Azhi Dahaka

[Art Notes: Below text needs to look like an online Chatlog]

eyeonyou started the conversation

beckett91 joined the conversation

eyeonyou: Glad you made it. Are you comfortable with this?

beckett91: Yes. You took me through it last week. Are there really 90 other Becketts using this system?

eyeonyou: You're a notorious figure. It'd be a crap online cover identity if you weren't so famous. It's a little like when Charlie Chaplin entered a lookalike competition and lost.

beckett91: Did the Toreador Embrace him?

eyeonyou: Buster Keaton, I think.

beckett91: Christ.

beckett91: Do I have to pay for every word on this system? Is it "secure," as they say?

eyeonyou: How do you even get dressed each night without my help?

oldgator joined the conversation

beckett91: I confess I'm beginning to find trousers a real burden.

oldgator: what have i walked in on

beckett91: Calebros?

oldgator: fucks sake why not just announce it with a loud hailer

eyeonyou: Sorry, oldgator. He's a moron at times.

oldgator: then maybe hes not the guy

eyeonyou: He's your guy

beckett91: I'm the guy

oldgator: you are not the guy

beckett91: You contacted us for a reason.

oldgator: it was you or de laurent and im starting to reconsider

beckett91: I know you prefer your politics Camarilla side up. When, where, and why do we meet?

oldgator: the why is one word

oldgator: NICTUKU

oldgator: in caps for emphasis

beckett91: You've got my attention.

eyeonyou: Is this for real?

oldgator: i dont throw words like that around lightly

oldgator: ive valuable intel for the recipient who might do something useful with it

beckett91: As I said, I'm the guy.

oldgator: youd better fucking be

oldgator: 39.3587° N, 74.4198° W, THREE NIGHTS

oldgator left the conversation

eyeonyou: Looks like he wants to meet you in Atlantic City.

beckett91: Good. I guess I shut this down by clicking the button on the screen.

eyeonyou: No, that's the monitor.

eyeonyou: Are you still there?

eyeonyou: Imbecile. I suppose I'm going to have to print this for you.

eyeonyou left the conversation

mrmysterio joined the conversation

mrmysterio left the conversation

beckett91 timed out  

[Above chatlog ends]

[Art Notes: Below text needs to look like a blog]

AFA Gallery by Invite Only

Ambassador Katherine Wiese has returned from her sojourn to Athens with a companion: Elias Athanasios, a Greek Deviant with a passion for history and the arts proving contagious amongst the intelligentsia of New York’s court.

With Prince Hellene’s permission, Athanasios has begun the process of creating a private, patrons-only gallery/museum of Kindred-created objects d’art, and their associated historical documentation, if any exists, from around the globe.

Attendance at the gallery is by invitation only, so get friendly with your local Harpy!

[Above blog post ends]

[below text follows in Beckett's diary script]

AC Cemetery, Atlantic City, United States

I knew of Calebros, former Prince Pro Tempore of New York City, long before I ever met him — mostly because the very fact of his existence sent a little susurrus of unease through the world wherever he went. The Camarilla, as an entity, has absolutely no bloody idea what to do with a being who, having scaled the chancy heights of power and achieved one of the pinnacles of Kindred political and social influence, not only didn’t want to keep it, but dropped it like it was radioactive and ran away screaming as soon as pragmatically possible. This is hardly standard behavior, but it was Calebros’ behavior, and after his resignation from his deeply undesired official capacity he didn’t even choose to idle about in the city. He didn’t loom large over the prospects of his successor and make noises about prestation debts or boons or any other such. Instead, he got out of Dodge, as they say, and continued dodging until he came to land in his present position, which seems temporary at best.

I was, admittedly, somewhat surprised. Calebros has a general reputation for preferring no society but his own — one of the reasons he found sitting in the princely catbird seat so thoroughly intolerable — and in the year prior to initiating contact with me he had dropped more or less utterly off the radar. Given that he broke his radio silence specifically to request the pleasure of my company, I could hardly be churlish enough to refuse, no matter what the restrictions or security requirements involved. He did not, fortunately, object to my assorted recording devices, or the presence of Okulos. Okulos was more than a little impressed by the countermeasures, electronic and otherwise, he employed to maintain the security of his haven against external scrutiny.

[below text should be presented as a transcript of a recorded conversation]

[Recording begins]

Calebros: Good of you to come — I admit, I wasn’t really certain you would, no matter what I dangled under your nose.

