Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood and Bourbon

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Master Logs Page

“You want to know how it starts? The same thrice-damned way it always starts. Somebody wants something. Bad. Bad enough to shell out clams, bullets, or blood. Maybe all three.”
—Louis Fontaine, retired NOPD detective

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New player question: What is the best order to read the logs?

Semi-chronologically. Start in Story One with Amelie, then Story Two with Caroline and Emil, then Story Three with Emmett. Emmett’s last Story Three log will link you to his and Emil’s appearances in later stories. B&B’s logs are huge and many of them aren’t posted, but each PC’s logs are understandable without having read the other PCs’.

Other question: Why can’t I read some of the logs?

Links in green aren’t posted to the site yet, so there is nothing there to read. Links in purple are the readable ones.


Story One


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Chronicle Prologue: An accounting of what has come before.
Amelie I: Fresh off the plane from Canada, Amelie touches down in New Orleans to make a new life in the home of a distant aunt. (Aug 14, 2015)
Alice Prelude: Alice lights a candle in the dark.
Amelie II: Amelie settles in to her new home and makes an auspicious purchase. (Aug 15, 2015)
Alice I: Alice attempts to answer an impossible question and investigates several purported hauntings. (Aug 24, 2015)
Amelie III: Amelie attends her first day at McGehee, the so-called “Southern belle West Point,” and sets her eye on a purportedly haunted house for a research project. (Aug 17, 2015)
Alice II: Alice makes plans for a party and fends off a petty thief. (Aug 25, 2015)
Amelie IV: Amelie attempts to fit in among her privileged peers. (Aug 17, 2015)
Alice III: Alice makes a potentially lucrative book sale. (Aug 25, 2015)
Amelie V: Amelie sets out to explore the Big Easy’s historic attractions and gets a taste of its equally storied corruption. (Aug 21, 2015)
Alice IV: Alice attends a strained family dinner. (Aug 26, 2015)
Amelie VI: Amelie receives a dire prophecy. (Aug 21, 2015)
Alice V: Alice attempts to help a restless shade pass on. (Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie VII: Amelie makes plans for an overnight stay in one of New Orleans’ most notorious paranormal hot spots. (Aug 25, 2015)
Caroline Prelude: Caroline claims her birthright.
Amelie VIII: Amelie eavesdrops upon a cruel truth. (Aug 27, 2015)
Alice VI: Alice makes a move on a long-held crush, but runs into unexpected competition. (Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie IX, Caroline I: Stripped of illusions by her furious aunt, Amelie takes a hard look at the Big Easy’s hidden ugliness; Caroline covers up an embarrassment to her aunt’s alma mater. (Aug 28, 2015)
Alice VII: Alice deals with an angry vampire. (Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie X, Caroline II: Still determined to get ahead in the city, Amelie attends a privileged lunch; Caroline gives a newcomer some helpful advice. (Aug 28, 2015)
Alice Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Amelie XI: Past and future converge as Amelie braves a night in the infamous LaLaurie Mansion. (Aug 28, 2015)


Story Two

George Prelude: George plots his rise to power.
Julien Prelude: Julien tries to make a difference in an uncaring world.
Clea Prelude: Clea pledges her service to the loa.
Emil I: Emil receives a mysterious package and responds to a distressed phone call. (Aug 28, 2015)
George I: George deals with frenzying guests in his hotel and receives an invitation to visit his exiled clanmate John Harley Matheson from the enchanting young Becky Lynne. (Aug 29, 2015)
Caroline I: Caroline gets a 3 AM phone call to bail some family friends out of trouble. (Aug 29, 2015)
Clea I, Julien I: Clea and Julien compete for their sires’ favor and possession of a mysterious artifact. (Aug 29, 2015)
Caroline II: Caroline frantically works to save two lives as new disaster strikes. (Aug 29, 2015)
Clea II, George II, Julien II: Clea cuts a deal with George; George and Julien pay a visit to the Midnight Bayou and its proprietor Sundown. (Aug 29, 2015)
Emil II: Emil learns the way things are done among NOPD. (Aug 29-30, 2015)
George III: George searches for companions to entertain Matheson in his exile, but finds not all of the candidates are what they seem. (Aug 30, 2015)
Julien III: Julien returns to the French Quarter to tie up loose ends, only to receive a lesson in the nature of friendship from Antoine Savoy. (Aug 30, 2015)
George IV: George violates a new victim, pays his respects to two primogen, and swallows his pride for a miserable trek through Clan Nosferatu’s sewers. (Aug 31, 2015)
Caroline III: Caroline pays a hospital visit to friends old and new. (Aug 29, 2015)
George V: George smooths over a grudge with the Mafia, trades truths with an insightful Malkavian, and bears witness to another grim example of Vidal’s justice. (Sep 1-3, 2015)
Julien IV: Julien investigates rumors of hunters hunted, seeks atonement for his sins, and calls in a favor from the despicable Doc Xola to set up tentative peace talks between the Baron’s followers and the Tremere. (Aug 31—Sept 1, 2015)
George VI: George receives a warning from an old flame and deals with unforeseen trouble on the road to Matheson’s. (Sep 4, 2015)
Caroline IV, Emil III: Caroline keeps an eye out for a potential new ally; Emil receives an auspicious visitor. (Aug 30, 2015)
George VII: George races the rising sun back to the Windsor Court, only to face a second foe he cannot so easily avoid: his own Beast. (Sep 5-7, 2015)
Caroline V: Caroline deals with an unexpected fly in her family’s ointment. (Aug 30, 2015)
Julien V: Julien meets with one of the Baron’s lieutenants to negotiate a truce between their covenants, only for events to spiral far out of control. (Sept 2, 2015)
George VIII: George convenes a meeting of Clan Ventrue’s elders to flush out a traitor within the ranks. (Sep 8, 2015)
Caroline Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Emil IV: Emil begins a new investigation into an old mystery. (Sep 1, 2015)
George IX: George confronts not one traitor, but three—to explosive results. (Sep 9, 2015)


Interlude

Cletus I: Cletus deals with a trespasser on his land. (Sep 9, 2015)


Story Three


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Prologue: An accounting of what has come before.
Louis I: Lou descends into the Crescent City’s seedy underbelly to find out who is murdering its prostitutes. (Sep 5th, 2015)
Caroline I: Caroline finds new troubles trying to forget old ones. (Sep 2nd—5th, 2015)
Emmett I: Em picks an ambitious new mark to con. (Sep 4th, 2015)
Louis II: Lou witnesses a murder through a dead woman’s eyes, reunites with an old failure, and puts a name to a killer. (Sep 5th, 2015)
Caroline II: Caroline plunges headfirst into her new existence among the Damned. (Sep 5th—6th, 2015)
Emmett II: Emmett tries to abort a soured heist while making a few bucks. (Sep 5th, 2015)
Louis III: Lou turns to the Holy Mother of Church for aid and attempts to pawn off an old keepsake. (Sep 6th, 2015)
Caroline III: Caroline fights for her unlife when an intruder breaches her daytime haven. (Sep 6th, 2015)
Emmett III: Concerned he’s in over his head, Em chances a meeting with a crooked cop and walks into a trap of his own devising. (Sep 5th, 2015)
Louis IV: Lou cases a double homicide and calls up an loa to obtain sorely needed answers. (Sep 7th, 2015)
Caroline IV: Caroline navigates a tense reunion with her mortal family. (Sep 6th, 2015)
Emmett IV: Em faces truth. (Date ?)
Louis V: Lou picks up the pieces of a broken world. (Sep 7th, 2015)
Caroline V: Caroline faces the Lancea et Sanctum’s judgment for her unsanctioned Embrace. (Sep 6th—7th, 2015)
Emmett V: Em awakens from his nightmares in the hospital and faces a horrifying loss. (Sep 7th, 2015)
Louis VI: Lou teams up with a new partner. (Sep 7th, 2015)
Caroline VI, Emmett VI: Caroline attends a tediously necessary social function; Em remembers back to better times. (May 17th, 2014)
Caroline VII, Louis VII: Caroline enlists some desperately needed help in tracking down her sire; Lou takes on a case that makes him question everything he’s ever done. (Sep 7th, 2015)
Emmett VII: Em gets into further trouble with NOPD. (Sep 10th, 2015)
Caroline VIII: Caroline takes a wrong turn in a bad neighborhood. (Sep 7th, 2015)
Caroline IX, Louis VIII: Caroline covers up an inconvenient sin; Lou offers guidance to a fledgling in need. (Sep 8th, 2015)
Emmett VIII: Beset with crushing medical and legal debt, Em strikes a devil’s bargain with the Dixie Mafia. (Sep 10th, 2015)
Louis IX: Lou reunites with an old flame and confronts a wrathful loa. (Sep 8th, 2015)
Caroline X: Caroline swears a desperate oath and meets a friendly face among the Damned. (Sep 8th, 2015)
Emmett IX: Em faces sentencing for his latest misdeeds. (Sep 10th—13th, 2015)
Louis X: Lou races against time to save a stubborn mambo’s life. (Sep 8th, 2015)
Caroline XI: Caroline deals with a home invasion, learns an abject lesson in how little her pride sells for, and witlessly crosses a perilous boundary. (Sep 9th, 2015)
Emmett X, Mouse I: Em pins his trust on a desperate hope; Mouse helps out a ‘friend’ in need. (Sep 13th, 2015)
Louis XI: Lou recovers from his previous night’s ordeals and delivers a soul-wrenching apology. (Sep 9th, 2015)
Adelais I, Caroline XII: Adelais gives a neonate some lessons in etiquette; Caroline faces a regent’s wrath. (Sep 9th, 2015)
Emmett XI: A lifetime of lies comes crashing down as Em grapples over whether to do the unthinkable: tell the truth. (Sep 13th, 2015)
Caroline XIII: Caroline frantically tries to stop the Masquerade from unraveling as her mortal loved ones grow too curious for their own good. (Sep 10th, 2015)
Louis XII: Bereft of allies and options, Lou agrees to a reluctant meeting with the enemies of his enemies. (Sep 9th, 2015)
Caroline XIV, Lavine I, Rocco I: Caroline acts fast to protect her loved ones from their exposure to the Kindred world, but finds the price of their safety may be all-too high; Lavine puts in an appearance at Elysium; Rocco cleans up a neonate’s Masquerade breach. (Sep 10th, 2015)
Emmett XII: Em accepts his fate. (Sep 16th, 2015)
Louis XIII: Lou seeks out a long-dead fortune teller for counsel over his ominous new affliction. (Sep 9th, 2015)
Caroline XV, Rocco II: Caroline sacrifices a friendship to save a life; Rocco helps teach a neonate a needed lesson. (Sep 10th, 2015)
Louis Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Emmett Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.


Interlude

Mouse I: Mouse witlessly crosses a perilous line.
George I: George shares a devastating secret with Antoine Savoy.


Story Four


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Micheal Prelude: An accounting of what has come before.
Caroline I: Caroline tempts a witless soul into damnation.
Micheal I: Micheal rallies support against an elder who’s gone too far.
Caroline II, Louis I: Caroline repeats an awful sin; Lou settles for losing slowly and stalks a witless pawn.
Micheal II: Micheal barters with Clan Nosferatu for secrets.
Caroline III: Caroline clashes with a rival coterie through mortal proxies and shares a bitter drink with her mortal brother.
Micheal III: Micheal makes an impossible choice between his family and his ideals.
Caroline IV: Caroline orchestrates a two-pronged hit to reclaim a kidnapped friend, but finds she may be no less a monster.
Micheal IV: Micheal attempts to sway an intransigent Malkavian.
Caroline V: Caroline saves a servant and loses a friend.
Cletus I, Micheal V: Cletus tests the loyalties of Antoine Savoy’s new ‘ally’; Micheal goes on an alligator hunt with Cletus, only to find his remaining humanity may be the Sangiovanni’s true quarry.
Caroline VI: Caroline watches a budding romance bloom full flower.
Cletus II, Micheal VI: Cletus and Micheal go hunting for the biggest alligator in the swamp: the Great Honky.
Caroline VII: Caroline clashes with some twice-slighted rivals for a final time—and the hands behind them.
Cletus III, Micheal VII: Micheal attends a birthday party thrown by Cletus’ cannibalistic redneck descendants; Cletus shows his guest the full measure of Southern hospitality.
Caroline VIII: Caroline interrogates an unexpected captive and tempts a second soul into damnation.
Cletus IV, Micheal VIII, Rocco I: Micheal loses more than time at the Boggs’ hands; Cletus celebrates some unexpected nuptials; Rocco issues a warning to a defiant Anarch.
Caroline IX, Louis II: Caroline severs another tie to her mortal past; Lou sets out to bring a criminal to justice.
Rocco II: Rocco passes on some unexpected news to an elder Brujah.
Micheal IX: The Boggs cross a red line with Micheal.
Caroline X, Louis III: Caroline gets drawn into a perilous game of cat and mouse with her sire; Lou gambles centuries of anonymity over a secret that could change everything.
Rocco III: Rocco plays a game of cat and mouse with an intransigent harpy.
Cletus V, Micheal X: Starving, wounded and out of options, Micheal turns to a seeming friend for aid—only to set and spring a trap of his own making; Cletus exacts vengeance upon a treacherous guest.
Caroline XI, Louis IV: Caroline faces apprehension for her crimes; Lou takes a once-inconceivable risk.
Cletus Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Louis V: Having exposed his centuries-hidden identity on Caroline’s behalf, Lou withdraws deep into hiding and seeks out an old teacher’s aid.
Caroline Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.


Interlude

Louis I, Rocco I: An old man attempts to save a young boy’s soul from sin.
Micheal I: Bested but not broken by his captors, Micheal holds out for as long as he can.


Story Five


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Prologue: An accounting of what has come before.
Cletus I: Cletus disciplines a wayward childe and strikes a new accord with Antoine Savoy.
Lavine I: Lavine plumbs the centuries-old journals of Pierre d’Iberville, founder of New Orleans, to uncover an even older mystery.
Cletus II, Rocco I: Rocco baits a trap to ensare his new foes; Cletus defends his domain from a dangerous intruder.
Lavine II: Lavine runs into several unpleasant reminders of her mortal past and butts heads with a dogged cop.
Cletus II, Rocco II: Cletus interrogates his new prisoner; Physically and mentally broken by torture, Rocco entertains a duplicitous offer to yet serve his prince.
Lavine III: Lavine journeys beyond New Orleans to seek the wisdom of kowi anukasha, a native spirit of her people.
Cletus III: Cletus prepares a lavish party to host the Camarila’s diplomats, but discovers several flies in his ointment.
Lavine IV: Lavine receives a chilling reminder why her race keeps to the cities.
Annabelle I: Annabelle approaches the Ventrue elder John Harley Matheson over a matter of mutual aid, only to find she has struck a devil’s bargain and must immediately pay its price.
Jacob I, Lavine V: Lavine faces arrest by mortal authorities and assumes a grave new responsibility; Jacob welcomes a new addition to his ‘family’.
Cletus IV: Reeling from a series of new disasters, Cletus shows his mortal descendants the terrible price for disobedience.
Baptiste I, Lavine VI: Baptiste offers succor to a wounded soul; Lavine searches for sacrifices to placate a demanding spirit, only to make one of herself as well.
Annabelle II, Louis I: Annabelle seeks out an unlikely source of aid; Lou goes against his better judgment to help out a lady in trouble.
Baptiste II: Baptiste perfects Clan Nosferatu’s underground defenses and trades secrets with his overly affectionate sire.
Cletus V, Jacob II, Lavine VII: Seizing advantage of the conflict among the Circle’s Acolytes, Cletus puts his own pawns into play; Jacob gets in over his head rushing to a distressed ally’s rescue; Lavine turns to the despicable Doc Xola for help with a kidnapping, only to rapidly find his monstrosity too much to bear.
Baptiste III: Baptiste offers salvation and damnation to a wayward soul and commits himself to a grave new mission.
Annabelle III, Louis II: Annabelle plots revenge against those who have wronged her; Lou cases an old murder for new answers.
Cletus VI, Jacob III: Cletus receives an early guest to his soiree; Jacob is called upon to provide a sorcerous consultation.
Baptiste IV: Baptiste puts into motion a bold plan: the infiltration of Perdido House, seat of Prince Vidal’s power.
Annabelle IV, Cletus VI: Annabelle presents Cletus with an unorthodox gift; Cletus graciously receives his soiree’s guests and shares an enlightening carriage ride with a disembodied elder.
Annabelle V, Cletus VII, Jacob IV: Annabelle searches for allies among the soiree’s attendees; Cletus plies his charms upon his guests and pits the Camarilla against Clan Sangiovanni in a game of symbolic egg paquing; Jacob summons a restless spirit to learn of an ominous intrusion.
Annabelle VI, Cletus VIII, Jacob V: Annabelle attempts to thwart an assassin’s attack; Cletus moves to conclude his prolix diplomatic deal with the Camarilla, but looming specters threaten to throw all into chaos; Temporarily banished from his domain, Jacob makes provisions for the care of his children and witlessly invites a monster into his home.
Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.


Interlude

George I: George dreams.
Cletus I: Cletus looks into some unusual disturbances.
Rocco I: Rocco is called to account by his superiors.


Story Six


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George I: George hires legal counsel for his upcoming trial.
Mouse I: Mouse enlists dubious help to navigate New Orleans’ criminal justice system.
Caroline I: Caroline deals with a truculent prisoner. (Sep 16th, 2015)
Mouse II: Mouse faces sentence for his inadvertent crimes.
Caroline II: Caroline deals with a long-postponed threat to her personal Masquerade.
Mouse III: Mouse finds himself in dire new financial straits.
Caroline III: Caroline confronts a dangerous intruder in her haven.
Mouse IV: Mouse becomes a YouTube sensation.
Caroline IV, Mouse V: Caroline punishes a wayward sinner; Mouse endeavors to prove his innocence before a stone-hearted audience. (Sep 17th, 2015)
Caroline V: Caroline loses a friend and entertains a cautious offer from a powerful new patron. (Sep 18th, 2015)
Mouse VI: Less than twenty-four hours after his release from jail, Mouse witlessly lands himself in further trouble with the Big Easy’s police.
Caroline VI: Caroline receives some sorely-needed lessons in Kindred etiquette.
Mouse VII: Mouse faces judgment and sentencing for his newest and even more inadvertent crimes.
Caroline VII: Caroline rediscovers a damning secret.
Mouse VIII: Mouse arrives in his new home.
Caroline VIII, Louis I: Caroline pays the price for her newfound knowledge; A wanted man braves too-familiar danger to aid a fledgling in need.
Mouse IX: Mouse hits rock bottom. (Sep 21st—Sep 22nd, 2015)
Caroline IX: Caroline is called to account for her actions and learns a shattering revelation.
Mouse X: Mouse makes his final stand. (Sep 22nd, 2015)
Caroline X: Caroline grants a faithful servant her final reward.
Mouse Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Caroline XII, Cletus I, George II, Rocco I: Caroline comes face to face with her true maker; Cletus makes a trip out to the big city; George betrays two clanmates; Rocco pulls some strings to acquire a new pawn.
Caroline XIII, Cletus II, George III: Cletus hatches a plan to avenge past slights; George is charged with blasphemy against the Lancea et Sanctum.
Cletus III, George IV: Cletus develops a newfound appreciation for the arts; George clashes with New Orleans’ dreaded scourge and pledges loyalty to a new cause and patron.
Caroline XIV, George V, Jacob I: Caroline presents herself before her clanmates; George’s garden of deceit bears fruit as Prince Vidal lays down his final verdict; Jacob receives judgment for his actions.
Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.


Story Seven


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Caroline I: Caroline reminisces over what might (and could never) have been. (Sep 22nd—23rd, 2015)
Story Seven, Milo Prelude I: Milo loses a brother.
Caroline II: Caroline receives a rude awakening and enjoys the hospitality of a powerful new patron.
Isa Prelude I: Isa loses a father.
Caroline III, Rocco I: Caroline attends a tediously necessary social function; Rocco entertains a party of neonates.
Story Seven, Milo Prelude II: A retiring NOPD detective takes on his last case.
Caroline IV: Caroline faces a bitter preview of her Requiem ahead.
Isa Prelude II: Isa tries to save two brothers.
Caroline V: Caroline attends a family funeral.
Rocco II: Rocco collects an owed debt.
Milo I: Milo deals with an intruder in his apartment.
Caroline VI: Caroline sees to her mortal affairs and attempts to set right some old wrongs.
Rocco III: Rocco takes confession and receives a concerning warning about his new tenant.
Isa Prelude III: Isa tries to get by with what’s left of her family.
Caroline VII: Caroline works to engender herself to her discerning clanmates.
Milo II: Milo attempts to make sense of a bizarre home invasion.
Caroline VIII: Caroline establishes a new haven.
Rocco IV: Rocco unwinds with a fellow hound.
Isa I: Isa dies in a bathroom.
Caroline IX: Caroline attempts to mend relations with a former adversary.
Rocco V: A gathering of old friends goes awry as Rocco plays a game of scopa for answers as to a former coterie-mate’s past. (Sep 25th, 2015)
Milo III: Milo attempts to digitally turn the tables upon his stalkers.
Caroline X, Emmett I: Caroline frames an old patsy for a new crime; Em takes a trip outside the Farm.
Rocco VI: Rocco hunts for a patsy to distract a too-fixative Malkavian.
Milo IV: Milo attempts to brighten his spirits among friends and strangers.
Caroline XI, Rocco VII: Caroline and Rocco look into a missing neonate.
Isa II: Isa walks a social tightrope at Elysium.
Caroline XII: Caroline attempts to help an amnesiac solve her own disappearance to make inroads with the city’s Anarchs.
Milo V: Milo pays a visit to what’s left of his father.
Caroline XIII: Caroline investigates the circumstances of her still-mysterious Embrace.
Milo VI: Milo receives a warning from an anonymous benefactor.
Arthur I, Caroline XIV: Arthur prepares a lavish banquet for some demanding patrons; Caroline attends a celebratory dinner. (Nov 27th—Dec 4th, 2015)
Isa III: Isa strikes a devil’s bargain.
Caroline XV: Caroline receives a mother’s gratitude—and rich rewards long overdue. (Dec 4th, 2015)
Milo VII: Milo says his final goodbyes to friends and family.
Caroline XVI: Caroline displays the fruits of her agoge before Clan Ventrue.
Isa IV, Rocco VIII: Rocco raids a lawbreaker’s haven; Isa sells out a faithless ‘benefactor’.
Caroline XVII: Caroline discovers a terrible danger waiting in the wings.
Milo VIII: Milo braves the darkness to take the fight to his tormentors.
Caroline XVIII, Rocco IX: Caroline navigates a perilous web of diplomacy and deceit; Rocco deals with an attack upon his domain. (Dec 16th—17th, 2015)
Milo Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Caroline XIX: Caroline learns the truth of her Embrace at long last. (Dec 17th, 2015)


Interlude

Caroline I: Caroline gets into a bitter family argument.


Story Eight


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Caroline I: Caroline celebrates a birthday. (Dec 19th, 2015)
Arthur I, Emmett I: Arthur dances an evening away; Emmett sets his eye on a new conquest. (Sep 7th, 2007)
Adelais I: A heartless art critic discovers her true calling.
Emmett II: Emmett snares the object of his lusts with sweet words—and finds himself ensnared in turn. (Sep 7th, 2007)
Emmett III: Emmett resolves to make a movie and gets in over his head. (Sep 10th, 2007)
Arthur II, Emmett IV: Arthur hits on a new acquaintance; Emmett makes a long-planned romantic move. (Sep 11th—13th, 2007)
Emil I, Emmett V: Emil auditions for a movie; Emmett reviews a script that cuts too close to home. (Sep 15th—22nd, 2007)
Adelais II: Adelais reaches an accord over a prosperous new domain.
Emil II: Emil digs up old graves for answers into his father’s past. (Sep 22nd, 2007)
Emmett VI: Emmett meets the girl he deserves. (Sep 22nd—25th, 2007)
Adelais III: An icy-tempered harpy enjoys her Requiem’s spoils.
Emil III, Emmett VII: Past becomes present as Emil relives a horrific memory; Emmett helps a man in need. (Sep ?—26th, 2007)
Emil IV: Emil deals with inquisitive police—and parents—in the hospital. (Sep 26th—28th, 2007)
Emmett VIII: Emmett gets even like never before. (Sep 26th—27th, 2007)
Emil V: Emil foretells a dire prophecy. (Sep 26th—28th, 2007)
Emmett IX: Emmett walks into a lion’s den. (Sep 27th—28th, 2007)
Emil VI: Emil’s parents try to outrun his past. (Sep 29th—30th, 2007)
Emmett X: Emmett comes to a final understanding with his parents. (Sep 28th—30th, 2007)
Emil VII: Emil peers upon a foreboding future. (Sep 30th—Oct 2nd, 2007)
Adelais IV: Adelais places a “friendly” wager with her brutal paramour.
Emil VIII, Emmett XI: Emil places his faith in a faithless man; Emmett gets some much-needed legal representation. (Oct 6th—7th, 2007)
Emil IX: Emil comes home. (Oct 6th—16th, 2007)
Emmett Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.


Story Nine


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Emil I: Emil’s troubles follow him to L.A. (Oct 16th, 2007—?)
Jon I: Jon touches down in Vienna and receives a new mission.
Emmett I: Emmett is executed for his crimes by the state of Louisiana. (Jan 5th—Feb 10th, 2016)
Amelie I: Amelie awakens from a coma into a nightmare. (Date ?)
Emil II: Emil accepts a devil’s bargain. (Date ?)
Jon II: Jon uncovers an alarming security breach among Clan Tremere’s secret police.
Amelie II, Emmett II: Amelie explores new realms beyond her darkest imaginings; Emmett faces his afterlife.
Emil III: Emil settles in to his apparent new life. (Day ?)
Jon III: Jon plays an unseen game of cat and mouse with a justicar’s agents.
Emmett III: Emmett faces judgment for his past sins. (Date ?)
Amelie III: Amelie reunites with an old enemy. (Date ?)
Emil IV: Emil erects the first block in his transyphysical tower. (Oct 16th—17th, 2007)
Jon IV: Jon reminds a long-time servant of her place.
Emmett IV: Emmett trades a tale for a tale. (Date ?)
Amelie IV: Amelie gets in trouble with the law over a falsified crime. (Date ?)
Emil V: Emil journeys into Houston’s labyrinthine underground. (Oct 17th, 2007)
Jon V: Dark wings alight upon Jon’s trans-Atlantic plane flight.
Emmett V: Emmett shares a bitter reunion with his living kin. (Date ?)
Amelie V: Amelie endures. (Date ?)
Emil VI: Emil meets a fellow seeker in his quest for knowledge. (Oct 17th, 2007)
Jon VI: Jon says a bittersweet farewell.
Emmett VI: Emmett faces imprisonment by an altogether different manner of gaoler. (Date ?)
Amelie VI: Amelie begins her jail sentence in Orleans Parish Prison. (Date ?)
Emil VII: Emil builds a tower. (Oct 18th, 2007)
Jon VII: Jon collects his childe and sees to remaining affairs in Seattle.
Emmett VII: Emmett gets to know his cellmates. (Date ?)
Amelie VII: Pushed and provoked beyond all endurance, Amelie snaps. (Date ?)
Emil VIII:
Jon VIII, Rocco I: Jon receives a poor welcome in New Orleans; Rocco greets a new arrival to his prince’s city.
Emmett VIII: Emmett risks all to defy his gaolers. (Date ?)
Amelie Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass. (Date ?)


Story Ten


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Celia Prelude I: Celia regrets a wish. (July 17th, 1997—Nov 15th, 2003)
Celia Prelude II: Celia learns to pretend.
Celia I: Celia spreads her wings beyond her sheltered life.
Celia II, Emmett I: Celia tries to introduce her boyfriend to her parents; Em submits to his latest indignity.
Celia III: Celia resolves to stop suffering in silence. (Nov 24th—25th, 2008)
Celia IV, Emmett II: Celia meets two families; Em fans a spark of rebellion.
Celia V: Celia dares to challenge her father.
Caroline I, Celia VI, Emmett III: Caroline helps her father clean up a mess; Celia works to extricate her family from their father’s grasp; Emmett makes a helpful introduction. (March 31st, 2009)
Celia VII, Emmett IV: Celia looks for love in all the wrong places; Em tries to do the right thing without it backfiring. (March 21st—April 1st, 2009)
Celia VIII, Emil I, Emmett V: Celia chooses between a mother and friend in need; Em plans to take down a bastard in need of taking down; Emil cultivates an investment. (April 1st, 2009)
Celia IX, Emmett VI: Celia makes a devil’s bargain; Em pays for doing what he thought was right. (April 1st—2nd, 2009)
Celia X, Emil II, Emmett VII: Celia witnesses the consequences of a fateful choice; Emil and Emmett try to offer what comfort they can. (April 2nd, 2009)
Celia XI: Celia comes face to face with the monster under the bed. (April 2nd, 2009)
Emil III, Emmett VIII: Emil and Emmett run for their lives with a tape that may decide everything. (April 2nd, 2009)
Emil IV: (April 2nd, 2009)
Celia XII: Celia decides between fortune and family. (April 2nd—3rd, 2009)
Celia XIII: Celia confronts her sire. (April 3rd—7th, 2009)
Celia XIV, Emmett IX: Celia reaches a bitter accord; Emmett tries to just go home. (April 7th—21st, 2009)


Interlude Ten

Genevieve I, Sterling I: Genevieve finds a new domitor; Sterling finds a new conscience. (Feb 13th, 2013)
Genevieve II, Sterling II: Genevieve tries to do the right thing; Sterling pushes the limits of his new conscience.


Story Eleven


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Caroline I: Caroline comes to a reckoning with her mortal family.
Jon I: Jon reunites with an old friend and colleague.
Caroline II: Caroline deals with her disownment.
Jon II: Jon and another old friend educate a fledgling.
Caroline III: Caroline celebrates a Christmas Eve unlike any other. (Dec 24th—25th, 2015)
Amelie I: Free from Orleans Parish Prison, Amelie reckons with her all-too abrupt damnation.
Caroline IV: Caroline sees to her myriad affairs.
Adelais I, Caroline V, Isa I, Jon III, Rocco I: The city’s Kindred converge upon Elysium—and find much spectacle in a disorderly guest.
Rocco II: Rocco nurses his wounds and plots a comeback.
Caroline VI, Isa II: Caroline looks for a long-found missing person; Isa learns a brother’s fate. (Feb 16th—Feb 19th, 2016)
Amelie II, Caroline VII: Amelie makes a grisly sacrifice for a new benefactor; Caroline deals with a disobedient servant. (Feb 20th, 2016)
Amelie III, Caroline VIII: Amelie comes to a second rude awakening; Caroline curries favor with a primogen. (Feb 20th, 2016)
Amelie IV, Caroline IX: Amelie tries to learn more about what she is; Caroline shows a new fledgling the ropes. (Feb 20th, 2016)
Amelie V, Rocco III: Amelie is presented before the seneschal; Rocco takes an interest in an abandoned fledgling. (Feb 20th, 2016)
Caroline X: Caroline seeks out lost souls and tries to appease an affronted elder.
Jon IV: Jon investigates a traitorous clanmate’s haven.
Amelie Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass. (Feb 20th, 2016)
Caroline XI: Someone close asks Caroline to cover up an unspeakable crime. (Feb 29th, 2016)
Jon V: Jon twists a seeming faux pas into an advantage.
Caroline XII: Caroline prunes a poisoned tree and looks for love where she can find it.
Jon VI: Jon reaches accords with two Toreador.
Caroline XIII: Caroline comes to a final reckoning with her mortal mother and a long-hated foe. (March 1st—7th, 2016)
Celia I, Jon VII: Celia plies her charms upon a potential new patron; Jon tests a promising neonate. (Feb 13th, 2016)
Caroline XIV: Caroline settles in among her new family. (March 8th, 2016)
Jon Epilogue: A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Caroline XV: Caroline confronts her sire—her true sire—and meets her destiny. (March 8th, 2016)


Interlude Eleven

Celia I: Celia settles in to her existence among the Damned. (Sep 4th, 2009—Dec 24th, 2010)
Celia II: Celia allows herself to be used. (Dec 26th, 2008—Jan 1st, 2011)
Celia III: Celia breaks a defiant soul and makes a new ally. (April 6th—20th, 2010)
Celia IV, Estrellado I: Estrellado finds a new lover. (March 1st—March 3rd, 2016)


Story Twelve


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Caroline I: Caroline brings a dead woman back to life.
Emmett I: Em gets acquainted with his band of fellow escapees. (Date ?)
Celia I: Celia runs into some unexpected reminders from her old life. (March 4th, 2016)
Caroline II: Caroline deals with another disobedient servant.
Emmett II: Em catches up with an old girlfriend. (Date ?)
Celia II: Celia tries to rekindle an old flame. (July 20th—23rd, 2012)
Caroline III: Caroline attempts to enjoy a peaceful day with her new family.
Emmett III, Lamarck I: Em spies on a vampire and encounters a helpful soul in the Underworld; Lam finds some rubes to con.
Celia III: Celia confesses to an old betrayal. (July 26th—30th, 2012)
Caroline IV: Caroline balances her new duties with increasingly unanswerable personal demands.
Celia IV: Celia reminds her servants of their place. (March 4th—5th, 2016)
Emmett IV: Emmett grapples with his Shadow and spies on his ex-lover. (Date ?)
Caroline V: Caroline contends with the sheriff to sway her sire’s increasingly unstable rule.
Celia V: Celia drinks from the wrong vessel before a poorly-timed family dinner. (March 6th, 2016)
Emmett V: Weary of fighting his dark side, Em strikes an accord with an even greater evil. (Date ?)
Celia VI: Celia takes up the Nosferatu on a dare. (March 6th—7th, 2016)
Caroline VI: Caroline stages a death.
Celia VII: Celia wakes up kidnapped. (March 8th, 2016)
Caroline VII, Emmett VI: Caroline evaluates a new asset; Em forgives an old sin.
Celia VIII, Emmett VII: Em and Celia dance through a shared dream. (March 8th, 2016)
Celia IX: Celia interrogates a truculent prisoner. (March 8th, 2016)
Emmett VIII: Em hunts for souls.
Celia X: Celia lets her hair down at one of the French Quarter lord’s famous revels. (March 8th—9th, 2016)
Ayame Prelude: Ayame suffers under a cruel domitor. (Nov 11th, 2009—April 16th, 2010)
Celia XI: Celia says a surprisingly easy goodbye. (March 9th, 2016)
Caroline VIII, Celia XII: A children’s playdate turns perilous as Celia reveals her true identity to the wrong person. (March 9th, 2016)
Celia XIII: Celia digs into the past with her mortal mother. (March 9th, 2016)
Ayame I, Celia XIV: Ayame tries to avert a massacre of the city’s thin-bloods; Celia tries to lure an older lover back into her arms. (December 4th, 2011—March 9th, 2016)
Caroline IX:
Celia XV: Celia reconnects with her one-time paramour. (March 9th, 2016)
Ayame II: Ayame reaches an arrangement with an unexpected contact. (March 10th, 2016)
Celia XVI: Celia receives a dire mission from her sire. (March 10th, 2016)
Caroline X:
Celia XVII, Emmett IX: Celia deals with some unexpected daytime intruders; Em collects a few more souls. (March 10th, 2016)
Celia XVIII: Celia runs into an unwelcome figure from her past. (March 10th, 2016)
Emmett X: Em hits a potential jackpot. (Date ?)
Celia XIX: (March 10th, 2016)
Caroline XI:
Celia XX, Emmett XI: (March 10th—11th, 2016)
Celia XXI: Celia puts in an appearance at Elysium. (March 11th, 2016)
Emmett XII, Lamarck II: Emmett commits his greatest transgression yet. (Date ?)
Celia XXII: Celia shepherds a fledgling into the night. (March 11th—12th, 2016)
Emmett XIII: Emmett prepares to receive his heart’s desire. (Date ?)
Celia XXIII: Celia hears the last words she ever expected to from an estranged relative. (March 12th, 2016)
Caroline XII:
Celia XXIV: Celia breaks some surprising news to her family. (March 12th, 2016)
Ayame III:
Celia XXV: Celia takes a new lover. (March 12th, 2016)
Caroline XIII:
Celia XXVI: Celia flees a madhouse. (March 13th, 2016)
Emmett XIV: Emmett battles his Shadow to the death for the ultimate prize. (Date ?)
Celia XXVII: Celia her tries to win her sire’s approval and stop the Masquerade from unraveling around her mortal family. (March 13th, 2016)
Caroline XIV:
Celia XXVIII: Celia picks up the pieces of a broken Masquerade. (March 13th, 2016)
Emmett XV: Emmett is reborn.
Celia XXIX: Celia reunites a brother and sister. (March 13th—14th, 2016)
Celia XXX: Celia breaks in a new ghoul and walks back from a terrible mistake. (March 14th, 2016)
Emmett XVI: Emmett gets a new face.
Celia XXXI: Celia attempts to win back an aggrieved friend and cover up a new weakness. (March 14th—15th, 2016)
Celia XXXII: Celia deals with a spy and feeds an alien hunger. (March 15th—16th, 2016)
Emmett XVII: Emmett decides how to spend his new unlife.
Celia XXXIII:
Celia XXXIV:
Emmett Epilogue: A final accounting of all that has come to pass.
Celia XXXV:
Celia XXXVI:


Tall Tales & Might-Have-Beens

The following logs are not canon. They weren’t played out and are speculative fiction written by the game’s players. Nevertheless, truth may be found in lies, and lies may be found in truth: the “real” logs have misinformation and falsehoods aplenty, while the below logs may contain valid insights into characters’ true selves.

At the end of the night, vampires are a race of liars. Find your version of the truth wherever you can.

Capes: Celia waits for her sire.
Gravestones: Celia pays respects to her lost love.
Midnight: Celia celebrates the new year.
Monsters and Maidens: Celia’s love takes her as a ghoul.
Rescue: Celia prays for deliverance.
Roof: Celia is too late to rescue a loved one.
Whore: Celia learns her place.
Wrists: Celia mourns a wedding that can no longer be.
The Tax: Some hapless tourists hope to win big at the casino.


View
Tall Tales & Might-Have-Beens

The following logs are not canon. They weren’t played out and are speculative fiction written by the game’s players. Nevertheless, truth may be found in lies, and lies may be found in truth: the “real” logs have misinformation and falsehoods aplenty, while the below logs may contain valid insights into characters’ true selves.

At the end of the night, vampires are a race of liars. Find your version of the truth wherever you can.

Capes: Celia waits for her sire.
Gravestones: Celia pays respects to her lost love.
Midnight: Celia celebrates the new year.
Monsters and Maidens: Celia’s love takes her as a ghoul.
Rescue: Celia prays for deliverance.
Roof: Celia is too late to rescue a loved one.
Whore: Celia learns her place.
Wrists: Celia mourns a wedding that can no longer be.
The Tax: Some hapless tourists hope to win big at the casino.

View
Story Twelve, Emmett Epilogue

Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

Emmett: And now it’s the end, again, only it takes Em a minute to realize it’s also a beginning, which maybe happy endings should be. Are supposed to be. But the truth of the story is always more complicated. The truth of people even more so, especially when those people are also monsters.

It’s a happy ending for Emmett Delacroix, and the beginning of the end for everybody else.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

Emmett: Bertram Villars arrives to find his office broken into one morning. Nothing much is taken, and even the vandalism is minimal. One piece of vicious graffiti catches his eye, though, spray painted in blood red as it is over the law degree on his wall:

I O U
—M


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

Emmett: Cash Money’s having a good night. It’s like all his other good nights. He’s in his club surrounded by his whores and thugs and pathetic petitioners. Even better, he’s surrounded by people. People he doesn’t know but who all know him, because he’s a mean lean Cajun rapin’ machine, and he’s a cop, too, so there’s nobody in this whole world of monsters that can touch him.

Only tonight, he sees something in the crowd that makes him curse and stutter through his debauched carousing. Tonight, among all the jealous gazes that tickle him at his table, one tugs at his attention, holds him in its grip.

They’re terribly familiar, is the thing, though damned if he can place them. He’s damned anyway, though, and he has the unmistakable impression of looking into eyes he had somehow acclimated to never seeing again. None of these are what shake Ricky Mouton to his Redbone soul, though.

No, it’s that once when he was a boy he made eye contact with a cottonmouth in the bayou, and that was the last time he saw eyes that shape.

Only snakes don’t have eyelids, so they can’t wink.

But this one does, and after the officer of the law blinks, the eyes are gone.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: The nurses tell the sweet and handsome visitor who swings by that Mrs. Merinelli in the hospital there anymore. She’s no longer under arrest, either. She was discharged a little back. They mention the name “Malveaux.” Apparently some people get happy endings after all.
Except not really. Lena’s still half-awake in the living room, at god knows what hour in the AM, staring at some movie on the TV with glazed eyes and a half-eaten tub of ice cream. She’s already getting fat again.

She eventually slumps forward into a sugar- and depression-fueled stupor. Maybe she doesn’t register the words said by the handsome visitor, stolen into the room like a sandman into that border state between dream and waking. Maybe tomorrow will bring no further news about her missing husband and kids.

But a smile still touches the corners of the sleeping woman’s face.

Eveline Merinelli will have good dreams tonight.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

Emmett: The dogs are barking again. Phil can’t get them calm, can’t even make them whine in response to his stern commands. Something in the house is just driving them mad. Some scent, maybe. He turns his attention to the thing he found in his office at work, the anonymous gift from some student or other. He wouldn’t normally keep such a thing, but he really has no idea who sent it to him, and besides, it reminds him of better days. Much better days. He’ll keep it, he decides suddenly. Hell, maybe he’ll dig out some tackle and bait to go with his new rod.

It’s been so long since he’s gone fishing.

In the same room, perfectly still and perfectly invisible, somebody smiles.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: A movie director might say a fishing boat and a dying carp on a hook is where it all began. It is where a movie director had it all begin, after the in media res opening scene. But there’s a sense of closure and everything coming full circle as a visitor walks up the now-familiar steps to 1415 Third Street.

The first time, he was a living boy, looking for affections to toy with and lusts to satisfy. Desperately fleeing the emptiness inside of him.

The second time, he was a dead man, striking a devil’s bargain to avoid a fate worse than death. Desperately fleeing the emptiness inside of him.

The third time, he’s… the others like him all say they’re dead, but the Sandman has died, really died. Whatever he now is, it feels more alive than he used to be.

But this time he doesn’t want anything from the house of nightmares. This time he’s just here to say his goodbyes, and perhaps offer thanks for this third lease on life.

The house’s matriarch is not present to receive him, though some part of her feels like it will always be here. But he isn’t really here for her, anyway.

Cécilia looks good. Really good, even in a sleeping robe and slippers, without her hair or face done up, and another man’s ring on her finger. It might just be because he can see the blonde of her hair, and the rest of her, all in color. Or maybe it’s the heartfelt smile that lights up her eyes, after he says who she is, and the feel of her skin and warm body against his as she hugs him. It’s her first, he realizes, not to Elliot, but to the real him.

He feels his new fangs lengthening in his mouth, too, at her embrace, at the sound of the heart beating in her chest, pumping hot blood through her veins. Some part of him wonders how she would taste. If the flavor of her lifeblood over his tongue would answer whether she is a monster too.

It’s probably for the best, when she pulls away.

For her. For him. He doubts that would make Maman very happy.

She’s happy for him, though. She really is.

“I hope you can find peace here, Em,” she says.

Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. It’d be nice if he did.

“You have forever,” she says simply. “And now that you’re longer burdened by your dark side… I think this second chance is just what you need. You’ve been through life and death, made mistakes, and come out the other side. I think you’ve gained wisdom from your experiences. I don’t think you’re the same man I met at a McGehee school dance. I think you’re right that you need time and distance to process everything you’ve experienced.”

She smiles.

“And there’s no rush. You have forever.”

She plants a chaste kiss upon his cheek. She wishes him luck. She wishes him well. She tells him to be careful out there. She tells him to stop by if he’s ever in town again.

Is she a monster?

Is this, as he asked another monster, inhuman indifference? Or real forgiveness, real grace?

Perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t matter.

Either way, she’s less of a monster than he is.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: Finding shelter from the dawn is tricky, that first night. Camille tells him not to crash at Chakras. He’ll have to get used to finding shelter, if he wants to survive on his own. If he can’t do that in the city he grew up, he can’t do that anywhere.

But he does. It might be inaccurate to say that a man who’s died (twice?) is good at surviving, but Emmett Delacroix always got by on his own, and the Sandman will too.

He did tonight. He will tomorrow. He will for a lot of tomorrows.

This time he isn’t chasing his own death. He caught it, like a dog with a car, but it’s not true that he had no idea what to do with it. It tasted awful and he spat it back out.

So that leaves this.

The I-10 cuts through sun-baked Texas and Southwest desert before coming to a stop in L.A. Hollywood. The Dream Factory. The movie capital of America. It seems a fitting place for the Sandman to go first, maybe followed by a detour to Vegas and San Francisco, if he doesn’t change his mind. There’s also the Big Apple. Or maybe he’ll head south into Mexico, practice his Spanish. They say Mexico is dangerous because of the Sabbat. They say the Great Plains are dangerous because of werewolves. Frankly, everywhere sounds dangerous.

But the Sandman intends to go everywhere, because Emmett Delacroix was never one to listen to warnings. He’ll either survive or he won’t.

This time, at least, he’ll have help.

Eileen’s arms fit snugly around his chest as he revs up the motorcycle, clad in a leather jacket, no helmet, and a belief in his own invincibility’s entirely justified this time, at least from road accidents. The moon shines brightly in the sky, its silvery outline promising an eternity of nights ahead.

Eternity. It’s more than he honestly knows what to do with. Emmett Delacroix was always good at the chasing, never what came after. Maybe that’s why Sami struck it rich before he did. What would he have even done with all that money? What does someone who’s felt so empty for so long do when he gets everything he’s supposed to want? What comes next?

He didn’t know then. He doesn’t know now.

But Cécilia was right about one thing.

He has time.

He’ll survive or he won’t. He’ll figure it out or he won’t.

He’s seduced the devil’s own daughter. Orchestrated a revenge to make the most jaded elders of his kind proud. Burned down a mob boss’ house and spun his giant cannibal hitman into a friend. Killed a man everyone said was untouchable by the likes of him. Twice. Spat the arrogant and the powerful in their faces, when he wasn’t vomiting into their laps. Done things everyone warned would be the death of him, and were, and bounced right back from the consequences like a kid off a trampoline. Led an army of duped souls into the devil’s hungry maw. Fed his literal dark side to a monster. Outlasted nightmares, danced with demons, woven dreams into bedazzling tapestries.

He absently spins a new dream in the palm of his hand, and listens to Eileen clap and exclaim at the pretty show.

It is a pretty show. It’s a remarkable show. Whatever else might be said of him, Emmett Delacroix’s whole existence has been a remarkable show.

He’s been a man, been a ghost, been a vampire, and been as many things as tales he’s told and dreams he’s spun.

It’s time, now, for him to be something else. Perhaps many things else. He may be a literal bloodsucker, but the cancerous emptiness gnawing at his soul is finally gone. What he decides to fill it with is his choice. An infinity of vistas and an eternity of years stretch before him like the open highway.

He grips the motorcycle’s handlebars and roars off into the night.

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Emmett: And what better way could he end his story, by beginning another one?

For a moment, everything is perfect.

Then his new, perfect face wrinkles in consternation. He swears, and his profanity is swallowed by the wind.

He yells at Eileen to hold on as he guns the bike into a wild, reckless turn that would set a man who had something to lose’s teeth on edge.

He’s just realized he’s forgotten something…


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, AM

GM: The Sandman drives back to the Quarter. He drives back to the place it all began: the pretty little condo in hell.

Technically, it was never a condo. It was an apartment. But ‘condo in hell’ sounded better than ‘apartment in hell’, and that’s what matters. How it all sounds. How it all looks. How the story and all its pretty illusions come together.

He thinks back to the question he asked Cécilia during their goodbye.

“Do vampires become ghosts?”

“I don’t think so,” she’d said, shaking her head. “You, they, go on to whatever final fate awaits you.”

“What do you think that is?”

“The Lancea et Sanctum believe Kindred go to Hell, with the possibility of resurrection and redemption upon Christ’s Second Coming for Kindred who’ve been faithful to the teachings of Longinus. Many Invictus Kindred share that belief. Many Kindred raised in Western cultures without strong religious convictions still seem to accept the belief they go to Hell. Others just don’t think about it. Many who are atheists believe they simply cease to exist. Kindred who follow non-Christian faiths all have their own explanations. Caroline tells me one of her ghouls is Jewish and believes the same thing her faith teaches: people and Kindred who’ve done bad things spend time in Sheol having their souls purified, but even Hitler’s will be clean by the time the Messiah comes. Kindred who’ve made serious study of the occult can believe much stranger and darker things. Maman’s told me about one theory which holds that the Strix, demonic owls made of smoke and hate, are the specters of deceased Kindred.”

“So it’s like the mortal afterlife, in that regard,” she’d answered. “The only people who know for sure are the people who are there.”

“Ah, but I asked you,” he’d said. “Just like the last time we talked about this. What do you think happens to us?"

“I believe in a merciful and all-loving God, Emmett. But I also believe our blood defines us. I believe our blood is perhaps the strongest force in existence. Kindred have inherited the blood of Caine, and with it, his sins. I believe that Kindred go to Hell as a result of the covenant they’ve made with their forefather, even if they made it involuntarily. But," she’d then emphasized, “I also believe in Christ’s grace and mercy. I believe the Kindreds’ suffering doesn’t have to last forever, and that upon the Second Coming, those whose actions were more than their blood can enjoy a final reward not determined by their blood.”

“Maman just laughs whenever we talk about that,” she’d continued with a faint grimace. “I don’t think she shares my belief in that regard. She hasn’t told me exactly what she believes happens to Kindred after they die, but… I have the feeling her answer is much, much grimmer. And she knows so much more than I do. The implications of that can be very dispiriting to think about. I want to believe that something better can await you and Caroline.” She’d paused. “But that’s what it means to have faith: to believe in something better not because you have evidence, but because you trust in God.”

So he goes to Hell. Maybe not permanently, which is a nice thought, but even she acknowledges that he goes to a place of suffering and torment. It was a refreshingly direct answer.

The truth is, it does’t much bother him. If there is a Hell, then by any reasonable metric, Emmett Delacroix deserves to go there. He’s made his peace with that.

“But ashed licks don’t become ghosts,” he’d repeated, just to be sure.

‘Ashed.’ He’d liked that word when it came up in the car with Sami.

“Ashed licks don’t become ghosts,” Cécilia nodded. “Maman tells me that most rules have exceptions—you’re a fairly obvious one, as I hadn’t thought ghosts could become Kindred—but she was very clear with me, when I asked, that destroyed Kindred don’t become ghosts. Whatever happens to you is final… outside of God’s hands, if you believe in that.”

Well, that was good enough for him.

The Sandman drives and drives, and the night rolls past. He drives until it’s just the right time when he arrives back at his old place, just one story up from Café Soulé and the chocolate crepes he can no longer enjoy. He exercises a little of his new glamour, and one of the apartment residents happily lets him past the locked door. He walks up to the balcony where he used to take his smokes.

Pic.jpg
He waits.

He waits.

Then he starts to smoke.

There’s no lighter.

Or cigarette.

No, the smoke is wafting from his blistering, blackening skin. His Beast screams with pain, with rage, with panic. It’s the newest incarnation of pure evil to rent a room in the dilapidated house that is his soul, and it’s just as pissed at him as the last tenant. It wants to get away. It wants anything besides this. The Sandman grips the railing and stares ahead into the rising sun. He’s glad he told Eileen what he was doing, and that he told her to go back to Chakras, or wherever else she wanted to go. She doesn’t need to get burned trying to save him from the flames crackling up his flesh, even if burning other people through his self-destructive behaviors is what he’s best at. Who says he can’t learn?

He smiles, and he feels a smoldering ligament in his jaw tear. He looks down at his hands and he sees something the color and texture of burning charcoal. His Beast is an all but physical force trying to throw him out of harm’s way, and its soul-deep terror rocks through him like a hit of the strongest, longest line of coke he ever snorted (was he trying to kill himself then too, by ODing?), but he grips the railing like a lifeline. A deathline. He grips it and he watches the sun rise over rosy dawn sky.

The truth is, there’s no happy ending for people like Emmett Delacroix. A fresh start was a nice thought. Ending his story by beginning a new one was an even nicer thought. But he’ll always be on the run from his past, no matter how many new names and faces he hides behind.

There’s no happily ever for any of the Kindred, either, he thinks. They just have to enjoy the smaller parts of a very sad song.

That’s the real Requiem. The Swan Song. They might as well skip to the end.

He spent all his life chasing his end.

Gasper spent all his death chasing their end.

His Shadow even offered him Oblivion. Why didn’t he just take it?

Well, the truth was that Gasper pissed him off, and he wasn’t about to let that childish brat get one over on him. The surest way to get Emmett Delacroix to do something is to tell him not to do it, even if that means cutting the nose to spite the face. This, he thinks savagely as he burns and blisters and blackens, is spiting someone else. His Beast doesn’t want him to do this. As far as he’s concerned, that makes it the right decision. He’d have been too good at being a vampire. It’s better for everyone this way.

And no coming back as a ghost, this time. Abélia’s reward was good for that.

Emmett Miloud Delacroix closes his eyes and lets the sun burn him to a crisp. For all the lies he told, and for all that could be said about his life, death, and undeath, there’s one thing people can now say for sure:

There’s one less monster in the world.

A smile touches the dead man’s face, as it ends where it began, and then he’s ash upon a morning wind.


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Story Twelve, Celia XXXIII

“Feeling lucky?”
—Gunner


Wednesday evening, 16 March 2016

GM: Celia wakes up in her lover’s arms. Her phone, like so often, has a number of text messages.

The oldest, from Logan, reads Robby is a cuck.

Celia: Celia exhales sharply through her nose at the message. Quietly, though. She thinks maybe she woke up before Roderick for once. Not that her half-laugh would wake him.

lol why?

GM: Her brother does not immediately reply.

A later one, from Emily, reads Oh man. Story for you later tonight.

Celia: Oh boy.

Oh boy.

Are you bringing Robby to dinner?

GM: A third, from her mom, reads Would you like to swing by later tonight, sweetie? Maybe I can have a better dinner for you then :)

nah just us + mom + Lucy + Dani, Emily texts back.

Celia: oh okay. i wanted u 2 meet someone but can do another day

GM: can do tonight if you want, it’s just a casual dinner

Celia: “You up?” Celia asks over her shoulder.

GM: There’s another text from Randy.

Reggie’s been fucking Mabel, do u care?

Celia: Consensual?

GM: “Mmm. Yeah,” Rod answers, giving her a kiss.

maybe?

Celia: find out.

“Oh. I was going to shave your head.”

GM: kk

“Ah, but I’m a dude, that’d actually look good on me,” he smirks, pulling her against him.

Celia: “I dunno, I bet you have a pointy dome under there.”

She snuggles closer anyway, peering up at his head as if she can see beneath his hairline.

GM: “We can find out, if you like. It’ll just grow back.”

Celia: “Mm. Maybe tonight, then.” She can replace Blossom’s beau’s hair with Roderick’s, if she wants. She’d cut and colored her own, but if he’s offering…

“Mom is having Dani over for dinner tonight.”

“I was going to ask if you wanted to join us, but then I thought maybe not a good idea..?”

GM: He thinks. “Maybe ask Dani?”

“Actually, she’ll probably be pissed after you tell her she’s not emotionally blackmailing me for rent money.”

Celia: “Maybe you two can work it out tonight so Friday isn’t awkward as fuck.”

GM: “Ah, that’s a really good point. I don’t want to get into anything around Dad.”

“I also don’t want to around your family, frankly. Maybe we should just meet somewhere privately?”

“This isn’t their drama.”

Celia: “Oh. Yeah, for sure. She said she’s relatively free tonight.”

Celia fires off a quick text to Dani.

He wants to talk to you. Can we meet after dinner?

GM: There isn’t an immediate response.

Celia: “Mostly,” she says, “I want you to meet my mom with your new face.”

“So that when you inevitably ask me to marry you it’s not going to be weird.”

It won’t be anyway, she knows, since Diana knows.

But it’s better for her cover.

“And Emily,” she adds.

GM: “Okay,” he says. “Let’s just resolve our drama away from them. It’s really bad manners to drag uninvolved people into it.”

Celia: “Nah,” Celia disagrees, “Emily and Mom would love to play mediator, and I’d make a big batch of popcorn for all of us.”

“And we’d throw it at you when you say the wrong thing.”

“Very helpful.”

GM: He cracks a smile. “Ha. Maybe that would lighten the mood.”

Celia: “And Lucy would tell you you’re both being silly and to hug and make up.”

GM: “Six-year-olds can be smarter than grown-ups a surprising number of times.”

Celia: “I am a genius,” she tells him, setting her phone aside to flip the pair so that she straddles his hips.

“More that they lack a filter.”

GM: “Who says that isn’t smarter?” he asks, pulling her in for a deep kiss.

“God, you’re so hot.”

“It’s such a privilege to wake up next to you, you know that? So many licks don’t have that.”

Celia: “That’s why they’re all miserable old cunts.”

GM: “Whereas we have your happy sexy cunt.”

Celia: “Wet, too. You should do something about that.”

GM: “I still owe you.”

So he does.


Wednesday evening, 16 March 2016

Celia: When they’re done, Celia tells Roderick that she’ll let him know what Dani says. They can meet up at the place they met before, if he wants (“Celia’s house”), and then she’s on her way to Flawless to meet Alana and have a quick bite before dinner.

The routine for a quick snack is pretty simple: Alana brings the client back to work on them, flips a switch that lets Celia know they’re ready (whether this means they have a mask on or are laying face down with their eyes closed varies from service to service), and Alana makes some excuse to open the door. Hot towels. Hot stones. Glass of water. Need more product. Whatever it is, she lets Celia slip inside to feed.

Alana, still wearing Celia’s face, is with a local EMT that hates how she looks and still lives with her mom. Celia has been able to help suggest style and makeup changes, removed a lot of the old acne scars that had plagued the girl since childhood, and over the past few months has really let the inner glow shine through. Celia snacks on her while she’s masking, eyes closed beneath the damp cloth stretched across them that “reduces puffiness and delivers hyaluronic acid to the area to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.”

It’s a convenient excuse.

GM: It’s a convenient feeding routine.

Alana looks just like Celia. Can do the same things to a client that Celia does. The hapless kine likely wouldn’t even notice the switch, even if she had the open eyes to see.

Abby White looks better under Celia’s capable hands. She’s still overweight, but that’s nothing Celia couldn’t fix either, if she wanted to. Alana looks at the plump girl with the same withering contempt she regards all overweight people.

But fat or thin, her blood is just as hot and vital over Celia’s tongue. Her Beast was a hungry thing, after all that sex with Roderick.

After all that sex the previous night, too.

Celia: And tonight, with as much as she has going on and all the flesh she has to sculpt, Celia takes more than she needs. She doesn’t have time to see more clients and take little sips from them all as she normally would; she bleeds herself instead while she works, making an excuse about a new product and microneedling that’s going to make Abby feel tired for a few days and to take it easy while her body recovers.

Her Beast, at least, is content with the knowledge that she has banked as much as she has, and looks forward to imbibing it later. Celia pointedly does not think about the other people the blood is for; she only plans to drink it if something crazy happens.

Celia slips back out the door once she’s done with Abby, moving into Jade’s suite to get ready for Alana. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes for her to finish with Abby; she’d been on the second mask and all that’s left is to remove it and moisturize.

GM: Alana is back promptly.

“It was good for everyone to see you around during the day, mistress,” she says as she lays down.

“I had Louise fill in again during the audition.”

Celia: “How did it go?”

GM: “It went very well, mistress! Ron said it was mostly a formality, we’d have the part ‘as long as we didn’t vomit over the camera.’ But I still think that it did.”

“I asked if he could schedule any night roles or shoots, too, just in case you wanted to do some acting yourself.”

“He said he’d get back to me.”

Celia: “Perfect.” Celia smiles down at herself, syringe of anesthetic in hand. “I’m very proud of you, ‘Lana. I’m excited to see where this goes. I don’t know that we’ll be an actress forever, but it will be fun for a while.”

“Little pinch, darling.” The needle pierces her flesh.

GM: Celia’s face beams at her mistress’ praise.

“I loved being you, mistress. I spent soooo much time in front of the mirror, after you gave me permission…”

Celia: “I don’t doubt that,” Celia says with a grin. “Maybe I’ll keep you like this for a while when we go to LA and turn myself into your boyfriend instead of Jade.”

GM: “I’ll suck your cock all night long, mistress,” Alana purrs. “I’ll go to sleep with it in my mouth.”

Celia: “We’d never leave the haven.”

GM: “I’ll snuggle up to you during the day, when you’re asleep, fit your dick in my mouth, and lie there until you wake up. For hours. Sucking your cock is such an honor, mistress.”

Celia: Celia leans down to press a kiss against the lips that look like hers.

“You’re insatiable, pet. I love it.”

GM: Alana kisses her hungrily back.

“I had another dirty thought, mistress… there are cock gags, I’m sure you know. Gags shaped like cocks, with these big thick panels in front. Very sexy. But they’re made of plastic, of course.”

“You could make a real cock gag, with a real cock, for us. You could lock it on me so I’m stuck with a real dick in my mouth until you decide I can use it for something else.”

“You could take me out in public, somewhere with lots of people. And I’ll have a real dick in my mouth the entire time, and not be able to say anything.”

Celia: “Like a sex club?” Celia muses, unsurprisingly aroused at the thought.

GM: “Yes, mistress. Where they all could know.”

“Or even somewhere boring, like a church. Somewhere you’re not supposed to do sexy things. I could stare at a priest with a real dick in my mouth.”

Celia: “Pretty sure we’d be chased out of a church.”

“I’ll consider it.”

GM: “A sex club would be very sexy too, mistress. The only thing more sexy than a gag in my mouth is a gag that’s also a real cock.”

Celia: “Tempting. What if we made it hollow so that anyone could put their cock inside of it? I could walk you around on a leash and let people use you like they want to.”

GM: “A cock in a cock, mistress,” Alana beams. “That’s perfect! Then they could all cum in my mouth too, and you’d never even have to take the gag out.”

“I’d have to swallow all of their cum. Or just let it all sit in my mouth.”

Celia: “Good girls swallow.”

GM: “Yes, mistress. I’d swallow it all.”

“It’s just very sexy to know I wouldn’t have a choice.”

“If I were bad and didn’t swallow, you could say you wouldn’t remove the gag until I did.”

“I might have this big, big load of cum in my mouth, from god knows how many guys, that I’d have thought I could get away with spitting out, once the gag was out, and then you’d punish me for being bad by making me swallow all of it at once.”

“It would be like drinking cum, there’d be so much.”

“Drinking, not just swallowing.”

Celia: “I’ll work on something for you, then.”

GM: “Thank you, mistress,” Alana beams.

Celia: Then the work begins, the sculpting and twisting to turn Celia back into Alana: lighter hair, darker skin, eyes that gently lift in the corners, lips a little more full than Celia’s own. Less padding in the breasts and butt—Celia has always enjoyed a tiny bit of extra there, whereas Alana does not like any reminders that she used to be fat. She scrubs away Celia from her ghoul until just Alana remains, working quickly but not impossibly fast.

GM: Alana’s voice slurs as the anesthesia kicks in. She remains still as Celia works on her, then thanks her mistress for giving her her body back. And for her use of Celia’s oh-so-sexy body.

Celia: When it’s done, Celia asks Alana if she was able to get ahold of Lucia for her.

GM: “Yeth, mithreth. The thaid the could mee’ you a’ the Thangio’anni manthe in thoo thayths, a’ 3 AM.”

Celia: “Friday at 3?” Celia repeats.

GM: Alana nods her head.

Celia: “Perfect.”

Celia tells her to enjoy her evening and that she’ll be wrapped up with family stuff for a while.

Once Alana is gone, Celia turns to the next mask that she needs to make. She has no immediate plans to put Diana around any Kindred, but Roderick will need a disguise for this evening. Her fingers form the second of his masks, smoothing it out into a face that looks nothing like him but is still attractive enough to be seen with Jade. It doesn’t take long.

Once it’s done she slides both masks and the wig into her bag to distribute to the Garrisons tonight and heads out to meet her mother.


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, PM

GM: Dani still hasn’t gotten back to Celia. Roderick texts that he supposes Celia can ask in person, then. He’ll come over when his sister gives the thumbs up.

Celia: She says she’ll let him know.

GM: Celia arrives, meanwhile, at her family’s house. Emily and Diana both greet her with her hugs. Lucy is asleep in bed. Dinner is already eaten. Diana makes a show of offering Celia food, “If you haven’t already eaten, sweetie,” but doesn’t press as hard this time. The question mainly seems asked for Emily’s benefit.

“All right, I gotta tell you this,” Emily grins, plopping down on the living room couch.

“So, between Mom and I wanting to learn how to stab properly, and then Logan too, Robby decided it might be best to just practice on our own, outside of HEMA.”

“And we were able to fit in some time to do it today, at Mom’s classroom. Which was pretty convenient.”

“Wide open space we wouldn’t be bothered and all.”

“We wanted you to come-”

“-but you had an important client,” Diana nods.

“So hope you don’t feel bad we didn’t invite you, sweetie.”

“Also, Emi, do we really need to tell this stor-”

“-are you kidding, Mom? It’s a fucking awesome story!”

Diana hems and wrings her hands.

“So, Logan was a total butthead,” says Emily, turning back to Celia.

“He went on about a bunch of machismo bullshit, some real he-man stuff, about having a ‘hunger to win’ and how you had to enjoy hurting people to be good at fencing.”

“He gave Robby a ton of pointers. Robby, who’s been practicing swordfighting for years, unlike Logan, who’s only just picked up a sword.”

“Yay for my boyfriend getting to experience some mansplaining.”

“He really was just trying to help, sweetie,” says Diana.

“Well, he wasn’t. He had this really arrogant, confrontational body language too. Implied Robby was a ‘nice guy’ and a wimp. And a nerd.”

“And, you know, Robby can be a little shy. And he’s pretty modest. He’s not as much of a bitch as me.”

“So he didn’t make too big a deal with Logan, though I was starting to get pissed.”

“So, they’ve got all their equipment on, got the swords, Logan boasts about his ‘hunger to win’… and Robby completely hands him his ass.”

“Like, it’s not even close. Robby just knocks the sword out his hand, twice, and has his sword at Logan’s throat. Like Logan’s got butterfingers.”

“Then when they go again, and Robby lets Logan take the offense—lets him—he just blocks and dodges everything Logan throws at him when he’s nothing, and when he makes these big stupid charges, Robby taps his chest with the sword.” Where he coulda slashed him open."

“It goes on like that. Logan just completely fucking loses it, screaming all sorts of shit, and then Robby literally knocks him on his ass. Like, trips him. The whole thing’s just laughably one-sided.”

“So much for Mr. Nice Guy Cuck.”

Emily’s smiling widely. Diana just makes a fretful expression and clears her throat.

Celia: “Jeeze,” Celia laughs when the story is over, “I was wondering why he sent me that text. That puts everything into perspective.” Celia shakes her head. “He said similar to me yesterday, about needing a killer instinct.”

GM: “Shows what that counts for.”

Celia: “How’d it go otherwise?”

GM: “Well, I was really turned on. I gave Robby a blowjob in the car at the McGehee parking lot.”

Diana looks scandalized. “Oh! Emi!”

Celia: “Hell yeah.” Celia high fives her.

GM: Emily high-fives her back. “I mean it was strategic, doing it in the car meant he was ready to go again when we got back to his apartment. Because I was still really horny.”

“Sweetie, that’s—someone could have seen you!” exclaims Diana.

“And—the car, you might have… gotten it dirty!”

“Relax, Mom, I swallowed so we didn’t have to clean up cum from the car seat,” Emily grins. “Whole thing was very efficient.”

Celia: “That’s the best way to do it,” Celia nods.

GM: Diana looks like she’s about to pass out.

Celia: "Stephen and I used to fuck in the car. “Windows got all foggy.”

GM: “Aw, that’s sweet,” says Emily. “In semi-public?”

Celia: “Think someone took a photo.”

GM: Diana’s hands fly to her mouth.

“Relax, that would’ve been… seven years ago,” says Emily. “Doubt anything’s going to come of it after this long.”

Celia: She can’t share that she just did it last night, too, but with someone else.

So she doesn’t.

Just grins.

GM: “I didn’t know windows actually fogged, though. Robby and I’ll have to try that.”

“Oh! Sweetie, you could get caught! Please don’t!” their mother exclaims.

Celia: “Tell them to join in, if you are.”

GM: “Bingo. They’ll be co-conspirators in the… crime?”

“Please tell me you’re pullin’ my leg,” murmurs Diana.

“I dunno, depends how hot the photographer is,” says Emily.

Celia: “Bingo,” Celia says, “no uglies. No uggos in your threesome.”

