The Last Remaining Light

Cheating Gehenna

Of old legends, false legends, and new ones

In this particular iteration of the World of Darkness, Gehenna started early (on time per the metaplot), when the Ravnos Antediluvian awoke in India and raged through the Week of Nightmares before finally being extinguished, unleashing a clan-wide frenzy on its descendants. As the nightmares flowed through Kindred of all sorts, Joshua learned perhaps more than he should have about what happened by entering Morgan’s nightmarish dream-realm. There, they experienced something close to the truth of the matter.

And yet, the world hung on the brink of apocalypse for years afterward, during which time Joshua applied his more scholarly impulses to vampire lore. He read their forbidden books, learned names and legends of the ancients, and discovered why the Sabbat called themselves “Cainites” instead of the Camarilla’s “Kindred.” Much to the chagrin of those Camarilla he knew, Cainite was a term he stuck with.

It only took killing off one of the clans for them to find out how wrong the legends were.

After they left Kansas City for Seattle, playing at being a Tremere anarch was an amusing ruse for Joshua. Until the house and clan came calling. Tremere himself came to visit with an offer they could not refuse — help them destroy the Cathayans, and Joshua would be rewarded with an Embrace from the clan founder. To refuse would have simply been the end of them.

You despise a bedtime story, the old magus-turned-vampire taunted, mocking Joshua’s hatred, his force of presence too much to defy.

It took quite a compelling ruse to outdo the treacherous Tremere; a plan Joshua buried behind layers of false memories, a betrayal masked by the sacrifice of a Kuei-Jin they might have called a friend, had they not personally helped to consign her soul to eternal damnation.

But the ruse worked, helped along by Joshua’s complete trust in Morgan, putting his free will in her hands — the sort of trust that Tremere could not fathom. Together, they sabotaged the Tremere ritual intended to sacrifice the Cathayans to Hell in exchange for power. Instead, the botched ritual claimed the Tremere clan. That night, a clan died, Gehenna was kicked off in earnest, and Morgan and Joshua chose a side.

The next night, after they fled the ruins of Vienna fast becoming a gaping portal to Hell, someone else came looking for them: Saulot of Nod. Joshua pieced together, later, that Saulot must have survived diablerie somehow; indeed, Saulot might have been walking around in Tremere’s body, while the Tremere clan founder used someone else’s. Certainly it explained Tremere’s desire to sacrifice the Cathayans to regain his Antediluvian might. Before he died, Saulot explained the truth — that the Antediluvians were Caine’s grandchildren. That they slew their parents not just out of malice, but to prevent disaster; a dark fate that fell on them instead. That they were not always night-dwelling blood-drinkers, but they became such in time, under the influence of Caine’s Resonance, the resonance of the first murder.

There was one, then three, then thirteen. You will meditate on this, and understand.

And then Morgan granted Saulot’s last wish, and took his head.

There is a certain numerological correspondence to it — to the Wyrm, and its manifestations; and with Caine, and his childer and grand-childer.

Since that time, Joshua has added Garou cosmology to his studies, trying to understand what has happened to the clans. Through his scans of Cainites — even Morgan, before her transmutation — he could see their Patterns shifting, unraveling. With each battle against the elders, with each clan founder extinguished, that ancient Resonance binding the vampires in one static form faded. Even as they fight, they are changing. As they are exposed to mortals again, a Masquerade of centuries finally breached, a new generation of humanity also struggles to understand them. And in doing so, as Joshua well knows, the Consensus shifts. Caine’s malignant Resonance weakens, and the crumbling Consensus may yet change the race of vampires.