Beckett: Oh, I could hardly refuse. I’ve a message to deliver, after all.

Calebros: Oh?

Beckett: Yes. "Fuck you very much, too." I’m afraid that he’s still working on the capacity for genuinely witty comebacks.

[a child's strangled screaming]

[Margin notes in okulos' handwriting]

As I was there, I can confirm there was no strangulation. What Cesare is mistaking for screaming in his transcript was Calebros' laughter.

[okulos margin notes end]

Calebros: Yeah, well — what can you expect? The possession of actual sarcasm is a crime punishable by final death in the House of Hardestadt.

Beckett: Quite. But, our mutual friend aside —

Calebros: Yeah, I know. You’ve come a long way and I’ve dangled at you. How up are you on events in New York?

Beckett: Current events? I believe Hellene Panhard’s Prince, though I understand it’s one of those things that nobody likes. Aisling Sturbridge is still Regent of the Five — I’ve had some correspondence with her. Otherwise — thankfully, neither my monkeys nor my circus.

Calebros: Nothing about the warren?

Okulos: Nothing of recent vintage. They moved the SchreckNET server farm to one of the outer boroughs just before that storm, and part of the tunnels were flooded for some time, but —

Calebros: You might wanna start thinking about adopting some monkeys.

Beckett: I thought they weren’t your monkeys any longer, either.

Calebros: I don’t have to be Prince to actually give a fuck. I have a feeling that neither do you, strictly solo mercenary adventurer bullshit notwithstanding. Something’s going on there. I’d like to know what it is. How bad it is. How bad it could be.

Beckett: But you’re certain it’s bad.

[nails down a chalkboard?]

Calebros: Let’s put it this way: In my wildest and most hopeful imaginings it’s just the onset of age-related psychotic paranoia. But I kinda doubt that it is. You’re familiar with the circumstances surrounding New York coming back into the fold?

Beckett: I’ve read the official version of events monograph. And I’ve talked to Pieterzoon. And now I’m talking to you.

Calebros: Yeah. There was some shit that went down that never made it into the after-action reports, I’ll tell ya that right now. Some of it I...we...well, okay, everybody in the warren thought was Clan business. Nosferatu business. Now I ain’t so sure.

Okulos: The Nictuku?

Calebros: Late in the action, when all the shit hitting the fan was coming to an end and the mopping up was starting we found...something...down below. We thought it was one of them.

Beckett: One of the Nictuku.

[The below sidebar should resemble a torn out encyclopedia entry in aristotle’s handwriting with amendments - words in italics are scrawled at the end of the entry]

Nictuku

N. is a term the Nosferatu use only in whispered rumors. With the exception of three Kindred not blood bound to their sire, the N. are said to be Absimiliard's angry progeny. Legends depict them as abhorrent, demonic creatures whose name alone brings an icy chill to the blood of every member of the Clan of the Hidden due to the task their sire burdened them with. They were told to hunt down and destroy each and every Nosferatu descended from the one not bound OR they're a bloodline of cannibals descended from Baba Yaga restricted to feeding only on vitae. Fact check, before publication.

[Above encyclopedia entry ends]

Calebros: Yeah. You know, when you say it, it sounds pretty fucking stupid.

Beckett: It’s the accent.

Calebros: Sure it is.

[cats screeching]

Calebros: Anyway. Information has recently come into my possession that makes me seriously doubt that theory. Unfortunately, the alternative is much, much fucking worse.

Okulos: Worse... how?

Calebros: Have you ever heard of Lambach Ruthven?

[recording ends]

[above transcript ends]

[The below sidebar should resemble a torn out encyclopedia entry in aristotle’s handwriting with amendments - words in italics are scrawled at the end of the entry]

Ruthven, Lambach

Clan of Shapers; *ca. 1100 Childe of Tabak(?).

Sire of Dracula and suspected model for Polidori's "The Vampyre." Member of the Sabbat. One of the original Tzimisce rebels and a founding father of his Sect, R. is somehow a figure of contempt and ridicule within his own Clan. There are many vampires bearing the name R., making his genealogy difficult to trace. Rumored destroyed during the siege of New York City, he actually emerged 1,000 miles away from the last place anyone saw him, on the islands of Prospero.

[Above encyclopedia entry ends]

[the following articles are separate diary entries on different paper, scrawled by the nervous hand of lambach ruthven. They can be split across the chapter.]

I am a good lad.

I spoke with the Eldest. Or father spoke to me. In me. Always in me. No matter how hard I swallow, grandfather won't go down.