GM: Diana clears her throat and says, “The practice went very well, otherwise, sweetie. After, ah, Logan quit. I kissed his boo-boos all better-”

“-which he was a jerk about too, but I guess at least he let you,” says Emily. “I’m glad you stayed, though.”

Celia: “Glad you had fun with it. Learn a lot?”

“Did Dani already head out? I thought I was on time.”

GM: “Dani’s asleep, sweetie,” says her mom. “She came back from school and-”

“-wait, Mom, you’re not finished. Tell Celia how great you did,” smiles Emily.

“Oh, well, I was a lil’ nervous at first, but Robby told me how Jean-Claude Van Damme did karate and ballet, and thought ballet was way harder. So that made me feel better.”

“But it was interesting! I knew from an academic standpoint that ballet had its roots in fencing, but it was pretty neat to give that the ol’ college try!”

“She did great,” says Emily. “Robby complimented her technique way more times than mine. His girlfriend,” she emphasizes with a mock-severe look towards their mom. “Kept saying how graceful and flexible she was, and how she made every move look like a dance.”

“Oh, he had plenty to compliment you about, sweetie, for one thing you were-”

“Nah, you earned it, Mom. You beat me fair and square,” says Emily. “You did great. Be proud of that.”

Celia: “That’s awesome, Mom. I’m real proud of you. Gonna stick with it?”

GM: Diana blushes a little. “Thanks, you two. And I think so! Robby said my bum leg would probably give me a hard time, at some point, but there was no reason we couldn’t take things a lil’ slower.”

Celia: “Awesome. I’m glad you had fun and learned a lot. That’s great! And I’m glad you are gonna take it slow when your leg hurts.”

“Speaking of…”

“When do you want me to set up dinner with Maxen?”

GM: “Oh, we actually did set up a dinner date this Sunday, sweetie, through Logan. Does that work for you, or should we reschedule?”

Celia: “Oh. Yeah, that’ll work. What time?”

“Are Logan and David coming?”

GM: “7 PM. We thought we’d do it after Lucy’s in bed. I don’t… quite want to have them together, just yet.”

Emily gives a firm nod.

Celia: Celia nods as well.

“For the best.”

GM: “And no, it’ll be just us three and your father.”

Celia: “Sounds like a plan. What happened with Viv, Em?”

GM: “I thought we’d invite the others, after… after we’ve eased back into things some more.”

Celia: “For sure. I feel like I haven’t seen David in ages. Maybe I’ll call him, see if he wants to go out.”

GM: “I know he’s been busy with law school. He and Dani are actually classmates! Maybe somethin’ with them both?”

Celia: “That could be fun.”

Double date with two sets of siblings, that’s not weird at all.

GM: “So with Viv, she said if she wasn’t arrested or anything, there was little legal question here,” answers Emily. “She said Maxen could come forward later, but that it’d mostly be a ‘he said, she said’ and she doubt Mom would sell me out.”

Diana gives a firm nod.

“So 2 v 1 witness and no claim at the time. She said that’s pretty open and shut.”

Celia: “Sounds like it worked out pretty well then. That’s great.”

“Stab him again on Sunday if he gets lippy.”

GM: “I’ll be sure to.”

Emily sounds mostly kidding.

“Viv ran through with me how that might play out. Maxen comes forward this morning and says, ‘Emily stabbed me.’ Police ask why he didn’t call them at the time. Mom and I deny it. And now the story is ‘big former football player claims he is stabbed by way smaller woman. She and his ex deny it.’”

“Viv said he could pursue a civic tort, but hard to win that one for the same reason. Big strong guy claims weak little girl stabbed him, how do you break as a juror? She said he could mostly make headaches, make our life annoying, file a police report and get me brought in for questioning, bothered by cops, etc. But unless Mom breaks against me, hard to sell.”

“And that’s happenin’ when hell freezes over,” says Diana.

Emily smiles. “Plus, that isn’t a police report he wants to file as a legislator, let alone a prospective governor. ‘Majority leader’s ex-wife’s adopted daughter stabs him when he visits ex-wife with restraining order.’”

“Viv did say this would be a different story if I was Emile, though. Yay for having a hole between my legs.”

“But she said without evidence, like a knife with my prints and his blood, or a recording, this whole thing is just a domestic squabble.”

“And even then, his whole tough guy reputation as a big strong physical dude gets undermined if he fires a report about a girl stabbing him.”

“Plus, finally, she said you and Mom have the resources to help me through anything that’d really fuck a lower income person. Days off from work, going to court, talking to cops, etc.”

“So, yeah,” Emily finishes. “I’m just really relieved not to have this hanging over us.”

Diana nods. “Viv does good work! I made her a batch of cookies to say thanks.”

“You do pay her, Mom.”

“I know, but still. She’s done a lot for us.”

“You’re right, she has.”

Celia: Celia listens to it all, looking for any holes in the story, anything that Maxen could use against them. It sounds, though, like the biggest threat to them right now isn’t the mortal world at all.

It’s her world.

And she’s not really concerned about that, either.

She’s glad of that, at least, and she says as much—though not in so many words—slinging an arm around Emily and announcing that “I guess we’re stuck with you, which is great ‘cause listen I don’t think Robby wants to fight me for conjugal visitation rights.”

GM: Emily grins and squeezes her shoulder back. “Then don’t. Maybe you could both… visit. At once. Do they allow that?”

Celia: “I’d blow your mind, sweetheart, Robby would never hold a candle to what I can show you.”

Celia wiggles her brows.

“But also no, I think you’re limited to one.”

GM: “We’ll smuggle you in then. In a cake you can burst out of.”

Celia: “Naked.”

GM: “Like with a file. But a bigger cake. Mom can bake it.”

Celia: “Mom, get crackin’.”

“Emi said she’d lick the frosting off my… nose.”

GM: “I’d lick you in lots of places, to be extra sure I got it all. And you’d wonder if we were still in prison, ‘cuz you’d be seeing stars.”

Celia: “Oh damn, girl, maybe I should introduce you to my new friend-boy, we can tag team ’im.”

GM: "Dangerous. Both of us together might leave him in a coma. But isn’t the love that burns brightest that which burns briefest, or something poetic?’

“Yes, let’s talk about your new beau!” Diana agrees emphatically.

Celia: Celia giggles at the mortified look on her mother’s face.

“I think we broke her brain,” she loudly whispers to Emily.

“Technically, Ma, we’re not sisters. Technically. So it’s not weird.”

GM: “And if I shove you off a cliff, it’s gravity or the ground which kills you, not me,” Diana huffs.

Emily whistles. “Love the new attitude. Seriously.”

Celia: “Y’think it bothers her more that we’re two ladies or that she considers us both her babies?”

GM: “Mom, which is it? Inquiring minds want to know.”

“Not-dirty minds wouldn’t think to know!” Diana declares with another huff.

Her attempt at a glare still looks a kitten trying to mimic a roaring lion.

Celia: “Uh oh. Now we’ve done it.”

GM: Emily grins. “Maybe practice in front of the mirror a few more times.”

Celia: “Maybe get a sword, I bet you’d look more intimidating with a sword.”

GM: “I don’t have a sword,” Diana hmphs. “You two have such dirty minds, you really know that!”

“Do we? That’s news to me,” says Emily.

Celia: “I had no idea.”

GM: “Because I thought we had really squeaky-clean minds and needed to visit some, uh, ‘places of ill repute’ to get some experience. Stop being so sheltered.”

Celia: “We should go make it rain on some strippers. See how flustered Robby gets. Let some other girl tease him for an hour or two. Then take him home and blow his mind.”

GM: “Er, rain?” asks Diana.

“Pee on them,” says Emily. “That’s what you do at strip clubs, you pee on the girls. Make it rain.”

“What!” exclaims Diana.

Celia: “Yeah, golden shower, Ma. Real messy. That’s why the floors are so sticky.”

GM: “How do you know they’re stick… oh, lord, sweetie, have you been to one?! You could get… you could get…!” Diana waves her hand, fumbling for words.

Celia: “Danced on a pole once and everything.”

GM: “It’s true, I was the pole,” says Emily.

Celia: Celia shifts onto Emi’s lap, moving her hips in a suggestive way.

“All those dance lessons made me real flexible.”

GM: Emily smirks and runs her hands up and down Celia’s torso.

“You could get more flexible with, with ballet lessons! Which take a lot of time, so no time for strip clubs!” says their mom.

Celia: Celia purrs at Emily.

“Twenty dollars and my shirt comes off.”

GM: “Forty dollars for the shirt to stay on!” declares Diana.

“Oh, bidding war,” says Emily.

Celia: “How much am I worth to you, Emi?”

GM: “Sixty, at least,” says Emily.

“Eighty!” counter-bids Diana.

Celia: “Sorry, Emi, looks like the ballerina has you beat.”

“Private show later,” she stage whispers behind her hand. “Don’t tell Mom.”

GM: “The ballerina is goin’ to ask her lawyer to write an airtight contract so the eighty is binding ’til Kingdom Come,” huffs Diana.

Celia: “Speaking of lawyers.”

Celia finally slides off of Emily’s lap to take the seat next to her instead.

“Watcha makin’ for Friday?”

GM: Diana looks relieved.

Emily gives her a look of exaggerated longing.

Celia: Celia winks and blows a kiss.

GM: “Ah, let’s see, I was thinkin’ some oven-fried chicken, or maybe crock pot chicken and dumplings,” says Diana.

“With some kind of salad or green side, and shoofly pie for dessert.”

Celia: “Sounds delicious.”

They both know it doesn’t.

GM: “Maybe a second side too, since we’ll have lots of people. I’m goin’ to go grocery shopping tomorrow.”

But they pretend.

Celia: “I, ah, was gonna clear it with Dani first, get her opinion on it, but I ran into a guy who used to know Stephen. Went to school with him. Was thinking about bringing him.”

GM: “Oh, he your new guy?” asks Emily, wiggling her eyebrows.

Celia: “Actually… yes.”

GM: “Good. Randy wasn’t going anywhere. Not with you, anyway.”

Celia: “At least you and Logan agree on something.”

GM: “A stopped clock is right twice a day.”

Celia: “I think you’ll both like him. Might bring him by before Friday so it’s not your first time meeting him.”

“Probably not tell Henry he’s my new guy, focus on the friend angle.”

GM: “Be happy to,” nods Emily.

“Just give advance notice, so I can cook up somethin’ to woo you his heart,” her mom winks.

“Huh. He’s got the same name as Stephen’s dad,” says Emily.

Celia: “Oh. No. I meant Henry as in Stephen’s dad.”

“Don’t tell Stephen’s dad about my love life.”

GM: “Oh. Yeah. That makes total sense.”

Diana nods.

Celia: “Awesome. I’m excited for you two to meet him. I told him about Robby,” she says to Emily, “and his HEMA stuff. He said it sounds cool and that he might want to play some World of Shadow games with us.”

GM: “Yeah, you mentioned earlier. Robby said he’d be happy to run a session for us all.”

“It’s good nerdy fun with lots of banter between dice rolls and unhealthy snacks.”

“Oh, I’ll make y’all healthier snacks, if you want,” says Diana.

Celia: “I think it’s the point of the gaming,” Celia says to her mom. “To eat junk food.”

GM: “But don’t you want to eat healthy food, if it’s still tasty?”

“Well it’s sort of like you could give a blowjob in the privacy of your own bedroom, or on your knees in a school parking lot,” says Emily.

Celia: Celia snorts into her hand, dissolving into laughter.

GM: “I don’t know what the appeal is there,” Diana mutters.

Celia: “The thrill of someone wanking while they watch from afar and knowing you got two dudes off at once?”

GM: “It’s—it’s a girl’s school! The only men are responsible adults, thank you!”

Celia: “Show the girls what waits for them in their future, then.”

GM: “Or their parents. Yell, ‘This is your daughter pursuing her dreams of higher education!’ at them.”

Celia: “You know what they say about successful women.”

GM: “What, that they suck cock too?”

Celia: “Somethin’ somethin’ makin’ bank on their back.”

GM: “Er?” asks Diana.

“Never mind, I don’t want to know!”

“She’s so innocent,” says Emily. “Part of me wants to croon and preserve it, and the other part of me wants to totally despoil it.”

Celia: “We can bring her clubbing with us.”

GM: “Fuck, it’s been forever since I went out. School and all.”

Celia: “You’ve been real boring lately,” Celia agrees. “Blow it off, let’s go out soon.”

GM: “We’ll make it a girl’s night and pick up lots of hot guys.”

“You two have boyfriends!” says Diana.

“And we still will, if no one’s a blabbermouth,” smiles Emily.

Celia: “Variety, et cetera. Plus half of them are for you.”

GM: “Blugh! No thank you! We’ll do an arts and crafts night with Lucy instead, how’s that?”

Celia: “Hmm… hot sex, drugs, dancing, and loud music… or coloring with a six-year-old…”

GM: “That is a very easy decision!” declares Diana. “We can take turns sitting her on our laps and coloring over her shoulder.”

Celia: “Uh huh. We could do both.”

GM: “Read my mind,” says Emily. “We can draw sex positions with them. Sort of a ‘pick in advance’ thing.”

Celia: “Bingo.”

GM: “You are not drawin’ sex positions around my baby,” hmphs Diana.

Celia: “She’s gotta learn sometime.”

GM: “Start ‘em young. Plus we’re all your babies, aren’t we?”

“Yes, you are. And speakin’ of, Emi, don’t you have school to study for?”

“Ah, yeah. I kinda do.”

Celia: “Go, go,” Celia shoos her, “so we can play Doctor later.”

GM: “I’ll know that many more spots to touch you.” She gives Celia a hug. “This is fun, though, having someone else in the house with some adult humor.”

Celia: Celia slings an arm around her. “I’m always gonna be here for you. We’ll get the boys together soon. I’ll text you.”

GM: “Rad. Count on it.” Emily gives Celia another squeeze, then she’s off to her room.

“You two drive me bonkers, sometimes, but I’m glad you have each other,” smiles Diana.

Celia: “Me too. Minus the bonkers.”

GM: “I don’t mind, sweetie. I really don’t. Sisters tease.”

Celia: “That might be something you need to come to terms with, though.” Celia glances down the hall to make sure Emily’s door is shut. “There’s a lot of that kind of stuff with my kind.”

GM: Emily sleeps in the attached carriage house (more like carriage room), so there’s that much extra distance.

“Oh, like how?” Diana looks worried.

Celia: “Just if you’re ever around it, there’s a lot of… sex, I guess.”

GM: “Ah. Well, I’d appreciate you not takin’ me to that, sweetie. It just isn’t my scene.”

“But if it happens, I suppose I’ll just try and pretend I’m in a rose garden, or somethin’.”

Celia: “I’ll, ah, try to avoid taking you to anything like that.”

“Your leg okay after the fencing?”

GM: “Thanks,” her mom nods. “We took things slow, and Emi gave me a massage after we were done. But I wouldn’t say no to another,” she smiles.

Celia: “A quick one, if that’s all right. I have a few meetings tonight.”

GM: “Of course, sweetie. My leg doesn’t really hurt right now, anyways.”

“I wanted to talk to you about Dani, unless you had anything to bring up first?”

Celia: “No, go ahead.”

GM: “She… told me about Stephen,” Celia’s mom says quietly.

“Is it true that he’s… Celia, is he hitting you…?” she whispers, her eyes wide with a mother’s concern.

Celia: Oh.

“She… told you about Stephen?”

GM: Diana nods.

It’s probably no surprise, with the amount of time the two have been spending together.

Celia: Celia runs a hand through her hair. She hadn’t decided yet if she wanted to tell her mom who her boyfriend really is.

Maybe it’s better this way.

“He’s… it’s… he’s not abusive, Mom.”

GM: “But is he hitting you?” she asks.

Celia: “He just… it’s different, with his clan, they just have this anger about them. And… he did, yes, but it’s… he… I don’t want to say that I deserved it, but the situation was… complicated.”

“I had to break up with him. When I was turned into this. I had to tell him something that would make him not want to see me ever again. So I told him I cheated on him.”

“And then I saw him later, and he was like me, and he… we started talking, a little, and I told him who I was, and he was… he blamed me for being turned, too. Said that I tore out his heart and that he wouldn’t have accepted it if not for me, that when his sire asked if he wanted it he said he had nothing else to live for.”

GM: “Oh, Celia, baby…” her mom whispers, her face pained as she squeezes her daughter’s hands.

Celia: “I guess he’d been kind of stalking me online. And Lucy. He thought she was his. And he asked if that’s why we needed the pill the one night, if she was someone else’s kid.”

GM: “Oh. What did… you tell him about her?”

Diana’s face is wary.

Celia: “That she’s not mine. He knew the dates didn’t add up anyway. And then he said I was lying and he lost control of his Beast and attacked me.”

“We didn’t talk for a few years.”

“And then I… asked him out.”

“And things were good for a few weeks.”

“…and then they weren’t.”

GM: Diana listens, holding Celia’s hands in hers but not judging yet. There’s an odd tinge of apprehension and hope to her face.

Celia: “He wanted to know the truth about the cheating. Said that… that our past dictates our present. So I… I told him. I told him the truth.”

Celia looks away from her mom.

GM: “Oh, Celia…” Her mom murmurs, embracing her tight and stroking her hair.

“It’s okay, sweetie… we all make mistakes, we all fall short… I don’t blame you…”

Celia: “So he… he hit me for it,” Celia whispers into her mom’s shoulder. “He got angry and lost control.”

GM: Her mom just hugs her close and runs a hand up and down her back.

“I’m sorry, baby… that must have been very, very painful…”

If nothing else, she knows what she’s talking about there.

Celia: “We’re hard to keep down.”

GM: “We… vampires?”

Celia: “Yeah. Your type, too.”

GM: “We are?”

Celia: “Yeah. You heal with blood. I could stab you and you’d heal it. Only a few things can really kill me. The rest of it just knocks me out.”

GM: “Oh. That’s… handy, but here’s hopin’ we won’t need it much.”

There’s a hungry look in Diana’s eyes at the words ‘heal with blood.’ Perhaps Celia would then have to replace it.

But she quickly asks, “But you got back together?”

Celia: “Yeah. Recently. But it’s… it’s hard to date like this. People just… they suck. I’ve had a handful of flings—” more than a handful “—but no one I love.”

GM: “I’m sorry, sweetie. A mom’s love might not be the same, but you’ll always have it,” her mom smiles in answer to her initial words, rubbing her arm.

Celia: “Can’t take you to bed with me, though,” Celia tells her, echoing the words she’d said to her and Emily nights ago.

GM: “Well, hence not the same,” her mom says with a wry half-smile.

Celia: “But I love him. I can talk to him. I can be Celia around him.”

GM: “So you have to be Jade around other vampires. But Stephen brings out Celia?”

Celia: Celia nods.

“Yes, exactly.”

GM: “That sounds like something very precious and special.”

Celia: Her sire brings out Celia as well, but that’s too complicated to get into with her mother.

“It is. He loves me, too, even though he… even though he hurt me. It’s not like it was with Dad. It’s not.”

GM: “Is he sorry he did?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “He’s said so?”

Celia: Had he? She thought so.

“Yes.”

GM: “Then that’s somethin’ your father never did,” Celia’s mom nods. “Until now, anyway. He never once said sorry before, even when we made up.”

Celia: “He’s not like Dad. It’s different. It was just twice, and… I’ve gotten faster since then, so if he’s about to lose it I know to get away.”

GM: “It sounds like you both messed up… but wanted to make up.”

Celia: “We did.”

GM: “That happens.”

“You think he might… lose it again, ever?”

Celia: “…honestly? Yes. But not at me. Not like that.”

“It’s like… okay, the other night when I was in the tub.”

GM: “I remember that. It was very scary…”

Celia: “I lost control. But it wasn’t at you, it was just… I was hungry, and you were there.”

“That’s when the Beast comes out. And that’s what happens with him. He loses control.”

GM: “That wasn’t you I saw in your eyes, baby. A mom knows her kids.”

Celia: “It’s not me. It’s this other part of me. We all have one. I mean, Dani doesn’t, but it’s different.”

GM: “Oh, why not?”

Celia: “Thin-blood. Their physiology is different. They’re too far removed from the original vampire to manifest a lot of the same things we do.”

GM: “Oh. Dani explained that. She said she wasn’t a real vampire.”

Celia: “Some people think she isn’t. They’d call her a half-breed.”

GM: “She said you said she had fangs and drank blood.”

Diana is quiet for a moment. “Jade called me a half-breed. Or… you did, as Jade, rather.”

Celia: “It just means ghoul, in that case. In Dani’s it’s… like a slur.”

GM: “Dani doesn’t deserve slurs. She’s a sweet girl.”

Celia: “True-blooded vampires think they’re better than everyone else. Ghouls, thin-bloods, kine. They’re the white supremacists of our world, basically.”

Celia shakes her head.

“It doesn’t matter how sweet she is if no one accepts her. They killed someone at a party on Saturday just for being like her.”

GM: “I accept her.”

Celia: “You’re not a vampire.”

GM: “Well, I thought that didn’t really matter?”

Celia: “I mean it doesn’t matter if you accept her.”

GM: “I think it matters a lot to h-” Diana starts.

Celia: “Not to my society.”

GM: “Oh, I see.”

Celia: “It’s like the Mexican kid telling the black kid that he accepts him. None of us care. You’re not white, so that’s all they see.”

GM: Diana frowns faintly at that comparison.

Celia: “There are people, like me, who aren’t bothered by it, but most people… most people consider them abominations.”

“Even her brother…” Celia shakes her head. “He lost it when he found out.”

GM: “His Beast, you mean? Or really him?”

Celia: “He lost it and his Beast came out.”

GM: “Okay. Dani is… blaming him, rather than the Beast.”

Celia: “She hasn’t seen it. She doesn’t understand. He almost lost it when they met but I… I got in the middle of it. Calmed him down. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t.”

“I didn’t warn her well enough about him,” Celia says with a sigh, “and now they’re mad at each other.”

GM: “I think we can both try to calm the waters,” says Diana. “If we explain what the Beast is, maybe.”

Celia: “I don’t think explaining is going to work. Maybe if we show her.”

GM: “Dani is very, very lonely. She might be mad at her brother, but I think she really wants to have someone else she can talk to and confide in. She needs more people than just us.”

“A big brother’s love would be a wonderful thing for her to have right now. Especially Stephen’s! He was such a nice boy, it kills me that she doesn’t want to see him.”

Celia: “I’m trying to get them together tonight so they can talk.”

GM: “Sooner they make up, the better,” Diana nods.

“Showin’ her the Beast might be a good idea too, if she doesn’t get hurt. Show versus tell, and all.”

Celia: “I could have Stephen, ah, cuff me or something.”

GM: Her mother gives a worried frown. “Would that hurt you? I know you said you don’t as easily, but…”

Celia: “He’d have to bring it out. It comes out when we’re hurt, hungry, angry.”

GM: “I don’t want to hurt you, sweetie…” her mom murmurs. “Maybe I can just explain what happened with us, to Dani.”

Celia: “You can try.”

GM: “And you could too. Two trusted voices and all.”

Celia: “Worth a shot. Being stabbed isn’t my idea of a good time.”

GM: Her mom squeezes her hands. “I won’t let someone stab you, sweetie. I’ll fight ’em off, if they try.”

Celia: Celia smiles at that. “One fencing lesson and you’re ready to take on the world.”

GM: “When my baby’s on the line, you bet,” her mom chuckles. “If it keeps you safer, my heart’s all in it.”

Celia: “I’m glad to hear it.”

“I didn’t tell Stephen about you.”

GM: “Oh, yes, we got distracted! I just want to say, sweetie, he’s an absolutely wonderful boy and I’m overjoyed he’s still alive and that you two can still be together. He did so much for our family. For you. He was really… I could just tell, he held your heart in a way Randy simply didn’t. I am beyond happy for both of you. I wish you many long and happy years together.” Her mom smiles and rests her hands on Celia’s shoulders as she talks.

Celia: Celia tries to smile. She does. But the thought of the future that’s waiting for her, the idea of turning him into something like that… The smile takes longer than normal to lift her lips, and it doesn’t quite meet her eyes.

“Me too, Mom. I just hope one night it’ll be easier than it is right now.”

GM: “Can I help make it easier?” Diana asks, glancing long into her daughter’s eyes.

“I want you to be happy with your beau.”

Celia: “It’s just… politics. Bit of a Romeo and Juliet situation.”

GM: “Well, if it means somethin’, your family approves. Theirs didn’t.”

Celia: Celia laughs at that.

“That’s true. Now we just need the vampire family to approve.”

GM: “We’ll work on that, then. But what matters is you two have each other, and you have something very precious. Anything that can drive back Jade and let you be Celia is worth its weight in gold.”

“Anyway, sweetie, we got a lil’ side-tracked. I wanted to talk about Dani.”

Celia: “Right. Go ahead.”

GM: “All right, so, here’s the situation with her. She’s told me just about everything I think she’s told you. I’ve helped her move her things over here, temporarily. I woke her up early today, to go to law school, and she came back and passed out. I want to get her on a schedule where she’s up early, stays awake, and goes to bed early, ‘cause it’s not healthy to break up your sleep.”

“For, ah, non-vampires, anyway. I don’t know if that’s the same with vampires.”

“She’s sleeping in my bedroom right now, by the way. I’ve been sleeping with Lucy. Fun lil’ slumber party for us.”

Celia: “We normally sleep all day and don’t sleep otherwise.”

GM: “Ah, well, sounds like the rules are different for her. She’s asleep in my room now, like I said.”

“I’ve talked to her about school, and she’s been… sweetie, she was raped and turned into a vampire. She’s fallen behind. In her coursework, job, you name it. I’ve talked with her boss and professors, to help straighten things out without saying too much about her situation, just letting them know she’s goin’ through a hard time and still wants to do her best. Emily and I have also helped her with her phone bill, laundry, car maintenance, basically all the lil’ life things she was letting slide."

“Emily has also been very good to her. Even if they can’t talk about quite as much. But she knows Dani was raped, and thinks that’s why she’s spending a lot of time in bed.”

Celia: Celia listens quietly. She hadn’t realized that Dani had fallen so behind.

GM: “She says she spent a lot of her time at that bar, trying to track down who did this to her. And just stay fed.”

“I’m very glad you found her. I think her life would have spiraled apart if you hadn’t.”

“She’s a smart and brave girl. She is able to talk about what happened to her and call it what it is. But… I think she is in a very vulnerable place, still. I really don’t think she should live alone. After your father… after your father raped me, I was so thankful to have Emily living in the same house. Because she knew and believed me and did so much to support me and help out. Especially pregnant. I really think Dani needs that kind of 24/7 support in her life right now.”

“I’d be happy to be that for her, and I think she’d be if I was, too. But she talks about you all the time. She talks about how much she’d have loved to be your roommate, and she was really sad you couldn’t be. Can I get you to reconsider?”

“She thinks just the world of you.”

Celia: Ah.

Yes.

The bond has come back to bite her in the ass.

“I… I’m never home, Mom. My house is literally a closet and a bed. I barely even sleep there most nights, and there’s a lot of… I mean, I have a very private life, it’s hard to just invite someone in to that. I could get, like, a communal place with her, but I’m not going to be there all the time. Like tonight I have a handful of meetings, and tomorrow I’ve got two more, and Friday is… well Fridays are usually pretty full, Saturdays I’m gone most of the night…”

Celia exhales heavily.

“And Stephen and I are supposed to get a place together. There’s a lot of, uh, sex.”

GM: “Hm. I don’t think she’d be offended, but bein’ a third wheel isn’t much fun.”

“I don’t think Dani wants to spend all of her time at home, anyways. I don’t think that’s good for her either. She needs to keep livin’ her life.”

Celia: “I told her the same thing.”

GM: “I just want her to have support when she is home. I don’t want her to live by herself right now.”

Celia: “I’ll think about it, see if I can figure something out. I just don’t know how supportive I’m going to be if I’m never home.”

GM: “Well, that could be here, if you can’t figure out something else. We have room to do this for a while. I’m just worried how we’ll explain her hours to Emily. Maybe we can get her accustomed to bein’ up during the day.”

Celia: “I’m supposed to meet with someone tomorrow night who knows more about the thin-bloods. I’ll see if she has any suggestions there.”

GM: “Okay. For now, I’d postpone the apartment idea, until she’s in a better place mentally. Right now I think she would benefit a lot from some live-in support.”

Celia: Maybe she can give her Mabel and they can… support each other.

GM: “Also, sweetie, I think she feels very helpless.”

Celia: “Helpless?”

GM: Her mom nods. “She didn’t find out who did this to her. She’s heard from you about how bad duskborn have it, what second-class citizens they are. She’s had to hide from and tiptoe around other vampires, get a special tattoo, jump through hoops with her job and work, not even pick up her own things from her apartment, that whole incident with her brother…” Diana pauses. “To be clear, sweetie, I believe you’re doin’ what’s best for her and her safety. I think she would be in a vastly worse place if she hadn’t met you. But I don’t think she feels like she has very much control in her life, or is able to do things that build confidence. I think that’s why she’s lashing out at her brother, because it lets her be in control of something. That’s my read, anyway.”

Celia: “Ah…” She hadn’t considered that. But she’s been acting like a mother bear, hasn’t she, to keep Dani safe.

“What do you think I should do?”

GM: Her mom thinks. “Is there anywhere you can let her make many choices? Or, color outside the lines? Help you out in some way? I think she’d feel better if she felt needed and useful. Like she was earnin’ her keep. You remember how important that was to Emily, when she moved in with me.”

Celia: “Maybe?” Celia hedges. “I’ve gotten so used to doing things on my own, I didn’t really think about asking her for help. I didn’t want to burden her after everything she’s been through, thought she could just focus on school…”

GM: “I think if she’s at all like her brother, she feels best when she feels needed. Like she’s making a difference.”

“And I think she is a lot like her brother, despite how… how low an opinion, I guess, she has of herself.”

Celia: “All right. Yeah. I can think of something.”

GM: Diana beams. “Wonderful, sweetie! Do you want to wake her up and tell her about it?”

Celia: Celia checks the time.

GM: The ladybug clock reads half past 8.

“Or I could pass it on, whatever works,” Diana says at her glance up.

Celia: “Ah, I can’t right now actually. I need to be across the city in thirty minutes.”

“Can you tell her I’ll call her later? I have a meeting, but I’ll swing by after.”

GM: “Okay. I’ll probably be asleep, if that’ll take you a while, so you can let yourself in.” Celia still has a house key.

“Or, actually, you could give her a call first, so she can clear out the cats. They don’t seem to mind her at all.”

Celia: “Thanks for putting them away. I was wondering why no one hissed at me tonight.”

GM: “Yes, they’re in Emi’s bedroom. I’ll do that whenever you come over now.”

Celia: “I have to get going, though. I didn’t realize the time.”

GM: “Oh! One last thing, sweetie. Are you hungry?”

Celia: “…yes?”

GM: Her mom nods. “Would you like my wrist or neck?”

Celia: Is this weird?

This is weird.

Pete would be so mad at her.

But the woman just tastes so good.

“Whatever you’re comfortable with.” Her fangs are already out; she runs her tongue across the sharp edges. “You’ll be woozy tomorrow. Nothing important going on?”

GM: “How woozy? I have work, but I could call in sick if you need a lot.”

Celia: “No, no. Just… a little more tired, maybe. I only need a little.”

GM: “Okay. I can manage that for you, sweetie.”

Diana leans forward, baring her neck.

Celia: She’s just never going to tell Pete.

Ever.

Already close enough to touch, Celia closes the distance between them. It’s like going in for a hug and resting her cheek against her shoulder, only now… now she opens her mouth and pierces her mother’s flesh with her fangs, sinking into the embrace and closing her eyes as the rich, warm blood spills across her tongue.

She drinks.

GM: It tastes like love.

Just like last time.

A mother’s love. Endlessly, willingly, happily giving. Like warm chicken soup, homemade just for her. There’s a stronger, purer flavor to it, this time. There’s none of the fear, shock, and disorientation that spiked her last libation from the woman. That bitter undercurrent is all gone. This is rich and warm and full. For a moment, Celia can forget her Beast’s pangs, and glow under the taste of that liquid love, that she could cultivate from no other vessel.

And Celia knows. She can taste it. Her mother wants this. Not just the pleasure of Celia’s kiss. She may not even want that at all. She wants to give of herself, to help her daughter. There’s joy in her blood, at being able to give of herself for Celia. At being able to feed her baby.

Celia: Her kind will never know this taste. She can’t imagine there’s anyone else in the world who will ever know what love this pure tastes like.

She’s lucky.

So incredibly lucky.

She savors every mouthful that she swallows, letting it fill her with the emotion that everyone like her thinks is dead to them, lost forever when their mortal coils slough away. Is this what Celia tastes like when Roderick drinks from her? When her sire drinks from her?

Love. Pure, raw, unfiltered. Someone she’d do anything for.

She sips at the divine nectar offered to her and for a moment lets her troubles fade away. She wraps herself in love, a warm blanket on a cold night.

When she finally pulls back, licking closed the holes, she swears that she can see stars.

GM: Her mother’s breath comes heavier in her ears. A blush has crept across the woman’s paler cheeks. Her eyes shine as she touches Celia’s cheek.

“You’ve had enough, baby?” she smiles. “I could give you more in a thermos, where it’ll stay warm, if you want some to save for later…”

Celia: Tempting. So very, very tempting.

But Celia shakes her head at the offer.

“You’ll hurt yourself if you give too much. I need you healthy. Once or twice a week, no more than that. Small amounts like this, right from the vein. That’s when it’s best. Something I can look forward to.”

GM: “Okay, sweetie. Just know that I’m always, always here if you need me, and if you need more, okay?”

Celia: “I know, Mom. I love you.”

GM: Her mother hugs her. “I love you too, Celia.”

Carpe noctem, is that what the phrase is? Go seize the night,” she smiles.

Celia: So she does. Celia melds into Jade when she turns away from her mother, fingers blurring across her face to transform the girl into the lick. Even in this face, Celia’s smile briefly shines through at her mother. She’s Jade, yes, but the daughter remains beneath the surface of the domitor. Her form blurs, first into a familiar gray cat to rub up against the woman’s legs with a purr and a meow, letting her know that something good still resides within her, and then the cat takes a running leap and shifts again. Fur becomes feathers, limbs become wings, and the nightjar takes off into the sky.


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, PM

Celia: From this vantage point, high above the city, the girl and the bird both find peace. Even the Beast, hungry though it is, cannot help but be silent within her while she soars across the sky. Perhaps it, too, is thinking of another night, another flight; how many of them now has she spent with her sire?

She understands the yearning he has to travel as he does above the heads of the kine that scurry like ants beneath his booted feet. This is my city, she imagines him saying, though words do not frequently pass his lips. He had once told her it would all be his. Years ago, on the highest building in the city where he had collected her from her cousin’s apartment, he had said those words to her. It had pained her then. She had thought of how easily his plans could be stolen from her; she had not understood the words that followed, the place that he intended for her. Now, as the years have passed, she does. She is his tool.

Something within her, something made of steel rather than flesh, rebels at the thought.

She does not want to be a tool.

But that is the way of things, is it not? The elders among them turn the younger into pawns and tools until those younger prove themselves to be capable, to be worthy, and ascend further. So many her age are content to live their nightly existence; they never hunger for more, never seek to rise above what is handed to them. She and Roderick had spoken of it once, the neonates that pay lip service to their patron of choice and offer to be “ears on the ground,” as if there are not dozens like them who do the same thing. Selling hot air.

Jade, Celia, the Beast—they do not want to sell hot air. They wear the masks and say the words, but inside they scheme.

And tonight… tonight they prove to themselves, to their friends, to their sire and their grandsire why the Blood is not wasted on them.

Tonight they turn a boy into a girl, indifference into passion, acquaintance into ally.

Tonight they push the first of the dominoes that will spiral through the city.

The nightjar flaps its wings and soars, reveling in the freedom of the night sky and the thoughts that flit through its mind. One night, perhaps, it will fly beside the sire who blooded it.

Tonight, though, its mission is solitary.

The lights from below beckon the bird to begin its descent, spiraling slowly through the clouds to find the glow of the riverboat. Her playmate waits within.

She glides toward the window left open for her and drops into the painter’s cabin. She shifts from bird to lick.

Jade has arrived.

GM: Jade has arrived, and not a moment too soon.

Perhaps a few moments too early.

As the nightjar swoops by, it see Josua in bed with another vampire. She’s a short, slim, and black-haired Asian-American vampire who isn’t wearing anything. Josua isn’t either. The two Kindred are locked in one another’s embrace—or at least locked under the female one’s. She’s pushed him face-down into the bed and is straddling him from behind, raking fangs and nails down his skin as she laps up the cooling blood. Josua writhes underneath and whispers sweet, submissive words, the kind that are an endless roll of velvet against one’s ears.

There’s a precise perfection to her appearance, the esthetician behind the nightjar can tell. Neatly trimmed hair, long unbroken nails, plucked eyebrows, smooth shaved skin—care was taken prior to her Embrace, care that speaks to her sire’s attention to detail and calculated intentions. Details invisible to the kine, invisible to the trash at the edge of society, but all-too clear to those in the halls of power—or someone who runs a spa. It speaks to legacy and affection. The same care is evident in her manicured and painted nails, carefully styled hair, and a carefully styled, conservative-looking dark blouse and skirt currently lying on the ground.

Kyrstin_Grey.jpg
Alana, at least, has also come through. The nightjar sees the expected makeup case and two suitcases likely filled with folded clothes sitting in the corner of the room.

Celia: What’s this? Another tasty little morsel for her to top?

Someone else might be jealous, but Jade sees the offer for what it is: two for the price of one. Isn’t there a saying about early birds and worms?

Jade shifts, fangs already long in her mouth at the sight and scent of blood.

“Naughty naughty fledglings, starting without me.” Velveteen words drip from her tongue like thunder poured over ice, arousal and hunger in her eyes.

She doesn’t ask for permission. She doesn’t say that she’s going to join them. She just does, stalking forward on heeled shoes without bothering to remove the rest of her clothes. She slides in behind the Tremere—archon’s childe, she remembers from the club, and some part of her purrs at the delectable little treat he’s taken for himself, though she would expect nothing less than perfection from a fellow surgeon—and sinks the points of her fangs into her neck.

GM: “You showed up early,” laughs Josua. “I have a very full schedule…”

Kyrstin gives a low growl and turns around just as Jade’s fangs pierce her neck. The Tremere’s blood and her mother’s are like night and day. Yes, it isn’t brimming with love. But it’s stronger, headier, and with such a darker, sharper taste, all grim determination and jagged glass. It’s the difference between a loved one’s home-cooked soup and a highly-rated restaurant’s. It might not have the same love, the service with a smile. But it’s made by more technically proficient hands, from costlier ingredients, in a dedicated and likewise costlier setting. It’s a good contrast to go from day to night, rather than day to shoddier day like if she’d supped from another ghoul who didn’t love her.

Kyrstin’s hands, meanwhile, already work to tug off Jade’s shirt, then her fangs sink into the Toreador’s neck. The archon wouldn’t choose someone weak for his childe. Josua, beneath them both, pulls down Jade’s panties and teasingly traces his fangs across her lower lips. His painter’s hands appreciatively squeeze her posterior.

“A body built for bedrooms…” he murmurs, then sinks his fangs into her pubic mound.

Celia: Everything she takes the girl takes right back from her. Pity; she hadn’t wanted to need to break into the supply she has built up. But she will. After she enjoys these two.

Her clothing comes off with little regard to its structure, shirt shredded when the Tremere takes too long with the buttons down her front, skirt hiked up around her hips to give Josua the access he needs. A shift of her lower body positions her shins across his forearms, pressure applied to keep him pinned beneath her.

“Hush, pet,” she growls, lifting her mouth from Kyrstin just long enough to get the words out. Another shift of her hips and she’s put the best part of herself over him, pressing down to smother his lips with hers and present him with the feast he so clearly desires. Jade leans in again, claws and fangs tearing across Kyrstin’s chest. Her tongue follows.

GM: Josua likely couldn’t be happier to have any speech muffled beneath Jade’s best part. He struggles with his arms and makes little gasps and squeals in a very sexy way. His tongue expertly goes about its work, lapping and stroking and teasing her in all the right places even as bliss shudders up her loins from the kiss of her clanmate’s fangs. She’s sitting on a volt of electricity. She wants to scream and leap off, but not really, she actually wants to grind down, wants to shove her cunt against his face like she shoved her cock down Alana’s mouth, to make two holes become as one. He’s a fire smoldering beneath her, lending fuel to the lovemaking machine she is up top. Kyristin mirrors her motions. She bites and kisses, but mostly bites, across Jade’s lips, neck, shoulders, breasts. She rakes skin with her nails. She waits those tortuously long seconds for the blood to cool, then laps it up. The Tremere neonate doesn’t have passion so much as she has determination, relentlessly seizing what she wants. She isn’t a virtuoso like Josua. Her touch doesn’t please so much as take. She is, Jade assesses, his junior in the arts of love.

But then, she isn’t a Toreador.

Celia: She takes after her sire in that manner. Or at least that’s what Jade had always imagined when she fantasized about the archon: taking what he wants. Seizing it like he seizes everything else in his Requiem. Controlling her pleasure like he had controlled her body so effortlessly on the floor of the club; a hand here, a touch there, she had bent to his will. Restrained strength. Even his mind in hers had been delicate and precise, never venturing beyond what she had offered to show him.

Pity, too, as she’d had such wicked visions she could have shared that all involved his taught, toned body intertwined with hers.

She contents herself with the childe, some small part of her wondering if Grey and North have ever fucked, another part wondering at his response if she takes the fledgling for a lover to show her how it’s done.

Like this, her touch says, fangs trailing shallow scratches from clavicle to nipple in slow, prolonged movements. She goes the other way to lick it clean, down to up rather than up to down. Down, though, her hips over Josua’s mouth, riding the tongue he uses to tease her with as assuredly as she would ride another part.

GM: Maybe if she fucks Kyrstin hard enough her sire will feel it. Through the Blood.

What a compliment that would be.

Does Donovan feel it, when she gets fucked really hard and really well? Does he sense her pleasure? What feelings does it stir in his cold breast? She fucks so often, and so expertly, surely he’s felt it at least a few times.

It’s enough to think about him while she’s with them.

Jade shows the Tremere how it’s done. Like this. Like that. Slow. Savoring. Compatible with taking. Just do it right. She shows them both how it’s done. She reminds Josua it’s his place to lick, from the bottom, to worship her cunt and be thankful for it. He is. He so clearly is. The three lie spent on his silky sheets (of course he has good sheets) when they’re done, slick with one another’s vitae.

“Always a pleasure to be fucked by an expert…” the other Toreador purrs, stroking a hand along Jade’s vitae-smeared flank.

Celia: Does he feel it when she has a particularly strong release? Does it strike him in the middle of important meetings, a vision of her topping or being topped by someone else, the echo of her pleasure arcing through the space between them?

It’s a decidedly delicious thought, made all the better by the way the Tremere responds to her instruction.

When they’re both spent—she did that—and collapse onto the bed, Jade curls up behind Josua and nuzzles the back of his neck with her lips.

“Happy to assist,” she murmurs against his skin. Her tongue flicks along his flesh, wiping it clean of blood. She itches to sink her fangs into him again.

“I’m Jade,” she says to Kyrstin.

GM: Josua clearly has that same thought. He grins and starts to clean her up with his tongue too. They won’t let a droplet go to waste.

“Kyrstin,” replies Jon’s childe, propping her head up with her fist.

Celia: “I know your sire,” Jade says to her as Josua busies himself once more with his tongue. Her eyes flick down the naked girl’s body, appraising, then back up. “He has good taste.”

GM: “Then I am sure you are unsurprised. He is meticulous.”

Celia: “Excellent word choice for him.” Jade finally smiles, running a hand through Josua’s hair. “Are you being released upon his return?”

GM: Josua grins and continues to lip the bottom-most portions of her breasts. They’re clean of vitae.

“I am being released this Sunday,” Kyrstin answers.

Celia: “Congratulations,” Jade tells her, only momentarily distracted when Josua’s lip closes around a nipple. “I’ll be sure to attend. Is he back, then?”

“Perhaps a party afterward,” she muses, clearly already planning something.

GM: “Thanks,” says Kyrstin. “Archon North has pressing business elsewhere, but I’d still enjoy a party.”

“That must suck he won’t be there,” says Josua between sucks.

Kyrstin shrugs her slim shoulders. “He knows. He’s proud of me. It’s enough that I’m here because of him.”

Celia: It was enough for Jade that Donovan and Lord Savoy had been present at her release despite being introduced to their society as Veronica’s childe.

She asks after Kyrstin’s schedule and what night would work best, already wondering where she can throw a party for the girl. The one Veronica had hosted for her had been a night to remember; Jade will step in for North, if he’s busy with his archon things.

GM: The harpy’s childe got a party just for her, after all.

Kyrstin is free the Wednesday and Thursday after her release.

A buzz goes up from the phone amidst Jade’s clothes.

Celia: Jade lets her know she’ll be in touch.

“Hold that thought, pet,” she says to Josua, rolling off the bed to pluck the phone from where it sits beneath her clothing. She gets Kyrstin’s number and checks the message. Efficient.

GM: It’s from Randy, on her question about whether Reggie was fucking Mabel with her consent.

Mabel maybe thought it was Evan fucking her so kind of?

Celia: Thanks. I’ll handle.

Reggie is going to be the sort of rapist-vampire that nightmares are made of.

GM: He said it himself. He takes what he wants.

On the other hand, Jade’s heard a few licks say they’re all rapists, in their own way.

Celia: “I’m excited for the party now,” Jade says, dropping her phone back onto the pile of clothing and sliding into bed with the two. “I don’t suppose your lover will let you come to the Quarter if I host it there, hm?”

GM: “I don’t suppose so,” Josua says with an effected sigh.

“Perhaps Marigny,” says Kyrstin.

Celia: “Might as well.”

GM: Kyrstin doesn’t look disappointed, at least.

Celia: She would if she knew what sort of parties the Evergreen sees.

But Jade won’t burst her bubble.

Something Roderick had said to her about Tremere comes to mind. The demon thing. Is there a casual way to link demons, sex, and parties?

If anyone can do it, Jade can.

She makes idle chitchat for a moment, asking after the Tremere’s studies, and finally slips it into the conversation. Grunewald was the ghost expert; who’s the demonologist of New Orleans?

GM: Apparently, Jade can.

Kyrstin answers little about her thaumaturgic studies, directing conversation back to the party, but looks amused by Jade’s “joking” question. While the chantry doesn’t have a dedicated demonologist, Erwin Bornemann and Elsbeth von Steinhäusser likely know the most about demons, by dint of being the chantry’s senior-most Tremere.

Celia: Jade tucks that information away for later and lets Kyrstin steer them back toward party talk. She wants to know what Kyrstin wants to do to cut loose now that she’s “her own Kindred.”

GM: Kyrstin wants to indeed cut loose. Dancing. Partying. Music. Attractive vessels. “Like in college.”

She’s not interested, though, in “the kinkier shit.” Like vitae-gorged ghouls raping each other to death for the promise of more in front of laughing crowds.

It would be a lie to say Jade has never seen that.

Kyrstin, meanwhile, allows herself a faint smile.

“Lucky me to have a Toreador volunteering.”

Celia: Lucky indeed.

“I have a handful of clubs in the Quarter if you ever feel the need to cut loose after this party. Let me know; I’d be happy to take you out again.”

GM: Kyrstin nods. “I also enjoy piano music.”

Celia: “You should hear my grandsire play sometime.”

GM: “I fucked someone on a piano once,” Josua mentions idly.

Celia: “Did you play a tune?” Jade asks, one brow arched.

GM: “Sort of. I tried to hit the keys with my feet, but the positioning was awkward.”

Celia: “We should try again sometime.”

GM: “Yes, we should.”

Celia: “Or set a canvas on the ground and roll around in paint.”

“Or both.”

GM: “Mmm. I’d want to paint every last inch of you…” Josua murmurs, suckling her other nipple.

Kyrstin looks faintly amused again.

Toreador never stop thinking about sex.

Celia: Josua might have more sex than she does.

Is it possible?

Hadn’t she had three threesomes in one night last week?

Christ.

She’s happy to go again, though, or to let Kyrstin get on her way so she and Josua can get down to business. Sex business. Very serious stuff.

GM: Kyrstin’s libido seems satisfied. The blood disappears from her body with a murmured invocation and wave of her hand as she dresses. She says they have her number, then heads off.

Not everyone can be as much of a champ as the two Toreador.


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, PM

GM: Josua doesn’t seem satisfied at all. He goes again with Jade. It’s everything and more that it was last time. It leaves her shivering with satisfaction and her Beast howling for more. They’re insatiable.

She’s not even sure how many times she had sex last night. There was Roderick, Reggie, Alana, the two breathers she picked up… and when was Vinny? That was also with Alana. It’s all blurring together.

“Mmm, good warm-up,” Josua purrs.

“But this is just practice for us with Marcel, me as a girl…”

Celia: They end up sprawled across the floor when they’re done the second time; at some point they had shifted and fallen and kept going, neither one of them bothered by the abrupt shift in position. Jade rests now with her head on his chest, tips of her claws running across his stomach.

“Mm,” she agrees, “just practice for Marcel.” Her eyes find the suitcases. “I see my delivery made it on time. Did you get a look at the girl who brought it?”

GM: “Yes, she was great in bed.”

Celia: Jade lifts a brow.

“You fucked Celia?”

GM: The other Toreador laughs and strokes her backside.

“You couldn’t have expected me not to help myself, sending in a treat like that.”

Celia: She’d left that out of the report.

GM: “I follow her on social media, so that was even better. There was lots of anticipation.”

Celia: “Wait a minute, so you got it up for her or you fangbanged her?”

GM: “Fangbanged. I’m happy to get you off the breather way, but it doesn’t do anything for me.”

“I did get her off that way too, though.”

Celia: “How chivalrous,” Jade says dryly. She’s both amused and aroused by the thought of Josua following Celia online and finally getting a chance to bang her. “Measure up to your expectations?”

GM: “Oh, yes,” he purrs. “I’d jerked off to her photos when I was alive. She was more submissive than I expected, but that might’ve been the renfield in her talking.”

“I gave her some of my blood, too, to balance what I took away. Since I’m so chivalrous.”

Celia: “Pity,” Jade says, nails tapping against his chest, “I was going to take it from you.”

GM: “She took it from me. I had her suck it from my dick.”

“There’s really nothing like the sight of a famous breather on their knees for you.”

Celia: Jade shifts, sliding down Josua’s body until she’s kneeling between his legs.

“Was she better than me?” Jade asks, fangs trailing down the inside of his thigh. “Should we compare?” She laps at the blood her teeth bring forth, not bothering to wait for it to cool; she wants to give him the full effect of the pleasure she can bring him.

GM: “Oh, there’s no comparison…” Josua grins. He sits up and wraps his legs around her torso, pulling her in close against him. His painter’s hands close around one of her breasts, not directly kneading it, but rubbing his palms against one another with the nipple caught between.

It’s tricky positioning, with her head so close to his cock.

Celia: It doesn’t stop her from taking what she wants from him. Last time he had put a tiny little prick at the head of his cock for her; now she creates the same sort of hole with the point of one fang, eagerly sucking the blood from him. Her mouth vibrates around him when he begins to touch her breast, growl or purr or breather-like moan muffled by the flesh in her mouth.

GM: He leans down, fangs piercing her neck as her own pierce his stiffened manhood. Bliss shudders through her as he wraps his arms around her, holding her close against him with all four limbs.

Celia: She doesn’t let it devolve into another full round of sex; they need to meet Marcel, after all, and Josua needs to be transformed first. She gives him enough of a taste to put her assuredly ahead of her ghoul before releasing him, pushing him back down onto the floor and settling herself above him.

“We should shower before we meet him, no? Come in fresh?”

GM: “Mistress knows best,” he smiles, his fingers idly finding their way towards her womanhood.

Celia: Her fingers close around his wrist, preventing him from touching her.

“I assume the breather way does nothing for him, either. I’d prefer if you not tell him, if that’s the case.”

GM: “Yes, I was going to say. Don’t cum. He’ll be really grossed out.”

Celia: “Old licks are so…” Jade just shakes her head.

GM: “I wish I could still fuck that way,” Josua sighs.

Celia: “Honestly, it’s pretty much the best of both worlds.”

GM: “I’m so jealous. I can still make myself hard, but it does nothing. Seeing Celia Flores suck me off is satisfying on a purely psychological level.”

“Don’t get… wet, either, or let your nipples get hard. Can you turn that off?”

Celia: “Ah. Right. Yeah. Kind of like how you turn it on. Just blood control.”

GM: “Okay, good. But don’t worry. It’ll still be a fantastic time. He’s amazing in bed.”

Celia: “Maybe I’ll join his harem and move in with you here,” Jade muses, “we’ll never leave the boat.”

GM: “He’d like that,” smiles Josua. “He’s always looking to build his harem.”

“Well. Since before Matheson, anyway.”

Celia: Jade winces. “Yeah, I imagine that put a damper on things.”

GM: “Yes, it’s an ugly look now.”

Celia: “I mean, it’s not like he’s doing the same thing.”

GM: “Oh, he isn’t, at all. But he figured the optics would be too hard to explain, and licks looking to sling mud might seize on it.”

“So with Marie in torpor and Evan gone, I’m the only one of his regular harem left.”

Celia: “Evan was his?”

GM: “Well, used to be. Roxanne was really jealous, so Evan left. He was really apologetic about the whole thing, tried to offer Marcel a boon, but he said no.”

“He’s pretty casual about it all, he knows flings don’t last forever.”

Celia: “Oh. Huh. I didn’t know that. I mean, I knew Roxanne was jealous about him being with other people, but… huh. Did Marcel ever look into what became of him?”

GM: “Oh, Rocco talked to him about it. But not really. Licks go missing sometimes and he figured the other Storyvilles would try to find Evan.”

“After this long he’s probably ash, which sucks. He was good in bed.”

Celia: “Always a loss.”

“Also, not to sound ignorant, but isn’t Marie relatively young? Why’s she torped?”

GM: “Marie got torped by Setites. Marcel’s fed her his blood, but she hasn’t woken up.”

Celia: “…what?”

GM: “We dunno what’s wrong with her.”

“Marcel thinks maybe the Setites put a curse on her or something.”

Celia: “That’s awful.”

GM: “Yeah, she was great in bed too.”

“She and Marcel had amazing chemistry. Even outside of bed.”

“Which was interesting, because he usually likes boys. Like, it’s not a hard preference, but I’ve seen him go for a lot more guy licks than girl licks.”

Celia: “Why does he make you dress like a girl, then?”

GM: Josua smiles. “Variety is nice, isn’t it?”

Celia: “Would he like me more if I were a boy?”

GM: “Hmm, maybe? Like I said, girls can do it for him. He was really into Marie. He just tends to prefer boys.”

“I guess it depends how sexy a boy you make.”

“He likes his boys sort of feminine, too. Hates facial hair on them. So I think that’s why the idea of me being a boy in girl’s clothes does it for him.”

Celia: “Well considering the base I’d have to work with…” Jade gestures down at her flawless self.

GM: Josua laughs.

“It’s a perfect base. Don’t worry. He’ll be all over you.”

Celia: “Mm. Good. I hate feeling rejected. I’d have to bring you back here for round… seven, or something, to make me feel better.”

GM: “He’ll love you. Just fuck him the way he likes it, and it won’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl.”

“He likes being on top. Ventrue, prince, and all.”

“But he doesn’t like it if you just submit and simper, he likes lovers with spirit. Who push back.”

“But he wants to win, because Ventrue prince and all.”

“And when he does win he doesn’t want to just beat you into submission, he wants you to surrender.”

“And he wants you to be happy surrendering. Because you realize his way is the best way. You know?”

Celia: “Surrender to the prince,” Jade says, nodding. If she weren’t busy practicing not getting wet in front of Marcel Josua might notice her arousal at the thought. Or maybe that was there from earlier. Who can tell with her.

Jade takes a moment to look around his room, searching for a microwave.

GM: There is none in the small cabin.

“He loves it when people call him ‘my prince,’ too. Or ‘Your Majesty.’”

“He’s a great prince, I think he should still be one.”

“I think it’s so awful what those sewer rats did. It’d have been so much fun to live in Baton Rouge under him.”

Celia: Well fuck.

“If and when he takes back the city, are you going back with him?”

GM: “Oh, yes! I’ll be a real prince’s boytoy, won’t I?” Josua grins.

“And he can do whatever he wants to me…”

Celia: “Does that make you a princess?” Jade asks idly.

GM: “I’d love to be his princess.”

“His princess bitch.”

Celia: “Mmm. Now that sounds delightful.”

GM: “He says he ran a lot of the city out of his bedroom, too, so that’s fun.”

“If you had sex with him and he liked it he’d give you better hunting grounds.”

Celia: Jade arches a brow.

“Marcel for prince,” she declares.

GM: “And if you lived with him in his haven, as part of his harem, then you’d really have it made.”

“He says neonates all competed with each other to impress him so they’d get to live with him.”

Celia: Jade can’t think of anyone who would offer her real competition.

GM: She’s flawless, after all.

Celia: “Are we sure he’s Ventrue? Sounds like the sort of Toreador prince I could get behind.”

GM: “Oh, so, that’s the thing.”

“He actually is Ventrue, and really Ventrue. He’s just really subtle about it.”

“He still, I guess you could say, thinks with his head. All of that with his harem, and the fucking him for better feeding grounds, is calculated. He has this whole rational explanation for why he does it.”

“I mean, he also likes it, but he does it because he thinks it works best.”

Celia: “Approachable, blood bonds, good time, doesn’t look like a stiff, instills competition to stay in his good graces. Probably more I’m missing.”

GM: “Yes, that’s basically it.”

Celia: “Makes sense.”

“If I’m ever prince maybe I’ll keep a harem, too.”

“Maybe I should start one now.”

GM: “I’ll compete to be in your harem.”

Celia: “You can keep the rest of my bitches in line.”

GM: “I’ll blow all the other entrants out of the water, when I’m not blowing you.”

Celia: “Are you going to blow me? I can find a doc to give me a cock if you’d like.”

GM: “Really? I thought you could use one of those double strap-ons. Where there’s a dick on both ends, so the deeper you peg a guy, the deeper you get fucked too.”

Celia: “Oh. Yes. I like that more. Let’s do that.”

GM: “I don’t know why any girl uses a single strap-on.”

Josua glances at the time. “We should get showered and changed, I want to hit the casino as a girl before we fuck Marcel and my clothes get ruined.”

Celia: “I, ah… you don’t have a microwave in here, darling,” she finally points out after she’s decided the appliance isn’t hiding behind an easel somewhere.

GM: “It’s cramped here. Why do you want a microwave?”

Celia: “Flying gave me the munchies and I brought a snack because I thought it might and cold blood is gross and I don’t want to lose it on your lover.”

GM: “Oh, okay. There’s a microwave in one of the staff rooms, we can use that.”

Celia: “Perfect.”

GM: “Permission to rise, mistress?”

Celia: “I suppose.”

GM: They get up. They shower. They still wind up fucking in the shower.

Josua gets dressed, leads her to the staff break room, gets out everyone but a girl he starts making out with, perhaps to “distract.” Jade is left to microwave her snack.

Celia: Distract.

Right.

Jade heats the saved blood in the microwave until it’s a little warmer than most humans run, then tells Josua she’s “riding the edge” and goes back to his room to lock herself in the recently fucked-in bathroom. Just in case.

She drinks all of it, already adjusting her schedule to give herself time to get more for Edith and Pete. Inconvenient. But it gave her wings. The literal sort, and the metaphorical sort; without them she wouldn’t have been able to add Grey to her list of conquests or find the next crumb in the trail that will lead her to finding out more about demons.

Not really a path she ever thought she’d want to go down, but here she is.

GM: Here she is.

It would be so easy, though. To just drain someone completely. To have more than enough blood for her needs.

Josua comes back soon enough. “Ready for my makeover?” he smiles.

Celia: She probably will, anyway. After she leaves here. Call Reggie and give him the task of getting rid of the body, which in this case really just means dragging it back to the spa for her. Still, it’s good practice for when he eventually joins her in undeath.

God, she’s really going to miss fucking him. She can’t imagine he’s going to be able to get it up like she does once he’s dead.

“Ready,” she says, makeup bag already unrolled and brushes on her hip. She gestures for him to take a seat. “Thanks for the assist.”

GM: “My pleasure,” he replies, sitting down. “Don’t we do makeup after I’m dressed up, though?”

“Unless it’s a dress that doesn’t have to go over my head.”

Celia: “Usually,” she agrees, “but we’re not quite the same size so nothing I brought is something that will need to go over the head. Zippers and whatnot, things you can step into.”

His chest is larger than hers. Not the tits, but the ribcage itself.

“If you’re eager to browse, though, be my guest.” She gestures toward the luggage full of clothing.

GM: “Makes sense,” he agrees, slipping off his shirt. It’s a trim, hairless, and well-proportioned chest.

“Oh no, we’ll do everything your way, mistress, in just the order you want,” he grins.

Celia: “I hope you know how to walk in heels,” is all she says to that.

GM: “Step down heel first, then toe. Take shorter steps.”

Celia: The work begins.

Josua is hardly the first male client she has ever put makeup on. Aside from Landen—whose face is structurally more masculine than most of her clients even if they aren’t technically a boy—she’s had plenty of them come into the spa over the years. Drag queens, male models, boys who just want to look pretty. Plus the dolls; though less frequent than the female dolls, she and Elyse have still worked on a handful of males.

The application process is similar. Josua has no hair to remove, no scruff on his face that she needs to get rid of, and the gel that she pumps into her fingers and smears across his skin meets no resistance.

“Moisturizer,” she explains, “to help the rest of it go on smoothly. If you like, I can have Celia drop off something for you to use nightly. Our skin takes a special sort of product.”

Her eyes find his again, lips curving into a smile.

“Not that you need much. You’re gorgeous.”

Familiar words; hadn’t she said the same to a blonde Ventrue once?

She dismisses the thought as quickly as it comes, reaching for the primer that will even out any rough patches, fill in any tiny little holes, and help the foundation adhere to his skin.

“Base coat,” she says, pouring a measure of liquid onto the back of her hand and dabbing at it with a brush. That, too, goes across the entirety of his face, blended out with a damp egg-shaped sponge and another brush all the way from his hairline to beyond his jaw. She lets it sit while she reaches for a palette of shadows, beginning with a flesh-toned color to create a base layer along his eyes to help blend everything together. Then white in the corners, applied with a tiny brush that only puts the pigment where she wants it to go. She pauses a moment while she looks into his eyes, debating on color for the lid.

Green can go a handful of ways. The neutrals work best with browns and taupe to make them pop, or any of the other smoky colors. Plum and gold can work as well. Green, too, to give vibrancy to the eyes themselves. He doesn’t have the coloring for plum, she thinks, and neutrals can be boring. But gold… gold might work. Gold and green? Is it too reminiscent of a snake?

No, she thinks, when Marcel sees him he will have no reason to think snake.

A new brush gathers the pigment from the palette, swiping it across his lid. Gold, olive, and pine, the colors bleeding into one another as she blends, blends, blends. Always blending. There will be no unblended lines on this masterpiece, not with Jade wielding the brush. A tiny drop of a green with hints of blue at the outer corner—dare she call it jade?—before the whole thing darkens and dissipates into a smoked out look toward the brow’s tail. Black liner across the top lid, flicked into a wing, and white at the waterline to widen his eyes.

Drama, she thinks. She has given him drama.

He will not be the playful sort of sub this evening; when the pair of them meet with Marcel they will show the faces of two beings that must be conquered by the prince before they will roll over and submit.

Jade works his brows next, plucking the stray hairs that make them too thick to be feminine and filling in the rest with a brown pomade slightly darker than his natural strands. She sculpts them with her tweezers and her pot of color, giving him a fine arch that makes it look like his eyes are constantly smiling.

Another coat of foundation erases any of the fallen pigment from his shadows. She uses another brush to swipe on highlighter that brings attention to his recently decked-out eyes, contour to erase the hard lines of his jaw, and blush to give his face a delicate flush.

She blends it all with brush and finger and sponge.

The boy beneath the makeup disappears as she works, the features becoming less masculine and more feminine with every stroke. A final application of powder locks the liquid in place, and a spritz from a black-capped pink bottle melds it all together.

Then it’s time for the extras: the strip of lashes she applies with a tiny amount of glue, the mascara to meld them together. And lipstick. Green can be hard to match, but Jade has all sorts of colors in her box of goodies, and she finds a liner and liquid lip in a berry that goes well with both the gold and the green.

“One moment,” Jade says before he looks into the mirror. She steps away to pick through the luggage, coming back with a wig and band. She pushes his hair back from his face and secures it with the band, then sets the wig overtop of it and secures it with a brush, a bit of glue, and a handful of tiny little clips that disappear as soon as she places them.

When she’s done, it looks as if she has taken an airbrush to his face.

His skin is smooth. His eyes sparkle. His features have been both softened and hardened, creating the illusion that Jade wants the world to see: Josua Cambridge, female.

Celia: When it’s done, Jade spends a long moment looking him over. She searches for flaws, searches for mistakes, searches for any sign that this isn’t what he might want. She tells him to smile, then to scowl, and finally to pout.

Perfection, she thinks. He is not a cherub-faced saint, no, but the drama of the eyes has not turned him into a vicious killer, either. It is not a look she would put on Veronica or Caroline, two licks with steel in their spine, but neither is it a look that she would give to a child, Leilani, or Celia herself. With this he can be what he wants: predator, prey, strong, weak, goddess, acolyte.

He can wear the mask he chooses.

She holds out a mirror.

GM: Jade and Elyse have worked on their share of male dolls. They’re a lot like Gabe was. Being given female bodies and dressed in female clothes is an immediate, humiliating blow to their spirits. Jade could call it sexist. Could remark on the things it says about gender roles and social views. But there’s nothing like being made to a wear a dress, panties, and bra—with real breasts—to emotionally castrate all but the most defiant males.

GM: Humiliation, Elyse always says, goes so much further than physical chastisement. Pain is an undesirable stimulus dolls will try to avoid. But humiliation destroys the capacity for resistance by making the doll see itself as less than it formerly was.

But Jade and Celia have worked on their share of men who enjoyed being prettied up, and Josua is no exception.

“Really, we still benefit from moisturizer?” he asks. “I thought our skin was perfect. Or at least stuck basically the way it was.”

He smiles at her words. “Yes please, though. Whatever makes me more gorgeous.”

They are familiar words.

But how many times has Josua probably described how much he loves women to other women, like he told Jade he did?

And Josua does clearly love women. Love being made up as a woman. He sits still, and with more difficulty, holds his face still as Jade reworks his face from male to female. He has good facial structure. Delicate lines. Not that a hand as masterful as Jade’s needs those, to bring out someone’s inner beauty, but it’s faster when there’s a lot of outside beauty already. He comes out divine. He’s gorgeous. Stunning. Head-turning. Josua holds the mirror to his face, but only high enough to see his lips—“Our clan blessing is going to kick in, if I see myself all dolled up, and then I’ll try to fuck you. We should at least wait until I’m done.”

But he relishes smiling, scowling, pouting in the mirror. He relishes smiling more than scowling, and pouting more than smiling.

They’re pretty lips.

They’re a pretty everything.

Because everything turns pretty around Jade.

“Wow. Just look at those lips,” he exclaims, holding his finger up to just beneath them, careful not to touch the lipstick. “I could suck so much dick with these lips.”

Celia: “You’re going to suck so much dick with those lips,” Jade tells him.

GM: He puckers his newly-red lips and kisses the air twice. “Yes ma’am!”

Celia: “Do you really think our clan’s blessing is going to make you want to fuck if you see yourself?” It’s an amusing thought.

“I can take a picture, if you want, to show you later.”

GM: “Oh, I’ll be completely off my game if I don’t even know how I look. You can just stop me if I try, and drive me crazy with anticipation, crazy enough to make me soaking wet if I was a real girl, until we see Marcel.”

Celia: “I imagine you’re going to be hit on more than me once we hit the floor,” Jade says with a pout.

“Why don’t we make a game of it? Whoever collects the most numbers wins.”

GM: Josua grins. “Oh, I’m amazing at fucking people, and getting people to want to fuck me, but I just know I’m going up against a master, here. I’m going to have to be at the absolute top of my game.”

“Loser owes the winner a boon?”

Celia: “No cheating. You can’t whack someone with star mode.”

“You need a name,” she adds. “And clothes.”

GM: “Hmm. How’s Josina?”

Celia: “Is Josina a real name?”

GM: “Does it sound real?”

Celia: “No.”

“Jessie?”

GM: “Jessie feels like a tomboy to me. I don’t want to be a tomboy, I want to be pretty girl who sucks so much dick. What about Joy?”

Celia: “Joy could work.”

GM: “Joy it is. Can you do anything for my shoulders? Those can be such a giveaway with transgender girls.”

Celia: “Any practice with a female voice?”

