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  #1  
Unread 8th of March, 2011, 14:27
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Prelude: Halls of Power

The Prince sat at her expansive, varnished wooden desk, the mid-town Manhattan night sky sprawling out behind her, through the large window at the uppermost floor of the Stannard Tower - commissioned, built, and owned by her Sire and the former Prince who had ruled this city for a century before handing the reins of power over to her. Beside her on her right stood her Childe, Ettore, dressed in a fine suit that matched with the Prince's own business attire. To her left was Thomas Broadworth, her Seneschal, and in front of her, airing out his grievances, was a Gangrel from Brooklyn known simply as "Hodge" which was short for Hodgins. Brooklyn was largely Gangrel territory, and the clan preferred it that way and to be left to their own devices, but lately the Prince had, at the request of the Ordo Dracul, been stepping up her presence in that borough, directly as a result of their Draugr problem - feral Gangrels who had been reduced to the barest of animal instincts and needed to be put down to Final Death lest they breach the Masquerade and breed out of control.

"My Prince... there was no way that Lord Gamingdol's agents could not have known that Bernard Tommins was in complete control of his faculties. Bernie tried to talk them down, he attempted to surrender to them, and they did not stop - instead feeding on him and drinking him dry!"

"That is not the story that my agents have told," came the deep gravelling voice of Lord Gomindol from where he sat at a smaller desk to the side of the room. "The creature that was once Bernard Tommins attacked them outright and without mercy - intent upon their Final Deaths. We understand that Mr. Hodgins here was on friendly terms with Tommins and may be having difficulty coming to grips with his reduction to the state of being a Draugr, but my men acted within the bounds of your edict. Draining a Draugr was deemed permissible for this raid by your order. We have only the word of this one, emotionally invested individual saying that Bernard was anything other than wholly given over to the Beast."

At this, Hodge seemed to quake with barely repressed rage, and he scowled at the fat, bloated Nosferatu who sported sharp, elongated fingernails that rapped idly on the desk.

"My Prince... Clan Gangrel can take care of its own problems. There were never that many Draugr to begin with... we believe the Ordo Dracul had their own reasons for convincing you to intervene."

"The Prince is not interested in hearing your unfounded conspiracy theories about the Ordo Dracul unless you have some hard proof of their wrongdoing," said Broadworth, acting as the voice for the Prince as he usually did when she had not yet deemed it fit to enter the conversation. "The fact that you allowed Draugr of any number to go unchecked in your domains long enough for another faction to become aware of them speaks to the fact that your clan cannot 'take care of its own' as you claim."

Hodge's eyes seem to burn between both the Seneschal and the Sheriff, who regard him with disdain and annoyance. "We cannot tolerate murder covered up behind the cloak of the Prince's politics and the Invictus - Ordo Dracul agenda. Markh will hear of this!"

"Braxton Markh is a loyal member of our Covenant," Broadworth retorts. "His stance on this will be the same as the Prince. Your complaint has been heard. The decision stands in favor of Gamingdol and his agents. Go back to your domain and take care that you and your brood look after your Beasts."

With that, Hodge leaves with a snarl and retreats from the chamber, the door held open for him by two of the Prince's honor guard - members of the Honored Order of the Thorned Wreath, Antonio Perez and Damon Olin, each with a sword sheathed at their belts.

"Excellent work, Gamingdol," Broadworth said, to which the Nosferatu waved his hand.

"A pity my men did not notice that Hodgins was also present in the warehouse, or we would be rid of him as well, and another potential Carthian rat would be exterminated," the Nosferatu gurgled, and some excess drool slipped out of his misshapen mouth, which he quickly dabbed with a large black handkerchief that he kept on him to keep himself "tidy."

"If Hodgins is left to his own devices though, he may stoke up more flames in Brooklyn. Perhaps we should use the Hound?" Broadworth stroked his chin and dared a glance at his Prince.

