A plague ravages in the city of Deva, and Prince Octavius confers with his court on how best to address the situation. Lucius Aurelius Castor, the new undead master of the old Roman noble district, notices a pair of suspect individuals meeting secretly in a remote basement in the city and chooses to eavesdrop, employing his mastery of the koldunic Way of Spirit. Quickly identifying them as belonging to the group of culprits responsible for the plague, he relays the information to the prince, who isn’t late to act. While Castors own men bring the one staying behind, Octavius ambushes the second (who is trying to leave the city), guided by Castor.
The man, who is quickly asserted as a Setite Ghoul, is brought down and captured by Octavius, who brings him to Castor. Vivia Valerius Vetus is also summoned, to help with the task of learning the ghoul’s secrets, and finds out the whereabouts of his undead master, in the ancient amphitheater east from Deva. A plan quickly takes form, where Castor assumes the looks of the ghoul using his Vicissitude Discipline. Without further delays, he ventures out to meet with his “master”, while Octavius (along with his own ghoul servant, Ymwrayhl) follows him to act as a backup should hostilities occur.
Castor is successful with the subterfuge, and the unknown Serpent speaks about “commencing the second stage”. When asked to partake of her vitae, Castor decides to strike. A fierce and confused battle takes place, and all of the Serpent’s human followers are slain, and she herself struck into torpor by Octavius while attempting to stake her. She is brought back to Deva, where some investigations into her mind are done, without any significant success apart from her name (Aurora) and the names of her associates: Morghien and Swanhilda.
Nights pass, and the work of preserving the plague takes most of the coteries time. Fherah, utilizing her extensive knowledge of medicine and healing, takes it upon herself to attempt to minimize the damage caused by the plague, and helping those whom fate might spare. With her Path of the Four Humours Mortis powers, the task of identifying the diseased is an easy, albeit blood consuming one. Vivia, whose haven was among the first struck by the disease, carries the infection in her blood. She orders her servants to prepare a temporary haven in another district, before herself attempting the tenuous task of purging her body from the foul taint. She is successful and immediately leaves for the new haven.
Hector Augustinus finds the situation bothersome upon his awakening, and is forced through series of nuisances for a task as seemingly harmless as seeking out Fherah to speak with her. He eventually seeks out Octavius to share what he has learned during his “absence”. On his way he notices an unusual high presence of vermin, perhaps a side effect of the plague. The conversation only confirms Octavius suspicions, who then summons Khoraxoz. The Leper then receives the assignment of locating Morghien’s camp. Octavius leaves Aurora in Hector’s care until further notice. Early one night, Castor receives a message from the signature “M”, written as follows (in Latin):
“I have your servant, Pernik, in my care. You have one of my allies in custody. If you want the Leper returned alive, take her to the hill east of the city. Come alone. If you choose not to come tonight, the Leper will burn at sunrise.”
Castor seeks out the Prince in his court, where Vivia also has been spending a lot of time lately. Soon the court is assembled as Hector also arrives. After a discussion about priorities, Castor declares that he don’t intend to sacrifice Pernik (who has sworn him his allegiance). He comes up with a new plan; He can employ his powers once again to change Octavius’ appearance into an identical copy of his own, so that he can attend the “meeting” in his place. Then, using the same powers, create a hollow space in the torpid body of Aurora. In this space, he can hide himself in the form of vitae using Ascendancy of the Sanguine Humor. After the exchange, he will probably end up in Morghien’s camp, where he is able to spy, engage in sabotage or otherwise cause harm. After Hector has “scouted” the hill area (finding no signs for an ambush), they put the plan into action.
Shortly after the departure of Octavius and Castor, Khoraxoz once again visits the court room. He informs the remaining court the results of his investigations. Apparently, Morghiens camp has been moved further south, into the forest situated south of Fort Mediolanum. Also, while spying on the camp, he has overheard that Swanhilda is probably in Deva as they speak, in the process of doing “something serious”. Hector then asks Khoraxoz if he is able to do something about the issue of vermin in Deva, since they are a serious threat to the city as plague bearers. The Leper says he will look into the matter. After the meeting, Hector decides it’s time to do something about the still remaining bernicians in Deva, since learning of their hiding places from his earlier ritual.
While on the road towards the eastern hill, Castor experiences something disturbing while employing his koldunic powers. Some “foul taint” is spreading in the land itself from somewhere in the city. After discussing with Octavius, they decide to change their plans. Octavius continues to the hill alone with the body of Aurora, while Castor will return to investigate the source of the taint.
Hector gathers his ghoul servants and Fherah to rout out the unwanted infiltrators. He is accompanied by Vivia (along with her own ghouls) and Raul. Their conduct is very straightforward, with Fherah smashing the door and simply slaying the unfortunate enemy in his basement hiding place. With four more hiding places to “visit”, they continue without further delays.
Octavius arrives on the hill, where he is met by the six men who will perform the exchange. One of them is known to be a ghoul after Hector’s previous investigation and he is also the one in charge. Pernik is staked and fully soaked in lamp oil, “in case they try something”. Plenty of torches are also present at the site. Octavius doesn’t intend to let the enemy reclaim Aurora, but before he makes his move, the gathering is assaulted by a frenzied Madman, Patros. His attacks are focused towards Octavius, and the situation soon grows into a fierce battle in the midst of burning torches and lamp oil. After receiving a few serious injuries, Octavius manages to strike down his foe who quickly burns to ashes, before laying down the others. He then quickly returns towards Deva with the bodies of both Aurora and Pernik.
Meanwhile, Castor has transformed himself into the Chiropteran Marauder form and hastily returns to the city, guided by his koldunic senses. He eventually locates the source of the taint, in a small garden in the middle of the city. There he witnesses the final part of a strange ritual, where Swanhilda, quietly meditating on the ground pours a large amount of vitae into the ground from her open palm. In the (vain?) hopes of not being too late, he ferociously dives down against the Feral, aiming to lunge his talons through her chest…
If he succeeds, will be revealed next time…