Fall 2004 V:TES CCG Storyline Tournament
Forgotten what happened in the prologue? Go read it again.
Infernal Plague Epilogue
Jan Pieterzoon showed Alan Sovereign into the private chamber of Hardestadt the Elder.
"Welcome to Europe, Mr. Sovereign," Hardestadt said.
"Thank you, sir," Alan replied. "It's my pleasure to be here." Alan lowered his head in a subtle gesture reminiscent of a bow, then he raised his eyes to meet the elder's gaze. Although Alan doubted that a creature as powerful as Hardestadt would need to look him in the eyes to enthrall him, it couldn't hurt in these times of treachery to show his elder that he had nothing to hide.
"Quentin sends his regards, sir," Alan said.
"And I appreciate Mister King sparing one of his remaining, trusted advisors on such short notice," Hardestadt answered. Jan motioned Alan toward a leather seat as Pieterzoon and Hardestadt both sat. Alan took his seat. He had imagined many times meeting the founder of the Camarilla, and many times he had questioned his own ability to remain composed in the face of so potent a Kindred. Now he found Hardestadt's presence cool yet comfortable, not unlike the Old World luxuries that appointed the chamber.
"And how is Quentin managing the treason of Lorance and the others?" Hardestadt asked.
Alan had no doubt that Hardestadt knew exactly how things were being managed in every area of Camarilla domain, but he suspected there was some other purpose to the question.
"There was some initial shock and dismay at the number of traitors and that they had actually become infernalists," he began, "but now that that has come to light, affairs have been managed well."
Hardestadt nodded. "Our enemies within and without have finally revealed themselves for all Kindred to see. Some within our ranks are shocked by the extent of the Baali's corruption and the number of turncoats within our ranks, especially among the line of Arikel. The Toreador might think they can change masters whenever their passions drive them in a new direction, but now they have pledged themselves to a master who commands eternal obedience.
"For our part, we have faced this enemy before, and we ground the Baali into the dust. We now go to war to do so again, and you are to become a solider in that war, Mr. Sovereign."
"Yes, sir," Alan said, his thoughts tumbling. He was no soldier fit for battle. Surely other Kindred in the sect were more qualified for actual, physical conflict. Surely Hardestadt knew that. Surely he wasn't actually being drafted to literally follow Theo Bell into assaults on Baali havens.
"As we move all of our resources into their proper position," Hardestadt continued, "we find that we have need of someone with expertise in international banking and money laundering. Jan will provide you with the information on certain corporations and trusts and their worldwide bank accounts. He will also introduce you to certain arms-dealers known to us. It seems that ever since the Americans have put forth their efforts to stop the financing of international terrorism, it is no longer a simple matter to discretely purchase the conventional arsenal we need for the coming conflict. It is now your job to see that it gets done."
"Yes, sir," Alan said with no small relief.
"And my responsibilities to Quentin?"
"Mister King and I have made arrangements for your services. Your past loyalty to him concerns you no longer. You will make your haven here in Europe for now. Jan will direct you."
Although Alan was facing Hardestadt and listening to the elder's every word, he suddenly found it difficult to focus on what was being said. Hardestadt's eyes drew Alan's mental focus down into their depths. When Alan recovered his faculties, he found himself standing. Hardestadt and Pieterzoon both stood as well. Had some intervening moment passed?
"Alan, only you, Jan and I will know of the status of these accounts you will control," Hardestadt said. "In times of war, we leave nothing to chance, including further treachery from any who claim to remain loyal."
"Yes, sir." With that, Alan was dismissed to begin his duties and to wonder what Hardestadt might have done inside his mind.
* * *
Sela chaffed at the Toreador's presence, but she had little choice but to endure it. Barbaro had claimed that this Helena woman was the perfect tool, and Sela's new master had confirmed it in the omens that Sela was still learning to recognize as the way he communicated his will to her. Sela despised Helena for the very reason that Helena was perfect for the task ahead. Helena's blood was old and potent. It was all too clear that Helena's age and lineage put her in a higher stratum of power than Sela's own blood would ever allow. Perhaps that's why, in the months they spent together below the streets of Rome, Sela found herself dreaming of drinking Helena's heart's blood. She would imagine the taste of the rich, warm flow in her mouth only to have her Beast rise up within her, eager to make that dream a reality. Helena seemed all too serenely aware of Sela's fantasy and her struggle with her Beast, which made it all the more maddening to be around her.
Yet Sela did endure Helena's company. For nearly two months, she had taught the Toreador the secret of the Lasombra, the command of shadows. Sela had learned the art through so many trials that it annoyed her to just give the knowledge to Helena on a silver platter. The ease with which Helena mastered it only annoyed her further.
Admittedly, though, Sela had learned much from Helena as well during those months. The Toreador implied that she once controlled Rome-if not the whole Roman Empire. The elder Toreador's knowledge of Rome, at least Rome as it once was, seemed without peer. Once Sela felt certain that Helena had no desire to try to seize Rome as her own domain again, she listened more carefully to how the Toreador had once pulled the strings of power in the city. The strings had not changed so much from ancient to modern nights that the usefulness of the lessons was lost on Sela. During those months it also became clear to Sela how Barbaro intended to bring Helena fully into their master's bondage. Sela saw clearly what impassioned the Toreador and moved her beyond reason or prudence. She knew what might even make the Toreador abandon her unlife-perhaps even her soul. It was hate. Hate for the one she called Menele, whom Kindred legend referred to as the childe of Troile. What moved Helena to hate the ancient Brujah so intensely, however, Sela could not fathom.
Yet Barbaro used that hate like a tool in a master sculptor's hands. The impish man would stoke Helena's furor and other times call into question the depth of that hatred. The hatred and the promise of quenching her hate in Menele's blood proved a powerful motivator to keep Helena focused on the course ahead.
When Sela finally had to admit that she had taught Helena all she could of the Abyss, Barbaro revealed to them both a text he had found in the Vatican archives. An ancient text of Abyssal Mysticism that might prove to be the key to His prison.
The results of the Infernal Plague story line are tallied. The Baali's efforts to corrupt the other clans met with the most success among the Toreador, who turned infernal (won more Infernal Plague tournaments as infernalists) more than any other clan. Meanwhile, the Ventrue stood their ground, reinforcing their position as the Clan of Kings, leading the Camarilla efforts to thwart the infernal menace (and winning more tournaments as non-infernalists than any other clan). The infernal story line concludes with a sequel story-line tournament later this year (details to be announced). The sequel story line will feature a support kit complete with Toreador and Ventrue cards associated with those clans' Infernal Plague victories and another surprise item not to be missed!