Thicker Than Blood

Lu Bu's Curse, Parts I & II
That is not dead, which can eternal sleeping lie...

It all started with a strange call from Wei Shen, a heavy hitter in the underworld, and Lieutenant of the Black Dragon Triad. Assembling a Coterie of notable Kindred throughout the San Francisco area, Wei propositioned them with a task. Recover a case of gems, stolen from Han-Dynasty Lu Bu’s tomb, which were stolen and smuggled into the US by members of the Zhei-Fen Triad. Offering a lucrative lump sum of $8,500 for their assistance in the matter, our protagonists accepted.

After a few well-placed inquiries, the Coterie wound up on the doorstep of a bar in the Chinatown district of San Francisco. Armed with a little knowledge of the underworld, Sofia schmoozed her way into the back room of the Zhei-Fen hideout, and after losing a little money at the illicit casino, managed to weasel a location for the sale of a case of gems from the bartender. The deal was to go down on the Mega-Yacht of one Candace Boyle, a wealthy venture capitalist who was well-known throughout the bay area.

After using Sofia’s talents to distract a trio of police officers by Ms. Boyle’s private dock, Chen made good use of her talents for skullduggery, snuck onto Ms. Boyle’s yacht, and learned the layout, also gleaning that Gregorio’s Catering Company was providing the food for the party.

Posthaste, the Coterie made their way to the Castro district of San Francisco, where there was something of a row happening inside Gregorio’s. Chen again fell victim to her rampant kleptomania, and stole a spare key for one of their vans, before realizing that the disturbance inside was caused by Candace Boyle herself. Formulating a plan of action, the Coterie leaped into action!

Masquerading as an unlucky motorist with a dead battery, Nick Strong managed to talk Ms. Boyle’s driver, Archibald into assisting him with his misfortunes. After turning a corner, Nick unleashed a vicious right hook into Archibald’s jaw, knocking him cold unconscious. Quickly, he stole the man’s uniform and firearm, and not a moment to soon. As the Coterie piled into the car, Candace stormed out of Gregorio’s. Sofia turned on her natural charms, and with leveraged application of Majesty, forced Candace to reveal her regrets and secrets. After the cathartic experience, Candace and Sofia ordered “Archibald” to take them to the Stem and Flute where Candace drank a few too many cocktails, allowing Sofia to ply two invitations to her extravagant party from her, each good for one, plus a guest.

After another sunrise and sunset, the Coterie made ready to attend the party. Dressed to the nines in fresh clothes, they stole a boat from the marina, and found Candace’s mega-yacht. Keeping a weather eye out, Nick spied a duo of Triad members, and a group of five snappily-dressed men, who were discerned to be Mages. After waiting for the exchange, Cheng started a fight on the dance floor, and Nick exploded with supernatural speed, stealing the case of gems and leaping into the boat, leaving Sofia and Cheng to fend for themselves, while Dr. Avalon sped away, managing to lose the Mages behind them.

After a rendezvous at an old dock, the Coterie opened the briefcase, revealing seven large, sparkling gems. As they examined their find, a pair of shadowy warriors coalesced behind them, in full Han-Dynasty armaments. Putting their martial skills to use, the Coterie quickly dispatched their umbral assailants, and returned to Wei Shen for further instruction. Wei was pleased to have recovered the gems, and shooed the Coterie from his office so that he could study them.

The very next night, Wei assembled the vampires again. The gems had been speaking to him, whispering in his mind. He felt that it was the spirit of Lu Bu attempting to contact him, but he could not communicate with the spirit, nor understand it. He tasked his new minions with finding someone who could assist him, a mage, a seer, or something of the sort.

Xing piped in, suggesting that they speak with [:spider], a known Kindred, and broker of information. Spider was the owner of an industrial metal club downtown, The Descent. Sailing past the line to enter the club, Sofia managed to gain an audience with Spider. He knew someone who could help her, but no information comes for free. Turns out, a few losers had been dealing low-quality drugs outside of his establishment, and he wanted them stopped, and he didn’t much care how it happened.

Using their talent for grace and tact, the Coterie set up a large drug buy with the gang, and beat the ever-loving shit out of them instead of purchasing drugs. Escaping before the police could arrive, they returned to Spider with the fruits of their labor. Spider was perfectly pleased to part with a morsel of information in return for the favor. He recommended the Coterie find the Bay Point Church, and track down the head Priest, one Lucas Collier. After warning the Coterie that a gang of mages was out for their blood, Spider saw them off with directions to Father Collier’s church.

Father Collier was none to happy to have vampires in his church, but he was, after all, a man of God, not a man of senseless violence. After hearing them out, he agreed to help them speak to the soul inside the gems, hoping that he could help it find a final resting place. He implored them to come back the following night, and he would conduct the ritual.

