The enigmatic Gangrel known as Beckett is as reluctant to
discuss his own mysterious past as he is eager to uncover others
secrets. Despite having a network of allies and contacts worldwide, in
both the mortal and supernatural arenas, few can truly claim to know
him. Beckett is known as an avid seeker of the Kindred's most ancient
lore, having studied under both the Camarilla archeologist Aristotle de
Laurent and the more diabolical historians of the Sabbat's Path of Caine.
Despite his scholarly demeanor, Beckett is an explorer, with the muscle
to survive his expeditions into places even vampire fear to tread. He is
exceptionally well versed in the Gangrel vampiric Discplines of Protean
(he has verifiably demonstrated an ability to transform into bats,
wolves and mist), Animalism and Fortitude (in one particularly daring
raid on a Methuselah's crypt, Beckett eluded his ancient pursuer by
darting across a football fields length of sunlight at high noon).
Beckett has also conclusively displayed superhuman strength and senses,
and possesses some degree of thaumaturgy. Beckett has made his share of
enemies, most notably the Tzimisce Noddist Sacha Vykos, with whom
Beckett has maintained a personal hatred and professional rivalry for
From WW graphic novel Vampire the Masquerade:
Beckett - Nights Remembered (WW9763, © 2002)
From war-torn Europe
to modern day Berlin, the Vampire Beckett follows the trail of two
important clues that may solve the mysteries of The Book of Nod. Hot on
HIS tracks however are the unearthly sadist Sascha and Marie, a mortal
Hunter who's past encounter with Beckett has turned her hatred for him
into an "undying" obsession. Beckett, the Indiana Jones of the
sleep-all-day set is surely up for any adventure, but he will find that
his temper and arrogance are his greatest foe! Mike Reynolds ("Theo
Bell") and Greg Scott (Marvel's "Sabretooth") kick this puppy into high
Background: This story takes us back and forth in time, from the warfare
and ruin of Germany during WWII to modern day Germany. We follow the
adventurous Beckett as he searches for a lost treasure, a coin and a box
that might help getting one step closer to unlocking the secrets of the
Book of Nod.
Beckett's friend Alexander has been tortured to death by their archenemy
and rival the Tzimisce Noddist Sascha Vykos, who wants to know Beckett's
whereabouts. Meanwhile, the ever-evasive Beckett is hunting down a
Vampire Hunter SS woman whom he believes has the box.
From WW M:tR graphic novel Year of the Scarab: Lay
Down with Lions (Book Two) (WW10021) ©2001 White Wolf, Inc.
Having started out well with "Heralds
of the Storm," Andrew Bates has continued this series with the same
flair for action and story line that made the first volume a success.
Again, he has managed to avoid the 'academicism' that plagues many White
Wolf novels. Mixing two new character types, Hunters and Mummies, Bates
introduces many new ideas, and renews hope for the World of Darkness
The story opens with the arrival of Beckett in Chicago. He is a Gangrel
who has run independently for centuries, seeking information on the
origins of the vampires. Unlike the Nosferatu, who are bookish, Beckett
does his research by wandering the world interviewing fellow vampires
and investigating ancient artifacts. He has come to Chicago to talk to
Inyanga, another Gangrel far older than himself. She offers a trade. She
will part with her knowledge if Beckett will investigate the Hunters,
humans who seek the death of all vampires. Beckett quickly finds this
quest is far more complex than he expected, and in short order he finds
himself enmeshed in clan politics, and confronted with mummies and the
most ancient of vampires.
WW Summary: Questioning the origins of his ancestors, the estranged
vampire called Becket has come to Chicago, arriving in the middle of a
now full-blown war. Unknowingly, Becket helps Khalid al-Rashid, a
powerful Nosferatu, piece together the ancient history of the mummies
a history hidden for centuries. Now the Kindred not only face the threat
of Thea Ghandour and her fellow hunters, but now must also struggle
against other immortals.
called Beckett slipped into the city unnoticed. He was a lone wolf,
preferring his solitary research to being drawn into the often petty
machinations in which his kind indulged. He hoped to interview a
respected elder, the crone Inyanga, and leave Chicago with no one the
Beckett had been undead for centuries. He knew the United States when it
was a cluster of colonies hugging the East Coast, the rude towns and
ports symbols of European imperialism in all its glory. He marveled at
the explosion of culture, art and science that was the Renaissance. He
witnessed the revelation of mysteries that changed the very nature of
mortal society - the atom, electricity, gravity, and more. Existing in a
time when events of import seemed on a constantly accelerating path,
Beckett had grown curious about his own origins. Not to learn how or why
his shadowy sire had embraced him, had remade him into one of the
undead. He'd long ago found the answers to such minor riddles. Instead,
Beckett hoped to discover the origins of all vampires. He searched for
the secret of Cainite birth.
Theirs was a culture that stretched back to the dawn of humanity, a long
history of which even the eldest undead knew little. Vampires were
masters of secrecy, after all. They hugged the shadows of human society,
their survival depending on keeping their existence hidden. Beckett
excelled at piercing this veil of secrets while keeping himself wrapped
in mystery. This talent made him well-suited for his chosen pursuit but
not popular among vampires. His acerbic attitude and unwillingness to
swear loyalty to any sect, even the clan with which he shared blood,
left him separate from other undead - a gang of one. Beckett was an
enigma even among his own kind.
This suited him fine. It meant working harder to uncover each scrap of
fact he found, but Beckett felt it was a small price to pay. He had
little patience for the petty scheming and politics common to vampiric
culture. Let them squabble for control of mortal society and dominance
over one another. Beckett had a greater task, and an eternity in which
to pursue it.
He hoped by amassing the often vivid recollections of elder vampires
that he might piece together a cohesive picture back to the one reputed
to be the first of their kind - Caine. The majority of vampires believed
that Caine was a real figure, a powerful thing that still existed in the
modern age. Hidden, watching, waiting though opinions varied on what
Grandfather Caine was waiting so patiently for all these millennia.
Beckett suspected that the son of Adam and Eve, in undead lore cursed
with vampirism for killing his brother, was just that: lore. A parable.
But he couldn't prove his hypothesis until he'd gathered enough
It was a drawn out, laborious task, one he'd pursued for a century
already. But if there was one thing Beckett had, it was time.
