett. Turn off the recorder.

Beckett: Sorry, we haven’t been introduced. If you knew me, you’d know the recorder stays on. I’m a guest here, and your boss is well aware of my practices.

1st Unidentified voice: Coven’s not my boss. He’s the leader of his pack, as I am the leader of mine. He has no power beyond the respect other Sabbat give him, and for me that’s not enough to let you record our goddamned meetings!

2nd Unidentified voice (later identified as Monty Coven): Gangrel’s not here to record our meetings, Declan, man. He is here to meet with me, and what happens in private meetings is mah own business.

Beckett: Mr. Coven, I presume.

Coven: Indeed, Mr. Beckett. Montgomery Coven, at your service. Welcome to mah place of business. Please excuse Declan’s hostility. He’s a...Ventrue antitribu. So he’s always got something ta prove.

Declan: I will not be mocked by a coward. A fucking traitor! Place of business? You ought to be in one of your Rasta hideouts, not in this fucking palace.

[Sounds of chairs being pushed back and people rising quickly.]

Coven: Shhh! Patience, mah friends. Let’s hear what buggaman has to say. Why do yah call me names?

Declan: You’re a coward because you flit around the city playing your games with the Bowesley bitch instead of just killing her already. You’re a traitor to the Sabbat because you’re more interested in building up your little mercenary company when we could take this city with an army of shovelheads.

Coven: [sound of sucking lower lip through fangs] Challenging me, bwoy? I knew ya were a claat, but not this big of one. Do ya challenge me to Monomacy?

[pause]

Declan: Yes. Yes, I do! A straightforward fight. The honor of the True Ventrue against the treachery of an Assamite risen above his station.

Coven: Hmm. Well, by tradition, Monomacy means that ya pick the time and place, but ah pick the circumstances, am ah right?

Declan: Fine. I say we have it three nights from now. 3 a.m. We find a nice open area out in St. James Park. No mortals around, but plenty of room for the Sabbat to come and watch you die. What conditions do you want?

Coven: Just one, bwoy. I declare either of us is allowed to make a sneak attack.

Declan: Sneak attack? What do you...

[Sounds of Declan screaming, flesh tearing, and animalistic growls for just under twenty seconds.]

Coven: Bloody hell, but that felt good. I’ve been wanting to do that for ages. Celeste, Toby, I think I’m done with Ventrue antitribu in my city. Pull the trigger on Declan’s pack tonight. I want the Anarchs and the Sheriff both to know where their blasted havens are... Damn. I’ll never get this outfit cleaned. Beckett, go on in my office and wait for me. I’ll grab a quick shower and change clothes. [Muttering in the distance in a language Mr. Beckett identified as Avestan, but cannot translate]

[Recording ends]  

[END TRANSCRIPT]

[ART NOTES: MONTY COVEN IN ARCHETYPAL "STARING OUT THE FLOOR TO CEILING WINDOW OF A SKYSCRAPER OVER THE CITY OF LONDON" POSE. HE'S NOT A BUSINESSMAN IN A POSH SUIT THOUGH - HE'S A RASTAFARIAN WITH ALL ASSOCATED PARAPHERNALIA AND APPAREL]

[BEGIN TEXT FORMATTED AS HANDWRITTEN LETTER]

Your Majesty,

The anonymous tip we received by way of the Nosferatu was accurate, and the operation was executed flawlessly. A large Sabbat pack numbering over a dozen was caught in our ambush and wiped out to the last. I regret none of the Sabbat filth survived the attack to be questioned, but they were Inquisition fanatics and fought to the last. A forensic analysis of their communal haven seems to indicate this was the last sizeable pack in London. Accordingly, it seems we can stop worrying about the Sabbat for a while and turn our attention back to whatever deviltry the Tremere are up to.

Your obedient servant,

Malcolm Entwhistle

Sheriff of London

[END TEXT FORMATTED AS HANDWRITTEN LETTER]

[BEGIN TEXT FORMATTED AS HANDWRITTEN LETTER]

Coven,

It’s done.

