by Corey Alambar
(Note: This is the first part of a multi-part series in the World of Darkness, describing the area of Northern California surrounding the San Francisco and Monterey Bays, as well as some of the Central Valley and north east to Sacramento. It is assumed that you have or have access to a map of this region. All copyrights of this material are held © 1994 by Corey Alambar, all rights reserved, for electronic distribution only. Any resemblance to persons real or fictional is pure coincidence)
(Note 2: This in no way resembles any material that may or may not have been produced in official suppliments for the World of Darkness, and may contradict information present elsewhere.)
You look at the business card again for a moment, and then look up at the building in front of you. Not quite what you would have expected from a club called the Digital Raven. but your mentor seemed to think this was the place for you to be.
You swear you see the entire building shaking from the music, and you can definitely feel it coming through the sidewalk and up through your feet. The bouncer smiles as you show him your ID, not really even seeming to care if it's fake or real. You flash him a nervous smile, and then walk through the curtain on the door.
The sounds, sights, and scents wash over you like a velvet tsunami, covering you in a rich tapestry of experience, enough to almost overwhelm you. You stare for a moment at the five-tiered dance floor, and the mass of writhing, twisting bodies, stirring something primal, lustful, and dangerous in the room.
You bump into a tall, somewhat thin man, who looks at you apologetically for a moment, then smiles at you, as though he knows who you are and why you're here. He motions for one of the employees, a short, rather heavyset female in the black and violet uniform of the place. He orders a drink you can't hear, then looks at you again.
«So, shall we ave a seat and talk a little? Yo're obviously new here, to be standing there gawking. And I'm sure you weren't sent here to be an easy mark for just anyone. I'll tell you this: if you keep looking that out of place, you'll be lying face down in a gutter in two days flat, if you're really lucky. If you're not so lucky... Well, they tell stories about those labs across the Bay.»
He doesn't even wait for an answer, just takes your hand and threads you along the crowded bar-area of the club, finding a small booth in the corner. He motions you to have a seat, and then follows suit, just as the waitress brings his drink, a slightly-greenish looking beer with a peppermint stick in it.
He grins, and then shakes his head for a moment. «No, you don't want to know It helps me think, though. But right now, you seem like you need the quick tour. And I should probably start with right around here. You see, this is the tame part of the Bay.» He laughs, and for some reason you don't seem to find it quite so funny.
Knowing Your Place in the World
«Now, you probably know a little about this area, at least geographically. If you don't, you have no business here in the first place. But you might not know everything about what these cities and citilets are, so I'll tell you a little about it.»
«The biggest thing on this side of the Bay is, of Course, Oakland. Some call it San Francisco's ugly stepsister. I think that';s too much of a compliment. But Oakland's a great place to live, all things considered. If you've got the money.»
«The sections of Oakland to know are Piedmont, up in the Hills... You might remember the big fire they had. That's the rich part of town, with all the condos and estates. Then to the south of downtown (they call that the Financial DIstrict), is Lake Merrit and the Ôburbs. Nice areas, but not as nice as Piedmont. Then you've got West and South Oakland, by the old shipyards and out on the flats. Not a place to be caught without knowing something about a gun. Like how many bullets you've got in yours.»
«South of Oakland you've got San Leandro, Union City, Hayward, and Fremont. San Leandro is one of those places that isn't sure if it wants to be a suburb or a warzone, and doesn't do a good job of being either, while Hayward tries to be affluent and Fremont... Well, Fremont is like a little piece of Silicon Valley here in the East Bay. Lots of high tech, lots of displaced ex-migrant workers, and two groups of people who live in different worlds. But not a bad town as places go.»
North of Oakland it gets interesting. FIrst you've got Emoryville, where a lot of companies and retail places hold out. They don't want o deal with the image of having an Oakland address, yet can't put up with the attitude of Berkeley.
«And as for Berkeley. Well, you're in it. Birthplace of the counter-culture movements of the Ô60's, Political Correctness, and the LSD capital of the world. It's a great town, with UC and all. Oh, yeah. This is THE Berkeley everyone talks about. Not quite as big a deal, is it?»