GM: “Hmm.” Josua clears his throat. “How’s this?” he asks in a smooth and velvety, higher-sounding one. It’s on the deeper end for a woman’s voice, but not unusually so.

Celia: “Better,” she nods. “I brought things that will hide the broader shoulders, in any case. With draping and such. And a bra. Unless you want me to cut you open and remove some parts. Just grab me a butcher’s knife, yeah?”

GM: Josua laughs. “Maybe if we had more time. I heard there are licks who cut out parts of themselves.”

“I’m not sure why they do it. So they weigh less?”

Celia: “Convenient carrying case.”

“I heard about a lick who pulled out his intestines and used them to strangle people. He didn’t want to lose any blood so he thought that was the best way.”

GM: “Seems easier just to carry rope.”

Celia: “I mean, I’m pretty sure he was fucked in the head before his Embrace, and it just brought out something even worse inside of him.”

Conscious of the time, though, Jade crosses the room to open the rest of the luggage. Inside is a pretty hefty selection of dresses, skirts, and lingerie in all sorts of colors and lengths.

“I brought a little bit of everything so you’d have options. A deeper V will distract from the shoulders. So will a cutout on the shoulders themselves. Probably nothing sleeveless or strapless, though.”

GM: “Let’s go with the v-neck. Really show off my new assets and draw eyes there.”

Celia: “Spoken like a true slut.”

GM: “I’m going to be a complete and total slut. The only reason I’m not already is that guys can’t be sluts.”

Celia: She gives him a look at that.

GM: “I mean, when did you ever hear of a guy getting shamed for having lots of sex?”

Celia: “Only rapists.”

Jade can’t help but think of Reggie again. He’s definitely on the line there. Maybe that’s why she likes him so much.

GM: “I hope someone rapes me, while I’m like this. That would be so sexy.”

“I think I should win if someone tries to do that, even if I get fewer numbers.”

“Same goes for you.”

Celia: Jade considers him for a moment, looking up from the selection of dresses in front of her.

“Does it count as rape if you want it to happen?”

GM: “Probably not, they just have to think we don’t. Or not bother with consent.”

He follows with clear interest, if not pleasure, but lets her pick.

Celia: “If you want to be raped,” Jade says idly, fingering the dress in her hands, “I could ask my friend to turn you into a real girl for a night. Give you a cute little pussy that someone can take advantage of. Really fuck you like a man fucks a woman.”

GM: “Oh really? That’d be so hot.”

Celia: “Win our bet and I’ll call in a favor.”

She finally offers him the first selection, holding it out for his perusal: long and red, deep V in the front, with two slits up the side all the way to the thighs and long sleeves that will hide his shoulders. It’ll allow for a peek of leg without showing off his male physique. She points out these features to him and sets it aside for his perusal.

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The second dress is similarly designed, with a deep V, long sleeves, and a longer hem to hide his legs. Black instead of red, though, with a mesh sort of netting that will cover most of him. There’s also some open skin on the shoulders to show some skin, since it lacks the slits of the first.

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She offers a shorter one after that that will hit him mid thigh, charcoal with little sparkles on it, a deep V, and long sleeves to hide the shoulders.

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GM: “Wow, those are some really slutty necklines. Perfect for me,” Josua grins. “Let’s go with the third. Full-length dresses would be out of place on the casino floor. And I like the sparkles.”

“I’ve already shaved my legs for tonight.”

“And it’s a deal, too. We’ll call in your friend if I win, to give me a real pussy.”

Celia: The full length dresses hide the legs, which are decidedly masculine despite being shaved, but she’d already pointed that out to him. She simply nods and reaches for a bra, slipping it onto him and hooking it in the back. Josua isn’t the first boy she’s turned into a girl for the night; she’d pre-stuffed the bra to give him a set of tits bigger than her own. He’s larger than her, his frame can handle it. A bit of blending and contour with a brush across his chest makes them look as real as hers, too. No hack-jobs here.

Jade helps him into the dress—it’s not hard to get into a dress, really, but sometimes zippers in the back can be a little challenging—and adjusts it as needed, finally nodding her head.

“I had to guess on your shoe size,” she says, “so I went with a strappy, open toe. Gives more room.”

GM: “Perfect, I was just about to ask what we had,” he smiles, appreciatively squeezing his new breasts once he’s in the dress.

“God, I’m so fuckable.”

Celia: Jade can’t help but laugh. She tells him to hold still while she coats his nails in a quick-drying polish, fingers and toes both with a pop of color that contrasts nicely against the charcoal dress, and once those are dry helps him into the heels and fastens the buckles.

Finally, she offers him a selection of jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, or rings if he is so inclined in a variety of metals and tastes. She lets him pick his own accessories while she dresses herself.

He might think that floor-length dresses don’t have any business being on the casino floor, but Jade knows that the right body, the right attitude, the right woman can pull off a gown even in a place like this. She slips into it, a black number with just as many sparkles as Josua’s chosen number, with a plunging neckline and cutouts across her mid-drift. A slit up either side rise almost to her waist. The dress dances around her legs while she walks, showing off her toned and shapely thighs.

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Some dresses wear the women, obscuring them from sight as it steals the stage, but even this dress can’t compete with the body it clings to. She pairs it with nude heels and pulls her hair into a twisting, half up style that leaves a handful of strands free to curl about and frame her face, the rest of it falling in a cascade of dark color down her back. No jewelry save the ever-present sun ring on her left hand.

Formal, but dressed down with the amount of skin it shows. Something that she can wear both on the casino floor and to meet the prince later. Adaptable to any situation. Like her.

“Ready?” she asks.

GM: Josua smiles as she does his nails and fastens his shoes. He spends some time selecting jewelry and goes with a double chain pendant that hangs low down his exposed neck, drawing further attention to his breasts, and some hoop earrings that also detract from the prominence of his shoulders—“Plus hoops have a kind of slutty vibe, don’t you think?” The long sleeves don’t leave much room for bracelets, but he goes goes with a simple gold wedding ring and attached diamond engagement ring, “So I can make jokes about that, and maybe it’ll make guys want to fuck me more, because who doesn’t love stealing something that isn’t theirs?”

But when Jade finishes with herself, he falls silent.

Silent. Still.

Mesmerized.

Celia: Josua’s chatter becomes the noisy backdrop to the cabin she has turned into a dressing suite. She laughs along with him, agreeing that hoops are slutty and that stolen things taste better, and becomes accustomed to his voice filling the space. It’s only when he stops that she looks up, catching his eye.

What does it for him? Is it the dress, the heels, the makeup? The exposed skin? Or is it Jade herself, the body she has spent countless hours turning into a living embodiment of art?

She aches to know what makes him stop and stare.

“Your future admirers are waiting.” Low, sultry tones, suggesting that she doesn’t care one whit who waits for them.

GM: Perhaps it’s some or all of those things about her. Perhaps it’s himself, as he stares into the wall-length mirror behind her. Perhaps it’s both.

His next words are a whisper.

My admirers.”

Your worshipers.”

Josua sinks to his knees, managing a graceful descent despite the heels.

“God creates. That’s the first thing he does, in the Bible. He makes the world. God is the supreme creator.”

The palms of his nailed hands stroke her exposed thighs caressingly, lovingly.

“The goddess creates.”

“Look at us. Just look at us. Just look at what you’ve done to us.”

Josua shivers and wraps his arms around Jade’s leg as though seeking assurance, a pillar to cling to amidst a raging storm. His new breasts press against her smooth skin as he breathes out, his voice at once choked and velvet,

“Long dress on the casino floor. You don’t follow the rules. You define them. You make them. You rise above them, like Aphrodite from the sea, and they all try to mimic you, they all want to capture your spark, your your brilliance, your glory, some mote of your divine light, but they’ll all fail, because you’d never try to be more perfect by being like someone else. The goddess does not mimic her worshipers. They are your worshipers. Everyone out there. That’s so perfect. That’s so fitting. I wear the short dress, the little dress, because that’s what everyone else does, and it really makes me the little bitch, next to you. That’s so fitting. Your dress is your cock and yours is longer than mine, so that double makes me your bitch. It’s such an honor to be your bitch, mistress. Man is less than the goddess. It is natural. It is right.”

He runs his cheek along her leg. He clings her leg like a lifeline as he slowly lowers his head until it rests almost at the floor. He kisses her feet. He kisses her toes. He kisses the nail of her big toe, then laps at the gaps between her toes with his tongue.

“The goddess creates. That’s what she does. You’ve created Joy. You took male and made it female, and just as sexy as before. You made your own world. I am your child, your creation, your heavenly breath. There can be no competition. Every number I get is a number you get. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see me, I see Jade. I see her touch on me. I see her touch on every part of me. I see her care, her knowledge, her taste, her style, her vision. Her presence.”

He works his way up, head still bowed before her in supplication. He kisses the strap of her shoes. He kisses her ankles. He kisses his way up her ankles. Up her legs.

“I feel your presence in the wig on my end. I feel your presence in the silky bra and panties teasing my skin. I feel your presence in the breasts I can’t stop squeezing. I feel your presence in the dress wrapped around me, enveloping me, oh god, mistress, you’re everywhere, you’re everything, I can’t escape you, I owe all I am to you, and I want to just hug myself and scream, it feels so good to have you in me. I can’t walk. I can’t think. I can’t talk, about anything except you. You’ve subsumed me. Oh, I just want to roll around on the floor, hugging myself, hugging you, screaming in ecstasy, in joy, because I am Joy, your creation, your extension, your avatar, and the only reason I’m not, the only reason I’m not rolling around on the floor like I’m possessed, which I am, possessed by Jade, is because I know it would displease you if I mussed up your work and to defy the goddess is unthinkable. I’ve got this beast inside of me, this sublime wellspring of energy. I’ve got you inside of me, all over me, all around me, I don’t think there even is a Josua now, there’s just Joy, there’s just Jade. I want a big strong man to bend me over and fuck me silly. I want him to use me completely while I bow down and worship you, and when he cums I want us both to scream your name as the goddess comes forth, because it’s not me he’s fucking, it’s you, your creation, your Joy.”

He kisses her thigh. He leaves a trail of kisses up her thigh. Adoring kisses. Worshipful kisses. He tastes her flesh as though it is divine mana. He clings to leg like he would cling to a pillar of pure light that could carry him into heaven. He peels back her gown’s slit skirt like a divine revelation lies beneath, and falls upon the flawless skin in rapture, trailing it with worshipful kisses.

Joy, mistress. Your Joy.”

Your. Joy.”

Celia: Aphrodite from the sea. It’s the second time someone has said that to her, that she is Aphrodite from the sea. That she has risen up and taken the sea with her. That she cannot be defined by the ideals of beauty because she, her, she creates them. She defines them. She is them. She is them and they are her, the bar that has been set, the level that others strive for. She is not the dress on the woman; she is not the gown on the rack; she is not even the regalia hanging from the stick-thin frames of the women in Paris and Milan and New York with their slightly stooped posture and their stage makeup.

She is the creator. The divine inspiration.

The goddess.

And, oh, how he worships her.

On his knees, his touch reverent, his words melodious. She basks in it. Revels in it. Rejoices in it. The praise that he lavishes upon her swells the heart within her chest, the head upon her shoulders, every word of it true, true, true.

She did this. Created him. Created her. Created Celia, created Jade, created others—so many others, all of them eye-catching beauties. Elyse has dolls, little bits of porcelain and glass and wood chippings that she glues together and arranges in their fancy little dresses. She has human dolls she molds into chaste beings: perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect woman.

But she—Jade, Celia, whoever she is, whoever she once was—she creates personas. Bodies are naught but clay beneath the tips of her fingers. She molds. Sculpts. Paints. The dolls sit pretty on their little shelves with their vacant eyes; hers walk, talk, breathe, love.

That’s the true art, there.

Inside her chest, her dead heart beats. A flush spreads through her body at his touch and words and adoration. She is an artist. She has created Joy. Created this moment, this passion.

She did this.

The goddess touches the tips of her pristine fingers to Joy’s cheek. Her nails stroke the delicate flesh, a tender gesture that ends at her chin. She lifts, tilting the eyes up to look at her. Green eyes framed in green and gold and black—smoky, nebulous eyes, eyes that shine in ardent desire.

“You are mine.”

Steel wrapped in velvet. Liquid fire. It pours from her lips, acceptance of his place beneath her. No, not acceptance; insistence. This is where he belongs: on his knees in front of her, grateful that she has allowed him even this much.

Her skirt parts for him. She welcomes his touch, the whisper of his breath across her skin as he rises higher, as his tongue teases the delicate folds beneath the fabric of her skirt. She asks for more; she pulls aside the material covering her chest and pierces herself with the point of one nail just above her nipple. Blood wells within the cut, then drips down the exposed flesh of her breast. Ambrosia, the divine nectar of the gods, and she offers him a taste for his steadfast devotion.

Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, tells him to drink from her earthbound sheath.

GM: Josua, Joy, whomever, rises so that he might fall upon the goddess, rapturously licking up the flowing blood. His mouth leaves lipstick prints across the pale breast. He rises further arms encircling her, his breasts pressing against hers. He seems to especially enjoy that sensation of their breasts touching, because he spends several moments doing nothing but rubbing his chest against hers, giggling with delight at the feeling. Then his mouth plants more of those worshipful kisses across her lower neck, stopping shy of her mouth, for he is not worthy to kiss her there. That is where a man kisses a woman, and where a woman kisses a woman.

He may be a woman.

But Jade is so much more.

So he does what all men and women do in the presence of the divine.

He sinks to his knees.

He worships her.


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, PM

The pair lie upon the floor in one another’s arms. Their hair and makeup is mussed, despite their best efforts, but Josua doesn’t seem to care. Not if he may hold the goddess close—or rather, be held by her, his head resting just below her breasts, her hands stroking his hair. He rubs his hairless legs against Jade’s, shivering at the sensation.

“We’re sex bombs. You know that? Just look at us. We’re primed and ready to explode.”

“And we just did.”


Celia: “We just did,” she agrees. Her fingers run through the silky smooth strands of the dead girl’s hair. What had her name been? Brianna? Bree? Brittany? She thinks it might have been a B, but she doesn’t recall ever asking. Just draining her, swallowing every last drop, sinking into the warmth of blood and ecstasy.

Literal ecstasy.

God, what a night.

Jade’s lipstick does not bleed, but Joy’s had. So had some of the power around her eyes, and the wings she’d been given look a little… off-kilter. It will be a quick touch up to set it right, made faster still by the gifts of her clan. In a moment, though. Now, she wants to enjoy the weight of Joy pressed against her, the feel of those silken strands.

“A bit premature,” she says idly, “we could have ensnared a whole slew of mortals, brought them back here to worship.”

She touches a finger to Joy’s lips.

“I’ll see you on your knees yet, darling.”

GM: “Oh, yes, mistress,” purrs Joy, nuzzling her belly. “We both want to see me suck a whole army’s worth of cocks. These lips were made for cocks.”

Celia: “They make gags, did you know, that keep your mouth open. O-ring gags, they’re called. You’d just have to kneel there and take it while they fuck your face if I got you one of those. Strap you down. Let men fill you from both ends.”

“You’re such a fuckable little bitch.”

GM: “I really am. I dress like such a slut, too. I can’t even leave my dressing room without fucking someone. I’d probably take the entire casino in my mouth and up my ass if I tottered out of here.”

“I wouldn’t even get to feed, with an o-ring gag. I wouldn’t even be a real lick. I’d just be a piece of ass.”

Celia: That’s all she is now. A piece of ass. Jade’s piece. Jade’s creation.

Jade shifts, thighs spreading to either side of Joy’s hips. She uses the weight of her body to pin the slut down, reaching for the bag of cosmetics. A few tweaks and her face is set to rights again.

“Next time,” she tells Joy. “Next time, I’ll let them bend you over like the whore that you are and stick as many cocks in you as they like. Now, though, we have a game to play.”

GM: Joy beams and bats her lashes under the makeup artist’s touch.

“We do. I haven’t even sucked any cocks yet, but I just want to say how educational this has been, and how much better I understand women now. I’m just as promiscuous as I was as Josua, but when I’m Joy I’m this absolutely shameless, cock-ravenous slut who’ll spread her legs the moment someone looks at her. It’s so illuminating to see myself that way.”

“I’m just such a slut.”

Celia: She longs for a cock again. She’d make Joy swallow it.

“Such a slut,” Jade agrees. She rises, towering over the girl on her back. On her back, like sluts should be. Back or knees; that’s where they belong.

Jade fixes her appearance in the mirror. Only when she’s done does she return her attention to Joy the slut.

“I suppose it would raise too many questions to make you crawl after me. Pity. You look good on your knees.”

Celia: All the same, a snap of her fingers summons Joy after her as she strides from the cabin.

There are more people yet to admire her work.

GM: Joy dutifully licks her shoes as she fixes her face, running a longing tongue up and down the straps and heels.

“Are we going to see Marcel, mistress?” asks Joy, her own heels clicking after Jade.

Celia: “Is it time already?”

GM: “We have some time left, mistress.”
“I could really lick your shoes, get them up to polish.”

Celia: “Mm,” Jade hums, finally turning to look at her, “and how would your lover feel if he found you with your tongue on my shoes?”

GM: “He’d know this is where an enormous, completely shameless slut like me belongs. But he’d be too polite to say it.”

Celia: “Do my heels need shining?” Jade glances down at them. “Did you miss a spot earlier?”

GM: “Oh I bet I did, mistress, I was probably too busy imagining them as cocks down my throat to do the job properly.”
“Or you could take me out in front of the casino guests and show them what a complete slut I am.”

Celia: Jade taps the roof of her mouth with her tongue, tutting at the excuse.

“If he finds cause to be displeased with my appearance because of your oversight, I’ll see to it that the next man who touches you splits you open.”

She knows just the one.

“Come, Joy. Let’s give them a show.”

GM: “It’s impossible for anyone to be displeased by your appearance, mistress. Just my polishing job. I hope he is, though. Getting split open is just what a hungry slut like me gets wet thinking about,” giggles Joy.

She clicks along after Jade to the main gambling hall, where the pair are assailed by a riot of sounds, smells, and scintillating colors. The first thing they notice is the massive array of slot machines with blinking lights, whirring sirens, and tokens clattering into the metal payout drawers. Gold and bright primary colors glint excitedly everywhere. Rowdy jazz music plays from speakers and a live band. Crowds of clapping, exclaiming, shouting people are clustered around the array of games, including three-card poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, Mississippi Stud, and Ultimate Texas Hold’em—and the ever-present slot machines that make up the most of any casino’s revenue. An all-you-can-eat Creole/Caribbean-themed buffet and bar is set up in the corner, along with the band. Cocktail waitresses weave their way through the lively crowds while suited croupiers smartly deal out cards.

Celia: She’d been too wrapped up in Josua’s embrace to pay much attention to her surroundings last time. Now, though, freed from the blessing of her clan, Jade sweeps her eyes around the casino. Larger than she had anticipated for it being on a boat. Nicer, too; she’d been picturing more of the same from the racino.

She ignores the slot machines entirely—she has had no luck there and her particular skills suit her better at the tables where she plays against other patrons rather than the house. Hold ’Em, specifically, though she doubts the prince will take kindly to her robbing his players blind.

“What’s your poison?” she asks Joy. “Craps is always a crowd favorite. Maybe someone will let you blow on their dice.” High energy around a craps table.

And half the players don’t understand the rules, just throw their chips onto numbers and hope for the best.

GM: “Craps sounds perfect, mistress. I’ll lick those dice right in front of them, totally shameless,” giggles Joy.

Celia: “I bet you could blow someone under the table. No cameras down there.”

GM: “I’d want a camera to capture that, though.”

Celia: “Not some stern-faced security guard that drags you before your mistress and asks what you think you’re doing sucking a cock without permission?”

GM: “The guards would all want me to blow them too. And you’d say yes, a slut like me was born to swallow dicks down her mouth.”

Celia: “If I had a cock,” Jade murmurs in her ear as they wind through the floor of breathers, “I’d make you kneel under the table no matter where I was with it in your mouth at all times. I’d let other people take a turn for a red chip. You would work your way around the table, swallowing load after load, until I told you to stop.”

GM: Joy gives another girlishly delighted giggle. “Why don’t we do that, mistress? I can just suck the heel of your shoe, instead of your cock.”
“See how many red chips you can pick up.”

Celia: “Your friend won’t mind the spectacle?”

GM: “Would you, mistress? If it were your casino?”

Celia: Probably.

She looks around to get the measure of the typical patron, wondering how far she can push this.

GM: New Orleans isn’t Vegas, and the Alystra isn’t Harrah’s. They look mostly middle-class. “The richer patrons usually go to the baccarat lounge upstairs,” Joy adds.

Celia: She’s less interested in their wallets than she is the sort of person they are. The kind who don’t bat an eye at a BJ under the table? How many other hookers are here this evening? Jade scans the crowd.

GM: This place seems higher-class than Harrah’s.

Which is to say, the hookers are more discrete, and any giving under-the-table blowjobs are being pretty careful not to get caught.

Celia: Jade won’t be the one to cause a scene within someone else’s territory, tempting though it is. She shakes her head at Joy’s insistence.

GM: Joy makes a pouty face. “We’re a pair of sneaky girls, aren’t we?”

Celia: Jade can’t help but smirk.

“Are you trying to get me kicked out so you can hog him to yourself? That’s rude, pet.”

“That makes you a selfish little slut.”

GM: “You need a self to be selfish, mistress. Joy is just an extension of Jade. She’s a piece of Jade’s art.”

“I’m definitely a slut, though.”

Celia: “The thing about sneaking, you know, is that in order to do so you have to be ordinary. Nothing about us is ordinary. We turn heads. We want people to look at us.”

The look she gives Joy dares her to disagree.

She casts another appraising eye around the room, looking for a likely target. Someone with whom Joy can get down and dirty like she wants to. Someone who might even pay for the pleasure of it, turning Joy into the literal whore that Jade knows she is.

And there they are, the sort of mark that Jade searches for. Seven of them at a Hold ‘Em table with their leisure suits or their t-shirts paired with jeans and their stacks of chips. Casually dressed, but to the trained eye—her eye—they scream what they are. Wealthy. Experienced. She pegs the short, dumpy, dark-haired one as a pro player. The thin, twitchy one as a dealer or bookie, maybe both. The old one as a retired… something. Something that hardened him, that makes him slow to smile, but she knows with certainty that it isn’t his pension or his 401k that he’s gambling away this evening. A larger one, black, with a silver watch on his wrist. Blancpain. She can see it from here; despite the loose jeans and too-large shirt, he’s a man of means. And a virgin. She can tell by the way he smiles at the cocktail waitress in her little corset and skirt, by the way he laughs too long and too loudly at her joke, by the way he hands her an extra green chip when she drops off the drink and touches a hand to his shoulder.

Clever girl.

Jade watches the play from the corner of her eye as she approaches the cage to exchange her cash, handing over five crisp bills to receive a plastic tray full of red and white. Jade thanks the cashier with a smile and moves off, tugging Joy with her. A word to the hostess and the two girls are on their way to the table.

“Stand behind me,” Jade murmurs to Joy, “and work out that knot in my shoulder. We’ll see where it goes from there.”

There’s no such knot. Jade’s body is flawless.

“Evening, boys,” she says to the assembled men as she takes the final seat, just in time to catch the little blind. She sets down two white chips and waits for the cards, lifting just the corners to check them.

GM: Joy murmurs for Jade to appear normally in the cameras. Marcel’s people are trained to look for players who don’t show up normally, and will automatically assume they are cheating.

There may not be a knot in her shoulders, but Joy relishes touching them all the same. Very clearly so. She flashes the other players a wide smile as she works her hands back and forth over Jade’s skin. Both girls draw immediate looks from everybody. Some of the players try to look less smitten than others. But all of them must be.

How can they not be, to play alongside a goddess and her creation?

The short, dumpy man smirks between the pair of them. He looks pretty young. “Evening, lovelies. Feeling lucky?”

The older one grunts, though his stare lingers on Jade. Is it lust?

Mr. Blancpain them both and repeats, “Evening, lovelies,” with a wide smile.

Definitely virgin, to be repeating the other guy’s greeting.

Joy eyes all three, and the others too, as if deciding who to blow.

Or blow first.

The dealer, meanwhile, deals cards. Jade gets a nine and six of spades.

Celia: Jade inclines her head toward the dealer, the man she pegged as the pro player (now reconsidering, since she’s never known a pro player to talk about “luck” at a poker table when they all mostly believe it’s a game of skill), and the virgin. She follows Joy’s advice to make sure that she appears normal to the cameras; she’s had so much practice with it, after all.

“Brought my darling charm with me,” she says all the same, making a vague gesture toward Joy, “how could I not?”

Not a great start to her night with that hand, but six and nine are rather auspicious for her, aren’t they? Blatantly sexual and all that; maybe she’ll catch a straight. She’s already in for two. She’ll call the five and limp in if the table lets her.

But when the betting comes back around and the short man raises by $150, Jade simply folds her hand.

GM: There’s three cards on the table now. Seven of clubs, ten of clubs, three of hearts.

“Good luck charm might work better than a darling charm,” says the short man.

“Oh, a darling charm can work for a lot of things,” smiles Josua, still working Jade’s shoulder.

The virgin’s stare lingers on them both.

The fourth card is an eight of diamonds. Another man folds. The others check. The short man raises another $50.

The fifth card is a jack of diamonds. Everyone reveals their hands. The short man has the ace of hearts and a six of clubs. The chips all go to him.

“I don’t believe that poker’s a game of skill,” he says as he collects his chips.

The older man looks at him like he’s stupid.

“If luck is on your side, it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are.”

“Should I suck his cock?” Joy murmurs in Jade’s ear.

Celia: The words draw a peal of laughter from Jade. She lifts a hand to cover her mouth, and if anyone glances her way she simply shakes her head. Amusement dances in her eyes.

He’s one of those.

The button moves to the left and Jade is now the big blind. She sets down her red chip before the cards ever pass to her.

“Luck,” she says with a faint smile, “or a large stack to buy the pot.”

She does not dignify Joy’s question with a response. It’s a clear no.

GM: She gets the ace of clubs and the ace of spades.

One man calls.

The short man just smiles and raises another $150.

The virgin calls.

The older man folds.

One man folds. Another calls too.

Celia: Pocket aces? There’s no hesitation. Jade calls.

GM: Everyone plays through the hand as the dealer deals his cards. There are some more calls, checks, and folds, but two aces make the hand a largely foregone conclusion. When all the cards are laid out, and everyone reveals their hands, the short man had a king and queen. A great hand, but not good enough. The virgin and the others didn’t even venture higher than numbered man.

The chips go to Jade.

“Luck’s on your side this time,” the short man says breazily.

The old man snorts. “I’da raised earlier.”

Celia: Jade stacks her winnings in front of her, one brow arched at the old man’s comments. She’d gone all in by the end of it.

“Sure,” she says, “and chased everyone off the hand.” Which means less winnings, but Jade won’t be so crass as to discuss money at the poker table. She just smiles.

“I s’pose my girl is a good luck charm after all.”

GM: “Yeah,” says the virgin, “she’s definitely a good luck charm!”

“There are places you can just buy it, kid,” says the old man with another snort.

Celia: “A cute, lucky charm,” Jade agrees. She blatantly eyes him. “You want to borrow her?”

GM: The short man grins. “I believe in luck, but not lucky charms. Though she’s clearly charmed the table.”

There’s nothing at all subtle about the hungry smile Joy flashes the virgin.

“You sure you won’t need her luck?” the virgins asks with a mildly forced-sounding chuckle.

Celia: “I can come off her for a hand or two. Just make it worth my time.”

“Those hands of hers are magic.”

GM: Joy gives a bimbo-ish giggle and touches her fingertips to her lips. Her eyes don’t leave the virgin. She doesn’t say anything. Just plays the dumb bimbo on Jade’s arm.

“Okay then, you bet I will,” the virgin readily agrees.

Celia: Jade waves a hand at Joy.

“Go on then, dollface.”

“Make the man happy.”

GM: Joy gives a delighted giggle and starts to work her hands up and down the man’s shoulders. She’s very intimate in her touch. She leans in close so her hair brushes against his shoulders, but she doesn’t stay still. Sometimes her breasts brush against him. Sometimes she breathes half-audible sultry-sounding things in his ears. Jade is pretty sure she fondles his dick under the table, too.

Far from being a good luck charm, the virgin is flustered to the point he can barely think straight. He places big bets and raises as often as he can, just to look big and bold when Joy coyly whispers what a big pair he has.

The cocktail waitress gives Joy a dirty look when she comes by again.

Celia: As if Joy or Jade care about the dirty looks given to them by the kine who carry drinks for a living.

Maybe the others at the table don’t notice the way that Joy’s hands slip beneath the table, but Jade, seated right next to the virgin, hears the sudden intake of his breath when Joy’s hands find the spot where he’s really tense. She smirks and plays her hand, taking advantage of his distraction to force him into a large bet that nets her half his stack.

Joy carries on while Jade plays with the boys, making idle chitchat as the time passes. True to his word, the short, dumpy guy who believes in Lady Luck seems to have a knack for getting exactly what he needs. Lucky plays fast and loose with his chips as if he knows that she’s smiling down on him, and more than once he flips his cards to show something Jade wouldn’t have kept—lower, off suit—but still manages to win the pot. One hand he forces another player all in and they reveal their hands; it looks like the other guy has him beat until the dealer lays out the last card and the gentleman who loses mutters angrily about “catching the nuts on the river” before he stalks from the table. Jade winks at Lucky as they watch him go.

There’s always someone waiting to take the empty seat. Players come and go as the cards are dealt and chips change hands. Lucky tips the dealer well when she rotates out to make room for one of her coworkers.

By the time Jade and Joy start thinking that they should get going to meet Marcel, Lucky has the rest of the table beat in stack height. Jade isn’t so crass as to count her money at the table (or reference the song), but she’s at least doubled her initial investment and is pretty secure with her “second place” earnings.

GM: The virgin tries to stay attached to Joy. He offers to buy her drinks. “Or food. Or whatever you want.”

Joy gives a delighted-sounding giggle and glances Jade’s way as if for permission.

Lucky grins at both ladies as the game concludes and walks over to a Mississippi Stud table. He promptly starts winning at that too.

Jade sees the pit boss and several guards and floormen all watching him now.

The eye in the sky, of course, is always watching.

Celia: Jade gives Joy and the virgin a long look, then finally nods her head. Of course Joy can play with her new toy. She pulls Joy close as she starts stacking chips on the rack to cash out, leaning in to whisper in her ear.

“You are going to take your new friend into a private, secluded area and blow his mind. Get on your knees. Unzip him. And suck his cock like the fuckable little faggot I’ve turned you into.” She touches a hand to Joy’s cheek, thumb tracing her lips. “Make sure you swallow.”

GM: Joy gives another bimbo-ish giggle.

“Yes, ma’am. Right on my knees, like I’m meant for. I’ll throw up in front of you, so you can be double sure.” She hungrily licks her lips. “Unless you’d like to watch?”

Lucky, meanwhile, soon wins a jackpot. He’s got so many chips.

Celia: He has to be doing something. No one is that lucky. And he hadn’t played well enough for her to think that he’s some sort of idiot savant.

Jade shakes her head at Joy, nodding for her to enjoy the virgin on her own. She’s tempted—she’d like to watch Joy be a slut—but the intrigue surrounding Lucky simply calls to her.

It’s not natural.

What is it?

It reminds her, frankly, of her Uncle Seb and his uncanny ability to win whatever his little heart desires. Jade watches from nearby to see if she can suss out his trick.

GM: Joy takes the virgin by the hand, rubs her hips against his flank, and makes off with him, promising to “blow your mind, sweetheart.” She’s all giggles and sly (or obvious) touches, constantly in motion, constantly teasing and caressing and flirting. The man stammers is assent as if unable to believe this is happening.

Lucky doesn’t seem to be palming cards or leveraging sleight of hand. If the dealers are in on it, they’re very good actors, because they’re watching him just as suspiciously. Jade can’t see anything untoward in what he’s doing.

Beyond the fact that he just keeps winning.

Or that he doesn’t seem to care how intently the casino is watching. He can’t possibly be unaware.

Celia: He’s still winning by the time the cashier finishes with her chips. Jade finally slides closer.

“You weren’t kidding.”

GM: “I was born lucky,” he replies breezily.

He counts his many, many winnings.

“Want to hit the slots?”

Celia: “You lucky there, too?” She sounds amused, but walks with him.

GM: He walks up to one, feeds in a coin, and pulls the lever. Three bananas turn up. Coins pour out.

“I’m lucky everywhere,” he grins.

“Want some of those? I can just get more.”

He indicates the coins.

Every employee eye in the casino is on him now.

Celia: “Lucky everywhere?” Jade eyes him as the coins pour out of the machine. It’s the sort of thing she’s only seen happen in movies. “How do I get some of that to rub off on me?”

GM: “Honestly?” smirks the kid. “You’re either born lucky or you’re not. Good things happen around me, though. Stick around and some will probably happen to you.”

Celia: “You mean like I’ll get to watch the security guys use your face as a punching bag?”

GM: His smirk doesn’t fade. “Didn’t I just say I was lucky at everything?”

Celia: “Even love?”

GM: “Yeah, I’ve banged a ton of girls.”

“Everyone likes a winner.”

Celia: “So you use your luck to rob casinos blind and get into girls’ pants.”

GM: “Yep. Can you think of a better use?”

Celia: Several.

“Probably. But I see the appeal.” Since he has none of his own.

GM: Lucky pulls the levers for a few more slots. He wins at every one.

“Hey, can I get a bag for all this?” he asks an employee.

“Of course, sir,” comes a very frosty response.

The pit boss and several security guards walk up to him.

“You need to come with us, sir.”

“Oh, sure,” he says absently. “Bag first, okay?”

Celia: Jade does that thing she does sometimes, the one that makes people like her and listen to her as if she has any right to be there. She says she wants to tag along and bats her lashes even though it isn’t strictly necessary.

GM: All of the employees prove more than amenable to her company.

“You’ll get your money from us, sir,” says the pit boss.

“Okay, that works,” shrugs Lucky.

Everyone goes back to what looks like the manager’s office. The manager is a bearded, balding, middle-aged man in a dark suit who does not look at all happy to see Lucky and Jade across from his desk.

“So,” he says, spreading his hands.

“You think we’re fucking idiots?”

“I’m just lucky. That’s all,” grins Lucky.

“You’re lucky,” says the manager.

“Yep,” says Lucky.

“You just won the privilege to play a very exclusive game with us, Gunner. You’re the only guy in the casino who gets to play it.”

“Really?” asks Gunner. He’s leaning back in his seat and not looking at the man anymore. He’s staring up at the eye in the sky.

The manager follows his gaze to the camera with a thin smile. “Yes, Gunner, we’re watching here.”

“We’re watching everywhere.”

Celia: Jade wants to play, too.

GM: “So what’s the game?” smiles Gunner, finally looking back at the man.

“We take turns beating your ass until you tell us why you’re so lucky,” says the manager with a very nasty smile. One of the guards grabs Gunner’s chair, spins it around, and throws a punch at him.

The man trips over his own feet and crashes flat on his face.

Celia: Oh.

Oh.

He’s actually lucky in all things.

GM: Gunner clucks his tongue.

“So, can I have my money now?”

Celia: What does lucky blood taste like? If she drinks from him, will she absorb some of that?

She doesn’t know, but she wants to find out.

GM: The manager rises from his seat.

The ceiling fan suddenly snaps off and crashes into him. The man goes down in a heap behind his desk.

Gunner looks at the other guard, who’s pulled a gun.

“Hey, are you allowed to have those?”

The man squeezes the trigger. The explosively loud bullet ricochets off the wall and hits him in the knee. He goes down in a screaming, bleeding heap.

“So, should I go to the cage?” Gunner asks, removing his hands from his ears. He covered them just in time.

“You… idiot…” rasps the manager’s voice from below his desk, “when the owner gets back…”

Jade smells blood from there.

“So he’s not here? Wow, lucky me,” smiles Gunner.

He looks at Jade. “Wanna visit the cage? I don’t think these guys actually have my money.”

“It’ll turn up, though.”

He peers down at the motionless first guard.

“Oh, wow. I think he actually knocked himself out. What a fucking clutz.”

Celia: Jade had nothing to do with this, but somehow she feels like Marcel is going to find a way to blame her for it. Maybe if she keeps tabs on the lucky guy he won’t have a reason to.

“How deliciously illuminating. I think you’re right that they don’t have your money; shall we?” She rises, stepping neatly over the prone man to move toward the door.

GM: The bleeding, sweating man on the grasps for his gun.

Gunner shakes his head at him.

“That’s a really bad idea.”

He kicks the gun away, slips an arm around Jade’s waist, and walks out with her.

“Believe me now?”

Celia: “You certainly caught my attention, and that’s lucky in and of itself.” She’s a shameless flatterer.

Of herself.

GM: Gunner laughs. “You wouldn’t be here with me if it wasn’t.”

Celia: “Does that mean anything we do together is bound to succeed?”

GM: “Basically, yeah.”

Celia: She can think of so many fun uses for a lucky friend.

Jade smiles winningly up at him as they traverse the floor and head to the cage, already running through a handful of scenarios.

Maybe she’ll keep him.

GM: Gunner smiles back and squeezes her ass. He walks up to the cage and asks for his winnings. The man on the inside saw him go off with the pit boss. Everyone saw him. He hands over the money in a bag.

Celia: “We should make you really lucky,” she murmurs into his ear as he collects his winnings.

GM: “Huh, I think the pit boss ran off,” says Gunner, striding towards the exit with her.

“How do you figure there?” he asks, amused.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the things that’ve happened to me.”

Celia: “No?”

“Tell me.”

GM: “Let me show you.”

Celia: “Show me?”

GM: The two walks down the riverboat casino’s ramp. Gunner walks dead into traffic, spreads his arms, and falls over onto the road like he’s doing a snow angel.

Traffic screams and blares. Tires squeal. Cars furiously honk. Drivers shout from their windows. Gunner just lies there.

More cars madly careen past. Horns ceaselessly blare. Some tires miss him by bare inches.

He just lies there. Untouched.

Celia: Jade waits safely on the sidewalk.

“That’s hardly proof,” she calls out to him, “since they’d avoid hitting you anyway.”

GM: Gunner gets up, takes his time dusting himself off, and walks back as passing drivers scream after him.

“We’re pretty past proof.”

“I’m invincible. I don’t think there’s anything that can actually hurt me.”

“Believe me, I’ve tested it. I’ve jumped off buildings. Tried to shoot myself with a gun. OD’d on drugs.”

“I think I’m some kind of god or something.”

Celia: “A god,” she repeats, amused.

GM: “You got a better name?”

Celia: “I don’t know if I believe you, is all. If you jumped into a bathtub with a toaster are you telling me that you wouldn’t die?”

GM: “Yep.”

Celia: “You’ve never gotten sick? Broken a bone?”

GM: “Nope.”

Celia: “Have you ever actually been sad?”

“Lost your keys?”

“Been broken up with?”

GM: “Oh, yeah. But I always find someone new.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever lost my keys.”

Celia: “Hm.” Jade eyes him. “Did you grow up in New Orleans? I can’t imagine you’ve been able to hit the casinos here without getting caught for that long.”

GM: He just laughs. “Get caught and… what?”

Celia: “They’d ban you, wouldn’t they?”

GM: “You think that’d stop me?”

“But no, I’m not from here. New Orleans was just a place I wanted to visit.”

Celia: “You in town for a while?”

GM: “Haven’t decided. Long as I have fun.”

“Where do you want to go bang?”

Celia: “My cabin is on the boat.” Jade eyes him. “Think you’re lucky enough to get out twice without the guards catching you?”

GM: “Sure am. You work for the owner or something?”

Celia: “His lover. I guess we’ll see if you can win me over.”

GM: He shrugs. “I will or I won’t. Either way, I’ll end up in someone’s bed.”

“I can say basically whatever I want to girls. If I really want pussy, some will fall into my lap.”

Celia: “Funny,” she says as they head back inside, “I have the same effect on men.”

GM: “It’s probably what you’re best at.” Gunner follows her in. Things have seemingly gone back to normal in the casino, though employees immediately start watching him. He’s seemingly unconcerned.

Celia: “Mmm,” Jade muses, watching the guards watch them. She winks at one. “You’re probably right. I suppose you’ll have to let me know how I compare to the bevy of other beautiful women who throw themselves at you.”

Where had Joy gotten to? Jade scans the casino floor as they go.

GM: Joy’s back at another table, shamelessly flirting with several men at once. The slut must have sucked off the virgin already.

Celia: Jade wiggles her fingers at the girl in a sort of “come hither” motion.

“You don’t mind sharing, do you?” she asks her would-be companion.

How lucky: two gorgeous girls and one man.

GM: Joy murmurs something to the men, fondles both of their dicks, and saunters on over.

“Just my luck,” grins Gunner.

Celia: “Look what I found,” Jade says to Joy, taking her by the arm, “the luckiest guy in the city.”

“And he’s all ours tonight.”

GM: “Lucky us,” giggles Joy.

“You don’t know the half of it,” smirks Gunner. “I’m Gunner.”

“I’m Joy. I’m a slut,” beams Joy.

“Wow, I really am lucky,” says Gunner.

Celia: “She gives great head,” Jade offers.

“Spends a lot of time on her knees, you see.”

GM: “I was born to be on my knees,” nods Joy. “I’ve already sucked off one guy tonight and I’m hungry for more.”

Celia: “And did he tell you how amazing you are with that pretty little mouth of yours?”

GM: “Oh yes, mistress, he was ecstatic. He blew the biggest load into my mouth and I swallowed it all.” Joy giggles again and brushes against Gunner, all smiles and tender caresses. “But enough talking, talking isn’t what my mouth is for. Getting dicks crammed into it is what my mouth is for. If I’m talking and not sucking a dick, something is really wrong.”

“She your sub or something?” Gunner asks Jade, amused.

He’s already very, very hard, though. Joy smiles and strokes his crotch.

Celia: “She’s my pet,” Jade tells him. “If she’s good tonight she gets a little collar and everything. Isn’t that right, sweetling?”

GM: “That’s right, mistress. You can lead me around on a little leash and everything,” beams Joy.

Celia: “Only if she’s a good girl,” Jade says to Lucky. “Otherwise she gets the boot. You’ll have to let me know how she compares, too. Lucky was just telling me about all the women who throw themselves at him because he’s such a lucky guy. I don’t think any of them were as cute as us, though.”

GM: “Or as eager,” grins Gunner. “Lead the way, ladies.”

Celia: Jade leads the way toward Joy’s cabin, giving the girl a look as if to ask if it’s okay that they take Lucky back there.

GM: She nods, but also taps her canines, shakes her head, and mouths ‘permission.’

Celia: Jade knows the rules, but she appreciates the warning regardless. She gives a tiny nod and a shrug in response; maybe she’ll sip from Joy once she’s had a taste to see if they both get lucky from the kine’s blood.

It doesn’t take long to reach the cabin. Jade has Joy let them in and closes the door behind the three of them.

She doesn’t lock it, just in case Joy’s other lover decides he wants to get in on the action with Lucky.

GM: Gunner pushes them both onto the bed and starts hungrily pulling off the girls’ clothes.

Joy goes straight for his cock.

Celia: There’s not much to pull off beneath Jade’s dress; when the material clings so soundly to her body she doesn’t bother wearing anything beneath it to break up the clean lines. She lays Gunner out on the bed while Joy toys with him and searches briefly for the handcuffs to bind his wrists to the posters.

GM: “Ooh, nothing underneath,” Gunner grins. He starts to pleasure her breasts with his mouth while Joy sucks his cock. He doesn’t fight, though, when Jade cuffs him to the bed. Just grins.

After all, can they keep him there if he really wants to leave?

Celia: They’ll find out shortly, won’t they?

But why would he want to leave?

He’s got a girl on his knees for him.

And another one stretched above where he’s sprawled out on his back, teasing him by letting him kiss her mouth, then her neck, then her nipples, then finally positioning herself over his face so he can use his tongue between her legs while Joy takes him into her mouth.

GM: Gunner licks, nips, and tugs Jade’s nipples, burying his face against her breasts. He hungrily eats out her pussy and sounds like he’s thoroughly enjoying himself from the way Joy sucks his cock. Maybe she’s just great at blowjobs.

But Jade can smell the blood in her mouth.

It’s like nothing she’s smelled before. Somehow… electric.

Celia: She wants it. It isn’t fair that Joy gets to take his blood when Jade was the one to lure him back here. Joy hadn’t done that. She’d gone off to fuck the virgin and Jade had followed Gunner and stayed near his side and brought him back to the ship. Even his attention to her clit with his tongue doesn’t distract her from the scent of the blood.

Her fangs grow long in her mouth as she pictures herself leaning down to take a little nibble for herself.

There’s a compromise in here somewhere, isn’t there? Joy takes from Gunner. Jade takes from Joy. It’s a second-hand, vicarious sort of hit, but maybe it will be enough to scratch that itch. She bends at the waist, keeping herself positioned above Gunner, and pulls Joy’s hair to the side to expose the back of her neck. The tips of her fangs dig into skin.

It’s not technically poaching.

Blood wells. Jade licks it clean.

GM: Joy’s blood, or rather, Gunner’s, tastes like… gold.

Electricity.

Slowly but surely, an exhilarating sense of infinite opportunity steals through Jade. Se feels as though she can do anything, anything at all… and the impossibly seems suddenly not only possible, but positively easy…

But it’s only for a moment, and gone just as fast she pulls back from Jade’s neck. There’s only a pleasant buzz on her tongue, a sense of having touched something huge, something incredible… and walking away with a thimbleful.

Joy continues to rapturously suck Gunner’s cock.

Celia: Liquid luck.

It’s like liquid courage, only Jade knows that no matter what she attempts to do it’s going to turn out just right. Not just to her, either; it’s not the sort of thing that makes a sorority girl think she killed it at karaoke when she’s never been able to hold a tune. It’s the sort of thing that makes the same girl actually kill it when a record label exec just happens to be drinking at the bar and “likes the cut of her jib, why don’t you sign right there on the dotted line sweetheart so we can make all your dreams come true?”

It’s the sort of thing that puts a tingle in her spine and a fire in her core. It’s gold and diamonds and every home run and royal flush and winning lottery ticket.

Maybe he is a god. Maybe he’s the god of luck. Maybe he’s the god of luck and she’s the goddess of love and beauty and together they can make lucky, beautiful things happen.

Maybe the luckiest thing that could ever happen to him is that he meets Jade and she gives him immortality in exchange for the gold in his veins.

She struck gold.

And she keeps digging.

She doesn’t let up; she drinks from Joy until Joy ceases drinking from Gunner.

GM: She doesn’t.

But Joy promptly turns and throws her off.

“You got a taste already,” she purrs. “Rest is mine. Only so much I can take while playing it safe.”

She rapturously licks her lips. “God, what the fuck even is he…?”

“Hey, cock here, requires sucking,” says Gunner.

Celia: Her claws almost come out when Joy tosses her aside.

She almost throws down with the greedy bitch who thinks to deny her the spoils of her oh-so-clever hunt.

Only almost, though. Waste of luck, isn’t it? She can think of so many better uses for what thrums through her veins right now.

She leans in only to lick closed the holes her fangs left behind.

“You heard him, slut. Put that mouth off yours to use.”

GM: “With pleasure, mistress,” Joy beams, all submissive smiles again as she wraps her lips back around Gunner’s lick. There’s absolutely nothing fake about her pleasure. She pleases him real good. Gunner is gasping, straining against the cuffs, his toes all but curling.

“Oh, fuck, you’re good…!”

Celia: Jade’s probably better.

But she isn’t so crass as to say it. She watches instead: watches her tease him with a tongue along the shaft, watches her use her fangs to tear tiny little cuts into his flesh so she can lap at the blood, watches her close her lips around the head of his cock. She takes her pleasure from his mouth instead, muffling the cries about how good Joy is, putting his tongue exactly where she wants it to be: worshiping her.

And when she finally does find her release it’s the kind that makes her toes curl and her (useless) breath catch in her chest and drenches him with the evidence of a job well done.

Joy can’t take that away from her.

GM: “What should we do with you…” purrs Joy as the three lie spent in one another’s arms. Wet in one of their cases, sweating in another one’s, and satisfied for all three. There’s cum all over Joy’s face, but she daintily removes as much of his blown load as she can with her fingers and slowly licks it up. She swallows it down with an audible gulp, as if to give him the best of both worlds.

“Marcel should be back soon. It’s funny he isn’t here already, he normally isn’t late for anything.”

Celia: “Mm,” Jade muses, trailing a hand down Gunner’s chest, “maybe he’d be mad about this one robbing him blind and his luck saw to it that he was kept away.”

GM: “Or maybe it’ll be my luck he gets back and sees me in bed with his girl, before I get away again,” Gunner remarks lazily.

“Someone’s confident,” purrs Joy.

“It’s easy to be confident when you’re lucky,” says Gunner.

“Why isn’t anyone doing anything if you robbed the casino blind?”

Celia: “They tried.”

GM: “Maybe they’ll try again,” says Gunner. “Or maybe they just don’t know I’m here. Lost me in the crowd or something.”

“You never know how luck’s gonna be.”

“Guess not,” says Joy, resting her head against his shoulder now that his cum’s all licked up.

“You’re so tasty… I really wonder what we should do with you…”

Celia: Jade knows what she wants to do with him.

But she doesn’t share her thoughts.

She doesn’t even think her thoughts.

She fills her mind with images of watching Joy suck off a line of cocks while chips rain down around them.

GM: “Maybe we should get in touch with Marcel, just to see what happens…”

Celia: “Give him a ring, then.” Jade trails a hand down Gunner’s chest. “Let him know we have a new toy for him to play with. Maybe he’ll have you bend him over for being a bad boy.” She nips at his neck, careful not to draw blood.

“I’d offer to blow him while we wait to end that age-old debate about who does it better, but you’ve got the advantage of equipment there.”

GM: Gunner frowns.

“Er, what?”

Celia: Jade giggles, pressing a finger to Gunner’s lips.

“Shh, it’s okay.” She shifts, moving over him to straddle his hips. “Joy’s really good with her mouth, but I blow her out of the water when it comes to being on top.”

GM: Gunner’s erection is getting increasingly limp.

“You said equipment…” he says with a long look at Joy.

Joy gives a delighted giggle.

She lifts her dress and pulls down her panties.

Gunner blanches.

“You… FREAK WHORE…!”

Joy giggles again. “And you loved every moment of it. We could tell.”

Celia: “It’s okay, baby, don’t be too upset with yourself. Joy’s mouth is magical. But so is my pussy, and all you had was a taste.” She wiggles a little, using a hand to stroke him firm again. “Don’t you want the real thing now?”

GM: Gunner twists and pulls at the cuffs. They come off.

“Oh no!” exclaims Joy.

“You’re fucking SICK!” yells Gunner, rolling off the bed and pulling up his pants.

Celia: He throws Jade off of him as easily as he gets out of the cuffs. She lands on the other side of the bed, giggling all the while, watching in amusement as he gets dressed.

“He’s so cute when he’s flustered,” she says to Joy. “Get Marcel in here, pet, he’ll be interested in seeing this.”

GM: “Sure thing, mistress,” giggles Joy, tapping off a text.

Celia: “Come back to bed, Gunner, let me show you how it’s done.” She pats the spot beside her, reaching toward him with the innate gifts of the blood. Her clan’s gift. Her gift. Her gift more than anyone’s. Seduction, the thing that makes men want to bury themselves between her thighs and women fall to their knees in submission. Seldom used—when has she needed the assistance to make someone want to worship her?—but still a valuable tool in her kit all the same.

That sense of heady desire flares from the very core of her being, unfurling like a mist to surround him, to fill him with that same sense of lust and craving that ensnares so many others with just a tilt of her head and crook of her finger. Lucky guy, isn’t he, to have such an alluring woman like her interested in him.

Her smile promises such a good time, if only he’ll come back to bed.

GM: Gunner stares for a moment, then pulls his pants off. He pushes Jade down against the bed and buries his now-firm cock between her thighs.

Celia: With luck—and they seem to have that in spades—Marcel won’t see Jade rutting with the kine like some sort of breather herself. But she can’t think about that now. Now she’s focused on absolutely blowing his mind with her body. Maybe it’s him. Maybe it’s her. Maybe it’s a combination of them both, or the fact that there’s danger lurking, or the effects of the star mode she whacked him with; whatever it is, he hits all the right spots on her and she hits all the right spots on him, and they fight and tussle and grapple for dominance. Jade lets him take top for a time, then flips him over and shows him how it’s done. Like this, she says with her hips and her hands and her mouth.

She lets him finish inside—her cunt is as dead as the rest of her despite its warmth—and feels it trickle out of her when she finally rolls off.

GM: They don’t fight alone, either. Joy clambers on too. Gunner starts again with instinctive revulsion, then Joy smiles and touches his cheek. All his disgust melts away. She sits on top of his face and lets Gunner suck her cock while she buries her own face between Jade’s breasts, licking, nipping, biting, and sucking. The coppery scent of vitae fills the air while while her fingers play alongside Gunner’s cock, mercilessly teasing and rubbing Jade’s sweet little nub.

Gunner feels pretty exhausted, though, and isn’t the best partner. His thrusts lack vigor and he seems relieved to just lie there as Jade takes top and does the heavy lifting. His face is pale. Joy did feed on him fairly deeply.

Celia: It’s enough for her, at least; she finds release between his cock and Joy’s fingers, and when it’s over she’s covered in cum and sweat and blood and—

“—desperately need a shower,” she says to Joy, “before Marcel arrives. Both of us.”

GM: “Oh, I think I rather enjoy looking at you three this way,” comes a man’s smiling voice.

Baton Rouge’s prince-in-exile is a tall and handsome man with rectangular features, a prominent nose, dark caramel-brown hair sculpted into a short mustache and goatee, and deep blue eyes. Two gold crucifix earrings hang from his ears. Jade’s never seen him without them. He’s dressed in a tailored navy silk jacket that flatters his trim physique, tan slacks, and a white dress shirt without a tie.

Pic.jpg
He glances at the large bag full of cash, then smiles back at Gunner. “I’d be my pleasure if you and your companions could join me for a late dinner. The Alystra’s biggest winner deserves some comps, after all.”

Gunner looks at Marcel with something between amusement and curiosity. “Your people tried to beat the shit out of me for cheating.”

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry about that,” replies Marcel. “They’re fairly zealous. Have to be in, this business. Gamblers will always look for a way to cheat. But I’ve reviewed the tapes, talked with my people, and I’ve concluded that you owe your streak of good fortune simply to being very, very lucky. There’s no rule against being lucky.”

“I’m glad you see it that way,” replies Gunner. “I am lucky. Very, very lucky.”

“As this encounter rather proves, doesn’t it?” Marcel agrees amiably. “Come, why don’t you three put on your clothes—or leave them off, as you prefer. We won’t be disturbed.”

Celia: Naked, covered in blood, and smelling of sex isn’t exactly how Jade had wanted to greet the prince-in-exile.

Well, that’s not true. Naked and covered in blood seems appropriate given what Josua has told her about the lick; it’s the sex thing that gives her pause, and maybe the fact that he heard her call him “Marcel” to Josua, but a quick glance at his face—smiling—tells her that maybe he’s not bothered by it.

Maybe she’s gotten lucky.

Jade winks at the prince in lieu of an obsequious bow in front of the mortal—Masquerade and all that—and slips into her dress. She’s not modest or shy about her body, but she’d gone through all the effort of selecting the gown and by God Marcel will see her in it.

GM: The ex-prince smiles back, then looks at Joy. “This is a new look on you.”

“Does it please His Majesty?” smiles Joy, tilting her head and placing a hand against her hip. She’s still wearing her dress.

“Oh, yes.”

“Are you a king or something?” asks Gunner, amused.

He’s fairly sluggish in pulling on his clothes.

“Or something,” agrees Marcel. “Don’t forget your money. Leaving that much on the floor is tempting fate.”

Gunner puts on his shirt and slings the bag over his shoulder. The three proceed to a private dining room with a lone table seated next to a window overlooking of the dark Mississippi. Staff bring in plates of food that look like it’s from the buffet. They don’t give funny looks or ask questions about the three’s messy state.

Gunner plops down heavily in his chair and digs heartily into the shrimp and sausage jambalaya. “God, that took a lot out of me.”

“I can’t blame you, those ladies look very vigorous,” smiles Marcel. He doesn’t move to eat any of the food on his plate. “Salt?”

“Sure,” says Gunner between a mouthful.

Marcel moves to pass him a shaker, but knocks it over. Salt spills all over the tablecloth.

“Oh, dear. I hope you don’t believe in bad luck.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t,” smiles Gunner between a bite of shrimp.

“Really?” asks Marcel, before a well-muscled and broad-shouldered ghoul smashes Gunner’s face onto the table. The grim-faced, suit-wearing man kicks out Gunner’s chair, then delivers two more brutally hard kicks to the man’s gut after he hits the floor. Gunner gags and jerks.

“You should.”

Celia: Jade ceases pushing the food around her plate at the commotion, looking first to Gunner and then to Josua. She sighs heavily, forcing the air from her lungs.

“How silly of us,” she says to the boy-turned-girl, “there are plenty of mirrors in your cabin we could have broken to save His Majesty the trouble.”

GM: “Yes, that’d have rather done the trick too,” says Marcel.

Joy holds a hand to her mouth and giggles. She hasn’t touched her food either.

Marcel glances at the large, suited ghoul.

“Get my money back where it belongs.”

The man picks up the bag of cash and tosses it to another employee, who disappears through the door.

“Wh…” gasps Gunner. He tries to rise to his feet, but the ghoul delivers another hard kick to his kidneys. He curls up and moans.

“I’m afraid luck can only get you so far without brains, Mr. Gunner,” says Marcel. “And by my estimate you’re in rather short supply of both right now.”

“Not a good place to be, given how much you owe me.”

“Owe… you?” Gunner gasps out from the floor.

“Yes.”

“Got back your… mon… how th’ fuck di…”

“So I did. But you also owe me for my time and trouble, my injured employees, and not least of all, the loss of reputation for my casino. It’s your ‘luck’ no one heard the gunshot, but everyone saw you cheat. This sort of thing looks very bad. At least with most forms of cheating, the entire casino can’t tell when someone thinks they’re getting away with it.”

“And since I owe Miss Kalani for bringing you back after you got away, we’ll put you on the hook to her too.”

“Ooh, someone’s gonna get it,” giggles Joy.

Celia: She almost feels bad for the kine; it’s easy to imagine that someone as old as Marcel has plenty of ways to make a man pay, none of them involving dollars or cents.

Waste of blood though, isn’t it? Especially that blood.

Perhaps she has a solution.

In fact, she does have a solution.

“Madam Alsten-Pirrie has shown me a number of decidedly delicious punishments for those with grasping hands, my prince. I’d be delighted to take him off of yours and mete out justice on your behalf.” She smiles down at the man on the floor. “I’d offer something in return, of course.”

GM: “No doubt you’d be equally happy to make sure his blood doesn’t go to waste, Miss Kalani,” says Marcel with a knowing smile.

“But I’m a reasonable prince. Go on.”

“Listen… I can, get you money…” wheezes Gunner.

“I’m sure you can,” Marcel says to the kine. “But I have money, and if I let you go, I’m fairly confident I’m never going to see you again.”

“You’ll probably catch a lucky break, if any of us go looking for you.”

Gunner doesn’t deny it.

Joy clicks her tongue.

Celia: Jade smiles at Marcel’s words, giving a little shrug of her shoulders.

“Waste not, want not. Josua has told me you have a little problem with the rattlers. One of them owes me a favor; perhaps I can be of some assistance there.”

GM: “So you’d trade me the favor for Gunner’s blood,” considers Marcel. “Who’s the rattler?”

“Bl… ood?” Gunner gets out.

“Oh yes, Mr. Gunner. Your blood is worth a great deal,” says the ex-prince.

“You’ll be paying me back with it, one way or another.”

Celia: “He’s new,” Jade says, lifting her shoulders with another shrug. “But if you’d rather not take a gamble there, your majesty, then I understand if you’d rather utilize my skill set to find out what you need to know.”

She has already proved her worth, hasn’t she?

GM: “Yes, I only gamble recreationally,” says Marcel. “There’s no gambling at all in running a casino. Take it from me, Mr. Gunner: the house always wins in the end.”

“That’s why you should just let the house fuck you,” agrees Joy.

Gunner gives a moan.

“There’s a variety of ways I can use the luck in your blood,” says Marcel. “I’m undecided on how, though.”

“I’ll tell you what, Miss Kalani,” he says. “I’m a reasonable Kindred, and you brought Mr. Gunner back after he gave my people the slip, so I’ll consider half the blood originally in his veins to be yours.”

“Help me with my cottonmouth problem, and I’ll tell you just what Mr. Gunner is, what ways there are to use his luck—beyond the obvious—and what ways there are to witlessly spoil it. For us as well as him.”

“Deal?”

Celia: Jade only has to consider it for a moment before finally nodding her head.

“You have yourself a deal, Prince Guilbeau.”

GM: “Wait,” Gunner wheezes, raising a placating hand. “What if-”

“Be quiet,” orders Marcel, his voice thick.

Gunner’s mouth works. No sound comes out. Joy smirks. Marcel turns back to Jade.

“People like Mr. Gunner, you’ve probably guessed, are naturally blessed with good fortune.”

“Some say they’ve made deals with a crossroads devil. Some say they’ve made a lucky prayer or tossed a coin into a fountain at some Japanese deity’s shrine. Some say they were born under a lucky comet. Some say they’ve ritually stolen their good fortune from others. And some just say they’re naturally lucky bastards.”

“Could be some, all, or none of those things. Who knows.”

“Don’t ask your average Tremere about them. They probably won’t know a thing.”

“They’re drawn to casinos, though, for obvious reasons. Like flies to honey. Mr. Gunner isn’t the first I’ve dealt with, though he is one of the stronger ones. They aren’t all as lucky as him.”

“There’s no reliable way to detect them that I know of. The smart ones, they play some losing hands, win a jackpot, play some more losing hands, and then never come back.”

“Of course, most of them aren’t smart. They live on the edge. And why shouldn’t they? Their luck always carries them through. They have no reason to change their behavior if they never experience consequences.”

Marcel smiles down at the curled-up and silently mouthing Gunner.

“If.”

“Omens of bad luck neutralize their powers, for a little while. Spilled salt, broken mirrors, black cats, walking under a ladder, you name it.”

“There’s no power without a catch. For them, us, anyone.”

Celia: “Everything has a price,” Jade agrees with a small smile. “Perhaps he should have realized that when I went to fetch him and brought in another just as lovely.” A nod toward Joy.

“He’s human, though? Or something different?”

GM: “Besides being preternaturally lucky, he’s as human as anyone else not in this room.”

Celia: Jade nods. She leans back in her chair, contemplating the man on the ground and the exiled prince in front of her.

“Bit of a gold mine, isn’t he.” How fortunate for Marcel that Jade brought him back and all but hand-delivered him. “And aside from robbing casinos—” which Jade has no need for, since she all but cleaned house at the poker table on skill rather than luck and has no desire to wind up on the other end of that large ghoul’s fists despite her natural hardiness “—how might one best utilize that luck?”

GM: “There are four ways.”

“One, we can simply drink it. Some of the good luck will rub off on us. Outrageously good things can happen, or calamities can be turned aside. The deeper the drink, the stronger the luck. And before you ask, keeping kine like Mr. Gunner chained in a dungeon surrounded by spilled salt to drink on forever doesn’t work out. Too much bad luck rubs off on good luck too.”

“Secondly, there’s ghouling them. That makes their luck stick around quite a bit longer than drinking it. Eventually, though, that luck fades away too. Something within our blood just doesn’t agree with it. The Embrace would probably kill it even quicker.”

“Third, there’s stealing their luck and binding it to a talisman, like a rabbit’s foot. As long as you carry it, you’ll be lucky. The good luck never seems to extend to keeping the talisman, though. They have ways of getting lost after a while. But they’re usually good for more luck than just drinking it.”

“Fourth, there’s stealing their luck and transferring it to another person. A ghoul works like I’ve described. An ordinary kine, though, would enjoy Mr. Gunner’s good fortune for the rest of their life.”

Gunner’s eyes widen with horror as he reflexively tries to rise, earning another swift kick to his belly. The large ghoul’s foot stomps down over his back several times for good measure. Hard. His mouth works in a silent moan.

“Oh, yes, perhaps that’d be the most cruel punishment of all,” says Marcel.

“Letting you walk out of here, alive and whole, minus a few bruises and memories. But without your luck.”

He smiles down at the beaten man.

“And what are you without your luck, Mr. Gunner? Not much at all, I’m inclined to think.”

Joy titters.

Celia: There goes her plan to keep him locked in a room with an assortment of black cats.

“If you bind his luck to another kine, you’d run into similar problems as before: you can’t keep them. Unless they already like you and want to stick around, or owe everything they are to you…”

Or they love you unconditionally.

So much so that they’ll submit to being a ghoul and getting a tattoo and feeding you and learning how to fence if it means getting to keep their memories of what you are, and maybe a little bit of luck is enough to get them off the blood that hooks them so they can enjoy a mortal life without risking the Masquerade because, lucky them, no one ever looks their way.

“Can it be split between multiple talismans or people? If he’s as strong as you say, Prince Guilbeau.”

GM: “His probably can, yes,” says Marcel. “They’ll be individually less potent, though. You have the same amount of luck, it’s just a question of where you want to spread it around.”

Celia: “A ritual, is it? The stealing and binding?”

GM: “Yes, it is.”

“That brings us to our next order of business.”

“I’m going to stash away Mr. Gunner someplace safe and secure. I’m going to bleed him periodically, and he is going to make me very lucky. I’ll give it a week before his luck starts to atrophy, and probably a month before it’s gone completely.”

“You have that long to bring me actionable information on my cottonmouth problem. If you don’t, you’ll owe me a different favor in return for the information I’ve given you. "

“If you can go one further, and actually lift Marie out of her torpor, I’ll do one better.”

“I’ll give you all that’s left of Mr. Gunner and his luck. You can drink him, or I’ll perform the ritual on a talisman, ghoul, or kine of your choice.”

“Also, if you’re tempted to steal him from me—don’t take this personally, I do run a casino, and you’re friends with a master thief—I’m probably the only Kindred in the city who knows the ritual. All Mr. Gunner will be good for is drinking if you manage to spirit him away.”

Celia: “Not to mention it will sour all future arrangements between the pair of us, and there’s still so much we can do for each other.” Her smile is full of promises. “The earlier mentioned half,” she asks, “what of that?”

GM: “You’ll get that over the next few nights. Josua’s already bled him heavily, and I don’t want to kill him from overfeeding.”

Joy titters again and strokes Marcel’s arm. “Just wait until you try him, my prince. He tastes incredible.

Celia: “Will you tell me about Marie? What you’ve tried? What you know? I’d hate to waste time treading the same ground.”

GM: Marcel does so. Marie and Anthony were out hunting together when they were attacked by Setites, who torpored Marie and almost slew Anthony. Marcel has fed Marie his blood to no effect, and he’s fed her blood from another Kindred of comparable age, just to be sure the problem isn’t his. Both have had no effect.

“I think the Setites cursed her somehow,” he says. “The serpents who torpored would likely know more. Perhaps how to lift it.”

“I’ve spoken to blood sorcerers from the Sanctified, the Anarchs, and the Crones, but they’ve been of little assistance.”

“And the Tremere will not help Marie.”

“So that leaves the serpents who did this to her, but my reach in the Quarter is limited.”

Celia: “The Tremere won’t help Marie?” Jade lifts her brows at that.

GM: “She’s a renegade from the Pyramid under sentence of death.”

Celia:That sounds like an interesting story.”

GM: “Yes, it is. But it’s decidedly moot until she wakes up.”

Celia: Jade assures him that she will do what she can for Marie. His influence might not stretch far enough into the Quarter to be useful, but hers certainly does.

And she has just the friend to speak to about this.


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Story Twelve, Emmett XVII

“To sell desire, one must know one’s own desires.”
—Camille Richlelieu


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: Fabian shows Em back to the sitting room in his new face.

“And may I say, sir, what a handsome one it is,” the ghoul smiles.

Emmett: “Thanks, Fabian. I’m sure the guests make their share of passes at you, eh? At least the ones who don’t want to drink you. Which I suppose is its own kind of compliment.”

Em wants to drink him, for example.

GM: “Many do, sir,” Fabian beams. “If the help isn’t attractive enough to drink, after all, how much help can they truly be?”

Emmett: Parrying predatory implications with obsequious good humor. Say what you like about Savoy, his servants know their manners.

He has the vague sense that kind of thing is going to matter a lot in this kind of life.

But then, it always has.

GM: And probably always will.

Fabian sets up another movie for Em, but he doesn’t have long to wait.

Emmett: Good thing, too. It’s Gone with the Wind.

GM: Sami walks through the door. She’s dressed differently in a LBD and red pumps. She looks him over.

“Welcome to the snake cult.”

