The last time I saw such prophecies, Constantinople burned, but its ashes gave us the Sabbat. As then, many will burn, their reddish embers filling the Final Nights like dead stars. Is this our end? No, but it is a transformation. My sire once spoke of his sire and said "change breeds itself and at one point, the head must bite the tail to start the cycle once more."
-Sascha Vycos, Angel of Caine on the prophecies of the Kaymakli Fragment
The sound of her boots on the hard stone floor echoed around the confined space as Mercy, Knight Inquisitor stepped into the small chapel in the Temple of Eternal Whispers. She stood for a moment before the statue of Caine, father to all her kind, before drawing her sword from beneath her long black coat, setting it on the ground before the altar, and kneeling in prayer. Mercy prayed for guidance, and she prayed for strength.
For years, Mercy had been chief Inquisitor of Montreal, leading the Kindred of the city in their efforts to expunge the too-frequent infernal threats to the city. In that time, she had never dealt with a threat on par with the one she was currently confronted with. Helena, a Toreador elder, who wore the infernal taint like an intoxicating perfume, had appeared among the Kindred of Montreal and turned the city on its head.
Everyone who had encountered her had fallen under Helena's spell. The Librarians were tripping over themselves to hand over their secrets. The Widows sheltered her, worshiped her. Even Archbishop Benezri, once strong and vigilant, had grown sullen and silent, implicated by his feeble inaction.
Mercy had reported the situation to her master in the Inquisition. She had demanded soldiers, action, and blood. They had responded with questions, lines of inquiry, and promises.
Among the pack leaders of Montreal, only Ezekiel had been quick to pledge his support to her. He had insisted that the Black Hand was prepared to serve the Inquisition. Ezekiel was naked in his opportunism, more interested in deposing Benezri than confronting the true threat. He could be used, but not trusted.
Mercy was prepared to do what was needed, alone if need be. Support would come once the stakes had been made clear. She would isolate those who opposed her, starting with the weakest among them, and tear their minds and bodies apart. Mercy would provide a graphic demonstration of real power, of the price of opposing the Inquisition, of the costs of supporting the infernalist. She would learn of Helena's purpose in Montreal, and then she would set her trap.
Mercy prayed for success. She prayed for a miracle.
Jan Pieterzoon sat comfortably in a sumptuous boudoir on the ninth floor of the Chateau Frontenac, the main landmark of Quebec City. Deep in thought, he waited patiently to be introduced to Prince Annabelle, Tremere Lord and Regent of the Quebec Chantry. The city was completely under Tremere influence, a powerful stronghold.
"Monsieur Pieterzoon?" said a ghoul at the door. Jan snapped out of his reverie. That was the same ghoul that had picked him up at the airport. Arsene de Blainville was his name. More than 250 years under the same Tremere domitor, if he remembered their little talk correctly. That's some kind of patience.
"May I present to you Prince Annabelle. Madame," said the ghoul while moving out of the way.
Prince Annabelle entered the room. Brunette, with long hair, wearing fashionable glasses and a perfectly fit suit, she seemed more like a scholar than a sorceress.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Pieterzoon."
"Je suis enchant," he replied with a strong Germanic accent.
"Yes. Your file mentioned the fact that you speak fluent French, if I remember correctly," she retorted with a smile.
"You must be kidding me," she replied. "You must know that we maintain files on-well-everything!" She chuckled. "Let's forget about Tremere procedures for a while and tell me about the reason you are here. Please, tell me. What is the disaster that brings you here?" Could she already know? He thought. Had she just read his mind?
"The Camarilla requires your help in a most important matter. We have a problem in Montreal."
Again, she laughed. "We always have a problem in Montreal. We all do here. But to what are you referring?"
"A powerful Kindred is hiding in Montreal, with a piece of metal that's causing us a lot of trouble. That vampire must be destroyed, as well as the object." After a pause, he continued. "It's a female Toreador. She is on our new top ten. Helena is her name."
Prince Annabelle was now dead serious. "And the object is?"
"A piece of scrap."
"You came all the way here in Quebec City to ask for my help, but you figured that you could hide sensitive information from me. I'm disappointed. What is the object?"