«THen north of Berkeley things start to get better, then worse. You've got Albany, a rather nice little suburb, then you start creeping up toward Richmond and San Pablo. Richmond's oil country, with Chevron being the major player there. Petroleum makes the world go Ôround, or at least makes things slide a little easir when you get the shaft. Not a nice place, all told. You don't see me anywhere near there.»
«And over the hill you've got Contra Costa. Walnut Creek, Concord... A bunch of big suburban sprawls with no sense of identity, all with delusions of grandeur and trying to stay out from the shadow of their bigger cousins here over the Hills. Towns sleepwalking, looking the other way. If they had any idea, they'd all die in their color co-ordinated living rooms, causing a big dent in the Rolex market. Yeah, yuppieville central, alright.»
Apocalypse Now (and Again)
«THere are two kinds of people here, the mundanes and the not-so-mundanes. And the latter have been living in a war zone for at least the last fifty years. They know more about how to wage dirtly little meaningless wars this side of the Balkans and Israel.
«It all stems from a little happening about fifty years ago. Everything was fine until the end of World War 2, when all the sailors and refugees were coming back from the Pacific. One of them was a Gaki, with an axe to grind against the Americans. And, landing in the Port of Oakland, he went right for the top, a poor old fool named Alex Michaelson.
«Oh, Alex was as ruthless as every other Prince has ever been. But he was a nice sort, from what I've been told, too. His biggest problem was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.»
«That Gaki did a good job on Alex and eveyone associated with him. And set up a little kingdom, all his own. It lasted about three days, which was how long it took de la Vega and McLain to get together and knock him out. Too dangerous to be that close to those two.»
«But this left a big problem for everyone left here. You see, in less than a week, every leech with even the remotest claim to Oakland had been a meal in one way or another for someone else. De la Vega and McLain couldn't come up with any real way to divide up the East Bay between themselves, and it was a good feeding ground. So they left it.
«Of course, you know what happened then. Every one of those leeches tried to name himself Prince. And every time one of them got close, he got ganged up on and was a lot worrse off than he was when he started.»
«That was true until about three years ago. That's when Eric Tollier ended up on the scene. Not the sort who'd stick out in a crowd, he'd been spending a little time gathering his resources, and he pretty much was able to start carving out an empire, a little bit at a time. He started based somewhere in Concord, of all places, and worked his way in from there. With the power base he had in the Ôburbs, he had no problem at all moving into Oakland, a little bit at a time. And back in Ô90, de la Vega and McLain both acknowledged him as the Prince of Oakland.
«Eric's a strange fellow. No one can really figure out what Clan he's part of, and from the stories I've heard none of them would claim him. Not even the Setites, if you'd believe that. He's a real enigma, that one, but he runs Oakland as effeciently as an admiral in the British Navy. I've known him to have called no fewer than four Blood Hunts since he was acknowledged Prince.»
«Not surprisingly, considering the state of war Oakland has been in for the last forty years or so, Eric runs pretty much a dictatorship. There aren't any elders, any advisor,s only Eric and the couple of bodyguards he keps with him at all times, provided courtesy of McLean and de la Vega. He's not dumb, but h can play the part really well. He knows they're spies.»
«There's only been one major threat to Eric's reign over Oakland, and that's the Sabbat. They've been working a network into the chaos of Oakland, seeing it as the perfect base from which to launch any operations in the Bay Area. They're kind of ground, with a virtual state of war both amongst the Kindred and the gangs. They're why Eric has called his Blood Hunts. The Masquerade is stretched pretty thin over o this side of the Bay, and the Sabbat aren't making it any easier.»
The Plot Thickens
«But enough on the leeches. You're probably bored to tears by now. And besides, there are other interesting things going on on this side of the Bay.»
«Take the Garou. You wouldn't have expected the Garou to have anything to do with such a blighted area as the East Bay. But indeed, they're somewhat aggressive in this area, making Eric's job even harder.»