Mercia, who had remained quiet during the entire hearing tilted her head and looked at Ettore, as though she were interested in his opinion.
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Unread 9th of March, 2011, 02:34
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Ettore frowned slightly as he considered the situation. He turns his attention over towards Gamingdol, inclining his head slightly, before he returns to Mercia as he speaks. "If he had been caught in the same Hunt for the Draugr as the other, then Hodgins would be of no concern. Yet now that the Hunt is concluded, and he has made a formal grievance, that time of convenience is at an end. The Court knows of his visit, have little doubt. Especially the other rabble. Kill him now and there is ample room for others to cry Tyranny and Murder. Whether from believing outrage or convenience either one. Better that we should acquire a hold on him. To bring him to heel and force him to speak as the Prince wills. To reinforce us, whether he should will it or no. Who knows. The experience might even convert him to a right way of thinking after a time. Certainly not as an ally, but.. it may convince him to give up his rabble rousing ways, which would be another victory. And if not. Then... after a time, when the events may not be linked, we can arrange some other 'end' for him.

If you would have it so, I can undertake a closer inspection of him and his affairs?"
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  #3  
Unread 9th of March, 2011, 11:03
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Mercia inclined her head.

"Do as you wish, but take care to use finesse," she said distantly. Her mind seemed to be elsewhere more frequently in recent times, and to see the normally sharp Mercia act in such an aloof manner was mildly disconcerting for her followers, yet she was still able to reign herself in at times and she had lost none of her potency. "As far as we are officially concerned, Bernard was a Draugr who needed to be put down, and his former friend must come to grips with that. We are sympathetic for Clan Gangrel's plight and stand ready to offer assistance to the Brooklyn Kindred as needed."

To this Broadworth smiled tight-lipped and Gamingdol gurgled a bit more, but Mercia did not flinch in the sincerity of her words. A rapping at the large doors soon quieted everyone, and Antonio opened the door to admit a young Ventrue who had been appointed as the night's herald.

"The Archbishop and his retinue have come. They seek audience with the Prince. Shall I let them approach?"

Broadworth motioned the affirmative. The Lancea Sanctum was welcome in these nights, and there was no reason to send them away. The neonate disappeared through the doorway again. There was a minutes delay, then a more formal three knocks came on the door and the two honor guards opened it to make way for seven individuals. Six were arrayed in two columns of three, and dressed in white robes of ceremony, clutching their hands together as if in prayer and hung around their necks was the symbol of the Spear. Between and at the rear came a figure cloaked in red, and in one hand he carried a black tome, and in the other he carried a dark rod which was sharpened at one end as if in the form of a spear, and was a symbol of his office. He held it cradled in his arm, and he looked like a dark reflection of a priest walking down to the alter to begin a Mass.

The white robed Kindred stopped a respectable distance from the Prince and allowed the Archbishop to continue walking between them until he stood at their front and inclined his head in a gesture of respect towards Mercia, who in her turn inclined her head towards the Archbishop Domingo.

What followed thereafter was an exchange of pleasantries in the form of a very old tradition between the two covenants, but when all the niceties had been observed the Archbishop's pleasant and rich voice became touched with righteous anger.

"My Prince, tonight is a night that the Lancea Sanctum has long warned against," Domingo said. "The heretical teachings of the Circle may seem quaint and laughable to some, but to allow them to fester within the domain of this city has now threatened to breach our Masquerade."

"To what breach is the Archbishop referring?" inquired Broadworth.

To this, Domingo gave a sidelong glance to Lord Gamingdol before continuing. "Perhaps the Sheriff's contacts within the kine police have not seen fit to inform him yet. A murder, heinous and visible for many mortal eyes to see has taken place in a subway station in East Manhattan. It happened a little over two hours ago. Sanctified agents have observed the markings on the victim's body and the symbols painted on the tunnel walls in the victim's blood. They are known trappings of the blasphemous Cruac... this time the Circle has gone too far."

"Peace," Broadworth said, holding up his hands in askance. "We do not know all the facts yet and we would caution everyone against rash overreaction."

"Overreaction?" Domingo's voice was cold. "This travesty that the Circle has been allowed to practice its witchcraft into modern nights is constant threat to the order and tranquility of our city. How should we react when proof is so plain to see?"

