Status

Recent Statuses

2 yrs ago
Current I’m birfday
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2 yrs ago
Discord is down and it is driving me absolutely insane. But at least I've got Dragon Quest XI to keep me entertained :)
3 likes
2 yrs ago
It has been so long since I've actually done play-by-post role-play. I'm excited to get back into it. :)
2 likes

Bio

I like cake and steak and vidyajames.

Also, does anyone else notice how many other users have a misspelling of the word "videogames" in their biographies?

My steam name is Colonel Canada if you want to play Crusader Kings II or Europa Universalis IV or Team Fortress 2 or something.

Most Recent Posts

Malina paced back and forth nervously, glancing at the door to the apartment as she waited anxiously for her son to come home. Under normal circumstances, it would be foolish to worry about Mihail: he was a grown man whose NBA salary had paid for the apartment they now shared. He was over seven feet tall, and he was generally well-liked by the Angeleno public, barring a few maladjusted Clippers fans. Of course, these were not normal circumstances: that became apparent after the Tremere assassin made an attempt on Mihail’s life.

Ever since the attack, Malina had taken off her normal job performing to ensure that their apartment remained warded against potential vampire attack. Any bloodsucker who entered the domicile would feel their powers begin to leave them. Here Mihail was safe, and while Malina wouldn’t try to confine her adult son to the house 24/7, she had requested that Mihail come home well before dark. Am I being overbearing? Am I being the stereotypical overbearing immigrant mom? She poured a glass of wine from the old country, one which she had opened earlier that month to celebrate Mihail making the All-Rookie team. No, these are vampires we are dealing with, the same ones that killed his father. She took a sip. Damn these bloodsuckers, they are driving me to drink.

Malina’s eyes shot up as the door opened, and behind it, barefoot, was Mihail. He looked exhausted, slightly singed, and extremely agitated, but alive. Malina ran forth, at first appearing as though she was going to hug him. Instead, she took a different approach, her outstretched hands gesticulating angrily.

“Where have you been, mister?!” Malina proclaimed, berating her son in her native Vlax Romani language, “I have taken off work to ward this apartment, because I want to keep you safe, and you won’t even take the most basic measures to--”

Mihail tried to interject: “But mom--!”

“NO BUTS!” Malina spat back. She sent forth a deluge of telekinetic energy, causing the door to slam behind her son with a loud thud that startled him. “I can’t believe after I make this one simple request of you, for your own safety, to be home after dark, that you would--”

“MOM!” Mihail screamed this time, breaking through the frantic worried rant of his mother. “... Mom, they found me. The Baron’s people. They found me.”

Malina paused, looking at her singed, barefoot, panicked son. “... and they did this to you?!” She resumed her angry rant as abruptly as she had paused it: “Oh that bloodsoaked whore thinks she can get away with this, does she!? She thinks she can send her minions to fuck around with my son!?” As she ranted and raved, Malina walked over to a cabinet just outside the kitchen and opened it, revealing a silver-tipped crossbow in a locked glass case. Taking the key from her pocket, she continued: “When I get my hands on that bloodsucking, water-wasting, two-bit succubus bitch I am going to put fifteen bolts in her chest and another ten right in her--”

“MOM! Please!” Mihail grabbed his mother by the shoulders, turned her around, and looked her in the eyes, “Please. Let me explain. They were trying to warn me... I am not what you need to worry about right now.”

Malina frowned, but put the key back in her pocket. “Mihail, it is my job to worry about you,” she said, “I am your mother. I will never not worry. Now please, tell me what is going on. Forgive me, I have been very restless since I took a leave from my job.”

Mihail sighed. “You might want to sit down for this. We can talk in the kitchen.”

The pair made their way to the well-equipped kitchen. Malina began to boil water for tea as Mihail retrieved two large mugs from the cupboard. “Nothing with caffeine,” Malina said, “I would like to be able to sleep after this.” Mihail settled on some chamomile to relax them, and placed a teabag in each mug.

As they sat at the dining table waiting for the water to boil, Mihail began to explain what he had been told: “Gehanna is coming. The apocalypse.”

Malina froze. For a moment, she said nothing, thoughts of the end-times echoing through her mind. These were interrupted by the sound of the whistling kettle. She signed, then stood up to turn off the heat and begin pouring the boiling water over the teabags. “It is as I feared, then,” Malina said solemnly, returning to the table and sitting back down. “It will begin in India, correct?”

Mihail was taken aback. “Yes, that is what they told me...” He paused. “How did you know?”

“I am a diviner, Mihail, I can literally see the future,” Malina said matter-of-factly, “And statistically speaking, it was a 1-in-7 chance it would’ve been India even if I didn’t. Social unrest caused by bloodsuckers is nothing new, but the things I saw... the scale of it...” Malina looked into the distance, as though she was reliving her visions once again, then shuddered. “It may be the end of us all, Mihail, and those who do not perish at the hands of the supernatural tyrants will be made into ghouls, blood-chattel and slaves.”

Mihail drank deeply of his tea, consuming almost half the cup, and sighed. “So what do we do? Is there a safehouse we can hide in?”

Malina shook her head. “I have tried to protect you from this for long enough, Mihail. But it has become inescapable.”

“What do you mean?”

“Mihail,” Malina said, placing her hand on her son’s, “Surely you have noticed by now, that you are capable of things you did not previously think possible. From what you have told me, you are resistant to blood magic. Your clothes are singed, I presume from something you did, as vampires are not fans of fire...” Malina glanced down at Mihail’s cup of tea. “... and you just drank a considerable amount of near-boiling liquid without burning yourself.” She smiled. “Most people have to wait for the tea to cool off.”

Mihail looked down at the now half-empty glass. He had not even noticed, but now that it was brought to his attention, although he felt the heat, it did not harm him.

“The technique is called Firewalk. Your father, he was the same way.” Malina smiled as she began to reminisce, “He would sometimes drink boiling water straight from the kettle, just to show off for me.” She shook her head, the smile disappearing from her face. “It was hard sometimes, watching him obsess over the Hunt. But in his dedication, Grigore found purpose. Sword and sorcery ran through his veins, and it runs through yours as well.”

“I just want to play basketball,” Mihail muttered.

“And Grigore wanted to be an artist; we’ve got three of his paintings in the living room,” Malina retorted, “Grigore did not become a hunter because he wanted to, but because the supernatural became inescapable. As long as supernatural creatures exist, they will try to exert their influence on humanity.” Malina, sufficiently satisfied that her own tea had cooled off, took a sip, then continued her spiel. “Some see the Call to Hunt as a curse. Your grandfather Iacob despised it. He felt as though his life had been taken from him, and though he performed his duty diligently, it slowly destroyed him inside.”

“And?” Mihail snapped back, “This is supposed to make me feel better about receiving the Call?”