«You se, there's that place up in Marin, the Sept of the Western Eye. And there's Diablo Valley Park here. And apparently there's a small pac based in Diablo Valley that has something to do with the Sept of the Western Eye. This wouldn't be so bad if they'd stop raiding Eric's outposts. They claim to know something about him that no one else does, and while that may be true, I haven't seen it. Eric's just another power-hungry leech, no more, no less.»
«According to the Garou the East Bay is one of the most blighted, Wyrm-tainted areas of the United States. They're not quite right, but it is kinda bad. WHat with Pentex's influence in the oil conglomerates and foundaries up in Richmond, the manufacturing plants for high tech equipment in Hayward and Fremont, and the involvement of a couple of Black Spiral Dancers in the gang warfare in Oakland, there's plenty here to think about. But all in all, the Garou aren't as much of a presence here as they'd like to be. Which I think lets us all sleep easier at night. A full-scale war here would be very unpleasant to say the least.»
«As for the mages... There's never anything definite on either side of their Ascension War here on this side of the Bay. I think that's because of Berkeley. Too much recruitment for either side to put in to much force here. They both coddle that university like a Ming vase, each side seeming to tolerate the others at the moment.»
«The major enclaves in this area really arent even Chantries, though there is a strong outlet of the Digital Web right on the Berkeley campus. Rather, up here on the north side of the East Bay there's a small gathering of the Akashic Brotherhood, a few Sons of Ether, a couple Dreamspeakers, a smallcircle of Hermetics, and even a small coven of Verbena. Down in Oakland you'll find a large group of Euthanatos, who've been there since World War Two, and a small enclave of druggi... I mena, Cultists of Ecstacy. Offshoots of the chantry over in San Francisco, most likely.»
«The Technocracy gets a lot more powerful the father south you go. Down in Hayward and Fremont are just massive amounts of high-tech research and manufacturing facilities, mostly orchestrated together to drive this computer revolution that's been going on, trying to force the pace even ahead of the Virtual Adepts.»
«And then you've got the Oakland Naval Air Station and the Alameda Naval Shipyards. Long standing constructs for the New World Order, the powers that be have decided that they aren't going to reemain here. Too much of a threat to Berkeley, and besides, they've been going for the Ôkinder, gentler' image lately. That plus the Syndicate won't let them keep those bases open anyway.»
«Speaking of the Syndicate, there's a small conglomeration of them downtown. There's a reason why downtown Oakland is called the Financial District. While not nearly as big a trading center as the Embarcadero, across the Bay, it's still important enough to get notice, and it lets them work without quite the manipulation that goes on in San Francisco»
And We All Fall Down
«What they both don't realize is just how bad some things are around here, for both of them. You see, there's this Nephandi, calls himself Milak, who leads a group called the Subductionists, based here in Oakland. The group is based around trying to survive the Big One, or at least that's what they say. Modern day urban survivalists to the core, most of them don't even know who Milak is, or apply any meaning to the name. But he is very frightening once you know what he really is.»
«You see, this Milak was a normal human once. But he started worshiping this being, Andromalek, who has granted him incredible amounts of power. It reads like a Lovecraft novel, though, the way he's dedicated to awakening Andromalek and sinking California into the sea. Somedayy someone will catch on to these people, and Milak especially. A few even have, but most of them aren't heard of again.»
«The headquarters for the Subductionists is an old warehouse down by the Naval Air Station. This isn't the center of their main activities, only the public center. Only a couple of people know where Milak keeps himself, and none of them are telling. He's one to watch out for if he thinks you're a threat.»
The man loks down at his watch for a moment, then looks up. The club life is winding down, and the staff is bustling around, cleaning up. He smiles, apologetically.
«I'd love to tell you more, since there is so much more to life here than just that. But that should get you through the rest of the night and tomorrow. If you'll come back tomorrow night, I'll tell you some more. Just tell the bouncer you're here to see Mike. He'll understand.»