* * *
Beckett prowled Chicago's Graceland Cemetery in the frigid February
night, waiting for Inyanga. The elder vampire had no permanent resting
place and often roamed across North America for reasons known only to
her. She'd adopted Graceland as the closest thing to a permanent lair.
Beckett knew that if Inyanga were in Chicago, she'd come by the cemetery
sooner or later. And since she was in the area the last he'd heard,
Beckett camped out and waited.
It was only his second night there and he wouldn't be surprised if he
had to wait even longer. Beckett had come to terms with the long
stretches of boredom that walked hand in hand with immortality. The key
was, simply enough, to cope with the downtime. That was easier said than
done, though, especially when days became years and years dragged into
centuries. Beckett split his time between re-reading James Ellroy's
American Tabloid and taking in the sights of the cemetery's many stately
tombs. He preferred being outdoors, and subzero temperatures had ceased
to be a concern for him a century before anyone even imagined the
concept of central heating. Strolling through Graceland, Beckett enjoyed
the stillness undisturbed.
He was appreciating the design of the tomb housing famed architect Mies
van der Rohe when he sensed a subtle change in the air. Even before he
turned, Beckett knew Inyanga had arrived. Had been watching him for some
time, he suspected. Many vampires indulged in the dramatic entrance;
Beckett and Inyanga were not among them.
Inyanga stood in the dark a few yards from Beckett, visible to his
preternatural senses. Inyanga's African heritage was apparent. Standing
at full height, she barely reached Beckett's shoulder. She was as wiry
as the night of her embrace, though her muscles had the tensile strength
of steel. Beckett knew Inyanga could punch through the marble of the
nearby tomb with little effort. She looked old, too, an uncommon trait
for beings who for the most part were made vampires while in their
prime. Physical appearance was seldom an indicator of a vampire's age,
but for Inyanga, it provided a convenient benchmark. She had the look of
a wizened grandmother, her skin wrinkled and hair gray. Her skin had
darkened through the years at pace with her unlife, much as
fairer-skinned vampires like Beckett grew increasingly pale. Inyanga
looked carved from a block of ebony, her skin so dark as to absorb the
illumination cast by distant streetlights and reflected off patches of
snow. She stood still as a statue, wearing the same simple style of wrap
she wore ages ago. Like other old vampires, much of the small fidgets
and mannerisms that mark the living had vanished long ago. Inyanga
existed without the least wasted motion. Anyone lacking the enhanced
senses of the undead could have mistaken her for an unusual monument
amongst the rest in the cemetery. Beckett knew that, in time, he would
achieve a similar state of being; he had already dispensed with many
extraneous affectations that marked his days among the living. Yet
still, even a creature as old as he was found Inyanga's absolute
A simple exchange of nods passed for preamble. Beckett had better things
to do than inquire after Inyanga's health (an odd question between
undead to begin with) or ask how the hunting was this time of year.
Instead, he said in a respectful tone, "Mother Inyanga, my name is
Beckett." Many of his kind appended titles of some sort to their names -
"The Tracker," or "Childe of Brunhilde" - but he'd always found the
convention silly in social situations. Only for purposes of genealogical
research did Beckett care who sired whom.
"I hoped to ask you some questions," he continued, still speaking in a
Zulu dialect. It was one of two dozen languages he commanded with equal
facility, and of even more that he had at least passing familiarity
with. He used it out of respect for Inyanga and as a safety measure in
case some agency might be eavesdropping. Unlikely, but it never hurt to
play it safe.
Inyanga looked at him without expression. Having dealt with enough
elders in the past, Beckett imagined she had to remind herself to show
any. Despite her stillness, Beckett caught an undercurrent of something.
Agitation? Excitement? Curiosity? He gave a mental shrug. If it had
anything to do with Beckett, she would tell him or he would discover it
on his own sooner or later.
"You are the one who searches our past," she replied in an older version
of the same dialect. Her voice was low and resonant, conjuring images of
wild places untouched by mortal hands. "You come during interesting
It was sometimes difficult to parse elder vampires' words, especially
when they talked about something as fluid as time. She could be
referring to recent events among undead society, of something specific
to the area, or even of something from a century ago. Beckett hazarded a
guess that it was the first option. Vampiric society, though never
static, had undergone dramatic upheaval in the turning of a new
millennium. There were more of them in the world than ever before,
numbering in the thousands, even tens of thousands. Old enmities had
exploded into fresh violence, previous alliances had ended, portents of
the destruction of everything from individual vampires to every existing
Cainite made the rounds, growing ever more dire with each retelling. It
had made Beckett's pursuits easier, the fear and doubt welling up in
others making them more forthcoming with their hoarded secrets.
"Change is constant, Mother Inyanga," he said. "Only those without
memory or vision are surprised by the present."
She nodded. "You speak of the conflict between Camarilla and Sabbat."
These were the two major opposing vampire groups. "I agree that their
ongoing strife is no surprise to those of us who watch the flow of
history. The creatures of those sects are welcome to destroy one another
until none are left. My concern is for those who suffer at their hands
in the process."
Beckett knew Inyanga was as disinterested in undead politics as he was.
She also had a reputation as a defender of humanity. Although she fed on
the blood of mortals like any other vampire, she saw nothing to be
gained by abusing them or by treating them like cattle.
"That is what I referred to, yes. But it's not what I'm here to talk
about." He was prepared to continue, then noticed an increased spark of
interest in Inyanga's ebon eyes. He got the impression that she hadn't
referenced the undead Jyhad either. Curious, he asked, "What do you mean
by 'interesting times,' Mother Inyanga?"
She looked at him a second longer, then turned away. Beckett supposed he
should follow her. If Inyanga had wanted to leave she could have moved
faster than even his senses could detect, giving him no trail to follow.
They walked to the edge of a pond. Looking out over the icy surface,
Beckett waited for the ancient thing beside him to speak.
"I have thought from time to time that we should meet," Inyanga said at
length. "Your studies interest me. Too many of us worry about power and
survival. History is a great teacher. As mortals, we learn from our
parents, who learn from their parents. Culture and heritage comes from
She made the effort to turn her head and look up at him. "As we are now,
deathless, we should benefit from even greater wisdom. And yet the
undead guard eons of history with the jealousy of a miser hoarding his
treasure. We know next to nothing of the truth that made us."