“Let your mother finish, Mihail,” Malina retorted, “It was not the hunt itself that destroyed your grandfather. Iacob focused only on what the hunt had taken from him. He rejected his own passions and grew cold and distant from your grandmother and father. And he did not live long enough to meet you.” Malina looked down at her hands for a moment, her eyes lingering on her simple silver wedding ring. “But your father? He was a man who loved life. I could not bring every painting with me, much as I would have liked to, but Grigore used the Hunt to inspire him. Many of his paintings are based on his internal struggles, the losses and triumphs he felt along his journey to become one of the greatest vampire hunters to ever live. He was a good painter before he received the Call. After, though? He was brilliant.”

“Tell me, Mihail...” she continued, “Have you played any basketball since you first heard the Call?”

Mihail nodded.

“And you are better at it now,” Malina concluded, “Your mind is clear. Your hand is steady. You do not realize it yet, but these are things your subconscious has done to prepare you for the Hunt.”

Mihail was puzzled. "Yes, you are right. But how is basketball skill related to hunting vampires?”

Malina shook her head. “Being called to the Hunt does not make you better at basketball. Your father was almost as tall as you, and he was terrible at it. What it does, well...” Malina thought hard about how to explain this, “Hunters are physically outclassed by vampires in almost every way: strength, speed, endurance. But, like a mage, the Call of the Hunt has attuned you to the supernatural world. You can see the little bits of magic which you could not see before, and tug at the strings of fate to bend the world to your liking. In time, you will learn to create fire with your hands, summon up physical abilities that rival vampires, and cut through hardened monster flesh with any common blade. And as you practice this, you will become stronger. Perhaps someday, you may even surpass your fath--.”

“I do not want to be a hunter, mother!” Mihail interrupted angrily, “I don’t... I don’t have...”

“You do not have a choice, my sweet Mihail,” Malina replied, frowning, “I brought you to this country so that you might elude the Hunt, which has killed so many of your kin. But if what you say is true, and Gehanna truly is coming, you have a duty to prepare in whatever way you can. Not just for you...” Malina looked out at the scene of LA at nighttime, “But the good people of this city, and the world.”

Malina continued: “The Hunt is not senseless bloodshed, sweet Mihail. It is resistance. Humans have lived under the Great Tyranny for thousands of years, where supernatural beings control our destiny and lives to benefit themselves. Many of us are blissfully ignorant of this fact, but it changes nothing. They start bloody wars, pit brother against brother, quite literally prey upon our most desperate, and then discard us when we are no longer of use to them.” From her belt, Malina removed a silvered dagger and placed it on the table. Its hilt was carved in the likeness of a three-headed dragon, its necks intertwining to create a grip. “This blade has liberated two-dozen blood-chattel. The crossbow in the cupboard freed a town by killing the bloodsucker controlling its mayor. My sacred wards have dispatched several who attempted to infiltrate my family’s domicile, even before I met your father.”

“What’s your point, mother?” Mihail asked impatiently.

“My point is, Mihail,” Malina snapped back, “That there are many, many people who suffer under the supernatural tyranny. Under normal circumstances, I would say to you that you have a duty to fight back against the vampires. I would say that you need not give up your life’s passions, and tell you all about great basketball players who hunted vampires as they travelled from city to city. But these are not normal circumstances.” Malina drank deeply of her tea. “What I will say instead is that without learning to hunt, you are far, far more likely to die. If there are supernatural abominations roaming the streets in large numbers, if the antediluvians raise armies of monsters and undead to enslave the mortal realm, and you do not know how to fight back against them, you will be washed away in a tide of panic and blood, like millions of others. There is nowhere on this Earth to run. So we must fight.”

Mihail and Malina sat in silence for a minute, sipping tea slowly as they steeped in the harsh truths of the situation. Finally, Mihail broke the silence: “... I know. Everything you said is true. And as much as I hate to admit it, killing that vampire... it felt good. Like I wasn't just a bystander anymore. That I was doing something right. That’s why I want you to train me. As much as you can, in the short time we have.”

Malina shook her head. “Mages and hunters are very similar, but not the same. I can teach you some of the old masters’ techniques, but a Hunter must either learn from another hunter, or from experience. Associating with the Inquisition risks drawing the ire of the Baron, so they are not an option.”

“Does the Baron have any hunters in her service?” Mihail asked, “Her minions, they seemed almost... happy that I had killed the assassin. And they warned me about the apocalypse to come. They said that the Baron was using her resources to save the city, and implied she was on the side of humans, rather than Kindered.”

Malina seemed shocked by the question and the assertions that followed. “... the Baron is an interesting creature,” she mused, “She is not human, but allegedly, she has a warmth to her that other bloodsuckers do not. She has every interest in stopping Gehenna, or at least limiting its effects. The rise of the antediluvians are a threat to her wellbeing and power as well. But be forewarned,” she said sternly, “She is still a powerful vampire. She may work to preserve order in the city, but only because she knows that her kind cannot live without our blood. She is ultimately a creature seeking self-gratification, whose foul mimicries of life give the appearance of an altruist. And she is quite possibly our only hope.”

Mihail nodded. Harsh, but perhaps correct. Mihail took out his cellphone and began to dial the number of the Lakers’ Assistant General Manager. “Then I should see her for myself.”

“Hello? Yes, sorry to call you this late. I know you were going to call me, but I figured I’d speed things along. I want to meet with the Baron...”
A collab with @Ruby and @Fiber


Somewhere in Downtown L.A.


Swish.

Another basket, this time from the three-point line. Since the incident a few days ago, Mihail felt as though he could not miss. No matter the ridiculousness of the shot he attempted, he managed to find the bottom of the net every single time. Surrounded by the metal fences of the public courts, he was in his element. On the court, Mihail felt safe, and he was able to keep his worries about vampire retaliation at bay. There had been no direct witnesses to the attack as far as Mihail was aware, and nothing to trace the slaying back to him...

... Right?

Mateo spent hours outside the park before Julie was to arrive. The thaumaturge had flipped through a few leather bound tome's in the secure library on the island before solidifying his backup plan. There were a few defensive tricks, but the real effort was put into the safety not. The thaumaturgy based one, at least. The rest of the safety steps weren't his doing, all things being on the up and up, nor was the discovery. It had been a tip from a Houston based friend, in exchange for information on Eva, that there was a cell of Tremere from the East Coast in the Free State. Likely they were hiding in Palm Springs, going in and out of Los Angeles as needed. They were Eastern European in source, but had tried to put down roots on the New England coast before the Sabbat rampaged through the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Why they were in the Free State was anyone's best guess, the pal had told him, and it seemed unlikely they had showed up just to take out a human. He took the information to the scene and dug around, found the corpse. That led to calling Bronson, California State Police, and one of Rachel's go-to contacts when something that could use an investigative touch came up. Rachel had seen that Bronson's children attended very good schools. The cover story was he was on the take from organized crime, but no one could prove it, because in truth he knew more than most kine about Rachel. He knew there was a someone above Rachel, he just didn't know who or what they were, and while he guessed somehow street gangs were under the same network--he only had guesses and conspiracies.