The man grins, then gets up and fades into the rapidly dwindling crowd, leaving you alone with your thoughts, a day older and a touch wiser from your talk with him. As you walk out into the crisp, slightly damp air of the early morning (it's 4 am), you find yourself wondering just what you've gotten yourself into.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Okay, everyone, that's part one. Well, the first half of part one. It turns out each of these descriptions is going to be a lot lonmger than I thought, and with work and everything I might well be extending this series over the entire summer. It promises to get richer and much more full as time goes on, and I would appreciate any questions, comments, etc. anyone has, though they're best done via private email. I will probably end up amending these at least once, to make them more playable, etc. And I will also have at the very end a description and ASCII character sheets for all the major figures of the Bay Area. There are bound to be some surprises.
The Tiger That Stalks The ÔNet is: Corwyn J. Alambar (email@example.com)
«I don't think it's coincidence/And I don't believe in accidents»
«It's time to ask ourselves/Why are we still here?»
-Information Society, «Still Here»
Another piece to the alternative Northern California by Night (sorry this took so long...)
Given Proposition 187 in California, and the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment throughout the country, there is bound to be a backlash, particularly in the area of the native/Hispanic populations of the southwestern United States. By taking the fear and hatred and turning it back against its creators, using the victims becomes an easy task. So watch carefully, for the night will never be the same, once you discover the truth behind the Seekers of the Mirror's Shards.
The Seekers are a very strange group of mystics, based loosely on the Amerind traditions of the desert Southwest and the Tolto-Olmec/Aztec peoples of the central Mexican highlands. Preying upon the insecurities of Native American youths (and anyone who can trace their ancestry back to natives of the region) and the recent waves of anti-immigrant and anti-Native feeling, this group has swelled its ranks a hundred-fold in the last five years.
The seekers work by finding troubled youths, and offering them something of their heritage, a way to find their roots, to find meaning in an incresingly hostile world. They begin by introducing the to the mystical heritage of their peoples, including old Shamanic techniques, especially those involving peyote, mescaline, and other hallucinogenic/mind-altering drugs.
During their teaching in the spiritual ways of their ancestors (supposedly; this is only a fabrication made from pop-history and New-Age reference materials, and very little true history), they are also taught to be embittered about the way their people and especially their ancestors have been treated. Their hatred is stoked, but kept at a controlled level for the time being. Meanwhile, the group through its "front" organizations, seems to be a charitable organization keeping kids off the street and giving them a reason to strive. Younger members of this cult often have a dramatic and marked increase in school and work performance, as well as becomming easier to deal with in family situations.
But then comes the time of their First Journey, a "voyage of exploration" into the spirit world. In fact, the new initiate is taken on a voyage into the Umbra, to a small jungle realm where there lives this large black jaguar, that has named itself Tezcatlipoca, or Smoking Mirror. He sits upon a throne of human skulls, and sits the initiate down, explaining to him what his heritage is, and the true history of the New World.
He tells of Quetzalcoatl, the serpent god, who left his people, and voyaged to the Old World, to find converts there to his own power. Meanwhile, the people he left behind grew in power, and flourished into one of the most wonderful civilizations in the world, under Tezcatlipoca's guidance.
Quetzalcoatl became jealous of the success of Tezcatlipoca's power and success, and eventually he struck out with an army to take back the land. And during one of the major assaults, Tezzcatlipoca's Mirror, the seat of the power and prosperity of his people, was shattered. Quetzalcoatl's minions stole the pieces, which were then changed in frm to become smaller artifacts that were then spread amongst the New World.
Tezcatlipoca then scars the initiate, and gives him a vision, of one f the smaller shards, which is in fact a talisman or fetish of some power, but not extreme. The initiate is to capture this item, no matter what the cost. It is held by the invaders, and their lives are of no matter.
The initiate has several months to locate the 'shard', which is in fact merely another fetish or talisman, sometimes held by a knowledgeable mage or leech. Using the magickal talents he (or she) has been taught, eventually the focus is captured. Failure to capture the 'shard' within one year results in punishment, going to see Tezcatlipoca again, who then punishes the initiate for his failure. A second failure means the initiate doesn't come back.
