Shadow of a Horned God

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

Relentless Efforts

Lucius Aurelius Castor, in the form of the Chiropteran Marauder, completely catches Swanhilda off-guard. The young Savage is slain in a matter of seconds by the ferocious assault of Deva’s newest resident. However, as he concentrates on the earth, Castor realizes that her foul ritual was completed, with energies running across the soil. He eventually returns to Octavius, who is on his way back towards the city, wounded and famished. He informs him of the result and accompanies him back, after assuming his ordinary form.

Meanwhile, Fherah, Vivia and Raul complete their “tour” of the city, exterminating the last remnants of Aurora’s infiltrators, guided by Hector’s knowledge of their hideouts. In the remaining four hideouts, they find that two members of the group already have been slain, probably by Swanhilda, and only manage to capture one alive, and that the last one is missing, perhaps gone into hiding elsewhere, after committing a double rape-murder in the plague-district. After their work is done, they return towards the throne room.

The coterie meet each other on their way and exchange reports. The surviving saboteur belonging to Aurora is consumed by Octavius, judging him no more useful. Then they discuss the issue with Aurora herself. After some debate, Octavius agrees to spare her for the time being, her perhaps being a valuable “trade” with her sire Luxandra, whom Castor met back in Ancona. She is bound tight and kept under strict surveillance. During this time they also discover an unusually high activity of vermin, which has reached almost insane proportions. Castor is able to remember hearing rumors of Animalism powers of this degree, and they agree that this is the work of Swanhilda.

Castor utilizes his koldunic blood magic to contact his sire, Gesu, in Constantinople. He asks counseling on the matter of the Setite, knowing his sire to have had extensive experience of them recently. He receives the advice of maintaining patience, and offers to discuss the matter with Khay’tall himself, the head of the Decadent Setite faction based in the city, and also the sire of Luxandra. This might take a while, however, but he will contact Castor after it is done. He also asks if Gesu knows of any competent stone-cutters available for transportation to Britannia, and receives the advice of perhaps utilizing any favors from this Setite-affair to allow the usage of Luxandra’s extensive trading network to that purpose. On the question of what can be done to the vermin situation (which Gesu refers to as The Eight Plague), he receives no satisfying answer. Perhaps nothing can be done?

After some more discussions, Octavius decides to seek out the source of these issues as he sees it, namely Morghien. Since receiving knowledge of his wherabouts from Khoraxoz earlier, he knows where to look. He is accompanied by Fherah, who leaves Hector to his own devices in their haven. Octavius also brings forth Ymwrayhl, his ghoul bodyguard. As they come near the encampment, they quickly notice that they are preparing to depart. The guard is handled through the use of Presence, but the situation quickly grows more hostile as they enter the camp. Again, the Presence Discipline proves useful to calm the situation down a bit, until their leader appears.

The meeting proves insightful for both parties. Octavius is surprised to learn of his “brother’s” civilized manners and diplomatic abilities, and begins to think that maybe he isn’t the Savage he thought him to be. He is quick to show contempt however, and taunts are exchanged throughout the conversation. He obviously takes no responsibility for the acts of Aurora and Swanhilda, and refuses to share any insights to his plans. He claims to be a truly free soul with no masters. Octavius still manages to learn a hint of information through Auspex, that this “campaign” is a preparation for some future plans. He also manages to confirm that there exists some type of relations between Morghien and the enigma known as Corax, who resides in the capital of Bernicia, Bamburh. He finds out, however, that Morghien doesn’t harbor any warm feelings for the savage and the cooperation might be more fragile than one might think.

Meanwhile, Vivia learns through Caddoc that an armed group is approaching from the south, bearing the standards of Glevum. She sends Caddoc to meet with the group, learn their reasons to coming here and warn them of the plague. When he returns she learns that it is the Warmaster of Glevum, Coramius, who leads the group and wishes to speak with Octavius, and also delivers a letter to him. She patiently awaits his return.

When Morghien announces his intentions to leave, Octavius demands a promise not to return, which Morghien callously denies. Seeing as they can’t agree, Octavius proposes a duel, which Morghien surprisingly agrees to. Fherah, Ywrayhl and all the followers of Morghien watch closely as witnesses. The battle is long and fierce, with the Third Eye of Saulot glowing brightly as the Warriors unleash their powers on each other. The tide dances back and forth between the fighters, and the fight takes the form of a battle of attrition. In the end, Octavius is struck down by the Elder, and subsequently staked (even though Ymwrayhl tried to stop it from happening, he was knocked out cold by both Morghien and Fherah, who didn’t want the affair to turn into another bloodbath). Morghien then tell Fherah to bring her Prince back to the city, which she does without objection. Morghien and his followers then depart, traveling back north.