Once Baltimore had green-lit a program of drones constantly flying over the city, it wasn't hard to get Los Angeles County to try a "pilot program with limited scope." It was no pilot program, and the scope was county wide. Between that and the network of cameras all over the city, there were typically eyes around the city. The drone feed was funneled through the cloud computing company Rachel had started over a decade ago, the one that handled most the public and private requests in the state. It took Bronson less than a hour to get back to Mateo and hand over the footage of the attack and the tracking of the "suspect."

Mateo forwarded the e-mail to Grace, who had forwarded it to Julie. Rachel was too busy, so she asked Mateo to deal with it, not to mention the Tremere angle. Grace was too busy, so she asked Julie to deal with. Mateo could relate. That the man was a low-key celebrity complicated things; Mateo had given Yanci a courtesy call. She was involved in some incident involving a message to Eva, but made enough time to connect Mateo with a contact within the Los Angeles Lakers basketball organization. That, too, had been part of the plan. The rest was Bronson and local LAPD he trusted; six in all. Each covering a park exit.

Mateo was putting away material from the safety net ritual he performed in the back of the black SUV next to the park when Julie was walking up. The sun hadn't been down long enough for Mateo's comfort, but he had pushed through just the same. If nothing else he knew it would matter to Eva that they helped out Julie, and by extension Grace. Eva always had soft spots for kine. It was admirable, he had always thought.

When she arrived Mateo was dressed simply in a wine colored linen and cotton mix button up, the shirt a size too large for his slender shouldered frame, skinny black jeans and big black boots, his hair pulled back and tight into a pony tail. His energy was anxious, field work wasn't something he did a large amount of. There was so cold-faced cool of Eva, no easy swagger of Yanci, nor the hard earned bravado of Dre. He was just him, and he hoped it would be enough.

"Hey...um, Agent? Are you an agent, technically, like Grace? I know she's...FBI agent. But, um...anyway. Target is in the park. Our read is a hunter who is just starting, maybe reluctantly since he's a high paid athlete with a road to fame. We have police around the park, I have a safety net should he try to escape. We also have an assistant GM with the basketball team that will call in if requested and try to comfort the target, if, well, if we can't calmly explain to him what's going on. I do have to tell you that Yanci would like to talk to him, after we get him somewhere safer."

He was forgetting something. He stood there, slightly blank faced, racking his mind because he couldn't--oh, "Yes, and, I looked into the Kindred cell that the attacker was from. It's unlikely to be their last attack, and what's worse for this human is they might be allying with another, much nastier, type of Kindred clan in the area who also has a greivance with the target's bloodline. I don't know if you know what a Tzimisce is, but they've been in the Free State almost as long as we have, and some of them are no fans of this human's bloodline. So..double jeapardy, yay..."

Julie arrived and recognized Mateo from what Grace had shared with her. She raised her hand to waved but then put it down, remembering it wasn’t time to draw attention. She was dressed casually, in work out clothes, better to blend in. She carried a duffle bag with her, full of things that might come in handy. She was anxious but also full of energy, which spilled out in the speed with which she spoke. She said to Mateo

“Oh, I’m so glad to meet you Mr. Mateo, uhhmm, do you use last names? You can call me Agent Julia or just Julie, I’m fine with whatever you want. I don’t know much about the varieties of vampires, so I’ll have to rely on you. I have a lot of other things to study, super deep into quantum chemistry right now. I heard you’ve done a lot of work with blood based primal utility and modern technology, not that different from the heremtic stuff, right? I hope some day you’ll get to read some of our research in the area, it’s sooooo much better than anything of that last century stuff. I’m just getting started and I’ve learned so much, but you look at what they have and I swear, the other day I saw some ones who thought they were tech savvy still saying that Information Theoretic Security was unbreakable, I mean hello, have they ever talked with a Virtual Adept? Do they think we haven’t found anything in the 60 years since Shannon’s masterpiece? By the way, if you haven’t read it, A Mathematical Theory of Communication is incredible, like enlightment in a scientific paper, when she was giving me my first study list, Grace put that at the very top, and I can see why. Oh…. uh I guess I should talk about this basketball guy, right? I brought a dossier, most of it is files we have on his mother. How do you want to approach him?”

Minutes turned into hours as Mihail continued his practice, which he felt was the best one he'd had since the Lakers' elimination from the Playoffs. Although the setting sun was normally his cue to begin packing his things and start heading home, the athlete had been locked in a trance, living in a world which only contained him and the net. When at last he was satisfactorily exhausted and drenched in sweat, so much so that his shirt clung to his body and he stank like a gym on New Year's, he finally decided to call it quits. A few spectators had gathered at the exits. They are wanting autographs... not today, I am too tired. As he wiped the sweat from his eyes, the forms of the spectators became more clear. Among them were six uniformed LAPD officers. Just as his heartrate was beginning to slow down, fear caused it to spike again. "Shit," he muttered to himself, "Shit, shit, shit shit."

Mihail did his best to act natural, opening up his gym bag and toweling off his face. He removed his sweaty shirt and grabbed a fresh one, put away his ball, and took a drink of water, which, perhaps due to his nerves, went down the wrong way, leading to a brief but vigorous fit of coughing. Between the exertion and the prospect of being arrested for murder, Mihail felt like he was going to pass out. His bicycle was chained to the inside of the fence. When he went to unlock it, he glanced over at one of the officers, then immediately looked back down at the bike lock to avoid meeting his gaze. Nice work, Mihail, now they're even MORE SUSPICIOUS. YOU'RE GOING TO JAIL, MIHAIL, YOU IDIOT! He wheeled his bike towards the southwestern exit, trying (and failing) to look as casual as possible. They're probably here for someone else, right? Someone else who killed someone in an alleyway... shit, shit, shit, shit!

Mateo...blinked. "I mean...right. Virtual Adept, duh." In truth, some of what she said had made sense to him. Eva was deeper into the human and mage circles than anyone knew, than even he was supposed to know. That the secretive mystery woman had even deeper secrets than most thought, well. After a little nervous laughter Mateo took the dossier, tossed it in the back of the SUV, and stuck his foot out so the sensor would trip and automatically close the trunk door. "To put it bluntly, this young man has some real monsters after him. My friend, Eva, doesn't like that kind of thing. She thought she had an understanding with this group, but apparently they had forgotten themselves. Not my field, but, well...anyway. You probably want to approach him and talk to him. I'll be there with you, but...he doesn't hunt your kind, so. He may know I'm Kindred, if so we may want to have the human do the talking, at least at first."

He saw her. Past Julie, across the street, through a Starbucks front window. When he returned his eyes to Julie, a literal beat of the woman's heart, and back again...she was already gone. But at least, if nothing else, she had been there. That almost made him smile. "Anyway, shall we?" He was looking past Julie again, to the court, hearing the chatter in his ear from Bronson:

Target has spotted uniformed units. Acting alarmed."

"I think he knows someone is here for him. I'll leave introductions to you."