Success brings another round of training, and another mission from Tezcatlipoca, his one a little more dangerous. Also, at this level the initiate becomes one of the lower-ranking priests, and is required to perform certain sacrifices to Tezcatlipoca, beginning with simple things, such as sacrificing an item of gold on an altar, and capturing some blood from someone and sacrificing it as well.
After some more successes, the initiate rises through the priesthood, choosing one of three paths: The Path of te Mystic, the Hunter, or the Warrior. The Mystic perfects the religious observances, often gaining several levels in Prime, Life, and at lower priority Forces, Entropy and Spirit.. The sacrifices become more and more bizarre and sadistic, eventually rising to the level of dismemberment and mass-murder, though by this point the priest has become very disconnected from humanity.
The Hunters are still searching for more and larger pieces of the Mirror. Their targets include larger Chantries, museums, and certain Kindred and Garou hoards. They begin to employ commando-raid style tactics, and often will inflict heavy casualties in capturing what it is that they seek.
The Warriors are the most frightening of the three paths, in that they become cold-blooded killers. Their status within the cult is obtained and held by the number of hearts they bring in in a moon-cycle. The more powerful the owner of the heart was, the more status and standing the warrior gains. At very high levels, they are taught to become masters of the Spirit sphere, and by using the rote 'Mirror's Touch of Glory' (see later) they can actually capture souls to bring them to the temple for sacrifice to Tezcatlipoca.
How can such an obviously bloody cult slip through the attention of the various supernatural forces of the WoD? Because a lot of the Tradition mages and Garou believe that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' The Seekers are active in raids on Technocratic institutions, Pentex outlets, and Kindred, making them automatic 'allies' of sorts with the traditions and the Garou. They are careful to cultivate this image, because it makes them better able to capture and subvert their enemies. Only Native American Dreamspeakers, Wendigo, Red Talons and Uktena are spared, however, with all the others looked down upon with sheer contempt and loathing, tools to be used then discarded.
THe greatest secret is what lies at the heart of this cult. The original Tezcatlipoca has nothing to do with this cult, and the false god is careful to assure that the great spirit Tezcatlipoca does not become involved. At the very heart of the cult is a Dreamspeaker barabbi who is the high priest of the cult, and a Balam (sp?) with many spirit fetishes that is the creature masquerading as Tezcatlipoca himself. Together they have masterminded this cult that seeks to drive all the invaders frm their homeland, and establish themselves as the gods of the new order. Their covert war is going astonishingly well, and they have succeeded in using the power from the stolen fetishes and talismans (and a few sacrificed spirits) to reopen several small power-spots in Central America and Mexico, giving them good bases to work from.
And what exactly is the Mirror they are trying to reconstruct? It is a total fabrication by the central priesthood to gather together a number of powerful fetishes and talismans, drain them of their energy, and use it to reopen the power spots they control, slowly spreading their influence over the land and taking it back, inch by inch, from the Westerners.
New Rote: Mirror's Touch of Glory (Prime 4, Spirit 5)
This is one of the most dangerous rotes known to the Seekers. With its power, they are able to snatch the very souls of their victims, leaving nothing but a slight pile of ash where the victim once stood.
To use the rote, the Seeker must take a broken shard of a mirror, with a very sharp edge, and hit the opponent to draw blood. (Diff. to hit is +1 given the awkwardness of the weapon, a botch means the wielder takes damage himself. Double botch means the mirror is dropped and shatters) Once this is done, the Seeker need only catch the gaze of the victim in the mirror, and then call upon the power of Tezcatlipoca to take the soul as a sacrifice. At that moment, the victim's Quintessence is drawn into the mirror, as is their soul, and the body crumbles to dust (as per the 'Purifying Flame' rote of the Celestial Chorus). The mirror now is a talisman/fetish, with the victim's soul contained within. This can then be sacrificed for the contained power and energy as any other fetish or talisman (see above).
Well, tell me what you think!
Corwyn Alambar firstname.lastname@example.org NETCOM, the West Coast's Leading Internet Service Provider. (408) 554-8649