The Return of Nergal
Prologue: Alan Sovereign could follow a paper trail like no other. Of course, his ability to obscure financial transactions was also unparalleled. Alan's new responsibilities in Rome pushed even his limits, however, and he struggled to secure the Camarilla's remaining financial resources and to fund the coming war.
As he reviewed the wire transfers that had wiped out Camarilla investment accounts around the world, Alan could trace most of the transactions back to specific turncoats—identifying by name each traitor and recording their transgressions on a legal pad. All of the names were at least familiar to him, but he was genuinely shocked by a few that made his list. Alan figured that at least a couple were not willful in their treachery, either brainwashed Manchurians carefully placed within the Camarilla's ranks or possibly even unwitting accomplices. In addition, Alan reasoned that at least a few others were probably not turncoats at all. Up until this point, everyone had assumed that anyone who went missing that night had defected. He realized that some could have been tortured for their information and killed afterward. At least he hoped this was true, since it would mean that the infernal infiltration was not as pervasive as had been initially feared.
Alan also suspected that a handful of traitors probably remained within their ranks. Whether or not this was actually the case, there was now so much latent suspicion and fear that few princes were cooperating outside their own ranks of trusted advisors. The infernalist threat would require a unified response from the Camarilla—a prospect that was becoming increasingly unlikely.
Alan rose from his high-backed leather chair and turned to face an ill-fitting area of brick that had once been a window when the building was first constructed.
A knock on the office door went unacknowledged, as one of Alan's new associates entered.
"Mister Sovereign?" Stephen said. "Sir?"
"Yes," Alan responded, paying only partial attention.
Stephen moved forward cautiously. The gravity of Alan's new responsibilities created a remarkable transformation in his demeanor and in the way others related to him. Nothing remained of the bookish accountant, and now even his former peers were reluctant to meet his gaze.
"Sir, we have a report that Barbaro has left Rome and has traveled to Amman. It would seem more than a coincidence considering the Vatican's reports of a break-in and theft of what they are calling 'documents of historical significance.'"
"Leave me," Alan said quietly without turning around. He still didn't completely trust his new staff, and even though Hardestadt had hand-picked them all, one just couldn't be careful enough these nights.
Once the office door closed, Alan moved back to his desk and retrieved a report that had once seemed unimportant yet now took on new meaning. The report described minor raids by infernalists in Damascus and Chorazin but it concluded that the targeted locations were merely symbolic and wouldn't provide any strategic advantages.
Alan quickly modified an order for 500 Austrian Steyrs, and redirected the weapons shipment to the port of Aqaba.
"I don't know what they're up to," Alan conceded, "but I'll be damned if we won't be there to meet them."
Beneath towering sheer cliffs Barbaro, Sela, and Helena walked through the narrow and twisting path that would lead to Petra. Working their way deeper into the heart of the mountain, they proceeded through the ravine and only occasionally glimpsed moonlight as it entered from between the tall peaks. The seemingly endless trek eventually opened into a view of magnificent buildings, carved directly into the red, pink, and orange cliffs. The ruins of Petra were still impressive and retained architectural traces of their Roman heritage. As their elevation increased, the three passed countless tombs cut directly into the mountain. While traversing a narrow path up the rocky face, Barbaro was awash in memories. He reflected on his role in the centuries of planning that were about to come to fruition.
Barbaro remembered with regret the exact moment the teachings of his mentor and fellow priest had taken an odd turn, and how his split-second decision to not end the lesson had paved the way into curiosity and eventually, interest in occult rituals. He recalled his own Embrace and rebirth within the walls of the Vatican and his struggle to reconcile his new nature with his old God. He would also never forget the night he realized that he too was just a tool—nothing more than a minor player on a grand stage. In a larger sense, he recognized that his story was not much different than that of Helena or Sela. All three had been sought out specifically for the task at hand. Helena's hatred of Menele and her willingness to pay any cost for even a weak and convoluted form of revenge made her an easy mark for Barbaro's manipulations, while Sela's naked ambition was even easier to mold. Barbaro wondered what his own flaw was that allowed him to be so easily manipulated those centuries ago, though that mattered little to him anymore. Warmed by the knowledge that he was about to earn his damnation rather than having it thrust upon him, Barbaro clutched the ancient text describing the Lasombra's ritual.
The flattened top of the peak revealed an ancient holy place. Centuries of wind and rain had served to smooth every sharp stone surface while deepening and refining every crevice. Barbaro was pleased to find the altar basically intact. In times past, death cultists, and the Nabateans before them, would slaughter their sacrifices upon the altar while the blood flowed through carved channels into smaller reservoirs. Additional canals would handle heavier run-off and distribute the blood to the furthest reaches of the plateau.
As the three stood near the altar, Barbaro produced the ancient text. He had rehearsed with Helena many times and was confident that she'd perform perfectly. Sela, however, would be able to play her part without rehearsal.