Emmett: He laughs. “Right? She made it sound like you had the same reaction I did, for the most part. How good’s the inside track, once they have you in their coils?”

He’s wearing a different dead man’s coat, long and warm and with more pockets than it looks like.

“It’s nice to see you again, Sami.” His voice has more roughness to it than it did before his death, but it’s still his voice. Odd, how Dicentra was able to pull that off. “In the flesh, and all that.”

GM: “I bet. Ghost didn’t seem like it suited you.”

“We were always vampires anyway.”

She turns. “C’mon. We’ll talk and drive.”

Emmett: “You driving, I hope. I’m in the mood to ride shotgun.”

Doubtless she’d prefer it, too.

She never was a fan of him behind the wheel, after that night.

GM: “Lucky us.”

Still, it’s hard to picture that happening again.

Or maybe not. Maybe vampires just have their own ways of fucking each other.

Either way, they make their way to Sami’s flashy sports car and get in.

“They’re basically a crime syndicate with a religious mythos,” she answers as they get in.

Emmett: “Doesn’t sound so bad.”

GM: “Or syndicate slash cult, I guess.”

She revs up the engine. “There’s a lot of lying and hoops to jump through to hide it from other licks.”

“There’s risks, if they find out.”

Emmett: “Your girlfriend the medium know the truth?”

GM: “Yep. She’s one of us.”

Emmett: “Does Astride?”

GM: “He’s one of us too.”

“He’s a fuckhead. But he’s good at killing people.”

Emmett: He nods, quiet suspicion rewarded. “I learned where he sleeps, for what that’s worth.”

GM: “Could be worth something. We might have to put him down if he lets his Beast get any more out of control.”

The Quarter rolls past.

“But you asked me how the inside track is.”

“Well, I’m fucking rich.”

“Most things I want, I get.”

“The parties are fun.”

“And Camille… understands.”

“The snake religion bit. Whatever. I never believed in God.”

“But people have been trying to keep me from what I deserved ever since McGehee.”

Emmett: Deserved, huh. But he doesn’t say that. For one thing, he can’t say he hasn’t thought the same thing.

“What does she call them? The Aeons?”

GM: “The Aeons. The people born inside the club.”

“I don’t buy that the snake cult wants to bring everyone inside.”

“But if they bring me inside, what fucking ever.”

Emmett: “It’s hard to argue with that,” Em says, placid. “I’m just wondering about the entrance free. And who pays it. What kinds of things do they ask from us?”

GM: “‘Corrupt’ other licks. Find what they need. Supply them. Get them dependent on us. Or breathers. You’ll probably be good at it.”

“That’s the entrance fee and monthly membership dues. And how we get ahead. It’s basically a pyramid scheme.”

Emmett: “Well, those are old hat, at least. Where are you driving us?”

GM: “Mm, depends. Who’s your first renfield gonna be?”

Emmett: There’s a moment of somewhat surprised silence.

Then a moment of deeper consideration.

“You ever meet Bert Villars?”

GM: “I’ve heard of him. Haven’t had the pleasure.”

‘Pleasure.’

Emmett: “Well, let’s fix that.” Em gives her directions to the poisonous bastard’s office. “Bit of a toss-up to see if he’s already taken. If he isn’t, he’ll be a good get for us. And besides.”

“I had plans for him already. Better not to ghoul people you actually like, eh?”

“We’ll have to toss his place to find out where he lives, though.”

GM: Sami shrugs. “I don’t mind some B&E, but he might also just be around tomorrow.”

Emmett: “Since we have forever. Okay, then.” He thinks a little bit harder.

Then he asks for a phone.

He hopes Miranda’s number is the same.

GM: The phones rings for a bit.

“Leave a message,” comes an annoyed-sounding nasally voice.

Em wonders how many people bother to after that.

Emmett: Not him, apparently. He hangs up.

“Forget renfields,” Em says. “I just want to find a place to call home, for tonight at least.”

GM: Sami drives.

“What’s your name now? Camille said you’d have a new one.”

“Some of us do. Some of us don’t.”

“I kept mine. Obviously. If someone wants to go after my stupid family I don’t give a rat’s ass.”

Emmett: He thinks of Lena, handcuffed and anemic in her hospital bed. God knows if she’s still there.

God, and a Malveaux.

“I’ll take a new name,” he says. “Something flashy, probably. Dramatic. You know the sort. This seems like the kind of society that appreciates enigma.”

GM: “Pretty sure at least half the elders all use fake names.”

“So what’s yours?”

Emmett: It’s a few moment of consideration before he chuckles. He doesn’t answer her, not out loud anyways.

But as she drives off, a song flitters to life through her car, haunting but enchanting at the same time. Maybe Sami looks at the radio in surprise, but it’s not on. The sound is ambient, all-encompassing.

Stuck in her head, courtesy of his.

Maybe, but Em isn’t looking at her. He’s only got eyes for the road, the night, the city.

The colors.



Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: Sami and the Sandman drive until they reach a dark building in the Quarter named “Chakras.” The Sandman’s heard of it. Invite-only BDSM club.

“She explain havens yet?” asks Sami.

Emmett: “I think it’s a weird word for a home.”

GM: “They’re where we sleep during the day. We’re weak and vulnerable then. So a haven has to be exactly that. Secure against intruders and the sun.”

Emmett: “And this place is a haven?”

GM: “Anywhere can be a haven in a pinch. We don’t need to eat, shower, or shit. We won’t wake up sore if we sleep on the ground. All we really need is someplace sunproof where breathers won’t disturb us.”

“But some havens, like here, are more secure than others.”

“And comfy.”

Emmett: “Whose is it, then?” The Sandman follows her from the car.

GM: “Camille’s. She owns this club, and a few others.”

Emmett: He whistles. “Fancy. And she’s, what, the matriarch?”

GM: “Matriarch?”

Emmett: “Mama snake. Cult leader. Whatever. She’s in charge?”

GM: “Nah. She’s middle management.”

“She and Elianna.”

Emmett: “Who’s above them, then?”

GM: “That’s complicated,” says Sami. “I’ll let you make up your own mind, when you see it.”

Emmett: It, she says. Interesting.

GM: They walk up to the club’s door.

“This is the Sandman,” Sami says to the bouncer. “He wants in, he gets in.”

The large and cruel-eyed man offers a mute nod.

The inside of the club resembles a lounge and art gallery. Everything is in black and dark red. There’s modern abstract art and iron sculptures along the walls, and a fully-stocked bar. Comfortable leather seats over places to sit down and discuss the art over drinks.

The sculptures nag at Em, though, the longer he stares at them. There’s a looming, grasping quality to their distinctly alien shapes. They seem humanoid, at first, but there’s a distinctly serpentine cast to their posture and anatomy, like they might silently coil around the room’s patrons as they drink their fine drinks and discuss the meanings behind abstract art.

There aren’t many people around this late. Or this early. There’s a handsome man dressed in strategically placed black leather who looks like he’s cleaning. His too-wide smile doesn’t quite meet his eyes. He’s still smiling, even when he’s not looking at Em and Sami.

He holds up a shot glass to the light, polishes it, smiles at Em, then stares away from him, back into the glass.

“Welcome, master…” he whispers.

He touches his teeth with his fingers and gives a little giggle.

Emmett: The ‘master’ glances at his escort. “Who’s the gimp? I remember Camille had another one, way back when we met.”

He trust he doesn’t have to clarify the night he’s talking about.

GM: “She has a lot of them. Their names don’t really matter.”

“There’s always more.”

Emmett: “I figured. Are all renfields kinksters? Or does she just like them that way?”

GM: “The Blood tends to twist them all, to some degree. Some of them eat rats. Some of them get stutters or hair-trigger tempers.”

“I’m not sure if she naturally draws kinksters or just twists them into that.”

“Probably some of both.”

Emmett: “How’d she find you?” he asks this one.

GM: “I heard about her club, master,” answers the smiling man, inclining his head. “I heard about the things that went on here, but it was by invitation only. I tried so hard to get in. Some of the members told stories about me. She decided to let me in, to see how far I would go.”

His grin widens, to the point it looks like his face is half-paralyzed.

“I have not disappointed her.”

Emmett: Well, this is turning out to be as wholesome as I thought it would be.

“Yeah? What kind of things do go on here, beyond getting tugged off with your hands behind your neck and a gag in your mouth?”

GM: “Revelation, master. The loss of illusion. The shattering of the old self. We experience ecstasy, terror, desire, satiety, despair, ignorance, and chaos, all to unwrap our true souls beneath layers of self-deception and social conditioning.”

Emmett: “And you feel wiser, now? Revealed to? Enlightened?”

GM: “I do, master, though I still have far to go.”

Emmett: “And what have you learned? Since I’m just starting.”

Ah, high school again. Telling Ren to explain why there were suddenly letters to deal with in math.

GM: The ghoul smiles.

“We are a visceral religion, master. Damaballah’s revelations must be experienced to be understood. But if you are here as you are, you have experienced some of them already.”

Emmett: Em eyes the leather-clad cultist. “What do I call you?”

GM: “Bitch or toy, if you like,” grins the ghoul.

“Also pet, gimp, slave, ghoul…”

Emmett: “…please tell me they’re not all like this,” he directs to Sami.

GM: “The ones here mostly are,” says Sami. “I guess your own will depend.”

Emmett: “Nothing personal, ah, bitch,” the Sandman says to the ghoul.

GM: The man just grins at him. “Let me know if I can ever be of service, master.”

Emmett: “Who else did you want me to meet?” the Sandman asks Sami.

GM: “Right now there’s no licks here but us and Camille. There’s a bigger cult meeting tomorrow.”

Emmett: “What does the cult believe, exactly?”

GM: “She didn’t give you the shpheel?”

Emmett: “It was loose on details. What do the ones who aren’t bloodsuckers believe, is the point.”

GM: “That varies. It’s a mystery religion. Which means, the more you pay in and do things for the cult, the more about its beliefs you actually get to learn.”

“Like Scientology. Except we don’t directly bill people.”

“The initiates think we’re just a Vodouisant cult. Worship some loa and get things in return.”

“Here, they’re people who come to Camille’s clubs for a good time and get promised an even better one if they’ll participate in some rituals. Or they’re just outright looking to be bondage slaves, because it’s a bondage club. Or to do things to slaves if they’re tops.”

“She shows them a better time than they’ll find anywhere else. Sex, drugs, kinks, whatever. The people who succumb and can’t live without her she just uses. There are a lot of well-connected people who show up for her sex parties. To a lot of them she isn’t a vampire.”

“The ones who impress her she brings into the next ring of the cult. They get to know more about what she is, the Aeons, and our origins. They get tested harder. They undergo more of the revelations. Which are like bitch over there describes. They’re expected to do more for the cult, and Camille does more for them. The more revelations they undergo, the more they learn about us, and the deeper in they get.”

“A lot of us have our own self-contained little mystery cults like this. We trade favors and contacts and whatevers with each other. To get cultists and prospective cultists the things that hook them.”

Emmett: “What about you? Keep some believers on the side?”

GM: “Yep.”

“I figure you will too. They’re pretty useful.”

Emmett: There are people in this city who would kill for a break from their nightmares, the Sandman thinks but does not say.

“Might be,” he agrees. “What do you tell yours? And how many of ‘us’ are there?”

GM: “I mostly don’t bother with the religion angle.”

“You have to at least partly believe it to really sell it.”

“Like anything.”

Emmett: Especially snake oil.

GM: “There’s a lot of us. More than the Camarilla realizes.”

“Savoy’s happy for us to make ourselves at home.”

Emmett: “I like the sound of that. When do we get together? If we do.”

GM: “I just said. Tomorrow.”

Emmett: “Oh. The entire clan?”

GM: “Probably not all of us, but a lot of us. Wholesome family get-together.”

Emmett: “Wholesome,” he repeats, looking at “bitch” and pacing amongst the serpentine statuary. Not how he’d decorate, but that’s okay.

It has… potential.

“Okay, sure. I’m excited to meet the cousins. Did you bring me here just to meet the help, or was there something else we’re here for?”

GM: “Remember that talk we had about havens?”

Emmett: “Ah, so this is where you’re sticking me for the day? I thought we might come to another arrangement. Like maybe you could take me back to yours.”

GM: “Camille thought we’d all sleep together today. More wholesome family time.”

Emmett: “Oh. Well, you should have said. Lead the way.”

GM: The pair head through another door. The room resembles nothing so much as a medieval torture chamber, replete with stone walls and floors, an iron maiden with a screaming metallic face, racks, wheels, and several other metallic devices whose function Em cannot identify. Some of them look almost like the abstract sculptures in the previous room. Whips, chains, scourges, and assorted leather and metallic implements hang from the walls, along with several gagged and blindfolded men and women bent into extreme positions, naked but for leather gloves and boots. The scent of blood hangs heavy in the air. Em cannot say where it is from, but his fangs lengthen in his mouth. At the sound of Em’s and Sami’s footsteps, some of them start screaming and shaking their restraints. The gagged sounds are raw, desperate, and filled with terror. Others shiver with rapture, the men growing noticeably firm and the women wet.

Most do some amount of both.

“You can practice on them,” mentions Sami. “Any disciplines you’re trying to learn.”

Emmett: “Disciplines… those are the superpowers, right?”

GM: “Yep.”

Emmett: Em does so. His squeamishness over using human beings as things is made much easier to bear by the opportunity to test out his cool new vampire powers. He asks Sami for suggestions of things to try.

He cannot, it turns out, turn into a snake. Nor can he turn invisible, no matter how unmoving and boring he tries to be. He’s just too remarkable.

He can, however, use the same special effects he’s become accustomed to. At a whim, strange noises and sensations dance among the assembled kine. Lights flicker in otherworldly arrays.

One of the women whimpers in confusion at the unreality.

“You’ve got nothing to be afraid of,” Em tells her, instinctively, and for a moment, the air is charged.

Somehow, when her eyes meet his, there’s trust in them. Faith. Belief.

All completely unearned, and like most lies, it’ll make the truth hurt more.

But for the moment, her faith belongs to him.

GM: He feels another woman’s hands upon his shoulders. They’re cold hands, and something seems to almost shudder beneath the palms.

Shudder, or slither.

“Sami said you’d be good at this,” Camille’s voice purrs into his ear. Her cold smile meets his.

He could swear she wasn’t there a moment ago.

“Don’t think of it as hiding. Think of it as telling them who you are. You’re reaching into their heads and telling them what to see, what to believe.”

The woman’s eyes meet his. Sami’s already removed her blindfold. They’re manic eyes, wide and sleep-deprived, hovering on that knife’s edge between suffering and pleasure.

Support: And for all that, there’s something familiar in the shade of blue that stares up at him. Cerulean, he recalls, like the tropical seas he had once told her that he’d take her to, the whispered promises of a new life together away from the desperately degenerate city. He remembers the way those eyes had sparkled at the vision he created for her, the trembling fingers that had finally fumbled at the buttons of her blouse, her nervous stutters that she had “never done this type of thing before.”

Eileen Afflerbach.

The name rings in his mind. He remembers the way she had tasted like strawberries and cream, the delicate floral scent of her perfume, how she had called fifteen times the night her husband disappeared and left increasingly frantic voice-mails. But before all that she had looked at him the way she looks at him now, transfixed by the illusions he creates.

Suffering and pleasure. He’d brought her both.

Emmett: “Eileen,” he murmurs. “Your name is Eileen.” He blinks and looks at Camille, somehow less startled at her sudden appearance than he might expect. “She’s… do you know who she is?”

He’s more surprised, anyways, by the realization that he does.

Not like him to remember a pretty face. They come and go. Or at least, he does.

GM: “I know every slave here,” Camille smiles, stroking the woman’s face. Tenderly.

Emmett: Em nods, satisfied. He reaches for the woman, fingers stopping inches from her flesh. Hesitant.

He’s already touched her, of course. But he was just a human monster then.

GM: “Hesitance is a limit to overcome. A chain placed on you by the Aeons. There are no limits and no chains here.”

Camille turns the woman by her chin to face the Sandman.

“Be all that you would be, Sandman.”

The Sandman doesn’t recall telling her his name.

Emmett: She’s been listening. Natural enough.

But all that he would be? That’s an easy enough prompt.

After all, what does a vampire actually do?

Drink.

And Em is very thirsty. He doesn’t will his fangs to come out, or so much as remember that he has them. They lead him. Seek her jugular like a freshwater well in the sweltering swamp.

Once, she tasted of strawberries. But now?

Now her taste is more than it ever could have been, before.

Support: A delicate shudder travels down the slave’s spine at her mistress’ touch. She leans into the hand on her cheek, but her eyes don’t leave the Sandman’s.

Even when he leans in.

Even when his fangs grow long in his mouth.

Even when he bites.

Her eyes finally close, cerulean hue disappearing beneath the flutter of her lids. Her lips part and she sighs softly, the same sort of sound he used to get her to make.

GM: Strawberry bliss floods the Sandman’s tongue. It’s not like it was, the first time. The hunger was an inferno within his chest during his dark rebirth. His every vein sang with unholy bliss. This isn’t that. But it’s familiar. It’s the high of cocaine, the orgasm between a girl’s legs, the bite of something delicious and Nutella-lathered. It runs down his throat like red velvet, cooling the heat within his breast, assuaging the monster.

It’s a better hit than any coke he ever did.

He didn’t, he realize as he pulls away, think how to do it. It just comes naturally. As naturally as breathing. As eating. He looks down at her, rolling over the last droplets of coppery bliss in his tongue, and sees there’s a flush to her paler cheeks. A needful shudder running down her body. She looks like she’s enjoyed this almost as much as him.

That’s like last time.

And also not.

But compared to last time, it’s almost refreshingly honest.

“Lick her neck,” says Camille, “and you’ll seal up the fang marks.”

“Always lick a vessel after you feed. Or everyone will know that you did.”

Emmett: The Sandman licks her neck. Feels her hair in his fingers. Tastes the last notes of her vitae on his tongue.

Hears the noises his drinking coaxes from her. Her pains. Her pleasures.

Where do they end? And where do they start?

“Can I keep her?” The questions comes unbidden. He isn’t thinking. He isn’t even being sarcastic. It just seems like the right thing to say, the correct way to word it.

He almost promises to feed her and take her out for walks while he’s at it.

GM: Camille laughs.

“Go on, then. Feed her some of your blood.”

Apparently, ‘feed her’ is part of it.

Emmett: He almost asks for a knife before he remembers the equipment he’s got in his mouth. A flash of fang, the strange flavor of his own vitae—what is that flavor? Hot milk? Chocolate? It’s gone— and his wrist is pressed to Eileen’s lips, his slashed vein an unholy nipple for a blasphemous feeding.

Support: Eileen falls upon his wrist without prompting, her lips closing around the offered flesh to bring the blood into her mouth. She sucks eagerly, like a child at a teat, and he hears the same sort of pleased noises from her that he had given her a moment ago. Her body shudders in want as his blood flows through her.

Emmett: Later, he’ll wonder what it was about her that made him choose that moment, that instant before his marriage to the snakes was consummated. Maybe it was that when he saw the woman whose life he had destroyed, something like regret flashed through the Sandman’s unbeating heart. Something like trepidation. What could she be but a bad men? No matter where he goes, Emmett will be damned to look into the eyes of the people he’s destroyed, and maybe destroy them a little bit harder.

Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe seeing her is like feeling somebody walk on the grave of his conscience, dead and buried and haunting him since that night he threw somebody who had hurt him to monsters, and become a monster himself. Maybe that ghost of a thing that might never have lived in the first place whispers to him, haunting the gaps between Eileen’s gasps:

It is not too late to make this right.

Maybe. But really, who knows why the vampire previously known as Emmett Delacroix did anything? Certainly most of the people who sentenced him to death must have been perplexed. When he was alive, he chased his death like he was allergic to life, only to find death so wanting he clawed his way back to… well, to this.

And now that he’s neither, perhaps because now that he is neither, he finds himself inclined to think of third options.

His eyes find Camille’s. For a moment, just a moment, they seem a tad vertical.

“We need to talk.”

GM: The Setite strokes Eileen’s face. Smiles. Motions for him to proceed.

The eyes are the same shade of poison as nine years ago.

But they’re a familiar devil, now.

Emmett: The short of it is he’s still processing this. That’s his main sell, anyways. It’s not a malicious deception, but one of convenience. Come to think of it, he’s not actually sure it’s a lie. He’s stopped differentiating between reality and illusion recently.

Between dying, being a ghost, confronting his worse half, committing mass ectocide, and becoming a vampire, he’s gotten a little lost. He needs time, you see.

Time, and space.

He’s very apologetic about the whole thing. He won’t be able to stay away forever, he knows, but still. If high schoolers are entitled to a gap year, reincarnated monsters sure as shit are, too.

That said, he explains he doesn’t know when he might be back, either. There’s a bunch of places he wants to see, cities he hasn’t been to in years.

“You said things were interesting in L.A. these days, right?” he asks.

He doesn’t want Camille to feel like he’s taking advantage of her generosity.

“The truth is I don’t know yet what this existence is like, and my curiosity and natural distrust of authority would taint my usefulness to you. And besides, if I’m not smart enough to survive on my own, I doubt you’d get much value out of me anyways.”

He wouldn’t even need much to be on his way. A little money, a good vehicle, maybe some drugs to make more money, and company.

“She’ll do,” he says, gesturing to Eileen.

GM: Camille listens patiently. Sami glances her way, once or twice. But their mutual sire just smiles.

“I asked what greatness lay within you, Sandman. What purpose you believed yourself intended for.”

“Some call our clan tempters. Corruptors. Pushers. Whatever one calls us, we provide people with what they want.”

Her hand slowly pets the new ghoul.

“Including ourselves.”

“You aren’t sure what you want. Are you?”

Emmett: “No,” he says. “I’m not.”

GM: “To sell desire, one must know one’s own desires. To master others, one must first master oneself. I told you the truth, Sandman. If you want to walk away, walk away. We only desire willing believers.”

“That’s how they get you,” says Sami.

She might or might not be joking.

“Eternity is a long time. Find your purpose,” says Camille. “We will be here when and if you return.”

“Think a motorbike feels more your style than a car, though,” remarks Sami. “You can be that asshole who doesn’t wear a helmet.”

Emmett: “Covering this face would be the biggest accident,” Em agrees, deadpan.

GM: And he doesn’t need to, does he? He can get into a fatal crash and bounce right back up. And if he actually gets hurt, that’s nothing a little blood can’t fix. He can eat someone else to make them eat the bill.

Emmett Delacroix was always good at making other people pay for his mistakes.

And hey. Maybe after feeding his worse half to a monster, he’ll make fewer this time around.

“You don’t need our money,” says Camille. “Our needs are few. Use your new gifts, and kine will open their wallets to you without hesitation. Their trust and admiration is already yours.”

“You have no idea how easy it is for us to get money,” Sami agrees. “You’d have killed for star mode when we were alive.”

“You’ll learn from experience, too, how far you can push them. Warnings never did a lot for you.”

Camille snaps her fingers. ‘Bitch’ appears, then at a glance, starts unfastening Eileen’s restraints.

“It’s funny,” says Sami as the other ghoul goes about his work. “I always knew this was what I wanted.”

“Thought it’d be what you wanted, too. We were already vampires when we were alive.”

She tilts her head.

“But I guess you’ve never really done things any way but your own way, have you?”

“Get her some clothes,” says Camille. ‘Bitch’ disappears again and comes back with something dark and leather.

“He is your master now,” she tells the new ghoul. “You will follow him and obey him.”

“Yes, mistress,” Eileen answers, bowing her head.

“See you around, Sandman,” says Sami as the ghoul dresses. “Watch your back. It’s dangerous out there.”

Is that concern in her voice?

“So is existing, my childe,” smiles Camille. “So is existing.”


Previous, by Character: Story Twelve, Emmett XVI
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Story Twelve, Celia XXXII

“Meat doesn’t have a name.”
—Unknown entity


Tuesday evening, 15 March 2016

GM: Celia wakes up on Roderick’s chest. She’s a girl again.

“You take up more space in this form,” he chuckles.

“Still don’t mind petting you, though.” He runs a hand down along her back.

Celia: “I could let Luna come out again, if you’d prefer her company.” Celia can’t purr, not like a cat, but the voice might remind him of the gray furball he picked up last night.

GM: Another chuckle. “Think she’d be out for a while if we did that. You get pretty in-character.”

Celia: “You seemed like you needed a pet to cuddle.”

GM: “I did. I really miss having a pet, sometimes.”

“Animals aren’t too scared of me. I just don’t think my haven would be a good environment for one.”

Celia: “Too many friends with whom they wouldn’t get along?”

GM: “That’s one reason. And the sewer rats, or any lick who’s good at doolittling, could use them.”

Celia: Ah, well, there’s a reason to get rid of Shadow and Victor, at least.

“Right.”

GM: “I’m jealous of the Gangrel. They have lots of animal friends.”

Celia: “You could learn.”

“Roxy has some animal friends.”

GM: “I could. I’ve also heard of licks ghouling animals. Dogs to create hellhounds.”

“Seems a little inhumane, but I suppose that’s not a barrier to most licks.”

Celia: “Is that any worse than ghouling humans?”

GM: “That’s a more complicated ethical debate. But I’d argue animals can’t give consent like humans can.”

Celia: “Some licks don’t need their humans to give consent. They just take what they want.”

GM: “They do. But I’d rather not be that kind of lick.”

Celia: “What do you do when your potential ghoul says no?”

GM: “I wouldn’t take them as my ghoul. I’d have another lick erase their memories.”

Celia: “I had a discussion recently with a ghoul who is on a series of rewards and punishment system with her domitor. Another lick who says she feeds them their monthly hit and more when she thinks they need it. What do you do?”

GM: “Probably closer to the latter, there. Sometimes I give them more for a job well-done. There are licks who give out all sorts of twisted punishments to their ghouls, but there’s no reason to do that beyond sadism. And I think it just breeds hate.”

Celia: “Creating addicts doesn’t bother you?”

GM: “Honestly? Yes. I explained to them that this substance would be incredibly addictive. I could at least be honest about that.”

“My sire… was pretty insistent that I take on ghouls.”

Celia: “I don’t imagine you keep a full stable, though.”

GM: “I have a couple,” he grants, somewhat uncomfortably. “The relationship is fundamentally unequal. I don’t think I realized how much so until I was into it. And at that point… they’d seen too much.”

“There are factions of Anarchs that support greater rights for ghouls. Some of them are pretty radical. But are they so much more so than the status quo?”

“I try to make the relationship an employer-employee one. Blood is money. More than money.”

Celia: “That’s not a bad way to do it.”

GM: “They used to wheedle me for blood pretty hard. I got firmer, but without punishing them. I just made very clear that you’re asking me for money when you’re asking me for blood.”

Celia: She should have tried that instead of bending her mother over her desk.

Well.

Now she knows for next time.

“Wish Veronica had explained it like that.”

GM: “Well, Veronica probably abuses the shit out of her ghouls.”

Celia: “Mm.” Celia shrugs. If he’s not going to bash Coco, she’s not going to bash Veronica.

GM: “The process wasn’t perfect. Initially I said yes, you can have more blood if you pay me a couple hundred dollars. I thought that would impress its value on them.”

“That was very stupid of me in hindsight.”

Celia: “They go broke trying to get their fix?”

GM: “Yep.”

Celia: Celia winces.

GM: “So I stopped. And reimbursed them the money.”

Celia: “That was nice of you.”

GM: “It was my fault. I hadn’t realized what I was doing.”

Celia: “There’s not really a guidebook to this sort of thing. Just what other licks tell you.”

“Sometimes they’re wrong. Or their method doesn’t work for you and yours.”

GM: “Anarchs share a lot of stuff. Maybe we should write a guidebook.”

“Ways to manage your ghouls. Pros and cons to each method.”

“Who to take as ghouls, what works and doesn’t work in domitor-ghoul relationships.”

“There’s a lot of bad information out there. Or at least bad ideas.”

Celia: “It doesn’t help that most of us stop seeing them as people.”

GM: “That’s the key thing. They are people. People we have a lot of power over.”

Celia: “There’s a thing we learned in school for skincare, about the power dynamics. It’s more taught to massage therapists because some people see that as inherently sexual, but there’s a power differential as soon as you have the client / provider relationship. How some people take advantage of it. It’s the same thing.”

“I mean you see it in any relationship like that, really. Teachers. Doctors. Et cetera.”

“But you’re in charge. These people trust you.”

GM: “Really? Interesting. My initial thought had been that it was a more customer-like relationship. They’re paying you for a service they can usually give up without major disruption to their lives and livelihoods.”

Celia: “Massage? Sort of. It’s a medical service under the state board regulations. People can get prescriptions for it, that sort of thing. I see a lot of workman’s comp people, people with real injuries who need assessment to return to work. It’s not something I advertise frequently, but they’re the clients I enjoy the most. Helping them walk again. Heal from their injuries, that sort of thing.”

“But you have to remember, right, if you’re the client you’re lying naked on my table and hoping that I can put you back together again.”

“When I say, this is what the problem is, you have to trust me. When I work on you, you’re trusting that I am fixing it. There are plenty of people out there who spread misinformation or get really skeevy about it. Sleep with their clients, that sort of thing.”

GM: “They do? I thought you said that was the surest way to lose your license. That there’s a whole yellow book. Well, figurative yellow book.”

Celia: “If you get caught.”

GM: “Ah. I guess it’s like anything, there.”

Celia: “Convince someone they’re not a victim, are they really going to report it?”

GM: “That explanation makes a lot more sense, as far as power dynamics. Massages have always been a luxury for me. They were something extra my esthetician girlfriend did.”

Celia: “Can still do.”

GM: He smiles. “I’d enjoy that. Though speaking of things to do for each other, what’s your bank account number?”

Celia: “Um?”

GM: “I owe you for wrecking your haven. And the chair.”

Celia: “And you want my account number for that instead of handing me a suitcase full of cash?”

GM: “Hm. Maybe it’s better, actually, if there isn’t an electronic record.”

Celia: “What do you even do for money that you just throw it around?”

GM: “Well, I’m not rolling in cash, but I practice law.”

Celia: “My fancy lawyer boy.”

“But also… how? If you’re, you know.”

GM: “One of my renfields is a lawyer. She brings home work that I do for her. I bill her an hourly rate, so we both come out even, and she gets a reputation at the office for being incredibly productive.”

Celia: “Ah. Makes sense.”

“I had an idea…”

GM: “Yeah?”

Celia: “For you and Dani. Going into business together. Since she’s a daywalker.”

“If you keep her in the city, I mean. I imagine, once she comes around, she’d be happy to work with you. I bet you could teach her a lot.”

GM: “That’s… possible,” he hedges. “I still need to figure out what to do with her. The city isn’t safe.”

Celia: “She saw the doc. Last night. Got a mark like yours. I paid for her to make it permanent.”

GM: “Thank you,” Roderick says sincerely. “She’ll benefit from that wherever she lives.”

Celia: “We might pass her off as a ghoul for a while. She seemed open to the idea.”

GM: “I need to get her out of the city. Maybe Savoy isn’t using her as a hostage over me, right now, but that could easily change.”

Celia: “I’m not saying not to. I just… think if you make her leave right now she’ll be mad.”

GM: “I agree. That’ll be counterproductive.”

Celia: “But she’s not my sister. Not yet.”

GM: “I’d like to mend things with her before getting married. I want her at the wedding, but I don’t want to use it as leverage to try to get her to speak with me again, either. That’d just taint it.”

“Although now that you mention it… there’s otherwise not much reason to hold off, is there?”

Celia: “That’s a romantic proposal.” Celia fans herself.

GM: He chuckles. “That isn’t the real proposal. By any stretch. Was mainly thinking out loud.”

“You deserve something a lot more romantic.”

Celia: “I’d still like you to meet my mom and Emily as Roderick.”

“Though, uh, Dani… was… um…”

GM: “Was…?”

“I’d also love to meet them as Roderick. And hopefully Lucy too.”

Celia: “I don’t want to hurt you, but she was unenthused at the idea of us getting married until you… learn to control your Beast, she said.”

GM: “That’s not happening any sooner than a sewer rat learning to be prettier.”

“Or a Ventrue learning to be a less picky eater. Or a Malkavian learning to be less crazy.”

Celia: “Or me not being adorable?”

GM: “Yes, though that’s not a curse,” he smiles. “I don’t think Dani understands what the Beast or clan curses are, anyways. Has she actually seen a frenzy?”

Celia: “I explained it to her. After you left. But no. Show versus tell. Easy to explain, harder to make her understand.”

GM: “Well, that’s how it is with everything. I gave demonstrations of my speed and strength to my ghouls, when I recruited them, so they could see I wasn’t just spouting crazy talk.”

Celia: “I thought you were going to lose it on her the other night.”

GM: “I might have,” he answers somberly. “That meeting was…”

“Well. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for.”

“I’m just glad I didn’t. It did enough damage to our relationship. I don’t need it damaging any others too.”

Celia: She asks what he means.

GM: “I hurt you. I beat you senseless. I made you scared of me,” he answers frankly.

“There’s been a couple times you’ve seemed scared that I’ll lose it. When that’s the last thing I’ve ever wanted. I want you to feel safe with me.”

Celia: Celia looks like she might try to deny it for a moment, then finally looks away. She doesn’t say anything.

GM: He hugs her.

“I’m sorry. I know I’ve apologized. I know I’ve not lost it around you since then. But abusing someone who trusts you leaves scars.”

Celia: “Hard to… to explain to Coco if you do, you know, what you were doing with me again. That’s… that’s all.”

It’s a bad lie.

GM: “Sorry, what does my sire have to do with this?”

Celia: “Last time. After it happened. You took me to her to wake me up.”

Both times, but she doesn’t point it out.

GM: “Yes. I trusted her to. She hasn’t abused or exploited you, has she?”

Celia: “That’s not what I meant. It doesn’t matter.”

GM: “But I know. Twice. If you ever get… torpored around me again, I’ll take you to someone else.” His jaw sets. “But it won’t be because of me.”

Celia: He’s missing the point.

But she just nods her head.

“Wouldn’t be here if I didn’t trust you.”

GM: He holds her close. “Thank you.”

“But I’m still sorry. Hurting someone who loves you is never okay.”

Celia: Then why does he do it at some point in the distant future?

Why the chains, the rape, the tongue pulling?

What does she do or not do to make it happen?

She can’t imagine this sweet boy turning into… that. That thing. That monster. She’d thought, for a moment as Sidra described him, that it was Maxen. Maybe Donovan. Cold and dark.

She would have never guessed it was Roderick.


Tuesday evening, 15 March 2016

GM: The two get ready for their nights and go about their separate ways. Roderick gives an address to meet her at (in cat form), over an hour before dawn, so they have to bang and talk at his haven. He calls a Ryde to get her where she needs to go.

She has some texts on her phone:

Hey, I forgot to tell you about this, but Viv says I’m not in trouble, says Emily.

You wanna come over for dinner sometime so I can tell about it?

Celia: Oh thank god. Yeah when are you thinking? Tmr? Thurs?

GM: How’s tmr? I’ll be studying more on Thurs

Celia: Kk. Sounds good.

GM: There’s another text from Dani.

School went well! Want to look into new places this evening?

Celia: Hey, sorry I don’t know if I can tonight, I have to meet w/ my brother and a few clients. Can call you after but might be late.

Glad school went well!

GM: Thanks! Gimme a call whenever.

Another text is from her mother.

Everyone at work today told me how pretty I am! I told them it was all thanks to YOU! :)

Has she been to work since Celia improved her body, after that meeting with Donovan?

Celia: Celia doesn’t think so. Maybe on Friday she went to work? The thing with her sire happened… Wednesday, and she took off Thursday… right?

Her days are starting to blur together.

You’re beautiful on your own, Mom. ♡

She’s glad she’s safe, though.

GM: Still more beautiful thanks to you! Emi says you’re coming over for dinner tomorrow, so see you then. :) Love you!

Celia: That was quick.

Love you too.

GM: She arrives at Flawless. Bentley Downs is her first client for the evening. She’s a blonde 20-something here on Daddy’s money, and last Celia heard, has held no job or harbored any ambitions of note since finishing college. Daddy just pays for everything.

Celia: She vaguely recalls Bentley from McGehee. She’d been the little cunt that had smeared Celia’s name in the mud after her dad attacked her mom because she never came back with the booze.

GM: “I’m still seeing my therapist, you know, about that funeral,” says Bentley.

Celia: She always takes a little more enjoyment than she should when she feeds from the girl.

“I imagine so,” Celia says while she works on Bentley. “That must have been an awful experience.”

GM: Bentley, at least, seems to enjoy it too. Celia’s hands are incredible.

“I still can’t believe I got _arrested!”_

Celia’s heard the story. There was police violence at Mercurial Fernandez’s funeral. A former client of Bentley’s (for her budding talent and now largely defunct “talent agency”) who was murdered inside OPP. There was a riot at the funeral. Cops arrested lots of people. Bentley too, though Daddy quickly got her out. She’s been in therapy over the experience ever since.

Celia: Of course he did. He spoils her rotten. He talks about it sometimes on the table, everything he does for her. He has no ability to tell her “no.”

Sometimes Celia fantasizes about draining them both.

But she serves as a sympathetic ear to the girl, nodding and smiling and making soothing noises as needed.

“Who are you seeing again?” she asks while her hands work their magic.

GM: “Dr. Peterson. She’s been good. But I just can’t forget what I saw in there, what it felt like.” Bentley shivers. “I had no idea people could be so cruel…”

Celia: “Sometimes the world can be cruel,” Celia says sympathetically, “but luckily you don’t need to worry about that here. Deep breath for me, Bentley. There you go. Good.”

She works in silence some few moments longer, then asks if Bentley has been taking anything for the anxiety.

GM: Bentley takes a deep breath.

“Yes, I see a psychiatrist for a prescription there…”

Celia: “And you see me for bodily relief.” She finds a spot of tension and presses as Bentley exhales. “You’ll power through this. You’re a champ.”

“What else is going on with you?”

A few more minutes of this and she’ll sink in, but maybe Bentley has been up to something fun lately.

GM: “Honestly, not a lot,” Bentley says glumly. “The boy I was dating dumped me.”

Celia: “Oh no. What happened?”

GM: Bentley gives a sigh. “Just thought I was too big a mess.”

“And made fun of me for still living with my dad.”

“And said I’m never going to be anything but a trust fund kid.”

Celia: He’s probably right.

But Celia won’t be the one to tell her that.

“What do you want to do about that?”

GM: “Right now I just want to get over what happened so I can move on with my life,” sighs Bentley.

“Maybe I need a vacation.”

Celia: Celia wonders where her sympathy has disappeared to, but she finds it hard to feel anything for a girl who spent one whole night in jail before her daddy bailed her out.

“Maybe,” Celia says. She excuses herself a moment to switch candles, letting the scent of sea breeze and mojitos float through the treatment room. “Here’s a little vacation just for you, though.”

Heated oil makes her fingers glide across the girl’s skin. She lulls her into a sense of tranquility and calm, and once she’s finally where she wants her—already half asleep—she leans in to bite.

GM: Bentley gives a soft, fluttering little gasp. Her blood tastes pampered and sweetly spoiled, like a child’s birthday cake on their perfect day, but it’s distinctly more sour than it used to be before. There’s more sadness. The flavors don’t go together naturally. Celia might not like it. Or maybe she does, if she’s into the taste of despoiled innocence. Or at least rudely awakened ignorance.

Celia: Her annoyance bleeds into her feeding. She wants her clients to remain pampered and spoiled and sweet, without that tang of sour across the back of her tongue. Her Beast doesn’t care, glutton that it is, but the girl takes more than the single hit she might have otherwise, swallowing down mouthful after mouthful of the sour-sweet fare. She licks the wound once she’s done, savoring the final taste of it on her palate.

The work ends moments later.

Celia places two hands on either of Bentley’s shoulders as she draws the appointment to a close, quietly asking how she’s feeling.

GM: “Oh, that was… that was amazing…” Bentley murmurs, her cheeks flushed with afterglow.

“You’re really amazing, Celia… way better than my therapist…”

Celia: Celia laughs quietly.

“You’re welcome to see me anytime, Bentley.”

“Sometimes all you need is a little body work to feel great.”

GM: Bentley nods, a little paler, and thanks Celia for the amazing session before seeing herself out.

Another night, another client who slakes her thirst and feels better.


Tuesday evening, 15 March 2016

Celia: Celia flips the room once she’s done, then reaches for her phone to call Logan.

GM: He picks up after a few rings.

“Hey, sis.”

Celia: “Hey, Logan. You still free tonight? I know you’re in school and have a bed time and all.”

GM: “I gotta be up early for the ROTC, but yeah, I’m free. You wanna come over?”

Celia: The worst idea in the history of ideas.

“Yeah. Let me find some incognito clothes so your classmates don’t mob me again.”

GM: “Cool. See you soon.”

Celia: She hangs up, trying not to think about the fact that maybe, if she’s caught, her sire will teach her another lesson.

It shouldn’t excite her like it does.

GM: Her hopes are sadly disappointed. She arrives at Logan’s dorm room without incident. He greets her with a hug.

“Hey. Want anything to drink?”

Celia: No, Bentley saw to that.

“Maybe in a bit. Just came from the spa. Pushed water on my clients and all that, have to do the same. How’re you?”

GM: He looks all right. Still big and blonde. He answers her question with a smile.

“Mom and Dad are talking again.”

“He told me you two had dinner and that it went really well.”

Celia: “We did. I have you to thank for that, actually. We got together on Saturday.”

“It did go well.”

“It was kind of emotional, honestly.”

GM: “I bet it was. There was… just a lot there, you know?”

“And Dad’s running for governor! He said he told you there.”

Celia: “He did! I’m really excited for him.”

GM: “Me too! He’ll really clean the state up.”

“I won’t have to worry about ROTC stuff anymore, either. And, hell, maybe he can get me into West Point.”

“Things’ll be great for David and Sophia too, and Isabel when she comes home. And Mom won’t have to work anymore, she can be his queen. Lucy’ll be a princess.”

Celia: “He wants to have dinner with her. Mom, I mean. We might do a whole family thing.”

GM: “Oh yeah, he said he was setting that up with her. I thought it was just gonna be them, you, and Emily.”

Celia: “Who knows. I haven’t seen David in forever, though.”

GM: “Emily’s been kind of a bitch about it all, surprise surprise.”

Celia: “Ah… did you talk to her?”

GM: He rolls his eyes. “More like tried to.”

“She just can’t be happy for them.”

“Mom and Dad both sound really happy and excited when I talk to them, what else does she need?”

Celia: “She only has part of the story.”

GM: “We’ve talked a couple times since your and Dad’s dinner. She came over to my dorm today, though. With food.” He grins.

Celia: “Oooh, lookit your little spoiled ass self.”

GM: He laughs. “I’m not married yet, so.”

Celia: “The inherent sexism. Christ.”

GM: “Hey, I’d appreciate if Dad did, but simple fact Mom’s the better cook.”

“And that’s how it is in the military too, most wives are stay-at-homes or work part-time jobs. Since you move around so much. Hard for them to have careers.”

“I hear there’s actually a bunch who work at spas and salons.”

Celia: “It’s good part-time work.”

GM: “And just saying, it makes more sense for the part-time partner to do the cooking than the full-time one.”

Celia: “I don’t disagree. Randy did the cooking for us.”

Cooking, hunting, same difference.

Celia was fed either way.

GM: “Did? You guys break up?”

Celia: “Maybe,” Celia sighs.

GM: “It’s kind of a yes or no, isn’t it?”

He hugs her. “Sorry, though. Breakups suck.”

Celia: “I met someone else. I like Randy, but it’s… complicated.”

GM: “Who’s the other guy?”

Celia: “I’ll let you meet him when Mom does. He’s a lawyer.” Like Stephen, she doesn’t need to say.

Maybe Logan was too young, though.

GM: “Oh, yeah, dump Randy. Lawyer guy’s good.”

Celia: Celia looks amused.

“You don’t even know him.”

GM: “I know enough.”

Celia: “Oh?”

GM: “Randy’s just kind of a loser, isn’t he?”

Celia: “You’ve never said that before.”

GM: “Like, you’ve been together how many years, and he hasn’t proposed? And he works for a bail bond company.”

“You can do better. Lawyer’s better.”

“I didn’t say anything ’cuz you seemed like you were sticking with him.”

Celia: “Oh. Well, thanks for that. But maybe you’re right.”

GM: “I’ll still wanna meet lawyer guy. I’ll beat him up if he doesn’t treat my sis right.” Logan grins.

Celia: “Actually… you might get the chance. He’s who I want to introduce you to for some of your pent up, uh, feelings.”

GM: “Oh, how’s that?”

Celia: “Boxing. Or hand to hand combat. Whatever you prefer.”

GM: “Oh cool, he’s into that?”

“Yeah, hand to hand’d be pretty nice.”

Celia: “Very.”

GM: “I like him already.”

“But I’ll still beat his face in if he doesn’t treat you right.”

Celia: Celia smiles. “Thanks. Appreciate you looking out.”

“Mom tell you she’s going to hang with Robby to learn to fence?”

GM: Logan laughs out loud.

“Wait, what?”

Celia: “She wanted to spend more time with Robby now that he and Emily are getting serious. So Emily suggested it. Family bonding.”

GM: “I don’t think she can really do that with her leg.”

Celia: “Dad said something about a surgery?”

GM: “He did, yeah, after he wins. Which is a little while off.”

Celia: “She can start now, though. Just take it easy, learn slow.”

GM: “I mean, I guess. I dunno how good a teacher Robby is anyway.”

Celia: “You don’t like him?”

GM: “Oh I like him. He’s kind of a nerd, but he’s all right.”

“He’s a nice guy, though. Dad always says you need to be mean, to win in fights. You need the killer instinct.”

Celia: “Ruthless. Is the word you’re looking for.”

GM: “Says that’s what a lot of fights with untrained people come down to, actually. How far you’re willing to hurt, and get hurt.”

“Like. I don’t wanna kill people or anything, but just smashing someone’s face in, who deserves it. I like that.”

“I don’t think Robby wants to do that. He’s basically just playing D&D with swords and stuff.”

Celia: “LARPing,” Celia supplies.

“But yeah. You’re probably right.”

GM: “And Mom definitely doesn’t wanna smash in faces.”

Celia: “Sure, but she can learn.”

GM: “I dunno, I think you’re either born with it or you’re not. Like, Dad has it, I have it, but a lot of people don’t. ‘Cuz it’s more than just fighting, it’s how you go through life. Hunger to win.”

Celia: “Someone else said that to me, too.”

GM: “I think Roberts has that, ‘cuz, props to him, he’s a former Army Ranger, so I’m not gonna totally write him off.”

Celia: “And maybe she’ll hate it, but if she wants to try it I’m not going to discourage her.”

GM: “I guess it doesn’t hurt. Just be aware, she’s not actually gonna learn to fight or anything.”

“Robby isn’t competitive, and she sure as hell isn’t.”

Celia: “Go with them,” Celia suggests, “and then show me what it really looks like.”

GM: “Might hurt for Robby,” Logan smirks. “But sure, I can show ‘em how it’s done.”

There’s someone else who could, Celia knows.

Him.

He has the killer instinct.

Killer instinct to make Logan look like Mom.

Celia: Does she? Is that why he’d stolen her from her home, because she, too, has that sort of killer instinct?

She doubts it. No one has ever said that about her.

But he does. That voice in her head is right. He’s the most ruthless, coldest, darkest Kindred in the city, and the only one who makes her feel alive. He makes her heart beat again. Brings a flush to her cheeks and runs a tingle down her spine.

Is something wrong with her that the thought of him makes her…

Well. That doesn’t warrant mentioning in front of her brother.

“Looking forward to it.”


Tuesday evening, 15 March 2016

Celia: Logan and Celia make plans to meet up later in the week with her new boyfriend—Logan insists on calling him that even though Celia shakes her head and tells him it’s not that serious yet (which is a lie, but her human facade means she can’t really explain that Randy has never been her actual boyfriend)—and Celia heads out with a final hug.

Fortunately, she’s not mobbed on the way out.

She heads back to her haven to meet with Alana and the girls take their time going through the closet to select outfits. Celia does her face, then her own, and they take turns coming up with more and more outlandish backstories for their “characters.”

The problem, of course, is that Celia can’t simply make them drop-dead gorgeous, because that’s a bit of a dead giveaway to anyone who looks at them. Why would they be interested in a mobster, right? But she has zero desire to appear ugly, and Alana doesn’t want to be made more curvy than she needs to be.

So Celia ages them, turning them into handsome thirty-somethings rather than the young-20s they usually portray. Cute enough in a “recent divorcée” kind of way.

They head to the casino with plenty of dollars in their pockets to blow on a good time. Celia tells Alana who she’s looking for on the way; she doesn’t tell her about Harrah’s, just the job she’d been given in return for a favor.

“First contact,” she tells the girl when they arrive, both of them sucking in their auras to pass as mere mortals. “Real important part of the process. Help me find him, sweetheart.”

GM: At this hour, the actual horse racing is long since closed. It’s mainly the casino and food places that are open now. Fairgrounds doesn’t feel like the spot for someone to win huge jackpots, but it does feel like a good place to wind down after work with a couple drinks and fun at the penny slots. There’s a more Southern, down to-earth feel than there is at Harrah’s more corporate atmosphere.

Pic.jpg
“I think he’s right there,” whispers Alana, pointing at one of the slot machines. Celia sees a man who fits the photo she viewed online.

Celia: Celia, with a face that is distinctly non-Celia, nods at Alana’s direction. But she doesn’t approach. Not yet. That’s too needy. Instead she does what she does best: she spins a web. She orders a drink for both of them from a girl in a corset and short skirt (what is with casino uniforms, anyway? She expects it at Harrah’s or the Alystra, but not here), and sets them up at another slot machine.

“So you just put in the coin and pull?” she asks Alana.

As if she doesn’t know.

GM: Alana nods. “And if three of the same icon come up, you win!”

She takes a pull from the drink, sparing her domitor.

Celia: Celia gives her a grateful wink.

She puts the coin in and pulls the lever.

The problem, she realizes, is that slots are kind of a one person game.

GM: The machine comes up with a red letter A, J, and Q.

“Aww!” exclaims Alana.

Like it’s a surprise.

She glances at the poker table.

“Maybe lure him away…?” she murmurs.

Celia: Poker isn’t exactly a two player game, either. Blackjack would be good. Roulette. Craps. Anything but poker or slots.

She’ll manage.

She pulls again on the lever, idly wondering the best way to do this. She doesn’t want to just hit him with charm, but she could.

Just seems like cheating.

“Solo player games. Could spill a drink on him.”

Like in a movie.

She watches Vinny out of the corner of her eye to see what he’s up to.

GM: He’s still at the machine, and by all appearances, having no more luck than they are. A rueful smile touches his lips when he gets two horse symbols followed by a red ‘Q.’

“You spill the drink, mistress?” Alana whispers. A smile touches her lips at calling Celia ‘mistress’ in public.

“I could also check with the food staff if he’s had anything to eat, maybe he hasn’t yet.”

Celia: “Do that,” Celia nods.

“Bathroom is over there,” she says to Alana, then says she’s going to try a new machine. She positions herself closer to Vinny.

GM: Alana comes back in a little while. “He hasn’t,” she whispers.

Celia: “Invite him to dinner, you think?” Celia murmurs to Alana when she loses another coin.

GM: “I like the drink idea, mistress,” she answers. “Maybe both, after you spill?”

Celia: “Think he’s the kind of guy to forgive a pretty girl for spilling on him?”

GM: “Who couldn’t forgive a girl as pretty and winsome as you, mistress?” Alana beams.

Celia: It’s not like she can’t try again with another face if it doesn’t work.

GM: “I know I consider it an honor to get fluids from you spilled all over me…”

Celia: Celia giggles at Alana’s words. Still, she doesn’t think that spilling a drink on Vinny is the best way to get his attention. Unlike her, she doubts that Vinny keeps a spare change of clothes in his car or at various points around the city, and no one wants to sit at a casino cold and wet because some bimbo spilled their drink.

She comes up with a more direct plan, waiting until the machine swallows more of her coins and returns more horse-Q-horse and J-J-A results before crossing her arms over her chest. A toss of her head flips her hair over her shoulder and she finally turns to eye Vinny more blatantly.

“What’s your secret, then?” she asks. “Pull the lever a certain way?”

GM: He gives her a rueful smile. “Two symbols or one, payout’s the same either way.”

Celia: Celia pouts magnificently.

“We need a good luck charm.”

Another coin, another pull of the lever, another loss. She sighs, then moves a seat closer.

“I heard some people bet on bets. Like in poker, they’ll bet they get red or black cards in addition to on their hands, like normal.” She eyes him speculatively. “You want to make our own wager?”

GM: “Oh really?” he asks, face curious. “Sure. I’ll bet on getting a horse with you.” Another rueful smile. “Better odds of a payout than from these anyway.”

Celia: Celia grins at him. She pulls her chair closer.

“I bet you don’t get one, then, and I’ll double it if you get two. Go on then.”

GM: “Okay. How’s $5 for you if I get no horses, and $20 for me I get one?”

“Odds favor you, but I get three shots.”

Celia: Celia considers it, then nods.

“Deal.”

GM: “All right. Let’s try our luck…”

He pulls the lever.

Three symbols come up. There’s not a horse in them.

“Guess you’re the house,” Vinny says wryly. “You want chips or cash?”

Celia: “Oh, go on again,” Celia says, waving a hand. “It would hardly be sporting if I didn’t give you a chance to win it back. Jenny, you’ll keep track, won’t you?” Celia says to Alana.

GM: She nods and sips her drink. “$5 to you.”

“Okay, let’s go again,” says Vinny.

Another pull.

Still no more horses.

“$10,” smiles Vinny.

Just like that, in goes another token.

The horses still elude him.

Celia: “One more makes us even if you win,” she offers.

GM: He nods. “I had the same thought.”

Another token.

There’s a letter, there’s another letter… and then there’s a horse.

“And we’re even. Better payouts than real gambling,” chuckles Vinny.

“How about I buy you ladies some sandwiches with that $20?”

Celia: Celia can’t help but squeal when the horse comes up. She immediately blushes, giggling about how she was just excited to finally see it.

“I wouldn’t say no to that. You’re rather better company than the machines tonight.”

GM: Jenny squeals too and adds a, “Yes, please.”

He chuckles at their excitement.

“Machines at least won’t buy sandwiches. I’m Vinny.”

He extends a hand.

Celia: “They’re not very personable,” Celia agrees. She takes his hand. “Heather. And this is Jenny.”

GM: “Nice to meet you ladies,” he says, shaking Alana’s and then standing up. “This your first time gambling?”

Celia: “Oh no,” Heather tells him, “Jenny here is a card shark, don’t let the pretty face fool you. She’s meaner than a gator at Hold ‘Em. We were going to go to Harrah’s earlier only she said the last time she was there the play was lacking and everyone was real tight. So we thought we’d have some fun here instead.”

“And she said something about how all Harrah’s are the same and she wanted to see something with character while she’s in town. That right, Jenny?”

GM: She nods. “Harrah’s is like every other casino! I thought the only land-based one in the state would be something special.”

“Main thing keeping this one special is the horse races,” says Vinny. “You’ve obviously missed those, and slot machines are the same anywhere. But this one’s cozier. The people learn your name.”

Celia: “Maybe I’ll have to come back sometime to catch those. Do you come here often?” The overused pickup line comes out of her mouth and she laughs at herself. “I just meant do they know your name?”

GM: “First time I’ve actually heard someone ask that,” Vinny laughs. “Yeah. They do. I lose money here all the time.”

Celia: “That’s how they get you,” Heather says, nodding seriously.

GM: “So what are you ladies hungry for?” he asks as they approach the concessions. There’s hot dogs, grilled cheese, po’boys, pizza, hamburgers, salads, wraps, beans and rice, hot plates, chicken sandwiches, chicken wings, gumbo, sides, desserts and the usual to-go casual dining fare.

Celia: She surveys the options of food, not hungry for anything here, but orders something that she knows Alana might like. Not that she expects to be able to get out of pretending to eat; she vows to spend a few minutes in the spa tonight with Alana building the new stomach for her so she doesn’t need to keep going through this. Stomach, then penis, then sex.

GM: Alana goes for a healthy salad. Vinny orders a corned beef sandwich and onion rings. He asks if they’re sure all they want is one salad between them.

Celia: Oh, no, that won’t do. Heather orders her own. A wrap. Wraps are healthy, right? Chicken and lettuce and stuff inside a carb-loaded tortilla.

Yum.

GM: The three collect their food and sit down.

“You two from the city, or in town for the gambling?” Vinny asks as he takes a bite of his sandwich.

Celia: Heather puts off taking a bite of her wrap as long as she can, focusing on the conversation.

“I’m from here. Jenny is visiting. Birthday weekend.” Heather grins. It’s Tuesday. “What about you? I assume if you come here often enough they know you that you’re a local?”

GM: “Oh, happy birthday, Jenny,” smiles Vinny.

“Thanks,” says Alana with a dainty salad bite.

“Yep,” he answers. “Born and raised. Served in the Coast Guard for a little while and came back here after they kicked me out.”

Celia: “Uh oh. What’d you get kicked out for?”

“Is it a fun story? Did you go streaking?” Heather wiggles her eyebrows.

GM: Vinny laughs. “Me and some friends broke into our C.O.’s liquor cabinet and threw a party on a pleasure yacht, when we were supposed to be doing our jobs. We all got bad conduct discharges.”

“We were dumb kids.”

Celia: Heather laughs.

“That’s actually not that bad. Sounds like a good time.”

“What do you do now?”

GM: “I work for the city,” he says. “I’ve also been a boxer, jockey, and pawnshop worker.”

Celia: Interesting way to avoid saying he’s a cop.

“That sounds like a lot of different hats. What was your favorite?”

GM: “Hm, tough.” Vinny takes another sandwich bite. “Probably the pawn shop, though.”

“You get a lot of desperate people. Ones who want to pass off their crap as something other than it is. Something more valuable.”

“It’s a predatory business, in a lot of ways. And like I said, lot of desperate people. I don’t blame them.”

“But I’ve always loved busting fakes and phonies. Showing what’s real and what’s not.”

Celia: “You good at it? Spotting fakes?”

GM: “The guys I worked with thought so.”

Celia: “What kind of things do people try to pass off? Jewelry? Coins?”

GM: “Those are pretty common. You also run into fake watches, gold, jewels, that’s versus jewelry, baseball cards, designer items like purses… if you can think of it, and it’s worth something, there are fakes of it.”

“Don’t even get me started on fake art, but that tends to move in different circles than pawnshops. Though that’s also changing.”

Celia: “There’s a big market for fake designer purses. A lot pf people can’t tell the difference. Fake art, though? I thought that was something that only really happened in movies?”

She knows that’s not the case.

But she tilts her head a little, favoring him with a smile.

GM: “I thought so too,” nods Alana. “Like in conman movies, trying to swipe the Mona Lisa?”

“Oh, lord no,” says Vinny. “There are millions of fakes in the art world. Millions.”

“It’s harder to pass off now than it used to be, though, thanks to newer technologies. That’s why more pawnbrokers are dealing with it.”

“Because a lot of them are independent stores which can’t afford to use the same modern dating and analysis techniques.”

“But since the recession, pawnbrokers have been accepting more high-end items, like art.”

Celia: “Is that what you do now, consult with different pawn shops?”

GM: “Yeah. I still do a bit of that. Busting the fakes. Exposing the frauds. That’s where it’s at.”

Celia: “That sounds pretty exciting, to be honest.”

GM: “It is for me. Usually the other people are pissed.”

“Pissed they couldn’t make a larger buck, or pissed someone else tried to off them.”

Celia: “How do you prove the person who brought it in to pawn is either ignorant or guilty?”

GM: “Doesn’t really matter to the brokers. If it’s worth less than the seller made out, it’s worth less than the seller made out.”

“But I’ll tell them it’s a fake, explain why, and that’s usually the end of that. Don’t think I’ve ever met a broker who still wanted to buy something I said was fake at the initial price.”

Celia: “That makes sense,” Heather says with a nod. She finally picks at her wrap, abstaining from making a face as the taste of ash and shit touch her tongue.

This boy better be good in bed if she’s going to eat for him.

She chews, swallows, nods again.

“That’s way more exciting than what I do. And you were a jockey, you said? Here?”

GM: “Yep,” Vinny answers over another bite. “That came to an end after I put another jockey in the hospital.”

“You’ve had a pretty exciting life, it sounds,” smiles Alana. “What’s the story there?”

“He was cheating and tried to taser me in the bathroom,” says Vinny.

“I lost my temper pretty bad. It was a hot day and I’d had a bad losing streak. So I beat him into a coma and hung a toilet lid around his neck.”

“Sponsors dropped me pretty fast after that.”

Celia: “Do you regret it?”

“Kind of sounds like he deserved it if he was cheating.”

“Not to… be like that.”

GM: “Yeah. And I don’t. I got locked up in OPP for it when Katrina hit. That… helped open my eyes. That I needed to clean up my act.”

Celia: “You were locked in OPP during Katrina?”

GM: “Oh no, didn’t a lot of people die in the jail?” asks Alana.

“Yep,” says Vinny. “The place flooded. We were locked in our cells. People drowned like rats.”

Celia: “That’s awful.”

GM: “Lot of the guards couldn’t be assed to get us out. Some were even locked in themselves.”

“I spent two and a half days up to my chest in sewage water.”

Celia: Celia is suddenly more grateful for the way her father had whisked them out of the city, even if he’d decided to hit her for a while afterward.

Her nose wrinkles.

“How did you get out?”

GM: “Search and rescue. Cop found us. If she hadn’t, I’d be dead.”

“Sheriff said to leave us where we belonged. They actually transferred kids from juvenile to OPP. To ride out the storm.”

“They were shorter than us,” he adds grimly.

“Oh no…” murmurs Alana. “But you all got out safe? Well… the taller people?”

“Some of us died too,” says Vinny. “There wasn’t any food, water, light, ventilation.”

“Wasn’t much better after we got out, to be honest.”

Celia: “I can’t even imagine,” Heather says softly, shaking her head. “That’s just… that’s awful. I’m glad you got out.” She reaches out, touching his hand. As if realizing the breach of conduct she blushes, pulling back. “How’d things change for you then?”

GM: He offers her a reassuring smile as if to say all’s forgiven. “Well, like I said, they didn’t. They moved us to a prison camp. Guards beat a lot of people. Lot of prisoners had weapons. Wasn’t much food or medical care to go around. Bad recipe. Guy tried to shiv me for my dinner. Guards shot at us a couple times. When they were sick of dealing with that.”

“Were a lot of rapes, too. Gender segregation wasn’t as enforced.”

Celia: Heather blinks at that.

GM: “They didn’t mix us all together. But everything was an even bigger shit show, and lots of corners got cut.”

“For instance, we could watch the girls use the toilet. There was a 13-year-old who got a lot of catcalls when she did.”

Celia: “Oh.”

“Wow.”

GM: “Eventually she just stopped. I think she found a corner of the camp to piss in. So the older women beat her up. Then I think she just started pissing herself.”

“My god…” murmurs Alana. “What happened to her?”

“She got out. They probably left her on the side of the road somewhere with a jumpsuit on.”

“That’s how I got out, anyways. I wandered around for a while and tried to convince someone to let me use a phone to call my family. That was hard with the jumpsuit.”

Vinny shakes his head.

“Anyway. This isn’t a fun topic. But it was my wake-up call. I cleaned up my act.”

Celia: “Sorry,” Heather murmurs, “I didn’t mean to pry into it.”

“But that’s good, at least, that you were able to turn things around.”

GM: “I’m okay talking about it. More figured you ladies would rather talk about nicer things.”

Celia: Heather shakes her head.

“I thought it was pretty interesting. I didn’t live here then, so I’ve only really heard stories about what it was like, and the media kind of blows things up sometimes, you know?”

GM: “Or just doesn’t talk about them. They didn’t say anything about the jail inmates.”

“We were some of the worst hit. No one cared.”

Celia: “That’s what I mean, yeah.”

GM: “I made it out okay. Plenty others who didn’t.”

Celia: “I’m glad you did.”

Is that too much, too soon?

Maybe.

She says it anyway.

GM: “Me too,” he smiles back, taking another sandwich bite.

“Anyway. I’ve talked a lot about myself. Tell me about yourselves.”

Celia: “Oh,” Heather says, with a sly glance at Alana “Well, that’s a long story, but we met at college. I’m not sure that how is appropriate for the venue.” She laughs. “We’ve basically been friends since, but she lives in Austin and I moved to New Orleans. We still talk pretty much all the time and get together for birthdays and holidays. I keep trying to convince her to move here, but haven’t swayed her yet.”

GM: “Maybe someday,” smiles Jenny. “It’s tempting, but I have a job I really like in Austin.”

“What’s that?” asks Vinny.

“I’m a massage therapist,” answers Jenny. “I make people happy with my hands.”

“Good way to put it,” chuckles Vinny. “So how’d you and Heather meet?”

Jenny glances slyly back at Heather. “Like she said, it’s not very appropriate…”

“Oh, I think you’ve heard some pretty inappropriate stories from me already,” says Vinny, smiling between the two. “And now you’ve got me curious. How’d you two meet?”

Celia: Alana is the perfect partner for this.

“Well…” Heather says slowly, drawing the word out. She shares a look with Alana. “We were in our sophomore year and lived in the same dorm, and we had a class together. And there was a boy in the class that we both kind of had a thing for.”

Heather’s cheeks turn a little red. She looks away, as if she might not continue for a moment, and then finally finds his eyes again.

“So we thought that instead of fighting over him we’d just share him.”

GM: “Oh, boy,” laughs Vinny.

“I doubt he was complaining.”

“How’d it pan out?”

Celia: “We ended up as best friends and have done it a few times since.” Heather can’t help her grin. “I thought she was more interesting than him, in the end.”

GM: Jenny flashes another one and puts her arm around Heather’s waist.

Vinny laughs harder. “Oh, boy,” he repeats. “You two still together?”

“Oh no, I have a boyfriend now,” says Jenny.

Celia: “When she’s around, though.”

GM: “A little more often lately,” Jenny grants with a smile. “Heather got divorced.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” says Vinny.

Celia: Heather shrugs. “We weren’t well matched. How ’bout you, though? Girlfriend? Wife?”

GM: He shakes his head. “My aunts nag me about it all the time, but I’m not really looking.”

Celia: Heather shares a look with Alana, then glances back at him.

“Not even for a good time?”

GM: “Oh, my. That’s quite an offer.”

Celia: “If the machines aren’t putting out, someone might as well.”

GM: “You’re both knockouts. I’d be nuts to say no. Just, so we’re clear, no strings attached. I’m not looking for more right now.”

Celia: “No strings is exactly what I’m looking for.”

GM: “Perfect. How’s a hotel?”

Celia: “Perfect,” Heather echoes.

GM: The three finish their food. Vinny presumes the two came in their own car, so he offers to meet them there at a nearby place.

It’s casual enough how he phrases things, and maybe Heather wouldn’t pick up, but Celia does.

He really wants them to take separate cars to the hotel.

Celia: Why, though? What a weird thing to want.

Heather gives the best road head.

“You don’t want a preview?” she asks, flicking her tongue across her lips.

GM: Vinny laughs. “I’ll take no spoilers. Build up my anticipation.”

Celia: Heather giggles. “All right. We’ll meet you there.”

GM: “But Heather gives the best road head,” Alana remarks as they drive to the hotel.

“Oh well. Jenny can give Heather some, if she wants.”

Celia: “You spoil me, darling,” Celia says to Alana. “Why don’t you save it for tonight? Let’s blow this boy’s mind.”

“He seemed hesitant to share a car, anyway. But you did wonderful.”

GM: “Thank you, mistress,” Alana purrs, nuzzling against Celia’s head. “I’m just sorry I’ll have to share you with him.”

Celia: “We’ll have each other later, though, as promised. I know I told you no sex for a week, but your actions lately have shown me how deserving you are to have your punishment lifted.”

GM: “Oh, thank you, mistress,” Alana beams, her face radiant. “I can’t wait to suck your cock tonight. I’ll swallow it whole.”

“But I should still be punished a little, don’t you think? Maybe you can spank me…”

Celia: “I will. I’ll spank you tonight.”

“And then you can suck me off.”

“And then I’m going to fuck you.”

“After we fuck him, though.”

GM: “I can’t wait, mistress,” Alana purrs, rubbing against Celia.

“I want you to fuck my ass, while it’s nice and sore…”

“But I want you to fuck my pussy too, man and woman like it’s meant.”

Celia: Celia reaches a hand out as she drives, stroking a hand along the ghoul’s cheek.

“We’ll do it all tonight, darling. You’ll see.”

GM: Some ghouls, at least, respond well to rewards and punishments.

Or at least rewards.

Celia: Alana won’t mind when Celia gets wet while spanking her, either, or slips a few fingers inside.

GM: The pair arrive at the hotel with Vinny. It’s not as luxurious as one that Celia only dimly recalls another person going to, but the room is clean and the bed spacious and comfortable. Vinny greets the two women, then starts hungrily kissing Heather. His beard tickles her chin. His breath comes hot and heavy. He doesn’t feel like he’s done this in a while.