He hungers and sewer workers won't cut it. I am a good lad, and brought him a bus full. Elderly. Watery blood. None will be missed. Group goes missing in Manhattan. Happens every night.

-

Cousin Viorica visited on Damek's behalf. Wanted to know why my communication ceased. I showed her. The Eldest is fed. I am a good lad.

-

I'm not a slave I'm not a slave I'm not a slave I'm not a slave

That's what he's told me to tell myself.

-

Nosferatu disappear now, both Sabbat and Camarilla. Vitae all tastes the same to such an aged palate. Such a broad tongue. I heard one scream "Niktuku!" as she went in feetfirst.

Maybe she's right. The Eldest is as likely to be Absimiliard as anyone else.

I feel lucid. I'd take the opportunity for a stroll, but my right arm is stuck.

-

The Eldest craves exotic tastes. Jiang Shi from China, Impundulu from Mozambique, Cipactli of Colombia. I don't recognize these names, but great-grandfather knows them. He needs to absorb more.

I must go hunting. I can't go hunting. Somehow he lures them here.

-

The singing never stops, but sometimes it quiets. I see Cainites throughout this wretched city drawn to his song. He knows I write this, because I tell him, because I am a good lad, but the next time he sings to others, I shall take my leave.

-

I must follow the pulsing thread of crimson, contracting and expanding as though driven by the action of a beating heart. To and fro. To and fro. My only chance of escape.

[lambach diary entries conclude]

[below text follows in Beckett's diary script]

Dolphin Cove, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Ruthven picked a perfect place to go to ground: three dollops of rock, the peaks of a suboceanic mountain ridge, floating in the middle of a warm turquoise sea, a place famous for its scuba diving, sea turtle conservation efforts, and selection of exotic offshore tax havens for the obnoxiously wealthy. Also for being the sole domain of the sort of lick who declares himself officially neutral in the ongoing scrimmages between the Sabbat and the Camarilla and has that neutrality respected, despite being literally surrounded by combatant territories, partly because he can enforce it quite efficiently and partly because he runs his domain as a safe haven for those seeking a little shelter from life’s storms. I’ve washed up on those shores a time or two myself and I possess a standing invitation from the proprietor — I’m not going to say “Prince” because he doesn’t consider himself one — to return whenever I might wish. That Ruthven ended up there too doesn’t entirely surprise me. The proprietor — generally named Prospero for the sake of simplicity — has a habit of picking up strays. And Lambach Ruthven is most definitely a stray.

The first (polite) phrase to come to mind when describing Lambach Ruthven is high strung. (Less polite? Twitchy.) The second? Without a doubt, melancholy. He possesses the fulsomely well-developed and self-preservatory sense of paranoia that all elders occupying positions of political significance develop, provided they’re not actively suicidal, blended together with the sort of bone-deep sorrow you only encounter in those who’ve lived long enough to see everything they’ve tried to build fall apart around them — and they don’t have either the will or the desire left to pick up the pieces.

For the record? I’m not entirely certain that Ruthven isn’t actively suicidal.

We met at a little beachside restaurant on the largest of the three islands, where Cesare could have a meal that never saw the inside of an airport vending machine, at one of the outdoor tables with untouched frozen drinks melting in front of us and drunken American tourists strolling all about. I did not question his desire to meet somewhere so public, and he did not offer an explanation for it.

[above text in Beckett's script ends]

[Art Notes: Below text needs to look like a blog]

AFA Gallery "Brouhaha"

At the grand unveiling of Elias Athanasios' most recent exhibit — the spectacular dagger named The Crimson Sentinel — put-upon Sheriff Qadir al-Asmai made a remark that the legendary weapon might have been what was required to put Marcus Vitel of Washington, D.C. down once and for all.

This comment was heard passed from attendee to attendee until a version reached the willful ears of Katherine Wiese's childe. The Brujah claimed Qadir was intimating he'd not completed the job himself, as is widely reported, with a sword and the aid of Archon Theo Bell. A fight swiftly broke out, resulting in all Brujah now being forbidden to enter the AFA.

Elias is said to have found the antics amusing but, respecting the Tradition of Hospitality and laws of Elysium, enforced the terms of the Camarilla.

[Above blog post ends]

[below text should be presented as a transcript of a recorded conversation]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: Thank you for agreeing to this meeting, Lord Ruthven.