Lightning flashed in the distance, followed closely by the rumble of thunder. Slowly, the "pitter-patter" of raindrops upon the glass built up in intensity, until within a matter of seconds it is pouring outside. A storm front was coming in.
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Unread 10th of March, 2011, 00:23
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Ettore's expression darkened as Domingo spoke, and he crosses himself before he speaks. His manner is conciliatory, with calming and appeasing gestures. "The Prince shall review all evidence 'before' coming to any conclusions. And then shall decide what her grace finds to be a travesty. Or not. That is for her to say, when she wills it." he says, an edge to his voice.

Then his manner abruptly changes and is even and calming once again. "You are certain this thing has the trappings of the Circle? That it is not simply some kine with a broken mind?" he says. "The Prince would be as ready to condemn an 'actual' transgression as you, Archbishop, yet... the burden of justice on the second estate is heavy. Can you share with us what you have learned in greater detail?"
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Unread 10th of March, 2011, 14:20
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The Archbishop turns to Ettore. His words are slow and measured.

"Long has been the struggle against the heretic, and the fight to bring the Word of Longinus to all who play their part willing or unwilling in the Great Work. In order to destroy your enemy, you must first know thine enemy. We have much documentation about the witchcraft of the circle. Sanctified have already taken photos of the crime scene - which must, I stress, be closed with all haste to preserve the Masquerade - and we are certain that there is too much overlap with the scrawlings of the wayward kindred to be mere coincidence. There has been a breach of the Masquerade."

Mercia looks over to Gamingdol, who nods curtly. "I will have a team there within minutes, the matter will be contained."

"Sanctified watchers have been posted there," Domingo added. "Tell your men to announce themselves before they enter the tunnels. This occurred on the Green Line northbound, just after the 68th Street station - within sight of any kine who might be lingering there at that hour..."

Gamingdol paused, his ears twitching. "68th street station you say? Hmmm..." He stood up and a cell phone appeared open in his hand with an audible *clack.* He pressed a button on speed dial and walked through a hidden side door in the chamber, excusing himself from the presence of the gathering.
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Unread 10th of March, 2011, 18:07
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Ettore nods his acceptance of the claims made by the Archbishop, his expression darkening slightly as he steps back slightly to consider the words. This has the effect of placing Broadworth and Mercia more to the foreground than him, and thus perhaps deflecting some of the attention away from him during his 'thinking moment'.

Folding his hands over his abdomen, and seeming to come to some conclusion, he steps forward to his former position and inclines his head to the Archbishop. "Have every confidence, Archbishop, the Prince will see this matter through to conclusion." he says. His thoughts are kept behind locked lips however, as he finishes. Clearly there is more to say, in private perhaps.
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Unread 16th of March, 2011, 04:24
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Antonio watched the events unfolding before him in silence, his face blank and emotionless. A typical night in court, it is only with the mention of a potential breach in the Masquerade that his attention is drawn to those speaking. He couldn't care less for the fighting between the Lancea Sanctum and the Circle, but there was the distinct possibility that he and his fellow Knights would be called in to help deal with the situation before it got any further out of hand.
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Unread 17th of March, 2011, 09:52
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The Archbishop inclined his head. "I have faith in the Prince and that the First Estate will regard this matter with the priority it deserves. But the perpetrator of this breach must be found and brought to justice. An example must be made."

Mercia spoke. "We will do what is best and prudent. We thank you for bringing this to our attention."

Domingo bowed solemnly and then left the audience chamber, flanked by his disciples in white, some of whom both Ettore and Antonio recognized as bishops. All the five clans were represented, as the Lancea Sanctum had done especially well in infiltrating each clan here in New York.