Assamites (Haqim): The assassin came looking for them in Seattle, some time after the incident in Vienna, when Morgan and Joshua finally showed up in public again. When the clan founder and his eldest warriors attacked Joshua’s fortress of Hermes, the Seattle chantry he founded, Ground Zero, the resident mages responded by broadcasting the assault to anyone on Earth who wanted a look. Instead of a battle cloaked by darkness and storms and Technocratic procedures, this one occurred on live television. And the Consensus answered. Morgan, the Ground Zero will-workers, and their old Gangrel friends held the chantry against the Assamites’ assault while Joshua went out to face Haqim and his expected demise. But Ground Zero held, the mages inside offering their inspiration to the terrified Sleepers trapped inside with them…and to the Consensus, watching it all happen on TV. Haqim’s poisonous cloud of vitriol was met with Joshua’s madness and the storm, strengthened by the will of humanity that this monster should fall — and it did. Since then, of course, the Consensus has weakened greatly as so many people have died, and society has crumbled around them. The Consensus is one weapon they will not get to use again. The toxic presence of Haqim suggests the identity of the Maeljin that possessed him.

Brujah (Troile): Legend has it that Troile diablerized his Sire, the unnamed founder of the clan. Then again, Troile supposedly was lost, trapped under the salted ground of Carthage. But the activity of enraged Brujah Cainites on the battlefields of Europe, and a trio of clan founders fighting the Garou nation there, hints at the presence of a risen Brujah clan founder. And who would lead the armies of Beast-of-War, if not the Maeljin Hellbringer?

Followers of Set (Set, or Sutekh): Joshua’s ritual of resurrection included the sacred geometry of the soul, knowledge gleaned from the ancient writings of the Amenti, or Egyptian mummies. An old adversary called Kenemti had become an ally in time, and shared his knowledge with Joshua in return for a favor. And when the Shroud blanketing the Shadowlands weakened, and the demons were loosed, and spectres lashed out at the living for sheer spite, Kenemti called in his debt. The Amenti sought to solve many problems at once by making the Shroud strong again — at the price of their immortal souls. Morgan and Joshua assisted them in this, turning the tide of battle in Egypt between Setites and Amenti through Joshua’s mad magick. During the hunt, Joshua and their erstwhile ally Ghost-Shadow found packs of Silent Striders in Luxor, Garou who had been called by the spirits to join in the great Leech hunt. By the end of one long hunt by day, many Setites were ashed by Joshua and the Striders, and their assault shielded the Amenti, permitting them to finish their ritual. As for the Setites, the legends say their clan founder, their god, was dead. And their ritual in turn, intended to bring him back from the Shadowlands, failed to pierce the strengthened Shroud. Trapped on the other side, Set — and his Maeljin possessor — punished the Followers of Set for their failure, charging the Setites with the urge to join Set in the Shadowlands — in Final Death.

Gangrel (Ennoia): According to the last words of Saulot, their grandfather promised his thirteen descendants that only one of them could find redemption from his curse. Saulot claimed that it was a ruse, that in their striving, many of the clan founders only damned themselves. Ennoia, of all of them, may have found a way out. So Morgan believes. After Saulot’s death, she had a dream of her clan’s founder, reminding Morgan of the Gangrel way, the way of survival. Not struggle, not war, not mystic lore or apotheosis or anything else; just withdrawal from the world, not to beat Caine’s curse but to survive it. Morgan doesn’t, can’t know for certain, if her dream had something more to it. But the Gangrel clan has not suffered the same keen blood-thirst brought on by Gehenna, and no Gangrel-Maeljin obscenity has arisen to fight them.

Giovanni (Augustus Giovanni): The Giovanni clan was one of three most damaged by the successful Amenti ritual in Egypt. At the time, Kenemti told Morgan and Joshua that three of the clan founders were in the Shadowlands, and so three clans could be beaten by the ritual. None of them knew just what Augustus was doing there — chasing down some fragment of Cappadocius’ soul that escaped diablerie, perhaps, or some secret of the death-clan’s for achieving apotheosis. It was a moot point — the ritual worked, the Shroud was reinforced, and with it the Giovanni paths of Necromancy were broken. That didn’t stop the Giovanni from trying to foil Joshua’s ritual to resurrect Morgan, however; when the time came, the necromancers came in force to Glastonbury, and nearly ruined it for them.