Mal                                                    

[END TEXT FORMATTED AS HANDWRITTEN LETTER]

[BELOW TEXT FOLLOWS IN BECKETT'S DIARY SCRIPT]

The Haunch of Venison Hostelry, Salisbury, British Isles

Clearly, Coven is more than he appears. Though I feigned ignorance of his identity, Lucita mentioned to me there was a formidable Inquisition leader named Declan Whitacker who led a pack of Ventrue antitribu paladins in the London area. If that was the same Declan, then I just watched Monty Coven dismember him with ease, troubled only by the damage an explosive blood spray did to his seemingly-hodgepodge attire. Equally troubling was the complete disinterest of the other Sabbat members in the room, all of whom clearly have more loyalty to Coven than their Sect, if his casual order to betray a fellow pack to its destruction was any clue.

[ABOVE TEXT IN BECKETT'S SCRIPT ENDS]

[BELOW TEXT PRESENTED AS TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED CONVERSATION]

[Recording begins]

Coven: Mr. Beckett! I apologize for the delay. You know how it is with...personnel disputes.

Beckett: Indeed. Excuse my impertinence, but your accent has changed at least three times.

Coven: It does that. Despite the circumstances of my birth, I’ve a good ear for accents, and I know how inclined the typical Brit is to dismiss anyone not speaking proper English as a natural inferior, while simultaneously deferring to anyone who speaks as though he went to Oxbridge.  

Beckett: Interesting. You know, you’re the second exceptionally well-spoken Assamite I’ve spoken with recently who still uses the accent of his lower class upbringing to lead others into underestimating him.

Coven: You use what tricks you can. To most white Brits, I’ll always be a Wailer who should have stayed back in Kingston. Nowadays, Received Pronunciation is something I reserve only for the people I trust.

[pause]

Beckett: And you trust me? We’ve only just met.

Coven: Have I misjudged ya, Mr. Beckett? Will ya leave here to visit Her Majesty Queen Anne to tell her who ah am and what ah’m doin’ and where ah can be found? [short laugh] Your discretion is well known, Beckett. I'm quite confident you will keep whatever you learn about me to yourself and your merry historians.

Beckett: Whether I reveal anything or not, it seems unlikely you can keep yourself concealed indefinitely. Queen Anne has a good reputation for, well, tracking down people like you and putting an end to you.

Coven: Anne Bowesley is no obstacle. If anything, she advances my endeavors. She strikes blindly at whatever target I place in front of her, even as she turns most of this city’s Kindred against the Camarilla. She sits on her throne because I wish it. When I decide to remove her, I will do it so effortlessly people like you will feel foolish you ever considered her a threat.

Beckett: “Kindred,” you say? Most Sabbat prefer to call us “Cainites.”

Coven: Words, Beckett, mere words. I've heard vampires called many things over my years, and met many older than "Caine." The conflict between Sabbat and Camarilla is illusory, a war of words between rival elders. One Sect is ruled by open fear of mortals and secret fear of Antediluvians. The other is ruled by open fear of Antediluvians and secret fear of mortals. Both fears are legitimate. Both are overblown. Pragmatic steps can protect us all from mortals and ancients alike. Gehenna can be survived. The Kindred can rule forever.

Beckett: That’s...an interesting perspective. Tell me, Mr. Coven...why did you wish to meet with me? Surely not to discuss politics and philosophy.

Coven: Oh no, Mr. Beckett. I summoned you here to save your unlife! You were far too imprudent with your inquiries here in London. Inquiries about Fatima al-Faqadi and the one she protects. Inquiries about Lady Anne. Inquiries about me. You’ve raised red flags. Anne has already dispatched her agents to bring you in for questioning.

Beckett: Just for asking questions?

Coven: Don’t be coy. You know as well as anyone how asking the wrong question can be a death sentence. Besides, in the last two days, you’ve met with Gotsdam and now with me. Gotsdam is sire to Dylan Bruce. I'm suspected of having recently met with Kemintiri. By the Transitive Property of Ventrue Paranoia, you are now two degrees of separation away from two different Anathema. Anne will have questions. If she doesn’t like your answers, she will suck you dry and blame it on some imagined enemy of the state.