When Octavius is brought back to the court, Vivia quickly decides he must be freed. Clodwal, another of Octavius ghouls, is given the task of removing the stake. Unfortunately, he doesn’t survive the task as Octavius, again starved frenzies, drinks him dry. The situation quickly grows even more dangerous as he breaks free and continues his blood-wrath, with Aulus (Vivia’s remaining elder ghoul), and two soldiers brought down from the city by Raul, consumed before his hunger is sated. When the situation has calmed down, Vivia gives him the letter from Coramius, which he reads before deciding to retreat into his haven for the day.

The letter is short and straightforward, as expected when written by such a cainite as Marcus Verus himself. He writes of his intentions to travel to Londinium, where he has “business” to take care of. He also gives his support for Octavius recent efforts, and also informs him of his decision to let Coramius “inherit” the office of Prince in Glevum, should he not make it back from Londinium. He doesn’t recommend Octavius to go there, but doesn’t forbid him either.

After Octavius has retreated, Vivia thinks it best to meet Coramius in person, so that the Elder doesn’t feel insulted in being ignored. Remembering Raul’s story, she decides it is best that he stays behind. Bringing only Fherah and Kelwan, her youngest and now only ghoul bodyguard, she ventures out to speak with the Ventrue Elder. The meeting is polite and formal, with Coramius expressing his concerns for the well-being of his allied city Deva. Vivia also informs him that the Prince is available the next night, and that an escort will be provided for Coramius so that his soldiers won’t be exposed to the disease.

The day eventually passes, and the coterie meets with Coramius in the throne room. They discuss politics, Coramius being a wellspring of information. Apparently, King Raedwald of East Anglia plans to install his subject Edwin into the throne of Deira, since the death of King Aethelfrith has created large power vacuum. There also doesn’t seem to be any real obstacles in his ascension as Bretwalda, the overlord of Britannia. The Artisan Calipha, who has Raedwald under her wings, probably plans to use these events as a leverage to gain much prestige in future politics. Marcus Verus has shown a considerable interest in northern affairs and have thus sent Coramius to observe the situation. Since the present Prince of Eboracum is none other than Brennus, the childe of Coramius himself, he ought to have good opportunities to influence northern politics if the need arises. Coramius decides to stay in the vicinity of Deva for one week, and offers his help in maintaining the situation, perhaps by guarding the fields against the locust swarms which threaten to doom the city into starvation.

The week passes, and matters have their way. After some internal debate, the court decides that the plague is the most threatening of the two issues at hand, and focuses the garrison into preserving order in the city, and rationing the food to the healthy districts. Several uprisings in the plague district are brutally crushed by soldiers, and the populace slowly realize the extent into which their lives are dictated by the creatures who stalk the city at night. With the help of Coramius’ men and concentrated efforts by Khoraxoz, Castor and Brodhar, the locust issue is kept from a total disaster, and after a few days the swarms start dispersing. The plague, however, continues to reap its toll of lives in the city. Coramius approaches Octavius with an offer; to ease responsibilities for the troubled Prince and also strengthening their personal connections to each other, Coramius is willing to become the Mentor of Selyf Sarffgadau, Octavius’ Fledgling childe. It may also prove good for the young Scion to gain firsthand experience on Cainite politics while traveling with Coramius to Eboracum. Octavius agrees, and so Selyf departs from the city in the company of his new Mentor after merely a month of his undead existence.

Shortly after the departure of Coramius, Octavius receives word that Aurora has awakened from torpor. After some precautions (including her own ghoul fed to her as nourishment), she is brought before the court. After realizing her situation, she submits to the will of her captors and begs for mercy. Castor still think that they should await word from her sire in Italy before judging her too harshly, and after some debate, they agree not to execute her, for now. In exchange for her life, Aurora offers information about their enemies in the north. Intrigued, Octavius listens to what she has to say.

According to Aurora, Morghien has “abducted” the youngest son of King Aethelfrith, Oswiu, and keeps him safe in an unknown haven somewhere along the remains of Hadrian’s Wall. She thinks that he plans to use the boy in some future scheme to gain control of the Kingdom of Bernicia. He has also let rumors of Oswiu’s death spread, so that people won’t search for his whereabouts. She also confirms Octavius suspicions that the alliance of Morghien and Corax is a fragile one, and that they don’t see eye to eye on most matters. Currently, Corax grip on Bernicia seems total, but with the state of the mortal kingdom, things might change in the near future. Also, with the recent arrival of Eldric in Eboracum, things are starting to look uncertain. Awaiting the “judgment” of her kin, she is confined in chains behind locked doors and kept under strict surveillance.

Octavius quickly sends word to Coramius about what he have learned about Oswiu, and that spreading rumors of his state might prove troublesome for their enemies. Since his destination is Eboracum, Coramius seems as the prime candidate for overseeing these things in the near future. With these events we leave Deva for the time being, and eagerly await the rapidly approaching conclusion of Part III

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Juniper Juniper

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