Ruthven: You mistake me for another of my family. I am no Lord. But how could I refuse? You have made quite the name for yourself, Mr. Beckett — strolling across sectarian lines in your relentless search for truth. Even some of my own colleagues deign to respect your efforts.

Beckett: You’ll forgive me if I find that reasonably gratifying.

Ruthven: Of course. But you did not travel all this way to engage in idle chatter, nor have I. Ask your questions...and I shall answer them.

Beckett: I have it on excellent authority you have direct and personal knowledge of an entity of unknown provenance residing in the sewers below New York City. Manhattan Island to be specific.

Ruthven: Not the sewers.

Beckett: You really just said that, didn’t you?

Ruthven: [forced laughter] You expected denials? Prevarication? Evasions, perhaps?

Beckett: Honestly? Yes.

Ruthven: Why in the name of all the gods would I do that? I know what you are here for, Mr. Beckett. I know why you have come all this way and what you want of me. And, moreover, I know that, no matter what I say to you tonight, no matter what dark and terrible secrets pour past my lips, there is nothing that you or I or anyone can do with them.

Beckett: As you’d have it, then. Calebros and a handful of the other Nosferatu still residing in New York’s warren think it’s a Nictuku, or something close enough not to matter. He also suggested that you think it’s something else — someone got lucky with some personal papers of yours and they found their way into his hands. I’d like to hear the story from your own lips.

Ruthven: [forced laughter] No...I think you do not truly wish to hear my story, Mr. Beckett. I have no interest in my story, and yet I cannot set it down. But, to answer the question I see in you...yes, it is precisely what you think it is.

Beckett: An...Antediluvian. You are seriously telling me that there is an Antediluvian sleeping in the sewers under New York.

Ruthven: Not in the sewers. And not sleeping. It has not truly slept, I think, for some hundreds of years. Its mind is relentlessly active, its soul — it has thousands of eyes to see through, after all, and thousands of hands through which to act.

Beckett: You sound...very certain.

Ruthven: I am very certain. My ancestor has...changed greatly over the centuries, Mr. Beckett, but it is consistent in one thing — it does not wish to be alone.

[Recording ends]

[Above transcript ends]

[below text should be presented as an email chain]

From:                   aisling.sturbridge@fiveboroughs.com

To:                       igiovanni@dunsirnbrothersinvestmentbank.co.uk

Bcc:                     beckett@schreckNET.nod

Subject:               RE: NYC

Isabel

While saddened to hear of your cousin's misfortune, I can confirm nothing immediate of activities beneath New York. They're a mystery I pursue alongside others in the city, and I welcome you to travel here, so we can share thoughts in person.

Let's not be burdened by electronic communication. My haven is your haven, for as long as you have need of it.

Aisling Sturbridge

“From each according to his faculties; to each according to his needs."

Mikhail Bakunin

 

 

From:                   igiovanni@dunsirnbrothersinvestmentbank.co.uk

To:                       aisling.sturbridge@fiveboroughs.com

Subject:               NYC

Sturbridge

I'm pleased by how comfortable Prince Hellene now sits upon her throne. The stability of your city is a boon to your Sect, as well as my Clan.

As someone respected in the Arts, perhaps you could be of service to one such as myself. I believe your line has pursued investigation into the possible existence of a hungry spirit or coterie of Wights beneath the city. I would like to hear of your findings, and on behalf of my Clan am prepared to share mine, openly.

You see, young Bartolomeo went missing not two months ago, and his grandsire is very anxious. Bartolomeo was due to commune with the underground spirit. When the ritual was due to take place, his link to us snapped.

Your assistance would be appreciated, and rewarded.

Isabel

[above email chain ends]

[art notes: intersperse the below with photos / illustrations of the features beckett's describing. it's a large body of text, and will require breaking up]

[below text follows in Beckett's diary script]

Parts Unknown, New York City, United States

I elected to avoid the annoyance of New York court politics — including having to present myself and crave permission for what I was going to do with or without anyone’s leave — by the expedient of flying into a municipal airport in Connecticut, just large enough to handle the plane, and driving south. In theory, much of the sectarian possession of the East Coast is still in some flux, and therefore dangerous for a lone traveler; in practice, the Sabbat is too busy with its own internal conflicts to waste much effort monitoring every pissant airport in the northeast for Kindred traffic not their own and the Camarilla is too busy consolidating power in the major population centers to be overly concerned, either. Hesha kindly lent me the use of one of his safehouses in Jamaica Bay and from there I went about my operations.