Beckett: Coven, I know Anne is a harsh Prince, but please don’t think you can frighten me with baseless slander. Anne might have me killed, but I hardly think she’s likely to commit diablerie on me.

[Silence]

Beckett: Has anyone ever told you, Mr. Coven, you have a very disturbing grin?

Coven: I'm still growing used to it myself.

Beckett: Never mind. So you summoned me to save me from Queen Anne. Why? We’ve never met before and I'm no ally of the Sabbat.

Coven: Not now, perhaps. But there is every chance your Lasombra friend may ascend to become Regent. Perhaps she'll be grateful if I save your life?

Beckett: Lucita as Regent? Galbraith might object.

Coven: Galbraith. [laughs] You see, Beckett, I like you. And by extension that means I like Lucita. I don’t plan to be a friend to the next Regent, whoever he or she or it is. London is a great city, once the greatest in the world. It should not bow to the rule of someone who lives an ocean away.

Beckett: You want an independent city. That’s becoming a trend.

Coven: You use what tricks you have. Whoever becomes Regent will be a polarizing figure. I've spent years weeding the London Sabbat of anyone who lacks the wisdom to follow my lead. The prospect of a civil war will allow me room to purge the rest. Then, whoever takes the Regency, I will reject them for whatever heresies or scandals seem most plausible and then set myself up as Regent of a British Sabbat rebuilt for the 21st century. Rather than go to war in London and risk the Masquerade, the Camarilla will negotiate a peace with me. Or maybe I’ll make London an Anarch Free State. Or perhaps I’ll let the Inner Circle bribe me into keeping London as a Camarilla city but with guarantees I can run it my way without interference.

Beckett: The Camarilla...will negotiate peace...with an Assamite antitribu less than 30 years dead?

Coven: I've advantages making up for my relative youth, Mr. Beckett. For one, I know where a lot of bodies are buried. Literally as well as figuratively. Now come, let us collect your ghoul from down below and get you on your way. I have a private plane waiting to take you to France. [shudders] Unless ya don’t believes me and wants to take ya chances with da mamby crab.

[pause]

Beckett: I assume you mean Queen Anne. I'll err on the side of caution for the moment. I’ll allow your people to conduct me out of the city. I was planning on leaving in a night or so anyway. But don’t imagine for a minute that this means I trust you. To be brutally honest, I think you’re as balmy as any Malkavian.

Coven: [laughter] Very droll. Give me six months. When I’m in charge, you come back and visit. As long as I rule here, you’ll always have a place in London.

[Recording ends]  

[END TRANSCRIPT]

[BELOW TEXT IS ON SCRAP PAPER, IN BECKETT'S HANDWRITING - PAPERCLIPPED TO THE ABOVE TRANSCRIPT]

Libertatia, East Africa

My encounter with Coven was six months ago, and while he hasn’t conquered London yet, it's clear he’s only biding his time. Last night, I received a package from him through intermediaries. It held a flash drive with a half dozen video files taken from spy cameras. While rather fuzzy, the recordings seem to depict Queen Anne committing diablerie against a succession of bound Kindred. The package also contains information about her putative victims verifying their identities and dates they went missing, as well as details about the means by which she conceals the black marks of diablerie from discovery. Finally, there was one last document in the package, one marked for my personal files as “a memento of earlier times.” It is a handwritten note on Victorian-era stationery. It raises more questions than it answers, some of which fill me with dread.

[END SCRAP PAPER]

[BEGIN HANDWRITTEN LETTER - TORN OFF WHERE IT WOULD REVEAL OF WHOM MITHRAS IS THE GRAND-CHILDE]

My dearest Bindusara,

In my dotage, I find I am quick to anger and slow to forgive. But your spirited words in defense of the Gangrel do not fall on deaf ears. Moreover, I am cognizant of the debt I owe you for the aid and advice you have given me over the centuries. If this is truly what you desire in recompense, then I shall grant the boon you request.