Beckett was surprised. He'd long known Inyanga was not a typical elder
vampire. She was shaped by a different philosophy than Western Cainites
were. He hadn't looked her up in the past because she seemed so far from
the main history of their kind. Beckett knew he shouldn't have presumed
Inyanga's philosophy or knowledge based on her origins. It was pointless
to regret missed opportunities in the past. Best to take advantage of
the present. If Inyanga was willing, even eager, to share information,
it made his job that much easier.
It didn't prove to be that simple, however. "Under other circumstances,
I would spend many a night speaking with you in hopes of discovering
greater truths," Inyanga continued. "We might learn much indeed by
exchanging our wisdom.
"Yet there is a puzzle more immediate that demands my attention. There
is a mystery in this city. One that creeps ever further into my
awareness in recent times. I have used all my skills to uncover its
meaning; I have looked to my ancestors for word of what the future
She turned her gaze toward the Chicago skyline, hazy amid overcast
skies. "The Jyhad among us has cast ripples through this world and the
next. It awakened a storm in the spirit world, a storm with a fury the
likes of which I have never felt. This storm continues to rage, and it
has awakened forces as mysterious to us as we are to the kine. I know
not their true nature, but I feel that they may forever change the
nature of our existence."
Well now, that was interesting. To say that Beckett was jaded was
putting it mildly, but Inyanga's words stirred his curiosity. He
suspected that she'd spoken in riddles for that very reason. "I get the
feeling that you want me to find out what's going on."
Was that the barest hint of a smile? "I have done what I can. I
contemplate many matters in this world and the next. But I am perhaps
too far from things." Her head turned a fraction, her gaze back upon
him. "You stand on the fringes, close enough to see events but far
enough to understand their greater significance. Your ties keep you
connected to the world of mortals and undead. Yet your distance makes
you free to move, to delve where others fear to go."
There was meaning well beyond the words she spoke. She may not play the
game of vampire politics, but she was still a vampire. Inyanga was
offering a deal: she would tell him what she knew of the history of
their kind, but first Beckett would have to puzzle out this riddle for
her. The game of trading favors was as old as vampires themselves. That
was fine. It wasn't like he was working on a deadline. Besides, Beckett
had the feeling that anything intriguing enough to capture the attention
of something as ancient as Inyanga was bound to be worth the trouble.
"Tell me more about this mystery of yours, Mother Inyanga."
"You know of the mortals who hunt our kind."
It was not a question, but Beckett nodded in confirmation nonetheless.
By this point, only the most secluded or self-deluded of vampires
remained unaware of the living who carried on their quiet war against
Small groups of mortals had known of vampires and other creatures since
time immemorial, but they remained few, scattered across the globe and
divided in paranoia, fear and ignorance. That had changed in the past
few years. Beckett heard an increasing number of stories about mortals
banding together, sharing information and tips on hunting the
supernatural, lending moral and financial support to one another. And
most disturbing of all, these groups were springing up all over the
world independent of one another. These hunters had even developed a
communications network via the Internet. Beckett wasn't surprised; he
himself was charmed by this latest mortal invention. He preferred
hands-on research whenever possible, but sometimes it was more effective
to get online than to traipse halfway across the globe to do some fact
He'd long felt that a vampire who relied overmuch on his supernatural
powers was soon a vampire with a stake through his tender bits. Availing
himself of T1 lines whenever possible - immortal he may be, but creeping
along the information superhighway through a narrow phone line
frustrated him more than slogging through the early 19th century had -
Beckett made surfing the Net a key element of his pursuits.
It was one of many advancements he was surprised more of his kind didn't
take advantage of. A surprising number of Cainites had trouble keeping
pace with modern times - immortality does not bring with it the ability
to deal with change. Many continued to meet with others face-to-face
when a phone call or an e-mail would do. Beckett much preferred direct
communication, but he wasn't adverse to using tools that made it easier
(and safer) to pursue his studies. There was no need to keep oneself
stuck in the past. Keeping up with the evolving world was the surest way
to ensure his future.
Which brought him back to the hunters. His future, and those of all
vampires, was in increasing peril as the hunters refined their skill and
degree of communications. The fact that vampire hunters existed used to
be of little consequence to most undead. After all, the undead had been
around since the start of civilization. Although too few to assert
complete dominance over every aspect of mortal society, vampires
nonetheless exerted influence over government, law enforcement and
private enterprise. Any self-appointed "defenders of the human race"
could be taken care of through mundane agencies without any Cainites
having to dirty their hands. And if push did come to shove, the vampires
had no qualms about battling those who would destroy them.
But these "chosen," as they were rumored to call themselves, didn't play
by the vampires' rules. Most tracked their quarry surreptitiously,
amassing information on each vampire they hunted until they had enough
to make a precise strike before fading back into the shadows. They even
seemed to have unusual abilities that could combat a vampire's
In many ways, the hunters used vampires' most successful techniques on
them - stealth, secrecy, patience. The hunters' effectiveness was
undeniable. As undead were destroyed in ever greater numbers, the
remaining vampires grew almost hysterical with fear and concern. The
mortals' mission was disquieting enough, but became all the more
disturbing due to the mystery they presented. Where did these mortals
learn the secrets of vampires? How had they garnered the unusual talents
that allowed them to stand against the might of the undead? Was their
recent appearance coincidence, or was some hidden force directing them?
"In the beginning, these hunters performed a service," Inyanga said as
these thoughts flashed through Beckett's mind. "This may sound unusual,
coming from one such as we are. They destroyed the undead, it is true,
but they found only the weak and stupid. They culled the herd, stripping
away the infirm who have emerged in such numbers of late, like ants
boiling from a disturbed hill. They eradicated those of our kind who
proved the most threatening to humans, and likewise who would most
likely reveal our existence to the living."
