Heartland Orphans

Dark Dreams

After talking to the coven of blood sorcerers, the three vampires were led to a earthen root cellar beneath the barn. Sybil slid into the earth while the others slept upon rough beds of straw.

Hours later they awake to find themselves standing on the earthen floor of a labyrinth of cyclopean stone. Blackened mirrors hang at irregular intervals, some reaching the ceiling twelve feet above them.

Ethan jerks his head as he hears the scream of his sire. Distantly Martock calls for help. The Mekhet hurries through the maze, leading them closer and closer to the cries.

Suddenly they come upon a set of rusty iron bars blocking their route. Sybil attempts to dig under them, exposing the rough stone a half foot beneath the moist soil. Feeling in the grime, she determines the bars are part of a portcullis. The men attempt to aid her as she begins to pull the heavy barrier up. With a mighty heavy, she lifts it over her head, dangling Ethan off the ground for a moment.

Flush with renewed confidence, Sybil leads the others past the obstacle and into the darkened halls.

As another of Martock’s screams echoes away, the vampires find themselves at a strange intersection. Several tunnels open up into a circular chamber. Between each gap hang large irregular mirrors. But most disconcerting is the sandstone altar at the center of the chamber and the gutted man lying atop it.

Ethan recognizes the blood splattered replica of the Heart of Akamon’s sanctum as well as the homeless man atop it. He recalls the night he killed this innocent to cement his leadership of the cult. Sybil also recognizes the man as the one she found dumped in the park. As she glances around she spots a bloody knife in Ethan’s hand. He looks down surprised but manages to hide his recognition at the sight and dagger.

The cult leader scrutinizes the dagger looking for a sign that this is not the same one Harry fled with. As Sybil attempts to question him, he concludes it is a clever replica. The heft is off and the hieroglyphs distorted.

As the Gangrel accuses him of killing the man, Ethan explains this is a dream. She sardonically comments that she already figured that out.

A tittering laugh issues from the mirrors. Inside the tarnished silver, a yellow eyed corpse mocks them. Alex watches as the rotting woman lurches forward from within the reflection. A worn hide dress covers her sagging form as she fingers a seashell necklace hanging loosely around her neck.

Ethan attempts to talk to her, inquiring what she is after. She jokes that they don’t even know what they seek. The woman’s eyes flash as she hobbles about ignoring them. She talks to some unseen presence about some jewel they seek. The Dragon tells the others that she must be one of these “birds” and comments that they are arrogant monsters seeking to confuse them. He tries to lock eyes with the woman as Alex scans the room. Sybil focuses on her body language, avoiding the eyes.

Sybil notices something off in the woman’s movements. She turns her head and spots an identical creature about to pounce on Ethan.

“Duck”, Sybil shouts as she swings at the zombie. The scholar dodges out of the way as she knocks the creature back.

The woman snaps at Sybil, her rotten teeth biting hard on her leg. Sybil grabs her arms and forces them behind the monster’s back, restraining her.

As the monster attempts to twist its head around to bite her, the voice from the mirror mocks them again. As the image distracts them from her “sister” the corpse rots away in Sybil’s hands. The image, clearly one of the Twins Jane referred to, offers to let Martock go for the jewel.

As Martock screams not to let them have it, they awaken from their dream.

Sybil rises from the ground while the men stand up and dust off the straw. Ascending from the cellar they find a nervous looking Thomas waiting for them.

Ethan commands the mortal to bleed into a bowl for him. As the Thomas cuts himself, the others wrestle with their beasts. The Mekhet drinks deeply and feels his hunger ebb slightly.

Ethan quizzes his disciple about the day. Thomas complains that it was spooky being almost alone but gets cut off before he can say much more.

From the inner hut, the three members of the Circle emerge. As before the albino woman does most of the talking. She’s considered their questions and needs from the previous night. Unfortunately she knows little about these creatures except their name and their hatred of vampires. The Strix it seems have been a threat since the days of ancient Rome.

The neonates relate their dream encounter and ask if the barn was warded against spiritual intrusion. The Elder admits the defenses were keyed against the werewolves but hints she could protect against such things. She offers to help them defeat the Strix if they help her first. A Kindred called the Wolf knows the secrets of the Strix and also wishes to destroy her. If they remove him as a threat, she promises to contribute her considerable power to their cause.

