Through the Ages

Session 13

1166 AD: Bethlehem: Part 2

The coterie decides to wait out another night and observe the order's reaction to their visit.

They approach The Grey Cloak by way of side streets, finding two order members surveilling its main entrance. There is no good way to circumvent them, so the characters simply walk in, as if coming back from an errand. Inside the innkeeper informs them that the order has indeed asked for and about Aziz Khorasani and his traveling companions. Further coin changes hands for the owner's (supposed) tightlippedness.
The Gangrel, Lasombra and Toreador order light refreshments and sit at a table close to a window where they can keep an eye on the observers. Aziz glances over the common room from time to time. It is filled with all manner of pilgrims, though most seem to have some wealth. After a while he spots a man that obviously is keeping tabs on the patrons, nursing his watered wine. The outside order members are persistent. After a few hours the coterie asks the innkeeper for an alternative exit. He invites them to view the wine cellars, where he casually opens a hidden doorway into an alleyway. More coins go into the man's hand.

Colino is overdue to a meeting discussing Felix von Bremen's dealings in the domain with the Prince and rushes through the streets. The Brujah is not pleased to have been kept waiting for her guest. The Toreador's obvious passion for his clansman's work and ambitions soon warms her to him however. They discuss Felix's visits in Bethlehem over the past two centuries for some hours. As a rare treat she shows him a compiled work Felix has gifted her describing his conclusions on Bethlehem's recent history.

Meanwhile, Aziz visits the closed mosque to nurture his faith. Christophe follows along out of cheer listlessness. The Gangrel finds a quiet spot for prayer along it's walls, away from the square and the Church of the Nativity that sets his teeth on edge.
The Lasombra is very soon bored out of his mind. Again, Mercier forces Aziz to explain the use of practicing religion. Yet again, Christophe is not convinced.

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Come another dusk, their small haven guardian tells Aziz that a crooked-snouted man has kept watch from under a close by acacia tree. Sven, who has kept indoors, has seen no one.
The coterie circles the property across the backyards. The man, clearly another member of the Order of Saint Addai, takes off running down the street when he spots Colino. They decide not to pursue him.

They inform Kether of the order's persistence and their compromised haven. The Tremere assures them that new accommodations can be arranged.
It is time to find some leverage on the order. They need to know what is hidden in the mausoleum. Kether brings a worker to carry tools so that they can gain entry.

Past midnight they again find themselves in the outer graveyard, chipping away the plaster on the monument's entrance and prying away bricks. To their surprise, an ancient steep stair leads down into further darkness inside. Some thirty feet down it levels out into catacombs for, judging by the decayed apparel, locals who led humble lives.

Further in, the tunnel widens into a circular room, a tunnel continuing on the other side. The room's floor is covered in deep sand. Footprints trace along its edges, going out into the middle and apparently stop. Suspicious, the coterie discuss what to do. Aziz spots something sticking up out of the sand and goes to retrieve it. He pulls out a bent sword. Suddenly four vaguely humanoid shapes rise out of the sand. An instant later they realize that it is not separate shapes at all but the the sand itself taking shape. The figures pick up disheveled weapons and attack, the closest one ripping the bent sword out of the startled Gangrel's hand.  A desperate fight breaks out. Common blades bite poorly on the flowing sandy shapes. The coterie takes several grievous wounds before becoming separated on either side of the room; Colino and Aziz on the far side, Kether and Christophe where they came in. The shapes do not stray out of their pit, but lash out at anyone who comes near.

The Gangrel and Toreador decide to explore further down the tunnel, while the Lasombra and Tremere consider what can be done about the adversaries. Some thirty feet further in they narrowly escape a fall trap and arrive in a domed room containing an ornamented stone casket. Its lid is inscribed: ”The Final Resting Place of Sufyan Al-Iskafi”. Something about the room stirs the Beast and makes it hard to focus.
Meanwhile Kether uses his power to stir the wind and beckons Christophe to fling their lantern at the humanoid shapes which shatters upon their sandy exteriors. The gust sets the lamp oil aflame and with inhuman howls the figures disintegrate. The coterie reunites in the innermost chamber. The new arrivals also find it hard to control their inner Beast. Colino, low on blood from the fight, returns to the surface to feed on the worker. The thirst is too strong and Kether’s laborer loses his life.
As Aziz investigates the casket, the others notice a hidden circular cover in the floor. They will need to smash it to reach what lies beneath. The Gangrel pulls out a wooden box from an hidden compartment in the casket’s base. The box holds a few scrolls; the last confessions and fears of Sufyan Al-Iskafi. 
In the text, the former order member explains that he has hidden this account from the others in the hope that someone righteous might find it. It reveals his suspicion that the Order of Saint Addai has divided motivations; on one hand to serve Christ, on the other to please more sinister masters. It mentions ”the Vessel”, that now has been taken from Bethlehem to Jerusalem with what seems as nefarious intent.

The coterie breaks open the cover in the floor. The domed cavity beneath is pitch black. Aziz and Colino, with their improved sight, lay down and peak into the hole. They catch a glimpse of human bones and a rusted three-legged stand for an urn or pot before they are both hit with an overwhelming urge to let loose their Beasts upon the world. The chamber air is saturated with the lingering essence of immensely powerful blood. As it seeps into the upper room, it is instantly apparent that they cannot stay here. They flee the catacombs, back up into the fresh night air.

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Opochidon

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