Henceforth, my enmity with the Gangrel Beckett is at an end. I swear now that as long as I claim praxis over this great city, Beckett shall always have a place in London.

Your brother in blood,

Mithras

Prince of London

Childe of Veddartha

Grand-childe of

[END HANDWRITTEN LETTER WITH A TEAR ACROSS THE WORD "OF" TO OBSCURE ANYTHING FOLLOWING]

This Sceptered Isle

The history of Britain’s Kindred has been largely shaped by the history of Mithras, a Ventrue so old, powerful, and godlike his presence shapes the supernatural culture around him in ways even he could not anticipate. He never formally joined the Camarilla, largely due to antipathy towards “that impudent child Hardestadt,” though he enforced the Traditions in his own domain centuries before the Sect’s founding. Some Kindred historians maintain that had Mithras not entered torpor at an inconvenient moment in history, Mithraism might well have supplanted Christianity as the official religion of Rome, making Mithras the literal god-king of Europe. It was said of Mithras his mastery of mental dominance was so great he could command others from any distance if he met them even once, and knew their current location, while his sheer presence was so awe-inspiring any who met the Ventrue were convinced of his divinity.

With such powers at his disposal, it would seem impossible the Methuselah might ever fall, but even Mithras’ powers did not render him indestructible. During the London Blitz, German bombers laid waste to his London haven with no idea they were forcing an ancient blood god into decades of torpor. He awoke when his haven was simultaneously breached by a Sabbat questing after his vitae and a werewolf pack directed to the location because of vague prophecies of some rising evil. The prophecy was self-fulfilling — the werewolves killed all but one of the Sabbat, but their spilt blood caused Mithras to arise and slay all of the werewolves. Then, weakened by injuries and lack of vitae, Mithras fell victim to the last surviving Sabbat member, an Assamite antitribu named Monty Coven.

Born to an impoverished Jamaican family, Monty grew up a poor black immigrant in a Hammersmith neighborhood teeming with racism and classism, a place offering nothing to people like Monty except prison or an early death. Then he found a worse option: that of the shovelhead. Perhaps the Vaulderie accompanying his creation rites was unusually weak, or perhaps Monty was stronger than anyone had thought, but he had no loyalty to the Sabbat, to his pack, or to anything except himself. When a bloody Methuselah fell practically at his feet, Monty saw an opportunity, and seized it.

The outcome was unexpected. The soul of Monty Coven looked into that of Mithras and saw a being of vast power weighed down by untold centuries of relentless ennui, while the soul of Mithras looked into that of Monty Coven and saw an angry young man filled with a longing to prove himself by any means necessary. By bizarre happenstance, the worst instincts of Mithras and Monty fit one another like a glove.

The result, so far at least, has been a gestalt personality more than the sum of its parts. Out of the ruins of Mithras’s tomb walked Montgomery Coven, simultaneously old and young, a newborn blood god for a new millennium. Coven is a brash young man acutely aware of his minority status in a nation not always welcoming to immigrants. And yet, he carries himself now with the confidence of one who has what it means to be deified. Meanwhile, Mithras is a god who has fallen to Earth...now delighted at the prospect of having to climb his way up again.

For the first few years, Coven laid low, developing his new powers, while Mithras acclimatized to the new era. The knowledge Coven assimilated from Mithras gave him limited access to the ancient’s accumulated wealth, to the remnants of his cult, and to a vast storehouse of occult lore, while the memories Mithras took from Monty gave him a new zest for unlife and fascination with the modern era. Coven has built a new company to mask his activities: Syndexioi, named after an ancient term for initiates into the Mithraic Mysteries. Many influential mortals descended from those who once worshipped Mithras investigated the new company out of curiosity and were drawn into the herd of their former god’s heir.