When the Sanctified had left the chamber, Mercia stood and turned to Broadworth. "Keep me informed," she said, to which Broadworth bowed respectfully. "Ettore, my childe, I wish you to investigate this matter as well," she said turning to him. "Do so from a more personal level. Take a bodyguard - Antonio will do - and find out what you can about who may be involved."
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Unread 17th of March, 2011, 12:11
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Ettore can't stop himself. The challenge is almost direct. His eyes glance aside to Broadworth before returning quickly to Mercia. He inclines his head, murming a soft 'As you wish.', and gives Antonio a quick glance and a 'come on' motion with one hand as he turns on heel and begins walking towards the side door of the audience chamber.

His manner is suddenly crisp, business, and less the socialite that it was before. Going down the hall he slips out his own phone and quickly gives instructions to some of his men to begin investigating the matter. It is a quick task done in minutes. As he moves however he is less and less the 'deferential courtier' and more and more projecting the confidence and surety of someone self possessed. "Don Antonio, my friend, we must make the best of this. Come, I think the 'scene of the crime' is likely the best place we can start."
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Unread 18th of March, 2011, 07:04
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Antonio snaps to attention, his boots coming together with a slight click. "As my Prince commands." he says with a bow, before turning sharply on his heels and following Ettore out of the chamber. He waits politely until Ettore is finished with his calls before speaking. "I agree my friend, however I would not have us enter into this investigation blindly. While I have some knowledge of the occult, I'm afraid that I only possess a passing knowledge of Cruac. So it seems that we will need to find a more reliable source of knowledge." He pauses for a moment, his brow furrowing. "I do believe that the Archbishop mentioned that the Lancea is in possession of 'much documentation about the witchcraft of the circle'. Surely they would have no problem in allowing a third party to review said information and independently verify their claims? All in the interest of justice of course... " At this a slight smirk appears around the edge of his mouth, but it is quickly replaced by his typical emotionless mask.
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Unread 18th of March, 2011, 16:52
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Ettore's manner is brisk, as the pair continue out and away from 'Court'. He makes for transportation away and to the 'scene'. Meanwhile however he speaks. "I have thought of this already, yes. And other means. Yet first we must apprehend this matter with our own eyes so as not to be operating under some filtered view."
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Unread 19th of March, 2011, 04:05
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(( OOC: Baring anything earthshaking on AoM's part should we just assume that the ride goes off without a hitch and that we end up at the scene? ))
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Unread 19th of March, 2011, 12:06
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[OOC: That was rather my intent. ]
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Unread 19th of March, 2011, 17:00
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((Yes, that's fine.))

A private car with a ghoul driver takes the two Invictus from the front of the Stannard Building to East Manhattan, where they are dropped off on the street across from the subway access station, which is lined with police officers, most of whom are ghouls and are recognizable to Ettore. They see him and tip their caps as they step aside, allowing the Ventrue and Daeva through.

Reaching the bottom of the steps, the two make their way through the turnstiles and head down towards the tracks, where a few more ghouled cops stand guard while a sergeant exchanges words with a sour looking kindred woman, with wild brown hair, sunken eyes, and a hawkish nose with a stud piercing. She wore torn jeans, army boots and a black t-shirt adorned with a simple white cross on the front. She was known as "Faith," a member of Clan Gangrel and part of the Sanctified Church under the Archbishop Domingo. Her eyes immediately shifted to Ettore and Antonio when they entered.

"They said they'd be sending someone official... I take it that's you then?" Faith asked, though the question was rhetorical. "Right, the body's over there, within sight of the platform. I'll give you the short of it - multiple stab and slashing wounds, several were used to cripple and immobilize, others were designed to inflict pain. Death came from a severing of her major arteries - followed by the removal of her heart. No identification was found on her."
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Unread 24th of March, 2011, 16:04
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The ride from the Stannard building has Ettore brooding and silent, deep in his own thoughts. Leaving the fortress of the Invictus and going out into the night he feels at once a bit more vulnerable and yet in the same breath free. And tonight of course, there is a sense of opportunity that is palpable. Hanging in the air. It is this he is focused on, seeking to mentally grasp the various angles of this strange situation.

Coming out of the car upon arrival, the greeting and respect of the mortal retainers gives him little pause yet he does take the time to greet some of them in turn and shake some hands so that he 'looks' like he belongs there rather than as some imperious lord storming through without noticing the men. And it never hurts to have been friendly with someone who just might have a chance to save your unlife one day.