Celia: Heather has done this recently enough for the both of them. She’s happy to lead or follow as he needs, though once she realizes his inexperience she takes a more dominant role. Her lips clash against his, fingers sliding across his shoulders and then down his chest to undo the buttons on his shirt.

GM: Jenny unbuckles his pants. And Heather’s. She strokes his dick back and forth in her hand and slides a finger up Heather. Vinny tugs off her blouse. He squeezes and kisses her breasts, relishing in their touch. How long has it been since he held a woman’s tits?

“God, you’re both so hot…”

Celia: They are, aren’t they? Celia did that. Gave both of them the perfect round globes on their chest for him to touch. Her nipples stiffen at his attention, and when Alana starts to touch her she finds her domitor already wet. She lets him play how he wants, leaning in to kiss the side of his neck. Her fingers curl through his hair. She bites with the flats of her teeth, though keeps her fangs tucked away for now. After a second she reaches for Jenny, slipping the skirt down her long, shapely thighs to pool on the floor.

GM: He’s a slim man, with his clothes off, but toned and taut. Celia’s been with handsomer men, and better-smelling ones. His facial hair smells of sweat and drier cologne, only recently washed—for them? His head is starting to bald with his hat removed. Still, he’s vigorous and enthusiastic, and has a tight ass. He alternates between filling each woman as they kiss and fondle one another, stroking their clits. After Vinny blows his load in Celia, he goes down on Alana, pleasing both women with his mouth and fingers until he’s ready to go again with his dick. Vinny lasts a while. There’s a lot of energy in him, even beyond the hunger that must come from going a while without release (or at least a partner). The three finally lie still in a sweaty heap, Vinny with his arms around both women’s shoulders.

“Wow,” he says.

“That was… something else.”

Celia: His eagerness makes up for his lack of expertise, and Alana’s swift fingers find the spots that he doesn’t. Heather is just as loud as a girl named Cici had once been, showing her appreciation for Vinny with eager, happy noises and soft, breathy sounds that rise up from the back of her throat. When it’s over she curls herself against him, nuzzling his neck while Alana does the same from the other side.

“Amazing?” she supplies with a wicked grin.

GM: “I think I just lived every adolescent boy’s wet dream.”

Celia: “Happy to oblige,” Heather laughs.

GM: “Happier to have been obliged,” he remarks, holding the two women close against his chest.

“It’s been a while since I last did this.”

Celia: “Yeah?” Heather kisses his cheek, her fingers tracing idle circles down his chest. “Doesn’t seem like it. I think I came at least three times.”

“If you want…” she shifts, rolling over to straddle his hips. Her thighs spread around him. “Jenny’s leaving town soon, but I’m always down for a no strings good time.”

GM: “It’s hard to say I wouldn’t be either, after this.”

His manhood looks too spent to go again, at least this soon, but one of his hand’s fingers slide inside of her. The other starts stroking her clit.

Celia: Her body shifts, moving against the finger inside of her. A small noise comes from her throat, half a gasp and half a moan, needy and wanton. She leans back, palms stretched out behind her, letting him see all of her body while he brings her to another shuddering climax. It doesn’t take long. When it’s done she shifts again, leaning forward, capturing his lips in a lingering kiss that tells him all she needs him to know: she’ll always come when he calls.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: Celia returns to the brothers’ house after vomiting into a toilet, Vinny’s number newly added to her contacts. The thin-blood is still there. Gagged and tied to a chair inside of a closet. They smell worse than they did last time. Like stale sweat. Their eyes widen and they make loud muffled noises through the gag.

Celia: Jade smiles down at the thing once she arrives back at the home, in a forgiving mood now that she has made some progress for Pietro, herself, and Savoy and had a handful of orgasms to boot.

“Hello, there. Did you have a good day?” She reaches forward to undo the gag.

“I never learned your name,” she says idly.

GM: “Lady, lady lick, why you keepin’ me here, I did all you wanted…” protests the thin-blood.

Celia: “Did you?” Does he remember?

GM: “Yeah, I did, didn’t I? C’mon, tell me what I ain’t done!”

Celia: “What do you remember?”

GM: “I tol’ you how I planted the bug, but I didn’ hear shit over it, lady, okay?”

Celia: Jade nods. “You were going to get your friend for me, though.”

GM: “But, but you said you’d lemme go…”

Celia: “I did. After you get your friend for me. Otherwise you’ll just be back in my spa in a week, won’t you?”

“And we’ll do this all over again.”

“And while I enjoy seeing you and the night we shared… I’d rather deal with this now.”

She smiles.

GM: The thin-blood shakes their head. “I won’t, lady, swear! Caught me once, you ain’t gonna be as nice the second time, right?”

Celia: “No,” she agrees.

GM: “But okay, I’ll get your friend, jus’ lemme go after I do, lady, okay?”

Celia: “Which door are you marking?”

GM: The thin-blood tells her which.

Celia: “As soon as we collect your friend you are free to go.”

GM: “Okay, lady, you want me to lead you there?”

Celia: “No. I want you to stay here, comfortably as my guest, until we get him.”

GM: “But, but if I ain’ there, lady, how you know he gonna show?”

Celia: “I doubt he has eyes on you all the time.”

GM: “Can you at least lemme outta the closet, lady, I’m all sore…”

Celia: “I can adjust your position,” Jade offers.

GM: “Please, lady, can’t you jus’… lock me in a room, or somethin’?”

Celia: “Are you going to run?”

GM: The thin-blood shakes their head. “I swear I won’t, lady, you’ll be real mad if I do. I’ll be locked in anyway, right?”

“C’mon, please, I’m real sore… I been sittin’ here all day, all night…”

Celia: “One moment.” Jade closes the door on it to see which of the brothers are around.

GM: Currently, only Randy seems to think staying to guard the prisoner is worth his time.

Celia: He’s right, but she needs the others for her plan this evening. She has him move the prisoner, making sure that he keeps him tied nice and tight, and gives Reggie a call.

GM: “Can I just keep… uh, is this a man or a woman?” asks Randy.

Celia: Jade shrugs at him. “Won’t tell me their name.”

“Be nice, we’re releasing them after this.”

GM: “Ok, can I just… keep them tied up in a room, but not be in the room?”

Celia: “You’re coming with me tonight,” Jade tells him, “so tie them tight.”

GM: “Oh, great, babe!” Randy beams.

“I’ll tie them tighter than, uh, really tight!”

Celia: “Excellent, darling.”

“Don’t let them get out or we’ll need to have words.”

GM: Randy nods along.

Reggie picks up after a few rings.

“What up?”

Celia: “I need you,” Jade says into the phone, “to show me what a badass you are.”

GM: “I’d say anytime, but I do that all the time.”

Celia: “Will you come home so I can explain?”

GM: “Sure. Less homely now, though, without your mom and friend.”

Celia: “But I’m here.”

GM: “True. Big net plus.”

“They were getting a lot less fun anyway.”

Celia: “I know,” Jade sighs into the phone, “I appreciate you putting up with them though.”

“Come see me, baby. I have fun plans for us tonight.”

GM: “On my way.”

“Also. Should probably keep your friend away from any knives in the house, if she’s staying with you,” he says before she hangs up.

Celia: She’ll have to ask him to explain that when he gets here.

Jade says she’ll see him soon and hangs up. She moves to check the bindings on their thin-blood friend.

She trusts Randy, but she’d rather not lose her asset.

And she has a question for the thin-blood.

She seats herself on the side of the bed where it has been tied, looking down at it with a gentle smile.

“I have one last question for you.”

GM: “Sure, lady lick, sure, what you wanna know?” asks the thin-blood.

Celia: “I’ve been told that some of the duskborn have the ability to use their blood for a sort of alchemy.”

GM: “Oh, uh, whas’ alchemy?”

Celia: “A sort of trick you do with your blood. Technically it’s a transformation of something from one state to another. Old chemistry. Some people think you can use it to turn metal into gold.” Jade smiles again, clearly dismissing the notion. “But the duskborn are said to be able to do things with the blood, and I had hoped to utilize your services if you knew about it.”

“I keep my contacts very, very comfortable.”

GM: “Oh, you mean like the mixers, lady? The cooks?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “Yeah, I migh’, migh’ know one or two.”

Celia: “After all this is done with your friend, would you be willing to introduce me?”

GM: “Ah, sure, lady, keep me comfy how?”

Celia: “Money, blood, safety. You mentioned you don’t have a place to stay during the day. You live night to night.”

GM: “Yeah, yeah I do.”

Celia: “That can’t be very comfortable.”

GM: “Well, it, it how I always got by, I guess.”

Celia: Jade nods. “But you can’t thrive if you’re busy trying to survive.”

GM: “Well, sure, lady, I’ll hook you up, for somea all that.”

Celia: “Excellent. As soon as I get our friend I’ll come back for you to tell me more about these… cooks.”

GM: “Sure, you bet!”

“Can you untie me a little, maybe jus’ my legs?”

Celia: “Not yet, darling. Soon.”

GM: “C’mon, I ain’ gonna run, you said you’d give me blood an’ money an’ a place to sleep!”

“I can’t run anyway without my hands!”

Celia: “You invaded my domain,” Jade says to it, “which means you’re mine to do with as I wish under the laws of the Camarilla and the city. I could put you down, but I feel some affection for you.”

Jade reaches out, stroking a hand down its face. “I just don’t trust you yet. Prove to me I can while I’m gone and you’ll have the run of the house, or we can find you somewhere else.”

GM: “Somewhere else?”

Celia: “If you want your own digs.”

GM: “Oh. Yeah, lady, that’d be great, that’d be real great!”

Celia: “Then just a little bit longer, okay?”

GM: “Okay, lady, okay…”

Celia: “I still need your name,” Jade says to it. “I just keep calling you ‘the duskborn’ in my head.”

GM: “Ah, my name’s Ebony, lady lick.”

Celia: “Ebony,” Jade repeats, “fitting. Did you pull that because mine is Jade?”

GM: “Ah, sorry, lady?”

Celia: “Your name isn’t Ebony. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me when you want to be my friend. Truthfully it rather hurts my feelings.”

GM: “Ah, I’m sorry, Jade, I’m real sorry, my name’s Shanice.”

Celia: Jade sighs at the thing.

“It’s like when you ask a stripper at a club, you know, and she gives you a fake name on top of her fake name.”

GM: “Look, lady, you say you don’ trust me, okay, I don’ really trust you! You tied me up all day!”

Celia: “I was honest about the fact that I’d leave you tied up all day. You bugged my spa and spied on me.”

GM: “Well, okay, my name ain’ Shanice, I’d jus’ rather hold out on the real one ‘til I ain’ tied up, yeah?”

Celia: Jade shrugs at it.

“Very well. There goes your bonus.”

She rises, striding for the door.

GM: “Wait, bonus?”

Celia: She pauses, glancing over her shoulder.

“Bonus,” she repeats, “for when I don’t need to play guessing games and waste my time prying information out of people.”

GM: “Okay, lady lick, I’m sorry, if I tell you my name, can I have the bonus?”

Celia: “I don’t know, darling, do you have proof it’s your name? You’ve lied to me twice.”

GM: “Ah, not really, sorry. I ain’ got any ID or stuff.”

Celia: Jade strides back to the bed, reaching out a hand to stroke it down the side of the thing’s face. Her touch is light, gentle enough to show it that she doesn’t wish it any harm. She sends a little burst of desire to please into that touch, reaching out with the innate sense of self as much as she does her hand. After a moment she asks again.

“Will you tell me your name? The truth, this time.” The words are just a murmur in the air between them, the promise of that “bonus” heavy on her tongue.

GM: “Deja,” the thin-blood gets out thickly.

“Can I have the bonus…?”

Celia: “Do you really know any cooks, Deja? I won’t be mad if you lied, just if you waste my time.”

GM: “I do, lady lick, swear!”

Celia: Jade just nods. She rises once more, pulling the money she hadn’t gambled away from her pocket. She pulls five bills free and sets it on the table next to the thin-blood, out of their reach but visible all the same.

“Yours,” she says to it. “I’ll see you soon, Deja.”


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: Reggie greets her at the door with a hungry kiss.

“Missed me, sexy?”

Celia: If she had breath, he’d steal it.

As it is she gives the kisses freely, glad that she can have her way with him without feeling self-conscious about her mother, Lucy, or Dani in the room. Randy is otherwise occupied for at least another minute or two; she pulls Reggie forcibly against her by the front of his shirt, sandwiching herself between him and whatever wall is closest.

“Always,” she gets out, “stop leaving me. I need you.”

GM: “Makes you miss me…” His teeth grind against hers as his tongue explores her mouth. He shoves her hard against the wall, his hands possessively roaming her breasts, rear, and hips. One hand reaches inside her panties and teasingly explores her lower lips.

Celia: “It makes me impatient,” she disagrees, but her body responds to his touch all the same, and his fingers come away slick. Two sharp points trace down his neck, but Jade doesn’t bite into him despite how very tempting he is this evening. Nor does she let him go any further than this. Not with Randy in the house.

And she needs him for other things, besides.

She tells him so, whispering her desire to him in fragmented kisses while he fondles her, telling him that she needs him to help her trap an enemy. A big, strong enemy, someone he’ll be proud of taking down. A real vampire, not a pathetic half-breed.

Help me take him out, she tells him, show me how strong and tough you are.

GM: He’s up for it.

He always is.

He cups her head back with one hand and raises his wet fingers to her lips.

“Have a taste…”

Celia: Jade takes his fingers into her mouth, closing her lips around the digits to suck them clean. Her eyes never leave his.

GM: “Always,” he repeats, stroking back her hair from her face.

“I’ll pound a stake into that motherfucker.”

“Then I’ll pound something else into you…”

Celia: She certainly hopes so.

GM: He gathers weapons and equipment for the job, asking if there’s anything else they need before they get to the address.

Celia: They need his brother and Alana, actually, so while Reggie does his thing Jade does hers in a private room with the two of them. She had thought to turn Randy into the thin-blood, but between the two of them Alana is the better liar and closer to the thin-blood’s size anyway. She apologizes for the ugly face while she sculpts the flesh beneath her fingers, forming her into an exact replica of the thing tied up in the bedroom. Her blood in Alana’s veins will make her smell enough like a thin-blood that no one should detect the difference.

“Your name is Deja,” she tells Alana as she works, “but you might respond to Ebony or Shanice. When they arrive, tell them you picked up something good and that you want to talk privately.” She fills her in on a few of the thin-blood’s habits and speech patterns.

Unfortunately Randy doesn’t shadow dance, but Jade gives him a small mark on his inner arm that will let him use the ability for the evening. Then she does her own face, turning herself into a nondescript nobody that no one would look twice at.

She goes over the plan with all of them: Alana will lure them out with the X on the door. The other three will keep lookout. If more than one lick shows or if they bring a retinue of ghouls, the plan becomes “extract Alana and get out.” Otherwise, Alana will take the contact somewhere private to be ambushed by Reggie, Randy, and Jade.

The rules are clear: minimize risks to themselves, don’t break the Masquerade, don’t tip off the guy to what’s going on.

Jade paces in the living room once it’s all set, finally turning to ask the boys if they think they’ll need more muscle. Combat, things like this, none of it is her strong suit, and they’re going in almost blind. Jade has a few ideas about who it might be, but she’s been wrong before. Either way, they can’t mess up. This isn’t a thin-blood they’re going after, but an honest to god vampire with who knows what abilities.

Celia: While Randy and Reggie discuss, Jade pulls Alana aside to record something for the bug.

“Just in case things go south,” she tells Alana. “You get the signal then you hand over the information and tell him there’s more where that came from and that the bug is still in place. My priority is keeping you safe. Now… what’s a good tidbit we can record for this?”

GM: “I look so ugly, mistress,” Alana mopes.

“So… eurgh.

Celia: “It’s just for an hour or two, ‘Lana. Then we’ll put you back to sorts and we get the rest of the night to unwind in each other’s arms.”

GM: “Okay, mistress. Okay.” The ghoul still shudders a little and looks away from her reflection.

“Maybe a time and place where you’ll be alone? If they wanted to hurt you?”

Celia: “We don’t know that they do. I had another thought, tell me if this is too… weird…”

Jade tells Alana her idea.

GM: “It’s perfect, mistress,” Alana beams.

“And… pretty sexy, too…”

“Whoever gets it will really have something on their hands…”

Celia: “You mean their dick?” Jade drawls, brows lifted.

She’s not sure she agrees with the ghoul’s assessment, anyway. Maybe it’s better to to use her initial idea about a time she’s alone. Her grandsire always says you can never trust a ghoul to be honest with you…

Maybe it’s too much.

But it’s their backup plan, anyway.

God, she hopes she’s right about this.

Jade takes a moment to record what she had pitched to Alana, then returns to the living room to find out what Randy and Reggie have decided.

GM: The brothers are gung ho and ready to stride boldly into the night. Maybe they should let Alana go first, though, with her phone on so the rest of them can listen to what’s happening and plan accordingly.

Both brothers are bringing stakes. There’s also hairspray, if they want to literally play with fire.

GM: Celia’s phone then buzzes with texts from Dani.

Oh btw two dinner things

My dad said he could do Friday this week with your family, does that work for you?

Your mom also invited me to dinner tomorrow, guess we’ll be seeing each other a lot :)

She says I should come by your spa sometime too

Celia: Jade does not want fire anywhere near her. She tells the boys as much, her Beast whining in instinctive unease at the thought of an open, uncontrolled flame. They’ll stick to stakes and blades against their Kindred foes. And Jade has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve that should, hopefully, even the playing field if it comes down to that. Combat isn’t her strength, but she has other tools at her disposal should it come down to that. She will make do.

Alana will go in first to summon him, with an open line of communication on her person to let them hear what’s going on and decide how to play things. Jade gives her one last missive on her way out the door: if, for any reason, she is taken away from the scene, sell them on the idea of Celia as a ghoul who apparently resents her mistress and isn’t fully bound.

The rest of them will shadow dance to hide what they are and keep the lick ignorant to their presence. Randy and Reggie wear mundane disguises to hide who they are.

Jade checks her phone while she heats the remaining blood from her hunting expedition last night in the microwave, then calls Reggie over, asking what he meant about her friend and knives on the phone. She’s getting a bit of a Single White Female vibe from Dani anymore.

GM: The ghouls all agree to the parameters of Jade’s plan.

“She’s crazy, is what,” Reggie says.

“She tried to stab me last time we talked.”

“Your mom tried to kick me in the balls.”

“They’re both lucky I’m such a gentleman.”

Celia: “Whoa, what?”

GM: “What, you didn’t figure I could be sexy, competent, and a gentleman too?”

Celia: “I mean the stabbing and ball kicking.”

GM: “Like I said, they’re crazy.”

Celia: “When was this?”

GM: “When you were asleep.”

Celia: “Why?”

GM: “Because they’re crazy.”

Celia: “What did you do to them, Reggie?” Jade finishes off the last of the warmed blood, eyeing him past the rim.

GM: His gaze fixes on it.

“Hey, I didn’t do anything besides kiss them.”

“Told you. Gentleman.”

Celia: Jade just gives him a look.

“Reggie, I told you to leave them alone.”

GM: “Hey, I did. I didn’t try to fuck them.”

Celia: “Stop trying to kiss my mom.”

“It makes me not want to fuck you.”

GM: “She isn’t here anymore, so happy to oblige. But if it makes you feel any better, she took away all the food she cooked.”

“Went on this crazy rant about it.”

Celia: “Oh?”

GM: “Like I said. She and your friend are crazy. Happy not to have ’em back.”

“This is a very un-sexy topic.”

Celia: Sounds like Diana finally stood up for herself. Dani too. Jade just makes a sympathetic noise at her ghoul, though.

“Eventually someone is going to geld you when you try to put it where it doesn’t belong, sweetheart. Stop trying to fuck my mom and friend. Any other woman, mkay?”

GM: “Any other woman, I wouldn’t be such a gentleman about her mom and friend.”

Celia: There’s nothing left in the glass when she’s done with it. She rinses it in the sink, watching the clock. She doesn’t want to give Alana too long a head start; she’s worried it will land her in trouble.

“Reggie,” she says, turning to him, “I like you. A lot. I don’t want you getting stabbed because you couldn’t keep it in your pants, mkay?”

GM: “Relax. Girl had no idea how to use that thing.”

Celia: That’s an oversight that will need fixed.

“This guy tonight might. Don’t get stabbed on me. I’ll miss you too much.”

GM: “Yeah, that guy I’ll stab the fuck back.”

Celia: “Right in his heart,” Jade agrees. “Put the big piece of wood in his chest. Then after you can put it in me.”

GM: “Count on it.”


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: The drive to Rampart isn’t long. Celia and Dani text on the way. Dani is pleased to hear the rescheduled dinner date with her dad works. She says she’d love to make an appointment at the spa.

I mean I knew about it earlier but didn’t ever visit because yknow, Stephen

Celia: For sure. We can definitely get you in!

Celia fires off a handful of texts back and forth with Dani about the upcoming dinners and what sort of appointment she’s looking for at the spa. They do their job well, distracting Celia from the nerves that flutter through her stomach at the thought of what’s waiting for her tonight.

She’s going in blind.

She has theories, sure, but nothing concrete. None of this is her typical MO. She’s not the type of lick to respond with force; but then she’s not the type of lick to be so blatantly targeted like this, so maybe it is her typical MO and she just never knew. Maybe that lesson from her sire—you struck her, she’ll strike back—stuck the landing a little too well.

Maybe she’s just still worried about taking care of her mom and the rest of what’s hers.

So she distracts herself, first with her would-be sister and then her would-be lover. The one with the hat.

Hey babe what’s the theme for the party?

Does he text? He seems like the kind of guy to text. Young enough for it.

GM: Dani actually does not have a kind of appointment she’s looking for. Your mom says she just comes in and lets you do whatever to her, so thought I’d do the same

Gui does not provide as immediate a distraction.

Celia: How rude of him to not submit to her schedule.

Ha, she does. Np, can do. You gonna stay with her or back at my place?

GM: Her place. Thought you wanted me out of there

Temporary though. She’s been helping me move my stuff and look through listings

Celia: Do you want to schedule some visit times for Sunday? Can come with after work.

Work, daysleep, same difference.

Gives her time to find a few places.

And gives Celia time to tell Roderick he’s going to pony up rent.

GM: We’re both really glad to get out of Reggie’s place, he was awful

Sunday sounds great :)

Celia: I’m glad for you too. Almost decked him. Remind me to tell you something later, you gonna be up a bit?

GM: Yeah totally

Be more glad if you had decked him

He just would not fucking stop trying to kiss us and touch us

Celia: Yeah… I might.

GM: no matter how many times we said stop he just did not care

I had to threaten him with a knife to get him to back off

Celia: I heard.

GM: And then of course he started ranting how crazy I was

Yeah how crazy I don’t want to have sex after I’ve been raped

Celia: Obv not wanting his dick = crazy

Want to talk to you about that, too.

GM: He came on to your mom hardest whenever she was with Lucy. It was so fucking creepy.

Celia: wow.

GM: Yeah. Talk about what anyways?

What happened to me?

Celia: Yeah. Later though. If you want to talk about it. I won’t pry.

GM: Well. I don’t really remember a lot

Like I said

I almost thought I was… faking it?

Celia: not right now.

GM: well tldr I feel better talking about it. Your mom and I talked a lot

she told me about how she’d been raped

Celia: She did?

GM: Yeah. By your dad. A bunch of times. And that she thought it was ok for me to say I’d been even if I don’t remember much

She said she struggled with that a lot too, wondering if the rape that happened to her was actually rape because he was her husband

But she said you and Emily told her over and over that it was real

Celia: It was real. For her and for you. No one deserves that.

GM: Thanks. That helps to hear

Please don’t tell Stephen btw

Just don’t want to deal with that, he’ll go ballistic over it

Celia: He will, you’re right. I won’t say anything to him.

GM: What’s new with him?

Celia: Work mostly. Looking for a house. Misses you. Wants to go out this week, figure it will be a good time to tell him about what you want. Still thinks you should take that job offer in Houston.

GM: Fuck that

Celia: That’s what I told him you’d say.

GM: School’s here, my job’s here, the job I want is here, my dad’s here, you’re here, your mom’s here, my friends are here

Why the fuck would I want to just pack up for Houston

Because that’s convenient for him

Which actually makes me want to do it even less

When I already didn’t at all

Celia: For the “job” that Celia had just used as cover.

She’d explained this to Dani, not to say something weird via text. Now the girl is blowing it.

Celia sighs at her phone.

Yeah I get it. He’s being a butthead tbh.

GM: Fuck him

If he doesn’t pay my rent I’m never speaking to him again, tell him that

Celia: Will do.

What’s your schedule like these next few nights? Have a friend I want you to meet.

GM: Dani lists her work and school hours.

Pretty wide open apart from that. I’ve kinda been falling off the radar with my friends ¯\(ツ)

But yeah would love to meet yours

Celia: Dani needs to stop taking things at face value. No one Celia actually calls friend would want to meet the thin-blood.

Perf. I’ll set it up and let you know. Don’t ignore your friends though. Easy to isolate after sexual abuse but maybe some normalcy will do you good.

GM: I just feel a lot more able to talk about what happened with you and your mom, you know?

Celia: Yeah. I get it. Can feel really lonely, like you’re the only one who has ever been through it. I’m here for you. Sometimes just therapeutic to have a normal day out with friends is all I mean, helps remind you the world isn’t terrible.

Celia types out another message on her phone, debating if she wants to send it or not. She’s not looking for sympathy. But maybe it will do something for Dani. She presses Send.

Happened to me. Never told my mom. I know it’s not the same, prob doesn’t help, but you’re not alone.

GM: Oh my god I’m so sorry. I can talk now if you’d rather than text

Celia: Working on a project. Can talk later though.

GM: Ok. But thanks. Really glad to have you + your mom in my life right now

Celia:

We’re happy to have you in ours, too.

She’s glad she told Pete not to erase her memories. It might be a small lapse in security, but if Dani and Diana feel better to have each other then she won’t be the one to take it away. Everyone needs someone.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: Rampart Street is a shithole. Situated only just across the border with Treme, it’s the gutter that Bourbon Street’s sleaze runs off to. Buildings are run down and neglected and sprayed with gang tags. Celia hears a car alarm and gunshot go off in the distance. Homeless people sleep on the trash-littered streets. Prostitutes advertise their services. The Pavaghi doll she and Elyse worked on said its family were slumlords here. Kindred graffiti, its meaning only plain to dead eyes in the language of the Cacophony, proclaims that one is entering Savoy’s territory.

Reggie eyes the place and then Celia warily as he parks the car. “Stick close.”

Alana wrinkles her nose.

Celia: “Won’t it look suspicious if we’re all with her?” Celia asks Reggie. She trusts his judgement more than her own in this; he has done this sort of work before far more often than her.

GM: Reggie shrugs. “Said you wanted her to go in on her own. I mean when we get out.”

Celia: Oh.

She nods, has Alana turn her phone on so they can listen in, and tells her they’ll be right here. Reminds her to fidget like the thin-blood had. Offers some last words of encouragement and advice, anything she thinks will keep the girl safe, and finally sends her on her way.

Celia: She has Reggie scope out the best area for their ambush while they wait. Somewhere secluded where they can hem him in and no one can see.

GM: The site they’re to spray the door at is a shitty-looking house with boarded-up windows and cracked glass. Paint peels from the grimy walls. The place doesn’t look like it’s been lived in for years.

Celia: It hasn’t been. She knows why, too, and the words that boy had once told her to try to scare her come to her now about the murder-suicide, body baked in the oven and eaten, and still-missing flesh.

She hadn’t realized it was this house. But she doesn’t know of any licks that have claimed it; maybe it just makes a good target since no one fucks with it.

Maybe.

Hopefully.

GM: Alana gets out, eyeing some of the nearby homeless warily, and sprays an ‘x’ over the door.

With a low creak, it slowly swings open.

Celia: Oh, no. This hadn’t been part of the plan.

GM: She glances back towards her mistress uncertainly.

Celia: She doesn’t think it’s a good idea for Alana to go inside. She’d thought she was dealing with someone else, someone less… scary. Someone normal. A lick, certainly, but the normal sort.

What happens if she sends Alana inside? She dies because they think she’s the thin-blood?

Celia’s unfamiliar lips purse at the thought.

“This is bad,” she says to the boys. “I thought it would come out. I can sneak in, maybe…?”

Rusty should have come to this. His animal form is less noticeable than hers, and he’s her resident stealth expert. But it would be the both of them inside without her if it had come to that. She’s glad she left him at home; there’s no temptation now to send him in and risk him as well.

“Ideas. Quickly.”

GM: “You shouldn’t go in, babe, way too risky!” says Randy.

Celia: But is that because it’s actually risky or because he’s in love with her because she feeds him blood?

She glances at Reggie.

GM: “Do what you gotta do,” shrugs Reggie, “but I’ll be right behind if you’re goin’ in.”

Celia: “Stay in the car, Randy. We’re not out in fifteen you get out of here. Reggie, with me. Pretend you’re Randy.”

Her hands blur across her face in the shadows of the backseat, twisting her features until she’s Celia once more. She’s glad, not the for the first time, that the triplets are nearly identical; Reggie will have no difficulty passing as his younger brother. It’s something they’ve done before, though normally with more warning.

Celia slides out of car, the vague outline of a plan taking hold in her brain. She shouldn’t have done this so early. Should have waited until Saturday. But the thing on the bug supports this ridiculous idea of hers.

“Deja,” she says quietly to Alana, “you can’t go in there. I heard about the last thin-bloods that did. I’ll go. I’m not like you. And I can… can tell them more.” She puts a tiny tremor in her voice, suggesting nerves and fear and dread and something… steely. Determined. She takes the recording and tells “Deja” to go home.

Celia: Staring at the house in front of her, Reggie at her side, she can’t help but think about a night from another lifetime.

How the door at Audubon had swung open for her at the lightest touch.

Then, as now, she had a recording with her. Then, as now, she had told someone to wait in the car. Then, she had been worried that her father was waiting inside. He or his master, the monster that crawled out from under the bed.

She had gone in anyway, summoned by the beckon of the open door.

She remembers the stillness of the house. The shadow that had separated itself from the night. The hand that clapped over her mouth to keep her from screaming.

The moment had stretched into eternity. Her eyes had rolled in terror when the harsh voice began to speak to her. She was certain she was dead.

But that was then, when she was a breather with a broken arm and bruised flesh and afraid of things that go bump in the night.

Now she’s seven years a lick. At home in the dark.

Now she’s the thing that goes bump in the night.

She’s no longer afraid of shadows.

Now, though, she knows that this lack of fear will not serve her. The thing inside, whoever it is, was expecting someone that isn’t her. They’d wanted the thin-blood. The informant. The spy.

They don’t know that they’re about to get the Chameleon.

She slips into the mask with the tremor she had put into her voice seconds ago. She slips into it with the way her shoulders hunch slightly. She slips into it with the shuffle of her feet across the ground, weight shifting from toe to toe, and the way she peers into the shadows of the condemned home as if she cannot see clearly in the dark.

Inside her chest, her heart beats. Her diaphragm expands. She blinks. Smooth, practiced gestures from living with her breather family and passing for so long as human.

She slips into the mask of Celia the ghoul.

GM: “Deja” looks worried for a moment. More than the real Deja probably would have ever been. But at Celia’s words, the cowardly thin-blood all but bolts for the safety of the car.

Randy starts to protest when Celia leaves. Reggie pats his shoulder and says, “I got her, bro. Keep ’Lana safe.”

Deja passes off the bug receiver to Celia.

“Chin high,” Reggie says loudly, taking Celia by the arm as they exit the car. “I got you.”

Celia: He says it twice, that he’s got her.

She hopes he’s right.

Celia nods as if steeling herself and lifts her chin as advised. Wheels within wheels; she projects the aura of false confidence, skittish but determined, bolstered by the man beside her. Her hand slides into his as they approach the open door, sinking into the role of Celia and her beloved boyfriend.

She hesitates on the threshold. Her eyes search the gloom, an unfocused glaze to them with a slightly puckered brow as if she cannot see, as if she is not a creature of the night.

GM: It’s a long-feeling walk to the abandoned house’s front door. A homeless man sleeping the next block over turns over and moans. Another homeless man points out the pair, leers at them past rotted teeth, and cackles.

“Hehehe… heh heh… hehe…”

“Hehehe…”

The door is still ajar.

Unlocked.

Open.

Reggie gives it a push.

There’s a low creak of floorboards as the pair stride inside. The stench is what hits Celia immediately. It’s awful. It smells like no one has lived here for years.

It smells like there’s a reason no one’s lived here for years.

Celia’s eyes see through the gloom, this time. Well that they do. There are no lights.

GM: The inside of the house looks even worse than the outside. Paint doesn’t jut peel from the decaying walls, it’s gone in sections and exposing rotted wooden beams beneath. The house is empty of furnishings and decor. Truly bare houses always look so strange. So empty.

Reggie peers through the gloom. He doesn’t turn on a flashlight.

He takes a creaking step forward.

That’s when the door slams shut behind them.

Celia: The slam of the door is enough to make Celia the ghoul jump. She clutches at Reggie’s hand, forcing the heart inside her chest to beat faster, faster, faster. Her breath comes in quick, short puffs of air.

Behind the mask, Jade assesses the situation coolly, picking apart the details with what she knows of her kind.

It doesn’t add up.

Anyone with an aptitude for shadow dancing wouldn’t have needed to hire a thin-blood to plant the device when it could have broken in on its own without getting caught. Unless it’s near the door, standing still. Or not shadow dancing.

Or it’s a trap, set from the word “go.”

At Reggie’s side, Celia lets a tremble appear in her hands. She clenches them as if to obscure the tiny movement, and inside their sockets she darts her eyes in half a hundred directions.

She’s had so much practice at being afraid.

“He—hello?”

GM: An inhumanly deep voice splits the rancid air.

“Room for two more in the oven…”

Celia can’t see where it’s coming from.

But there’s a new smell wafting up her nose.

A smell like cooking flesh.

Celia: This was the worst idea in the history of ideas.

“My mistake,” she stutters, “sorry to disturb you, I was looking for someone else.”

Celia takes a step backward, tugging Reggie with her toward the door. She reaches for the handle.

GM: Her fingers close around it. The door does not budge.

Reggie snarls and whips out his gun, eyes furiously scanning the gloom.

“You have ’til it preheats to get me to let you go.”

Celia: Celia puts her hand on Reggie’s arm, shaking her head. A gun isn’t going to do either of them any good. She doesn’t think this is a lick that they’re dealing with. Ghost? Something else, something darker? Whatever it is, she doesn’t think it’s what wanted to put the bug in the spa.

How quickly do ovens preheat? Depends on the temperature. They have a few minutes at most.

Then what?

She doesn’t want to know. She tries not to think about it.

“Thank you,” Celia says to the still-empty room, unsure of where to look. Maybe she sounds silly, thanking someone for the opportunity to not die, but being polite has never hurt before. “I’m very sorry for barging in on you like this. I hadn’t realized that the home is claimed.”

What does it want? What do all things want? Sustenance. Safety. Information. Power.

“I was supposed to meet someone,” she says again. “They hired someone else to look into a lick that I know, and I… I wanted to help. I’m well-suited to that sort of thing.”

She swallows, the sound loud in the still, musty air.

“My name is Celia,” she offers.

GM: A horrible sound splits the air. Booming and scraping, like someone alternately pounding and scraping the inside of an oven as hard as they can.

It sounds almost like laughter.

“Meat doesn’t have a name.”

Celia: Celia lets out a breathless giggle. She nods her head, hand tightening around Reggie’s.

“You’re right,” she agrees. “Is that what you’re looking for? Meat? I’m happy to bring you some. There was an article in the paper a few years back, about a man who cooked his girlfriend and ate part of her. No one has wanted to touch this place since.”

The words linger.

“I imagine you’re hungry, without regular visits.”

GM: Reggie’s face is still bared in a snarl. He hasn’t put away his gun.

The room is starting to feel warmer. Celia can hear the steady ‘whoomp’ sound of an older, gas-powered oven.

“I want ghoul meat… vampire meat…”

Celia: “Well, see, that’s perfect, isn’t it? I can bring you some. Ghouls and vampires. Steady supply for letting us go. You won’t have to be hungry anymore.”

GM: “You might lie… you smell so good…”

Celia: “A lot of people would lie in this situation,” Celia says, “but I’m not. I know what it’s like to be hungry. And I had a friend… a friend, maybe like you, who couldn’t gather his own sustenance. He didn’t want meat, but it was similar. I helped him gather what he needed.”

“If you want,” she says after a second of hesitation, “I can stay here with you and send my friend here to get meat for you. If you promise you’ll let me go afterward, when he comes back.”

“Just to show you that I’m good for it.”

GM: Reggie looks at her like she’s crazy.

Celia: Maybe she is.

GM: “How fuckin’ fast do you expect us to round up other licks and renfields?” he mutters under his breath.

Celia: “Deja,” she murmurs back.

GM: “Right,” says Reggie, louder. “We got a vampire we can bring you. Right now.”

The air is silent.

But getting warmer.

Finally, the deep voice splits the stillness.

“Deal.”

Celia: “Thank you,” Celia says again. “He’ll go get the vampire.” There’s a long pause, then she asks, “would you still like me to keep you company while you wait?”

GM: There’s a harsh sound like a slamming oven door. The voice scrapes like angry metal.

“People come into my house. Less people leave. That’s the RULE.”

Celia: “I’ll stay,” Celia says. “I’m going to move away from the door and you can open it for him and he’ll bring the vampire. That way we stay within the rules.”

GM: “Ask again.”

“Oven’s warm already…”

There’s a deep inhalation-like reverberation.

“You smell so good…”

Celia: “I misspoke,” Celia says to it, “my apologies. I only meant that I didn’t want to infringe upon your hospitality by making an assumption.” Celia gives Reggie’s hand a squeeze before she lets go, stepping further into the room and away from the door.

GM: Reggie gives Celia a long look, then tries the door. It opens. He doesn’t look back, just strides out.

It slams shut after him.

Silence fills the now-warm house.

Celia: Celia tries not to flinch at the sound of the door closing behind her. She hopes he hurries. She continues breathing, blinking, sending blood through her body to force her heart to beat. She continues to look human.

After a moment of silence, she finally takes a chance and opens her mouth.

“Do you mind if I speak to you, or would you prefer that I wait quietly?”

GM: The thing’s answer booms out like a slamming oven door.

“Whatever.”

Celia: That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for conversation.

GM: The house gets steadily warmer.

Celia: “How often?” Celia asks the warm house. “For your deliveries.”

GM: “‘Til I’m hungry.”

Celia: “Okay,” she says, as if that makes sense. “My friend, the one I mentioned I help? He’s a ghost. I heard there are a lot of them in the Quarter.”

GM: “Can’t eat ghosts.”

Celia: “No meat on ghosts, though,” she says with a nod. “But a lot of licks here, too. And ghouls. You picked a good place for it.”

GM: “Taste good. Licks taste best.”

Celia: “Can I ask… do you cook them before you eat them? I thought they might, ah, not play well with fire?”

GM: “Have to eat fast.”

Celia: “You know that licks, um, they regrow. You could harvest it, maybe, and then the next night they’re healed. Maybe they’re good for more than one meal?”

GM: “Like the sounds they make.”

“Might try. If the sounds stay good.”

Celia: “I could bring you handcuffs,” Celia offers, “so that they don’t wiggle around on you.”

GM: “Okay.”

Celia: “Okay. I’ll get you a good pair. Really strong.”

“Are you… are you a ghost?” She glances around the still dark room. “You don’t have to tell me, if you don’t want, if it’s rude to ask.”

GM: Silence.

“I’m hungry.”

Celia: Celia nods, falling silent.

She hopes Reggie gets back soon.

GM: Silence stretches.

The house continues to gets warmer.

It’s stiflingly so by the time a bang sounds on the door.

It creaks open. Reggie comes inside, half-dragging Deja by their hair. They’re still gagged and tied up. They look at Celia desperately and make helplessly muffled sounds past the gag.

“This fuck was trying to escape,” says Reggie.

Celia: Celia nods. She had assumed it would try.

She almost feels bad for it.

GM: “Randy ties good knots, at least.”

“Mmm-f! L-pl-mmmm! Pmmm!!!” the thin-blood begs, pinking tears squeezing from their eyes.

There’s a distant sound like an oven door slamming open.

“Leave the meat.”

Deja tries to scream past the gag and meets Celia’s gaze imploringly.

Celia: The tears and screaming make her hesitate.

She feels bad for it. She really does. No one deserves this sort of fate, being fed to a monster.

But it had spied on her. It learned things about her. It would have sold that information—even though it’s gone—to the highest bidder, or to any bidder. Someone could break into its mind and learn everything despite what Pete had done to it.

Reggie’s hand on her arm keeps her from saying anything stupid. She lets him pull her toward the door.

It had a miserable existence anyway. It’s better this way.

GM: “Bring a lick next time.”

But the door opens for Celia and Reggie when they move to leave. There’s a heavy and final-sounding metallic crashing noise. Raw, terrified screams follow in the pair’s wake.

A miserable existence.

And a miserable end.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: “What the fuck was that?” asks Reggie as Randy drives them off.

Celia: Celia had made Reggie sit in the back with her on the way out. She’s not trembling—she only does that for show—but she can’t help but think that she had come very, very close to being the one that ended up in the oven. The hand that holds his is white-knuckled. She leans against him.

“I don’t know,” she says, “I have no idea. I don’t think it’s a ghost. Ghosts don’t eat meat. But if it’s eating licks… someone told me that, you know, we evolve to eat things weaker than us. So if it’s eating licks, it’s stronger than licks.”

“It said it likes how we sound when we scream.”

GM: “Well that’s a fucking happy thought,” mutters Reggie.

“So you gonna feed it more?” asks Randy.

Celia: “I… guess so.”

GM: “Yeah, how’s that help us?” asks Reggie.

“The mistress could feed it people she doesn’t like,” says Alana, somewhat white-faced herself.

“Okay, sure. But why not just walk the fuck away?” says Reggie.

Celia: “Because what if it can come after us?”

“We need to find out what it is. What its limits are.”

“And maybe we can make it a friend.”

GM: “Well… it wanted you to help it eat, mistress,” says Alana. “That’s something?”

Celia: “I had a theory it might not be able to leave the house. But if I’m wrong…”

GM: “Why can’t it?” asks Reggie.

Celia: “I don’t know. Why would it accept a trade if it could go out and get its own?”

GM: “Maybe it’s… lazy?” asks Randy. “Like, I can make food myself. But I like someone else making it more.”

“Amen to that,” says Reggie. “Thing sounded… I dunno, how hungry did you think it was?”

“If I’m hungry enough, I’ll say fuck it and cook something.”

Celia: “It thought I was human,” she says, “because of the shadow dancing. Both of us. I don’t think we’d have been able to leave if it knew the truth.”

“Unless it wasn’t fooled by that at all.”

“Since it kept saying I smell good, not you.” Celia glances at Reggie.

GM: “Maybe it smelled what good care you take of your body, mistress,” smiles Alana.

“You do smell so good.”

Celia: Her smile is fleeting.

“Thanks. But I doubt it.”

GM: “Well… that means either you fooled it, or you didn’t, but it still wanted you to get more… ‘food’ anyway?”

Celia: “And handcuffs.”

Celia tells them about the “harvesting.”

“That suggests it has a body, doesn’t it?”

GM: “Why didn’t we see anything?” asks Reggie.

Celia: “Turning invisible is a fairly common shadow dancing ability.”

“But… it could not have a body, I don’t know.”

“It wasn’t very forthcoming when I asked.”

GM: “All right, so how do we find out more?”

“Or, main point, whether it can leave the house or not?”

“‘Cuz if it can’t, fuck it.”

Celia: “Thin-bloods might know more about it, if they know to avoid the house after the last time.”

Pete, too, but she thinks he might be mad at her.

Maybe her recently returned from the Shadowlands former ghost friend.

GM: She’s still not sure how the fuck that happened.

Celia: Right? How the fuck?

It’s not like she can call him up and tell him that she knows.

But she’d nudged him toward her all the same, so she’s hoping her phone rings at some point.

GM: “More low-lifes,” says Reggie. “That’s fun.”

“I have to go to bed soon, mistress, for work… can we get my face fixed?” asks Alana.

Celia: “Yes. Randy, drop us at the spa.”

GM: “Got it, babe.”


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, PM

GM: They’re soon back at the spa. Reggie says he has other places to be if Celia doesn’t need him, but Randy seems happy to play taxi driver waiting in the car. Alana seems even happier to get back to Jade’s suite so Celia can fix her face.

Or perhaps relieved, more so than happy.

Relieved and shuddering with disgust.

Celia: Celia sends Randy and Alana inside to take a moment alone with Reggie.

GM: He smirks, grabs her head with both hands, and pulls her into a hungry and forceful kiss.

Celia: Oh. Well. That’s not what she’d been going for, but she doesn’t complain.

GM: He pushes her against the seat and kneads her breasts as his tongue explores her mouth. His fingers soon find their way between her legs as he unzips his pants and pulls her head down over his firm member.

Celia: He knows better than that. There’s a snarl from the lick he’s trying to shove down as she yanks away, flipping the pair of them so that her thighs are spread over either side of his lap. A bit of maneuvering and she finds another hole for him to fill.

GM: This is far from Reggie’s first attempt to get head, but he doesn’t complain. He holds her tight against him as his tongue meets hers again, and then he’s pulling up her shirt to squeeze and suck her breasts. She rides him as he does, burying his cock inside her, and soon the car seat is wet with his sweat, both if their fluids, and smells of fucking.

Sex in the car has always held a special place for her.

Celia: Maybe, in another life, Celia would feel some sort of emotional upheaval about this. Maybe she’d cry and tell him how afraid she was, that she thought maybe he might not come back for her, that she thought she was going to die—burn, she was going to burn—but there he was like some bounty hunter in shining armor.

But that’s not this life. He’s not that guy.

And she’s not that girl anymore.

She takes what she wants from him, her movements frantic and needy, her nails raking down his back when he pushes her over the edge to find release. She doesn’t stop. The windows fog. It reminds her of another night, a night where she whispered to a different boy that she loved him. There are no tender whispers now. No promises of the future. Just two people releasing pent up tension in the back seat of a car.

GM: “Fuck,” Reggie mutters when they’re done. His motions were no less hungry and needful than hers, and there’s bite marks over her own skin. He seems like he had a lot of stress to burn off too.

“Doing this with my bro right inside.”

“God that makes it even hotter.”

Celia: When it’s done she stays still above him, his rapidly softening cock finally making its way out of her.

It doesn’t bother him that he’s fucking his brother’s “girlfriend?”

She’s not sure she wants to ask.

But she does.

GM: “That makes it even hotter,” Reggie repeats with a smirk, stroking Celia’s face.

“What’s his is mine…”

Celia: “That’s a real fucked up family dynamic,” she tells him, but there’s not a lot of judgement in her voice. She’s probably done worse.

And, really, it is kind of hot.

Maybe she’ll get them together sometime.

GM: Reggie shrugs. “I take what I want.”

Celia: “And what do you want?”

She’s not asking about her. Obviously he wants her.

GM: “You, for starters.”

“You and your mom together would be even hotter, with your kid just outside the door…”

Celia: Celia snorts.

“My mom and not my sister?”

GM: “She isn’t really your sister. That makes it less hot.”

Celia: “What if I want you and your brother at the same time? Hot then?”

GM: Reggie snorts. “Randy wouldn’t even know what to do with his cock.”

“He’s a total moron around you.”

Celia: “What’s he like when he isn’t around me?”

GM: “Less of a moron.”

“More like me.”

Celia: “He should try being like that all the time.”

GM: “You just turn him into a complete idiot.”

Celia: It’s not like she means to.

GM: “That’s happened with him and a couple other girls before. Ones he was really into.”

“But never this bad.”

Celia: “You telling me that your brother is in love with me?”

GM: Reggie snorts again.

“If that’s what you want to call being a total fucking idiot, sure.”

“Three-way with him would suck. Rusty too. He just isn’t into that.”

“Maybe my mom, though.”

Celia: Celia considers that. She’d only ever idly thought of fucking Regina. The woman is a tiger, though, she’ll give her that.

GM: “Hey, deal. I’ll let you fuck me and my mom together, if you let me fuck you and your mom together.”

Celia: “If my mom ever wants to fuck you, I’ll let you know.”

GM: “She’s not ever gonna on her own. We gotta encourage her.”

“Deal of a lifetime I’m offering,” he smirks. “My mom’s fantastic in bed.”

Celia: “How would you know that?”

GM: “‘Cuz I know her. She’s fierce. And I know she still fucks a lot of guys.”

Celia: “And you think she’ll want to fuck her son and her other son’s girlfriend?”

GM: Reggie just smirks. “Don’t think I can talk her into it? Since when have I let you down?”

Celia: “Never,” she admits, “that’s why I like you so much. Tell you what. Talk your mom into it and I’ll talk to mine about it.”

GM: “Just bring her back to the house and we’ll make it happen.”

Celia: “I am not going to rape my mom.”

“She has an aversion to sex. She needs some gentle coaxing.”

GM: “She’ll enjoy it once we get going. Sometimes you just gotta rip the band-aid off. Doing it slow just makes it worse.”

Celia: “Don’t touch my mom,” Celia says flatly. “I’ll let you know when you can.”

“Until then, keep your hands and dick and mouth to yourself.”

GM: “That three-way with my mom and me’ll be waiting when you do.”

Celia: Celia rolls her eyes. They’d gotten off topic.

She almost asks him again what he wants, but the moment has passed. The way his eyes had lingered on the blood earlier had made her think that maybe he wants more than being a ghoul forever.

“Did Rusty make any headway on the hunter?” she asks instead.

GM: “Dunno. Ask him.”

Celia: Celia sighs at him.

“That’s what I pay you for. Help him with it. I don’t want to be attacked again.” She pats his cheek. “Then I can’t fuck you anymore, and that would be a tragedy.”

GM: “It really would be.”

“Not to get all mushy and shit, but fucking you is somethin’ fucking else.”

Celia: She grins. “I knew you had a heart somewhere.”

“You know if you’re ever turned your dick probably won’t work anymore.” Idle words, but she watches his face as she says them, looking for a reaction to the thought of being turned.

GM: “How’s drinking blood compare?” he asks, frankly.

Celia: “That’s what sex is to most of them. It’s… comparable, honestly. I can do it their way and be completely satisfied, or do it this way and be completely satisfied.”

GM: “Sounds like an okay trade.”

Celia: “Can’t walk in the sun. No food. More rules. Need permission to travel between territories. You’ll get a little Beast of your very own. It can get pretty lonely.”

“Advantages too, though.”

“Do you want that? To be a lick?”

GM: “You’re tougher and stronger, right?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “Sounds like a good deal.”

“Gotta pay extra for the better gun. But fuck if I don’t want the better gun.”

Celia: “I don’t think you’d be a good Toreador,” Celia points out, “unless you have some hidden artistic talent I don’t know about. Play the kazoo?”

GM: “I’m an artist at fucking, aren’t I?”

Celia: Celia laughs. “They don’t count that. Shame, too, I think they’d make me a grand master if they did.”

GM: “They sure would,” Randy smirks.

“Whatever, though. Vampire’s a vampire.”

Celia: “I’ll see what I can do for you, if that’s something you want.”

GM: There’s that same hungry gleam in his eye.

“Bet on it.”

Celia: Celia lets that hunger turn into something else. She takes him again. It’s quick, it’s messy, and when it’s over she presses her lips against his as if it’s the last time she’ll ever do so.

It isn’t, she knows, but the countdown has started.


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, AM

GM: Alana is all-too eager to get back to Jade’s suite once Celia and Reggie are finished fucking. She looks positively miserable to be trapped in Deja’s face. But she doesn’t whine.

Randy obliviously asks if she and his bro had a good talk.

“Know he can be kinda a jerk around you, babe.”

Celia: “It was interesting,” she says. “But he won’t give it a rest about fucking my mom.”

Celia leads the trio to her workstation, though, and lets Alana get comfortable on the table.

“You have an audition tomorrow,” she tells the girl, “that you’ll need to be me for.”

GM: “I love being you, mistress. I do all sorts of dirty things in front of a mirror, when I am…” she purrs.

Celia: That’s pretty hot, Celia admits to herself.

“I’m going to fuck you while you’re me.”

“I’m going to make you get down on your knees and suck the blood out of my cock.”

“And then I’m going to bend you over and fuck you.”

GM: Alana’s eyes positively flutter.

“Hurry, mistress…” she breathes.

Randy just clears his throat.

“Right, uh, I’ll stand guard outside.”

Celia: Celia finds the needle full of local anesthetic so that the girl doesn’t need to suffer while she’s on the table.

“Wait,” she says to Randy.

GM: He pauses.

Celia: Celia pierces Alana’s flesh with the needle and pushes down on the plunger to inject her with it.

“Do you want to fuck her while she’s me?”

GM: “Thank you, mithress,” Alana murmurs as the numbing sets in.

Her eyes get very flat, though, at Celia’s offer.

Celia: “You don’t want to let me watch you fuck him?” Celia asks her, running a hand down her cheek.

“What if we share you?”

GM: Randy looks between her and Celia. “Uh, I’m good, babe. Rather save it for just us, our special night.”

Alana looks even less happy at those last two words.

Celia: “Mm,” Celia says, waving a hand at him to send him on his way.

GM: “He’ll juth blow hith load before hith panth are even off,” Alana says loudly as his form retreats.

Celia: “What a compliment that would be,” Celia teases her.

GM: “Then he’d juth cwy.”

“Thath heth thoooo thorry, babe.”

Celia: She waits until the door closes behind him before she scowls down at Alana.

“Ten swats for that. I told you to be nice to him.”

GM: “Yeth, mithreth,” the ghoul murmurs.

“I’m thorry I dithobeyed.”

Celia: No she isn’t.

But Celia doesn’t correct her.

She just begins the work to transform Deja’s face into Celia’s.

GM: “I juth wan the beth for you, mithreth,” Alana says as she works, keeping her lip movements minimal.

Celia: “I’ve been thinking about that,” Celia says while she twists the flesh and muscle to resemble her own. She doesn’t even need a reference; she’s sure that she could do this transformation blind.

GM: “Yeth, mithreth?”

Celia: “I think I’d like you to learn an art form. You keep asking to come to the parties, and while the sight of you on your knees certainly titillates me, I think you’d enjoy yourself more if you were able to be adored by everyone.”

GM: “You know I’m goo with ewything here, mithreth, I can make them all pwethy… no’ ath pwethy ath you, of courth,” she says with an anesthesia-stiffened smile, “bu clother to i’.”

Celia: “Mm,” Celia says once more.

GM: “I can learn otha things, though, if tha’d make you happier, mithreth,” she adds.

Celia: “I’m just debating how to move things around if we bring on Louise full time as a manager here.”

“I thought maybe you’d want something else to do.”

GM: “Oh I love thpa work, mithreth, I’m no’ u’appy here.”

“But I wan’ tho do wha’ever maketh you happieth, moth of all.”

“Juth thell me wha’.”

Celia: “We’ll get past LA first and see where that leaves us.”

She moves on from Alana’s face, now a carbon copy of her own, to begin sculpting the rest of the body. Their sizes are similar, but Celia tucks a few things here and there and pads a few others.

GM: “Okay, mithreth. I’ll love gowig tho Hollywoo’ with you.”

Celia: “Have to nail the audition first,” Celia tells her while she finishes the work. “Know your lines?”

GM: “Yeth, mithreth, I’ve rea’ an’ pwacithed ova an’ ova.”

Celia: “Perfect. Now the real question: how big of a cock should I give myself?”

GM: “The biggeth, mithreth,” Alana beams, as much as she can.

“Thpli me open…”

Celia: “You’re not going to be able to get your pretty little mouth around it if I make it that big,” Celia teases. But she drops beneath the table to find the flesh she had harvested prior, pulling free a handful of preserved human skin, muscles, and connective tissue from the man Gui had dropped off. When was that? Last week? Two weeks ago? Back before her Requiem had blown up with hunters and Roderick and thin-bloods, when she’d just been practicing her ability to turn flesh into other objects. The dick had remained mostly intact, but she adds to it now, globbing on a handful of flesh and molding it into a roughly phallic shape. The skin is like clay beneath her fingers.

She’s done with the sculpting in short order and holds the finished product up for Alana to see, asking if she thinks it’s big enough.

GM: “Cram ith in, mithreth, I wan’ tho thoke on ith…” Alana says with a numb-sounding purr.

“Yeth, thath nithe an’ fat, mithreth… thick in in me…”

Celia: “I will, pet. As soon as you stop drooling on yourself and take your swats.”

It’s a deft bit of work to turn her clit into a cock. She uses the borrowed flesh from the dead man, twisting things around to connect blood vessels, arteries, and nerve endings. She’s done the reverse enough times and practiced on enough corpses that the work itself is quick. She’s done it to herself, too, but only for curiosity’s sake; she’s never actually fucked anyone like this yet.

Once it’s on she strokes a hand along the flesh, marveling at the way it comes to life beneath her touch. It stiffens, aching to be touched.

Celia glances down at the rest of herself. She kept her pussy and tits intact this time rather than smoothing it all out; she wants the best of both worlds, Alana’s fingers in her cunt with her lips on her cock. Already she’s wet. She can feel it when she moves, stripping from her shirt and bra to leave the clothing discarded on the floor. She stands over the table near Alana’s face.

“This is what you want?” she asks, stroking a hand up and down her freshly forged cock.

GM: Beauty is pain. Always has. Always will. Completely remaking some of the most sensitive spots on her body is excruciatingly painful, but there’s pleasure to it, too. That knife-thin edge between pain and pleasure, slanted heavily towards pain, but not enough that she can’t lose sight of the other side. Celia’s new cock is sore even as it stiffens. There’s a lot of hurt in her, now. Hurt she can take out on this simpering little sub. Fuck her until she screams. Fuck her until she’s jelly. Fuck all the pain away.

The simpering little sub who looks exactly like her.

Is this what it was like for Jamal? Maybe she can strangle the little bitch too. Pinch her nose. Really see things from his perspective. Knowing Alana, she’s going to enjoy the spankings anyway. They aren’t nearly the punishment for her they were for Diana.

“Yeth, mithreth,” Alana whimpers, motionless on the table. Celia can see in her eyes how hungry she is for that cock. How hungry another Celia is for that cock.

She demurely lowers her gaze. “Bu’ we hath tho do my thwath firth, liy you thaid…”

Celia: “Mm,” Celia murmurs, running a hand down Alana’s cheek. “I do have to swat you first, you’re absolutely right.”

It’s less for Alana than it is for her; she knows the girl gets off to it the same as she does, that it’s not so much a punishment for either of them as it is foreplay.

“I’m going to get something,” she tells the ghoul, “be naked and bent over the table when I get back.”

Her bare feet make not a sound against the floor as she strides off.

GM: “Yeth, mithreth,” the ghoul answers demurely. When Celia gets back, she sees herself naked and bent over as instructed.

This should help Jade play the role of Celia’s domitor even better.

She actually has spanked the girl.

Or at least her lookalike.

Celia can smell her lookalike’s arousal, too, see the wetness trickling down her thighs. Alana has already been fingering herself. Fingering Celia’s body.

Celia: “Now there’s a sight,” Celia purrs as she stalks back into the room with a bag in hand. Alana’s sex glistens in the light shining down from above. Alana’s, she wonders, or Celia’s? And if this is Celia, what does that make her?

Jade.

Of course.

Jade sets the bag down on the table next to where Celia bends over, pressing her hips against her backside. Her cock has gone flaccid in her time away, but it won’t be long until it’s hard again. She leans into the quivering kine, bending with her until her lips touch the back of her neck. Her arms slide around the front of the girl, fingers roughly pinching and squeezing her nipples.

“You were touching yourself,” Jade murmurs. “Did I say you could do that?”

GM: “No, mithreth,” Alana whimpers, her hands falling away. She positions them behind her back, just over her ass, as if Jade has tied them there. “I’m vewy thowwy… ith your body, tha’ you own… both of them…”

“Alana’th an’ Thelia’th…”

Celia: “Alana and Celia,” Jade agrees, “they’re both mine. You are mine. I own you.”

A pair of cuffs taken from the bag snap around Celia’s wrists. Thick leather bands kept together by a metal chain, with a handful of D-rings that Jade can use to further attach her to things and position her as needed.

“Maybe,” she tells the ghoul, “I won’t let you cum tonight. Maybe I’ll take you right to that edge and deny you now since you decided to touch my property without my permission. I’ll tie you down and leave you squirming and listen to you beg me to let you. And then I’ll walk away.”

GM: “Yeth, mithreth…” Alana whimpers, giving a little gasp of pleasure at the sensation of the snugly securing leather. “I’ll juth kith the ground, where you walk away… an’ run my tongue over itht, an’ kith it, an’ be thankful for tha’…”

“I’m vewy happy for you tho own me, mithreth, even if you don’ let me cum…”

“I love how you own me…”

Celia: “What a good little girl,” Jade says to Celia. She takes a step away. “So submissive. So obedient. The perfect little whore.”

Saying the word sends a thrill through her. She says it again, “whore,” letting it fall from her tongue like a pet name.

“You are a little whore, aren’t you? No sex for a week, I said, because we both knew that was the ultimate punishment for you. Do you think you deserve it now, whore?”

She lashes out, striking Celia across the ass. Her eyes flash as the flesh jiggles and turns red beneath the blow.

GM: Celia cries out under the sharp smack and presses her face against the table.

“I detherve wha’e’r you thay I detherve, mithreth… your properthy doeth’n have opinions… your properthy juth obeyths…”

“I’m your whore, I o’ny fuck who you tell me…”

Celia: “Then why would you think it’s acceptable to fuck yourself? That’s my body. My property.”

Another sharp, stinging smack, harder this time.

GM: There’s another loud, equally sharp cry. Celia’s hands reflexively strain against her cuffs.

“Becauth I’m weak, mithreth, an’ a whore… I need you tho keep me in line… you tho conthrol my life for me… you know be’er than me…”

Celia: “You’re a whore,” Jade agrees. “My whore.”

Another smack. Only the third, and she’d promised ten.

An idea takes hold in her mind.

“You fuck who I tell you to, don’t you?”

She wonders if he’s even up at this hour. How he’d react to being given the offer to fuck Celia again.

GM: “Yeth, mithreth,” whimpers Celia. There’s a lower cry after the third smack. “I don’ ge’ tho dethide anything im my life tha’ you don’ le’ me.”

Celia: Maybe next time, after she has a chance to enjoy the girl first.

Another smack across the flesh, her handprint becoming more clear with each blow.

A fifth.

A sixth.

She reminds Celia what a whore she is every time she strikes her. Makes her apologize for being a whore. For touching herself. For not fucking Randy like the whore that she is. For refusing her mistress. For a host of sins, like the fact that her pussy is dripping onto Jade’s hand every time she strikes her.

Like a fucking faucet.

Jade reaches ten and pauses, watching her doppelganger writhe against the wrist restraints. She strokes her other hand almost tenderly down her spine.

“Have you learned your lesson, my pretty little whore?”

GM: She can see why Paul liked it.

Why Jamal liked it.

There’s something about the sight of Celia Flores, crying out and writhing beneath her mistress’ blows, but liking it, too. Getting wet like a fucking faucet with every smack as her ass turns redder. She’s a whore. A filthy whore who needs to be put in her place. Who needs to be governed, controlled, taught under pain. Tamed.

“Yes, mistress,” whispers Celia, shivering under her owner’s touch. “I’m a whore. I’m such a whore. But I’m your whore, you own me, and I just want to be pretty for you.”

She wonders if it’s Paul’s face and not Jade’s that would stare back at her from a mirror right now.

Celia: Everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.

Someone had told her that once. Someone she had fucked, she’s sure. The words come back to her now as she stares down at Celia Flores, “my pretty little whore.”

Pretty.

So pretty.

But stupid.

Stupid, to ghoul her mom. Celia gets another swat for that. Harder.

Stupid, to talk about it in her spa.

Another swat. Harder.

Stupid, to never learn how to erase memories and fix things herself.

Another swat. Harder.

Stupid, to lose it on Elyse in the first place.

Another swat. Harder.

But pretty. So pretty. The way her skin reddens, so pretty. The way it splits beneath her hand, so pretty. The blood that drips down her cheeks.

So pretty.

And the sounds. The sounds the black skinned beauty had once coaxed out of her while her cousin watched, spread open on her lap so he could see everything, face red in humiliation and something she doesn’t want to name, something like desire. Long nails that could have shredded her dipping inside her cunt, slick with the evidence of her whore nature. Created for this. Groomed for this. By her mother, by her father, by her next door neighbor and his big, scary guards who liked to make her scream.

Fingers pinching her nipples. Squeezing. Crushing.

“Happy noises, little toy.”

Veronica’s words, Jade’s lips, the same helpless little mortal.

Jade takes what she wants from the whore. Bends her over the table and buries her borrowed cock inside. Yanks her up, flush against her chest, and licks the back of her neck. Takes her jaw in hand and turns her head to the side, licking the tears away.

“Delicious,” Paul purrs, “the tears of a whore.”

Feather-light fingers brush against her clit. They bring her to the edge but never over, teasing Celia until she’s a quivering, trembling mess in Jade’s arms.

They shift. Jade pins her to the wall with Celia’s legs around her waist.

“That’s what daddies are for,” Jamal says. His lips swallow her cries.

They shift. Jade kneels on the ground with Celia bent over in front of her. She guides her cock into Celia’s ass, fingers digging into her hips.

“This is your true purpose,” Paul grunts, “this is what whores do.”

She smells blood.

“Open up.”

Celia on her knees, looking up with fear in her eyes. Jade’s fingers pinch her nose until she opens her mouth; she shoves herself inside, making the whore choke on it. Fingers around her throat cut off her air.

“Scream,” Jamal says.

Celia screams. Flesh muffles her cries.

No one knows what’s going on upstairs.

A claw slices into the tip of her dick. A final thrust and blood spurts into the waiting mouth.

Then it’s over.

She finishes with the whore.

Jade pulls Celia close, trailing kisses down her cheek and neck. Her mouth fastens around a nipple. Fingers move inside her body, coaxing her to another shuddering climax. She whispers words of encouragement and finally swallows the delicious cries with her mouth.

They bathe together in the suite, Celia curled against Jade’s body. Jade takes her again, gently this time, and they drink from each other at the point of climax. They ride the waves until they crest and crash against each other. Jade kisses her soundly when they’re done.

No whores, not here, just Jade and Celia.

GM: That’s one thing Paul never did.

He was never gentle.

Jade’s learned it time and again, with Elyse. You break the dolls fastest by pairing kindness with cruelty. Pain with pleasure. Sternness with affection. Hardness with gentleness. Humans are social animals, wired to be nice to people who are nice to them. The psyche has a hard time reconciling how to respond when someone is good to them and horrible to them at the same time. Stronger psyches recognize they are being hurt and refuse to give their tormentor a pass. Weaker psyches fold and rationalize why they’re being hurt. It’s okay because their tormentor is nice to them too.

Some take longer than others.

But Jade has yet to see a doll whose psyche didn’t fold.

Like her mother folded.

Like Celia would have folded, if only Paul or Maxen had been nice to her too. They’d have broken her completely.

Celia is weak.

Celia screams as Jade punishes her for it. For her disgusting weakness. For her disgusting whore nature. For being so fucking stupid. Celia cries. Celia hurts. Celia’s tears taste delicious with her hurt. But Celia does what she’d told, because that’s the only thing she can do right, even if it takes lots of punishments to make it sink in.

Stupid can be taught. It just takes longer, says Maxen.

So she teaches the stupid whore. Fists her cunt as she cries. Yanks her hair. Rams her ass until she bleeds. Pinches her nipples until she cries. Chokes her, throttles that stupid fucking bitch, cuts off her air, watches her gasp for it past the cock she tries to spit out, but there’s nothing she can do about it, with her hands bound behind her back. That earns more time with the fingers pinched over her nose. The stupid bitch will be taught. It’ll just take longer.

But she’ll be a whore. She’ll always be a whore. Jade can tell the instant she pierces her cock and lets Celia have a taste. Jade or Celia or somebody once knew a gay friend who said women gave worse blowjobs. “It’s just that you don’t have dicks. You don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end.”

Maybe that’s true.

But gay or straight, man or woman:

Jade has never seen a more enthusiastic blowjob than the one Celia gives.

At that first taste of vitae, everything else slides off her face like makeup under a faucet. All of her pain and fear. All of her cries. All of her tears. At that hit of her drug of choice, Celia the ghoul sucks cock like she’s receiving divine communion. She swallows it balls and all. She all but eats that dick off its owner’s crotch. At that taste of vitae, is forgiven. She wants it every bit as much as Jamal said she did. Celia Flores lives for the dick. If it means she gets a hit.

Such a whore.

She just wants blood instead of money.

Then, just like with Elyse.

The aftercare.