Julie nodded at Mateo and put on her act. She walked up to Mihail with her duffle bag, looking excited, with a bounce in her step. She intentionally avoided looking at any of the cars around, as if she was oblivious. His height might be the first thing anyone noticed about Mihail, but it was definitely impressive in person. Julie herself was on the taller side, but he just towered over her. She stayed at a distance, but the usual rule of thumb of staying several strides was harder to follow when dealing with someone with limbs that long. She approached him while he was busy with his bike lock, and said
“Hi, I’m sure you’re sick of people asking you this, but you play for the Lakers, right? I was walking around the neighborhood when I saw you, and I have friend back in Utah who is huge basketball fan. I just happened to have my camera with me, and it would be great if I could record a short message for him. I don’t want to pressure you, if you want I can just leave you alone and find a different portion of the court.”
The conversation would occupy him for long enough for Mateo to decide if they were going to go forceful or not. While they talked, she started to look at his bike, studying the materials, running their chemical structures through her head

Mihail jumped a bit as the mystery-woman came up behind him. He looked over at the police, then back to her. Just a fan. Thank goodness. The cops didn't seem to be taking any sort of aggressive action, at least not immediately. Fuck it, might as well make her day before I go to jail. Smiling, he turned to face her.

“No no, I am not a big enough star to get tired of it,” Mihail joked uneasily, “I like being recognized, it is a reminder of how far I came to get here.” Mihail took his ball back out from his bag, along with a sharpie he kept on his person for autographs. Looking this woman up and down (mostly down), Mihail mused that she was taller than some of the people he played against. Good-looking, too... though she looks familiar. “You will record on your phone, yes? What should I say?”

"You could tell them whether you knew what you were doing the other day, bringing Final Death to the Kindred you folded into the waste bin. You see, we're curious. We represent people that know the city, who watch after the bumps in the Los Angeles night. Are you a serious hunter? Would you try to stake me here and now? Maybe fight magic with my friend, the mage here?" He smiled, fangs flashed casually, out of amusement, not malice before he nodded to Julie in regards to the 'mage' line. "Or is my boss correct, and you don't know what the hell you were doing yesterday? You're just riding the blood of your father and the magic of your mother, wishing it would go away so you could become the basketball star in a town that loves them some basketball stars?"

Mihail was paralyzed as the vampire (who had managed to peg Mihail's current situation with near-100% accuracy) beared his fangs. A thousand thoughts ran through his head at once, most of them containing curse words, as he began to breathe heavily. Acting on instinct with all of his adrenal glands activating at once, Mihail threw his ball at the vampire's face as hard as he could, and bolted. The ball flew forth with supernatural force, wisps of flame rising off of it. The sheer power behind the throw surprised Mihail almost as much as the vampire himself did. The Messenger in Mihail's head cut through the river of incomprehensible panic: You are stronger than you think.

Julie was standing back when they had their confrontation, a fake look of confusion on her face. Mateo was getting right to the chase. She didn't want tip her hand just yet as she held her smartphone and took a photo of what was happening, angled too low for a conventional portrait. The flash went off, and then she spoke "Oh no, I'm sorry. Not many people know this, but the chemical compounds used in modern basketball shoes can react when exposed to certain light spectrums. It looks like my camera flash triggered that, and now the reaction has bonded the shoes to the surface of the court. Quite the predicament. Maybe I'll make a video about this soon, I'm sure my channel viewers would like it." She was getting further away as she said this, not wanting to be caught in whatever was unfolding.

"SON OF A BITCH," Mihail swore as his shoes stuck to the ashfault. He took a moment to wrench himself free, removing his feet from his shoes without even undoing the laces. The shoes he had worn when he recorded his first double-double were completely ruined; no point in trying to save them. Rather than trying to escape by climbing the fence, however, Mihail stopped running after a few steps. No matter how hard he tried, he knew he would never be able to outrun a vampire. "ALL I WANT TO DO IS GET AWAY FROM THIS MAGIC BULLSHIT!" Reaching into his gym bag, Mihail pulled out his lighter and spray deodorant once again and prepared to use it as a makeshift flamethrower. "DO NOT TAKE ANOTHER STEP CLOSER, BLOODSUCKER!" The panic in Mihail's voice made it clear: he feared for his life. "IF YOU TRY TO KILL ME I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN WITH ME, I SWEAR TO GOD! I DID IT ONCE AND I WILL DO IT AGAIN!"

The fizzle and flash of light was immediate the moment the flaming ball tried to hit him. It got close, but it didn't quite make it before one of the defensive rituals triggered, half a hundred dazzling balls of light spiraled and flared in hues of white and orange and red, before fizzling out into ever-diminishing sparks, each smaller than the one before, until nothing was visible to the mortal eye.

Mateo stayed frozen. Not as if by magic, but instead by shame. Slowly, very slowly, his right hand came up to the side of his face the ball had been aimed at. Enough of an imprint had made it through, it seemed, as his eyes winced at the burn--the two inch by two inch area of skin that was suddenly far more red than any other part of him. Except for the little shape within that red area, the little shape that was an even darker, angrier, shade of red. The tip of his middle finger grazed it, and his body seemed to deflate in a heavy sigh.

"That's, uh...yeah that's on me." When his head finally moved, he didn't look at Julie, he didn't look at the mortal. He looked across the court, through the fence, past the trees framing the park, past the sidewalk and the street beyond, to the front window of the Starbucks across that street.

Crap. She was gone. Nothing else was said, at least by him. There were various options available to him, but the most reliable was the Paths he knew by heart. The same hand that was raised to his face now rose just slightly higher into the air with a flick of his wrist that, notably, appeared more irritated than anything else. The flight of Mihail's lighter was immediate, and far stronger than Mateo intended. It was only a half blink that would let the observant have any hint that while prehaps Maty meant to do that, he hadn't meant for the light to fly into the sky so fast, with such velocity, that it...disappeared. Mihail's attempts to fire the impromptu flamethrower were in vain. His reflexes, apparently not quick enough, simply launched forward a puff of bodyspray.

The Tremere, to his credit, barely missed a beat. His hand finally dropped back to his side, and his eyes once more fell on the mortal before them. "I admit I hate the stench of Axe, but I don't think it's enough to 'take me down`, whatever that means."

This time he saw her in the corner of his eyesight standing at the fence near an entrance; a vintage Ramones black teeshirt with band name bold and purplish-pink, black skinny jeans, the grey leather All-Stars, and a heathered grey Armani blazer over it, black rimmed purple lensed aviators hiding the majority of her face, her impossibly straight and shiny hair falling like a shadow upon her shoulders.

She didn't say anything. She didn't have to...he could see the smirk she hid.

"Suppose an Axe body spray scented threat answers my question, all the same. You're going to get a call from an assistant General Manager from your club." He saw, again from the corner of his vision, her head shake...just so. Just enough. "Team, whatever. He'll explain your options; pretend this didn't happen, embrace your new state and life as a hunter. Either way you'll be watched until such a time that the world and society begins to break down...then, frankly, we'll have more important things to do. Anything else for our no shoes, no service burdened friend, Agent?"