Ettore pays distinct attention to the comportment of the policemen and their reaction to this situation. Looking for anything unordinary or 'interesting', his habit of reading people comes to the fore. Maybe something will tell, maybe not.

Onward. He moves down into the subway section that is the 'crime scene'. He listens to Faith with a silent mask at first, gathering both her information and weighting it according to the tongue that is delivering.

[OOC:

Question: What do I know about Faith? What is her relative status/reputation?

Actions:

Body Language Readings of the Policemen.

Body Language Reading of Faith

Examination of the Body.

Examination of the Scene.

/OOC]
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Unread 24th of March, 2011, 22:27
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Antonio silently follows Ettore, scanning the crowd for potential threats. His eyes immediately narrow at the sight of Faith but a quick once-over shows her to be no threat. As Faith and Ettore begin to converse, he politely excuses himself and approaches the scene of the crime. Shrugging off any offers of assistance or explanation Antonio examines the scene, attempting to match what he sees before him with what little knowledge of the Occult he posses.

(( OOC: Investigation / Occult Rolls ))
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Unread 4th of April, 2011, 10:50
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Ettore scans the body language of the cops and saw only indifference. These were Gamingdol's men, a rapid response unit of New York's finest, all ghouled either to Gamingdol himself or one of his Invictus henchmen. They were addicts to the blood, either out of fear, domination, or their own lack of morale fiber, these men had been twisted into blood thralls of the Invictus system. They worked the night beats almost exclusively, so that they could be ready at Gamingdol's beck and call. They did not question his orders, and showed no interest in this duty than in any other. Some were rigid and unmoving from their posts, likely making them the ones on whom the Lordly Sanguine Art had been administered. Others joked with each other or kept to themselves, peering around at shadows. None of them were investigating the scene of the crime. Their purpose here was to keep people out. It would be the Kindred's job to learn more about the actual crime before the clean-up crew arrived to erase any evidence of this Masquerade breach.

Faith, for her part, was also indifferent, but perhaps this was because she had seen what there was to see and had already come to her own conclusions. Ettore didn't think that she would differ from her Covenant's stance on the issue. The perennial scapegoat for anything that went wrong in the city was the Circle of the Crone. They were demon worshippers, heretics, and in denial of their purpose as vampires, if the Second Estate was to be believed.

Both Ettore and Antonio made their own deductions about the body and came to similar obvious conclusions.

She was a young woman, in her early to mid twenties. Her face might have been pretty, but it was difficult to tell from the extensive cuts that had rearranged it. Her eyes had been put out, and her upper and lower lips had been slit upwards with two clean cuts, disfiguring it grotesquely. Her teeth appeared to be bashed in, as if with some heavy blunt force, and her tongue had been removed, cut quickly and crudely, likely with the same instrument that had slashed her lips and made other marks all over her body. The cuts were almost too numerous to count, slashes up and down her arms and legs, designed more to inflict pain than anything else. The tips of her fingers had been severed just above the outer joints.

Though some of the wounds suffered, combined with blood loss, might have been enough to induce shock and system failure in a mortal - and she did appear to be a kine judging by the state of her body and the smell of her blood - the mortal wound was most likely the gaping, fist-sized hole in her chest, crudely sawed into with a sharp edge and powerful force, ripping away a chunk of her left breast and half sawing, half snapping her protective ribs in order to get at the now absent prize: the girl's heart.

All about the body, scrawled in what appeared to be the girl's own blood, were a number of odd symbols - ritualistic in nature, with a wholely occult feel to them. Neither Ettore or Antonio were familiar enough with the details of Cruac or indeed of Theban Sorcery to deduce if there were any tell-tale signs of each, though the large circle decorated with intricate celtic knots and inscribed with what appeared to be a human face was disturbingly artistic, considering how hastily it must have been created with quickly drying blood. Whatever monster did this, it was well beyond memory of humanity, that was for certain.
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