"You have a point, Mother Inyanga," Beckett said, mulling it over. "A
lot of the younger generations don't have the good sense to keep their
actions hidden behind the Masquerade. We don't have to kill the living
to survive, even flourish. But they act like they're in some kind of
"Impetuous childer have long taken extreme action; it is the way of
youth," Inyanga agreed before returning to the subject of hunters. "Know
also that those who stalk us keep their actions hidden from others of
their kind. These kine see the futility of trying to reveal our
existence through their photographs and videotapes. And since the undead
leave no bodies when they are destroyed, the hunters leave little
evidence of their efforts. They work in secret, from our kind and
theirs, hoping to protect those they love without ever revealing what
"So they cut our weakest links without screaming to the world that we
exist. Put that way, you might say they're doing us a service."
She revealed the faintest ghost of a smile. "You see where I lead you,
young one. The hunters also discover those among us who are strong and
powerful. Those of us who live in secret from the greater world, who do
nothing to threaten the Masquerade, as you call it. Now even those of us
who have no intent to destroy the kine, who sustain our existence, are
in danger." Beckett noted Inyanga's interesting way of describing
vampires' habit of feeding on humans, but said nothing. "It seems those
who guide undead policy, the so-called Archons and justicars and
princes, were too caught up in their own struggles to recognize the full
ramifications when the 'chosen' kine first appeared. So the hunters have
grown into a significant threat. It is possible that those who flock to
their cause might someday eradicate us utterly."
Beckett shot Inyanga an appraising look as he adjusted his dark glasses.
Most of her speech lacked emotional inflection. Though not a monotone,
her voice was as much under her control as her muscles were. It was due
to Beckett's significant skill in reading others - especially others of
his kind - that he sensed a wistful quality to her words. He didn't
think the crone was suicidal, but he got the distinct impression that
Inyanga might not mind if the hunters cleared away all vampires.
Something to follow up on, though it would have to wait for another
time. It appeared Inyanga was wrapping up her point.
"Most of our brethren wish to take action against these mortals, to
destroy them as they would us. That may be necessary, but I believe we
should find out what we can before we do. Moving rashly could prove
dangerous for us."
"Know your enemy, you mean."
Inyanga made a shrug with a phantom quirk of one eyebrow.
Beckett retained the habit of sighing, and did so now. "I may be known
for sticking my nose into other peoples' secrets, but I didn't think I
had a reputation for placing my head in the lion's mouth." Inyanga gave
him an inscrutable look, so Beckett abandoned mixed metaphors for
straight talk. "Checking into these hunters is a fine idea. I think it's
good sense to find out why they are so skilled at hunting us down. And
I'm no neonate 10 years out of the grave; I can take care of myself.
"I must say though, Mother Inyanga, that I don't relish the notion of
getting on the trail of people whose sole purpose is dedicated to
leaving me spread-eagled on some rooftop at sunrise."
"Your irreverence is well-known among our kind, young one. You question
even the eldest of us on the most sensitive of topics. You pursue
mysteries with passion and tenacity. You expose secrets others had even
Inyanga took the effort to turn her head to indicate her mixture of
doubt and disappointment. "You tell me that such words are mere
hyperbole, then? That you have no real interest in mystery, no desire to
disclose the truth?"
Beckett smiled. He knew she was playing him, and she knew he knew. Such
a transparent attempt at guile was what made it effective. She must
understand him well to know he wouldn't respond to the dramatic
cloak-and-dagger routine that so many vampires attempted. A creature of
few pretensions but an intolerance for pretension itself, was Beckett.
None of this byplay meant anything, of course. Inyanga had offered up
what she wanted Beckett to do. If he wanted to learn anything from her
about his own pursuits, he would have to discover something of worth to
the crone. She hadn't offered up the whole story, though.
"So you'd like to find out what makes these vampire hunters tick. At a
guess, I'd say destroying things like us is what drives them."
"There is more to them than that, young one. I spoke of something
stirred by the recent ghost storm. I sense a convergence, some bond with
or kinship to the hunters, some vital tie that we must discern if we are
to know what fate holds in store for our kind."
"You think they might be working with ghosts or some other force to
learn our secrets, you mean?"
She raised one wrinkled hand, as if in dismissal of Beckett's question.
"I do not know. Nor, do I think, does any other undead know what they
are or what they plan. I think it is more than the obvious, however."
Beckett wondered if she was being cryptic on purpose, but was surprised
to see honest confusion in her eyes. "All right. I know others have been
poking into the matter; shouldn't be difficult to learn what they have
uncovered." He knew Inyanga could have done this herself, but she wanted
to steer clear of vampiric society. Not surprising, she was known to
keep her own counsel, and the conflict between Camarilla and Sabbat was
making everyone even more cautious than usual. It should be easy to get
the answers she wanted. A night's work to relate what intelligence
others had scrounged and he could get on with his own studies. He was
used to much more difficult trades; it was nice to have an easy one for
"Do not rely solely on what the undead learn," Inyanga cautioned, as if
sensing his thoughts.
"I never do, Mother Inyanga. We're natural liars."
Beckett slipped from the cemetery like a whisper and loped back to the
lair he'd arranged northwest of the city, pondering his meeting with
Inyanga. Such encounters like that were common among his kind -
rendezvous in the dead of night in some desolate place, trades of
innuendo and inference to arrange the best deal possible, seldom with a
true understanding of all the variables involved. He'd assumed he would
have to owe Inyanga a favor or carry out some task before moving on to
the topic he was interested in. It was the cost of doing business.
Investigating these "chosen" mortals would be dangerous, but Beckett
wasn't concerned. Neither did it worry him that he was an
anthropologist, a researcher, not a detective. A mystery was a mystery
in his opinion, and Inyanga had figured out his attraction to puzzles.
Not an unusual trait among his kind; vampires tended to hoard knowledge
and trade in secrets. In a society of immortals, knowledge was the most
valuable currency. It was more than that for Beckett. He didn't dismiss
the usefulness of the secrets he learned, but that wasn't the reason for
his pursuits. It was more the process itself - the thrill of discovery,
of laying bare the truth.
He had enough of a reputation for this sort of thing that he'd grown
used to solving mysteries for various of his kind in exchange for
information. Often they were pursuits in which he already had an
interest, so he wasn't put out by the prospect. (Not that he revealed
this to those with whom he bartered.) The matter for Inyanga fell into
that category. He'd known about these vampire hunters for some time - it
was impossible not to have heard the frightened tales other undead
shared. Beckett's habits were far from predictable and he already
exercised natural precautions during his travels, so he didn't feel an
immediate threat from hunters. It would be hard for a skilled
supernatural investigator - someone rather like Beckett himself - to
track him down, let alone a bunch of stumbling mortals. While he lacked
any real concern for his personal safety, he couldn't ignore the threat
they posed. Indeed, that made them all the more interesting a mystery.