Synexioi’s growing reputation in the cyber-security industry also drew the attention of Anarchs belonging to the Red Question (see V20 Anarchs Unbound) who believe “Coven” is simply an Internet handle for a British Anarch seeking to undermine Camarilla hegemony. Apprised by his Red Question allies of the impending economic crash of 2007, Coven made his own arrangements to enrich himself and his allies while bankrupting several prominent Ventrue. Simultaneously, he passed word through proxies exposing several Sabbat packs active in the city. By now, there are few Sabbat left in the world who know anything about his pre-diablerie existence.

Anne (with Coven’s subtle assistance) makes London completely inhospitable for Sabbat and Anarchs alike, and Coven begins a practice of recruiting both Sabbat packs and Anarch cells to London, packs and cells chosen specifically for their ability to pass undetected as Camarilla members. Except for carefully-vetted licks on both sides, neither the Anarchs nor the Sabbat know they share a patron who doesn’t truly care about either of their causes except as weapons to use against the Camarilla government.

Only three people have penetrated his carefully maintained anonymity. One is the Setite Methuselah Kemintiri, who experienced a tempestuous relationship with Mithras in the 19th century. All of London’s Kindred went on high alert when the Anathema came to town and started asking questions about a young Assamite named Coven. The two met on several occasions, but what they discussed is a mystery, as she disappeared after only a few weeks. Now, the name Coven is on the lips of every Kindred in London, which forces him to accelerate his timetable.

Lady Anne commits much of her personal power, wealth, and prestige to the Camarilla effort to drive the Sabbat out of North America. She also sends many of her closest associates to the U.S. as “advisors,” even though the London Kindred outside of Clan Ventrue are as restive as at any time during her reign. Thus, the time is right for Coven to unleash his most dangerous weapon — knowledge. He possesses video evidence proving Anne's a diablerist. She does not suffer from Methuselah’s Thirst. She does not reduce her Generation by consuming those closer to Caine than herself (though she has done so twice in the past). She's simply addicted to the thrill of consuming Kindred souls. Coven knows this, because it was Mithras who inadvertently introduced her to this addiction. Briefly attracted to Anne when she was but an ancilla, he allowed her to commit diablerie twice as a reward for services to him but also out of the hope that if she came closer to him in power, she would be a suitable consort. It was Mithras who gave her the magical ring that hides the marks of her crimes. The revelation of her addiction to kinslaying repulses Mithras. Now, as Coven, he will do what he should have done 70 years ago, humiliating both the Camarilla and the London Ventrue, thus paving the way for his return to power.

The following are chronicle threads in which coteries and packs may wish to become involved:

Sabbat Investigation: As the Sabbat Civil War commences, Coven finishes culling London’s Sabbat of those loyal to the Sect, while drawing in more disaffected Sabbat to the city to join his growing army. Eventually, someone is going to notice just how many packs suspected of disloyalty have up and moved to London, particularly after an entire pack of Inquisitors is betrayed and exterminated. Someone high up will want answers about what’s going on in London, possibly enough to send in spies of their own who to infiltrate Coven’s network.

Anarch Intrigues: The Red Question has questions of its own. A few years ago, the Red Question initiated “Operation Grandslam,” the audacious scheme whereby the Red Question manipulated the massive global recession in order to blackmail the Camarilla into certain concessions to the Anarchs (and coincidentally, to make a boatload of money for the Red Question members). Now, someone is trying to replicate Operation Grandslam on a smaller scale by targeting various major U.K. banks with scandals and liquidity problems, apparently with the goal of bankrupting London’s Ventrue. Frustratingly for the Red Question, they don’t know who’s doing it and they don’t know which banks are involved, which means they don’t know how to protect themselves if these scandals explode into the Second Great Recession. The Anarchs have no idea Coven is the source of their problems (and, in fact, consider him an ally, as he provided valuable insider information in the run up to Operation Grandslam).

Tremere Entanglements: Coven successfully frames Jackson Montcrief for a significant Masquerade breach and provides the London chantry with clear evidence Montcrief was framed by the Sabbat. If the video is confirmed as legitimate, the Tremere will bring the matter to the Justicars and demand compensation, worsening the already poisonous relations between the London Ventrue and Tremere. Coteries on both sides will need to investigate the truth of the matter, before a different kind of civil war comes to London.

