19: DON’T LOOK
Charlotte looks around the hill where the cave once was. She walks in a clockwise circle.
“A circle of fire. Nothing gets out.”
“Did the host go up with it?” Arthur asks.
She nods. “If you want to drive it out you need another way.”
“There’s a Russian legend about burning a vampire... having to make sure nothing else escapes from the fire. No animals.”
“That seems to fit.” Pavel nods. “Anything else about them?”
“Not really... but it might explain stories of vampires that don’t fit us.”
“You are the perfect hosts,” Charlotte reminds them.
“Yeah, not too hot, not too cold...”
“Not often you hear how much vampires are like porridge...” Pavel mutters.
The refugees look over the archaeological reports of the collapsed caves. Pavel grimaces.
“I think, to find something more, we have to do something dangerous.”
“What we really need is someone who can walk through walls,” Arthur points out.
“And this is assuming we can find the Cardinal,” Valia adds. “And he even exists.”
“If he exists and if he can help... I can’t believe I’m saying this... great.” Arthur scowls.
Valia looks at the file, at a cave painting made by two hands suggesting birds’ wings.
“If the Strix were here before... why haven’t they taken over?”
Arthur scours the New Age bookstores and makes inquiries, and finds sketchy reports of rituals around the caves up to the point of the earthquake.
Dr. Barrow works in his lair in the sewers, hoping for a visitor. After an hour, Sal approaches, walking up in plain sight for a change.
“Have you ever met the Cardinal?”
“Not me, no. I’m not that old. Mother is. She was there for the quake, the night he fell.”
“Has she ever spoken about it?”
“A little. I know Mr. Alvarez’s sire died that night as well, someone tried to take the city in the chaos.”
“And what about... the sea caves?”
“You tell me.”
“A way in?”
“Maybe the old mining tunnels. A lot of them were taken down in the quakes since. But not all.”
“So, we’re in agreement. We need to find the Cardinal and revive him. If that’s even possible.”
“I imagine the canon would know. But...” Dr. Barrow trails off.
“He has the most to lose if the Cardinal wakes...” Valia suggests.
“Apart from the Strix,” Pavel points out. “And that’s what matters.”
“So. Night Of The Spelunking Vampires.”
Arthur looks around as Pavel adjusts the light on the front of his helmet.
“According to the map Sal provided, this tunnel is the most direct available route to the collapsed cave.” Dr. Barrow shrugs, pushes a flare into a strap, and lifts a pickaxe.
“Who have we told where we’re going?” Arthur asks.
“Charlotte. Carrie. Sal.” Valia makes a list. “My day manager has instructions to call Leonetti if I’m not back by midnight tomorrow.”
And so they start to dig. And dig. And dig.
And after more than an hour, of digging and crawling through narrow gaps, they reach a section of stone tunnel, boarded over. With a bloody handprint on the door.
Pavel raises his pickaxe and smashes the door open.
Inside is only darkness.
“Dark,” Valia notes.
“That’s okay, we’re vampires. And have flashlights.” Arthur steps inside.
The boarded-up section is extended from a natural cave, and full of weathered wooden crates.
Most of them contain broken crockery, over a century old.
And one contains a desiccated corpse.
I resisted the temptation to wear the T-shirt for the session.