The possibility of their involvement with some supernatural agency was
intriguing. Was it a move by the Sabbat or Camarilla against their
opponent? If so, it had backfired, since the hunters were taking down
vampires regardless of affiliation. Spirits made for an intriguing
possibility, though from what he understood it was difficult for ghosts
to communicate with the living. Perhaps the "ghost storm" Inyanga
mentioned might have changed things.
Beckett grinned in the cold night. Yes, he could check with other
vampires and see what they'd scrounged up. It would provide a
satisfactory answer to Inyanga's question. But there was plenty of
mystery for him to dig into. Why should he leave the fun to someone
character will not be recognizable by anyone
PC's with NODDIST LORE 2+
an equivalent IC reason you should know him.
must already be on the sheet the ST's have on file for you).
The midnight forest teemed with life, but there was an edge to it, a
prey's awareness of the presence of a terrible predator. The
animals gave wide berth to a particular clearing, where sat a ragged
figure with wild red hair. The figure occasionally puffed on a
cheap cigar, expelling all the smoke rather than inhaling it. A
wolf appeared at the clearing edge and paused, nodding to the figure.
The smoking figure nodded back and the wolf changed into a man wearing a
hat and sunglasses. Most people would be forgiven for calling him
a werewolf, but a real werewolf would tell them that isn't how the Garou
"I've got to learn that trick," the smoking figure said, "perhaps you
could teach me?"
"Maybe. Is that why you asked me here?"
The figure snuffed his cigar in the dirt and gave a wide grin,
displaying his fangs.
"No no, certainly not. I know you're a busy man, so I wouldn't ask
you to travel all the way here for such a triviality. If I really
need to I can learn it from Lord Ashton, since he's working so hard to
make sure everyone learns to be a good Gangrel."
The red-haired man put away his grin as quickly as it had appeared.
"I'm joining the movement, Beckett. And I'm looking for help."
The man in the hat nodded and sat down across the clearing. "I
anticipated this. I know you wouldn't have called me unless you
already had some support. Who have you got?"
"A bunch of neonates, of course. They love the idea. I've
also got some Nos, Nettie Hale…"
Beckett snorted derisively. "One of the wild women? Oh good.
THAT lends an air of respectability."
Beckett abruptly stopped laughing. "You persuaded Ashton to help
The grin returned. "Indeed. He seems most eager. He's
convinced this is the best way for the Gangrel to really get something
done. Let the elders continue to play their political games; now
that we're out of the Cam, that time is over for the rest of us.
We've got to move forward."
Beckett nodded. "Okay, Antonino, you've got my support. For
now anyway. I will warn you, though, that I may leave abruptly if
any of the leads I'm researching yield fruit."
"You really think that place exists? Come on."
"I really do, Antonino. And if I'm right, and if I can actually
find Kaymakli, then whatever we do with this cluster of Anarchs doesn't
mean a thing." Beckett paused long enough to offer his own
fang-filled grin. "Still, this will be a welcome diversion in the
Official V:EKN Newsletter for Anarchs –
February, 2004. © Feb. 2004 by White
of Kayseri (and Mt. Erciyes), Turkey
And on top of
everything else, it was hot.
It shouldn’t have
been. This late at night, the temperature in the mountains and the
desert surrounding them should have dropped substantially. Tonight,
though, the heat clung stubbornly to the mountainsides, refusing to let
the setting sun drag it down, and the desert winds succeeded only in
pushing that heat around in pockets of warmer air, rather than
dispersing them entirely.
The heat made an
already difficult task that much more uncomfortable, and Beckett took a
moment out of his preparations to scowl at no one in particular. Beckett
wouldn’t really stand out in a crowd. Brown hair just a bit longer than
was currently in vogue, brown jeans, a white denim button-down that
wasn’t currently buttoned, hiking boots and a backpack nearly large
enough to crush a man who tried to put it on at the wrong angle. About
the only truly unusual feature were the sunglasses he wore even late at
night, an attention-getter he’d never have worn if they hadn’t served
the very specific purpose of hiding his inhuman eyes from mortal
observers. For similar reasons, he wore a pair of gloves to conceal the
coarse hair and thick nails that marked his hands, a further legacy of
his blood’s bestial heritage.
oddities aside, he looked for the most part like a hiker, perhaps a
European traveling the globe to “find himself.” Actually, Beckett knew
exactly where he was. He was, in fact, traveling the globe to find
something—or, in the more recent past, someone—else.
The wind that was
doing such a poor job of cooling the area was proving far more efficient
at kicking up the dirt and sand that coated the shallow mountainside on
which he stood. Beckett had abandoned the jeep he’d purchased as surplus
from the Turkish military—which probably made it Russian surplus if one
followed its pedigree back far enough—some miles ago. Even a four-wheel
drive in top condition would have proven incapable of climbing some of
the slopes Beckett had been forced to cross on his route, and the jeep
was rather distant from top condition.
He knew there wasn’t
a chance in hell he could finish what he needed to do and still get back
to civilization before sunrise, but he also knew the area. It wouldn’t
be difficult to find a cave deep enough to shelter from the lethal
inconvenience that was the sun. Of course, in an emergency, Beckett
shelter; just a
patch of earth deep enough for him to sink into—that was one of the
benefits of his particular undead pedigree, and a fair trade for the
inhuman features. Still, he’d have had to leave all his gear out in the
open, and while the odds of anyone passing by were slim, it was a risk
he’d rather not take.
Right now, though,
he had an entirely different cave in mind. He hadn’t been back to it in
some years, but the route was indelibly etched into his mind. He
probably could have found it with his eyes closed.
The wind lessened as
he approached it, but a look behind showed that it was blowing as
strongly as ever just a few dozen yards away. The place itself seemed
somehow to shrug off the worst of nature’s fury.
“Well,” Beckett said
to the world at large, “that’s convenient.”
He paused a moment.