My semi-planned act of katabasis began on the charming shores of Hart Island, one of the several dubiously inhabited islands ringing Manhattan proper. Currently it serves as the single largest publicly owned and funded Potter’s Field in the United States, using inmates from the prison on Riker’s Island to dig mass graves for the city’s poor and indigent. No one lives on Hart Island because the dead literally reside thick underfoot, in some places as many as five layers deep.

Most of the earlier structures on the island have long since been torn down to make more room for burial grounds, which now cover the vast majority of its landmass, and are constantly hungry for more. Only one set of structures has thus far managed to escape the wrecking ball: The remains of the tuberculosis sanatorium cling tenaciously to existence, slowly falling into ruins amid copses of skeletal trees and vast fields of the dead. Per Ruthven this is not a failure of the legendary New Yorker efficiency in land usage — the Department of Corrections and the assorted governmental bodies tasked with overseeing the dispensation of Hart Island are generously compensated for leaving the sanatorium alone. It was from there, specifically from the subbasement levels already pierced with connecting tunnels linking the assorted buildings together, that I went down among the dead men, following Ruthven’s pulsing crimson thread.

[Margin notes in Aisling's handwriting]

Bartolomeo went missing on Hart Island while attempting some ritual or other. We tend to avoid the activities of necromancers, thankfully.

[Aisling margin notes end]

The descent began as Ruthven said it would — gradually, through abandoned hospital tunnels rank with mold, concrete walls slowly cracking from decades of unchecked seepage and the inevitable freeze-thaw wear of brutal northeastern winters. 100 yards, 200, a door hanging askew on rusted hinges and then down, the grade almost gentle, poured concrete at first giving way to dressed stone underfoot and vaulted arches above, growing damper and more nitre-frosted the further I went. Nitre. There’s a word one doesn’t get to use every day, but there it was, oozing down the walls, water dripping down from above in a manner just irregular enough to be intensely unnerving. I was, fairly certainly, under the floor of Long Island Sound, with tons of water pressing down from above, and I was intensely aware of it with every nerve and every sense, waiting for the sound of rock cracking and water rushing through a tightly confined space to lend some fresh Hell to my existence.

None came, for which I was then and now, profoundly grateful, because mucking my way through the ankle-deep mud that followed the dressed stone was aggravating enough. Also complicated by irregularities in the grading of the floor just under the immediately visible surface that kept trying to slide my feet out from underneath me. At one point, I stumbled heavily, came down hard — and the object I stepped on shattered under my heel. A moment of excavation in the muck yielded a now-broken human skull, darkened with age. I was, by this point, far beyond the lichyards of Hart Island and no longer under the Sound, my sense of direction and the compass in my watch telling me I was somewhere below the northwestern most fringe of Manhattan Island and deep underground.

Ruthven lost an arm and I rather suspect a much more substantial portion of his mind, fleeing blindly into the dark in agony and horror after breaking free from the creature down below, becoming more and more lost as he went until something found him — that pulsing thread, part vein and part root, glowing with its own light. It led him to the path that exited in the ruins on Hart Island, the path that I was following now, and as I sat there kneeling in the dark, looking down at that broken skull, it occurred to me that I was walking in the footsteps of a man whose sanity was questionable at best and who believed with all that was still sane in him that he had spoken with his own Antediluvian here.

The tunnels I had walked up to this point were relatively narrow, just wide enough for two to walk abreast, if that. As I continued, they broadened significantly and any features of manmade manufacture vanished completely, dressed stone and vaulting giving way to earth and stone that looked as though they were rent rather than carved. Deeply rent, scoring through stone and softer (compacted) soil with equal depth. The passage widened to the point that the darkness seemed to overwhelm even my ability to see in the dark. My acuity of vision was insufficient to perceive more than a few hundred feet in either direction. I was...deeply reluctant to meld with the earth of this place and so I refrained from doing so — it wasn’t as though sunlight finding its way down here was going to be an issue.

As I conclude this particular journal entry, I wonder, as I did in Jerusalem, the Black Monastery, and Mexico City, whether perhaps I've gone deeper than anyone — Kindred or kine — ever ought.

There's an air of Kaymakli to this place.

[Margin notes in Okulos' handwriting]

And how would you fucking know?

[Okulos margin notes end]

[above text in Beckett's script ends]

[Art Notes: Below text needs to look like a blog]

Athanasios Speaks!

Communicating to the city via the Harpies, Toreador en vogue Elias Athanasios has invited all Kindred of all Clans to attend his museum for one night only.

