The Last Remaining Light

...and beyond...or beneath

With the fate of the Red Star more or less in the hands of the Order of Hermes and what support they can put together, the question of the earthquakes and vulcanism is one that Marius is unwilling to let alone. Certainly not something to leave in the hands of some Etherites (much to Scientist Apollo Carlisle’s chagrin). So, it would appear that the Pillars of Heaven cabal — otherwise known as the crew of the Defiant — is going to Antarctica.

The story begins with a satellite, one of those that Terpsichore meddled with a while back. After the naval battle off the coast of Boston, the Defiant sought to evade further warring with the mundane armies of the world. And so, one of those retasked satellites was searching the waters off of the South African coast on behalf of some conspiracy nut living in his parents’ basement, as Terp put it.

Acting on information from satellite surveillance (to hear Apollo pick up the tale), a certain Professor Inherent and his assistant Scientist Peebles followed the trail of a lost ship, last seen off the coast of South Africa, to the ice of Antarctica and beneath it. At the time, Morgaine and Marius may have heard of the ship in passing, but that was all.

When the intrepid Scientist and assistant went missing, a mixed cabal of Etherites and Virtual Adepts, the Quantum Saints, went after them and were also lost. The last transmissions and data sent by the cabals were in the hands of an overwrought Etherboy by the name of Doctor Almanac, who stormed the Tradition Council in the middle of a somewhat less hysterical report on the recent seismic activity by one Professor Equator…but then, they were also distracted by the usual semantic arguments. Sons of Ether, or Children of Ether? Society of Ether?

Sure, let’s argue naming conventions while the world burns. It’s politics.

The Earth seems to contain any number of subterranean worlds; the path to the Shard Realm of Matter supposedly goes through that rocky underworld, and Etherite tales of Doc Eon and the Hollow World fill the pages of classic issues of Paradigma. Not to mention the mundane (or are they?) stories Morgaine knows, like the realm of Pellucidar, or Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness. Etherite raving about yet another thus far unknown realm seems like a thin line of reasoning to explore.

But with Traditionalist efforts wandering all over the place (subterranean exploration, earthquake monitoring, lubricating major fault lines, etc.), and the Hermetics seemingly in place to attempt something constructive about the Red Star threat, it would seem Marius wants to tackle this earthquake/volcano problem. It may have something to do with Mt. Rainier going up, just outside of Seattle; although Morgan likes to call Glastonbury home if any place is, Marius still has some fondness for the city where his second cabal lived, and died. There’s no telling if their new, third cabal will suffer the same fate.

Council of Gridlock
The Council and its Rogues meet, at last

So, it’s the Apocalypse — and there has never been a good time for anything. But a meeting between the Tradition Council and the apparent leaders of the Rogue Council was inevitable, has been for some time. Of course, Marius has never wanted to, condemned them as useless, as dangerous — mages just as willing and able to order their deaths as help them.

After all, it was Marius and Morgaine who inspired Tradition mages to take up the cause against the Technocracy, to fight back once more after years of suffering and surviving the bleak post-Reckoning Technocratic victory. And later, it was they who spurred the Council to accept a truce with the Technocratic Union, once the technocrats had been put in their place somewhat, and made to see the true horror and danger of the apocalypse unfolding before their eyes. Without them, would it even be a Council of Ten?

It was Marius and Morgaine who, in their previous guises and names, the mad mage Joshua and his vampire consor Morgan, had broken all the rules, gone back to war against Technocrats and the vampire clans, and demonstrated curious new powers. Had he really recovered his sanity, lost the Marauder Quiet and if so, how? Was she really mortal and Awakened, a witch and warlock of the Verbena as their Council representative Hector de XangĂ´ claimed?

The timing has never been in their favor, but as arrangements were made to meet with the Council in Barstow, California, things between them and Terpsichore went bad. Terpsichore, their go-between with the Tradition Council; Terpsichore, who built the Rogue Council out of rumor-mongers and Traditionalist dissidents and bitter, resentful Ascension War veterans, molded it with Morgan and Joshua’s exploits as inspiration. Terpsichore, who had been nursing a special hatred for them for a long, long time now, and only lately did events spiral out of her control and Mind manipulation and blow wide open.

Naturally, now the time comes for the crew of the Defiant to fly down to Barstow and enter the mi’as — to take the nascent idea of House Diedne and run with it — to merge the Council of Ten and its Rogues — and for them to accept the offering of an alliance with the broken and chastened Garou of the Silver Fangs.

Blogging the End Times
News correspondence from the end of the world

Former CNN reporter Siobhan Darrow has joined the crew of the Defiant as an embedded reporter of sorts. While Morgan sees value in permitting this Sleeper the chance to document their activities, to report on what they fight to what’s left of the world, Joshua feels responsible for another death that hasn’t even happened yet. But the Sleeper journalist is determined to at least understand the apocalypse before it claims her — as it most likely will.

Kathy Anderson, NWO Watcher, has supplied the reporter with recording equipment and a little swarm of autonomous drones to help document her stories. And Geist, of the Virtual Adepts in Seattle and administrator of the Ground Zero chantry, has chipped in server access and a computer that connects and broadcasts on the ‘packet radio’ network, cobbled together when most global telecommunication systems broke down.

Darrow’s postings, perhaps thanks to Joshua’s off-putting demeanor, appear on the network under the tagline I’ll Most Likely Kill You in the Morning, with audio and video cheekily broadcasted by the Virtual Adepts over the packet radio network under WTOJ.

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.