Prehaps the Mages had parting words of wisdom or a card to give out. Sometimes Maty wished they had cards to give out, but Eva had stopped giving them out after meeting Grace for the first time. Look how that turned out, she had argued, albeit he believed sarcastically.

Julie didn't have much to say, not even looking up from her phone. Paperwork had to be done, and getting an early start would make it easier. The operation was under contol, she still wasn't sure what the exact plan, or how the lady in the Ramones shirt factored in. She thought she had seen her face before in dossier, but didn't remember, all she knew was that she looked cool. Very cool. Like she knew about how to be cool, and what someone could do to be cooler. Like she could tell Julie all of the things that 17 years growing up in a family obsessed with wind patterns after ICBM strikes and ammunition shortages would never teach her. If Julie could write down a personal (in a vague, abstract format wholly unapproved by the Technocracy), she would want to know as much about science as Grace and as much about coolness as this woman. With that, she could find a way to make science (which was already cooler than the masses thought) even cooler. Then she remembered she was supposed to say something, even after she had only halfway caught the conversation. She forced a chuckle at the joke, then said "Uhhhh, we did it. Mihail, you, uh, should expect an email from me. Well, if you're going somewhere where you can get email, anyway."

For a moment, he froze like an elk in headlights, unsure of what to make of the situation. When he realized that killing Mihail was not in fact part of these bloodsuckers' mission, he calmed down... sort of. "Vampires are such bullshit..." Mihail muttered, reaching into his gym bag to get a pair of comfortable walking shoes. As he crouched down to put them on, he continued his frustrated rant: "I work out for two hours every day, sometimes more. I eat a regimented diet, sometimes four thousand calories a day, and I quit smoking, only to be outclassed by a little mosquito who consumes only blood for sustinence." He stood up straight, brushed himself off, and looked around trying to figure out where his lighter was. That was when his eyes settled on Mateo, more notably the NBA logo branded onto his face, forcing the towering basketball player to stifle a laugh. "You have a bit of Jerry West on your face."

"Nice shoes."

Mihail could've sworn he heard the vampire say... "Wait, you WANT me to be a hunter?" The athlete was stunned. "A vampire hunter. Who kills vampires. You, the vampire, want me to... be a vampire hunter. And what's this about society breaking down? ... Wait, who even are you people?! Why is... yes, I recognize you now, you are the YouTube chemistry lady, why are you here? And if you are not going to kill me, what are you going to do with me?"

Julie decided to try out one of those ideas for how to be cooler right now after hearing Mihail's question. "You might say that to unlock the many layered mysteries of the universe, one must be mysterious themselves. Never confuse appearences for reality." She said. She let he silence hang, for no other reason than that's what they did in movies.

"I am a college dropout and non-native English speaker," Mihail replied frankly, his accent creeping in to break the silence, "I do not know what any of this means. Please tell me what is going on, I am still worried I am going to die."

"You're human--of course you're going to die." Mateo had never sounded more matter of fact, completely removed from emotion and purely in the realm of the logical. However as his mind turned to possible explanations...his pale lips smiled a thin smile, a frail, delicate thing born of passing, mild, amusement. Mateo stepped forward once more, his hands spreading out as his head went this way and that, motioning to the world all around them.

"This...is a strange fucking place." The thin smile grew wider, though only briefly, as a seriousness crept onto the Kindred's sharp facial features. "From San Fransisco in the north, to the US border in the south, to the California state border to the east...this is what is known in Kindred society as the Free State. We are outside the traditions and cruel games of the two other dominant Kindred societies. We have pretended to be like them, to some extent, in order to survive. However in more recent history we have shed even pretense--we are the Free State. All are welcome here." His arms spread wide, his smile fully faded as his arms dropped down to his sides, his gaze squarely on the human.

"I am no more than the representative of the Barony of the Free State. The Baron helped create every major city in California, like an immortal Bob Ross subtely using events, trends, and people as colors to create, among others, Los Angeles. They do it for people, for humans, for you, even more than they ever did it for Kindred, for us vampires. Then they decided to embrace and explore humanity like no other Kindred ever had before, or since, and they harnessed the raw potential of the new 'moving pictures' technology to establish, and over time create what the world now knows as...Hollywood. Now that the Baron has focused all their efforts on trying to save reality, let alone simply the fall of human society in the face of monsters that make elder vampires look like kittens, they have left others in charge of overseeing Hollywood, and Los Angeles, and the insanely complex network of agents and assets at their disposal."

By the time he was done speaking, he wasn't even looking at Mihail. He was looking at Yanci, and had to return his eyes to the human as his mind returned to the task of the current, the hunter's question. "We allow hunters. We allow mages. All are welcome in the Free State. Quite frankly, the Kindred you end have it coming, and you're doing us favors killin these Beasts that forgot what humanity even it is, let alone that it's worth risking everything to save. So good luck. I'd start practicing at something more than basketball, if I was you."

His hands shoved into pockets, and his head dipped in acknowledgment to Julie as he turned on his booted heel and marched towards the exist of the court, police officers all over the park slowly walking back to their cars, now, and simply riding off.

For a moment, Mihail stood there, stunned. "What? How can we stop this? Who is going to train me!?" These and other questions he had no answers to, nor did he think he would get them from the disinterested Kindered with the burned face. Doomsday. An apocalypse. Unspeakable horrors unleashed upon the world. Deaths of countless millions, vampires succumbing to the beast the world-over, going on murderous rampages as wraiths and thralls obliterate civilization was we know it. All your friends in Romania, your old teammates highschool and college, dead. Aside from a tiny strip of land in Southern California, saved by the fickle whims of some elder vampire. He thought back to the old texts which his mother had brought with them from the Old Country, and the various family legends and histories he'd learned growing up. He called after Maty and the other Kindered waiting nearby: "Gehenna. You are talking about Gehenna, yes?"

"He is," The woman's voice that sounded almost girlish came from behind and off to the side of Mihail, near a court exit, on the other side of the fence. The umsmiling latina Kindred standing barely five foot five in the Armani blazer and leather All-Stars now stared directly at the human, "tell everyone you can, sound every alarm, and keep your eyes on India in the week to come. That will simply be the beginning. As for the end...welcome to L.A."
Gabriel sat in the lawnchair with his ambulance’s back doors open behind him, its sound system blasting an ancient and venerable tune from almost a hundred years ago. The song had stood the test of time due to its simple and joyous message, and it encapsulated Gabriel’s mood better than simple words could. For once, he was relaxed, nursing a tall glass of ice water as the monks around him went about their daily routines. The clinic had opened a few hours ago, but after working fourteen hours the previous day, Gabriel and the monks had agreed without exchanging a single word that Gabriel would be allowed to take the morning off. Or at least, they hadn’t bothered him yet. Granted, it was only eleven o’clock.

Gabe wasn’t used to California weather. Even after decades of climate change had all but eliminated the snows of his youth, Toronto was never this hot. In truth, Gabe had no idea how a city in the middle of a desert could survive, let alone one this large. Desalination or something... he thought to himself, taking another sip of water. That, and stealing water from my city... Gabe allowed his mind to wander as he tried to distract himself from the impending doom he had felt since the invasion of Toronto. Most of the thoughts involved women, as the monks he travelled with were largely unresponsive to his advances. I can’t tell if they’re celibate, or just don’t like me.