His particular emphasis on every Clan being invited has been interpreted to mean we may see Giovanni, Setites, and more exotic breeds appearing at the AFA — perhaps even a bold Sabbat returning to New York!

Needless to say, the Sheriff and Prince have both made it quite clear that if any Kindred make trouble during this gala evening, lives shall be forfeit.

[Above blog post ends]

[below text should be presented as a transcript of a recorded conversation]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: I wake to the knowledge that something had, very recently, been touching me. Had touched me, because the memory of it still tingles on my cheekbone with something close to warmth, but by the time my mind finished swimming up the last dark fathom of daylight torpidity whatever it was had gone.

That knowledge did not, in fact, stop me from scrabbling frantically about for my satchel — which was also gone. Before I settled in, I tucked my journal into the satchel and then placed the satchel firmly between my body and the inner surface of the stone outcropping where I rested. Now it's nowhere to be found. Since I don’t do much tossing and turning in my sleep, that means only one thing: whatever encountered me took the satchel with it, a fact that does absolutely nothing to increase my sanguinity. It also leaves me with few options. My watch has a light in it sufficient to illuminate the face. My phone was in the satchel.

[noises of feedback, the sound of heavy sliding movement, and a thud]

Beckett: I'm running! I'm running back the way I came!

[sounds similar to a whip cracking, a snap, Mr. Beckett screaming]

[Margin notes in Beckett's handwriting]

My pursuer caught me. The ensuing confrontation was humiliatingly brief. I clawed it — it caught my wrist and bent my arm unnaturally. I bit it — and its hand, its too-many-fingered hand with far too many joints, completely covered my face and twisted. It snarled — charnel is too mild a term to describe its utterly fetid breath — and both reason and base instinct agreed that I was about to die a hideous death. I struggled frantically for an instant more of existence, wrenching away from the thing and struggling mindlessly to flee.

[Beckett margin notes end]

[Recording ends]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: A quiet voice cut through the sounds of mortal struggle, inhuman snarls and muffled sounds of pain alike. A hand rested on its shoulder, then in the middle of my chest, pulling us apart almost without effort. My assailant’s weight vanished and I heard it land some significant distance away; it snarled, words this time, and my rescuer snarled back. Their quarrel was brief and to the point, and through the white-hot shrieking pain in my skull I heard it slither away as hideously as it had come. Pain and fear receded so quickly that they nearly took my consciousness with them. Everything becomes...sensory after that. I felt myself being lifted and carried at an enormous physical and mental remove, as though my mind were disconnected from my flesh. I couldn’t even work up the energy necessary to be worried about that, which I suppose I should have considered rather terrifying, though at that instant I was merely relieved beyond rationality not to be feeling the wreckage of my jaw any longer. I felt something wonderfully soft enfold me — not bedding soft, but something that seemed to consist of elements of both cloth and water; I felt myself cradled and yet held almost buoyantly in place, floating but not unanchored.

I heard his voice and started to write.

[Recording ends]

[Above transcript ends]

[the below is written in beckett's handwriting, but on human skin. the writing in italics will be the same font as beckett's, but slightly distressed if possible]

You must forgive my brother. They are all wildly overprotective of me, but Svyatogor is by far the worst. I will, I assure you, have words with him for the harm he has done you, a guest.

I feel careful, gentle hands sliding along my twisted arm. These notions regarding the proper treatment of guests exceeds even the Traditions’ demands for civility. I know the name Svyatogor. Svyatogor of the Sacred Mountain, quasi-mythical folk hero of Kievan Rus, bogatyr. The seven guardians of the Eldest of the Tzimisce are, to my knowledge, also called bogatyri. My head feels light and an actual sensation of amusement from my host fills my body.

You do me too much honor, my guest. I fear also that you have traveled far for nothing. The Eldest is no longer here.

Deft and gentle hands are massaging my arm, realigning broken bones and untwisting mangled flesh, while my thoughts chase themselves in circles.

Such curiosity. I knew someone much like you, once — always seeking to know, to learn, to understand both himself and the world, even if the knowledge caused him pain. You know him, or what he has become, I think. Move your fingers, if you can. Yes. Good. You will want to close your eyes for the next part.

Neither you nor he are wholly unlike the Eldest, for that matter. The Eldest has also sought truth, sought knowledge — for a time, the Eldest was lost in itself with the seeking of an answer it could not find, riven as it was by the severance of its bonds to the earth. It is...no longer lost. And it has gone to take counsel with its own siblings, who are also no longer lost.