Assamite Activities: Marginally related to Coven’s agenda is the appearance of Tegyrius, Vizier of Clan Assamite, in London on a diplomatic mission. With Tegyrius’s recent activities (see Schism, p. XX), the future Prince Monty will welcome Schismatic Assamites to London, particularly Sorcerers to counterbalance the Tremere. That said, Tegyrius has no intention of endangering his fledgling conspiracy by getting involved in London’s internal politics until the dust settles. Newly-arriving Assamites will find intrigues aplenty, as will the native Kindred of London, having to deal with the influx of arrivals.

Finally, the Revolution: It's time to end the reign of Lady Anne. Coven waits for the moment when her power is stretched to its utmost, at which point he'll reveal her enthusiasm for diablerie. If a coterie loyal to Anne does not prevent this, the revelation sends shockwaves through the Camarilla, to the point there's a serious push to add the Queen of London to the Red List. Whether she flees or is slain, Lady Anne’s rule over London collapses, and with no clear line of succession, the city’s most prominent Camarilla members go to war against one another. Coven stands aloof, hiding himself even as he sends Anarchs and Sabbat alike to remove his strongest rivals. When it's clear there can be no consensus on Prince of London, Coven removes those Anarchs and Sabbat not personally loyal to him and declares autonomy, daring the Camarilla to refuse his claim of praxis. For all his genius though, Monty is utterly unstable. Once the throne is claimed, both sides of his personality will be wresting for control.

The Once and Future King

The rise of Montgomery Coven as the new (old?) Prince of London is a storyline that might take years to fulfill. But what happens after? What complications might thwart this powerful young Kindred’s ambitions?

Mithras Ascendant: It is rare indeed for an 11th Generation neonate to successfully consume a 4th Generation Methuselah. The gestalt is still very unstable, and Mithras might take over Coven completely. Indeed, Kemintiri seems bent on ensuring this outcome, convinced that her Mithras is still inside Coven only awaiting someone to free him to assume his former glory. Alastors and Camarilla officiaries will be seeking Kemintiri's trail, investigating the claims of Anne's diablerist predilections, or Coven's ascension. Any such group may stumble upon the truth of Coven's internal war, and conspire to ensure one personality emerges triumphant.

The Gestalt Kindred: But — but — if the gestalt holds, then Coven will eventually start to wonder whether the process can be replicated. Mithras had many childer, most of whom were disappointments. A few still exist but are so weighed down with age they still dress in clothes from the 17th century. What would happen if those vampires were consumed by Kindred who were much weaker in blood and yet far stronger in will? Would their knowledge and power also be preserved into new personalities that can adapt to the new era? And if such experiments bear fruit, would Coven begin searching for an 11th or 12th generation Kindred who is strong enough and vital enough to consume the soul of Kemintiri and bring his former lover into the new age?

The Return of the King: Ultimately, assuming he's not destroyed (or driven mad by his dueling minds), Coven will someday rule London. But what sort of rule will it be? Coven himself hasn't decided, as the international situation is too fluid. He has no love for the Sabbat, but one possibility is to position London as a safe zone for all who disagree with the new choice for Regent. He remembers the days of popes and antipopes, and he can envision the Sabbat splintering into multiple warring subsects. He can also envision London as a new Free State. If Coven learns of Marcus Vitel’s plans for Washington, he might well seek out an alliance. The thought of two of the Western world’s leading capitals falling to Anarchs would be an unimaginable disaster for the Camarilla. But privately, Coven suspects his best option is simply to sue for peace with the Camarilla. He would be willing to accept the trappings of a Camarilla domain if he’s guaranteed the right to run that domain his way — with Coven as absolute monarch, his closest aids as barons, and everyone else free to act as they wished so long as they respected Traditions and Lex Talionis. He'll need advisors: capable Kindred with an independent streak. He'll also need agents, willing to serve in a brave new kingdom. This could be a new night for London, under Coven's very traditional Traditions.