Shadow of a Horned God

Shadow of a Horned God, Part III, Act III, Session I

An Unseen Presence

Our coterie is on their way towards the old capital city of Londinium. They are traveling along the old Roman road from Durovernum, and follow the river Tamesis for the last part of their journey. Octavius is approached by Gaius, who informs him of his decision to return back to Gabaractonum. Octavius thanks him for his help and wishes him good luck, after which the Zealot calls for his ghoul servant Mios and leave the coterie.

A little while later, Castor, who routinely oversees their surroundings through his Way of Spirit, senses something deep beneath the mud in the river. Some kind of torpid body surely rests there. He informs this to Octavius, who remembers the war 160 years ago and of a battle in these parts. Witnesses reported that the “Raging Madman”, Shamshar, were struck down by Eldric here and his body sunk into the river. After some discussion, mostly internal, they decide not to disturb him.

Eventually the coterie, with their gathering of followers, arrive at the small burh, which acts as a gateway to the city from the south. They speak to one of the guards, who informs them that by the kings’ orders, no larger force may enter the city. After some discussion, Octavius agrees, and orders his men to continue west and cross the river by the ferry camp in order to approach the city on the other side. Meanwhile he will enter the city along his companions. Castor mirrors the orders to his men, but decides to bring along his two Slachta War Ghouls, hidden in his wagon. Vivia takes only a handful of servants, mostly male ones, while Hector chooses not take a single ghoul, trusting in the capabilities of Fherah to keep him safe.

As the coterie enters the burh, and cross the bridge to Londinium (after paying the bridge toll), they are spied upon by a curious young Cainite, remarkable for his skills in avoiding detection. He follows them over the river to see where they are headed. After crossing the bridge, Vivia learns that the district holding her former haven has been barricaded and is guarded by armed men. She decides not to lead her companions there, which was the original plan. Castor asks Hector to contact his ghoul servant, Irena, who has been ordered to arrange a temporary haven in the city. After meeting her, she takes them to an abandoned house, once belonged to a grain miller, in the northern district, close to the city wall. The coterie and their servants set upon turning the abandoned house into a working haven.

Octavius consults Vivia upon the nightly affairs of the city. She informs him that with the absence of Eldric and Trebia, the only active Cainite would be the Graverobber Luanna, a Scholar residing in the northeast corner of the city. For the sake of civilities and the possibility of knowing something, she decides to visit her. Octavius writes a letter for her to bring her, informing his wishes to speak with her. Castor, still actively overseeing their surroundings, searches for any possible connections to the old sewer system or the catacombs from their cellar, learning that there is none.

Vivia visits the haven of Luanna, and is greeted by an odd-looking servant before proceeding to the underground level which serves as her “workplace”. The meeting is quite fruitless, seeing as the Scholar is very absentminded about anything not concerning her work. The young, unknown lurker visits Luanna shortly thereafter, asking her of the identity of the newcomers. Receiving an uncertain answer, he decides to watch them for a little while before confronting them. He also speaks with his ghoul friend, Dougal, who informs him of what he knows of the name Octavius. He also tells him of a gathering of soldiers nearing the city from the northeast, which would arrive in a few nights. He has not yet discerned their identity. He also expresses his concerns of the thugs from the western slums, who have made continuous attempts of breaking through the barricades into their district.

Vivia, Hector and Octavius engage in a discussion of personal hygiene, which ends with Octavius leaving the haven to hunt and Hector joining Vivia for a bath. Octavius manages to hunt for sustenance and proceeds to look for an alternative haven, feeling their mutual place being a bit crowded. Castor asks Irena if she knows of an alternative entrance into the city, through which they may allow rest of their followers to enter, and she replies yes, informing him of an entrance through the old sewers in the western slum district. He also speaks with Pernik, who will investigate the city for any useful information.

Hector visits Luanna shortly before dawn, and finds the odd Scholar quite interesting, and receives an invitation to stay in her house for some time. They also talk about their work, with Hector explaining his most recent discoveries from the world of the dead. Luanna explains that her haven and workplace is located directly under, and partially in an old cemetery, with generations upon generations of buried people, from different cultures and races. She is studying the energies of the dead, the pure spirit matter of the cemetery, and it’s effect on her surroundings, and also it’s possible use in experiments. He also finds out that her servants are made up of ghouls and have had their tongues removed, because the “noises was disturbing her”. He then have his possessions moved to his new resting place, and performs a Skull of Warning ritual to guard his haven.

The coterie then goes to rest in their respective havens for the day, awakening with the setting of the sun. Hector and Fherah venture down the streets towards the fort, searching out a royal guard. He talks with the guard, from a safe distance, expressing his wishes to speak with the kings, and is naturally met with suspicion. He tells them his name and wishes for them to inform the kings of his wishes during the day, so that perhaps he will be allowed to meet with them later. Castor meets with Pernik, who informs him of the situation in the city, with the wealthy christian nobles and merchants barricading themselves against the pagan thugs seeking their deaths. He have also heard of the advancing army from the northeast, and offers to investigate it further.