Silver Fang Redemption
A story of the Apocalypse

One of the main story elements at present is the fallen and disgraced state of the Silver Fangs, a state of shame and despair mirrored by the cabal’s companion, Mari Cabrah, once-packmate to the last King of the Fangs.

From Morgan and Joshua’s perspective, the story began with the arrival of Ghost-Shadow. The lupus Black Spiral Theurge had been tasked with corrupting a number of will-workers, including Joshua, via Bane possession. But before Ghost could go through with it, he saw his dark Father’s betrayal for what it was — the Silver Fangs were routing Black Spiral Pits and Hives, and the Wyrm’s forces stood back and let the BSDs perish. So instead, Ghost spurned the Wyrm and betrayed its plans to the very wizard he had intended to corrupt. Strangely, the Marauder did not take this information and then execute the Black Spiral on the spot. He tolerated the wolf’s presence, though frequently putting Ghost-Shadow in his place. Corrupt as he was, Ghost desired revenge most of all, and so he was permitted to assist them.

Although it seemed not to be a mission for a mage and a vampire to tackle, the disaster in the making was too much to ignore. The situation was dire: the Silver Fangs had done…something with their tribal totem, Falcon…some deal gone wrong. The Falcon Incarna, they learned, had fled into the depths of the Umbra, perhaps abandoning the entire Tellurian. Even after learning this much of what happened, there was the matter of catching up with the great Falcon spirit. Joshua’s intuitive understanding of the Umbra and Ghost-Shadow’s long experience as a Theurge picked through the alternatives — the Defiant, too slow; the Stargazers’ spirit-orrery would work, but it was unlikely they could gain access; the Flux Realm, unpredictable in its effects. They settled on the Null Zone, the ‘backdrop of reality,’ perhaps a layer behind the Umbra where time and space lose meaning. Risky, but it would work, if done right.

Just entering the Null Zone was a challenge, even for such experienced Umbral travelers. Getting there is usually the result of a mistake. Navigating it was worse — a process of intuition, of clarity and focused thought to have any hope of seeking out a destination. The timeless, seemingly aimless journey ate away at their one tool, concentration, a focused mind. The three travelers learned a terrible secret about the nature of the Null Zone during their trip, one that nearly drove Joshua further into a raging, reality-breaking Quiet. But when they emerged from it, to find the great silver Falcon winging by…

It’s not often that anyone musters the nerve to argue with an Incarna. Even one that seemed terribly wrong, both for its mistaken hubris in granting the Silver Fangs a boon of clarity of mind, and for fleeing in shame after witnessing the result. Even a master of Spirit magick knows his limits; it wasn’t Joshua’s words that turned Falcon from his path. The spirits whisper of that day, the day Whiptongue earned her name. Though a Gangrel vampire, Morgan understood nobility and duty through her path of Chivalry, and perhaps Falcon needed a stinging reminder. The conversation was…unpleasant, and Morgan, Joshua, and Ghost-Shadow were all fortunate to walk away with their lives.

It wasn’t right, in one sense, of Falcon to renege on a boon fairly earned by his subjects. But great Falcon did take his gift of clarity back from the Silver Fangs. He did not intervene on their behalf directly again, having seen the foolishness of that road by now. Instead, it was the travelers that stopped him who took action. Gifted with a feather from Phoenix to make a speedy trip home (and away from the surly, shamed Incarna), they used the feather to take them to the Silver Fangs’ King instead of a safe haven. There, in one of the strongest Pits of the Black Spirals that remained, they found the Fangs being routed by the last and strongest of the Spirals. The clarity of the Fangs’ purpose had left them, perhaps just when it was needed most. They found the King, Albrecht, already mortally wounded.

The spirits whisper of that day, the day Scarred-Arm earned his name. He challenged Green Dragon’s favorite, Zhyzhak, fresh from her victory against Jonas Albrecht. Joshua took the strike of her Devilwhip around his arm — though mangled and later scarred, he did not lose it to her strength. Instead, he neutralized it, lifting Zhyzhak from the ground with telekinesis. Even Ghost-Shadow acquitted himself well for a tainted werewolf, ambushing and gutting Nhaukh, Zhyzhak’s ‘prophet.’ Perhaps Nhaukh’s death broke some spell on her, but Joshua pulled her close and then rent Zhyzhak’s life Pattern asunder, not giving her a chance to rip his arm off.

As for Morgan, her words shamed Falcon’s tribe as well. Their choices had led them to the brink of service to the Wyrm. They had escaped their fate and ripped out the heart of the Black Spiral Dancers, but at the cost of their Gaian purity, their pride, and their King’s life. Spirit broods carried word of the Leech’s stinging words, a mad wizard’s spells, and a Black Spiral turncoat. They had all earned notoriety among the Garou Nation.

The Silver Fangs were sent packing, the remnants retreating to tribal lands and caerns to stay there…not leading the Nation rocked by the unfolding Apocalypse, in need of leadership. Others, notably the Margrave Yuri Konietzko, have risen up in their absence. For his part, Joshua left it at that, more interested in his own quest to restore Morgan than in fixing the broken pride of some tribe of Lupines.

Since that time, it’s come back to haunt them. The Margrave came calling, looking to put these infamous non-shifters to work on a thankless, hopeless task, to get the Fangs back in the fight…subservient to the Margrave and the Shadow Lords, of course. Morgan, looking to make a deal, an alliance, is looking to make it work. Perhaps some guilt, over not finishing what they’d started with the Silver Fangs, is what motivates Joshua.


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