Lasombra (Lasombra, or Typhon, or Lambech, or Lucian, or…) La Sombra is Spanish for “the shadow,” an appropriate name but perhaps not one of a suitably ancient pedigree. Supposedly the clan founder of the Lasombra was diablerized, killed by the early Sabbat at the turn of the 15th century. And yet, what creature so much a part of the demonic Abyss could have been so easily destroyed? The Amenti were certain that the Clan of Night was one of three that would be crippled by their ritual. Certainly no Lasombra have been seen in force on the side of the Antediluvians in this Gehenna. Then again, the Sabbat always did mean to fight the clan founders. As it turns out, they may have been right about that.

Malkavians (Malkav) Malkav has not been found, yet, in the midst of this apocalypse. Some legends say he was destroyed, or that over time he became the madness that afflicts his namesake clan. What if he was? Would they expect the founder to remain this way…or was it just a way to lay dormant, to pass the time until the end? Another of the Antediluvians’ methods of escaping Caine’s curse? Perhaps another attempt that failed?

Nosferatu (Absimiliard): Morgan and Joshua met this clan founder quite recently in one of the battles of the apocalypse. One of three clans most active in fighting the Garou Nation assembled by Margrave Konietzko in Europe, the Nosferatu were also actively hunting Morgan and Joshua. When they went to Rome, seeking out a shard of Morgan’s broken Avatar, one of the Nictuku nearly killed them. Later, when they crossed Europe looking for a once-fallen House of the Silver Fang tribe, another Nictuku found them — and that stalled them long enough for Absimiliard to catch up with them. Possessed by Lord Steel, the Maeljin lord of Hatred, it became clear that the interest was personal: after all, they’d met Lord Steel before. The battle impressed the Silver Fangs of House Austere Howl, though. Whatever stories the wolves tell about Scarred-Arm and Whiptongue, he stood with them to face the Maeljin, and in their warship, she burned Lord Steel to cinders with the power of the sun.

Ravnos (known as Zapathasura, or Dracian by the Ravnos of India, called Churka by the Gangrel): The Ravnos clan founder was the first to appear, and the first to fall. Which of the Maeljin Incarna awoke him before his time? Joshua does not know, as they missed the battle in India, having witnessed it from afar through the cryptic metaphors of nightmares. Still, that baffling vista was enough to inspire his weapon of choice, later.

Tremere (Tremere/Saulot): The tangled web of Tremere’s schemes ended in one night in Vienna, the night that really kick-started Gehenna. The Tremere bloodline, having transformed themselves from Awakened magi to undead sorcerers, chose to make a formal clan of themselves by usurping another clan’s power. After carving a path of diablerie down through the generations to Methuselah status, Tremere sought out and diablerized Saulot. This was not the end of Saulot, however. Although they do not know the precise details, Joshua deduced from the available evidence that Saulot ‘awoke’ in Tremere’s body at some point, and Tremere’s spirit was forced to occupy someone else’s corpse; they never learned who, exactly. But the blood couldn’t lie. The Tremere they met was of the 4th generation (again), and he sought to regain his Antediluvian might through the damnation of the Cathayans, a sacrifice to the powers of Hell. This was the ritual that Morgan and Joshua spoiled through treachery: a betrayal that hid behind layers of true magick, false memories, and ultimately Joshua’s trust in Morgan. For his part, Joshua is proud of having outsmarted the Tremere — and for bringing the Massasa wars to a definitive end.

Tzimisce (Tzimisce, sometimes called Mekhet) Another supposed kill for the soon to be Sabbat, and apparently another of their failures as well; the clan founder of the Shapers has been sighted in Russia, or rather, he found Morgan and Joshua flying by in the Defiant on their way into Russia and attacked them. This fight isn’t over yet, but they already know the Tzimisce Antediluvian possesses great power over radiation, enough to attack them with it — suggesting the Maeljin they face in him is Lord Kerne. And this Maeljin lord is not spoiling for a fight so much as to face them alone, or with few retainers. No, the Tzimisce travel in force, with a cloud of balefire Banes, fomori and vozhd (or perhaps vozhd-fomori!) and enough Nephandi in tow to stop them from easily blazing the vampires down with their sunlight-powered weapons. Naturally, the Defiant fled, although they hope to come back for the Tzimisce founder with an army of Silver Fangs backing them up.