Our young, unknown Cainite investigates the western slums, finding the “fortress” of the thugs, made up from rubble and ruins, and sneaks inside. Their numbers are somewhere between 20 and 30, surprisingly heavily armed, but without any real combat experience, save for a few army veterans. Their anti-christian raids aren’t officially sanctioned by the kings, but since they haven’t condemned them either, they very well could have. He decides to interfere a little, shuffling about some equipment and belongings in hopes to create infighting among them, which would ease the pressure on the Christians. After being satisfied, he leaves to inform Dougal. He is in turn informed of his further investigations on the advancing army, which recently have passed Colnaceaster (the former city of Camulodunum). He believes the army to belong to Raedwald, the King of East Anglia, who is probably on some sort of diplomatic mission to confer with his weaker neighbors, the brother-kings of the East Saxons, Saexred and Saewald. This isn’t necessarily bad, but since king Raedwald is a known and powerful pagan, the future is looking grim for the Christians at the moment.

Octavius searches out Vivia, and speaks to her about Aidalos, the supposed “guardian” of the Throne of Londinium. Seeing that she is the only one with the knowledge to do it, he wants her to Summon him, so that they may speak. After some rather heated discussion, she eventually agrees, and he takes her to his alternative haven where she performs the summoning. They are accompanied by Raul, who has grown rather accustomed to accompany his new mistress. After some waiting, they realize they are joined by an unknown and unseen presence, speaking directly into their minds. After convincing the presence of their noble motives, Aidalos reveals himself.

The conversation that follows is remarkably mysterious, with the Elder Madman obviously reluctant to reveal certain pieces of information. He confirms that the “being” previously known as Rex Noctem is partially located in the city, but has transformed into something else, possessed by a malevolent and ancient force of madness known by the name Naram-Sin, although the name is rather unimportant. Aidalos strongly discourages Octavius to confront it now as it would probably destroy him, perhaps not physically, but permanently nonetheless. He also cryptically adds that Octavius will know when the time to confront him is right. On the issue of the Throne of Londinium, Aidalos only replies that it is allowed for the worthy only to inhabit. After further discussion Octavius realizes that him being in Londinium is probably very much to his enemy’s advantage, and is quite possibly a trap. Deciding he has little more to learn from the Elder, he leaves in the company of Vivia, finding that the body of Aidalos (who they have been talking to), was an apparition of some sort.

Meanwhile, Castor has been meditating in his chambers below the ground, partially sunken into the earth. The curious young Cainite have decided to seek out Vivia, whom he recognizes from her time in the city. He sneaks into the haven, remaining unseen. There he decides to wait for the return of Vivia. As she returns in the company of Octavius, she notices him, and notifies the others. Realizing he has been seen, he immediately reveals himself and apologizes for the intrusion. He introduces himself as Sherwin of Lundon, childe of Yann (whom Vivia remembers as one of the former pretenders to the throne). He explains that he has been living in Londinium for some time now, but now some problems have occurred, which would force him to leave the city. He recognized Vivia whom he has met briefly before, and decided to seek her aid. Octavius leaves the room to prepare for leaving Londinium, deciding he has no time for an extensive interrogation. Castor expresses his concerns of having uninvited intruders skulking about his haven, which Sherwin again apologizes for.

Octavius meets Hector at the entrance, and informs him of his meeting with Aidalos and his decision to leave the city immediately. Before making it more than a few steps from each other, Octavius is attacked by fire-arrows from an unknown bowman. Suffering minor injuries and managing to put out the fires, he tries to advance towards the direction of the shooter, but instead suffers Rötschreck and flees into a building. Hector fails to locate the shooter, instead taking shelter in the haven and uses his Farsight ability to locate Demprios, whom he suspects of being the attacker and confirms the suspicions. Realizing his failure, Demprios sets out to leave the city again. He probes into the mind of the assassin and finds this to be yet another job, and also finds out that the “removal order” on Lancius is no longer active. He speaks into his mind in attempts of intimidation. Castor and Vivia emerge from the basement after hearing the ruckus, with Sherwin sneaking cautiously behind.

After regaining his sanity, Octavius summons Demprios, who has no choice but to return. He is watched by Hector, who informs his movements to Castor, who in turn assumes his Chiropteran Marauder form and takes to the sky. When he nears (cloaking through his mastery of Obfuscate), Hector exits the haven to meet him, and is attacked in return. Demprios briefly loses his concentration to hide, and chooses to attack Hector outright. The fight is short and messy. Through a combination of various Disciplines, sorcery and sheer swordmanship, the lone Leper is surrounded and cut down, eventually meeting Final Death on the muddy ground on a back alley in Londinium. As his undead body crumbles to dust before the eyes of the assembled coterie, we leave their story for the time being…

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Juniper

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