Returning with Wei Shen the following night, the ritual was ready to begin. Father Collier spread the gems atop an altar, covered in arcane etchings and silver. As he closed his eyes and pulled forth a magical weaving, the gems began to whisper, smoky tendrils rising and writhing throughout the seven gems. Suddenly the whispers ceased, and an electric tingle pressed in around the table. Father Collier’s eyes shot open wide.

And he screamed.

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Lu Bu's Curse - Part III
The Owl Exterminator

Father Collier’s eyes rolled back in his head as he screamed, the inhuman sound echoing throughout the empty, still church. As quickly as it began, it stopped. Father Collier stood from the table, his eyes darting left and right in panic as he began to… Bounce.

He simply stood there, staring into the distance blankly and gently bouncing on the balls of his feet. The Coterie stood in silence for a moment before Wei Shen reached out to reclaim one of the gems. Startled by the movement, or perhaps by someone attempting to touch the gems, Lucas, possessed by the spirit of Lu Bu lashed out with incredible superhuman strength, snapping Wei Shen’s arm in two, and hurling him into the pews of Father Collier’s church, impaling him through the heart in the process.

Lu Bu went berserk, but Xing managed to distract him, putting his significant martial skills to use to defend himself while Professor Afallon sprinted towards Lucas’ flat, desperate to find some information on the new threat they faced. Realizing that the Coterie was not trying to contain him, Lu Bu leapt through a stained-glass window, and vanished, hopping into the night.

The Coterie wasted no time in searching for a way to defeat this terror they’d unwittingly and unwillingly unleashed upon the denizens of San Francisco. Pawing through the unkempt stacks of books kept by Lucas Collier, and a number of rare books from San Francisco University, they came upon the name of an ancient Chinese text dealing with all manner of occult phenomenon and creatures, the Chāoyuè Shēngsǐ de Jìngjiè de Mìmì. Putting her Google-Fu to good use, Chen managed to track down the locations of the only two copies known to exist. One was on display in a Chinese museum, on the other side of the earth.

The other was the property of one Candace Boyle. Thankfully for the Coterie, Candace’s driver, Archibald owed them a favor. A quick phone call later, they had some useful information regarding Ms. Boyle’s estate, and the security therein. Candace employs a trio of private security specialists, ex-military, with serious hardware to keep her estate safe. The Coterie needed a distraction to sneak in, and Sam Thatcher knew he was the man for the job.

Driving his ragged ice cream truck up to the gate of the lavish Boyle Estate, Sam buzzed the intercom, beginning a strange exchange with the man on the other side. Claiming to be an ‘Owl Exterminator’, he befuddled, confused, and distracted not one, not two, but all three of Candace’s guards while Chen and Heilyn slipped inside her compound. Working quickly, Chen infiltrated the manor, and located the book. Coordinating with Heilyn, they cut the power to the estate, and absconded with their ill-gotten gains.

Returning to Wei Shen with news of their progress, they set about translating the old tome. With the knowledge of ancient Chinese provided by Wei Shen, and a smattering of Life Sciences provided by Professor Afallon, the Coterie was able to deduce Lu Bu’s — know known to be a Jiangshi — greatest weakness. Peach wood.

Tossing a few ideas back and forth, the Coterie finally decided that they would be best served by sneaking into Harvest Time, a pick-your-own-fruit orchard outside of San Diego. The night was not young enough to safely make the drive, so they rested for another day.

Sam Thatcher awoke the next night to the sweeping glare of flashlights outside his van. Two police officers had tracked him down after the robbery of Ms. Boyle’s estate, and were suspicious. He allayed their suspicions with a stunning display of incomprehensible babble before beginning the long night’s drive down to San Diego…

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Lu Bu's Curse - Part IV
Hunters, Mages, and Werewolves, Oh My!

Eight hours from San Francisco to San Diego.

Eight hours just for some lousy scraps of peach wood, and of course it didn’t go smooth. Nothing ever goes smooth.

After finding their way to the Harvest Time pick-your-own-fruit orchard outside of San Diego, the Coterie found themselves in a bit of a pickle. Sneaking over the barbed wire and into the fence, they were ambushed by a group of hunters, led by Faust of the San Francisco Seven. Chen was staked through the heart with a crossbow bolt almost immediately, with Heilyn and Xing taking their fair share of blows before Faust called for a cease-fire. The hunters were not amused, and continued to stalk the Coterie, going so far as to let fly another bolt (merely annoying Professor Afallon).

In the confusion and tension, Nick Strong noticed something lurking around the edges of the orchard, and that one of the unfortunate day-laborers who had been beaten and bound had gone missing. After witnessing their stalker abduct and maul one of the hunters, they surmised that they were dealing with a Garou, a Werewolf. Faust was floored by the discovery, even moreso after Howls-From-Mountaintops made himself known. A grizzled, noble Garou, he bartered (distastefully) with the Coterie to enlist their aid, alongside that of his fellow wolves, to capture the rampaging Cirnos, who was in the frenzied throes of her first change.