For several long
moments, Beckett stood unmoving—far more than any mortal could have
managed—and let the sight before him burn itself into his mind,
overlapping vivid memories with current reality.
It hadn’t changed.
He stared at a cave entrance that gaped open in the mountainside like
the mouth of some great beast; had Zeus buried the monstrous Typhon
under this mount, rather than Mt. Etna, it might have explained a maw
like this. A dozen people standing shoulder to shoulder could have
walked inside without touching either wall. At one point in the distant
past, they could have walked blindfolded, and been certain of the smooth
and even floor beneath them, but even this place wasn’t entirely immune
to the passing years, and rocks and other debris now presented obstacles
to easy footing.
From here, a mortal
could not possibly make out the ancient writing across the rim of the
cave. It was too small, too worn away by centuries of wind-flung sand.
Beckett, however, could read it as clearly as if he stood right beside
it on the night it had appeared.
According to legend,
no hands, human or otherwise, had carved those words, words in a
language that few alive (or undead) could read. Words that had appeared,
chiseled into the stone, even as the ancient master of this place spoke
Let no childe
of Caine ever leave through this passage. Let no son of Seth enter.
Beckett stood, as he
had so many times before, at the entrance to Kaymakli, ancient city—and
ancient tomb—of a long-dead clan.
But this time, he
intended to do more than just stand. This time, for the sake of a
vampire named Okulos, a friend—or a companion as near to being a friend
as Kindred nature would allow—he would challenge the might of a departed
Assuming he was nuts
enough to actually go through with it.
Beckett was not
especially happy to be in Monaco. The entire country always felt like
one sprawling tourist trap to him. There was nothing to explore, no deep
cultural secrets to unearth. Oh, certainly the nation’s history went
back hundreds and even thousands of years, as far back as its settlement
by the Phoenicians, but the Kindred played very little part in it, and
that was always Beckett’s first concern.
Besides, most of the
people there spoke French.
But that was where
Samir dwelled, and that was where Samir wanted to meet. So that’s where
assuredly not his real name—was Moroccan born, and could certainly never
go home again. He was Tremere, a warlock as well as a vampire, and that
made him more than a little unpopular among the Assamite clan who held
quite a bit of influence in Morocco.
He was also an old
associate of Beckett’s who was willing to trade information, at least
when he could do so without interfering with Tremere interests. Beckett
had gone to him more than once on matters thaumaturgic and arcane, for
while Beckett himself had a greater mastery of blood magic than most, it
still paled beside the knowledge of a true student of the occult.
Samir arranged the
meeting, not at some fancy hotel or casino like the Monte Carlo, as
Beckett expected, but in the Princess Caroline Library, known far and
wide for its specialization in children’s literature.
“Because it will not
seem unusual for us to be trading tomes,” the Tremere, clad in American
Levis and an old Garth Brooks T-shirt, said in response to Beckett’s
unasked question. He paused long enough to step aside as a flock of
children brushed past them at just slowly enough the staff couldn’t yell
at them for running. The children clearly had at least one more stop
they felt they had to make before the library closed. “And because it
gives us only a short amount of time to make our exchange, and thus
precludes any last-minute renegotiation.”
Beckett scowled, but
chose to let the implied insult pass without comment. Instead, he stuck
a hand into the satchel he carried at his side—one that had not been
easy to slip past the library’s new security—and removed a book. The
cover was thick leather, cracked in various spots but otherwise in
relatively good condition.
“You didn’t tell
me,” Beckett growled, jerking the book back out of reach as Samir
reached for it, “that the previous owners were going to object quite so
strongly to me making off with it.”
“It’s a tome on
Hermetic magic, Beckett. What did you expect?”
“I expected to find
the temple abandoned, seeing as how someone who shall remain nameless
told me it would be. I did not expect to have to slice my way through a
Hermetic wizard while the rest of his chantry tried to bring the roof
down on me, crash my car, or otherwise explode my head with their
various and sundry rhymes from hell!”
“You know very well
that Hermetic incantations don’t rhyme, Beckett.”
“You want this damn
book or don’t you?”
There are children present.” Then, when his companion’s nostrils
actually flared, Samir decided it was time to stop teasing his guest.
“All right, Beckett. You have my sincere apologies. I honestly believed
didn’t find out that the order was attempting to recover the texts until
you were already out of contact. Now,
may I please have
Another moment of
hesitation, and then Beckett finally handed over the prize. “What did
you want this for, anyway? I thought you Tremere already had the entire
“Ah, no. There are
still secrets that we do not—well, it doesn’t matter. We wanted, and you
delivered. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me.
Just hold up your end of the bargain.”
Samir glanced around
to ensure that no curious children—or adults—were within earshot.
“Beckett,” he whispered, and all hint of teasing was gone from his
voice, “it’s taken me years to dig up this ritual. It’s old, older than
most of my clan. I mean no offense by this—you’re quite skilled for one
who hasn’t devoted his existence to the mysteries—but I have serious
you’ve the power or
experience necessary to invoke this rite.”
forward, as though preparing to share some great secret with the
“I doubt it, too.”
He grinned, then, a grin with little humor in it. “Guess I’ll find out
The Tremere could
only shake his head. “As you will. Come with me outside. The materials
are in my car.”
of Kayseri (and Mt. Erciyes),
And now he was here,
standing at the very brink of eternal imprisonment, staring down the
mouth of a cave and past an invisible barrier that had imprisoned God
knew-how-many Kindred—including two of Beckett’s companions.
It had taken him
almost a year after receiving the ritual from Samir to gather the
necessary components. (It wasn’t as though werewolf blood or a key
carved by one of the fair folk were easy to come by—and those weren’t
even the rarest items on the list.)
hadn’t been exaggerating about either the age or the power of the ritual
Beckett contemplated. The rite had certainly been created in an age when
magic and the world were very different from what they were now.
Beckett glanced at
his watch. He needed at least an hour to prepare the ritual, another
three to carry it out. And even assuming it worked, he didn’t have the
slightest hint how long it would take him to explore what lay beyond;
nights, probably. He had just enough time before dawn to tear down the
barrier, if he pushed.
So he’d push.