My lower jaw has been completely disconnected from the rest of my face for quite some time during the course of my spilling words onto my own skin. I do not need it to speak to this thing.

[Margin notes in Aisling's handwriting]

Goratrix's balls — this is your skin?!

[Aisling margin notes end]

Some things it is not safe for you to know — you are my guest, not that of the Eldest, and some of its secrets it guards more fiercely than others. That it is awake and aware of itself again... is not truly a secret, not to those to whom that knowledge matters the most.

I feel the mandible click physically and audibly back into place as my host begins reconnecting muscle and tendon, knitting skin.

Almost done. Again, my most sincere regrets and apologies — you should rest and take refreshment. Move your jaw. I shall open your eyes.

[skin script ends here]

[below text should be presented as a transcript of a recorded conversation]

[Recording begins]

Beckett: We are, to my very great surprise, no longer underground. We must have traveled farther, much farther, than I can consciously recall. I feel as though I'm lying in something buoyantly bedlike —

[sloshing noise]

Beckett: I am. A bloody waterbed, point in fact.

Unnamed speaker: It came with the loft. You should eat something, Mr. Beckett.

[Recording ends]

[Above transcript ends]

[below text follows as a letter penned by lucita]

Sascha (or whatever you're calling yourself these nights)

Excuse my lack of honorifics. I neither respect nor fear you. Yet, my companion Beckett loathes you, and his encounter with one of your Clanmates requires I reach out to you.

Beckett dreamily spoke of a Tzimisce host who spoke in English, albeit with the sort of accent that makes teenagers swoon. He's described as looking like little more than a teenager— milk-white skin over fine, high-cheeked Slavic bones, coppery-blonde hair pulled back in a loose, curly queue. Perhaps this individual sounds familiar, even among your warped brood.

He abducted and vivisected Beckett, before reassembling him. Gloved to the elbows in our friend the Gangrel's blood, he slit open his own wrist and let his blood pool in his palm to mingle with the vitae already present, before coaxing Beckett to recklessly drink. I understand you endured a similar experience some centuries back.

He knew Beckett's name. He introduced himself as Ilias.

When Beckett woke, he was laying in one of Hesha Ruhadze’s lightproofed rooms. He'd been delivered, semi-torpid, to the safehouse by persons unknown two days previously, along with his personal belongings.

Also: A small box, carved of ivory, containing an object and a note was sat next to him. The object was a ring, also ivory, the band carved with a relief of three almost impossibly tiny and detailed skulls, perfect down to the fangs, wound together with a twist of copper and golden wire worked in the shape of a sheaf of grain. The note was from Ilias and read as follows:

When you see him again, give him my love.

I believe you and Beckett may seek common cause, or share a similar admirer. Reach out to the Gangrel. The two of you are pleasingly dangerous when working in concert.

Lucita de Aragón

[above text in Lucita's script ends]

[below text follows in Beckett's diary script]

Bronx Zoo, New York City, United States

A quick hypothetical, while I have presence of mind to write.

If — and a big if at that — the founders of Clans Malkavian, Tzimisce, and possibly Cappadocian and Salubri are up and around (in various forms) but aren't ushering in the end times, what are they doing? Are the other Antediluvians walking the Earth, with those like myself stepping across their trails? What's their agenda? Do they need to have one?

Ilias said the Eldest was no longer lost, and now seeks counsel from its siblings. What — if anything — is coming?

[above text in Beckett's script ends]

Bright Lights, Deep Shadows

New York City was, at the brink of the new millennium, a battleground between Kindred Sects. Home to millions of kine and hundreds of vampires, the city shook as their conflict took the form of economic espionage, political manipulation, and outright physical violence in and below the streets. In the end, the Camarilla succeeded in driving the Sabbat from the most ardently desired territory in the northeastern United States and, if the Camarilla rule was unsettled immediately afterwards, it has since solidified into a more or less stable configuration — though not everyone is entirely pleased by that shape.

Hellene Panhard emerged into the political vacuum following Calebros’ resignation as the sort of compromise candidate no one actively preferred as the new Prince but whom virtually no one disliked. Her status as a childe of New York’s late, dubiously lamented Prince Michaela gave her a certain legitimacy when it came to claiming the role, and her stated goal of reconstruction was attractive to those weary of further conflict. Her ascension was not marked by an expected crackdown on the freedoms the Kindred of her new domain had come to enjoy during the course of the wild years of open conflict between the Camarilla and the Sabbat. Where Calebros enforced several laws of his own making to keep the peace, she released the city from these strictures in what some consider a reactionary move to win popularity.