"If the rumor is true," Jan began, "it's an engraved disk with ancient writing about the end of the world."
"Yes. If the rumor is true."
She waited for him to continue.
"That disk might be related to the incidents of this summer. It's been used as a recruiting tool for our enemies. That's why it must be destroyed," he said, with great emphasis on the last four words.
So, the disk is more important than the Toreador, she thought.
He continued, "Soon, many of our agents will go to Montreal to destroy both vampire and disk. You are expected to participate."
"3But we will. We are, after all, the Camarilla's humble servants. After Clan Ventrue, of course," she answered back with a grin.
After a moment, she asked, "Do you require any sustenance? It's pretty easy to hunt all around the castle, this time of the year. Or perhaps you have more specific needs. If so, Monsieur De Blainville will help you. Ask him for anything, your heart's desire."
"Perhaps." With a bow Jan took his leave.
Minutes later, in his chamber, Jan Pieterzoon was satisfied. He saw it in her eyes. She was intrigued. She would participate. Sunrise was near. He put himself to bed. Tomorrow, he would be in Boston. His first task would be to find someone in charge. His second task would be to persuade them to help, at a reasonable price.
Helena entered the abandoned old tenement building impatiently. She followed the stench she had been tracking for several city blocks as it trailed down a rotting, crumbing staircase. She did not hesitate as she crossed the threshold, though she knew what was waiting for her below.
Scattered candles illuminated the large, barren basement. The cellar floor had been torn away, the foundation ripped up in rough circle to reveal the dirt beneath. The ground was stained, soaked in blood, excrement and bile. For most of her very long span, Helena, queen of queens, would have been repulsed by such a foul location. Of late, her unlife had traveled down much less savory paths. She showed no reaction as she stepped into the circle, her red leather boots sinking into the muck with a soft sucking noise.
He moved from the shadows at the edge of the circle and Helena looked him over as he approached. The fine suit, swept-back silver hair, and regal face, lined with age, must have once belonged to someone who considered himself important, respected, secure. This poise was belied by the alien yellow eyes betraying the presence of the demon inhabiting the decaying mortal husk.
"Helena. My humble home has never been graced by someone so magnificent, nor one so welcome. Even the legends of your beauty do not do justice to the reality of it. This is truly an honor." His voice was somehow both hoarse and unctuous.
The demon raised a clawed nail to her lips, one eye closing in a lazy, grotesque wink. "Shhhh. Whenever that name is uttered, there's a little Inquisitor who pricks up her ears."
As his finger withdrew, Helena was rocked by a vision. She saw a pile of writhing bodies, animal and human, Kindred and kine. Atop the mound stood the Decani demon, working through the pile of flesh with a multitude of insect arms, its face inhuman and monstrous. The screams lingered in Helena's ears even after the vision faded. She was shocked to her core by the brief glimpse of what lay behind the thing's genteel facade, and paused for a moment to regain her composure.
"The Fragment. I want it. You are going to bring it to me." Helena fixed the full weight of her gaze upon the demon, a gaze that had bent and broken Kindred and kine alike for the last several millennia. Metathiax's reaction was to blink once and run his tongue across his lips contemplatively.
The demon circled her slowly, whispering into her right ear, then her left. "Ah, yes. The Kaymakli Fragment. They know you're here and now they know what you want. They've hidden it, haven't they? Hidden it from you. But not from me. Nothing in this city is hidden from me. Of course, I will get it for you... for a price..."
"A price? Haven't I already paid my price?"
The demon smiled. "You have paid a price. You have offered a prize, a most wondrous prize. But not to me. What have you given me? Nothing. Yet. But fortune has smiled upon us both. After I perform this service for you, there is something you can do for me. There is a trifle for which you are uniquely qualified, a task that will have inconsequential cost to you, but will be of immense value to me. There is a curse, a spell, ancient bonds that trap me, hold me to this spot. You can break them."
"I will get you the Fragment. You will see it with your eyes, hold it in your hands. From it, you will learn the truth, the truth about the father of your kind, and the Dark Mother as well. With it, you will teach this truth to others and draw them to your cause. And then, Helena, you will set me free."