Ventrue (Ventrue, sometimes called Nergal) There has been no sign of the Ventrue clan founder, and by rights there should be none. Curiously, although the legends say the Ventrue’s founder was destroyed by that of the Brujah, no one ever thought to question the right of this apparent bloodline to go on calling itself a clan. As for his true fate, Saulot of Nod told Morgan and Joshua that the father of the Ventrue line killed himself in response to Caine’s curse. They may never know the truth of the matter, but perhaps there is some notion of an honorable death to it. In any case, during the time of Gehenna this may deprive the enemy of another Antediluvian vessel, and one of the Maeljin Incarna lacks a shell to possess…or perhaps it will choose another, if it can.


Concerning the Urge Wyrms…

In the mythology of the Garou, the Wyrm was captured in the Pattern Web of the Weaver. Some of them believe the Weaver’s mad spinning was the result of it attaining consciousness, and striving harder to complete its plan for creation. In the Wyrm’s attempts to free itself, it split into the Triatic Wyrm, three ‘heads’ each focused on a different aspect of destruction: Corruption (the Defiler), Consumption (Eater-of-Souls), and Calamity (Beast-of-War). Already there may be some spiritual correspondence to be found in the battles of the apocalypse.

But these Triatic Wyrms did not escape the Web. The Urge Wyrms that followed, however, did escape. Considered the thoughts or base emotions of the captive Wyrm, they achieved a sort of sentience, the Black Spirals named them (although there is no sign that the Urges respond to these names), and many of them have incarnated in the Maeljin lords, while a curious few seem too powerful for such, and Totem Incarnae speak for these transcendent, malignant entities.

As the Maeljin have taken physical form in the bodies of the Cainite clan founders, several of them are on the loose, while more have been sent screaming back to Malfeas with the destruction of their Antediluvian shells, and others have been trapped in the Shadowlands or frustrated in their attempts to manifest.

Foebok, the Urge of Fear: a pervasive emotion with many slaves, all serve this Urge when they are afraid. It has no Maeljin servitor, but forces of the Wyrm approach Hakaken “The Heart of Fear,” its totem Incarna.

Karnala, the Urge of Desire: only desire twisted, perverted, frustrated to the point of violence, serves this Urge. Empress Aliara personifies it as one of the Maeljin.

Vorus, the Urge of Greed: rampant materialism and destructive, unnatural lust for goods typify this emotion. It is another of the curious three Urges with no Maeljin representative; instead, it has a totem Incarna, Relshab “The Faceless Eater,” that the Black Spirals would tentatively approach seeking favors.

Mahsstrac, the Urge of Power: one of the most powerful Urges, so much so that all Wyrm creatures serve it by nature, and most of humanity feeds it as well with their will to power. It has no particular Maeljin servant, but the Green Dragon, a totem Incarna, did command some packs and individual Black Spirals. Zhyzhak was reportedly the Green Dragon’s chosen.

Abhorra, the Urge of Hatred: the more hate in the world, the more powerful this Urge becomes. It manifested in the Lord Steel, a Maeljin Lord who had already made the acquaintance of Morgan and Joshua some time ago during their adventures in Kansas City. Perhaps this Urge’s purview of hatred and vengeance gave it some connection to Joshua, as his Hermetic Word or guiding principle was Vengeance…until fairly recently. Later, it found them while in the undead shell of the Nosferatu clan founder. But this Urge, and its corpse-shell, were soundly defeated. The Curse of Caine has weakened, perhaps, to the point where such miracles have become possible.