One of the managers of the Baolei Clinic approached Gabe’s corner of relaxation with a look of repressed annoyance on his face. Gabe had no desire to engage in their Dharmic teachings, but had accepted long ago that travelling with Dao’s campaign meant being preached to from time to time. The monk spoke: “The Buddha teaches us to refrain from our desires, to remain diligent in our pursuit of enlightenment.”

Gabe turned to the monk, lowering his sunglasses ever so slightly. “I’m meditating.” He paused, picking up his glass of water. “And if I was giving into my desires, this would be booze.” He took a sip.

The monk rolled his eyes. “If you weren’t such a brilliant doctor, the other monks might not appreciate your callousness. But our leader seems to have--”

“I heard ‘brilliant doctor’!” Gabe exclaimed, cutting the monk off, “Thank you so much, Brother Gerard.”

Gerard sighed. “Thank you for fixing that man’s lung yesterday. We all thought he was a goner. We were trying to console him as he stood at death’s doorstep until--”

“Don’t worry about it, my guy,” Gabe responded, placing his drink down and stretching his arms over his head, “Wasn’t that hard, just needed to replace a few parts in his respirator implant, that’s all.” He pointed one finger at the monk: “When he recovers, tell him I’ll break his fucking legs if he starts smoking again.”

Gerard paused, stunned once again by Gabe’s callousness, though not as much as the first time he made such a remark. “There’s going to be a protest tonight near APEX labs, and it could very easily turn violent. Rest for now, and be prepared to take the night shift.”

Gabe nodded. “Let me know if you’re missing replacement parts. I’m sure I can find something in the van.”

Gerard turned to leave, but stopped a few feet into his stride before turning back to Gabriel. “Why do you want to work here, Gabe? Why do you support Chen Dao if you don’t believe what we believe?”

“I believe what you believe,” Gabriel replied, “I mean, the important parts anyways.”

Gerard seemed confused.

“I mean... okay look,” Gabe began, sitting up and draping his legs over the side of his lawn chair, “I wanna help people, I wanna heal them. You’re not out here trying to convert people, you’re giving them medical care. I believe in THAT.”

Gerard nodded. “And yet, you do not see how augmentations can lead to enlightenment.”

Gabe shook his head. “Augs are a type of medicine. That’s all I see them as, that’s all I ever will see them as. And yeah, I know I’m being a bit of a hypocrite, what with my own implants, but still.”

There was a long, awkward pause.

“Look, are we done discussing philosophy?” Gabe asked, “I actually do have stuff I need to do today. Got a little side-project I’ve been working on, and--”

Gerard had already turned to leave.

“Wow, okay, RUDE.” Gabriel finished his drink, then went back inside his ambulance, shutting the door behind him. The Medivan, as Gabe called it, straddled the line between RV and ambulance. Much of the floorspace was taken up by a hospital bed, and the passenger seats had been taken out and replaced with some cabinetry. Currently, the cabinet had a series of vials, beakers and other lab equipment laid out on them, alongside a microscope. On the slide of the microscope was a drug known as Void Dust, which Gabriel was doing his best to synthesize in a lab.

A less scrupulous person might see this as an economic opportunity. Void Dust came from an asteroid-mining rig, and as such, was very difficult to come by on the surface. A steady supply of the rare drug could make you the richest dealer in the Twin Cities, but this was not Gabriel’s goal. Void Dust was highly-addictive, and Gabe was trying to synthesize a compound which addicts could use to wean themselves off of the stronger, rarer drug. He had made significant progress towards replicating the crystalline structure, but had not yet worked up the confidence to move onto human trials. There was a chance that the effects of his synthetic compound could be even stronger, and he didn’t want to take that chance. For now, the synthetic Void Dust would remain hypothetical, possibly useful in miniscule doses as a painkiller, but nothing beyond that.

Although... I guess I could test it myself. Just a small amount, maybe one tenth the dose I’d normally use as a painkiller.

...

...

Four hours later, Gabriel finally awoke at the sound of Gerard knocking on his ambulance. “Gabriel? Your shift starts soon... is everything okay in there?”

Gabriel was still shaky as he got up. Turns out, yes, the synthetic compound is much, MUCH stronger than the original. “Yeah... yeah I’ll be there in a sec. Fuck. Wow. Just... gimme a bit.”
Mihail’s Apartment, the Night After the Incident

Honour your family. Reclaim your legacy. That same message echoed in Mihail’s mind over and over again, keeping him awake into the wee hours of the night, drifting in and out of a dream state before a massive booming sound shook him fully from his slumber. Goddamned earthquakes! I bet they do not have to deal with this in Miami... Even after the shaking had stopped, the whispers continued. Mihail’s father Grigore had told him about how hunters would receive strange messages in the back of their mind after their minds had been fully awakened to the World of Darkness. But Mihail was not a hunter. He was acting in self-defense, and he had killed the vampire in a fit of rage, almost accidentally.

No, Mihail was not a hunter. He had come to America to get away from that life, to forget about the supernatural, to live the American Dream he had heard so much about. And yet...

Honour your family. Reclaim your legacy. There it was again. Mihail got up from his queen-sized bed, gazing out across Downtown Los Angeles from his 8th-storie condominium. Here he was living in luxury after leaving the Romanian countryside behind. He accomplished every young basketball player’s dream, and was playing for the most renowned organization in the history of basketball.

So why did he now hold this sense of impending doom? As though soon, everything he held dear would come crashing down around him, and he would be forced into the life of a hunter. It had happened to other members of his family before him. Mihail’s mother told him stories of artists, bakers, actors, accountants, lawyers, all of whom were eventually contacted by the Messengers. Many tried to avoid it, but the overwhelming majority upended their lives to pursue the hunt. Some became mages instead, but their goal was always the same: preserve the mortal realm by striking down the monsters who would harm it. Sword and sorcery ran through the veins of every Dobrescu. To deny it was to deny destiny.

Of course, Mihail wanted no part of it. He saw what the Hunt had done to his grandfather Iacob. Over the years, the killing, the violence, the things he’d witnessed, turned Iacob into an empty shell unable to empathize with his peers and obsessed with slaying monsters. And when Iacob could stand the isolation no longer, when even other hunters began to look upon him as though he were the monster, he undertook a suicidal mission, dying in a blaze of glory alongside his targets.

Mihail’s father Grigore had not suffered the same degree of emotional torment from the Hunt. His loving wife was a mage, and the two were able to confide in each other about their supernatural perils. They helped each other to retain a passionate spark of humanity. Perhaps it was this love which made Grigore the best hunter the Dobrescus had produced in decades, far less likely to die on a mission, but far more likely to become a target for retaliation. When the vampires found his residence in Romania, a vampiric hit squad slaughtered him in brutal fashion and crucified him in a grotesque mockery of his faith. Mihail and Malina never figured out who was responsible.