The Anarchs of New York, who were deeply suspicious of Hellene at first, are finding her more tolerable to work with than a more inflexible autocrat. Spared some of the more obvious sources of friction by the new Prince’s willingness to bend a bit to accommodate reality, New York’s Kindred have, indeed, rebuilt a stable cultural edifice in which to pursue their individual and collective goals and influences.

With quarrels dying down, the attentions of many are drawn to the sublime. Kindred begin to establish galleries and host extravagant parties for their fellows — both native to New York and otherwise. Nearly all are by invite only, but Manhattan swiftly grows into the place to be for Camarilla neonates wishing to become known. A thriving vampire art, performance, and culture scene bursts forth, fueled by the mixture of ethnic backgrounds and creeds present in the Big Apple. Prince Hellene supports this movement entirely, recognizing only that humanity could be brought out with a little creativity.

Scholars of the arcane are likewise drawn to New York, albeit for different reasons. Nosferatu of the city have long claimed the presence of the legendary Nictuku preying beneath the streets. Those vampires brave enough to go deeper than the sewers and subways rarely emerge. Mages, Giovanni, and Tremere are reaching a provisional accord on sharing findings obtained from the underground, as all can sense something dead, yet mentally present, somewhere within the earth.

Just as Tzimisce's tendrils once reached throughout New York, so do chronicle hooks:

• Beckett's discovery of the ancient Tzimisce Ilias, and strong evidence of the Eldest historically being present in New York, seemingly concludes many of the mysteries surrounding Kindred disappearances. Yet, Beckett confides his discoveries to few. The experience of being rent and reassembled by a fleshcrafting savant leaves him disturbed, and not a little traumatized. Further, the disappearances strangely increase in number after Beckett's reemergence. Kindred of occult persuasion seek the perpetrator for study. Those troubled with the rash of vanishings are set on destroying the cause once and for all.

• The outbreak of the Sabbat’s most recent bloody internal quarrel and the collapse of the Anarch Free States in the west have caused a sudden, rather unexpected influx of Kindred refugees fleeing the violence of both conflicts. Their presence in and around New York drives tensions between the court and the Anarchs higher than they have been in the best part of a decade — tensions that clever provocateurs could use to their advantage.

• One of Prince Hellene’s most significant acts of reconstruction involves a substantial degree of outreach to the European elders without whom the reconquest of New York would have been impossible. Taking a page from both Kindred history and modern realpolitik, she reinstituted the role of ambassador, and sent several of her more dynamic courtiers on goodwill missions. Ambassador Katherine Wiese returned with a companion named Elias Athanasios. Posing as a Toreador, "Elias" is now patron of an exclusive gallery containing Kindred artifacts and memorabilia. Some of these objects were wheedled from the private collections of politically and socially significant Kindred as donations to the cause of increased awareness of their shared past. Some are new creations of Kindred artists inspired by modern artistic modes and sensibilities. More than a few are actually artifacts of ritual power and significance belonging to traditions of Kindred blood magic predating Tremere thaumaturgical developments by thousands of years — a fact lost on neither Athanasios nor on the residents of the Chantry of the Five Boroughs.

• The Chantry of the Five Boroughs has not enjoyed quite the same degree of peace and stability experienced by the rest of the city. Regent Aisling Sturbridge sits atop the local pyramid, though not for want of trying by at least one of her theoretically-loyal subordinates. A good deal of her time has been devoted to discovering what has, until recently, been residing under Manhattan Island. For several years, the Chantry was aware of a powerful psychic presence in New York, though opinion was split as to its nature and origins. Some believed it wasn’t a singular entity but rather some sort of “well of souls,” multiple entities sharing a single, relatively-confined space somewhere below the Nosferatu warrens and well beyond the physical or psychic reach of any researchers. Others suspected that the presence was not an entity at all — citing the fragmented nature of the impressions received from it and the absence of readily-identified indicators of sapience — but possibly one of the many lost caches of Kindred lore known to be scattered throughout the world by generations of sectarian violence and social upheaval. Before any conclusions could be drawn, however, that psychic presence...dwindled, contracting in on itself and reorganizing rapidly before vanishing entirely. The Chantry has since devoted significant resources to the goal of locating the resting place of this presence and, if possible, its trail.