Kissing in the shower. Making love in the shower. Making love with herself. Paul never did this. He should have. The sweet dessert after the meaty course. The indulgence. Dolls get rewards after their lessons, if they’re good. Celia told her mother she loved her and would always fight for her. Celia wants someone to do that for her too. Jade is who she can’t be around the monsters. Jade will stick up for her. Jade will defend her. Jade only punishes her out of love, so that she will do better, and Jade is so very very happy when she does better.

Maybe some would call it a devil’s bargain.

But the Flores family have been making those all their lives.

They lie in one another’s arms after they’re spent, warm and wet, owner and pet, Jade and Celia.

One soul in two bodies.

Two shards of the same psyche.

“I love you, mistress…”


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, AM

Celia: Jade has a final task for Celia when they’re done: she tells her to collect the hair she’d taken from the girl last week, the really beautiful blonde hair, and to mix a darker color for it. Jade is going to turn it into a wig. Color doesn’t take long to mix, and Alana is a deft hand at applying it; in the end it’s a rich, coffee-colored brown with a balayage of caramel and mahogany. Natural, but just as glossy and beautiful as Jade would wear on her own head.

She checks her phone while Alana works, looking for a message back from Gui.

GM: 1920s, reads the Ventrue’s text back. Great Gatsby. In the South.

The parties aren’t costume-themed every week, or every other week. But this week, apparently, they are twice in a row, in defiance of previous patterns. The French Quarter lord and his master of elysium prefer to keep things fresh.

Piper, she’s sure, would kill to attend.

Celia: The Ventrue gets a thumbs up back from Jade. She’s glad there’s a theme this week and she hadn’t looked silly asking about something that didn’t exist. ‘20s, though. Interesting. Wasn’t that when his sire was all the rage?

She thanks Alana with a final kiss and sends her on her way, wishing her good luck at the audition tomorrow. She tells her to have fun with the fame, too; maybe even do a photoshoot if she wants. Somewhere sunny.

“Tell Randy to stick around.”

GM: Alana happily obeys all of her mistress’ instructions, and says she’s sure he’ll have lots of fun.

She asks for permission to finger herself (and more) in Celia’s body.

Celia: Jade gives Alana permission to do as she will so long as she doesn’t take any photos or video of anything sexual.

GM: Alana is thrilled to receive her mistress’ permission.

Celia: When Alana is finally gone Jade removes the borrowed cock and pulls out a handful of other supplies that she needs, enough flesh for three more masks. It had worked well with Roderick; now she needs one for Dani, her mother’s first face, and another for Roderick.

Dani’s first. The flesh from the dead girl works just as well here as it had for the hair, and while she works she searches through her contacts for Edith Flannagan’s number. They’re not best friends, per se, but they’ve seen each other around enough, and Jade gives her a ring.

GM: Jade’s Beast is a greedy, rapacious thing as she molds flesh to her will. She feels the vitae all but leaking out of her fingers as it snarls in her ear for daring to think:

Roderick’s sister would not approve of how this mask was made. Of where its parts came from.

She’s as much a Boy Scout as he is. Minus the boy parts.

Celia: Minus the boy parts and the Gold Award.

GM: Eagle Scout. Gold Award.

Just as lacking, regardless of the parts.

Celia: And now here Dani is causing problems for Celia without even realizing. Her Beast hates the thought of giving something so weak a chance to pass as someone else. Diana’s and Roderick’s will need to wait until she can slake her hunger.

GM: More than several rings go up before Celia is greeted by a strained-sounding, “Hello?” Children’s cries are audible in the background.

Celia: “Hey, Edith, it’s Jade. You have a second?”

First name basis and everything.

GM: The cries’ volumes initially don’t diminish. Then they do.

“Oh, of course, Jade. What can I do for you?”

Celia: “I’ll keep it brief. Sounds like your hands are full. I have some questions that I wanted to throw your way; you’re a bit of an expert in the subject. Are you free tomorrow or the night after? Whenever is best for you.”

GM: “I’m free either night,” Edith says quickly. “If you can bring some juice, I’ll answer whatever you want. The little ’uns are… hungry.”

Of course they’re hungry.

Everyone knows that Edith Flannagan keeps a larger stable of ghouls than Jade (plus a needy “daughter”), in a much smaller domain, and spoils them rotten. The bill is always coming due.

Celia: “Sure thing, Edith. How’s Thursday, then? Gives me time to go to the store.”

She tries not to think about the fact that she’s contributing to the problem.

GM: Who knows how much longer her neighbors are going to tolerate it.

Celia: Jade has heard rumors that the little monster might need a muzzle soon.

GM: “Okay, Thursday. How’s at 10—”

There’s a crashing sound, then a high-pitched shriek.

“Sorry, I have to go,” Edith says quickly.

The line clicks.

Celia: This is why she’s glad she’ll never have kids.

Jade hangs up and looks down at the finished mask. It’s cute enough. Won’t draw attention to Dani. She’ll need to figure out an easy way to apply and remove it, though, otherwise she’s going to have to spin a handful of tales. Something with the blood, probably.

She’ll figure it out.

She puts the rest of the material away for now.

GM: The prospect of kids with Stephen didn’t seem so bad, she once thought.

They’d have probably been less of a handful than Edith’s.

Celia: And less hungry.

Maybe.

Celia: The option is closed to her now, anyway. She finishes wiping down her station, sends a text to Alana to set up a meeting with Lucia, and showers off the smell of sex and blood before finding a spare shirt and skirt that she’d left here at some point.

She still needs to meet up with Gui, she can’t help but think as she dresses; she thought that he would have called her by now instead of making her chase after him. She’d mentioned multiple times she wants to talk. Maybe she needs to be more forward than blatantly sitting on his lap and flirting with him. Take his pants off, see where that gets her.

Celia entertains idle fantasies about the pair of them on her way out the door, Randy in tow. She’d meant to do something with him tonight, too.

“When’s our date?” she asks as she slides inside the front seat and directs him to the club. Not yet closing time; enough time to find a vessel for a quick snack before she has to meet Roderick.

GM: He asks if “Friday during normal hours” works, and upon hearing she has dinner with Henry Garrison then, he suggests the next Friday.

“It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be really special, babe,” he grins.

Celia: “Must be, if you’re making me wait a whole extra week for it.” She takes his hand in hers. “I’m excited.”

GM: “Me too. You’ll, you’ll really like it!”

Alana texts back that she’ll do so, and also gives a preemptive heads up that she’s going to bed.

Celia: She sends a heart to Alana, kisses Randy on the cheek when he pulls up outside the club and says she’ll see him tomorrow, and slips into the club to hunt.

GM: An hour later, Jade catches another two service industry workers hopping the late night bars. She goes back to one of their places. Or they go back to hers. It doesn’t matter. She’s irresistible. The kine all but melt around her into spontaneous orgy. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel to make them fall for her.

Veronica and Pietro always complain mortals can be too easy.

Celia: They have been lately, but Celia won’t complain like her elder clanmates. She doesn’t want to fight for her dinner if she doesn’t need to; she remembers all too clearly what happened last time. She’s pleased with the easy catch, pleased to be shared, pleased to cut herself and bleed into an empty container to save for later. Blood for Pete. Maybe for Edith. Maybe for Donovan, if she and Elyse ever make it work again. Not that she’ll need to pay a toll if they’re not working in Riverbend.

Oh no, how is she going to conveniently bump into her favorite lay now?


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, AM

Celia: When she’s done with the men she catches a Ryde to the border. The girl disappears, the cat in its place, and when Roderick arrives she’s just as cuddly an affectionate as last time, perched on his lap while he travels the streets of Mid-City to take her back to his temporary haven.

GM: The pair have some time remaining when they get back. Roderick pets the cat and asks if the girl finally wants to learn to fight.

Or to enjoy belly rubs.

Celia: When the girl emerges—still on his lap, since Luna hadn’t bothered moving once he’d carried her inside and posed the question—she tells him that if he breaks her nose she’s going to hire someone to beat him up.

GM: “Beat me yourself. I’ll show you how,” he smirks.

Roderick says there’s three things for them to go over:

One, basic technical proficiency with very basic things, like throwing a straight punch, Celia getting her hands up to protect her head, that kind of stuff.

Second, developing the ability to react to getting hit without panic—and from that, the Beast—taking over. Roderick says this is harder than she might think. Lots of people just can’t do it, or take a ton of time to do it.

Third, developing the aggression response that lets her actually try to hurt the other person—outside of the Beast’s influence. Most people have a gut aversion to seriously, physically hurting other human beings. It’s an instinct he needs to train her rational self out of.

Celia: It’s an instinct she doesn’t have.

If someone is coming after her, she doesn’t think she’ll have any trouble responding with equal force.

But she nods anyway, because maybe she shouldn’t be like that.

GM: “I’m not talking about your Beast,” he adds. “It obviously has no problems going for the kill. We’re teaching you to fight without your Beast.”

“And this is a lot harder than you might think it is.”

Celia: Maybe for a nice guy like him.

GM: “Unless you’ve done serious physical harm to someone before, when the time comes, you WILL hesitate unless you’re a complete sociopath. It’s simply not something that modern society trains us to do.”

Celia: “Modern society didn’t train me to fight at all,” she says with a rueful smile. “But I’m happy we’re fixing that.”

She doesn’t touch his sociopath comment.

Of course she’s not a sociopath. She has so many feelings she doesn’t know what to do with them.

GM: “That’s right,” he nods. The pair have changed out of clothes into sweats (separately, at Roderick’s insistence, so they don’t get distracted fucking). He’s also cleared most of his living room. “Those second and third things are also linked. Because in addition to having a hard time inflicting violence, most people don’t react well to having it inflicted on them. They freeze or panic. The average person who gets punched in the mouth the first time doesn’t start swinging back, but goes into a psychological state we call ‘the black’ where their rational thinking and ability to formulate plans goes to shit and their animal fight or flight instinct kicks in.”

“They’re as much a danger to themselves as their opponents in that state. Or, to a physically matched opponent with actual combat training, no danger at all.”

“However, Kindred are different. When we go into ‘the black,’ our Beast takes over. The Beast obviously knows how to fight. This is why your average vampire off the street, without any other powers or advantages inherent to our condition, is so much more dangerous compared to the average human being, even if they’ve had no combat training.”

Celia: “Doesn’t it make more sense to let the Beast take over if I think I’m going to get into a fight, then? If it knows how to fight?”

GM: “Absolutely not!” exclaims Roderick, shaking his head.

“Maybe in some fights. But you’re playing with fire.”

“What’s your objective in the fight? Are you trying to disable someone? Protect someone? Scare someone? Take a prisoner? Withdraw after accomplishing or not accomplishing X objective?”

“At what point will you retreat if you start to lose? Presumably you’re not fighting to the death, since most people don’t do that.”

“All of that goes out the window once your Beast takes over. It will mindlessly fight until either it or the opposition is dead. It won’t retreat, it won’t surrender, it won’t care about anything except pulverizing whatever’s hurting it.”

“What happens if a sniper takes shots at you from five stories up? If you’re in control, you can formulate a plan to eliminate the threat you can’t immediately perceive. The Beast will just jump at the nearest moving thing and rip it apart.”

Celia: “Why would a sniper be shooting at me, though?”

It’s not that she disagrees.

GM: “Because even if head shots couldn’t seriously fuck up your night, which they can, it’s an efficient method of taking out a frenzying lick. Bullets to the body might be a pretty slow way to torpor them, but if your enemy is incapable of executing a cohesive plan to take out an opponent they can’t see, then you’re basically shooting fish in a barrel. Even if it takes a while.”

“If I had to pick between slugging it out with a frenzying lick or taking shots at one with a sniper rifle, I’d pick the rifle.”

“Why wouldn’t I? It’s so much less risk for me.”

Celia: “Mm, okay. So no Beast.”

GM: “Now, maybe your fight actually will be simple. Maybe it’s just you and one or several people slugging each out, with no one retreating, until one side falls over. Your Beast will be a big help there.”

“But lots of fights won’t be that simple. Any fight that requires you to exercise tactics or any form of higher cognition—like, here’s another example, if you’re fighting somewhere that risks the Masquerade—your Beast is a liability, full stop.”

“Think of your Beast as a grenade. It’s dangerous. It’s messy. It is very likely to cause collateral damage. There are times to use it. But there are lots of times not to use it.”

“Moreover, your Beast can already take care of itself. I can’t train your Beast to be a better fighter. It operates off pure instinct. I can only train you.”

Celia: “How do you control it? Brujah and all.”

GM: “By getting punched in the face enough times you don’t enter ‘the black’ and let your Beast take over.”

“It’s not a surefire thing. Even with training, your Beast still might take over during a fight.”

“But that’s not a certainty, only a possibility. Without training, it’s a near-certainty your Beast will take over.”

Celia: “So your plan,” Celia says slowly, “is to repeatedly punch me in the face.”

GM: “I’ll teach you how to block and punch back too. But yes, I will try to punch you. That’s what people do in real fights.”

Celia: That’s not what she meant, and he knows it.

But she just says, “Okay.”

GM: “All right.” Roderick takes Celia’s arm in his and pulls it up. “First lesson is kind of fundamental, and seems easier than it is. Lots of people who throw a punch for the first time at a solid object hurt themselves, because they don’t keep their forearm and wrist or hand in line. They end up hurting their wrist or hand. Getting to the point where you can do basic things like kneeing or punching takes longer than you think.”

“So that’s what we’re going to do tonight.”

Roderick pats the wall-mounted punching bag he’s brought out, gives Celia some pointers, and tells her to throw a few punches. He’ll correct her technique as needed.

He watches appraisingly as she does so. He’s silent for the first round until he says, “I think we might have just been wasting your time.”

“You already know how to throw a basic punch. You’ve had some training.”

Celia: Celia drops her hands from where they’d been up near her face to “protect her pretty”—Reggie’s words when he’d shown her the same thing years ago—and shrugs.

“Randy likes UFC.”

They’d both taken turns showing her the basics for times they couldn’t be around. They’d made it a habit for her to swing with her whole body to put more force behind the punch, though she’s always been faster than she is strong.

GM: “Clearly you like it too. But all right, that’s good. It saves us the need to go over a lot of fundamentals.”

He raises up his own fists. “All right, won’t be anything too serious, but let’s try you in some actual sparring…”


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, AM

GM: Celia doesn’t get sore or tired, which is good. The two spend the remainder of the night throwing punches and kicks at one another. Celia immediately picks up that she has a lot to pick up. Roderick can not only send her flying with a well-placed punch, he’s faster than she is, too. Still, Roderick seems happy with how the night goes. It’s a simple fact that lots of opponents she may go up against are preternaturally strong and fast. Roderick doesn’t tell her that combat training will make those inborn advantages irrelevant, but he can teach her how to work around them, and to use her own gifts of the Blood to maximum effect. She’s pretty fast, so that’s what their lessons are going to revolve around… as well as the built-in claws she’ll frequently (but not always) be able to whip out.

Like any skill, it comes down to practice. Practice to get good and practice to stay sharp. Roderick wants to spar with her every night before bed. If they stick to a regular schedule, she’ll become a better fighter.

He remarks approvingly of how well she did tonight, and says he feels good knowing she can already defend herself.

Celia: She doesn’t get sore, she doesn’t get tired, and she doesn’t sweat. She wonders, when it’s over and he’s telling her about his training plan for her, why they bothered to change into sweats to begin with if neither one of them have that particular bodily function anymore. Range of motion in non-restrictive clothing, she guesses. Or maybe it’s that she looks absolutely fetching in one of his shirts (she hadn’t brought sweats of her own) with its neckline large enough to slip off her shoulder and her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail.

She agrees to the proposed schedule of every night before bed, her stomach fluttering at the thought that he wants to keep her around.

Why wouldn’t he? Even in the vision he’d—

The reminder of it is enough to make her mood plummet, her fantasy of finding a house with a spare room they can turn into a sparring ring dissipating into the air. She needs to find a way to fix it. A glance at the clock shows a spare bit of time before daysleep will claim them both.

“Thank you for the lesson.” Familiar words. She can’t help but think of Donovan giving her another sort of lesson on the rooftop of her haven, how much stronger and faster he is than the both of them. What would it be like to stand across the ring from him?

Exhilarating, probably.

Another flutter. She dismisses it.

“Can we talk for a sec?”

GM: She looks absolutely fetching in anything, he’s said before.

And in nothing. Definitely in nothing, too.

“You’re welcome,” her lover answers.

Those words, at least, are unfamiliar.

But so are her sire’s other lessons. What would his training regimen look like? Would he teach her, if she impressed him enough?

“And sure. What’s up?”

Celia: Still, there’s something a little special about wearing his shirt and looking as adorable as she does in it. Especially perched on the edge of the bed as she is, knees drawn up to her chest. Small and cute and maybe a little vulnerable, but that’s what he’s here for, isn’t it? A big strong Brujah to protect his tiny little lover.

Then again, who needs Roderick when she has—could have?—Donovan.

“I’ve been thinking about you and Dani. I spoke to her a little bit. And I wanted to run some things by you.”

GM: “You look absolutely adorable, by the way,” Roderick mentions, slinging an arm around her shoulder.

“All right. What’d you have in mind?”

Celia: “Just… listen before you say anything, okay?”

GM: He gives her a squeeze. “Okay. I’ll keep my mouth closed.”

Celia: “Well, I guess you can answer questions that I ask. Like… you want a relationship with her, right? Even though she’s thin-blood?”

GM: “Yes, of course! She’s my sister, before she’s anything else.”

“Just like you’re my girlfriend who I wanted to have my children with, and who I still want to spend eternity with, before you’re any Kindred labels.”

Celia: She’s not that girl anymore, though. She wonders when he’s going to realize that.

But she smiles at him, because she thinks that might be the sort of response he’s looking for and this conversation isn’t about her, and leans her head on his shoulder.

“So. Dani is mad at you. Like, really mad. And maybe it’s kind of irrational, since you didn’t do this to her, and it’s not your fault she was born female or that your dad, uh, that he loves you more.”

“The thing is, right, she had all these years where she thought that you were gone. So she was making her own way through life. And yeah she kind of followed in your footsteps, but she was still in control.”

“And then you came back and tried to tell her that you know what’s best for her and she has to listen to you.”

“And even though I’ve tried to explain the city’s politics to her, even though she understands now that she’s a thin-blood, she doesn’t really get it. So hearing you say, ‘give up your life and move to another city where you don’t know anyone,’ is just another example of the family dynamic you used to have where you were the golden child and she was, y’know, second or third class.”

“And I don’t think that you can have that same relationship with her. She’s family. She’s not just a thin-blood. She’s not just another lick who you have authority over.”

“She doesn’t want to leave.”

“Her friends are here. School is here. Her job is here.”

“It’s like that conversation we had where we discussed ghouling family members, you know? You can’t have the same sort of dynamic with them as you do with other renfields, and it might not be the same dynamic as when you were alive, either.”

“But there’s a middle ground somewhere that you can find.”

“And I’ve been calling in favors, I think I told you, and she and I have a bit of a plan, and I’ve been looking more into thin-bloods lately to see what sort of things they can do and what their limits are, and once we find those I think we’ll have a better idea of what to do with her.”

GM: Roderick listens. True to her request, he doesn’t speak yet.

Celia: “So my advice,” she says finally, “is to let her stay with me and finish school, at least, and reassess. I think if you show her that you’re not just going to waltz in and take over her Requiem she might be a little more receptive to what you have to say.”

“Also she said she won’t forgive you unless you pay her rent for the next year after she finds a place in the Quarter.”

These last words come out in a rush.

Finally, she makes a motion like he can speak again.

GM: “Why on earth should I pay her rent?” he asks at length.

Celia: Celia lifts one shoulder in a shrug.

“That’s just what she texted me today.”

GM: “I might do that if she asked me, and needed the financial assistance. But I don’t appreciate threats and ultimatums.”

“At all.”

Celia: Whoops.

“Sorry, that was… I should have delivered that better.”

GM: “You delivered what she said.”

Celia: “She does need the financial assistance.”

GM: “Then she can ask. Instead of threaten.”

“I’m also not even decided I want to enable that decision, even if she does ask politely.”

Celia: “You want her to stay at her place in Riverbend? Probably not ideal, but I can… I’ll see what I can do…?”

GM: “I get that she’s scared. I get that she might need time apart.”

“But she needs to get over herself. I don’t owe her anything for being, in a word, more successful. Or for Dad loving me more.”

“This isn’t ’I’m terrified of my brother’s unholy strength and rage’ Dani talking. This is ‘I resent my brother’s success and want to financially extort him under threat of emotional blackmail’ Dani talking.”

Celia: Celia quietly nods her head.

“How d’you want me to handle that, then?”

GM: “Exactly what I said. She needs to ask me, politely, and have a relationship with me before I’m willing to help her out financially. And she should feel ashamed for trying to emotionally blackmail me. I’m not playing that game.”

“I’m not sure if I want her stay in Riverbend.” Roderick rubs his head. “I’m still mulling things over.”

“I’m trying to find out what Savoy’s angle is. I need to know that before I make a decision about what to do. It’s too big a variable to leave unaccounted for.”

“But your point is taken. I’ll try to be less dictating and more… suggesting once I’ve figured that out. It obviously pushed a lot of the wrong buttons with her.”

Celia: “Hard to know what to say to someone when you explain you’re a lick. And not actually dead.”

GM: “I had no idea how to have that conversation.”

Celia: “Did it better than I would have, I bet.”

GM: “Eh. Think you’d have handled it better.”

“Wouldn’t hurt either that your sister doesn’t have so much resentment towards you.”

Celia: “Emily?”

GM: “Yeah. If this were her and not Dani who’d been Embraced as a thin-blood.”

Celia: “Maybe her, sure. Isabel hates me, though.”

“Imagine it would have gone the same.”

GM: “You ever wonder what happened to her? How she’s managing out in Sudan?”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a long moment. Finally, in a small voice, she says, “She’s not.”

GM: “Sorry?”

Celia: “She’s not in Sudan. She never was.”

GM: Roderick frowns.

“So what was that story hiding?”

Celia: “Same thing it hides for the rest of us. She was Embraced.”

GM: “What!? When, by who?”

Celia: “She was released with the rest of us on the anniversary. Roxanne.”

GM: “Oh my god. All that time.”

“Why’d you never say anything?”

Celia: “Same reason I never told anyone you were Stephen Garrison. It’s not my business to disclose.”

GM: “I’m your boyfriend,” he says, somewhat offendedly. “And I never got the impression you two were close.”

Celia: “It doesn’t matter,” Celia says in a voice that has been numbed so it doesn’t crack. She looks away from him, but she can’t hide the scent of blood that gathers in the corners of her eyes.

“She’s dead.”

GM: Roderick pulls her into his embrace. “What?! My god, when?”

Celia: She’s stiff at first, as if unwilling to burden him with her tears and emotion when he has his own shit going on. And then she softens and the red drips down her cheeks and she tells him, in broken, fragmented sentences, that she found out the same night she found out about Dani, but that Dani is still alive and Isabel isn’t and she wanted to prevent Roderick from feeling this same sort of loss. She doesn’t need to breathe, she doesn’t sniffle, her shoulders don’t shake. But she clings to him, face buried against his chest and neck and shoulder, and blood stains her skin.

GM: Roderick holds her tight, cupping her head with one of his hands, and murmurs sympathies and assurances.

“Jesus, Celia, I’m so sorry…”

“I knew you weren’t close, but I can’t imagine how you must be feeling…”

Celia: “Em-empty, mostly. L-like it’s my-my fault. She needed help and I didn’t… I couldn’t… I never did enough.”

GM: He shakes his head. “You’re not responsible for what happened to Isabel. She made her own choices. So did her sire.”

Celia: She lifts her head, looking up at him with eyes haunted by past mistakes. “I was so… just so mad at her for such a long time. I thought, after my Embrace, I’d never have to see her again, and there she was released on the same night. It took years to speak to her, and… and when Evan went missing I… I didn’t have enough leads to follow, and everyone else was looking too, but… but it’s wrong, the whole thing was wrong, that stupid bitch lied about what happened and got my fucking sister killed.”

GM: Roderick frowns and presses a comforting hand against her cheek. “Who lied to you? What happened?”

Celia: “It doesn’t matter,” Celia finally mutters, pulling away from him to wipe at her eyes. Her fingers come away red. “I didn’t do enough for her and she died. Vidal’s agents killed her. Loyal to the prince and she was still—still put down. Now I’m the one that has to—has to lie about it when my family asks, when Mom says ‘how do you think she’s doing, will she ever forgive me’ and Logan asks if I heard from her and Dad says ’she’s the reason I saw the error of my ways,’ and starts spouting some bullshit Catholic rhetoric.”

GM: “I’d definitely tell them something,” Roderick says thoughtfully. “Just to give closure, so the wound can heal.”

Celia: “Yeah, that’s what my family needs, more drama.”

GM: “Well, it’ll just hurt them worse if they wonder forever what happened and why she no longer talks with them.”

“I’ve known some people with estranged family. The lack of contact and any closure from that is just the worst thing. It’s an infected wound that constantly eats at them. Some get over it, but they’re worse for it.”

Celia: Celia doesn’t bother pointing out that she’s hardly going to take his advice on family when he went ahead and fractured his own.

GM: “Maybe just say she was killed in Sudan? It’s a dangerous country.”

Celia: “How would I even know that?”

GM: “Or rather, find a way to make them believe so.”

“Isn’t she doing missionary work? Fake a phone call or letter from the organization she ostensibly works for.”

Celia: “Maybe,” she hedges. She had other plans for the identity.

GM: “How else do you want to get them the news without a body?”

Celia: Celia shrugs. She doesn’t bother looking at him, instead letting her eyes land on a pattern in the carpeting.

“I was supposed to protect her,” Celia tells the floor. “Older sister and all. Protect all of them. They’re a mess. My family is a mess. David’s anxiety. Logan’s anger. Soph’s…” Celia shakes her head. “Mom’s fucked. Dad’s fucked. Lucy might not be, but batting 1 for 8 is… I mean that’s just bad.”

It doesn’t even count Ethan. Who knows what’s wrong with that kid.

GM: He gives her another squeeze.

“Honestly, all families are screwed up to some degree. I know mine is.”

“There’s obviously Dani’s problems, how my dad took my death, the dysfunction around my mom, the divorce… they’re all screwed.”

“But they can be wonderful things too. Your family got a lot better once your dad was removed from the equation.”

“I don’t think Emily or your grandma are too screwed, either.”

Celia: “My grandmother is the reason my mother is fucked. And my dad is back in the equation.”

GM: “Your mom is her own person. And you can force your dad out.”

Celia: She’s not going to explain the Dollhouse to him.

“I never told you about dinner.”

GM: “Happy to listen, if you want me to.”

“Or maybe you’d just like to be a cat.”

Celia: “I don’t really want to hear that I’m being stupid for wanting to believe what he said.”

GM: “Everyone wants to believe the best about their family.”

Celia: None of it is her story to tell. Maxen is her sire’s pawn. If there is something demonic going on with him, she’s not going to be the one that spills it to Roderick. Nor will she tell him that he’s running for governor. So she doesn’t talk politics and she doesn’t tell him about the dead priest or the exorcism.

But she can—and does—tell him the rest of it. That he’d been trying to find himself religiously. That he found copies of all the things he’d once destroyed to give back to his ex-wife. That he apologized for what he’d done, and admitted that words alone won’t make up for anything, but that he’d like to attempt to make it up to her, Emily, and Diana. That Emily and Diana had agreed to dinner with him to see what he has to say.

GM: Roderick listens.

“How do you feel about that dinner?”

“The upcoming one, that is.”

Celia: “Like the sheriff is going to find out and wonder what the fuck I think I’m doing with him, mostly.”

“Other than that, I don’t know. Apprehensive. Emily is going to blame me if it blows up in my face.”

“She and Logan have been getting into it lately about the whole thing. Logan thinks it’s great. Mom is… wants her man back.”

“Her words,” Celia clarifies.

Pete’s going to ask what the fuck she thinks she’s doing, too.

The idea of teasing him about Diana isn’t even appealing anymore.

GM: “Do you want to see what happens at it?” Roderick asks. “Or call the thing off?”

Celia: “I want to see what happens.”

“I want to know what’s wrong with him. What was wrong with him when we were kids.”

“Why he went from someone who would let me put lipstick and a dress on him to… that.”

GM: “Do you think you’ll find out at dinner?”

Celia: “No. It’s not like I can whack him with a charm in front of everyone and demand the truth.”

GM: “You could in private. I’d normally be against doing so to family members, but his case is a pretty special exception. Given how despicably he treated you.”

Celia: “What, you don’t think it’d be easier to just go knock on Donovan’s door and ask what’s up with his pet?”

“Hey bud, can I have my dad back? He seems normal again. Thanks.”

GM: Roderick shakes his head. “I don’t think there’s a power that can do that to someone, Celia.”

“Warp them into a different person for decades, and then just… come off.”

“Maybe you could spy on your dad, though. See how he behaves in private as well as in public.”

Celia: Except Donovan already knows all the ways she has to spy.

“Yeah?”

GM: “Bug his house.”

Celia: “Maybe he was possessed.” Celia wiggles her brows at him. “Maybe my bugs will pick up satanic rituals that he does on the full moon.”

GM: “I’m mostly sure demonic possession is real,” Roderick answers humorlessly.

Celia: “Oh?”

She makes a motion with her hand, prompting further explanation.

GM: “I’m not an expert in it, by any means. But are demons such a stretch when we have vampires?”

Celia: “No. I was kind of thinking the same thing.”

“Have any friends that are demonologists?”

GM: He shakes his head. “I know very little about it. Just off-hand references by some of the primogen.”

“Barely even anything. But it sounded like they believed in demons.”

Celia: “Which ones?”

GM: “Steinhäusser. Chastain. Maldonato.”

“I’d talk to a priest, anyway, if you want to know more about demons.”

Celia: “What priest? Malveaux is missing. You mean like a breather?”

GM: “My lord no. But there are priests besides him.”

“I suppose most aren’t friendly to you, though, besides Benson.”

“The Tremere also might know about demons.”

Celia: “You think it’s like the movies where they’re tied to a specific person or place?”

GM: “Who even knows.”

Celia: “So much for all your book learnin’,” she sighs at him.

GM: “So much indeed,” he smirks. “Maybe I should just spend the rest of my Requiem satisfying you in bed.”

Celia: “You can start now.”

“Oh, wait, no.”

“First, your dad is coming to dinner on Friday, would you like to be there?”

“Then you can start.”

GM: “Oh. I was gonna ask if you were still in the mood.”

“With your sister and all.”

“But yes. I would. A lot.”

Celia: “I’ve known about her for a week and still managed to fuck you silly,” Celia points out.

GM: “True. Friday will hopefully be enough time for Dani to cool down, too.”

Celia: “She said your dad doesn’t really like a lot of new people. Figure out how you want me to introduce you. I think maybe ‘my boyfriend’ will hit a raw spot for him, considering.”

“I thought maybe Stephen’s friend from college..?”

GM: Roderick thinks.

“That works. I am a lawyer. I can be his friend from law school.”

Celia: “If you go postal in my house near my family I’m going to beat you up,” Celia warns him.

“My boyfriend taught me how.”

GM: “I’d beat myself up, and worse, if I lost it around your family,” Roderick answers grimly.

Celia: “Excellent. I’ll get my boyfriend to beat you up.”

She nudges him with her shoulder.

“I wouldn’t invite you if I didn’t think you could control yourself. I trust you.”

GM: “Thank you,” he says sincerely. “I’ll be worthy of that trust. I promise.”

Celia: “I know. Now I think you owe me some head..?”

GM: He smiles, pulls off her sweats, spreads her legs, and busies his mouth between her thighs.

Just like their first time.

Celia: His tongue and fingers are enough to make her forget her own name when her toes curl and stars float in front of her eyes.

It’s a bright spot to end the night on.


Previous, by Character: Story Twelve, Celia XXXI
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Story Twelve, Celia XXXI

“Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we could all just be nicer.”
—Peter Lebeaux


Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM

GM: There’s a knock against Celia’s office door after she’s finished with her mother.

“You free, Celia?” comes Louise’s voice.

Celia: Celia takes a moment to check that there’s no blood on her shirt or face before she calls out for Louise to come in.

“Hey, Louise. What’s up?”

Casual, as if she hadn’t just spanked her mother.

GM: Or been spanked back by her mother to exorcise her increasingly split personality from their relationship.

Celia: She doesn’t have a split personality.

She is perfectly in control.

Right?

It’s just a mask.

GM: The first thing people notice about Louise is her hair. It’s big, it’s poofy, it’s curly. It’s piled on top of her head in a messy up-do with stray tendrils shooting out this way and that, some of them framing her face and some bouncing with every step that she takes. They’re wild curls, untamed by heat or spray or wax; they’re not the kind of curls that are ashamed of what they are, and she’s not the kind of woman that seems ashamed of them. Brown eyes peer out from underneath thick brows with a high arch, expertly applied pomade filling them in further with tiny little hair-strokes that are impossible to distinguish from the real thing. Winged linger, gold shadow, three coats of mascara, taupe in the waterline: it all serves to make her eyes look that much bigger. She’s got a wide mouth made for smiling and laughing, and her lips are lined the same color as the stain she wears across them, with a tiny little beauty mark over one side and a gold hoop in her nose. It’s the only ”non-professional” piece that she allows herself, and the rest of her is so dressed down that most people don’t even seem to notice it. She’s a looker for sure, with dewy skin, highlight and contour perfectly blended out, and a body that speaks of care and discipline. A gold necklace rests at her throat, a golden cuff on her left wrist, nails polished in a hue that’s somewhere between orange and tan. Professional colors for a professional woman, like the black slacks and black blouse she has on.

louise2.png
“Alana said it was your idea to have me manage the spa for the day,” smiles Louise as she steps in. “I just wanted to thank you for the chance.”

Celia: Alana strikes again. Another mark in her favor, Celia can’t help but think. She accepts the words of gratitude with a smile.

“I see how hard you work at everything, and I know you’re eager to take on more responsibility. I’m happy to give you the opportunity, Louise. How did it go?”

GM: “Pretty well. We had a busy day. Alana phoned me yesterday evening about it, so I got the call from the alarm company at 4 AM when they said the window sensor alarm got triggered.”

Celia: “The alarm triggered?” Why is this the first she’s hearing about it?

GM: “It turned out to be nothing.”

Celia: “Huh. Wind, maybe.”

She’ll check the tapes.

It’s not nothing.

It’s never nothing.

GM: “The police came by but didn’t find anything. They think it might have just been that or a faulty motion sensor.”

Celia: “Good to know. I’ll have to get that looked at; I doubt you appreciate being woken up at 4 AM for nothing.”

“So that was this morning?”

GM: “Yes. But it let me show you I was serious about managing, so I didn’t completely mind,” Louise smiles.

Celia: Who would it have been? Monday at 4 AM is after Elysium, which is after Elyse had agreed to meet with her to hear her out. Would she have sent someone anyway? Celia doesn’t think so, but maybe the Malkavian was still mad.

Hunters again? Why would they come during the night?

Roderick’s Churchmice? Again, though, why during the night? They’d been busy with Dani at that point, hadn’t they? But it’s the only spot that Jade is publicly affiliated with, so he might have sent them here to begin their search. He obviously knows that she’s not keeping Dani at her other haven. But he’d gone to meet her.

It doesn’t add up.

The rats, maybe? They certainly wouldn’t show up on a camera.

The mysterious enemy Roderick had hinted at that hate her because of Jade’s sire? Christ. That’s a headache.

Celia almost blanches at the thought of what someone might have overheard in her office.

“It did,” Celia agrees. “You can let me know about that sort of thing, even if it is a false alarm. Just send a text if it happens again; I’ll get it looked at and I don’t want to bother the police any more than I need to.”

She’ll have to sweep for bugs.

“One day it might not be a false alarm and then it’ll be like the boy who cried wolf.”

GM: Louise nods. “I’ll do that next time.”

“I did need to bribe the cops. They were annoyed about the false alarm and ‘hinted’ they’d make trouble for the girls if we didn’t pay them off.”

Celia: Celia openly scowls.

GM: It’s not the first time Celia’s heard of something like this happening. NOPD are thugs with badges.

Celia: Assholes.

“Did you get names or badge numbers?”

“Tell me how much and I’ll put it in your next check.”

GM: Louise rattles off numbers for both.

“It’s been a while since they last shook us down, so they might have been looking for an excuse.”

Celia: Maybe it’s time she shake some of them down.

“Maybe. Opportunity presented itself.”

GM: “Assholes, anyway. One of them kept saying ‘just a buncha girls here’ with this ugly leer.”

Celia: “Yeah? Which name was his? Maybe I’ll see if reporting him does anything.”

GM: Louise lists his badge number. “Doubt it, though.”

Celia: “Never know.”

GM: “Things were pretty calm after that, anyway. I figured I might as well start the day now that I was here. Mostly spent time on accounting reports and supply orders.”

Celia: “Long day,” Celia whistles. “I’m glad we found each other, if that’s what I can expect.”

GM: “Oh, there were fun moments too. ‘Anoushka’ said she got a Russian client who believed her accent was for real.”

“Emily also worked a later shift. People were happy to see her, it’d been a while since she was around.”

Celia: “Ha. Anoushka mentioned she’s learning Russian to really fool people. One of those phone apps, I guess it’s going well if she managed to fool someone. And yeah, it’s been great to have Emily open her schedule again. I know she’s been busy with school. Going to be sad when she’s gone.”

“Might have to put out a hiring ad for a new MT.”

GM: “Mary most of all. They talk a lot. Alana said something about you wanting to keep Emily on in some capacity?”

Celia: “If she has time after she graduates, yes. If not then it’s definitely understandable. She’ll be doing rotations. I think they pull something like 12 hour shifts on the regular. Wouldn’t blame her if she dipped.”

Celia gives that a sad smile.

“We knew it was temporary.”

GM: Louise returns it with a warmer one. “I know she appreciated it. Med school is hard. She got to work a good job with an understanding boss.”

“I know she didn’t want to feel like she was freeloading off your mom while she was going to school.”

Celia: “She brought us Mary so I suppose I can’t complain too much. Wouldn’t have that contract with the Saints without her.” Celia winks at Louise.

“But yeah, it’s been great to have her on. I’m excited for her to do what she’s wanted this whole time, though.”

GM: “Exactly. Some of the Saints can be assholes, but at least they pay us for it.”

“We actually had one of their wives today. She’d organized a bridal party ‘spa day.’”

Celia: More than can be said for the Saudi prince.

“Oh? That sounds like a lot of fun. Go well?”

GM: “In the end, yes. She was a total bridezilla and asked Natalie to speak to the manager over some scheduling issues.”

“But we finally ironed things out and reached a date she and her mom were happy with.”

Celia: “It’s always the moms,” Celia says with a heavy sigh and roll of her eyes. “You think it’s the brides, but half the time it’s the moms that drive them crazy.”

“Glad you were able to handle it, though.”

GM: “Yes, the mom was the one who asked to speak to the manager after telling Natalie how incompetent she was. She took it a little hard and cried in the bathroom. Piper cheered her up.”

Celia: Celia scowls again.

“I’ll have to talk to her and let her know she’s not. She’s been great.”

GM: “She also wasn’t incompetent, I didn’t do anything with them that she couldn’t have done.”

Celia: “I don’t know why people think asking for the manager is like asking for a genie. Like you can somehow click buttons better than a receptionist.”

GM: “I think it just makes them feel important.”

“But getting to say those magic words calmed her down a little, I guess.”

Celia: “Apparently. I hope you didn’t bend over backwards for them.”

GM: “Oh, I didn’t reschedule any of our other clients like they were asking us to. I mostly made noise about the available day being when our ‘best people’ would be available.”

Celia: “Perfect. You’re a natural.”

GM: “A.k.a., our same people, but they can be our best ones too.”

Celia: “We had a woman here before you started, Georgina. She was about to go into labor and one of her very needy clients was pissed about it. Asked if she could come in to do her lashes and that no one else could touch her. Literally in the hospital, having contractions, and this woman wanted her to stop what she was doing to work on her.”

“Alana told her she was at Tulane Medical if she wanted to pop by and lay on top of her while she pushed out her child.”

GM: “Wow. They really just see us as robots sometimes.”

Celia: “Sometimes, yeah. And sometimes they’re great.”

GM: “They are. I miss being able to work on them and gossip.”

Celia: “Being behind the desk isn’t the same. I can see if there are any strings to pull about it, if you’d like. Been a few years, hasn’t it?”

GM: Louise nods. “Managing has been a fun change of pace. I’m really happy to be here instead of Pangloss, don’t get me wrong! But if you could, I’d love to still take the occasional client like you and Alana do.”

Celia: “I’m sure I can figure something out. Even if it’s shaking down that guy’s wife.” Celia wiggles her brows.

GM: “I bet you’d have her on her knees in an instant,” smirks Louise. “I’ve seen you and Alana talk down angry clients like they’re little kids.”

Alana doesn’t use the Blood’s powers on every client. Just unreasonable ones.

Celia: “Just have to know what buttons to push.”

Celia is always amused by Alana’s stories about unreasonable clients. They don’t happen frequently in this industry—most people are happy to come in for service—but when they do they’re memorable.

GM: They mostly all end with Alana mindfucking them.

Celia: It’s convenient.

GM: “And let’s see, apart from that… did some supply orders, more accounting work. Landen was sick today, so Sandra did Lucy’s nails.”

Celia: “Uh oh,” Celia drawls, “I hope she won’t report it to the manager that her usual tech wasn’t in.”

GM: “I sure hope not, she is the boss’ daughter. Celia ain’t happy unless Lucy is.”

Celia: “That Celia is a real hardass, maybe she sent those cops.”

GM: “To shake down her own business, at that. She doesn’t screw around.”

Celia: “It’s a racket, I tell you.”

GM: “I think Landen is Lucy’s favorite tech, anyway, but she was still happy with Sandra.”

Celia: “I’m glad. I saw the result and they looked fab. Gonna have to paint mine the same.”

Celia smiles for a moment, then dismisses the frivolity with a shake of her head.

“In more serious news, there may be further opportunity for you if you’re interested. I’m working on a new project and it might eat up a lot of Alana’s time in the next few months. Does that sound like something you’d be into?”

GM: “Like white on rice,” smiles Louise. “I’d be covering more management shifts for her?”

Celia: “Yes, to start.”

GM: “I’d love to. When would I start?”

Celia: “Within the next few weeks. Things are still getting off the ground on this end, but I’ll give you a firmer date soon.”

GM: “I’ll plan for it. And thanks, Celia. I know I’ve said it a million times, but I’m really so glad to still get to work in the industry without a license.”

Celia: “I’m happy to have you, Louise.”

GM: “Good luck with the project. I’m sure it’s something big if you’re putting Alana on it.”

Celia: “Thank you. I think it’s going to be a big opportunity for us. I’m excited to see where it leads.”


Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM

Celia: If Louise has nothing else for her, Celia wishes her a good evening and pulls up the security camera footage on her computer. She doesn’t expect to find anything—she knows how shadow dancing works—but it’s worth a shot, at least.

GM: Louise adds that Piper and Landen, to whom she’s passed off a fair amount of social media curation, want to take some photos and record more videos with her semi-soon.

Celia: She schedules a time to do so, then sends a text to Randy:

omg are you nearby the spa there is a giant spider in my office pls come squish it

GM: IM COMInG BABE!!!!!!! comes the immediate reply.

Celia: Her hero. She sends him a heart-eyed emoji.

GM: She’s still looking through tapes when Randy bursts into her office. He’s sweating and panting heavily, as though he ran as hard as he could.

“Where’s the spider!?” he exclaims, looking wildly around.

Celia: “Over here,” Celia points, gesturing him closer with a finger pressed against her lips in the universal sound for silence. She’s written a note on her desk, just in case he didn’t understand: office / spa might be bugged, break in this morning at 4, can you check for them?

GM: Randy looks around, then picks up a pen and writes back on the note:

ok but is there a spider?? I’ll get it for you!

Celia: not this time, but you’re a hero

He knows she doesn’t like spiders.

They’re ugly.

She doesn’t like ugly things.

Even if she does wonder if she can put that many legs and arms on a person.

And even though she’s a vampire and can kill them herself it makes him feel needed, so she lets him kill them for her when she finds them.

GM: Randy looks a little crestfallen, but writes he’ll go check. He starts sweeping the room.

A text pops up from Dani.

hey I forgot all about this, but what’s the situation w/ school?

and the stuff at my apt?

Celia: Celia pulls her eyes away from the computer to respond to Dani.

Meet w/ my friend tonight to help w/ school. Will get your stuff.

GM: thanks Celia you’re the best :)

Celia: She thinks she can squeeze Dani in after Rod, or after the meeting with Elyse if it doesn’t take too long.

GM: After pulling away from the tapes to help Randy, the pair find an electronic listening device hidden behind the framed Best Esthi—Celia Flores, 2014 award.

Celia: Oh, good. Well now someone knows everything.

Rusty will probably know how to trace it back to wherever it’s going.

Celia hands it off to Randy to make sure his brother gets it. Written, of course. Why let them know she’s onto them.

She returns to the footage.

GM: Sure thing, babe, Randy writes back.

Upon returning to the tapes, and after a little more searching, Celia snags an image of the thin-blood she spoke to at Jackson Square.

Celia: Why the fuck.

Celia bites back her irritation. She points it out on the tape to Randy, lifting her brows at him.

Pick up tonight?

She will make the time, if he and Reggie can’t find the damn thing on their own.

Find it and gut it, maybe.

No one will miss a thin-blood.


Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM

GM: It’s close to 9 by the time Jade arrives in Jackson Square. At this hour, many of the daytime tourists, artists, and performers are gone, but there are still some. The ghost tours only begin after dark. Jade catches a large group of tourists listening to a guide dressed in an anachronistic top hat and tailed suit regaling them with lurid stories about the Quarter’s “romeo catchers”—spikes on those beautiful wrought-iron fences meant to deter young men from visiting young women’s bedrooms.

More than one romeo, driven from a girl’s window by her furious father, has been impaled on those hungry spikes. Some of their spirits may yet linger, pining for their unrequited loves.

Jade finds Sidra little ways off from Saint Louis, seated by a table advertising her services. She’s dressed tonight in a long, flowing skirt with lots of beads and bangles, though her ghouled monkey is still perched on her shoulder. The tiny simian makes a faint mewing sound as she finishes reading a tourist’s palm and sends off the bemused-looking man.

Celia: Jade makes one stop on her way to Jackson Square. The Evergreen is on the way, and the blood samples she’d taken from Roderick and Dani are needed before tonight’s meeting. She drops them off to Mel or Fabian, whoever she finds first, to give to the warden and continues on with her evening.

At Jackson Square it doesn’t take long to find Sidra, and this time there’s no need for the thin-blood to play intermediary. She keeps an eye out for him/her/them anyway; why bother the boys with searching for the thing if she can round it up herself? She even has a built-in excuse if she catches it: fulfilling her promise of paying it for the information it had given her.

As soon as Sidra’s chair clears, however, Jade slides right in and smiles at the fortune teller.

“Good evening.”

GM: Jade does not see the thin-blood. Or any thin-bloods around the Square, for that matter.

This is still a nice area.

“Evening,” the dusky-skinned vampire smiles back.

“Here for a reading?”

Celia: “Of a sort,” Jade replies. “Someone else’s, if you have a moment to spare from your clients.”

GM: “I’ll take anyone who wants their fortune told.”

“I can do tarot readings as well as palmistry, and a few other methods.”

Celia: Does that mean Jade needs to get her fortune told? She can’t say she’s thrilled by the prospect. But “anyone” means thin-bloods too, doesn’t it? Perhaps Dani is in luck.

“Anything with porcelain or ceramic?”

GM: “Well, no palm readings for them. I need a living or once-living hand.”

“But maybe the tarot.”

Celia: Jade asks about the price of such a service.

GM: A bag’s worth of vitae and $300, two bags, or $600—“If you want the real deal and not just the cold readings I give breathers.”

She looks at Jade thoughtfully.

“You’ve got a future to remember. I can tell already.”

Celia: She’s pleased by the thought of that. Perhaps she will let Sidra read her cards.

“What of our lesser-blooded cousins? Will you read for one?”

GM: Sidra makes a slight face. “I won’t take their blood, but I’ll take their money. Or someone else’s blood.”

The monkey makes a noise.

Celia: Jade follows the grimace with an understanding look, one that speaks to distasteful necessity and long-suffering patience for the lesser-blooded in question.

“I will send it by another night, then.” She pulls a freshly cleaned and washed Lucy from her bag and sets the doll on the table. “Can you speak with her?”

GM: Sidra tilts her head at the doll, then seems to roll with it and takes Lucy’s porcelain hand in hers.

“Hm. Strange,” she says after a moment.

“She’s a special doll, isn’t she?”

Celia: “She is,” Jade agrees. “I think she has something to say to me, but she was… injured recently and can’t speak.”

GM: The monkey hops off Sidra’s shoulder and approaches the doll, staring at it with wide simian eyes.

“So, I deal with ’later’s more than ’now’s,” Sidra says thoughtfully. “I think Lucy would respond best to sphereomancy. If you’d like, I can try to find out what she’s going to say, but she’ll need to actually say it in the future for my vision to come true. So I’d only be telling you something you’ll find out anyway.”

Celia: Jade doesn’t recall telling Sidra the doll’s name. Had Lucy done it herself?

“What she’s going to say as in what she would say if she hadn’t hurt herself earlier?”

GM: Sidra shakes her head. “I deal in certainties, and possibilities, but not what-ifs.”

Celia: “I think that should be okay, then.”

GM: “Okay. Same price.”

Celia: Jade nods. She’d expected as much. She checks her wallet to make sure there’s enough inside for two readings; if not, she’ll need to visit an ATM.

There’s plenty. Enough for her own reading, if she wants to have her future told as well.

She pulls the bills free and hands the first $600 to Sidra.

GM: Sidra picks up her crystal ball with both hands.

She cups it carefully in her hands and begins to rotate it slowly from right to left. Her motions are gentle, as though she’s rocking a small baby.

She gazes deeply into the ball. Celia doesn’t see anything except crystal, but Sidra’s features turn placid, still, and far away.

“I see… a dark place. Cold. Hard. Stone.”

“There’s a woman. In manacles. Chains. She sleeps on the ground. She’s filthy. Naked. Like an animal.”

“The door to her cell slams open. A man comes in. Tall. Dark. His face. Etched with hate. Contempt.”

“‘This is all you’re good for, you filthy slut,’ he says as he rapes her.”

“She tries to speak. He rips out her tongue. He takes her savagely, viciously, relishing her mangled cries.”

“There’s blood on his hands. There’s so much blood. He is a brutal tyrant, dressed all in black. He is a judge of life and death. He knows best. He knows what’s best for everyone.”

“His face is hard and cold. It has not smiled in a very long time. There are always more important matters, matters to which only his enlightened mind is fit to attend. He carves out his moments of pleasure where he can…”

“‘This is all you’re good for, you stupid, lying slut,’ he repeats when he’s finished, and he spits in your face. You cry out to him as he leaves, but without your tongue you cannot say his name. You can only lisp:”

“Stephen…”

“The slam of the iron door is your only answer.”

Sidra looks up from her crystal ball.

“I’m sorry,” she says slowly, “didn’t you want Lucy’s first?”

Celia: Silence greets her question.

That isn’t right.

That’s not who she thought it was.

That isn’t how it’s supposed to go.

That isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

He’s not like that. He’s not. He’s good. He’s a good person, a kind person, he would never…

Wouldn’t he, though? Hasn’t he shown what he’s capable of? Hasn’t he hurt her before? Hasn’t he confessed that he’d almost killed his family, destroyed their house, had to have his sire fix their thoughts?

He said he’d protect her.

He’d killed for her.

Is this why?

Is this what starts him down that spiraling path, because he’d killed for her? Protected her? Because she’s lying to him about who she is, what she is, how she is? Because she’s trying so hard to keep the darkness inside of herself so it doesn’t spill over to him, too?

Because she thinks she’s clever enough to keep him dangling on the end of a string?

Her lips move soundlessly, eyes in a far distant place.

It can’t be real.

It can’t be.

I deal in certainties.

“How long,” she rasps out, “how long before that comes to pass?”

GM: “I don’t know,” Sidra answers calmly. “Maybe weeks. Months. Years. Decades. Maybe never.”

“Sphereomancy gives visions. Some visions come to pass. Some don’t.”

Celia: “Why… why that vision?”

GM: “There was something significant to it. Probably. Maybe it’s about an important figure in your life. Maybe you or someone else will soon cause events that lead to it. Maybe it will shape your destiny in a major way. Maybe it’s relevant to something else you’ve just done or soon will do.”

Celia: She doesn’t know what to say to that.

It’s not possible. There’s no possible way that she does anything that leads to him becoming like… like that.

Except there is, isn’t there?

And she’s already put it into motion.

“And hers?” Jade asks, pushing the doll forward as if that will wipe away the events of the past few moments, as if she can run from the pain of the vision, escape the dark thoughts that threaten to drag her under.

She did that. Does that. Will do that.

She ruins him.

GM: Sidra picks up the ball again, slowly rotates it, and stares into its depths. Her face resumes its placid expression.

Unlike during the previous vision, she doesn’t say anything for a few moments. Her face is clear when she looks back up at Jade.

“All right, that was weird.”

Celia: Weirder than getting visions in the first place?

“What happened?”

GM: “I saw a lot of different things. It felt fragmentary. Maybe contradictory. I don’t know if all of what I saw can come true.”

“She was with a young black-haired woman, for a little, then that dissolved.”

“She was in a library, full of whispers. You can’t hear past them all, hear the one voice that is waiting…”

“She’s trembling. The Sangiovanni know how to make her talk, how to make her spill everything. All your questions are answered… but she will hurt… you will not like all the answers…”

“She’s with a blonde woman. Hugging her… but there’s two of them…”

“A black man, old and fat, slinging back a drink. He says they couldn’t bullshit an old bullshitter…”

“There’s lights… bright lights… people laughing, drinking, yelling… but stare too long, you’ll see them burning… burning…. screaming… he’s here, the one who knows the truth… a flash of silver…”

Sidra shakes her head.

“Lucy wasn’t even in some of those.”

Celia: Jade absorbs the information quietly, wondering at the images. Black-haired woman. Who? Isabel? But she’d been blonde and had only gone dark with her Embrace. As they all do. Diana hadn’t known about her, doesn’t know about her. Had she met Lucy?

But she’s dead. And this is the future, isn’t it?

The library… her other visit, if this doesn’t pan out.

But not the Sangiovanni. She doesn’t know what questions she has that that they could possibly answer. Don’t they deal with the dead, with ghosts?

Something like dread curls in her gut.

It’s not what she was looking for, she’s certain of it. She’d thought there would be a message, something straightforward, and instead she’s… she’s not sure what she has received. What role does Ron—it has to be Ron, doesn’t it?—play in any of this? And who is silver? Bullets? That’s just an old superstition, isn’t it? Who burns?

Who burns?

“How could she not be in what you saw if you looked into her future?”

GM: “The Sight leads where it wills,” Sidra answers. “Maybe the parts without her are still tied to her future.”

“But the whole thing felt… strange.”

Celia: “How so?”

GM: “Claustrophobic. Like I was being squeezed. Crushed.”

“I kept seeing the blonde woman, out of the corner of my eye.”

Celia: “Like Lucy, but alive?”

GM: “Yes. They had similar hair. But I don’t know if she was alive. Sometimes she seemed like she was. But I think she was dead, too. Or maybe she wasn’t. I was never sure. It hurt when I tried to see more clearly.”

“I think she was the same woman hugging Lucy, anyway.”

Celia: “Dead like us, or actually dead?”

GM: “Actually dead. But her body was screaming.”

Celia: Jade purses her lips.

Is this her fault, too?

Of course it is.

“Thank you,” she says to Sidra, because she doesn’t know what else there is to say about it.

Then, “Do you know of anyone who can speak with dolls besides the one who creates them?”

GM: “The things I saw in her future were the library, the Sangiovanni, and the blonde woman. Maybe one of them.”

“Beyond that, no idea.”

Celia: She can try the library first, she thinks, rather than force Diana into speaking with the doll. She’s afraid of the doll and not yet ready to be pushed that far. And the Sangiovanni… she thinks she knows one that might be able to help, if the librarian cannot.

Last resort, though. She doesn’t mind the clan, but the idea that they’ll hurt Lucy (or Diana?) to get answers does not sit well with her.

Some truths aren’t worth the pain.

“Wait.”

“You said those were future. The others… past?”

GM: Sidra shakes her head. “My Sight sees what will come. Or can come.”

Celia: “Perhaps I misunderstood, then. The black-haired woman and the black man and the burning are what, if not future?”

GM: “Yes. Future.”

Celia: “Ah.”

“You’ve already given me much to think about, but perhaps there is one more thing you can assist with.”

GM: “Sure. Tante Lescaut also gives genuine readings if you want to see more of your or Lucy’s futures.”

Celia: Jade will remember the name.

Originally, she hadn’t intended to ask Sidra about Lucy. Perhaps being distracted by Josua the other night had been a boon in and of itself; easy enough to find her again, and tonight at least she can kill multiple birds with the same stone.

Jade lets the silence linger for long moments while she considers her next request. Three fortunes she asked for this evening; $1800 or six bags of vitae, and whatever way she slices it that is more than she can pay at this time. Her resources have been stretched thin by the recent addition to her stable of ghouls, and her ordinarily tightly controlled finances have taken a hit with the need to provide round the clock security to her haven while she settles the score with Elyse.

Fortunate, then, that she has a score to settle here as well, and that Sidra had once turned to her to rescue Tyrell when he’d been picked up by the Snake Hunters for the crime of residing within the confines of the French Quarter.

As if everyone who lives here is a secret Setite posing as something else.

He’d been a wreck when she pulled him from the holding cell in Harrison’s haven, a night or two away from surely being put down. But she’d gotten in and gotten him out. She’d done it. For him, and for the lick who sits before her peddling her tarot cards and crystal balls.

It’s time to call it in.

“A few months ago another Toreador came to see you. Mr. Bourelle. I will consider our past business settled and the scales balanced should you disclose the details of that interaction.”

GM: “All right,” says Sidra. “He came to me asking for a palm reading. He seemed pretty shaken. We didn’t do it in Jackson Square, this deep in Savoy’s turf.”

“The lines on his palm were dark. Really dark. Literally, which means they’re danger points for sudden or accidental deaths.”

The chimp on Sidra’s shoulder screeches and scampers to her other shoulder.

“I could tell he wasn’t killed by another lick, though. And that a powerful force might or might not avenge his death. He broke off the reading at that point and ran off.”

The chimp gives a tiny hoot. Sidra scratches its head.

“Like I said to the last lick who asked me about Bourelle—and he’s been missing for months, too? You don’t need my gifts to know he’s ash.”

Celia: “No,” Jade says slowly, “I know he’s ash. Or at least assumed. I wanted to know who ashed him.”

GM: “All I can tell you there is that it wasn’t a lick. Maybe hunters. I’ve heard there’s been an uptick in encounters.”

“That wasn’t the only time he came to me for a reading, though,” Sidra says shrewdly. “I can tell you the details of his previous one. Same price as a reading for you.”

Celia: He wasn’t killed by Meadows, then.

Her rumor isn’t even a lie, is it? Part of it, at least.

“Yes,” Jade agrees.

GM: Sidra holds out her hand.

Celia: Jade pulls a leather wristlet from her purse and extracts the agreed upon amount, handing it over to Sidra.

GM: The money disappears somewhere among the fortune-teller’s scarves.

“He asked if Roxanne would ever love him the same again.”

Celia: For $600 and a debt, Jade expects more than that.

She waits.

GM: “I did a tarot reading for that, as it was a question about someone else. They said yes and no, but mostly no. She’d never love him the same way again.”

“But she’d always care about him. She’d get obsessed with him. And it would undo her. She’d lose everything by caring about him. Her heart was divided, and that’s what would tear them apart, and doom them both.”

“I didn’t tell him he was doomed, though. He only paid to know about Roxanne. There was a mountain between them they’d never overcome.”

“I’ll also throw in, as lagniappe, since you’re one of Savoy’s. There was a blonde Ventrue, the new one, who also asked me about Evan. She paid me to hear about the first reading. She didn’t take me up on the second.”

The monkey gives another tiny hoot.

Celia: Caroline.

Why wouldn’t Caroline have gotten here first?

Why would Celia do anything on her own without the bitch in her way? Is she, what, doomed to walk the same steps, tread the same ground?

Her teeth clench together.

“Do you know what prompted him to ask about Roxanne?”

GM: “I’d guess because there were problems in their relationship. Why else?”

“Something was coming between them.”

Celia: “Yes. I had hoped you’d be able to tell me what the mountain is.” She thinks she knows, but confirmation is always better than theories. “Regardless, thank you.”

GM: “Welcome. Come back anytime you want to know someone’s future.”


Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM

GM: Celia and Roderick drive to the Evergreen.

“Remind me where you got this thing?” he asks in the car.

Celia: Behind the wheel of the new car Alana and Randy had picked out for her (for what feels like the first time even though it isn’t), Celia glances over at Roderick. Or rather the man who she knows is Roderick but who, decidedly, does not look like Roderick right now.

It looks nothing like him.

That’s the point of a disguise, really. She’d thought for a moment to maybe create an aged version of him, the man he would be at thirty rather than the boy he died as, but explaining that would be too difficult for him and once you hit twenty your face doesn’t change as much as people think it does. Plenty of thirty and forty year olds look much younger than their faces portray. But the man next to her is decidedly older, mid-thirties at least, with brown facial hair that matches what’s on Roderick’s head.

The similarities end there. This man is rugged where Roderick is smooth, broad where he is lean, hard where he is soft.

She’d made the mask herself earlier this evening out of the spare parts she has at the spa. It had been an experiment that she is pleased to see work; she’d created a lie about needing blood to adhere it to his face when she’d put it on him, something about the power of the blood and flesh, and it had stuck right to his skin without him questioning how it worked. “Sorcery,” is all she’d said. Pete had told her once that many things Kindred don’t understand can be explained by sorcery, and she fell back on it when she’d shown him the mask to explain his disguise. She’d smoothed it across his face and jaw and blended it into his neck with the powder on the end of a makeup brush, then covered the rest with his shirt.

She’d had a suit for him too, tailored to his size but nothing he has been seen in before, and a pair of shoes that no one will trace back to Roderick Durant. It’s all about the details, she’d told him as she’d held them out.

She’d watched him change, eyes alight in appreciation at the body beneath the clothes, but kept her hands to herself. There’s no need to show up to a meeting with Savoy smelling like sex and blood.

She’d taken the opportunity to change as well, stripping from the casual clothing she’d worn to work and slipping on a dress that’s worthy of the Lord of the French Quarter: black, slinky, but somehow still shy of sexual. It suggests rather than reveals, hugging her assets before dropping into a gentle wave that trails in her wake.

“I think I told you a while ago,” Celia says at his question, “but I’m kind of tight with a night doc. I have one for Dani, too.” Or will, anyway, once she gets around to making it.

GM: “Smart,” Roderick said about the suit and shoes. He wasn’t quite smiling, given the occasion, but one still quirked his lips. “You really covered all your bases with this.”

Maybe he was saying ‘smart’ because of last night.

But maybe because it was a smart idea too.

Roderick appreciated the gown. A lot. It elicited a similar reaction to the mermaid one she wore to Elysium. That in itself seemed quite telling, given the disgust his face evinced when meeting Savoy came up. But when it didn’t, he had eyes only for her. Hands only for her. Murmuring how he wanted to fuck her in this later.

“I am going to fuck you in this later,” he’d murmured. “At dawn. You’re going to show up in it, I’m going to fuck you in it, and you’re going to fall asleep in it, coated in your blood and juices.”

Celia: If they’d had more time, Celia has no doubt that the two of them would have spent the night running through a dozen various positions to see how long the dress could stay on before he tore it off. They’d had to content themselves with chaste touches and lingering kisses on their way out the door, and Celia doesn’t know who anticipates it more: him or her.

She couldn’t help but smirk to herself at the thought of Preston or her grandsire dipping into her head this evening to see them both thinking about fucking.

“Of course you will,” she’d agreed, using his freshly tied tie to pull him in. “I’ll never get enough of you.”

GM: Stray thoughts about her sire betray her.

Stray glances her way betray him.

She does know who anticipates it more.

Celia: Her sire would never fuck her like Roderick does.

She tries to remember that.

Even if she wishes that he would.

Even if she prefers his cold, hard touch to Roderick’s.

Even if sometimes she pretends it’s him when she’s with other people, but no one has yet come close to his frosty severity.

The vision can’t come true. Her sire wouldn’t let it. He’d come for her like he has before, wouldn’t he? He wouldn’t let her be used like that, beaten and broken and raped.

Right?

GM: He’s saved her once, hasn’t he? Of course he will come again.

It’s cute, though, how Roderick tries to be as aggressive. Telling her how he’s “going” to fuck her in that dress.

Celia: What would Donovan say instead?

Nothing, just take her?

GM: When does he say anything he doesn’t need to?

Celia: He’d said nothing to her the other times he’d taken her. The night of her Embrace. The night on the roof.

He’d simply acted.

She had shivered at the memory, but her eyes had found Roderick’s and she’d passed it off as excitement.

GM: Absolute economy of action.

Absolute economy of speech.

“This is one of the weirdest things I’ve worn,” Roderick mutters once they’re in the car.

Would her sire make such a remark?

Celia: She wouldn’t hide her ability from her sire. She’d change his actual face if he ever requested it.

Nothing by half measures. Not for him.

He’d never even asked what the bracers had been made from. Perhaps he knows. She can’t imagine that he cares. But she’ll never tell Roderick what it is that he wears on his face, whose skin she had peeled from their body to create the mask.

“Female fashion can be weird,” Celia remarks to Roderick, “I’ve seen some crazy things. But… is it comfortable, at least? It’s supposed to be like you’re not in anything at all.”

GM: “It is. That’s what’s weird about it.”

“I barely notice it.”

Celia: “You thought that someone I accepted work from would be anything less than flawless?”

GM: “Ha. I suppose not.”

The pair arrive at the Evergreen soon enough. Roderick’s scowl deepens, but once they’re inside he holds it in check. Fabian greets them pleasantly. They take the elevator up.

Celia: “After this,” she tells him, “I need to tell you something. Remind me.”

GM: He nods. The elevator’s doors ding soon.

Celia: She straightens as the door opens, reaching out to smooth his tie and shirt and brush back the hair from her face.

“Ready?” she asks him quietly.

GM: Roderick doesn’t quite scowl.

But he turns and strides out to the garden with her.

“Mr. Durant. Welcome to the Evergreen,” smiles Savoy. He motions to the table. “Pull up a seat, if you’d care to.”

“I’d prefer to stand, Mr. Savoy,” Roderick answers coldly.

“You will address Lord Savoy by his proper title while you are a guest in his domain, Mr. Durant,” Preston sharply corrects him.

Celia: Celia comes to a halt at Roderick’s side. She starts to open her mouth to introduce the three of them, but Savoy beats her to it.

“Lord Savoy,” Celia says to her grandsire, “thank you for the invitation. I hope you are well this evening. Madam Preston, good evening.”

Celia inclines her head to the latter and curtsies to the former.

She hesitates only a second, then reaches for Roderick’s hand to give it a gentle squeeze. She’s here for him, that touch says. They’re a team.

GM: He gives her a slight squeeze back.

“I believe I just did, Madam Preston,” Roderick answers.

Celia: This is going swell.

“Roderick,” Celia murmurs, “will you sit with me?”

GM: Roderick eyes glare into Preston’s.

Then Celia’s request, so gentle, so innocuous, washes over him, and he can do naught but sit.

Celia: Perhaps she should have warned him about Preston. But he’d seemed to know enough about her to know that she serves as the thorn to Savoy’s rose.

Celia takes the chair beside him, smiling pleasantly at the two across the table.

GM: Savoy just smiles serenely at the whole scene.

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Durant.”

“You called in the boon I promised, Mr. Savoy.”

Preston stiffens.

“I did. But I still prefer to observe courtesies,” says the French Quarter lord. “They’re the grease in the Camarilla’s gears, and what makes our world go round.”

“Besides, you didn’t need to promise me a boon just to visit the Quarter.”

“I know all about your open borders policy, Mr. Savoy,” Roderick says stiffly. “How anyone is invited in. The boon is a guarantor of my safe passage.”

GM: “And a guarantor that I’ll actually be able to visit who I want to visit, since you already know,” he glares.

Celia: Celia squeezes his hand again, a gentle reminder to soften his tone. Savoy is an approachable elder, but he’s still an elder, and this is his territory.

She hesitates before she adds her voice to the conversation, unsure in which direction Savoy wants to take this or if he even wants her to intercede. She can’t imagine he appreciates the hostility, though.

“Roderick,” she finally murmurs, turning her face toward him, “please be civil. No one wants an argument this evening.”

GM: “I’m not arguing,” Roderick answers tersely. “I’m stating facts. There’s only an argument if someone contests their accuracy.”