But Grigore could summon fire at will. He could break through flesh and bone with his bare hands, and track a vampire through snowy mountains and treacherous canyons without the use of modern technology. Mihail was just... Mihail. He was fast and strong from the rigorous training of an NBA player, but he wasn’t a supernatural killing machine.

Honour your family. Reclaim your legacy. The voice echoed in the back of his mind once again. The same phrase, over and over. As much as Mihail would’ve liked to say he didn’t know what it meant, he did. The Hunt was calling to him now, as it had called to every Dobrescu before him. A dynasty of sword and sorcery dedicated to protecting the mortal realm from that which dwelt in its shadows; a bloodline so infused with supernatural energy that even as a child, Mihail was able to see the World of Darkness. “Fine, fine,” he muttered groggily to himself, “I will reclaim my damn legacy if you shut the fuck up.”

...

The old tome was dusty and heavy. For once, Mihail was thankful for his gargantuan height as he lifted it off of the bookshelf without aid or difficulty. The uncreatively-named Carte de Vampiri, or “Book of Vampires”, was a history of House Dobrescu’s exploits in the Old Country. The first chapters, written by Maria Dobrescu, detailed the reign of the notorious Vlad the Impaler, and explored how the original Dobrescu hunters exploited divisions between the Tzimisce and other clans in order to limit their power. The house started off as hunters disconnected from any organized inquisition who were hired by vampires to kill vampires, switching sides and allegiances between Tzimisce and Tremere. In the long run, this worked, and by assassinating key members of each clan (often with the aid of the other), their power in the voivodes was greatly diminished.

Vampires of all clans from this point forward would know better than to ally with a Dobrescu, and so the family began to conduct its own, independent operations. These chapters were where the most valuable knowledge in the book began to reveal itself: ancient combat techniques used to slay vampires from seemingly every clan. In House Dobrescu’s prime, they supposedly operated from Kiev all the way to Constantinople, eliminating threats to the delicate balance between mortals and Kindered. Strategic. Careful. Acting with extreme precision. Rarely if ever targeting a vampire in their lair, and avoiding feuds with specific clans at all costs. Many of the Kindered who died during the Romanian Anarch Revolt did so not at the hands of other vampires, but Dobrescu assassins. During this time, the Dobrescus took advantage of their strength by warring against a small group of Malkavians to acquire numerous artifacts and precious texts, some of which were now displayed on the very same shelf from which Mihail had taken his family tome.

Overtime, the precarious coexistence which existed in some areas of the Eastern Orthodox world, sometimes called “the Dream”, began to collapse. Some vampires lashed out. Violently. These individuals would become the Dobrescus’ new targets, leading to more open and violent conflict. These missions were far more dangerous, and Dobrescu Family Tree rapidly shrank as many of their agents perished. Even those who fled to neighbouring Russia and Austria were targeted and killed by various vampires’ clans. It is at this time, with House Dobrescu at its lowest point, where the modern techniques for vampire hunting were developed. Incantations, spells, wards, weapon techniques, all of it was right here in this book. As though he was back in college, Mihail began to take notes on his laptop, making sure to memorize the important points of the different clans’ weaknesses. Most of the information within was on the Tremere and Tzimisce, but the Dobrescus had fought every clan from Kiev to Constantinople: some with greater success than others. The book did not have any information past the mid-1930s, but Mihail knew from his father that many of his extended family were executed for helping Romani prisoners to escape from concentration camps. Mihail had two uncles in Romania who had gone into hiding after Grigore’s assassination, but Mihail did not know if they had survived. For all Mihail knew, he was the last living Dobrescu.

The last section of the book featured no advice, historical analysis, or lengthy descriptions of long-dead vampire lords. It was a kill list, with the names in chronological order, dating all the way back to the Early 1400s. Each name was a target--a vampire that House Dobrescu had either killed, or intended to kill at some point. The entries listed their clan, a brief summary of their crimes, any Dobescru family members who they had killed, and one of four designations: at-large, dormant, dreamer (referring to “the Dream”), or slain.

There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of names. Few of them had survived the Dobrescu hunters. The carnage described by this list was almost nauseating to Mihail. This family tome paid homage to the killers, mages and hunters who incinerated, decapitated and slaughtered their way into history. These were their victims. Yet there was a small bit of pride which welled inside Mihail, something he may not have felt if reading the book before that fateful encounter with the vampire a few days ago. This is their legacy. But it is not mine. It can’t be.

Mihail kept flipping through the book. To his surprise, the record of vampiric deaths carried well into the mid-2010s, though they were far fewer in number. None other than Grigore Dobrescu dominated the last twenty years. Thirty-one. He killed thirty-one vampires. This family’s greatest hunter since the Second World War. In the five years since Grigore’s death, not a single vampire had been slain... until now.

As Mihail looked at the list, and subsequent pages’ row upon row of empty space left to record future kills, the voice in Mihail’s head grew louder and louder, until it was a scream. Honour your family. Reclaim your legacy. Reclaim your legacy. RECLAIM YOUR LEGACY! The sound was unbearable, and there was only one thing which would make it stop. Shakily, feeling as though he’d pass out from the pain in his head, he reached for a pen sitting in a mug on the corner of his desk, and began to write his own entry in the Book of Vampires.

Unknown Vampire. Tremere(?). Attacked me, it was in self-defense. Slain with fire on June 20XX by Mihail Dobrescu, Son of Grigore and Malina.

The voice was silenced. Mihail breathed a sigh of relief.

So... what now?

Deep down, Mihail knew that signing his name had sealed his fate.
A Few Days Ago, At A Public Park Near Downtown Los Angeles...

CLANG!

The ball bounced off the side of the rim. Mihal reached out a hand to catch the rebound out of the air as the metal vibrations rang out, taunting him.

He sighed, returning to his position at the free throw line in the nearly-empty park. His shooting practice was going... poorly, to say the least. The layup drills his coach had suggested went well, but of his last twenty practice shots from the free throw line, he had made only nine. His massive form was drenched in sweat, he was exhausted from all his previous drills, and he was getting frustrated. He simply wanted this day of practice to be over. He locked his eyes on the net, bounced the ball on the ground twice, squared his shoulders, and took another shot.

CLANG!

No good. Mihail grunted with frustration, ran to collect the rebound, and in a rage, haphazardly hurled the ball at the net on the other end of the court. It flew through the air in a shallow arc, bounced off the backboard at the other end, and...

Swish!

Mihail watched as the ball went through the net, the basket now swaying in the breeze. A few kids playing two courts over watched as the full-court heave went in. One of them gave him a thumbs up, and two applauded. Mihail just stood there, confused as to why his free throws continued to miss, but this pointless heave had not. He smiled uneasily as the children--maybe twelve or thirteen years old--walked over to him. One of them had recognized him and was spouting off praise in regional slang which Mihail was having trouble understanding as a non-native English speaker. As he began to sign their ball, hats, and other articles of Lakers merchandise, Mihail’s shyness melted away.