Working with Professor Afallon on a snare trap, Faust wove a potent enchantment into the simple snare, while Sam Thatcher made the inexplicable decision to use himself as bait. When the moon-maddened Cirnos caught the scent of the Malkavian, her bestial nature, and innate hatred of the Kindred overwhelmed her, and she lunged forward, ripping huge gashes in Sam’s flesh, from chin to waist.

Unfazed by the assault thanks to his unlife, Sam engaged in a course of action that was unthinkable to any who did not share his… unique… frame of mind. He decided to ride the Cirnos. Luck was on his side, and he pinned the beast’s elbows in a full nelson above its head as he kicked his heels into her sides, guiding her into the snare with the help of Nick Strong.

No sooner did the beast set foot in the snare than the Mage’s enchantment trigger an incantation of inertial dampening, accelerating the beast to breakneck speeds and slamming her into the ground. Sam managed to clear the trap, and suffered only minor injuries, while Howls-From-Mountaintops and his pack leapt into action, pinning the rogue Cirnos to the ground while the other members of the Coterie assaulted her with a handful of ill-gotten silverware.

As a token of his appreciation, Howls-From-Mountaintops bestowed a token upon Sam Thatcher, as well as a Garou epithet, ‘Rides-The-Fury’. He allowed them to spend the day in his root cellar, and crafted a number of sturdy Shillelaghs from a peach tree which he uprooted for them. Sending them on their way back to the city, the Coterie was confronted with another unpleasant truth.

Lu Bu had taken over the Zhei-Fen Triad, the Black Dragon Triad’s main rivals. The members of the Triad had a glazed, soulless look about them, and cracked, white lips. Wei Shen called a conference with the Coterie, and the San Francisco Seven, who had expressed a desire to rid the mortal realm of Lu bu once and for all…

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Lu Bu's Curse - Part V
The Thrilling Conclusion

The time had come at last to put the spirit of Lu Bu to rest, once and for all. The Coterie gathered at the Golden Koi restaurant with Wei Shen, and the San Francisco Seven to plan their next moves. First, they decided to reconnoiter the back-alley casino that the Zhei-Fen Triad operated out of, to glean any information they could.

Taking Lethe, one of the Seven with them, they brutally beat and abducted the two door guards outside of the Triad hideout. Screeching off into the distance, they drove for a short time before pulling into an alleyway, allowing Lethe to work her magic. She ripped information from the mind of one of the unfortunate guards, though in so doing was severely weakened from touching his tainted consciousness. The Coterie now knew they were up against formidable odds. 16 armed Triad guards, and Lu Bu himself.

Wasting no time, they formulated a plan of attack. They would enter through the roof access, protected by enchantments and watched over by the mages. They would strike hard, and fast, attempting to turn the tides of the battle before their enemy even realized it had begun. The plan nearly failed before it began, when one of the guards patrolling outside spotted movement on the rooftop. Drawing near to investigate, Nick Strong leapt from the rooftop and brutally savaged the man with he unholy strength, culminating in a messy decapitation. Scampering back up to the rooftop, they wasted no time in breaching the door.

Rushing in, the Coterie inflicted heavy and sudden losses on the Triad, killing or knocking out nearly half of their number within the first few seconds with the assistance of Faust and Hercules. Seconds after the initial flurry of combat, more than half of the Triad combatants lay dead, with only Hercules and Professor Afallon wounded on the other side. And then, Lu Bu arrived.

A hellish shriek echoed through the room as Lu Bu smashed through the door from the back office, turning to fear as an array of mirrors plastered over the jackets of the Coterie confronted him. Lu Bu pulled on every ounce of willpower and strength he had, but even his formidable powers were no match for the Coterie in his state of weakness.

Blow after blow from the Coterie’s peachwood clubs rained down upon him, each strike eliciting a pained howl, and a small stream of inky black vapor to rise from Father Lucas Collier, Lu Bu’s host. Finally, after a crushing blow from Heilyn, and a final strike from Nick Strong, Lu Bu collapsed to the ground, vomiting thick, umbral vapors from every orifice.

Springing into action, the mages began their rite of binding, trapping Lu Bu’s soul back into the gems that started this whole fiasco, and with no hesitation, Faust ripped a hole in reality using The Subtle Knife, banishing Lu Bu to another realm.

Lucas was in bad shape after the fight, having been beaten half to death with peach-wood clubs. After a touch of medical care from Heilyn, and a quick nip of Vitae from Sofia, Lucas demanded that none present ever contact him again, and limped stoically from the destroyed casino. The San Francisco Seven, and the Coterie left before Law Enforcement could arrive on the scene, and reported their success back to Wei Shen.

As promised, the Coterie was rewarded. They were granted ownership of a small curio shop on the eastern edge of Chinatown, and a one-half share of profits at an upscale restaurant run as a money-laundering operation by Lu Bu.

But the nightmares are just beginning.

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