Savoy just smiles for all the world like the on-edge Brujah is being perfectly civil to him.

“Then you must care a great deal for her, Mr. Durant, to offer a boon for passage to an elder you dislike as much as me. I’d offer my condolences as to her Embrace, but in the spirit of candor, we both know you’d find those worthless. It’s a regrettable pickle you’ve both found yourselves in.”

“What do you want, Mr. Savoy?” Roderick asks bluntly.

The French Quarter lord just smiles tranquilly.

“I’d like you to remove your sister from the French Quarter, Mr. Durant. Whether that’s to Mid-City, some other part of the city, or another city, I leave to your discretion.”

Celia: That… certainly hadn’t been something they’d discussed.

GM: Roderick’s eyes cut briefly to Celia’s.

“And why is that, Mr. Savoy? She’s your hostage if she stays here. We both know that was your plan. I turn into your Quisling, and in exchange Dani gets to live.”

Celia: She doesn’t give away her surprise, but she’s thinking the same thing.

Savoy loses his hostage if they get Dani out, not to mention the fact that Celia doesn’t think she’ll leave.

GM: “And what a terrible plan that would be. If I thought it had any chance of success, Mr. Durant, rest assured, I’d do it! Your sister’s life means nothing to me.”

“But you wouldn’t suffer to be a Quisling. Some people might, but I’m not too bad at reading people, and I don’t think you would. I think you’d turn to your sire, tell her the situation, and work with her to feed me false information. Buried amidst enough accurate information that I wouldn’t notice the most important lies.”

“As long as you hated me for holding your sister hostage, Mr. Durant, I don’t think I could ever trust you.”

“Fine. Supposing it’s a bad plan,” says Roderick. “Why allow…”

“…Dani to leave at all, when I could still hold her as leverage over a primogen’s childe, in case he decides to move against me?” asks Savoy.

“It’s quite simple, Mr. Durant. I don’t want your hatred. I’m not about to say I never believe in threats and blackmail, but I don’t believe they’d be effective tools in your case. And I do believe they are inferior tools next to genuine loyalty. I want you to come work for me, freely, because you believe in my cause—or simply see me as the least distasteful option through which to advance your own.”

Roderick seems to bite back his initial response, then says simply, “My loyalties are already spoken for, Mr. Savoy. They do not and will not lie with you.”

Savoy just grins at that. “And I never expected to hear otherwise, Mr. Durant.”

Celia: Until they break him of it.

Clever, really. Roderick never would have come over; he’d have gone right to Coco like Savoy just said. Was that the plan all along? Did Savoy expect her to confess to Roderick and she’d been playing right into it?

Or is this just an advantageous byproduct of her actions?

GM: Roderick’s eyes briefly meet Celia’s again, then return to the elder Toreador’s.

“Then why even allow me to know you know about my sister, Mr. Savoy? Why involve Miss Flores in this intrigue?”

“Quite simple, Mr. Durant. As a goodwill gesture, for if you ever decide to come work for me. To show you what kind of treatment you can expect. Or in so many words, to butter you up. You may remove your sister from the French Quarter with my blessing.”

Roderick looks at him with open suspicion. Savoy just chuckles.

“If you’re going to be paranoid, Mr. Durant, be smart about it! What am I going to do after we’ve had this talk? Order your sister killed? Have someone ambush your car? How does that benefit me, after we’ve had this talk?”

“Come work for me,” he continues, “and Danielle will know comfort and safety in Celia’s care, or wherever else in the Quarter you’d prefer to keep her. Come work for me, and I’ll be straight with you—and yes, I lie as often as any elder when it suits me. But I prefer to use truth, because it’s impossible to ever disprove. Truth is a more stable foundation to build my house upon. Truth always comes out, doesn’t it, Mr. Durant?”

“Yes, Mr. Savoy, it always comes out,” Roderick answers.

Celia: Celia can’t help but glance at Roderick at those words, then away, perhaps recalling the last time she had been honest with him.

None of this bodes well for that vision.

GM: “You talk a good game,” he continues. “But you work with the Mafia. The lowliest, most despicable, most poisonous and craven human slime in this city. You work with Kindred who count themselves members of the Mafia. As long as you do that, I will never work for you—even if my loyalty wasn’t already to my sire.”

“Then I’ll count myself fortunate, at least, that you won’t ever work directly for Prince Vidal!” Savoy chuckles. “The Mafia are tools to me, Mr. Durant, like anything else. If you can prove yourself a more useful asset, I’m happy to leave them to your mercies, given as I clearly can’t have both. I think, for all they might say in Elysium about your being an elder’s pet, that you have great potential and can go far in the Camarilla. I know as well as your sire that Kindred my age don’t choose our progeny lightly. We choose only the best. Woe to anyone who underestimates a Kindred because of their sire’s vitae!”

“Very flattering, Mr. Savoy,” answers Roderick. His tone is milder, though that’s about all that can be said for it. “Did you have further business you wished to discuss?”

“I don’t believe so, Mr. Durant. You are free to leave and may consider your boon repaid.” Savoy motions with a hand.

“Good night, then.” Roderick rises from his chair. “Come on, Celia.”

Celia: That’s it?

That can’t be it.

Was she supposed to step in? Do something else? Speak up about Harrah’s or Carolla?

She hesitates, looking to her grandsire. Why had he asked her here for this? Why call in a boon on… on that?

GM: :: Go on, my dear. It’s a better look if you go with him. ::

:: He’ll think you’re scheming with me if you stay. ::

Celia: She doesn’t do so much as blink.

Celia takes Roderick’s hand once more as she rises from her chair.

“Thank you for your hospitality, Lord Savoy. Madam Preston. Good evening.”

Another curtsy, another incline of her head, and she follows Roderick out.

GM: “Sorry to use your name,” Roderick mutters when they’re in the elevator, giving her hand a squeeze. “But he clearly already knew.”

Celia: “He does,” she says. She doesn’t tell him that Savoy was the one to wake her up after her sire had thrown her out with the trash, or that he had been the introduction to her Requiem.

“They both do. It’s fine. He knows who I am.”

GM: Roderick doesn’t talk until they’re in the car.

“So what’s your read on that?”

“He has an angle. All elders have angles.”

Celia: “I… I don’t know, honestly. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was more than surprised when he offered to help you relocate Dani. I…” she trails off, uncertain. “I thought, maybe, you might be right about him using her as a hostage, and that I was blinded by it, but that… I mean, he didn’t seem interested.”

GM: “His logic makes sense. I wouldn’t be a Quisling.”

“That’s the confounding part. What am I missing?”

“They always have an angle, Celia! I spend enough time with them to know!”

Celia: “Maybe there isn’t,” Celia hedges. “I spend more time around him than you do, and… I can’t think of what he’d gain with that, unless it’s literally what he said.”

GM: “He wants me on his side. He has to be plotting something.”

Celia: “He never plotted with me,” she says quietly. “I just couldn’t work for someone who let a monster like the sheriff have any semblance of power.”

GM: “Of course he wouldn’t plot with you. You have divided loyalties towards me.”

Celia: “No. I mean after my Embrace. Before I even knew you were still around.”

GM: “Maybe I’m not the one who thinks you’re stupid.”

Celia: Celia looks as if he slapped her.

She stares straight ahead at the road.

GM: “Oh my god, Celia! I was not saying you were! You’re not!”

“You had the idea with the shoes and coat. I’m saying maybe he doesn’t see and appreciate that side of you.”

Celia: “Yeah, fashion is so high intellect.”

GM: “It was here. There’s plenty of licks who’d overlook it.”

Celia: “Yeah, well, he’s right you know. About the Mob. Maybe you’re the one that’s stupid since your sire works for someone who supports them.”

GM: “Celia, you realize I wasn’t calling you stupid? That I think you’re smart?” He ignores the bit about his sire.

“I’m saying that maybe he does, because why else wouldn’t he take advantage of your smarts to plot with you?”

Celia: “Why would he? I’m Veronica’s slutty childe. I run a spa. I do makeup. Maybe I’m just a dumb slut and that’s all I’ll ever be good for.”

You stupid, lying, filthy whore.

GM: “Why do you think spas and makeup reflect badly on your intelligence?”

“And you’re not a slut, either. That’s a sexist double standard that doesn’t exist for men.”

Celia: “You’ve said both to me. Or started to, anyway. I guess.” She takes a breath and blows it out noisily.

“It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what they think.” The lie is obvious. She still hasn’t looked back at him. “What do you want to do with Dani, then?”

GM: “Spas and makeup don’t reflect badly on anyone’s intelligence.”

But he lets it drop when she brings up his sister.

“I’d… I’d still like to get her out. But how mad at me is she?”

“Maybe give her a few days to cool off.”

“I still need to work over what Savoy’s angle is. Maybe it’ll come to me then.”

“For now, do you want me with you when you see Benson? I’m already in disguise.”

Celia: “I can talk to Dani, if you want. I don’t know if she’ll leave, not before school, but… I dunno. I wanted you to meet my mom, anyway. Again. Since she’s in on all of this. I think she’d be happy to see you.”

“And… yeah, actually. I was going to ask. We’re meeting in Marigny.”

GM: “Good. Benson’s a Malk. You can never be completely sure with them.”

“That’d be great if you could talk with Dani. Just get her less angry at me, if she still is.”

“I’d be happy to see your mom, too.”

Celia: “You don’t think you’re going to get picked up as like an illegal or something with that face, do you?”

GM: “There’s lots of unknown licks in the city. Being with you also vouches for my presence.”

“Too bad we can’t hide I’m a lick. That’d be even better.”

Celia: “…we could.”

GM: “Oh, how?”

Celia: “Could ask the doc to mark you.”

GM: “Didn’t know they could do that. Do you think it’s worth a boon?”

Celia: “Usually. She already did the masks for you.”

GM: “Sure, it’s just a separate service. But if you think it’s worth it, okay.”

“Mainly worried if we can grab her on notice this short.”

Celia: “I can send her by, if you want. I have to meet with someone about erasing some memories, I can hit her up then.”

GM: “For your mom? Smart.”

“But okay, text me where and when to meet if you’re able to grab her.”

Celia: “No… my mom is… not for my mom.”

GM: “Oh, I presumed it was the erasures we talked about.”

Celia: "The ghouls. Did we?

GM: “Yeah, remember? Either way, it’s a good idea.”

Celia: “I thought you meant erasing my mom’s.”

GM: “We talked about the problems with that too.”

“Anyway. Hope this is someone you trust. Ghouls, at least, work for you.”

Celia: “I do. With my mom, I do.”

GM: “I’d still like to do dinner with my dad. You can ask Dani to reschedule it. It’s been years since I was in the same room as him.”

Celia: “Do you like the face? Or do you want me to have her change it?”

“You can wear it to dinner.”

GM: “It’s a good face. But it wouldn’t hurt to change. Plenty of eyes who saw us in the Evergreen.”

“Especially if I don’t register as a vampire in Marigny.”

“Yes, then definitely change it. Keep things consistent.”

Celia: “Okay.”

GM: “Face #1 is a vampire, face #2 isn’t.”

Celia: “I’ll see what she can do. She might ask what you want when she visits, then.”

GM: “Okay. Good luck with getting those memories erased.”

Celia: “Thanks.”

She pauses.

“Sorry I got mad. I know you don’t think I’m stupid.”

GM: “It’s okay. And we know both know you’re not.”

At least for now.

But the future draws steadily closer, one light rolling past the side mirror at a time.


Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM

GM: Pete is not present at the Evergreen when Jade stops by. Mélissaire says she will inform the warden that Jade wanted to see him.

“Lord Savoy will be available at 4 AM to speak with Miss Melton, too, if you’re already swinging back,” smiles the ghoul.

Celia: “Perfect. Thank you, Mélissaire. And thank you for the other night. I was able to figure things out with my new ghoul.”

GM: “Oh, very good,” smiles Savoy’s herald. “I’m sure it was hard, at first.”

Celia: More than she knows.

GM: “Feel free to send her by if you’d like me to show her the ropes.”

Celia: “What all would that entail with her?”

GM: “Oh, it could be similar to my time with you. Explaining things, but also more hands-on. It could also involve taking her to meet other ghouls, testing her behavior, and rewarding or punishing her responses to show that the system you’ve introduced her to exists across larger Kindred society.”

“Helping her to find her place and understand what it means to be a ghoul.”

Celia: Celia nods.

“I’ll let you know. Thank you.”

GM: “You’re very welcome, ma’am. See you soon,” the ghoul smiles.

Celia: Celia wishes her a good evening and heads out. She sends Roderick a text to meet her “friend” at Celia’s place, where he’d met Dani earlier, and helps herself to some supplies from the Red Room while she’s already there speaking with Mel.

GM: If she doesn’t take them, they’ll just go to the Boggs.

Truth may come out, but all evidence of darker deeds goes away sooner or later.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: The 2 AM meeting with Elyse is at Crescent Park. It’s a thin but long stretch of landscaping, bike paths, and multi-use pavillions that overlook the Mississippi River. The midnight black river stretches across to poverty-stricken Algiers, where so many fewer lights shine. Rain steadily patters against the homeless’ dirty tents.

Jade sees Elyse staring out over the waterfront, clad in a thick coat with fur trim. Key holds an umbrella over her head. He holds Princess in his other arm. A station wagon is parked nearby.

Jade doesn’t think she’s ever seen the Malkavian outdoors before. Her porcelain-pale, doll-like features are utterly still, and her unblinking eyes cool and hard like glass.

The same eyes that so coolly and methodically clipped a ballerina’s wings and extinguished her fire.

It looks strange to see her outside. One does not take dolls outside.

Celia: Jade knows that Roderick, now masked and veiled, is close enough to intervene should she need him to. It’s that thought that brings her comfort this evening; though she had beaten Elyse prior when it was just the two of them, she knows that the Malkavian have the same sort of veiling power that she does; there could be any number of them lying in wait for her and she’ll never know.

Perhaps Roderick isn’t enough.

But no, she can’t think that way. She has to trust that the pair of boons she offered her former friend is enough to see her through this evening, at least.

She dressed for the city’s eternal rain, a black overcoat keeping the worst of it from her face and hair and a pair of waterproof boots preventing her from sinking into the mud.

She approaches Elyse with her hands at her side, all the better to show that she is unarmed. As if their kind need weapons to do damage. She halts some feet away.

“Good evening, Lady Interpreter. Thank you for meeting with me.”

GM: “A doll asked, Miss Kalani, and for a doll I came,” answers the Malkavian.

Rain patters against Elyse’s umbrella.

“I had thought we shared the same vision. You are flawless in appearance, but I see now that you are flawless in appearance only.”

Celia: Jade accepts the rebuff silently. She bows her head, eyes dropping to the ground before lifting back to Elyse’s face.

“I would ask that you allow me an opportunity to apologize and speak to you as to what happened. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation for my actions that evening.”

“I lost control, Lady Interpreter. I had thought, many years ago, that I mastered by Beast and would not be caught by it unawares. Please know that I would never willingly hurt you or anyone you call yours. I was deeply, deeply pained by what I realized I had done to you, and I sought to rectify the situation as immediately as I could.”

GM: “Yet lose control you did, Miss Kalani, and what could have so provoked your Beast in my home I cannot fathom. I had hoped a film viewing of one of my finest dolls would be an occasion of joy and celebration between friends.”

“I had even thought to find another ballerina that we might mold into a doll together.”

Celia: “It would have been, Lady Interpreter, were it any other doll. The one you showed me hit… close to home.”

GM: The Malkavian’s glassy eyes regard her with the same placid, glassy stare of any doll’s.

Celia: “When I met Lucy,” she begins slowly, “I told you that I was reminded of someone I knew. That I knew another Lucy. It was more than the name, Lady Interpreter; the doll itself was familiar to me.”

Celia: “You are familiar with the pawn who manages my salon, Lady Interpreter, and you know that her mother is Grace. Diana Flores, formerly married to Maxen Flores, a current state senator. I mentioned that she no longer dances without pain. What I did not say was how I knew.”

“Their daughter and I are close. Were close, even when I still drew breath. I have spun a tale about being from another city, but I grew up in New Orleans. We attended the same school, though I changed my face and name when I became this.”

Jade pauses for one brief moment.

“I was there the night her husband tried to take her leg.”

“I heard her screams.”

“I heard her beg him to stop.”

“I heard the wet, ragged gasps and her hand striking the floor.”

“I heard her dreams die.”

“And I heard her fall silent.”

Jade, too, falls silent.

GM: The rain continues to fall.

Elyse’s doll-like face remains placid and still. Don’t show emotion. Don’t cry or get mad. Dolls just look pretty.

Its leg, Miss Kalani,” Elyse corrects.

Celia: “Its leg,” Jade echoes.

“It no longer dances like it once did. That evening put an end to such things. But it teaches.”

“My clan, as you know, pride ourselves as artists. But makeup has not won me any accolades among the guilds, and I cannot reveal the true nature of my craft; very few know of my abilities beyond that of a brush.”

Elyse is one of those few. One of the very few who know what Jade can do with the flesh.

“I have recently taken on a new ghoul. A dancer, one that has been training her whole life for an opportunity like this. Ballet is a respected art form; though not my own, I wanted to show off the dancer’s skill at an upcoming fete and be recognized vicariously. Grace is overseeing the training.”

Jade dips her head once more.

“While the video you showed me was moving, educational, transformation, while the process employed within was a true work of art, I saw something that I had been planning for a long while come crashing down if Grace were to be brought back to what it was rather than what it has become. You have allowed me to keep tabs on some of the dolls that have been released over the years; I believe that the early release has allowed Grace to find an elegance in dance that it might not otherwise possess, and I feared that it would be stripped of such.”

“It would no longer be useful. It would no longer serve its purpose.”

GM: Elyse receives this same news placidly.

“An old dancing doll is an estimable teacher for a new dancing doll.”

“Yet I do not share your final assessment, Miss Kalani, that Grace’s early release allowed it to better fulfill its purpose. Key ordered Grace to return to the Wedding Cake House. It has failed to do so. I believe now that insufficient polish was applied: it is in need of care and maintenance.”

Celia: “It failed to do so because I prevented it from doing so.”

GM: “It is not my Beast, Miss Kalani, that dolls need fear.”

Celia: “I have never thought so. I have often brought my dolls to you for maintenance as needed.”

GM: Rain continues to patter over the umbrella. Key blinks, but his mistress does not.

“Fear motivated your Beast to snap its leash, Miss Kalani. Very well.”

A low moan sounds from one of the homeless tents.

“What would you see become of our association now?”

Celia: “My Requiem has been improved for your presence within it. I will not speak for you, but I would like to think that my services provided to your business have been consequential in the uptick of clients you have taken with improved turnaround time due to the increased speed of physical modifications.”

Jade can do nothing now but ask.

“Prior to this slip, we worked very well together. I have offered you two boons. Further, I am willing to take precautions to see that nothing of the sort happens again should you desire it before you allow me back within your workshop unfettered. I am also willing to pay the full toll for my presence within the domain.”

“I cannot ask you to trust me, or to pick up where we were with no regard to what occurred. I understand that such a thing is a tall order and that words and explanations alone may not forgive past sins. But I am willing to do what it takes, Lady Interpreter, to fix my mistake and offer recompense.”

GM: The doll-like Malkavian evinces no apparent reaction to Jade’s words. She does not sniff or cry, like a bereaved friend might. Dolls don’t cry. She does not look angry. She does not look hopeful. Her porcelain face remains a mask of placid stillness.

Dolls don’t have feelings.

“Very well, Miss Kalani,” answers Elyse. “You are correct that past sins cannot be forgiven through words alone. Though your loss of control demonstrates you may be further from perfection than I had believed, perfection’s road is long and arduous. I am willing to walk it alongside you.”

Celia: “Thank you, Lady Interpreter. With your guidance I will move ever closer to that goal.”

GM: The rain continues to pitter-pat against the umbrella.

“I will not ask that you render me any boons for seeking perfection, but Regent Donovan’s toll for your presence is now yours to pay.”

Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. I will see that it is done.”

GM: “You may also not, for your own safety, yet return to the Wedding Cake House.”

Celia: She gives a slight nod at the words.

“Yes, Lady Interpreter. I will wait until you send for me. Would… an apology to those within assist matters at all?”

“I have also heard that you are soon to be ordained. I would like to offer my congratulations.”

She knows better than to gush to Elyse; this is not the type of lick to squeal in joy or accept a hug.

GM: “Thank you, Miss Kalani,” Elyse answers tranquilly. “I am pleased that others within the city wish my assistance in achieving perfection.”

“An apology to those within my home will not assist. Dolls do not feel emotions. But when they do, their emotions are to ours as porcelain is to flesh. Hard and enduring.”

“I am not willing to enter the French Quarter. You had spoken earlier of opening a second location for Flawless.”

Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. I have been looking into locations. The political climate makes it difficult, but there is a building near your home that might serve. I have not yet broached the topic with Regent Donovan.”

GM: “Though I do not speak for my regent, I do not believe he would be amenable to such an arrangement, Miss Kalani.”

“Faubourg Marigny, however, is open to those Kindred who do not wish to associate themselves with Mr. Savoy.”

Celia: “No. I don’t imagine that he would.”

He has no reason to say yes to her.

“Wise, Lady Interpreter. I had thought it too close to my current location, but I see the merit in such a locale.”

GM: “It would please me to work upon Grace and the new dancing doll in such a location.”

Celia: “I will speak to Regent Sundown to see what sort of accommodation can be made.”

GM: “Very good, Miss Kalani.” She turns to Key.

With no small inconvenience, the ghoul lifts his knee, carefully balances Princess upon it, and removes his coat with one hand while standing on one foot, straining to hold the umbrella above his mistress all the while.

Elyse makes no move to help him. There is a stillness and predatory cast to her features that reminds Jade of the one she wore while watching Grace put its clothes back on.

Watching for a mistake.

Waiting for a mistake.

Sweat beads Key’s brow as the ghoul strains to accomplish his tasks.

It’s too much. He wavers. Just like that, Princess slides off his raised knee.

Jade quickly catches the doll before she can land on the wet grass.

Key hurriedly removes his coat and offers it to wrap Princess in, as shelter from the rain.

But his domitor’s eyes are cold indeed.

Celia: Jade has no sympathy for Key. Not now.

But she accepts the coat to keep Princess dry, securing the doll within its folds.

GM: “Good night, Miss Kalani,” says Elyse.

Celia: “Good night, Lady Interpreter.”


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: “She’s sick,” says Roderick after they’re back in her car.

Celia: Celia just nods.

“How much of that did you hear?”

GM: “I heard her call your mom an ‘it’ enough times.”

Celia: Nothing else, hopefully. It was a risk bringing him. But better to have him than not.

“Yeah,” Celia sighs. “I like her suggestion for Marigny but there’s no way in hell she’s getting her hands on my mom.”

GM: “Small comfort to the other women she gets her hands on.”

Celia: “I can’t save everyone.” The words are bitter. She doesn’t like the judgment from him.

GM: “Why associate with her?”

Celia: “Why associate with any lick? They’re all assholes. It’s our society now, and I’d rather know what they’re getting up to than be taken by surprise.”

GM: “They aren’t all assholes. Some are better than others.”

“I try to be. I still call breathers ‘he’ and ‘she.’”

Celia: Celia doesn’t bother explaining that to him. He’d just think it’s worse if he knew the truth of what Elyse does to her dolls.

“Malkavian,” is all she says.

GM: “Some are better than others too. Lestrange is all right. Ditto Larsen and McCandles.”

Celia: “They seem to be, yeah. Everyone keeps saying that the older we get the worse we’ll get. I hope they’re not right.”

“I thought of something you could do for Dani, by the way, if you want to help her out a bit.”

GM: “Lestrange is moderately old. And among the real elders… well, you already know what I think of my sire.”

Celia: The sun shines out of her ass.

GM: “Miss Opal cares a lot about her descendants. Less so mortals, but I guess that’s something.”

“Accou… can be pragmatic, and can hold a grudge, but could be worse.”

“Maldonato’s more than I want to get into here.”

“Steinhäusser, though, is a monster, and Pearl doesn’t seem to feel anything for anyone.”

“Some of them retain more of themselves as they age than others.”

Celia: “A monster?” Celia echoes.

GM: “My god, yes. You know she was a fan of Hitler’s?”

Celia: “I didn’t, no. Hasn’t come up at our weekly tea parties.”

GM: “She has enough sense not to bring it up in public. But she thinks he could have been a great leader if he’d been ‘less greedy,’ and that Germany would be a nation ‘worth being proud of’ if the Third Reich was still in charge.”

Celia: “I think Logan wrote a paper like that once. Something about comparing him to Jesus. Both charismatic leaders, et cetera. He explained it to me once but I kind of tuned it out.”

GM: “Yeah, I guess it’s no surprise there.” Roderick sounds disgusted.

“I have relatives who fought in World War II. If there was ever such a thing as a good war, that was it.”

Celia: “He was a kid,” Celia says quietly, “I’m trying to work with him so he’s not… like that anymore.”

GM: “I hope you succeed. But you were saying about Dani?”

Celia: “Since you’re disguised and smell mortal, maybe you can get her stuff for her from her apartment. I was going to go, but I’m kind of nervous about being picked up.”

GM: “Sure. You have her keys?”

Celia: “Yeah.” Celia fishes through her purse for the keyring Dani had given her the other night. She’s glad she asked in advance. She gives him the address.

“Maybe take a Ryde? So they don’t recognize your car.”

“She’s looking for her laptop, school books, some clothes…” Celia gives him the list of things Dani wanted.

GM: “Good idea.” He listens to the list. “All right. I’ll pick those up.”

“What do you think of me dropping them off with her tonight as a goodwill gesture?”

Celia: “I can ask if she’d like to see you.”

GM: “I had no idea she’d be so angry.”

“But I guess… maybe I should have.”

Celia: “She’s had a really rough time of it. Her Embrace… went poorly, from what she says.”

“And then finding out everything else… it’s a lot. Give her some time.”

GM: “I just wanted to help her. And to let her know I wasn’t dead.”

Celia: “I know. She’ll come around.”

“It’ll be okay, Roderick. We’ll figure out the best thing for her and for you and make sure she gets it.”

She doesn’t push to see if he’s decided on a course of action, but the look she gives him suggests curiosity.

GM: Roderick rubs his head. “I hope so. I’m still… figuring things out.”

“I feel like I don’t have to try to drag her out of the city immediately, after talking to Savoy. That’s a relief, with how mad she is. But I can’t get comfortable either. He’s working some kind of angle with this.”

“It’s so twisted how she actually feels safer in the Quarter than Mid-City right now.”

He effects a sigh.

“I’ll let you know when I’ve got her stuff, anyways. That’s at least one thing I can do that feels right.”


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: After parting ways, Jade drives back to the brothers’ house. This late in the AM, Alana, Diana, and Lucy are all asleep. Dani is still up and watching TV.

The brothers, though, don’t need as much sleep. All of them are still awake.

As is their guest.

Jade finds the thin-blood trussed up in the bathroom tub, wrists cuffed to the faucets just like hers had previously been.

“In case things get messy,” says Reggie with a mean smile.

The thin-blood looks worse than last time. They have a broken nose caked with dried blood, and the bathroom’s lights harshly illuminate their scabbed-over, pasty skin. They smell bad up close in the confined area.

“Hey, lady lick,” swallows the thin-blood, “I gave you good info, din’t I, Sidra was in Marigny, I swear she was…”

Celia: “You did,” Jade allows. Her smile isn’t quite so mean as Reggie’s, but there’s a feral edge to it all the same. “Which I paid you for. And then I came back to give you the rest of the money, as I said I would, but couldn’t find you.”

She taps a finger against her chin.

“Why was that, again? Oh. You were busy breaking into my business.”

GM: “Eh heh, eh heh, hey, just tryin’ to survive, maybe I jus’ answer all your questions an’ we call it even…?”

The thin-blood offers a desperate smile.

Celia: “Oh.” Jade feigns surprise and relief. “Yeah, actually, that’d be great.”

GM: Reggie and Randy stay in the room or stand guard outside, as desired.

“Great! Ask, ask away, lady!” the thin-blood nods eagerly.

Celia: “Why did you break in?”

GM: “Ah, I got paid to, lady. Paid to plant the bug.”

Celia: “By whom?”

GM: “I don’t know, lady, sorry, they hid their face, bulky clothes, I couldn’ really tell… didn’ really care, they paid me to, tha’s all… just money, nothin’ personal…”

Celia: Jade effects a sigh. She glances at Reggie, then Randy, then finally back to the thin-blood.

“See, I need a better answer than that.”

GM: “I, ah, they was a vampire, lady, how’s that…?”

Celia: “There are a lot of vampires in the city.”

GM: “Right, right, but they wanted to spy, that was clear, real clear, they said to plant the bug in the boss’ office, where Jade would prob’ly be…”

Celia: “Male? Female?”

“Where and how did they contact you?”

GM: “Like I said, lady, bulky clothes, I couldn’ tell… but the voice was, maybe a low girl, average guy?”

Celia: “That’s not very helpful.”

GM: “Ah, I don’ think they trusted me, lady, this was just business… they came up to me, when I was feedin’, passed me the bug, said to break in, give me a lil’ money, said there’d be more when I came back, when the bug was in, an’ said they’d, ah, kill me if I tried to lie…”

“You probably would’ve,” says Reggie.

“You’d have done fuck-all with the bug, come back and said you planted it, get a nice payday.”

“Eh heh, eh heh, just tryin’ to survive… don’t want to cross nobody if I don’ have to… nothin’ personal…”

Celia: “It’s very personal, you see. You spied on my business and you won’t tell me who for.”

“And you’re giving me very little to go on.”

GM: “I wish I knew, lady, honest! They didn’ trust me!”

“Gosh, why wouldn’t they,” remarks Randy.

“Who knows, bro, fine upstanding… chap, like this,” smiles Reggie, clapping the thin-blood on the shoulder. They wince and then give a trembling smile at the contact.

Reggie sniffs his hand, then washes it in the sink.

“C’mon, lady, I know what I know, I’ll answer anythin’ you want, honest…”

Celia: “Specifics. Where. What time. Where did you meet afterward. How many bugs.”

GM: “Ah, Rampart Street, lady,” the thin-blood rattles off the nearest address, “woulda been… lesse, roun’ 4 AM, yesterday… jus’ that one bug…”

“Oh! I can tell you where to find ’em, where they wanna meet me next, how be that? I tell you where, you let me go? Swear?”

Celia: “When and where, and I swear I’ll let you go.”

Celia: “I’d also like to know why you’re meeting them again if you already planted the bug.”

GM: “Saturday, lady, 3 AM…” The thin-blood rattles off another Rampart Street address, close to the border with Treme.

Celia: “Why,” she prompts again.

GM: “They didn’ say, lady, but maybe if the bug’s good, they want me to do another job…?”

Celia: She has no desire to wait a week to figure out who now knows about her.

GM: “Ah, wait, wait, they could do sooner…!” the thin-blood exclaims.

Celia: “And how on earth are you to contact them if you don’t know who they are?”

GM: “Ah, well, there ways, lady, there ways… they, ah, they say I get paid less, if I do sooner… but I spray an ‘X’ on the door, earlier… they be there soon…”

“They want me to work for ‘em, see? They think I’ll find, some good shit?”

“You want, I can be your inside… you pay me, I’ll meet ‘em, I’ll tell ’em what you want me to tell…?”

“They didn’t want the bug traced to ‘em, lady, they thought you’d try that… so I heard what’s on, an’ I pass on to them what I heard, thas’ how it works… I can tell ‘em, anythin’ you want, anythin’ at all…”

“All they know goes through me, see? I can help you!”

Celia: “So the bug goes back to your haven,” Jade muses, “and you pass it on to our mysterious would-be friend.”

GM: “Ah, yeah, lady, I hear whas’ on it, I pass on to ’em,” the thin-blood nods.

“Like I say… I’ll tell ’em whatever you want, spin any story… how they gonna know!”

Celia: “Tell me where the other part of the device is.”

GM: “Ah, think can you untie me, lady…? My arms’re gettin’ all sore…”

Celia: “No.”

GM: The thin-blood looks across the three unfriendly faces.

“Ah, okay, lady, okay, the receiver… I don’t have a haven, an’ people steal shit off me, so I buried it… Woldenberg Park…”

They describe a tree where it’s buried.

Celia: Jade nods to the two boys.

“They’ll go get it. You’ll summon your friend. Everything checks out, I’ll let you go.”

GM: “Oh, eh heh, I forgot, that ain’ where I put it, thas’ where I buried some other shit…” The thin-blood offers a weak smile.

Celia: Jade only smiles.

GM: The thin-blood describes another hiding spot much closer to Flawless.

“Right,” says Reggie. “If this doesn’t pan out I’m breaking more bones.”

“Honest, man, it will! Swear!” exclaims the thin-blood.

Celia: “We’ll see soon enough.”

“While they’re getting that, why don’t you and I have a little chat about how you can make yourself useful to me.”

“And how I can be benevolent in return.”

GM: “See you soon, babe,” says Randy.

“Make sure you don’t breathe any closer to this thing,” advises Reggie. He gives her rear a squeeze when his brother can’t see.

The thin-blood nods eagerly. “Whatever you say, lady lick! Anythin’ you want!”

Celia: Jade winks at Reggie on his way out the door. She locks it behind them, then turns to the thin-blood.

“Let’s get you cleaned up a little, hm?”

Jade rises to find a wash cloth and a bar of soap. She looks at the rags the thing is wearing and tuts, then starts to remove the stained garments.

“I don’t normally offer sponge baths to duskborn,” she tells the thing, “but I can’t let you up just yet. Hope you understand.”

GM: “Ah, sure, lady lick, sure!” nods the thin-blood. “I know you’re benev’lent, an’ can be a real badass too! Ain’ nobody who mess with you!”

Celia: “You had a wound on your hands when I saw you last,” Jade says idly as the clothes come off. She disposes of them. “Are you getting enough to eat?”

“For the mending,” she clarifies.

GM: The thin-blood has no underwear on over their small breasts and penis. Their dark skin has darker splotches and more bruises, some fresher than others. They don’t look (or smell) like they’ve had a shower in weeks.

“Ah, not really, lady lick, it real hard, in the Quarter, real hard…” the thin-blood says.

“But it worse outside…”

Celia: Jade tuts again at the state of the body.

“Can I wash your hair?”

“Who gave those to you? The bruises.”

GM: “Ah, sure, lady, an’ a lotta places, lady, I don’ rem’ber all… other licks, other guys… get ’em everywhere…”

Celia: Jade makes a sound that might be sympathetic. She turns the water on in the tub, letting it begin to fill, and checks to make sure the temperature is okay for the thing. It’s sort of like bathing Lucy. She starts to wash it, her touch gentle enough: gliding, stroking, ridding it of accumulated filth and debris with her palms and fingertips. It’s relaxing, that touch, the sort of technique she uses at the spa with her clients in the Vichy shower. That’s all this is, really. A modified spa technique.

She reaches out with her gift, searching for the connection between the pair. Her voice, when she speaks again, suggests tranquility and understanding.

“How much did you hear from the bug?”

GM: The thin-blood tenses under Jade’s touch, like a repeatedly struck animal expecting to be struck again, even as her gentle touch and the warm water settle in.

Then, just like that, all of the tension dissipates.

“Heard you talkin’ with your mom…” murmurs the thin-blood.

“Jade and Celia, secret identities…”

“Mom’ gettin’ one too…”

“Heard you spankin’ each other…”

“That was, ah, kinda fucked…”

“You a split personality…?”

Celia: “It was fucked,” Jade agrees pleasantly. She uses one hand to rinse the dirty soap off the thing’s body while the other lathers and massages, keeping it light and sensual. The soap and water clear away the worst of the dirt and grime, and her touch helps alleviate the tension it might feel, both physical and mental.

“I am,” she confirms. “Not many people know. Did you tell anyone yet? Sell that information to someone?”

GM: “Oh, that… that real good…” murmurs the thin-blood tranquilly.

“But no, I didn’, I don’ really know anyone who’d want it…”

“I don’ know many licks… full licks, like you…”

“I bet the guy who gave me the bug wants it… but I tell ’em what you want…”

“I could tell ‘em you have a hundred personalities… or jus’ one…”

“Lesse… also heard you talkin’ about a Maxen, Dani, Lucy…”

Celia: “That’s really helpful,” Jade says to it. Her tone is light but encouraging, echoing the movement of her hands. “I know we got off on the wrong foot,” she continues, “and I’m sorry about that. My boys are a little over-protective. The personalities, you know, it’s hard to manage, and they just want to keep me safe.”

Her hands slide up the back of the thin-blood’s neck to begin the work on the scalp, first dipping it back into the accumulated water and then lathering shampoo to wash its hair. She uses the tips of her nails lightly on the scalp itself; the feeling, she knows from experience, is second to none. Sometimes she just asks Alana to wash her hair when she wants to unwind.

“The person who contacted you didn’t tell you anything about what they wanted with me?”

GM: The thin-blood gives a little gasp-sigh noise of pleasure, closes their eyes, and sinks back against the tub.

“Oh, that… that feel real good, lady… real lady…”

“They didn’… I don’ think they trusted me… ‘s hard, you know, I don’ got much… I never have… I been… I been shit on my whole life, you know? I ain’ tryin’ to hurt nobody… just tryin’ to make it another night…”

“I… ain’ felt this good in a long time, lady… long, long time…”

Some pinkish tears squeeze from the thin-blood’s eyes.

“They, they all look at me like trash, or… worse…”

“I… I had a guy, who fucked me, one time, and when he was… he spat on me, when he was done… spat in my eyes…”

Celia: Jade quietly listens to the thin-blood’s story. She rinses its hair when its time for her to do so, using a hand to prevent the water from running forward into its eyes. Gently, she wipes the tears away with the pad of her thumb, crooning softly at it as if it were a wounded animal and she its caretaker.

“I’m sorry,” she finally murmurs, reaching for the bottle of conditioner, “I knew it was rough, but not… not like that. How long have you been..?”

GM: “I… I don’ know… lady… I don’ know when I, when I turned… lotsa… lotsa days a blur… lotsa days, I jus’ feel sick, strung out, shit, can barely… I don’, I don’ know how long I been this… I don’ even fuckin’ know…”

The thin-blood melts under her touch. More pinkish tears trickle into the tub.

“I… I ain’ got nobody… nobody who care, if I live, die… nobody… who give a shit… "

“I jus’… I jus’ want someone, f’ once, who give a shit… that all…”

Celia: She rinses its hair again, the strands smoother than she imagines they have been in a long time. Silky, like the conditioner promises. Randy had been using one of those two-in-one deals when they’d first gotten together, but Celia had quickly put an end to that.

There’s a facial wash, too, and she applies a liberal amount into her hands that she then uses on its skin, making long, sweeping gestures up from the neck, across the jaw, circles around the cheek, the nose, the orbital bones. She’s careful not to get it in its eyes.

Despite herself, something tugs at her heart strings.

This is what Dani has to look forward to.

This is what she has to look forward to once her family dies. Isolation. No one giving a shit.

No one deserves this.

“What about before? Your life prior?”

GM: The thin-blood isn’t beautiful by any stretch. There’s a starved and desperate look to the facial features that Celia suspects will never go away. They look naked and vulnerable, far more so than from their actual nudity, with the grime and filth scrubbed off.

“’Is the same life…” mumbles the thin-blood. “Ain’ really diff’rent… stay in the Quarter now, don’ go here, don’ go there… same shit…”

“I didn’ have a life… I didn’ have nobody who cared… got kicked out…”

“Fuck ‘em… s’all they wanted to do, anyway…”

“Hell, you know, I thought… when you was beatin’ your mom… I’d love to be her… ’cuz… you cared…”

Celia: Jade is gentle with the rest of the thin-blood’s body. She keeps her touch soft across the breast tissue, though she’s thorough with the cleaning, and again between the legs. She murmurs a quiet apology for the invasion of privacy.

“It’s hard,” she agrees after a while, “this life. Unlife. The Requiem. More so for you, I imagine, for so many reasons. What did you do before? What would you want to do now? If I could offer you safety, security, food. What would you want to do?”

GM: “I… I don’ know, lady, I ain’ had that shit… all I done is try to s’vive…”

Celia: “You broke into my place pretty handily. Do you do that often?”

GM: “If I got… yeah… I gotta eat, I gotta get shit…”

Celia: “What about if you weren’t worried about your nightly survival?”

GM: “I already lost all the fuckin’ money you gave me…”

“I… I donno, lady, I always have…”

“Even back at the home… they was shitty there… you always on your own…”

Celia: “And you promise me,” Jade says to it as she finishes the final rinse with clean, warm water, “you promise me that no one else knows what you found out from the bug? That you haven’t spoken to anyone? Because I… I feel for you. I do. I have a friend like you. Duskborn. And a person who works for me, like you, between genders. So if you told someone already, that’s okay, I just need to know so I can fix it before my family gets hurt, and then maybe you and I can work something out.”

“For you. For your future.”

“So you don’t have to struggle night to night just to survive.”

“So you can get a leg up.”

GM: “I, I swear, lady!” exclaims the thin-blood. “I, I tried to get to the Evergreen, to sell it, but they wouldn’ let me in… ain’ nobody who knows but me… I won’ tell nobody else…”

Celia: Jade nods her head at that.

“Okay. I’m going to get you some clean clothes. Do you want to soak for a bit while I do?”

GM: “Ye… yes, please, lady…”

This is what she has to look forward to.

Well, not quite.

At last she won’t need someone else’s permission to soak.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: Celia finds Dani in the living room as she leaves the bathroom, now playing Xbox.

“Hey, question.”

Celia: “Shoot.”

GM: “There’s, ah, someone in Reggie’s bedroom who looks in pretty bad shape.”

Celia: “The homeless-looking one?”

GM: “Homeless?” frowns Dani.

“No, she doesn’t look homeless. Just… miserable.”

Celia: “Oh. Mabel. Yes.”

GM: “And pretty pale.”

“I didn’t even know she was here until tonight.”

Celia: Does she still look pale? Celia doesn’t remember taking that much from her.

“She lost her domitor.”

GM: “I don’t think your mom knows she’s here, either.”

Celia: “No, she doesn’t.”

GM: “Reggie wanted us to stay out of his room.”

“But he’s a douchebag, so fuck him.”

Celia: “Mm. Generally there are rules like that for a reason, though. That order came from me.”

“It was also given to him to keep him from coercing you up there.”

GM: “Well, thanks for that, at least.” Dani gives a sigh. “She looked like she could really use a friend, though.”

“I tried to comfort her but she kinda pushed me away.”

Celia: “I hope you didn’t tell her much.”

“I haven’t decided what is going to be done with her, yet. She’s been through a lot.”

GM: “Just that my name was Danielle and I was staying here for now.”

“She wasn’t talkative. She said she wanted to go back to sleep so she could dream about Evan.”

“She’s really messed up, Celia.”

Celia: “I know,” Celia sighs. “Evan is missing. Dead. People have been looking for him, but he’s… I mean, that’s why I went to see the fortune teller.”

GM: “Evan is another lick?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “Ah, right. Because he was her domitor.”

“I feel bad for her. But I’m not sure what I can do.”

Celia: “Honestly? Not a lot, I don’t think. I’m looking into Evan’s disappearance, but no one seems to know much of anything. Be there for her if she wants to talk, but… she’s really broken up about it.”

GM: “He must’ve been really important to her.”

“Is that how it is with all ghouls?”

Celia: “Some more so than others. He seemed to treat her well. Like a mother, but… uh, with sex as well.”

GM: “Uh, you don’t have sex with your mother.”

Celia: “She’s not his real mom.”

GM: “Well, whatever made them happy, I guess.”

“It obviously did for her to be this broken up over it.”

“Is there anything I can do right now? I’m mostly just killing time, now that Lucy, Alana, and your mom are all in bed.” Dani gestures at the Xbox.

Celia: “I saw your brother earlier tonight. He offered to go into Riverbend to get your things for you. Would you like to see him, or should I tell him to just drop them off?”

GM: Dani purses her lips.

Celia: “You’re allowed to say no.”

GM: “How was he?”

Celia: “He’s…” Celia trails off. “You asked me not to lie to you, so I won’t.”

“He said that he didn’t realize you’d be so angry. He’s worried. He’s still planning on taking you out of the city.”

GM: Dani glares.

“Is he sorry?”

Celia: “He just kept saying that isn’t how it was supposed to go.”

GM: “So, what, he wasn’t sorry?”

She makes a huffing sound.

“That’s so him.”

Celia: “He’s very self-righteous, Dani.”

“I love him, I do, but he’s stubborn and pig-headed sometimes and it makes me want to scream.”

“And he’s just obsessed with his sire and how amazing she is and she’s the one who set up the entire murder of duskborn that I told you about, and I just don’t understand it.”

GM: “Oh my god, I forgot all about that. That his sire was the one.”

Celia: “Probably for the best. I doubt he’d be happy I told you.”

GM: “You should be honest about that. He likes honesty. We all do.”

Celia: “Dani, the last time I was honest with him about something like that he beat the fuck out of me.”

GM: “I’m sorry, there’s just been so much to process lately. When was it he abused you there?”

Celia: “Which time?”

GM: “Oh my god,” Dani mutters, pressing her palm to her forehead.

“Okay, you know, I don’t want to see him.”

Celia: Celia makes a face, as if she realizes what she’s just done.

“I… okay. I won’t push it. I was hoping to introduce him to my mom now that she’s in the know. And bring him for dinner with your dad. But if you don’t want me to do that, I won’t.”

GM: Dani sighs.

“Well, I guess I can’t avoid him forever.”

Celia: “Take some time, process how you’re feeling. I’ll let him down easy.”

GM: “But… Jesus, Celia, he hits you!”

Celia: “I… well, last time he just destroyed my haven.”

GM: “Oh, I guess that’s so much better.”

“I still remember him explaining it as a ‘genetic disorder.’”

Celia: “I know. I…” Celia trails off, looking down at her hands. “I keep wondering if I’m turning into my mom. He’s only done it a few times, but I keep making excuses…”

GM: “Is that even remotely true?”

Celia: “It’s not not true. The Brujah have a hairpin trigger. They run hot. Any little thing will set them off. I recognized it in him last night, when he was coming at you after he threw you around. That’s why I got in the middle.”

GM: “I don’t understand that. All Brujah ‘run hot?’ What if you’re a calm person before you’re a Brujah?”

Celia: “People say that all of the clans were cursed by Caine. Brujah is anger.”

“They used to be what he talked about, philosopher-kings, but mostly they’re just rebellious assholes anymore.”

GM: “I thought you said Toreador don’t have a curse?”

Celia: “No,” Celia says, “Toreador was given a blessing. So, the way the story goes, Caine sired a handful of childer. And their childer, the thirteen of them, rose up against their sires and killed them. When Caine found out he was mad, so he cursed them all. Except Toreador didn’t join her siblings, she withheld from the violence, so he blessed her instead.”

“It’s all very biblical.”

GM: “But it has some basis in reality, since the rats all look hideous?”

Celia: “Yes.”

“Or, well, maybe they’re that way because they live in the sewers.”

“I’ve been down there. Not pretty.”

GM: “Ugh. I don’t want to meet one.”

“Stephen said you had a… Beast too, though?”

Celia: “I do,” Celia confirms.

“When I’m hungry, when I’m really angry, it comes out.”

GM: “The whole thing kind of sounds like an excuse to me.”

Celia: “It’s about control, really.”

“So, for example, I went to see my mom after everything went down. I was starving. I was injured. And I got hit by the sun.”

“But I still kept it together. I didn’t lose it on her.”

GM: “I mean, when normal people are hungry, we get snappish and irritable and don’t think as clearly. That isn’t unique to vampires.”

Celia: “I know,” Celia says with a forced sigh. “It doesn’t make sense until you feel it. Like an animal inside of you. He is cursed, but it’s… who he is now. There have been a few times I’ve been afraid of saying something to him because I know he doesn’t have the control he needs.”

GM: “That… sounds like an abusive relationship.”

Celia: “He’s supposed to teach me how to fight so we don’t have to worry about it.”

GM: “So, what, you can hit him back if he hits you?”

Celia: “No.”

GM: “That’s, uh…”

Celia: “So I can fend him off.”

GM: “Celia, that’s like… keeping a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, because the gas stove keeps starting fires, instead of fixing the stove.”

“Or ditching it if you can’t fix it.”

Celia: “I love him, Dani,” Celia says helplessly.

GM: “But he hits you. That isn’t love.”

Celia: “We broke up before and it’s… I miss him. I missed him. The whole time. We’ve been through so much together.”

GM: “Well, maybe take a break until he learns to control himself better. Stephen has gotten everything he’s ever wanted in life. Everything. Maybe make him actually work for this.”

“If he really loves you, he’ll make that effort.”

Celia: “I… okay. I’ll talk to him. You’re probably right. I’m blinded by who he used to be, I think.”

GM: Dani nods. “You can tell him this isn’t a breakup. Just a pause until he can fix his problem.”

“Though who knows what the odds of that are.”

Celia: “I don’t know that there’s anyone else in the city I could feel the same way about. We had this whole plan for a life together, we were talking about getting married like normal people do…”

“He found a house for us, even.”

GM: “You were?” Dani looks a little gushy-faced. “I’d love it if that could happen, Celia, if we could be sisters-in-law…”

“But he can’t keep hitting you! That’s not okay. If he wants that wedding, he needs to earn it.”

Celia: “I’ll talk to him,” Celia says again, “and tell him that. Because I’d love for you to be my sister, Dani. It should have happened years ago.”

GM: “It should.” Dani pulls her onto the couch and gives her a hug.

Celia: Celia holds her tight.

“I’m going to send the doc over later to mark you, and to give you a mask so we can create your new identity for licks, okay?”

“Probably close to dawn so she can do my mom, too.”

GM: “Okay. Also, speaking of. Can I go back to school tomorrow?”

“Or rather, today.”

Celia: “As soon as you get the mark, yes.”

“Just make sure you don’t linger after dark.”

“And absolutely no feeding in Riverbend.”

GM: “I won’t. I can leave before dark.”

“You said something about getting a place for me in the Quarter, too?”

Celia: “Yes.”

“Well… Stephen wanted…”

Celia shakes her head.

“It doesn’t matter. Yes.”

GM: “Okay. If it’s trouble, your mom said I could stay with her. When I told her how I couldn’t live in Riverbend.”

Celia: “Oh.”

“Do you want to stay with her?”

GM: “I mean, she’s really nice. But she said Emily doesn’t know, and I’d still be falling asleep as soon as school was over.”

Celia: “Emily doesn’t know,” Celia confirms, “and I don’t want her brought into this. If you want to stay there temporarily, you can. The place you were at before was… compromised, unfortunately. I kind of trust the guy who found out about it, but you never know.”

Trusted him enough to tell him she’s a night doc, anyway. And he already knows about Dani.

“I’ll get some funds together and we’ll get you your own place.”

“Maybe that can be part of Stephen’s penance.” Celia winks.

GM: “You know, that sounds very appropriate,” Dani says approvingly. “Yes. I felt a little bad freeloading off of you, that was one of the reasons I liked your mom’s offer, but I’d be okay with Stephen paying for my place.”

“We could also be roommates, if you want, with Stephen covering my rent.”

Celia: “I appreciate the offer, and that would probably be fun, but I have a place I usually stay, and Stephen and I have been spending the day together too.”

Mostly it cramps her libido.

GM: “A pause in the relationship means you don’t sleep together,” says Dani, half-amused.

Celia: “Mm. Yeah, but it was my place first. It’s a studio, otherwise I’d offer to let you move in. Bit cramped.”

GM: “We could get another place,” Dani proposes. “I’d love to be roomies! And, like I said, Stephen’ll pay my share.”

Celia: Celia finds a polite way to say “no” to Dani, though she promises plenty of sleepovers.

GM: Dani is a little disappointed, having seemed to really latch on to the idea of Celia as a roommate, but looks forward to those.

Celia: After a few more moments of pleasant small-talk, and an assurance that Celia will serve as intermediary for Stephen to deliver her things, Celia excuses herself to finish up with the thin-blood.

She raids Randy’s closet, selecting a clean outfit that he won’t miss, and heads back into the bathroom to drain the water and dry it off.

Hopefully the boys will be back soon.

GM: The thin-blood gratefully changes into the provided clothes.

“What, what now, lady lick?”

The brothers, however, get back soon. Reggie tosses Jade the receiver.

Celia: Well, Jade helps it dress anyway. Bit awkward with the cuffs, but they manage one limb at a time.

GM: “Short range. Couldn’t have picked up anything if it was buried in the park.”

Celia: Jade looks back at the thin-blood, as if waiting for something more.

GM: “Like I said, lady lick, there it be… there’s the other half of the bug, all yours…”

Celia: “It did pick up everything. I was just told how much I inadvertently spilled.”

She looks back to the thin-blood.

“Care to explain?”

GM: The thin-blood holds up their hands. “I, I did, didn’t I? It wasn’t really at the park, that ain’ where they picked it up…”

“Yeah,” says Reggie. “This was stashed close enough to Flawless to pick up everything.”

Celia: Awkward. Jade had misunderstood and thought it meant the thing was lying to her again. After a moment she finally smiles.

“Great.”

She glances at the time.

Is there enough of it to summon the thin-blood’s friend before her meeting?

GM: Probably not.

Celia: Awkward.

Her mysterious new potential lover will need to wait a night. They can remain a secret admirer for one more evening.

“Trust doesn’t come easy to our kind,” Jade tells the thin-blood. “So I hope you’ll pardon me when I keep you for the day so you can summon your friend for me. You’ll be fed and left alone and safe from the sun and your abusers, and tomorrow we’ll reassess and see if you want what I can offer you.”

GM: “All righ’, lady lick, you bet,” nods the thin-blood. “You bet, I stay outta the way.”

“You don’t actually want this thing around the girls in the house, do you?” snorts Reggie.

“Bro, you’re kinda one to talk,” says Randy.

“I am. I’m hot stuff.”

Celia: “No,” Jade says, “the place is getting cramped enough. Stay here a moment.”

As if the thing has a choice. She leaves with the boys and shuts the door.

“Closet?” she asks them. “Could leave it tied. I just need to make sure things go off as they need to with its friend so we can stop whatever problem this is before it gets any bigger.”

GM: “Works,” says Reggie. “Tied and gagged.”

Celia: “Make sure you feed it. Food, not blood.”

“I’ll have the rest of them out of your hair soon.”

GM: “Do they need food?” asks Reggie.

“Dani ate Diana’s stuff, didn’t she?” says Randy.

“I guess.”

Celia: “Some of them. Maybe ask it? They could be different.”

“Thanks for the quick pick up.”

GM: “Hunting down low-lifes is our specialty,” says Reggie.

Celia: “Tomorrow we get to jump an actual lick. Should be fun.”

GM: “Lookin’ forward to it.”

Celia: She’s not.

But at least one of them is excited.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: “Mélissaire said you wanted to talk,” says Pete after Celia arrives at the Evergreen.

Celia: “I do, yeah. Thanks for seeing me.”

Celia takes the offered chair in his office, door closed. It’s a familiar scene.

“For starters, how is Tantal?”

GM: “He’s happy. Said he initially wanted his old body back, but the thought of you sticking a garbage bag of fat back inside him was too unappetizing.”

“He says more girls are hitting on him.”

Celia: Celia grins.

GM: “Says it feels better to be light, too.”

Celia: “I’m glad. Happy for him. You’re pleased with the changes?”

GM: “He just took all the extra bulk for granted.”

“I’m happy that he’s happy.”

Celia: Celia nods.

“Alana said the same when I took it off of her. You don’t realize how much you’re carrying around because you just get used to it.”

GM: “People can get used to anything.”

Celia: “Mm. You’re right.” Another small nod. “I haven’t been able to find out what a glinko is. And the name we got was a fake, my guy says. They’re looking into the real thing, phones are going to help.”

GM: “Good.”

Celia: “Anything else from the bug we planted?”

GM: “Yep. It’s wound up with a hunter.”

“She hasn’t gone after any licks yet, but she’s planning to.”

“When she does, I’ll be there.”

Celia: “Good. I still want to find out how they found Roderick, hoping this not-Lee guy can tell me more.”

GM: “Maybe this lady will also be able when we have her.”

Celia: “My spa was also broken into last night again.”

GM: “That’s unfortunate. Anything stolen?”

Celia: “No. Thought it might be the hunters, actually, but it doesn’t make sense to do during the night. Was a thin-blood I ran into in the Square. Planted a bug. Picked up a few things that I’d rather not get out.”

“Was put up to it by someone, though, so I’m tracking down that lead.”

GM: “If you have the bug, we can trace it back.”

Celia: “I have the receiver already. He buried it near by. Short range. Said he didn’t tell anyone else.”

“Well, said he tried to come here to sell the info. But that no one would let him in.”

GM: “I see. Sounds like you have things in hand?”

Celia: “Sort of. Supposed to contact his friend tomorrow so I can find out who. Just that he knows.”

GM: “Sounds like a lead worth pursuing. Interesting the thin-blood had the receiver.”

Celia: “He said something about the person tracing it back to them. And not wanting that. They were supposed to meet on Saturday. Figured I’d get him to come early and see what I can find.”

GM: “Hm. That intermediary does it make harder to trace, but there’s other ways to.”

Celia: “It’s… I mean, if it was just me I wouldn’t be as worried, but it’s about my mom.”

GM: Lebeaux frowns.

“What about her? Were you talking about Lucy’s father?”

Celia: “Ah, he came up, yeah, but there’s… a little more to it than that…”

“So…”

“So my mom, um, she kind of… knows about me.”

GM: The detective does a double take.

“She what?”

“All right. Forget it. Get her to me, I’ll make her forget.”

Celia: “I don’t… know if it will be that easy, actually. It’s, um. There were some really heightened emotions. There was a problem with another lick, some near death experiences, some hard conversations… Mel said that it might be patchy work, at best.”

“Is that true?”

GM: Lebeaux doesn’t say anything for a moment.

He looks very grave.

“It depends on the memories,” he answers slowly. “It depends on the cover story.”

“The midwife. That was easy. All I did was swap your mom’s face with yours.”

Celia: “I think she might have been exposed to all of this a long time ago,” Celia says quietly, “before I was even born.”

GM: “You think? Do you know?”

Celia: “…she was one of Benson’s dolls.”

GM: Lebeaux doesn’t say anything to that.

His fist just clenches.

His fangs come out.

“Fucking anorexic cunt,” he snarls.

Celia: Celia doesn’t think she’s ever heard him swear before.

“It explains… you know, a lot,” she continues in a smaller voice.

GM: “Yeah. Yeah, I guess it rather does.

Celia: She thinks to tell him that she fucked up Elyse for it, but she doesn’t know if that will make things worse if he asks how she got out. Not that she expects him to know about the haven’s doll-defense system.

GM: The detective just stares past Celia with a black look.

He doesn’t speak.

Celia: Her eyes drop. She feels like it’s her fault somehow that Diana was a doll, but she had nothing to do with it. She wasn’t even born yet. It’s not her fault.

It’s not her fault.

“Sorry,” she finally tells the carpet anyway. “They wanted her back so I… I interceded, and now my mom knows.”

GM: Celia’s words seem to slowly draw Pete back.

“How much does she know?”

Celia: “A lot.”

GM: “When did she learn it?”

Celia: “Sunday morning. And tonight.”

GM: Another moment of silence.

“How’d she take it?”

Celia: “Honestly? Pretty well.”

“I always thought, you know, what if I told her. I never planned to. But she was… just really accepting about it. Really, really calm.”

GM: “Could be worse,” the detective says slowly. “We can tell her you’re gay.”

“That you had a miscarriage.”

“That you discovered you’re infertile.”

“Something.”

Celia: “Do you think that is going to to work? She knows about Jade. About ghouls. About the blood.”

GM: “I don’t… I don’t know.”

“Maybe.”

Celia: “I offered to erase her memories so she doesn’t have to lie. She said she’d rather know.” Celia twists her hands in her lap. “Mel gave me some ideas about what to do with her like that, and I can teach her shadow dancing to hide what she is, and give her a new face if she’s ever around anyone.”

She sounds like a kid asking to keep the dog that followed her home. I’ll walk it and feed it and take care of it.

“And I can… can fix her leg, you know, so she’s not in pain all the time.”

GM: Pete’s face is very still. He looks Celia directly in the eye.

“Oh, really? Teach her shadow dancing?”

“Yes, I bet Mel did have a lot of ideas if that was on the table.”

Celia: “I don’t know what you mean.”

There’s some context she’s missing, she’s sure.

The emphasis was weird.

GM: “If you feed your mother your blood and make her a ghoul, a fucking _drug addict!”_ Pete snarls.

“How the hell else does she learn shadow dancing!?”

Celia: This was a mistake.

“She asked if there was a way to make it less addictive,” Celia finally says. “I told her I’d look into it. I thought if anyone would know it would be you.”

GM: “Tell me she hasn’t tasted it, yet, Celia,” Pete gets out. “Tell me it hasn’t touched her.”

Celia: She can’t do that, though.

So she stays silent.

GM: Pete looks at her.

He waits.

He waits.

Finally, he leans forward and plants his hands against his head.

Celia: “She was dying. There was blood… everywhere, there was blood everywhere. I couldn’t just… watch her die if I could… if I could fix it, should I have just…? Would that be… would that be better?”

GM: “Fuck should-haves,” the detective snarls, looking up. “It’s too late. It’s the situation now.”

“All right. All right. Maybe we… she tried heroin, she tried something sketchy for the pain, we get her to rehab…”

Celia: Celia quietly listens to him spin his ideas, waiting for the words she knows are coming:

stupid

useless

fuckup

Something burns in the corners of her eyes, but a blink keeps it from making an appearance.

GM: “I’m… I’m not objective,” Pete says suddenly, quietly, running a hand through his hair. He sounds like he’s talking to himself and his eyes are large. “I’m not thinking objectively. I’m not capable. I’m incapable.”

He looks up and stares at her again.

“Celia, am I grasping at straws?”

Celia: She doesn’t want to see him like this, either.

But she lifts her eyes, finally, and gives a small nod.

“I… I think you might be.”

GM: The detective doesn’t say anything.

Just hangs his head against his hands.

Celia: The bright side, of course, is now he can take her out.

But Celia doesn’t mention that.

GM: The silence stretches for about a minute before he looks up. There’s something in his eyes.

“Who… who else knows.”

“That she knows.”

“That she’s blooded.”

Celia: “Mel. My ghouls, all four of them. Dani. Roderick.”

“You, now.”

GM: “Call your ghouls,” says Pete. He pulls out his own phone.

“They’re coming here. I’m coming to them. Whatever. They’re seeing me.”

Celia: Celia reaches for her phone.

GM: “Hey, Mel,” Pete says into his. “I need to talk to you, can you swing by?”

A pause.

“Okay, thanks.”

He hangs up.

Celia: She dials Randy, knowing he’s awake. She just left him.

GM: He picks up immediately and tries to sound casual.

“Hey, babe.”

Celia: “Hey, sweetheart. Can you come up to the Evergreen with your brothers and Alana? Wake them up.”

GM: “Sure thing, babe. See you soon.”

Pete asks Celia some questions about her conversation with Mélissaire.

There’s a knock against the door. The ghoul comes in.

“Hello, Warden L-” she smiles.

Pete stares into her eyes.

“You didn’t talk to Celia about her mom.”

Mélissaire’s eyes glaze over.

“Actually, you did, but it was hypothetically. Her mom had been driving her crazy. Celia was really thinking hard about ghouling her. So you gave her all of that helpful advice.”

“She doesn’t think she’s going to, though.”

“But she appreciated the advice. And the sympathy. Still gave you a hit for it.”

Celia: Celia waits quietly while Pete delivers the message to Mel to rewrite her memories. Will it work if she still does what Mel said, though? Or are those options now closed to her? She looks to Pete, uncertain.

GM: He looks at her, then cautiously says, “Whatever’s on your mind. Write it down.”

Celia: She scrawls across a page.

What if I follow her advice about the dancer / fencer? Will she connect the dots?

GM: Pete scowls.

Celia: Should I have them bring the thin-blood that knows?

She’d planned to kill it.

But if Pete can wipe it, maybe that’s a better outcome.

GM: “Forget the dancer, fencer advice. You wanted to get Dr. Dicentra to fix her leg, then have her start her own production company with Celia’s backing. Good investment over the years, you thought. Make Celia really popular with a lot of Toreador.”

Mel receives this placidly.

Pete talks with her about something inane-sounding, then sends the smiling ghoul away.

“Right. One down.”

“And tell your people they’re not meeting us at the Evergreen, actually. More suspicious to have them all barging in.”

Celia: Celia immediately calls Randy back and tells him to nix the last order. She’s coming to them.

GM: Pete gets into a nondescript older-looking Chevy with her. It’s the first time Celia thinks she’s seen the Tremere’s car.

He doesn’t talk as they drive. Just stares out into the night.

Stares and tightly grips the wheel.

Celia: Celia tells him what he needs to know to fix the memories, but otherwise remains silent.

GM: “You’re paying for this,” he mutters when she’s done. “Costs me juice.”

Celia: “Anything you need.”

She means it, too.

Anything.

GM: “Get Roderick to come over. ‘Stare into my eyes’ time for him too.”

Celia: “Oh,” she says quietly. “Okay.”

She calls him.

GM: “Yeah?” he asks.

Celia: “Can you come meet me? I need your help.”

She gives him the address.

GM: “Sure,” he answers without hesitation. “I was swinging by anyways to drop off Dani’s stuff.”

Celia: “It’s not for that. She’s still mad at you. Very mad.”

GM: “Oh,” he says.

“All right. Still need to drop it off anyways.”

Celia: “Thanks, Roderick. I’ll see you soon.”

She’s glad he got out of Riverbend safely, anyway.

GM: Pete doesn’t talk for a while.

“You said there’s a Dani who also knows.”

Celia: “Garrison. His sister. And the thin-blood overheard some stuff on the bug.”

GM: “Who’s that?”

Celia: “They’re both here.”

GM: “What do they need to forget?”

Celia: “Dani… opened up a lot to her. About… who she was, what happened to her, her Embrace. I thought maybe it would do her good to have someone she can talk to.”

GM: Pete doesn’t say anything for a bit.

“There’s no magic fix,” he then says. “To make vitae less addictive.”

“It’s heroin.”

“It’s crack.”

“It’s meth.”

“You know any way to take those without addiction?”

Celia: “No.”

“We worked out a schedule,” she offers. “I do it with one of my others.”

GM: “Water’s wet. Sugar’s sweet. Drugs are addictive. Just what it is.”

Celia: “I could… get rid of Celia,” she finally says.

GM: “A schedule?”

Celia: “For blood. So she knows what she’s getting when. Mel told me to, um, reward and punish, but she’s my mom, so…”

GM: “Mel’s a cunt,” the detective snarls, mashing the horn at a nearby car that didn’t do much of anything. It honks angrily back.

Celia: “How do you do it, with Tantal..?”

GM: “Tantal isn’t my mom. If the lack of tits didn’t give it away.”

Celia: “I didn’t know if you had general advice,” she says to the window.

GM: “I’m his boss. I’m his supplier. That’s all I’ve ever been to him. There’s nothing we get confused. He gets his dose once a month. He gets more when I think he needs it.”

“I don’t give him extra for job performance. Junkies don’t think straight when it’s their fix on the line.”

“I don’t like what I’ve done to him. He was hooked by the time I realized. Before I realized. He’s a hand-me-down.”

Celia: She’s waiting for it, she realizes. For him to tell her that he’s disappointed. That he doesn’t want anything to do with her anymore. That she’s stupid. Irresponsible. Reckless. A waste of blood. No wonder her sire left her. Et cetera.

“You said you’re happy when he’s happy, though. That’s better than most of them can say about us.”

GM: “That’s me. Your friendly neighborhood heroin dealer.”

Celia: So much for that.

“…do you think I should just… get rid of Celia?”

GM: “Why?”

Celia: “She’s in danger, isn’t she? I’d rather her be safe and sad.”

GM: “Just minutes ago I was hearing bodyguard and dancer ideas.”

Celia: “I mean yeah, if she’s going to be part of it anyway.”

GM: “Just minutes ago you told me I was grasping at straws trying to fix her memories.”

“If that’s off the table I don’t see how it helps to lose her daughter on top.”

Celia: “I just wanted what’s best for them.”

GM: “So do we all, kid,” the detective says bitterly.

Celia: “D’you think it has merit, then, or am I also grasping at straws?”

GM: “She already knows the truth. She already has the blood in her system. It’s too little too late for Celia Flores to disappear.”

Celia: “I meant the other thing. The dancing.”

GM: “I should have seen this coming. I really should have. But I told you no, every time you asked, keep Celia alive.”

Celia: “It’s hardly your advice that made me fuck up something else.”

GM: “This was inevitable. It always fucking is. If we don’t stay away.”

“But no, I didn’t want to make her bury her daughter. I wasn’t objective.”

Celia: “You can just say it, Pete. It’s on me. I’m st—I’m a fuck up. I messed up. I can’t do anything right. Everyone else thinks so.”

GM: “I don’t care about your pity party right now,” the detective growls.