Smiling, Mihail handed one of the kids his ball. “You know what a lob is, yes?” The adolescent nodded, thankfully able to comprehend Mihail's significant accent. The athlete took a few steps back, then began to jog towards the net, pointing his finger skywards to signal for the toss. As the ball was lobbed skyward, Mihail leaped into the air, caught it, and spun 180 degrees before dunking it over the back of his head. His display was rewarded with more laughter and applause. The kids took turns lobbing the ball into the air, and Mihail returned the favour by entertaining them with a series of increasingly absurd dunks. After a while, a small crowd had gathered, but Mihail was tired from all the high-flying showboating, and the sun was starting to set. He hadn’t realized just how late it had gotten. It is as mother says: time flies when you are having fun. English wasn’t his first language, but the language of basketball was universal.

“Sorry everyone, the show is over. I need to go home.” A few fans expressed their displeasure at this, but Mihail couldn’t stand here and sign things all night. By the time he completed the last few autographs (he wasn’t a particularly famous player, and so there were mercifully few), the sun had set almost completely. One individual standing towards the back of the crowd was wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. Odd, Mihail thought, It is summer, much too warm for that. He placed his ball inside his gym bag and changed into a pair of more casual walking shoes, then began to make his way back to the condominium he shared with his mother. When I get my extension, I will buy mom a nice place all to herself. And she can retire.

Mihail continued along his normal route, now illuminated by streetlights. The sounds of the city were quiet in this neighbourhood; eerily so. Hardly anyone was out in the streets, quite odd for summer near Downtown Los Angeles. He saw something move out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps a raccoon rummaging around in an alleyway garbage can. Parched, Mihail stopped to unzip his gym bag and get out a bottle of water.

That was when a mysterious figure slammed into him.

Mihail could not see the individual’s face, but did not fall right away. Instead, he was able to push the assailant off of him, running deeper down the alleyway to escape by any means necessary. This attacker was stronger and faster than Mihail had expected, and before he knew what had happened, Mihail was pushed again, this time to the ground. He scraped his knee across the ground as he impacted with the concrete, and was scrambling to get up from the alleyway when he fully saw the man before him.

Mihail’s assailant was pale and gaunt, with long dark hair and a robust goatee. His eyes faintly glowed blood red as he smiled, revealing a set of segmented fangs with a slight red tint. Blood dripped down his chin as though he were salivating. Based on what little Mihail knew about vampires, this one had not properly fed for some time. “Little Dobrescu... do you know how many of us your family killed in the old country?”

Mihail scrambled backwards, clutching aimlessly behind him for his gym bag as he shakily stood on bended knees. He looked around for an escape ladder or fire exit he could climb, but there was nothing here aside from a few trash cans with some broken furniture sticking out of them. “Get away from me!” Mihail screamed, “What the fuck are you?!”

The vampire laughed, then grew deathly serious as he brought a fist across Mihail’s cheek. “YOU KNOW DAMN WELL WHAT I AM!” Mihail’s vision blurred for a moment. By the time he refocused, the bloodsucker was pointing menacingly at Mihail’s neck, the red glow of his eyes becoming more and more intense. Mihail felt a searing pain along the arteries in his neck as the Tremere’s blood magic began to work. “I hear you Dobrescu folks are quite... delicious. Let’s see if that’s true.”

... And then, nothing. No jet of blood from Mihail’s neck, no boiling of his veins, and even the pain began to disappear, becoming nothing but a slight discomfort. The bloodsucker seemed confused, then noticed the jewelry on Mihail’s hand as the athlete began to stand up. It was now glowing a faint yellow. “Ah, I see. Looks like I’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way...”

The beast lunged forward, attempting to grab Mihail by the neck. This time, though, Mihail was prepared, taking a crucial step back before countering with a vicious right-hook to the jaw. Aside from stopping the attack, the punch seemed to do little, if anything. The vampire, occupied with its own hubris, took the time to gloat. “Superhuman durability! Didn’t your daddy teach you anything about vampires? Or did we get to him before he had the chance!” He began to cackle.

The laughter was cut short by a second punch, this time aided by the ring on Mihail’s left land. The vampire reeled back, the symbol on the ring now etched onto the vampire’s face in a glowing orange rune. “How does your own blood taste, bitch?” Mihail screamed in Romanian. The vampire collected himself and lunged forth once again. The famished creature was getting desperate. More dangerous, but sloppy. Mihail knew how to deal with a rattled opponent from his time in the NBA. As the vampire charged, Mihail used his gym bag to shield himself, which would have worked had Mihail not been bowled over, its contents flying out onto the ground behind him. Mihail pushed one leg against the vampire’s chest as it tried to bear down on Mihail’s neck.

Scrambling behind him with one hand, Mihail grabbed a lighter and can of spray-on deodorant which had fallen out of his bag. As Mihail pressed his foot into the vampire’s chest, a puff of floral scent spilled forth from the deodorant. By the time the vampire realized what Mihail was doing, it was too late. Mihail ignited the gaseous cloud with the lighter. A gout of flame erupted forth, engulfing the bloodsucker’s face as he screamed in agony. The vampire reached up to try and pat out the flames, leaving him open for assault. Mihail ran at the vampire and tackled him before picking up his still-burning form. With strength Mihail did not know he possessed, he slammed the vampire down chest-first on a cluster of broken table legs sticking out of a garbage can, impaling him through the heart.

CLANG!

“Fire and stake through heart,” Mihail exclaimed as the vampire burned, “That is what father taught me. Bloodsucker piece of shit.” The rest of the furniture inside the metal bin began to catch fire as the vampire’s entire being was engulfed. As he collected the rest of his belongings, Mihail could hear the monster’s death throes rattle the series of cans. “I put you in trash, right where you belong...” Mihail muttered.

And then, in his moment of triumph, Mihail realized the gravity of the situation, and what he’d just done. To any bystander, he had committed a murder. Panicking, he tore off his bloodstained shirt and shorts and threw them into the burning garbage can, donning his blue tracksuit and making sure that he had collected all his belongings. His heart began to pound heavily in his chest. The police will not see a vampire. They will see me, and a dead burning body... And so, Mihail ran. He ran as fast as he could, fearful that a second vampire could strike at any time, or someone would confront him for killing the first. He had to get home, and quickly, stopping only briefly at a drugstore to get a bandage for the knee that had been scraped bloody by the encounter.

Mihail’s father had killed thirty-one vampires in his life. As that fact bubbled up from his subconscious, a small and newly-awakened part at the back of Mihail’s mind whispered: Thirty more to go.
Character sheet is mostly done! There's a few things that will need to be tweaked a bit, but it's ready for review!






Character sheet is finished! Behold, my 7'1 Romanian sunovamage. There may be a few changes here and there to better suit the campaign, but the gist of the sheet will remain the same.




Did someone order a sneaky stabby slicing criminal man? No? TOO BAD!

I'll probably redraw him later. This is just a quick doodle so people can get a mental picture.


Character sheet is mostly done! There's a few things that will need to be tweaked a bit, but it's ready for review!




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