They thank her and drive back to Bloomington. After dropping the damaged station wagon at a garage, they arrange to meet up the next night.

Sybil heads off on her own, attempting to hunt down what the Red Eye is. She finds her answer as she heads towards the highway to feed. A blazing red neon eye announces the location of a 24 hour trucker’s bar. She scouts the smoke filled building and quizzes the bar tender. She spots Carthian sigils scattered about with one hanging above the entrance of the kitchen. After trying to sneak in, she learns from the hairless cook that “her kind” are not here tonight but should be meeting in two days.

Before she leaves, she crafts a cryptic message and posts it to the local bulletin board. It informs the reader that she lives in Champaign and warns them of the presence of the Strix.

Ignoring the third call from Ethan that night, she heads for a park, looking for someone to punish. After an hour she spots a pair of teens throwing rocks at a homeless man. As they leave the park, she trails the larger one. Silently she slips up behind him and bites down on his neck.

She leaves the drained but alive kid near a busy road. To top herself off, she hunts down a large dog. She leaves it weakened but alive as well. Finally she finds a patch of earth near the meet location and sinks into the earth for the night.

Elsewhere Alex rents a car while Ethan deals with Thomas. Ethan takes the still rattled mortal to a motel and uses his vampiric powers to mesmerize him. Slowly he erases much of Thomas’s memories of the previous day. As he drifts off, the mortal mutters something about seeing the Elder during the day.

After checking that his car was successfully towed back to Champaign, Alex picks up Ethan and the pair drive over to the haven of the Old Man. After being ushered in by the armed guards, they relay the previous night’s events to the older Kindred. Ethan in particular ingratiates himself to the elder. The Old Man mentions that Rudolph has awakened but is still a bit ‘stumpy’. From his testimony he has decided to call a Blood Hunt on David.

After excusing themselves, Alex sups from some of the covenant’s blood dolls before joining Ethan in socializing with the assembled Ventrue and other members of the Invictus.

As they trade small talk and rumors, the pair learn that the Old Man intends to make a move on the Ordo Dracul and the University. Indeed the tone is that the covenant is taking out all of its rivals and possible threats.

Ethan in particular is warned not to make a fuss. “Perhaps he will give you some of your territory back if he likes you,” they tell him.

Later that evening, they try contacting Sybil again. She doesn’t pick up and they instead search for another good feeding.

They eventually find themselves near the highway and the Red Eye. Alex spots an extremely large and beefy trucker. While he distracts him, Ethan quietly feeds on him. They cloud his memory of the event and help him into the bar for a drink.

As dawn approaches the pair find an abandoned office building to go to ground in. Ethan picks the lock and they find a dark corner to rest out the day.

Shortly after nightfall, the three Kindred meetup again. Ethan and Alex relay their experiences. As they head over to the Old Man’s haven, Sybil expresses her disgust over the Blood Hunt. She does not intend to take part.

At the mansion they find Rudolph up and about, his left arm strangely withered and raw. Even so he easily crushes a metal cup as he expresses his outrage at David. It was David who visited him that night, who turned his powers against him, leaving him crippled and nearly dead.

The Kindred join the caravan to Champaign, heading for the Invictus strip club on the edge of town. Sybil splits off while the others join the gathering for the Blood Hunt.

The club stands deserted, cleared out by its owner, Big Eddie, for the event. In addition to the Old Man and Big Eddie, they see Rudolph, Tara King, Thomas Black and a few other members of the Invictus. A pair of Carthians are also in attendance.

Ethan and Alex approach the outsiders. The short stocky man introduces himself as Dan and explains the thin quiet woman beside him is called Silvia. They were curious about the Blood Hunt. The event also provided them an excuse to check on a Carthian that they heard was in town. Alex and Ethan explain their relation to Sybil and get Dan’s number to pass on to her.

Finally the Old Man announces the Blood Hunt. As the vampires disperse, he calls Big Eddie back and sends him on some secret chore.

Elsewhere Sybil visits her friend Karen Capra at the homeless shelter. She finds her sitting somewhat disturbed in her office, researching zombies and near death experiences. It seems that two nights ago she also encountered “Jane”. Sybil comforts her with her shared experience and says she’s looking into it.