Helena stood silent and motionless for a moment, and a single black tentacle soon reached out from her hands and danced before them. While Barbaro's outstretched arms held the ancient text for Helena to read from, the moon's light transformed the scene around them—covering everything in an ever-deepening shade of purple. As Helena began to read aloud from the text, the tentacle leapt into her mouth and acted as a tongue while she mouthed the powerful words. Barbaro displayed an almost fatherly smile as he witnessed the power of Helena's potent blood.
Helena ceased speaking, and she and Barbaro turned toward Sela. As Sela began to speak, the tentacle retreated from Helena and jumped into Sela's mouth. The words she spoke were unintelligible, however, and seemed to be directed by the black tongue itself. Though her ears couldn't understand the words she spoke, Sela knew that she spoke of an Abyssal prison, and of doors… and keys… and sacrifice. Sela's eyes widened with understanding. Fear enveloped her as the ebony tongue rapidly sprouted offshoots that sprung forward and wrapped themselves completely around her. Sela let loose a garbled scream before her pitch-black body burst into a lightless flame that whirled around and displaced the moon's remaining light. Barbaro and Helena observed their sacrifice as the remnants of Sela formed a black pool upon the altar. The black sludge quickly filled the shallow reservoirs to capacity and the excess moved throughout the canals across the entire plateau.
The earth trembled as a sea of grey rats poured from an expanding pit in the center of the plateau. Helena advanced toward the opening and the fleeing rats parted for her. Helena's confidence grew with each step, and she descended the chasm without fear. In a flash of darkness, she stepped into the void.
Barbaro's warnings had been accurate, for the attacks came almost immediately. Helena steadied herself as she sensed the Abyssal creatures' attempts to possess her. She could feel their desire for such a powerful host, and she steeled her will against them. The gift of Lasombra flowed from her, and Helena repelled each attack with ease.
Helena moved with blinding speed within the Abyss and searched out the darkest places in creation. She peered into the physical world and witnessed a murder in a darkened alley and a secret conceived in a motel room. She sped past earthly prison cells, lightless caves and inner chambers, until she came to a place as dark as the sun is light—the blackness of an impossible midnight. From this place Helena called out, "Come forth Nergal, Prince of Hell. You have been freed from your shadow prison so that you may sate your thirst on the blood of Menele."
Between October 1st and December 18th, 2005 results of special Vampire: The Eternal Struggle tournaments from around the world will create the final chapter of this story.
Each player attending a designated storyline tournament will receive a special promo-only card of Nergal, Alan Sovereign (Advanced), and Helena (Advanced). These promo-only cards will remain in limited circulation for at least one year before being released into general support packages.
Except as noted in these instructions, the tournament will follow the Standard Constructed Tournament format and current V:EKN rules.
* At least 75% (e.g., 9 out of 12) of the vampires in a player's crypt must be the same clan.
* Each player will receive one Nergal, Alan Sovereign (Advanced) and Helena (Advanced) promo-only card. Players may add one Alan Sovereign (Advanced) and one Helena (Advanced) promo-only card to his or her crypt before play begins. Only one Alan Sovereign (Advanced) and one Helena (Advanced) may be used in each crypt. For purposes of this event only, the group number of these two promo-only cards is ignored, and may be mixed with any otherwise legal crypt. The resulting crypt must still meet the 75% rule above.
* Recalled to the Founder, True Faith, and Seeds of Corruption are banned.
* During his or her untap phase, the player playing the Nergal deck may burn a card played by any other Methuselah on Nergal.
* The final round will be played using a specially designed Nergal, Prince of Hell deck. All cards in this deck are illegal for play outside of this event and are clearly identified as such. The operation of this deck and rules for the final round are presented in detail below.
FINAL ROUND SETUP
Before seating and order of play is determined for the Final Round, one finalist will be selected to play a specially designed Nergal, Prince of Hell deck. The option to play the Nergal deck will be offered first to the top seeded player. If the top seeded player refuses the opportunity to play the Nergal deck, the option passes to the second seeded player and so on through the fourth seeded finalist. If none of the first four seeded finalists choose to play the Nergal deck, the fifth seeded player must play the deck instead of the deck they began the event with.
Only the players NOT playing the Nergal deck will choose their seats and determine the order of play in the normal fashion. The Nergal deck player will play last in the turn order.
PREDATOR AND PREY
The Nergal deck is the predator and prey of every other player.Because there are additional predator/prey relationships over and above those found in a normal 5-player game, we'll call the extra predator/prey relationships "virtual predators (or prey)" and the original/normal predator/prey relationships "natural predators (or prey)".