The backpack dropped
to the ground with a muffled thud, sending a rolling cloud of dust and
sand in all directions. From within, Beckett pulled two smaller bags,
stored within the first to keep his mundane equipment separate from his
other, more esoteric possessions. In the first bag, the same
shoulder-satchel in which he’d carried Samir’s tome, was all the gear to
be expected of an archeologist and explorer: a set of tiny precision
tools, from brushes to chisels to paper and crayons for making rubbings;
a vintage World War II Colt .45 with four fully-loaded extra clips
(Beckett had far more effective ways of dealing with any Kindred who got
in his way, and he’d never been particularly fond of firearms, but when
it came to dealing with hostile mortals in large numbers, he’d still
found nothing better than lead moving at very, very high speeds); a
heavy flashlight and several flares (Beckett could see in the dark, but
he often traveled with companions who couldn’t, and he’d simply
developed the habit of carrying them); a night-vision camera, so he
could snap shots of any valuable or informative finds without exposing
them to the harsh glare of a flashbulb; an advanced GPS reader, capable
of telling the user his precise position (a device Beckett
wished that he,
and more appropriately his companions, had brought with them the last
time); a spade—not in the bag, but strapped to it—with the very end of
the handle broken off, apparently through hard use (that the break gave
the wooden grip a particularly pointed end was not, however,
coincidence). In a rather grotesque tribute to preparedness, Beckett
also included an insulated thermos filled with some fresh AB-negative,
something few other archeologists would have any use for. All this he’d
take with him past the mouth of the cave, assuming he decided, when push
came to shove, that he had sufficient balls—and insufficient common
sense—to take that fateful step.
The contents of the
other bag would, of course, be left behind—those that weren’t consumed
by the ritual, at any rate.
Assuming he could
make the ritual work.
Assuming the ritual
fuck it. Time to stop assuming, Beckett
he thought grimly.
Ante up or go home.
With as much
precision as any surgeon, Beckett began—using the index finger bone of a
hand that was cut off its owner as punishment for stealing, back in the
days when such was common practice—to draw symbols in the dirt. Candles
(not all made from wax) and even more peculiar ingredients would follow,
and after that…
After that it was
time to pit his magical abilities against a ward put in place by
Cappadocius himself, one of the thirteen forebears of the entire Kindred
race. And those abilities were suddenly starting to seem very, very
of Kayseri (and Mt. Erciyes), Turkey
really needed oxygen (speech notwithstanding) for nigh onto three
hundred years now, yet instincts long dormant but not fully purged had
him gasping with the exertion. In the depths of his soul (or whatever
passed for it these nights) he could already feel the sun beginning to
drag its way, hand over fist, toward the horizon. The dawn was less than
an hour away.
Around him lay
scattered the remnants of his ritual. Puddles of wax, melted and allowed
to dry once more, formed strange patterns in the sand. The winds that
had sprung up out of nowhere about midway through his casting (and he
still hoped those were signs of success, not random occurrences that
might well have disrupted his concentration at a crucial moment) had
completely obliterated the sigils he’d so carefully drawn in the dust.
The lupine blood was gone, absorbed into the solid rock against which
he’d ritually splattered it; the key forged by the fae was buried deep,
the sand above it stained a deep red-brown as though turned to rust.
Beckett himself was coated in a sheen of blood-sweat, his formerly white
shirt plastered to his chest and already beginning to dry and crack. It
smelled wrong, almost tainted, as though something unnatural (even more
unnatural than Beckett himself) had invaded his system.
Yet for all the
wind, for all the blood, for all the strange happenings and bizarre
quirks, he saw no sign that the ritual had succeeded. Frankly, he’d
expected no more. Parts of the ritual were scribed in languages that he
hadn’t even recognized, let alone understood. Samir was good enough to
provide phonetic notes so Beckett could at least stumble through the
motions, but it was no substitute for actually knowing what the hell he
Still, his earlier
pessimism notwithstanding, Beckett couldn’t help but feel an acute
disappointment. Okulos had been a good companion, one of the few in
several centuries Beckett might have called friend. He could well be
destroyed, or at least in torpor, but Beckett had felt obligated to make
at least one more concerted effort at keeping his promise, at finding a
way for his friend to escape a trap laid centuries ago by a dead
“I’m sorry, my
friend.” It was the first time in a great while Beckett had apologized.
It was the first time in even longer that he meant it. He bent down to
collect what few occult components might be salvageable, determined at
least to leave no evidence of his presence.
When his fingers
brushed against the rust-colored spot upon the sands, he felt as if a
volcano had erupted from the earth—through him. A surge of power the
likes of which Beckett had never felt literally lifted him off his feet
and hurled him half a dozen yards back from the cave entrance. Beckett
couldn’t immediately try to determine what had happened; he was too busy
fighting down the Beast within him, which seemed determined to drive him
into either a blood frenzy or a headlong instinctive flight away from
this spot and anything that reminded him of it.
Beckett had once
done a goodly amount of his traveling in the company of a woman named
Lucita. An elder in the blood and a renegade from many of her fellows,
she’d told him tales of the Sabbat, and of how they “coaxed” information
out of those unwilling to give it. She’d been particularly impressed,
in a disgusted sort of way, with the creativity of one inquisitor who
had developed a system involving white-hot pins, sugar-water and an
entire colony of fire ants. At the time, Beckett couldn’t imagine what
being simultaneously burned and consumed from within could possibly feel
Now he knew.
He also knew,
however, that if he frenzied now, or succumbed to the red fear, he might
not have the presence of mind to locate proper shelter from the sun. He
wanted to escape the pain, as the Beast did, but not by immolating
himself and becoming one with the desert.
Had he not been so
focused on overcoming his own pain, and his own inner turmoil, he might
have seen the stone walls of the cave before him
as though they were nothing but a watercolor painted on the wind. He
might have seen the runes etched into that stone glow with a bright red
light that could not possibly come from any natural reaction or
process—and then fade from sight, their age-old power finally
But he didn’t. And
so it was only when he’d gotten himself once more under control, when he
stopped seeing the world around him through a haze of red, that he
looked upon the cave face—and he
Somehow, against all hope, against all logic, he’d done it. The ward had
Beckett wished he
could take the time to confirm, despite his certainty. Examinations with
heightened and even preternatural senses, thaumaturgic rituals… But he
did none of these things. With the fatigue of dawn already creeping up
on him, and the sun lurking so near the eastern horizon that the clouds
were turning pink, Beckett scrambled to gather his equipment and dove
into the welcoming shadows of Kaymakli just before slumber overtook him.