Sybil then goes looking for the Wolf. From her own experiences she knows that this disturbing vampire lurks somewhere in the south west end of Urbana. She decides to quiz the local homeless.

After a couple hours and many conversations, she narrows the field a small area along the southern edge of Urbana. Oddly throughout this area, she finds caches of salt in old bottles and bells hung on strings. She takes a picture of one and sends it to Ethan.

Elsewhere Ethan and Alex have almost given up trailing Rudolph. The elderly man has visited all of David’s old haunts and found nothing. Ethan receives sybil’s text. He looks at the picture but draws a blank. He texts back his befuddlement and includes the number they picked up from the Carthians.

Sybil thanks him and decides to map the locations of the salt bottles. The pattern that emerges indicates a central location perhaps a mile outside of town.

Ethan gets a call during the search from one of the cultists of Akamon. They sputter something about someone breaking into Martock’s office. ethan says that he is aware of it and ignores them.

Sybil decides to call the Carthians. Dan picks up. After some introductions, she warns them to avoid the Blood Hunt as David may be more dangerous than he seems. He explains they were about to give up when they noticed something strange: a skinless corpse lurching about by the train tracks. The zombie headed into an abandoned store a couple blocks away: Fresh Catch.

Sybil recognizes the sketchy fish store and warns them to stay at a safe distance. She contacts the others and then heads for the site.

Ethan and Alex just finished exploring the cemetery when the text reaches them. They drop their fruitless search and head over.

As everyone arrive, they easily spot Dan’s semitruck parked two blocks north of the train tracks and the decaying Fresh Catch building. In addition to Sylvia and Dan, a burly man and woman stand by the truck. The ghouls don’t say anything but keep their eyes on the strangers.

Dan takes a swig from a flask and explains that they haven’t seen any motion since the phone call. He offers some of his beverage to Sybil. “Pigs blood,” he explains.

Alex and Ethan decide to investigate on their own. Sybil and the others watch from the safety of the truck.

Ethan opens the door and peers inside. The darkened interior has been stripped of almost all decoration. A tank of liquid sits near the door and at the far end a figure crouches upon a counter top.

The man looks up and Alex recognizes David’s smile. He greets them. As Alex presses in, Ethan pokes his head outside and calls to the others. He then vanishes inside.

Sybil looks to the others. The ghouls pull out bats while Sylvia draws her gun. “I know a back way in,” Sybil says, leading them to the shop.

Inside Alex approaches David, trying to talk some sense into him. The odor of rotten fish and something else overwhelms their senses. Ethan decides to stop breathing and concentrates on David. David for his part, pay no notice to the Mekhet or the stech and simply tries to deflect Alex’s worries.

David seems to realize that the other Kindred are closing in on him and tries to force Alex to come with him. He intensifies his gaze and forces his will on Alex. The Ventrue fights him off, leaving David frustrated.

Alex notices a pile of junk move just in time as the rotting corpse of a dog leaps out. He grabs the sole chair in the room and tries to fend it off.

Ethan turns his own gaze on him, ordering him to drop to the ground. As the Mekhet’s will overwhelmed his, he begins to bend down.

Then David stops. His eyes flash yellow as an evil grin crosses his face. Suddenly Ethan feels the whole room shift around him.

He looks down and sees snakes slithering up his limbs. Demons crawl out of the dark corners. He tries to convince himself that this is just a hallucination. As he attempts to calm himself, something whispers horrors into his ear.

Ethan runs screaming from the building.

Hearing the conflict, Sybil leads the charge from the back of the fish shop. She rushes “David” and grabs hold him. She forcefully positions him to give Dan a clear shot.

The stout Daeva slams a stake into David’s heart. The piece of wood cracks ribs and ruptures out the back. But David continues to struggle. While Alex tries to fend off the dog, the ghouls beat it down with baseball bats.

At the back of the room, Silvia lines up a shot with her pistol. She pulls the trigger.

As the echoes of the gunshot fade, David’s shattered head slumps over. His skin molders before their eyes and his corpse collapses to the floor. A black smoke rises from the remains. Twin points of yellow light glare from the dark mist at Sybil as it forms into the shape of a bird and flies away.

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