Aaron, Brian, Chad, Darby and Eric are our five finalists. Eric, the top seed has accepted the Nergal deck and will play fifth in the turn order. The remaining four players choose seating as normal. Darby ends up preying on Aaron who preys on Brian who preys on Chad who preys on Darby. Darby is randomly selected to go first in the turn order. Eric, the Nergal deck player, sits between Chad and Darby and takes his turn fifth in the turn order (after Chad and before Darby). Given this turn order, these are the normal predator/prey relationships in a five-player game and hence will be termed "natural predators (or prey)".
In addition, because Nergal is all of the other players' predator and all of the other players' prey and because all four of the other players will prey on each other in the normal cycle, some additional predator/prey relationships are added.
Darby's natural prey is Aaron but his virtual prey is Eric (playing Nergal).
Aaron's natural prey is Brian but his virtual prey is Eric (playing Nergal).
Brian's natural prey is Chad but his virtual prey is Eric (playing Nergal).
Chad's natural prey is Eric (playing Nergal) but his virtual prey is Darby.
Eric's (Nergal's) natural prey is Darby but his virtual prey are Aaron, Brian and Chad.
All non-Nergal players have one natural predator and one virtual predator.
All non-Nergal players have one natural prey and one virtual prey.
Nergal has one natural predator and three virtual predators.
Nergal has one natural prey and three virtual prey.
If the Nergal player is ousted, play continues as normal with each player's natural prey to their left.
If Darby, Aaron, or Brian are ousted, their predator's new natural prey is the player to their left (as normal) and their virtual prey relation to Nergal remains intact.
However, if Chad is ousted (see graphic below) Brian's new virtual prey becomes Darby while Brian's natural prey becomes Eric. (it's always Nergal's natural predator who skips Nergal to get a virtual prey.)
Since all players now have multiple predators and prey, the Methuselah **playing a card** or **taking an action** may need to clarify which prey or predator their action or effect is targeting. Other effects are resolved using the natural prey/predator relationships.
Aaron wishes to bleed with one of his vampires. Since Aaron has two prey, a natural prey (Brian) and a virtual prey (Eric), he may choose to bleed either Brian or Eric with his bleed.
Chad plays a Night Moves action card and one of his vampires may now bleed his predator or prey. Chad may choose to target his natural prey Eric, his virtual prey Darby, his natural predator Brian, or his virtual predator (again) Eric.
Brian controls Afifa, The Herald and puts a Gehenna card in play. His prey burns 1 pool. Since Afifa's effect is not a card play or cardless action, Brian cannot choose who to target with the damage. Brian's natural prey, Chad, burns the 1 pool.
Darby is bled by Eric. Darby plays My Enemy's Enemy, and may choose to send the bleed to Aaron, Brian, Chad, or himself (since all are Eric's predators).
Reins of Power - Each Methuselah also burns an amount of pool equal to the capacity of his or her natural predator's chosen vampire.
Millicent Smith, Puritan Vampire Hunter - Millicent moves to the natural predator.
During Chad's untap phase, he sees that his natural prey, Eric has more pool than he does. Chad passes control of Uriah Winter to his natural prey, Eric. Later, during Eric's untap phase he sees that his prey Darby has more pool than he has and so passes control or Uriah to Darby.
WHO MAY BLOCK
When any player takes an undirected action, the option to attempt to block is first given to their natural prey, and then to their natural predator and then to their virtual prey and finally to their virtual predator. As always, once a Methuselah declines to make any more block attempts, that decision is final (even if they would have received another block opportunity).
Who may normally block a directed action is not changed--the player being targeted by the directed action may attempt to block. Next, other players using cards such as Eagle's Sight may make block attempts beginning with the acting player's natural prey and then going clockwise around the table.
OUSTING AND NERGAL VICTORY CONDITIONS
Whenever a player is ousted, both their natural and virtual predator(s) receive a VP and 6 pool. While the Nergal deck's player receives victory points, he or she doesn't use them. The Nergal deck can only win if they are the last player standing.
If the Nergal deck wins, its player may keep the Nergal deck. If the Nergal deck loses, the event's winner keeps the deck.
THE NERGAL, PRINCE OF HELL DECK
All of the library cards in this deck are variations of existing library cards and have been modified in various ways to represent Nergal's power. Read the card texts carefully and don't assume the cards work the same way as legal-for-play version. The crypt consists of only one vampire which is also illegal outside of this event.
THE WINNING CLAN
We will keep a tally of the winning clans from each event. The clan that obtains the most storyline victories will be rewarded with a special reward card in the next available expansion. For the purposes of this tally, the Nergal deck will be considered part of its own clan.
After your event, please complete the INFERNAL PLAGUE: RETURN OF NERGAL STORYLINE QUESTIONNAIRE and email it to . For your event to count in the official tally, we must receive a Storyline Questionnaire that contains at least the name of your event's winning clan. A fully completed Storyline Questionnaire gives your event the opportunity to have additional impact on the developing storyline.
NERGAL DECK SPOILER
The spoiler for the Nergal Deck is linked here, but you may wish to avoid reading it to save the surprise.
Contact Robert Goudie at