Above Kaymakli, the
Red Star shone.
The ward came
tumbling down, and as it fell, it triggered an invisible surge of power
that flowed outward like a shockwave.
The Red Star shone,
and beneath it barriers weakened.
The Red Star shone,
a hellish light at the end of a very long tunnel.
The collapse of
Cappadocius’ barrier echoed over the mountains and the deserts of
Turkey, out into the Orient and the Middle East.
beneath the sands in a cave that only partially existed in any world
human or Kindred minds could comprehend, the echoes disturbed the dreams
of something that had slumbered since the world was young.
It had stirred
before, this impossible thing, this relic of old that monsters feared.
Stirred—but never before awoken.
It awoke now. It
awoke to a world of nothingness, aware of nothing, seeing nothing,
Nothing but a hunger
so all consuming, so pervasive that nothing could possibly exist outside
it—for anything that was, was only to be consumed.
Hunger… and a
single, rational thought, couched in terms impossible to comprehend,
from a time when language did not exist.
into mortal concepts, it was simply:
It is time.
And above it all,
the Red Star shone.
In the darkened
entry hall of the great underground city of Kaymakli, sheltered from the
burning gaze of the sun, Beckett dreamed…
He stood, not
within the cave, but once again outside it. Some hundred yards away, its
rotors having finally drifted to a complete halt, was the Bell
Industries helicopter—the same model sold to militaries and police
forces across the globe, though lacking many of those agencies’ more
interesting offensive modifications—that had brought them here.
In that strange
partial awareness that so often comes to dreamers, Beckett wished he’d
had such a means of transport, or the ability to pilot it, for
also had the presence of mind to wonder where the dream came from, since
he was quite certain he hadn’t dreamed since he was a mortal.
He was not
alone, a fact for which he was profoundly grateful This—this could well
be the greatest archeological discovery, at least from a Kindred
perspective, of the modern era. Beckett was glad to have valued
companions with whom to share it; some things were simply too big even
for him. There were no mortals to be seen for miles, so the two
Nosferatu who traveled with Beckett had long since dropped the illusory
masks of humanity so many of their clan wore to hide their monstrous
childe of Okulos and thus, in some respect, godchilde to Beckett,
couldn’t repress a sigh of delight as she translated the words that
ringed the cave’s mouth. “This is really it, isn’t it?” She had in her
voice the tone of a child who has just received the one thing she
actually wanted for her birthday or Christmas. “This is the entrance to
“If it is
not,” Okulos told her with a sidelong wink at Beckett,“it’s the most
skilled forgery I have ever seen.”
mention the biggest,” Beckett added.
of years the children of Caine had searched for this place, spoken of in
some of the most horrific of their legends but also a source of great
knowledge—and possibly great power. For if those legends were true,
literally thousands of vampires had been imprisoned behind their
progenitor’s ward. Though many had assuredly met their final deaths,
many others might yet lie in torpor, awaiting only eager students of the
past to awaken them—or eager diablerists to drain the souls from their
already bloodless husks.
made even the most cursory examination of the history of Kaymakli, its
sister city Derinkuyu, and the Cappadocian clan that was master of both,
knew the approximate location of the hidden city. (Of course, that
itself was problematic, since few Kindred in the world knew enough of
either of those cities or the Cappadocians to even begin such research,
but Beckett and his companions ran in very select circles.) Somehow,
though, nobody had ever succeeded in
least,” Okulos had remarked to Beckett one evening, “nobody ever
reported finding it. It’s likely that several Kindred are running around
with this knowledge, but no notion of how to use it. It’s likelier still
that some of the Kindred trapped behind the ward are more recent tenants
than the Cappadocians themselves.”
determined that they were not going to be so careless.
research finally yielded the clue that would lead them to Kaymakli—hidden
away in an otherwise unremarkable manuscript by a vampiric madman who
had wandered the Near and Middle East claiming to be the reincarnation
of one of Muhammad’s wives—making a detailed record of his travels—and
then leaped headfirst into a bonfire, supposedly to burn away his
masculine exterior and reveal the woman beneath. Though excitement had
flared within them all, they decided that their first expedition would
serve merely to confirm the cave’s location, and to study the entrance
and—if possible—the ward
Beckett had a fair idea, culled from other accounts, as to exactly how
far into the cave one could step before passing through the mystic
barrier. (“Not far,” was the general conclusion.) They hoped to find a
means of testing that without putting themselves in danger.
Now that they
were here, of course, it was far more tempting to throw themselves into
the task, to learn everything they could and damn the risks, but they
maintained a level of professional calm. “Okulos,” Beckett told him,
“why don’t you and Korenna examine the cave mouth itself? I’m going to
take a few external measurements.”
Beckett, as you wish.”
What? No! Beckett’s
dream-self was suddenly confused.
That wasn’t how it
had happened! Okulos had
the one to examine the cave mouth, Beckett had never wanted…
He had set to
measuring the density, and guessing about the age and mineral
composition, of the surrounding rock face when he was interrupted by a
pair of screams. The first was female, sharp, a high-pitched cry of
unbearable agony that was silenced as abruptly as it had begun. The
second was male, deeper, a wail of loss, and it continued far beyond the
point where the other had ceased even to echo.
raced back around to stare into the cave, focusing the power of the
blood through his eyes so he could see clearly into the darkened abyss,
only a single figure, one hand still raised in a futile gesture,
Okulos choked, his voice almost a sob. “Korenna is gone! You must have
misjudged the location of the barrier, Beckett! My childe is dead! I am
trapped! And it’s your fault!”
dream-self cried out in silent protest. His calculations were not in
question! And he’d never claimed they were precise enough for use as a
God damn yardstick! The Nosferatu had gotten careless in their
excitement, misread their location in the dim glow of their flashlights.
Nobody, Okulos included, had ever blamed Beckett for it! It hadn’t been
his fault at all!
But in the
dream, Beckett stepped back from the entrance, removed a notebook of
transcribed phrases and calculations—calculations that showed subtle
marks of recent erasure and rewriting—and exulted.
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