Angu, the Urge of Cruelty: an abstract concept, cruelty takes many forms, from mental abuse to physical torture. Its true power is found in noble ideals corrupted for the sake of some perceived good; perhaps the Urge of Cruelty would find prisons like Abu Ghraib and “enhanced interrogation” techniques to its liking. Lady Aife, a Maeljin lord, is its chief voice, and almost certainly she has found a home in the ambulatory corpse of an Antediluvian.

Cheating Gehenna

Pseulak, the Urge of Lies: Fed by all the lies and hypocrisy in the world, even the Wyrm’s own minions lie and cheat each other…thanks in part to this Urge Wyrm. Maine DuBois serves it as its Maeljin Lord. The Black Spiral Dancers sought out its Bane Incarna, Kirijama. Whichever Cainite elder the Maeljin Lord has possessed, it hasn’t been found, yet.

Sykora, the Urge of Paranoia: Making use of other Urges, Fear and Hatred, the atmosphere of suspicion it inspires consumes its victims with paranoia and mistrust. The Garou are just as prone to the machinations of Paranoia, with intertribal conflict as the result: perhaps the fall of the Silver Fangs, and the ascendance of Margrave Konietzko, are the products of Paranoia. By the same token, Morgan and Joshua suffer some degree of mistrust from their fellow Awakened…although in their case, it may be earned. The Maeljin Lord of Paranoia is called Doge Klypse. Given the state of the world, perhaps this one is still loose.

Gree, the Urge of Despair: The Nameless Angel of Despair serves this urge as its Maeljin. Despair purportedly is the one Urge with a semblance of self, of a conscious mind. The Garou believe it to be the cause of Harano, the crippling despair that overwhelms too many of the shapeshifters in these final days. In that case, the crew of the Defiant may be better acquainted with the Nameless Angel than they might otherwise think.

Lethargg, the Urge of Apathy: Thurifuge is the Maeljin Lord of Apathy, thought to be the spawn of Despair. Powerful enough to be an Urge Wyrm in its own right, Apathy convinced the masses to not care about the corruption and suffering in the world, believing that nothing could be done instead of fighting against it. The Wyrm is empowered by their apathy; as the saying goes, evil triumphs when good men do nothing. It may be that Apathy was the Urge sent for Ennoia, founder of Clan Gangrel. But survival is not apathy; the Gangrel, in rejecting the Jyhad, have escaped the other clans’ fate, or so it would seem.
*Hoga (Smog)
: One of the four Elemental Wyrms, twisted mockeries of the four primal elements. As the Wyrm’s representation of Air, Smog is more than poisonous fumes from factories and burning toxic waste; it also stands for the intellect, corrupted. Lord Choke is its Maeljin servitor.

Furmas (Balefire): The twisted force of will of the Wyrm is the source of all Balefire, summoned forth and manipulated by a few of the Black Spiral Dancers. But only Lord Kerne has mastered it as its Maeljin Lord. The presence of balefire — radiation — in the body of the Tzimisce clan founder was too plain to be missed.

H’rugg (Sludge): The element of corrupted Earth is also familiar to Morgan and Joshua, having met it as Gehenna began in earnest. Saulot’s quest for enlightenment failed to provide him and his clan some means of escape from Caine’s curse, but he was granted the peace of oblivion, at least — and Lord Collum, the Maeljin of Sludge, was sent back to Malfeas in defeat.

Wakshaa (Toxin): As the corrupted element of Water, the essence of poison manifested in the shell of the Assamite clan founder Haqim. It was only natural for the master assassin to seek out threats to the Wyrm’s triumph over Gaia, and so he came looking for the Clan-killers, the ones who foiled Tremere’s ritual and killed Saulot. At the time, the Resonance of Caine’s curse was still strong, and only the reinforcing power of the Consensus allowed them to survive the Assamite attack on Seattle. Much like the spell of resurrection cast on Morgan, however, each elder’s death seems to weaken and unravel that ancient Resonance, along with the power of these most ancient Cainites.

Cheating Gehenna

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