“I could’ve stopped this and I didn’t.”

“You were young and didn’t know better.”

“I did.”

Celia: Unless asked more questions, Celia remains quiet for the rest of the ride back to the house.

GM: That makes both of them.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: They get back to the house. Pete doesn’t waste time. He goes around to each ghoul, looks deep into their eyes, then tells them what to remember and what to forget.

He tells the ghouls to back to bed and fall asleep.

He does the same to the thin-blood in the closet.

Celia: She makes sure that the thin-blood doesn’t remember anything it overheard, including that she’s Jade and Celia. Safer for her mom, so no one thinks to use “Celia” against her.

GM: Pete doesn’t ask twice. He removes everything in the thin-blood’s head.

“How much does your mom remember about this Dani? Will she be reasonable?”

Celia: “I knew Dani before my Embrace. Her brother is the one who helped Mom out of the tough spot. Dani was… she’s Roderick’s sister, the thin-blood. She offered to let her live with her while we sort everything. She’s had a rough go.” Celia sighs. “I thought it would be good for both of them to have someone to talk to.”

“Mom might be upset.”

But she’s usually reasonable. Elyse saw to that.

GM: Pete looks tired. He looks tired in the same way Roderick does. It doesn’t look as new on him, and it looks all the deeper for that.

“Fine. She’ll remember.”

Celia: “But not Roderick.” Celia doesn’t quite make it a question.

GM: “He’s a real lick, isn’t he?”

Celia: So much for introducing Mom to her boyfriend.

“Yeah.”

GM: “You want to take a bet on your mom with another bloodsucker?”

Celia: She doesn’t think Roderick would ever hurt her mom.

Then again, she’d seen that vision. She never thought he’d hurt her like that, either.

“No.”

“Did… while we wait, Pete. Thank you. For… for everything.”

GM: The detective grunts.

Celia: She doesn’t push it.

GM: “I just burned through a lot of juice. Go get a glass.”

Celia: Celia disappears into the kitchen.

She finds a clean glass and brings it back.

When he tells her how much, though, she hesitates. She doesn’t have quite that much, she says. She just needs a minute to get it.

GM: He grunts again.

“Pay me back the rest next time if it’s too much.”

Celia: Fangs tear into her flesh and her Beast howls in her ears. It demands to know what she thinks she’s doing sharing her blood when it has so little to begin with; it wants to know why she thinks some stupid kine is worth all of the effort she has gone through when the bitch has done nothing for her. It snarls and snaps and fights her for every drop, and the pitiful amount that Celia bleeds into the cup is not nearly enough to replace what Pete has spent on her this evening. But it’s what she has. It’s all she can offer. She can’t risk giving more, not when the beat of multiple heartbeats call her name.

“Sorry,” she tells him when she holds it out, her most frequently used word this evening.

GM: Pete just waits for the blood to cool, then swigs it down.

“I hear you there,” he suddenly says.

Dani peaks out from behind the door.

“Um… hi.”

Pete looks the thin-blood over.

Celia: Celia watches his face.

“Dani, hi.”

She waits a beat, as if waiting for him to stop her.

“This is the warden. Warden Lebeaux.”

GM: He grunts.

Celia: “This is Dani. Danielle Garrison.”

She doesn’t think he cares.

But she’ll be polite.

GM: “It’s nice to meet you, ah, Warden Lebeaux,” she says, extending a hand.

“We don’t do that,” says Pete.

“Oh,” says Dani.

She lets the hand drop a little lamely.

Pete glances around the house.

“Could be worse digs for someone like you.”

“I hear,” she nods. “Celia’s been really nice…”

Celia: “We’re looking for a place for her,” Celia tells him. “Rod—er, Stephen is on his way over, Dani, with your stuff.”

GM: Dani’s expression gets a little frostier. “I still don’t want to talk to him.”

Celia: “I know. He just has to speak with the warden for a minute. I won’t even tell him you’re here, if you don’t want.”

GM: “It’s fine if he knows. He can know I’m here and don’t want to talk until he,” she seems to moderate herself around Pete, “learns to control himself better.”

The Tremere effects a snort.

“I’m sorry, did…?”

“Good luck,” is all Pete says.

Celia: Celia just nods. “Yeah. We’re going to have that chat later tonight, after I finish up here.”

GM: “Oh, good.”

She looks back to Pete, who hasn’t said anything, then Celia, with a ‘what should I say’ expression.

Celia: Celia gives a tiny shake of her head, mouthing the word ‘later’ at her.

GM: The detective just waits until there’s a knock on the door.

Celia: “Ah, that’s him. Dani, if you want to head upstairs for a sec?”

GM: “Yes, sure.” Dani heads off.

Celia: Celia waits until the girl does so before moving toward the door.

She opens it.

GM: It’s Roderick. He’s carrying two full suitcases and a backpack.

Celia: “Hey, come on in.”

Another place she’ll need to move.

GM: “There’s more in the car. I figured she wouldn’t be coming back to her apartment for a while, if ever, so I brought basically everything.”

Celia: “Oh, that was thoughtful of you. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”

GM: “I hope s…” Roderick’s cut off as Pete approaches him and says, “You never saw me.”

Roderick starts to stare back defiantly, but he’s been caught flat-footed talking to Celia. His eyes glaze over.

Celia: Oh thank God. She did not need an angry Roderick in the house with her mother.

GM: Pete tells him what to remember. They just talked about ghouling her. Celia didn’t actually.

Celia was repeating the conversation she had with Mélissaire.

Pete makes sure to sprinkle in as many of the same details as he can.

Celia: It’s easy to imagine: a frantic Celia crying about Elyse and wondering if ghouling her mother is the best option for her. The same conversation about the pros and cons. How Celia would be a fucked up person if she did it. Celia eventually being calmed down by him and talked out of it, agreeing to fix things on her end rather than involve her mother.

Celia stands quietly—uselessly—to the side while it happens.

GM: Pete finishes up with her paramour, then says, “We’ll drive back in my car when you’re done. I’ll wait upstairs until the other vampire is out of the house.”

He looks back to Roderick. “Finish unloading the stuff from your car.”

Celia: Celia nods at his direction, standing in the same spot she was moments ago for when Roderick inevitably wakes up from his fugue state.

GM: When the Brujah comes back with more boxes, Pete is gone.

Celia: “She will,” Celia tells him, as if there had never been a break in the conversation.

She helps stack the boxes out of the way for Dani to peruse at her leisure.

GM: Roderick looks upstairs a few times, as if wondering whether his sister is there, but doesn’t say anything.

It doesn’t take long. He carries the heavy moving boxes like they’re nothing.

“If you want anything unpacked, I can do that pretty fast. Superspeed has its advantages.”

Celia: Celia shakes her head at the offer. “The boxes won’t be here long. But I’ll keep it in mind when she needs unpacked.”

“Once things calm down she might even enjoy seeing that. Just… give her some space for right now.”

“We’ll talk later tonight. I’ll be home soon.”

GM: “All right,” he relents.

He glances back up the stairs and effects a sigh.

“I feel like I really bungled things.”

Celia: “If anyone can find a way to make it right, it’s you.”

She leans in to press a kiss against his cheek.

“Thanks for getting everything for her. I’ll get it to her and then you and I can figure things out.”

If he continues to linger, Celia confesses that she’s very, very hungry and unless he wants to share—does he want to share? She’s on the verge of loss of self control but he could hold her down—she needs to get out of the house.

GM: Roderick says he’s already “too close to the Beast for comfort” to have any vitae to spare, but he can restrain her if she can get a drink from somewhere else.

It’s hard not to think of her mother sleeping just upstairs. Always so eager to feed her baby.

Or Alana. She loves her mistress’ kiss.

Or the thin-blood. How bad can their vitae be?

Or she could charge Dani rent for all she’s done for her.

There’s the brothers, too. Such strong and healthy boys.

Or Lucy… it’s hard to imagine more succulently innocent blood. Celia’s already tasted the mother. But what about the daughter? The horrors that have touched the rest of the Flores family have never touched her. She’s been raised with nothing but love. Celia would taste that in the child’s blood, she’s sure. Lucy could survive just a sip…

So many sleeping, idle vessels. So conveniently nearby.

Celia: She is not feeding on Lucy.

Or her mother.

Not while Pete is nearby.

And not on Dani while Roderick is here. That’s just awkward.

But the others. The ghouls. She tries to remember who she has fed from recently. Alana and Randy and Reggie. She needs Alana at full capacity if she’s running a game with her tomorrow. And Reggie and Randy have work.

But the thin-blood, there’s an option. Make it useful for doing what it did. And with it sleeping it’ll never know. Blood is blood. Her Beast hadn’t rebelled when she’d tasted Dani’s weak fare.

“Okay,” she finally agrees, because what other option does she have? “Let me get him.” She can carry a thin-blood down the stairs.

GM: The thin-blood is still gagged and tied up in the closet, though looks awake. Muffled noises sound from behind the cloth.

Celia: Oh, good. It’s awake. Jade tells it to stand up and takes it back down the stairs, where the still-disguised Roderick is waiting. She’s a little annoyed, she guesses, that Pete erased everything from its mind this evening, which includes the goodwill she had instilled in it with the bath—a real bonding experience, that—but she knew it would sell her out eventually.

“I’ll explain later,” she says to Roderick to forestall any questions.

GM: Pete had explained to her that he cannot remove emotions, only memories.

That’s exactly why he couldn’t just erase everything in her mother’s head.

Celia: She’s still gentle enough with it.

GM: The thin-blood haplessly shuffles along with bound knees. The stairs are tricky.

“All right,” Roderick says bemusedly. “You want me to hold you down?”

Celia: She’s not a monster, she gives it a hand.

“Yes. However you think is best.”

GM: He looks back at the thin-blood.

“You’re feeding her. She’s close to the edge. You’re okay with that?”

Celia: Fucking Roderick.

“Payment for the break-in,” Jade tells it.

GM: The thin-blood gives a faltering nod.

“All right,” Roderick says slowly. He undoes the bonds around one of the thin-blood’s arms, then steps behind Celia and wraps his arms tightly around her. “Give her your wrist.”

The thin-blood does so. Celia has tasted ghouls with richer vitae. It’s stronger than a mortal’s, but only barely, and all the worse for it. It’s like someone took a prime cut of steak and lathered it with cheap ketchup and condiments. At least an O’Tolley’s burger is consistent in what it is.

Celia: And despite her worry and precaution, despite the anxiety she’d felt about feeding on someone, her Beast, at least, does not slip its bonds this evening. Roderick holding her is enough to remind it that if she does lose control he’s going to beat her silly.

So she drinks the poor fare from the thin-blood’s wrist, swallowing down mouthful after mouthful of almost-rancid blood that, if she were less hungry, more picky, more able to find something better in a pinch, she might even spit out as Reggie had.

GM: The flavor is exceptionally sour, bitter, and almost moldy, like that same steak was left to ferment with a moldy burger bun over it for days, and only hastily removed. Roderick holds her still until she nods for him to stop.

The thin-blood droopily lets their wrist fall.

It’s hard not to think longingly towards her spa.

So many vessels, prepped and pampered exactly as she desires.

There’s no blood like that of a satisfied, relaxed client. She can drink it all up for herself. Savor the spa experience through them.

Celia: It really does pale in comparison. She’ll have to snack on something better tomorrow before she goes to meet Vinny with Alana. Maybe a few somethings.

“Thank you,” she tells it as she takes it back upstairs. “We’ll finish our discussion tomorrow. One of mine will feed you in the morning.” Food, she means, not blood, but the sentiment is the same. She puts it back where it had been after redoing its ties and wishes it a good evening, then returns to thank Roderick.

“I didn’t want to risk anything,” she says, “thank you for understanding.”

GM: There’s another muffled sound past the gag as Celia closes the door.

“As long as no one’s dead,” he says. “That was one of the sorrier-looking… ghouls I’ve seen?”

Celia: “Not mine,” Celia tells him, “trying to get him cleaned up. I’ll explain the whole thing later.”

GM: “All right.” He gives her a hug. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Celia: “Are you not spending the day?”

GM: “Here? This is deeper in the Quarter.”

Celia: “No, I meant at my place.”

GM: “Although I suppose I’m disguised.”

Celia: “You said tomorrow. I was going to meet you later.”

She makes a gesture with her hand and wiggles her eyebrows at him.

It’s blatantly sexual.

GM: He smiles. It’s a little weary, and part of him doesn’t look in the mood. But there’s another, hungry part, the same one that publicly screwed her in the seat of his car so long ago, that more than does.

“I suppose I did say I was going to fuck you in that dress.”

Celia: “You promised, as I recall.”

GM: “I did. But my krewe got in touch with me. They need me around. And… this thing with Dani is kind of killing my boner, to be honest.”

Celia: “…Oh.”

GM: “Just not in the mood, sorry.”

Celia: “Yeah, all right.”

“I guess I’ll see you… tomorrow, then.”

GM: “You will. How about I show you my new place?”

“Temporary place, but place all the same.”

Celia: “Sure.” She tries to sound enthused.

GM: “Look, it’s not you.”

Celia: It is her. She’s just not more important to him than his sister or his krewe.

GM: “You’re still the cutest lick in the city.”

Celia: Her smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

GM: “Celia, if this was your sister, Emily instead of Dani, would you be in the mood?”

Celia: “It’s fine. That’s not what I’m thinking about right now anyway.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

GM: “If your whole family thought you were dead for four years, then you find out one of them’s a thin-blood, and you’re doing everything in your power to keep them safe from predatory elders, not feeling like you can turn to your own sire, but just when you think there might be one bright spot to this, that at least you don’t have to pretend you’re dead anymore, you have this huge fight…”

Celia: “I didn’t say anything, Roderick. It’s fine. I have other stuff on my mind, too. Being with you just makes me feel like everything is okay in the world, but it’s selfish of me. You’re right.”

“I’m excited to see the new place. Thanks for bringing her things. I’ll tell her you said hi. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

GM: Celia can all but see the bond tugging in his face. To not let this drop, if she might be unhappy.

Celia: “One day alone won’t kill me.”

GM: “We could still sleep together, at the new place. It’d feel really good to have you in my arms.” His face looks genuine enough at that.

Celia: “Sure. I’ll call you later, then. I have some things to finish up here.”

GM: “Okay.” He works out a place to meet her outside Mid-City. “We can have you turn into a cat again, just to be safe.”

Celia: “Perfect.”

GM: “I’m going to see the night doctor to change me back.” He gives her a kiss and heads off after a last goodbye.

Celia: “He’s gone,” she calls up the stairs once his car pulls away.

GM: “Right,” says Pete. “You have anything to finish up here?”

Celia: “Nothing I can’t handle later.”

GM: He gets into his car with her and drives.

“Beats me why I even care this much,” he mutters. “I helped her once. That was all.”

Celia: “She’s a nice woman who doesn’t deserve terrible things to happen to her,” Celia offers.

“And you’re a nice Kindred.”

GM: “Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we could all just be nicer.”

Celia: “Someone tell that to all the other licks.”

GM: “It’s not possible to make vitae inherently less addicting, but I can dilute its strength. Turn it from pure meth to cut meth.”

Celia: “Would that help with her cravings, you think?”

GM: “Maybe. All dope fiends have cravings.”

“But if I had to get someone addicted to heroin, I suppose I’d choose a weaker strain.”

Celia: “She’ll be pleased to hear that, anyway. She was struggling with the idea of being… an addict.” Celia forces the air out of her lungs in a sigh. “Can I tell her you helped, or do you want me to leave it alone?”

GM: The Tremere’s response is as heavy as it is immediate.

“Leave it alone.”

Celia: “I got her to quit the extra dance lessons for that family,” she says, “so she’s… you know, not in danger there, at least.”

GM: “Good,” he grunts. “That was something else to leave alone. Whatever it even was.”

Celia: “Nothing I want to play with.”

GM: “There are… alchemists, they call them, among the thin-bloods. They work with weak, half-ass vitae a lot more than I do. One of them might be able to do more.”

Celia: Maybe the thing in her closet knows about it. Or knows someone who knows someone. She nods.

“I’ll look into it. Flannagan knows a lot about them, I think, because of her… kid.”

GM: Pete’s expression turns immediately sour.

“Her tot-sized serial murderer.”

Celia: “Yeah. That one.”

GM: “Goddamn basket case.”

“But where there’s enough crazy there’s a way.”

Celia: “Hey, Pete?” Celia says after a minute. “I don’t know if you can tell me, but did Dani’s blood turn up anything about who did this to her? Just, you know, while we’re on the subject of… rapists and murderers.”

GM: “If you mean can it trace her sire, thin-bloods’ vitae is notoriously useless at that.”

Celia: “Oh. I didn’t know that.”

GM: “The ties that bind us, sire to childe, don’t exist with them.”

Celia: “I thought that might be too easy, yeah,” Celia says wryly.

GM: “Danielle’s sire could be right in front of her and there’d be no blood pull. It’s the same with Caitiff.”

Celia: “So I’ll have to find him or her the old fashioned way.” Whatever that is. Maybe Gui has cameras inside his club.

She doesn’t ask about Carolla and Roderick; if Savoy wants her to know, he’ll tell her.

GM: “It’s why the ‘Clan Caine’ rhetoric is a load of nonsense. They aren’t a clan. There’s no glue holding them together like there is with us. They’re a bunch of unrelated people under the same roof, not a genetic family.”

“And yes. You probably will. For all the good it’ll do you.”

Celia: “It might make Dani feel better to know why.” Celia still doesn’t.

“Though I guess ‘it was an accident’ doesn’t do her much good.”

GM: “Or maybe her sire was a vindictive loser who saw a moderately pretty girl and wanted to make her suffer.”

Celia: “Whoever it was raped her and left her in a dumpster when they were done with her. I imagine being able to look him in the eye will at least bring some closure.”

“Even if it doesn’t undo anything.”

GM: “Or her. But I’ll grant that a ‘he’ is more likely.”

Celia: “Awful way to wake up.”

GM: “Looks pretty pampered now, at least.”

Celia: “She’s my friend. Was my friend. Is still, I guess.”

GM: “She’s lucky.”

Celia: “Preston thinks she’s a waste of time and resources. But most people like us do, I guess.”

GM: “There’s worse things to spend those on than friends.”

Celia: “Thanks for being decent to her, anyway.”

GM: Pete grunts.

“Shitty deal. Brother a primogen’s childe.”

Celia: “He was always the golden child. Even when I met them as a breather. Their dad idolized him and not her. Shit hand the whole way through.”

“She was less than pleased to find out about him.”

GM: “I bet. Good disguise you had him in. He didn’t smell like a lick, either.”

Celia: “Shadow dancing trick. Learned it a long time ago. Have a way to pass it on, if you ever need it.”

GM: “I’ll keep in mind.”

Celia: “Going to teach my mom, too. Make sure she can pass. So no one knows. Get her a new face if she’s ever around licks.”

GM: “Smart.”

Celia: “Trying to manage it as best I can. See if I can undo some of Benson’s programming.”

GM: “That’s tricky. Easier to destroy anything than build it back up.”

Celia: “I don’t want to destroy my mom. Someone told me once she’d be a good ghoul, used to serving, but that doesn’t sit right with me.”

“So I’m… figuring it out, you know.”

GM: “Mélissaire told you that.”

Celia: “Ah, yes.”

GM: “She’d have made sure Savoy knew it was her idea, too, if she thought your mom worked out well.”

“I don’t need to say he doesn’t need to know this.”

Celia: “If Mel talked to him after she talked to me…”

GM: “She’d have waited until he could see how your new ghoul panned out, for best results.”

Celia: “Oh. Then as long as he stays out of my head I guess we’re good.”

GM: “Or the Garrison girl keeps her mouth shut.”

Celia: “She will. She doesn’t have a reason to talk about my mom to someone.”

“And she likes me. I’ve bent over backwards for her to make her feel welcome and comfortable.”

And she’s bonded.

GM: “She have any future beyond as your pet? Things could get messier then.”

Celia: “She wants to be a lawyer.”

GM: Pete grunts.

“Guess we’ll see.”

Celia: “Do you have better ideas for her? Little limited, with the blood.”

GM: “I meant with your mom. If she wants to be a lawyer, I don’t see why not.”

Celia: “Oh.”

“I wanted to kind of keep things normal with us. Emily’s boyfriend is going to teach her how to fence so she’s not a sitting duck. I’m going to teach her shadow dancing. She wants to dance again, so I thought I’d use Mel’s idea there.”

GM: “Some combat training seems wise. I’d advise hand-to-hand too. Swords might be the weapon of choice against us, but there are lots of times you won’t have access to one.”

Celia: “I’ll let her know.”

“She keeps saying that she’s weak, that she’s a girl so she can’t do anything.”

Celia sighs.

GM: “Well, there’s a reason most cops and military are men. But girls can learn too.”

Celia: “Sure. Physically, the bodies are different. I don’t disagree there. But she can still be capable.”

“And with the blood… I mean, against other kine it’ll even the playing field.”

GM: “Physically, but also temperament. Among cops, we have two kinds. Herbivores and carnivores. You ever hear of them?”

Celia: “No.”

GM: “Carnivore cops are assertive and confrontational. They’re happy to use force. They practice the most at the shooting range. They’re alert and sharp-eyed on patrol. They accrue more citizen complaints, but have a higher clearance rate of cases. They get into more fights and pick up more injuries, but die less often on the line of duty.”

“Herbivore cops try to avoid confrontation. They’d rather not use force. They do the minimum practice at the range and prefer to use pepper spray. They try not to notice threatening situations they might get involved in. They have a lower clearance rates. They get into fewer fights and pick up fewer injuries, but they’re more likely to get killed on the line of duty. They’re also more likely to rise to the upper ranks, where things get more political. Office politics agree with them more.”

“Like in all things, there’s a continuum. Few cops fit exclusively into one category. But it’s easy for us to assess each other’s positions on the scale.”

“Lot more women are herbivores than men. Call it biology. Call it society. I know a lot more male carnivores either way.”

Celia: “Sure,” Celia agrees. “I can see the logic there. I understand what you mean. We’re different. Biologically, chemically, physically, mentally. We’re raised different ways. But, Pete… the words that come out of her mouth sometimes, you know? The only time I ever saw her show any backbone was when Maxen put me in the hospital. I was bleeding on her in the back seat of the car and she finally had fire again, and it was amazing to see. She’s been through Hell. So many times. And she’s still amazing. And I just want her to see that too.”

“That she’s strong in a different way. Just because she can’t throw a car around doesn’t mean she’s not worth a damn.”

GM: “She’s far from the first abused woman whose kids’ safety finally roused her to do something.”

“I also agree with you. I can’t throw cars around, and I don’t believe you can either.”

Celia: “I haven’t tried,” Celia admits, “but the whole idea of it is very unlikely. Our strengths are elsewhere.”

GM: “Regardless, her learning self-defense can only be good for her. And for you.”

Celia: “Roderick said the elders are prepping for civil war.”

“And that the Quarter is going to see the worst of it.”

GM: “If that happens, he’s probably right.”

Celia: “He’s supposed to teach me, but I can find someone else to teach my mom.”

GM: “There’s lots of options. Find a self-defense class to pick up the basics.”

“Or hell. Bring her in disguise. Establish the fake identity in multiple places.”

Celia: “That’s a solid idea.”

GM: The Evergreen approaches. Pete parks the car.

“Tell me if anything else comes up with her.”

Celia: “Like dinner with Maxen?”

GM: “What?”

Celia: “I had dinner with Maxen. He wants to see her to apologize. I put him off.”

GM: “Apologies and two cents will buy you jack and squat.”

Celia: “Yeah, that’s what Emily said.”

GM: “Your father is scum. Scum to keep away from any of his family.”

Celia: It’s not her story to tell, so she doesn’t.

“I’ll keep you in the loop, anyway. Shadow dancing is going to be enough to get her through the day at McGehee, right?”

GM: “Most likely. I wouldn’t bother stationing any soul scrying ghouls at a girl’s school if I were the prince.”

“Or likely any ghouls.”

Celia: He’s the third person who has said that. It has to be true, right?

GM: “Violating the Second Tradition is easier than we like to make out.”

“Crime clearance rates in the U.S. are pretty dismal, and the smaller the crime, the lower the rate. That’s as true for us as it is for kine.”

Celia: Celia has gotten away with it often enough.

“I’ll take your word for it.”

GM: Another grunt as they get out.

“Look after your mom, kid.”

Celia: He could do it instead, if he wanted. But he doesn’t, and she doesn’t offer. She just nods.

“I will, Pete.”


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: “I want you to bring Mr. Carolla to the Evergreen, my dear,” says Savoy as the three wait for Fabian to bring up ‘Melton.’

“It’s time we laid the question of his sire to rest once and for all.”

Celia: “Yes, sir. I’m meeting with him on Thursday at 1am; does that suit your purpose?”

They have already given her time to change her face so that it won’t be “Jade” that Melton sees.

“Or I can convince him to come to the party Saturday, I’m sure.”

If they want to pull another Melton-bait.

GM: “What does my schedule look like this Thursday, Nat?” asks Savoy.

GM: “Largely full on Thursday, sir. The party, however, poses a convenient pretext,” answers Preston.

“I agree,” says Savoy, before turning to Celia. “All right, my dear. Get him to come here. I want Lebeaux to test his vitae after you taste it, to be doubly sure of things. If he’s Coco’s childe, he’s our best chance to sway Roderick to our side.”

Celia: At least they don’t need to pretend that Celia isn’t going to sleep with him on Thursday. Whoever else was supposed to get a sample must have fallen through.

“Yes, grandsire. I’ll make sure it’s done.”

“The chat with him earlier went as you desired, then?”

GM: “Oh, I haven’t spoken with him, my dear. Merely took a chance on someone else who wasn’t able to rise to the occasion.”

Celia: She tries not to look for the comparison between herself and his other contact. She’s going to make this work.

“My apologies, I wasn’t clear. I meant with Mr. Durant.”

GM: “Ah, yes! Our discussion went excellently, Celia, and it was thanks to you we made it happen,” Savoy beams.

“The seed has been planted.”

“All that’s necessary is some nice weather to help it grow.”

Celia: “Is there anything else I can do to assist, aside from with Mr. Carolla?”

GM: “Mr. Carolla is our next objective now. If he’s Mr. Durant’s broodmate, that’ll be all we need. If he’s not, we’ll try something else.”

Celia: “Yes, sir.”

GM: Savoy glances up. “Ah, and here’s our guest of the hour!”

Several ghouls bearing a staked body. It does not belong to Laura Melton, however, but a perhaps 12-year-old girl.

Celia: …oh god, is that the real her? Did she sleep with a child?

GM: The ghouls set her down on the grass. She’s a pale-skinned nymphet with only the barest beginnings of breasts and delicately coiffed brown hair.

Pic.jpg
Celia: She’s old, though. Or at least she had potent enough blood.

And she thought being turned at 19 was bad.

GM: The ghouls remove the stake at Savoy’s motion and depart.

“Elianna, my dear!” Savoy exclaims with a chuckle. “I suppose that rather clears things up. You don’t know what’s become of the real Laura Melton, do you?”

“Oh, I’ve no idea, Lord Savoy,” smiles the 12-year-old as she sits up. “You could have simply asked me. But I understand why you didn’t.”

Celia: It’s not as if Jade had known. It’s not her fault, right? She’d just been keeping a potential infiltrator from Savoy’s court. She had no idea that he and this Elianna were on a first name basis.

Can they still be friends after this, or is this the sort of thing you can’t forgive someone for? Her eyes slide to Lord Savoy, as if wondering if he’s annoyed that she wasted his time on it.

The girl looks less than upset, anyway. And it’s not as if she knew that Jade turned her in. It could have been anyone. And she saw Jade get staked too.

She should say something.

She’s just not quite sure what.

GM: Her grandsire’s eye meets hers, but his smile doesn’t waver.

“I’m glad you do,” he replies. “My court would rather be safe than sorry.”

“What is your purpose in wearing Laura Melton’s face, Madam Daugherty?” inquires Preston.

“Oh, I’m sure you can guess,” smiles the 12-year-old. “The real Laura wasn’t around, so someone might as well have used her face.”

“I suppose someone may as well,” chuckles the French Quarter lord. “And I suppose we indeed can guess! You’ll be sure follow all the rules, my dear, while you’re borrowing it?”

“Of course, Lord Savoy. I’ll be a good girl,” Elianna answers, bowing her head and using a device that might be demure if her tongue wasn’t forked. Her too-adult eyes dance with faint mirth.

The Toreador only chuckles harder, though Preston merely goes back to something on her tablet.

“Cat got your tongue?” Elianna asks Jade.

Celia: Forked tongue. Child that wants to hide who she is. Blood she didn’t recognize.

Cat got her tongue? No, the snake did.

“Shame,” Jade finally drawls in a voice that isn’t her own, “I had hoped you could put the Melton matter to rest. I imagine your new lover will be pleased to see you’ve returned.”

GM: “Which one?” smiles the girl.

“Interesting you’re here, though. You must be part of the reason that I am.”

“Do you have any remaining business while you are here, Madam Daughtery?” asks Preston.

“No,” Elianna answers. She inclines her head to the French Quarter lord. “My thanks for your understanding, Lord Savoy.”

Celia: Jade doesn’t deny it, though she hardly offers anything more to go on. She’s just another lick with a stolen face.

GM: “Always a pleasure to have you at the Evergreen, Elianna. Or I suppose Laura,” smiles the Toreador.

Elianna smiles back, her forked tongue briefly tasting the air. Her form shimmers, and then her smile is Laura Melton’s.

“Well done, my dear,” Savoy says to Jade after the ‘Gangrel’ is gone.

“She’s been reminded that nothing happens within these walls that I don’t know.”

Celia: She accepts the words with a dip of her head, gladthat he’s at least not annoyed at the waste of his time.

“Who, ah, who is she? If I can ask..?”

GM: “Her name is Elianna Daughtery.”

“She already heard that, sir.”

“For completeness’ sake,” smiles Savoy. “She’s a Setite, and she’s welcome at the Evergreen.”

Celia: Not-Jade’s lips quirk in amusement at Preston’s interjection.

GM: “I imagine Laura Melton’s face is how she’ll be moving around beyond the Quarter, now.”

“Very economical of her, to take the face of an already disappeared Kindred.”

Celia: “Best way to do it, sir. Slip into someone else’s life. Or Requiem.”

GM: “You seem to have recently assumed my mode of address for Lord Savoy, Miss Kalani. Is there a reason?” inquires Preston.

Celia: Habit, mostly, to pick up what other people say.

“No, Madam Preston. Lord Savoy.”

GM: “You both can call me as you please,” says Savoy. “In any case, my dear, the serpents are good friends to make, if you still want to. We can count on them to never take up with Prince Vidal or the Baron. Don’t ever trust them fully, though.” The French Quarter lord chuckles. “Of course, that same advice can be said for any Kindred!”

Celia: “Yes, grandsire.” Jade has her own mode of address for the Lord of the French Quarter. “I will keep that in mind. Thank you.” Briefly, she asks if he’d like to follow the same sort of normal tactic with Mr. Carolla, and once that has been hashed out she bids the two a good evening.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

Celia: The nice thing about New Orleans, Jade has come to realize, is that many of the bars are open 24/7, and liquor is served all time of night. Unfortunately, The Cat’s Meow and Bourbon Heat are not among those who stay open at all hours of the day and night, and it’s a Monday besides. Harder to find a willing vessel she can sneak off to the bathroom or car with, but not impossible. Her domain spans an entire city block; worst case scenario she can break into one of those houses and feed on a sleeping vessel if she needs to.

Or take a hit from her mom.

But she’ll try this first, prowling the streets for any late-night club goers that venture too far into her domain. Or a homeless person; this late she’s not really that picky.

GM: At 4 AM on a Monday night, the clubs are all but dead. But this is New Orleans. Most bars close at 2 or 4, but more than a few never close, or close between 7 AM and 11 AM. People still walk around the street with open containers (“not just allowed, but encouraged!”). Fewer people may take advantage of those hours on a Monday than a weekend, but Jade still winds up arm in arm with two service industry workers getting off their jobs. That’s what that life is. Work hard, party hard, until you’re too old.

Or get out.

But neither seems to expect that.

Emily was lucky.

Celia: They’ll get out of this encounter, at least, tempting though it is to drain the two men dry and leave them nothing but decent-looking corpses to be found by the morning sun. It’s a lot of blood.

Like, a lot of blood.

But she’s not going to kill someone—two someones—when she’d just told Roderick she’s trying to be a better person, when she has seen firsthand what happens when “Jade” comes out too frequently.

She contents herself with drinking from both under the guise of being shared, amused to find the trace hints of liquor in their systems. Someone was naughty at work this evening. It’s enough to make her giggly when the clothes come off, enough to let her relax and enjoy the experience with one in front and one behind. She bleeds herself halfway through to save it for later, either for herself or the juice she promised Pete.

Blood never goes to waste.

When it’s done she leaves them with a final kiss on the cheek, wishes them good night, and heads home to play doctor.

GM: It’s easy to imagine both licks approving of her restraint.

She finds Dani in the dining room hard at work on her own laptop, law textbooks spread out, most of the other boxes still packed. She’s changed into some leggings and a top that look like hers, too.

Celia: The doctor lets herself in, playing the role of “Jade’s trusted doctor friend” when she announces herself to Danielle before approaching.

“Miss Kalani sent me. I am Dr. Dicentra.” Her voice comes out from behind the mask that hides her false face. “She said I am to meet with Miss Garrison and Mrs. Flores.”

GM: “Oh, hi, Dr. Dicentra,” Dani says, rising. “My name’s Danielle. It’s really nice to meet a friend of Miss Kalani’s.”

She doesn’t offer a hand to shake.

“Where would be best for you to work?”

Celia: “Danielle,” the doctor echoes. Dicentra probably doesn’t like thin-bloods more than any other true-blooded lick, but nothing colors her voice. Doctors have the fortune of being neutral in politics and personal matters, she thinks. The mask doesn’t move, though; she could be sneering or smiling and no one would know.

Anyone else would probably tell her she’s wrong. But she’s Jade’s friend.

“A table, couch, or bed will suffice.”

“Though the mark you are to receive is small; you could stay there, if you’d prefer.”

GM: “Okay. Why don’t we do a couch, since you probably won’t want me to move my arms anyway.” Danielle heads to the living room with her, removes her top, and lays down on the couch.

“Can it be anywhere?”

Celia: “It can be.”

GM: “Okay, how about my shoulder blade? I’m studying to be a lawyer and tattoos are a no.”

“Can it look like anything?”

Celia: “Your shoulder blade will suffice, though I will caution you against wearing something that shows off the area. Tank tops. Sleeveless dresses. Swimsuits. And so long as it represents what I am infusing you with, it can look like anything. Shadow dancing. Did Jade explain?”

GM: Dani nods. “Ah, can I not ever show it off? I was mainly worried about what I’d wear to work.”

Celia: “You can show it off. I only meant for your peace of mind regarding visible tattoos.”

GM: “Okay. I’m all right with it on my shoulder. I won’t be showing that off at my job.”

“Would Lady Justice count as representative?”

She gives a short laugh. “Little obvious, but I’ve never thought of getting a tattoo before.”

Celia: “The art of shadow dancing is to blend. To obscure who you are and meld into the shadows. To pass unseen, without a trace, beneath the notice of others. To wear a new mask and become anyone. Explain how Lady Justice fits this idea for you and I will see it done.”

GM: “Because this is what I have to do still live the life I want,” Dani answers, resolutely. “The… Camarilla’s existing legal institutions are not equitable, and do not protect my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. To receive justice, I must hide.”

Celia: Dicentra considers the explanation. Finally, she nods.

“As you will.”

GM: “Maybe work Lady Justice wearing a hood, too?”

Celia: “Lady Justice is blind,” Dicentra says slowly, “but for this, I think, she will need her eyes to see the injustice of your situation so that she might harbor you from those who wish you ill. A hood to conceal her face, as this conceals yours. Very well, Danielle.”

GM: Dani shakes her head. “Justice needs to be blind, or she’s not just.”

“Maybe she’ll take longer to get where she needs. But she’ll get there.”

Celia: It’s not her body. Dicentra doesn’t push the issue. She tells Dani that there will be pain and then begins her work.

Tattoos are nothing more than ink injected beneath the epidermis and into the dermis itself. Dicentra has done this sort of work before; most recently with Roderick Durant, who had, surprisingly, not requested a similar sort of “justice” motif for his mark.

A tattoo artist’s machine can pierce the skin up to three-thousand times per minute to deliver the ink beneath the skin. Dicentra is no machine, but the gifts of Caine serve her well this evening. She breaks the skin over and over and over again to deliver the pigment as needed, etching out the shape of a hooded lady justice. A second pass fills it in with color or black ink as Dani requests. Red is a popular color, though Dicentra often warns her clients that it is not so common among the kine and will stick out to others.

Dicentra does not provide half-baked work. When it’s done, the tattoo looks freshly healed; there will be no peeling like the kine have, no lotion that needs be applied. Just smooth skin now illustrated by the chosen image.

GM: Dani gives a hissed sound of pain at first and clenches a cushion, but it’s not too bad. The shoulders have few nerve endings and Dicentra does quick work.

Dani asks her about herself as she works. Has she been doing this for long? How does she know Jade?

Celia: The lies come easily. Dicentra is happy to distract her client with chatter.

She has been offering body modifications for a very long time. She does everything from facial reconstruction to unwanted parts removal (she has had a number of trans clients, she explains) to smoothing things over for Kindred who no longer want to deal with the nightly hassle of shaving or cutting their hair.

“We don’t all die as we wish to.”

She says that she met Jade at the beginning of the lick’s Requiem. The lick caught her eye at a Toreador guild function; while another of the clan rolled their eyes at her playing with foundation and blush, Dicentra saw potential. She took Jade under her wing and has served as a mentor of sorts, though they have since become fast friends.

There are other services she provides. Almost anything with the body, such as the mask that Jade has commissioned for Danielle. It is not yet ready; Dicentra wanted to speak to Danielle personally to suss out what sort of appearance she would like.

GM: Danielle is very interested to hear all of that and has many questions, both about Kindred physiology and the night doctor’s relationship to Jade.

“I’m happy you were there for her. She’s been a mentor for me, too.”

“Hm, I’m not picky, beyond ‘not ugly,’” says Dani at the question of how her mask should look. “Of all that’s changing is my face, right? Maybe something that goes well with a longer, darker wig.”

Celia: “I can work within those parameters. It will be delivered shortly. And yes, she said as much.”

Dicentra finally pulls away and offers Danielle a hand mirror so she can check it out in the bathroom.

GM: “It looks wonderful!” Danielle exclaims with a smile. “Thank you so much!”

“Can I hug you? I’ve heard that shaking hands is a no, so…”

Celia: She’s accepted more intimate forms of gratitude. She allows Danielle to hug her; she doesn’t even pretend that it bothers her, letting the thin-blood thing remain just another far-off problem for the girl.

“She told me about your situation,” Dicentra says once it ends.

GM: Danielle gives her a grateful squeeze.

“Then I guess you know how thankful I am. This’ll let me still become a lawyer.”

Celia: “I am happy to be of service. Should you require further services, Jade can contact me.”

“Will you send Mrs. Flores down?”

GM: She nods. “Of course. Be a sec.”

Dani disappears, then returns with a somewhat frumpy-looking Diana who hasn’t had time to shower or do her hair and face, though she’s changed into a blouse and skirt. She smiles when she sees Dicentra and attempts to greet her with a hug.

“Thank you so much for comin’ so late, doctor!”

Celia: It would be rude of her to turn the woman away when she just accepted a hug from Danielle. She hugs Diana in greeting.

“Good evening, Mrs. Flores.” She offers the same sort of introduction that she had given Dani, though she does not mention the name “Jade.”

GM: Diana takes that all in with a nod.

“It’s very nice to meet you, doctor. Can we get you anything to drink or munch on while you’re here?”

Celia: The doctor laughs.

“Unless you are offering to replace the juice I will spend working on you, I believe I will decline.”

GM: Diana looks thoughtful. “That seems only fair, if you’re workin’-”

“Was, ah, that not paid for?” Dani asks, seeming to notice Jade’s name not coming up.

Celia: “She and I have an arrangement,” Dicentra tells Danielle, “though it does not include blood.” Amused, she turns back to Diana. “Most licks will not turn down the offer.”

GM: “Okay, so it’s only polite?” Diana nods. “Well, why don’t we-”

“I don’t think you need to,” says Dani.

Celia: Dicentra inclines her head toward Danielle.

“She is correct, Mrs. Flores.”

GM: “Well, all right. But just let me know if you get hungry, you are helping us out.”

Celia: “We are always hungry.”

GM: “I think she’ll be fine, too,” says Dani.

“Well, I’m sorry. That doesn’t sound too fun.” Diana looks sympathetic.

Celia: “Did she not explain that to you?”

GM: “Oh, she did. It’s just somethin’ else to hear from someone else, you know?”

The trio make their way to the couch in short enough order, Dani and Dicentra explaining what to expect. Diana nods, removes her blouse, and lays down.

“Oh, gosh, what to ask for… this seems so naughty, gettin’ a tattoo. So… rebellious.

“Let’s maybe do it on my back, so my kids don’t get any ideas?”

Celia: “That will be a good spot for it. Do you know what sort of mark you would like? It is meant to represent shadow dancing. Perhaps a pair of ballet flats? She tells me you are a dancer.”

GM: Diana nods. “That’s just what I was thinkin’! A pair of pointe shoes, a ballerina, or maybe a flower. I can’t decide.”

“How well does a flower represent shadow dancing, you think?” asks Dani.

“Hm, I suppose not so well,” says Diana. “It was for my name. But I’d be happy with pointe shoes or a ballerina.”

Celia: “If you would like a flower, we can make a flower. There are some that bloom at night: the moonflower, the night phlox, the angel’s trumpet. Or perhaps, should you be able to look past the name, the Hellebore. Unlike most florals, they can bloom in the middle of winter when other plants still shake beneath the soil. They are hardy things, able to survive weather that would kill the more delicate species, root and stem. Though pretty, they protect themselves well; even animals will not eat from their leaves.”

Dicentra gives Diana a long look.

“It is also called the Christmas rose, and has a home in Greek mythology. It was thought to cure madness.”

GM: “Oh, now that is inspiring…” Diana murmurs. “Hm, how about we do both? A hellebore, with the silhouette of a ballerina with her arms raised in the center? Or maybe the hellebore for her tutu?”

Celia: “That would be fitting. I can do either.”

GM: “Okay. Let’s do… oh,” she chuckles, “it’s hard to decide.”

Celia: “It can be both, Mrs. Flores. Tattoos are deeply personal things that can have plenty of meaning. I can build an entire bouquet for you with the ballerina.”

GM: “Oh, perfect, then! But would it be a very big tattoo? I don’t want it to take up too much of my back, when my kids see me at the beach or pool.”

Celia: “It will be small enough to conceal, Mrs. Flores.”

GM: “Okay, that sounds like a winner, then. Ballerina bouquet!”

“Ballerina bouquet,” Dani repeats, smiling.

Diana gives a little laugh. “This feels just so rebellious, a tattoo…”

Celia: Before she begins, she takes a moment to heat the blood she had reserved. She is not yet close to the edge, but she is too close to risk around a house full of sleeping potential victims.

She takes one draught, just enough to slake the beginnings of hunger, and saves the rest for later.

Then her work begins. As before, her fingers blur across the surface of the skin, using a needle to pierce the flesh to deposit tiny dots of pigment across Diana’s back. She puts the mark in a small, easy to conceal spot near the small of her back, close to where the line of her panties would ordinarily rest. It will be concealed by anything the woman wears, but will be enough to protect her.

Dicentra builds the story of the ballerina into her work. The hellebore takes center stage as the outline and the ballerina’s skirt, but the other flowers have a place as well: the rose of her daughter’s clan, the aforementioned moonflower, the angel’s trumpet that also blooms at night. The ballerina stands en pointe in the center of the image, one leg lifted as if at any moment she will leap off the skin. Her arms form a perfect circle above her head, where more tiny petals have been placed.

GM: Diana whimpers under the needle’s prick, at first, but the lower back has few nerve endings and Dani holds her hand. Dani takes a picture of the tattoo with her phone so she can see the final result.

“Oh my goodness…” she murmurs when she sees it. “This is just, this is just absolutely gorgeous! She looks like she’s about to jump right off my skin… and a good thing, too, I want to ask if I can borrow that fabulous costume!”

“You do beautiful work, Dr. Dicentra, thank you so much!” she exclaims, hugging the leather-clad doctor.

Celia: Dicentra accepts the second hug from Diana, smiling beneath her mask. Her Beast had not even minded the work.

“You are very welcome, Mrs. Flores. I am happy to be of assistance with this. This should keep you both scented like mortals so that those like me, or those with our gifts, cannot pick up on you.”

“There is one more thing I have been asked to pass along to you both.”

GM: “Perfect,” Diana nods. “Practical and pretty! I’ll give your business five stars over Yelp,” she winks.

“What’s that, in any case?”

Celia: Dicentra laughs at Diana’s words. If only there were a Yelp for vampire services. Perhaps someone will create one to keep their kind honest.

She can imagine the sort of horror stories that would appear on there.

“Earlier this evening the memories of your status were removed from the ghouls in the home. Danielle was allowed to keep hers at Miss Kalani’s behest. She is tied up this evening and will not be home to tell you, but asked me to pass it along.”

GM: “Oh. Okay,” Diana says. She looks more bummed not to see Celia than anything else. “Lips zipped around them all, in that case?”

Celia: “Yes, Mrs. Flores. She will be around tomorrow to touch base. I believe that you can return home soon.”

GM: “Maybe that’ll make Reggie hit on you less,” Dani mutters.

“Ugh.” Diana pulls a face, then turns back to the night doctor. “Did she say it’d be okay for me to go into work today?”

Celia: “Yes. You are free to return to work.”

GM: “Wonderful. Thanks so much for lettin’ us know, I’m sure you have lots of clients and things you’d rather do than play messenger.”

Celia: Briefly, Dicentra explains how the tattoos work to conceal what they are, and how the women must “activate” them.

But she shakes her head at Diana’s words.

“I was coming here regardless, and these sorts of messages cannot be conveyed electronically.”

GM: Both of them listen attentively and ask a few questions, then repeat their thanks that they can go back to their lives.

Celia: “Should you need anything in the future, she can contact me.”

GM: “Ah, speakin’ of… I’m sure she already asked, so maybe its’s silly of me to, but can you do anything for old injuries? I have this bum leg…”

Celia: “We have spoken of it. Yes and no. My work does not go bone deep, but I can can fix the scar tissue.” Dicentra nods toward Diana’s cut arm, then holds out a hand. “There, for example.” She’s glad she saw it; she had almost forgotten.

“I have colleagues who can do bone work. I plan to soon learn; there are few of us who do these sorts of things with the bodies, and teachers often jealously guard their secrets. I have put her in contact with one of them to see about the leg. Unless you wish me to remove the bone and replace it with something else entirely.”

GM: Diana offers her arm so the doctor can take a closer look.

“Oh. That sounds a little scary,” she murmurs. “Maybe see what you hear back from your colleagues. I’ve had it 13 years, I can have it a lil’ longer. Thank you so much for all you’ve done, again.”

“Yes, thank you so much,” Dani repeats. “I don’t know if you’ll ever need anything from us, but if you do…”

Celia: A pass of her hands removes the scar from the tissue. It looks as if she had never cut herself. Her blood sings inside her body; the girl beneath the mask is pleased that she can finally offer the service to her mother, regardless of what face she wears.

How can she be a monster when her very actions show her to be a healer?

“Keep yourselves safe. I know how much she cares for both of you.”

GM: “Oh, that looks wonderful, doctor! It’s just, all gone! Thank you so much!” Diana exclaims.

She gives Dicentra another hug.

“You keep yourself safe. She says how rough the whole… Camarilla is, but you’re a good person, I can tell.”

“And I’ll echo what Dani said, you ever need us, just give a holler!”

Celia: It’s difficult not to slip in the face of such love, but Dicentra plays the role that she has cast for herself. She hugs both of the women again and thanks them for their well-wishes, saying that “you never know when you need a friend.”

If they have no further questions, she takes her leave back into the night, a little lighter than when she had seen it last.


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

Celia: A gray cat sits on the side of the road near Mid-City, licking a paw and stroking its face and whiskers. Its color keeps it almost invisible to the predators in the night, and a trick with shadows and auras occludes it from another sort of predator.

The cat flicks its tail as it waits.

It had almost not come to this spot. It had almost allowed the girl to call the boy and cancel; the cat remembers what had happened the last time it had spent the day. But the idea of loose hunters and the boy sleeping alone, without the cat to defend it and slaughter the birds that might come for it to steal it away, does not sit well with the cat. The boy belongs to it. And it has not yet found the rat.

The girl, too, has her own reasons for coming. She’s rather fond of her tongue. She doesn’t like the idea of living in chains. She’s curious, like her counterpart, about a whole host of details that she can get to the bottom of with a simple conversation.

So the cat sits on the side of the road, cleaning its paws and flicking its tail. It waits for its boy.

GM: That cat doesn’t wait long.

The boy’s car pulls up. The boy gets out. He’s got a cat bag in hand. One of those more comfortable, less claustrophobic kitty carriers.

“Hey, puss,” he smiles, kneeling down to scratch the cat’s ears.

Celia: It might be less claustrophobic, but the cat does not like the idea of a carrier at all. The cat is a spoiled thing; it likes laps and wants its boy to be close.

The cat purrs once the boy touches it, arching its back and winding around his feet the way cats do. It rubs its face against his fingers, marking him as belonging to it.

GM: The boy laughs, pets the cat’s back, and moves is face closer as he scratches both sides of its neck, just under the whiskers.

“Hey, puss,” he coos again.

Celia: The cat’s eyes close in contentment. Cats do not have the same sort of blink reflex that humans do, and this cat, who was once a Kindred and before that a woman, does not feel its loss. But cats communicate through their eyes just as much as any other animal; the slow, languid blink now conveys its affection for the boy. It purrs again, its body vibrating, and leans in to touch its nose to the boy’s.

GM: He smiles as he accepts the kitty kiss, then pulls the cat against his chest. He nuzzles the back on its head with his chin, strokes the hair leading from its own chin to its chest. His other hand starts to scratch the belly.

“You’re very affectionate.”

Celia: Cats are very affectionate.

And the girl is very affectionate.

Together they’re a cuddle monster.

The cat meows at its boy, as if in agreement, and its body turns to liquid in the boy’s arms as the belly rubs begin. The boy can feel the depths of its affection in the way it purrs. It blinks again, one slow movement.

This, it thinks, is the life.

GM: “I could do this forever,” he smiles, his hands scratching back and forth across the belly. Back and forth.

“But the sun’s coming up soon, puss. How about we continue this back at my place, on a nice soft bed?”

He opens the cloth carrier and sets it in front of the cat.

Celia: The cat meows at the carrier, a plaintive, wheedling sound. It turns its face away.

GM: “It’s really comfy,” says the boy, scratching its head. “It’s not like most carriers, hard and plastic. This one is like being in a cardboard box.”

“You love boxes, don’t you?”

Celia: Cats like boxes, that’s true.

But the girl likes laps more.

It doesn’t want to be shut in a box. It darts behind the boy’s legs, as if that will keep it safe from the carrier.

GM: He turns around and pets down the cat’s back some more. “Other option is you sit on my lap when I’m driving.”

Celia: Oh no.

The horror.

Not the lap.

These are the things the cat would say, if it could. It’s sassy like that.

But it doesn’t make human sounds, so it purrs instead.

GM: “All right,” he chuckles. “Come on.” He hoists the carrier’s strap over his shoulder, picks up the cat, and holds it against his chest as he opens the car door. He gets in and sets the cat down on his lap, closes the door, and takes the wheel.

Celia: The cat takes its time making itself comfortable. It kneads his lap with its paws, turns around three times, and finally settles. It rubs its face against the boy’s belly while he drives.

GM: He smiles and pets the cat with one hand, keeping the other on the wheel. They drive to an apartment complex in Mid-City called the Crescent Club. It’s a nice building with an outdoor pool that looks a lot like The Preserve did. Gentrifying. He parks the car and gets out with the cat cradles in both arms, empty carrier strapped over his back.

“You’re so spoiled.”

He rubs his chin against its head.

“You need a name.”

Celia: It meows in agreement.

GM: “Maybe Smokey?”

Celia: The cat flicks its tail.

GM: “Smokey it is.” He rubs its head again.

Celia: The cat thinks the boy is not very good at cat language. It does not love the name Smokey.

GM: “Smokey, for your gray fur.”

Celia: The cat bops its boy on the nose with its paw.

GM: “Okay, that’s a no, then,” he smiles.

“Luna, for the moon? That’s gray too. And you’re pretty nocturnal.”

Celia: Luna is nice. The cat purrs.

GM: “Luna. Okay. It’s good to give you a name, Luna,” he says, planting a kiss on its head.

Celia: Luna rubs its cheek on the boy’s face and chin as he carries it inside.

GM: He takes the elevator up and unlocks his unit. It’s a nice and tastefully furnished space. Already completely unpacked with all of the things from his old apartment. Celia might suppose it’s no surprise he’d be done fast.

But what does Luna care.

Celia: Luna heard mention of a soft bed.

GM: He sets down the carrier when they’re inside, takes off his shoes (without his hands), and carries the cat to the soft double-sized bed.

“See, isn’t that a big fluffy comforter?”

He takes off his coat and clothes, stripping down to his boxers.

“Being dead has some perks. Don’t need to do the laundry as often.”

Celia: Luna’s little feet do not make a sound when they touch down on the soft comforter on the bed. It rolls around on the space, frolicking as cats do, and only pauses to watch the boy disrobe. The girl inside wonders if the boy would like her to come out, but he seems as if he might need the affection of a cat more than the demands of a girl, and so she stays inside. Luna meows at his mention of laundry, evidently amused at the thought.

When he comes near Luna rubs itself against his bare chest, purring all the while, and finally settles on his chest. Most cats sleep on their people because they like the rhythm of the heartbeat and the slow, steady breaths that they take, but Luna knows the boy is dead. It just wants to be close to him. It rubs its face against his chin.

GM: Roderick smiles and strokes Luna’s head. Pet-pet-pet goes the boy’s hand, from behind the cat’s ears to down across its back.

“Doesn’t have the same security as my old place, yet, but extra thick shades and drapes over the windows there.”

Celia: Luna meows at the boy, as if asking why he needs the security if the place is temporary. It seems content to remain a cat if he’s content talking to himself.

GM: “So I won’t be caught with my pants down,” he answers with a chuckle, stroking the cat. “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and all that.”

Celia: The cat purrs. It obviously accepts that answer. It uses its rough tongue to lick his chin, then rubs against him once more.

Luna likes being his pet.

Maybe the vision was a metaphor.

GM: Maybe the girl can stop it from coming to pass.

Maybe the Ravnos was full of shit anyway.

Maybe this will all work out.

Maybe.


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Story Twelve, Emmett XVI

“Appearances usually are deceiving.”
—Antoine Savoy


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: Savoy, Preston, and Camille spend a little while filling in Em on the basics of his condition and the city’s politics. Prince Vidal bears little love indeed for the Snake Clan, and will likely order Em’s execution if he or his agents discover the fledgling’s true lineage.

“Most of us claim to be Toreador or Caitiff when we leave the Quarter, or do so in stealth,” explains Camille.

Em is technically an illegal Embrace too, but against the fact of his lineage, it’s largely moot. The prince will seek his destruction for that fact alone, should he ever learn.

He also learns what night it is (they don’t say day), as well as the fact that it has been multiple nights since he first arrived at the Evergreen. Rosa Bale was able to tell them around when to expect Em back—“in some form of other,” Savoy remarks amusedly.

Emmett: So time… passed differently where he was?

Whatever. He’s a vampire now.

His mind is still swimming with the new names and minutiae from the other three. “But won’t I be expected to have a legitimate sire to claim as my own if I ever want to appear in… Elysium, you called it?”

GM: “Lie,” says Camille. “Sami says you’re rather good at that. Claim to have been Embraced somewhere else.”

“Mr. Delacroix could also claim an established Kindred as his sire, which carries its own drawbacks and advantages,” states Preston.

Emmett: “Ah. Well enough, then. Being an immigrant seems simpler, as far as that goes.”

Em continues to be an attentive listener, particularly interested in the finer points of etiquette related to ghouls and human pawns.

He has a couple of ideas there. He asks Camille point-blank about her relation to Mouton, who he has designs on himself. He does not wish to ruin the cop’s usefulness to his sire, but would be interested in holding his leash, or purchasing him from whoever currently does.

GM: “Mouton is a considerable asset to myself and Lord Savoy,” says Camille. “Establish yourself somewhere and I’ll consider selling him.”

Emmett: “I have thoughts on that. Does Ron Landrenau belong to anybody?”

GM: “He’s a man in demand,” chuckles Savoy. “He’s one of mine, though I haven’t blooded him. Camille says something about you having an interest in movies, Mr. Delacroix?”

Emmett: “Indeed. I also have an interest in him specifically. To be frank, I am deeply interested in maintaining a relationship with my uncle beyond but including using him to realize creative projects. Lord Savoy, rather than attempting to purchase him from you, I would rather like to oversee his work on your behalf, and perhaps act as a sort of…creative consultant, overseeing projects that further your interests politically while bringing an understanding of the specifics of film to his oversight. Please, don’t spare my feelings; do you see value in such an arrangement? I would never want to involve myself with your pawn without benefiting you in the bargain. The same, of course, goes for Mouton.”

GM: “See? This one’s already wheeling and dealing,” Savoy grins towards Camille. “You could’ve found someone much worse for your second Embrace!”

Emmett: Em acknowledges the point with a smile.

GM: He turns back to Em. “Movies are mostly incidental to my interests, Mr. Delacroix. I think there’s value in your proposition. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t blooded your uncle.”

Emmett: “Well, that’s encouraging. I would try to make the most of his cultural influence, which I know to be considerable. It sounds like youth is a bit of a millstone on this side of the grave, but I think this is an area where my relative proximity to breathing days and my growing understanding of the Kindred world creates opportunities others might not be able to parse. Vampire media exists, despite the Masquerade you’ve described. I’m sure there’s risks playing with such material, but perhaps rewards as well—do Kindred not wish to see something of themselves on the screen, and attach meaning to stories that capture their hearts? And if course there are subtler games to play with entertainment, towards whatever other goals you might have that benefit from popular consumption of this or that idea. Stories do make us who we are, after all.”

GM: “Indeed they do, Mr. Delacroix. There’s a lot of power in stories, among the dead and living alike. We think they affect us less, because there’s no mass market for Kindred-exclusive books and films, but we’re wrong. We still tell stories.”

“And those Kindred-exclusive films that do exist… well, I’ll just say you need to see them to believe them,” the French Quarter lord winks.

“I remember when Dracula was published. You wouldn’t have believed the panic. Many kine had stopped thinking about vampires by then. We swore that book would shatter the Masquerade. And it did—but it reforged it, too, into something better and stronger. Successful vampire films can repeat that book’s feat, by telling the stories we want to tell. Films can make the kine view us more sympathetically and spread disinformation about our strengths and weaknesses.”

“All before the artistic value inherent to them.” Savoy chuckles. “That timeless advice to write what you know. Or film what you know.”

Emmett: “I was going to ask about Dracula,” Em admits. “But I believe you about all of it, especially the Kindred-exclusive movies. I’d be interested in seeing that kind of thing. You can learn a lot about people if you know the stories they know.”

GM: “One surely can. I’ll see what can be arranged as far as those movies. And I’ll offer you some further advice when it comes to kine besides your uncle, Mr. Delacroix.”

“The best pawns are the ones who owe what they are to you. I’ve seen my share of young Kindred who approached established and successful kine, turned them into ghouls, and relied on the Blood alone to secure their loyalty. Love and addiction tug at one half of them, but resentment and ingratitude at their other half. They ultimately don’t need their domitors, but their domitors need them. That isn’t a position you want to be in.”

“But, when you approach someone who doesn’t have what they want, as the smiling devil in a sharp suit, offering the opportunity of a lifetime… that’s another matter. That cultivates lasting loyalty and dependence, if you set up a gangster as head of his gang, help a first-time politician get elected, or take a chance producing a young director’s experimental films. Make someone who they are, and they’ll owe you what they are. They won’t soon forget.”

“It takes a little more time and trouble to arrange. But the dividends pay that back and then some.”

Emmett: “Sage advice, my lord,” Em says unironically. “I couldn’t have picked a better place to be reborn.”

GM: When the question of thanking Savoy for his hospitality and continuing to operate in the French Quarter arises, the Toreador chuckles.

“The more operators we have in the Quarter, the better, Mr. Delacroix. What questions do you have for me?”

Emmett: “The Quarter is prime real estate,” Em says directly, “even if I’m a quiet tenant. I’d like to know whose toes to avoid stepping on and how to walk around them. And, by the same token, where I can find friends to run with. I imagine this life is lonely without them, just like the one before.”

Well, before he got executed, anyways.

GM: Savoy chuckles again. “The other students will always give you better advice where to make friends than the principal, Mr. Delacroix. You might start by asking your sister-in-blood that.”

“Your sire will also steer you straight, as far as toes to avoid. You’ll have her and the rest of your clan backing you up. There are a lot more of them than just her.” Savoy offers a knowing wink, then drums his fingers. “But as some immediate advice, many of the border and poorer areas of the Quarter are pretty crowded. Full of… how might you describe them, Nat?”

“Weak-blooded vagabonds, castoffs, riffraff, outcasts, and scum other cities didn’t want,” notes Preston.

“That’s one way,” grins Savoy. “They’ve been pushed around a lot. They aren’t too dangerous by themselves, but in large numbers they can be.”

Emmett: “I’ve seen some of that crowd,” Em agrees amiably. “I know what you mean.”

He steers the conversation towards Abélia next. “I confess there’s still a lot of things I’m unsure of about her nature. If I’m right about her reasons for sending me here, she probably wants a contact in your camp. I might be better positioned towards how to navigate her if I knew more about her; and of course, that would go a long way if you wish to use me as an intermediary with her.”

GM: Em hears a voice echo in his head as he starts to broach the topic, but before he can say her name.

:: If you’ll oblige me, Mr. Delacroix, let’s speak of her more privately. ::

The French Quarter lord’s lips, though, continue to mouth other words.

“1020 Esplanade and the surrounding area is where the Sangiovanni make their domain. Watch your step around them, too, but they can be valuable allies to enterprising Kindred.”

:: I’m to understand she facilitated your Embrace as payment for services rendered, though using you as a contact may well have occurred to her—and also has to me! You’ve certainly dealt with her more intimately than any other intermediary I might send. There aren’t many Kindred who’ve entered her lair and emerged to tell of it. ::

Emmett: The thrill of the sudden telepathic subterfuge would set the stolen body’s pulse racing if it still had one, but as is Em feels every muscle (does this guy have more muscle than him? that’s a nice change) in his new cadaver twinge with rigor mortis at the shock. His response is stumbling, but electric

:: You’re in my head this is new sorry let me orient. Ahem. Yes, in the interest of utter honesty I’ve seen an awful lot of her and what she can do but still don’t know what she is, and knowledge that lets me respect her better is very precious to me right now, as, to be blunt, I’m sure direct experience with her is valuable to you. Lord Savoy. Sorry, it’s harder to be polite in your own head. ::

A mental pause. He can’t help himself with the honesty. It’s like talking to somebody when you’re naked. Pretense goes out the window.

:: You’re very dashing, by the way. Since you’re listening in. And I don’t use the word dashing often. I don’t even think the word dashing often. ::

“I’ll keep that in mind, too,” he replies a moment later to the spoken comment.

“Thank you, Lord Savoy.”

GM: There’s a mental chuckle as Savoy continues to talk about various spots in the Quarter.

The voice in Em’s head is more controlled. He ‘sounds’ like he’s done this before.

:: Practice makes perfect, Mr. Delacroix. It can help to visualize the words when you’re new. Like you’re writing a letter. ::

:: As to Madam Devillers, she is a predator, much like us. Perhaps you know something of her diet already? I think she only prefers the taste of incorporeal flesh, though. Anything with a soul can sate her hunger. ::

Emmett: :: And… her daughters? ::

Unbidden, Cécilia’s face swims to the front of his mind. Perhaps Savoy can see it, or feel the sudden longing to stand before her that consumes the fledgling.

:: _What is their nature?-::

GM: Another mental chuckle.

:: They seem human in all the ways that count, though appearances usually are deceiving. I doubt they’re wholly so with a mother like her. I confess to having had more dealings with their parent. ::

:: You want her, don’t you, Mr. Delacroix? That can be achieved. ::

:: What is success without a beautiful woman to share it with? ::

Emmett: :: I don’t know what I want. Except… to know. If she’s a monster, too. ::

He manages to articulate a mental cough. :: Sorry. Bit maudlin, that. ::

GM: :: Perhaps you know the answer already. What makes a monster? A frightening appearance? Preternatural powers? A diet like ours? How one treats others? ::

Emmett: :: I suppose in her case, I’d say it’s what she’s willing to tolerate from those she loves. But I don’t know if that’s some kind of inhuman indifference — or real forgiveness. Real grace. ::

GM: :: That second quality is precious, isn’t it? I’m afraid I can’t give you an answer there, but perhaps you might ask her yourself. We can find reasons to send you to her mother’s on my behalf, I’m sure. ::

:: If I may also advise—a whiter face may make her easier to pursue, should you choose to. Even if she sees past skin, many of her friends and acquaintances likely don’t. ::

Emmett: :: Then I guess I should talk to your Dr. Dicentra about that, at least. ::

GM: :: I’m sure she’ll be happy to oblige. ::

:: White or black, you’ll find it all tastes the same. ::

Emmett: :: I’m new to vampirism, but not to predation. I was a bad man. A wicked ghost, too. I understand the value of secrets. So I understand if this one isn’t yours to give, or if it costs me more. Is there a word for the kind of predator Abélia is? ::

GM: :: The answer to that is both, Mr. Delacroix. It’s a costly secret, and not mine to share. ::

Emmett: He inclines his head, seemingly at some recommendation flowing from the vampiric lord’s lips. Neat bit of multitasking, that.

GM: :: Understand that most of our kind aren’t aware she exists, so I’d be cautious whom you share that secret with. We’re exploitative beings by nature and she doesn’t desire much company outside of her daughters. Kindred who disturb or seek to investigate her rarely survive to regret their mistake. ::

:: I’m impressed you’ve made it as far as you have with her. ::

Emmett: :: I’m lucky. It’s my best feature. Especially now. ::


Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM

GM: Em and his sire depart the Evergreen’s rooftop garden after Preston says Dr. Dicentra has been contacted. Camille spends further time explaining the basics of Kindred existence to him in a Louis XIV-style sitting room.

They’ve been in conversation for perhaps an hour when the night doctor arrives.

Support: They look as if they’ve taken care to hide their identity. Red has long been the Kindred color of choice, but the night doctor has taken the night for their own in their garb: black on black on black. Black combat boots with a chunky heel laced to mid-shin, black leather pants that cling to every curve, a black shirt that shows off an ample chest and well-muscled arms, and black gloves with black nails that longer than any lick’s should be. They look sharp, those nails. Even her hair is black, and the eyes that peer out from truly ebon skin obscured by some sort of glamour are black as well.

The form is feminine enough to call it “her,” though perhaps that is yet another way to mask their true identity.

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The night doctor halts in the room’s doorway.

“My services have been requested,” she says without preamble.

Emmett: “Which services were those again,” Em mutters, looking her over. “You’ve made me forget everything except how to ask for you name.”

Support: The black-clad doctor might smile, but it’s hard to tell beneath the mask. She steps into the room.

“Your appearance. You wish it altered, I have been told.”

Emmett: “I think so,” Em says, “But I’m on the fence about what I need it altered to. You might be able to help me decide.”

“This face isn’t really mine to begin with, if you want to know the truth. I’m not sure if I should ask for a new one altogether, or try to make do with my old self.”

GM: “What advantages do your old face and a new face have?” Camille poses.

Emmett: “My old face is dead, at least to those who know me. If I show it to them, they’ll recognize me, which breaks the Masquerade. But I am easily disguised, and it might be useful to reveal my identity to certain people. For, ah, dramatic flourishes, if nothing else.”

“But a new face is a chance to start over, and this is a new beginning. Not many people ever get that chance, and besides, there’s a lot of baggage in that old face. A lot of hate, too. Maybe it’s better to wear a new one.”

Em considers the night doctor. “Whoever you are, you’ve done this before. What do you think?”

Support: “Many Kindred seek my services for different reasons,” she answers. “They want to be stronger, bigger, more imposing. They want to erase old scars from their bodies. They tire of the nightly shave and a haircut routine.”

The doctor studies Emmett.

“If your former face is known to be dead, let it stay dead. Do not break the Masquerade. There are other ways to prove your identity than a face should you desire to seek out old acquaintances. But appearances are everything. A charming smile will get you far when you pair it with quick wit and a silver tongue.”

The doctor nods toward Camille, though she continues to speak to Emmett.

“Kindred and kine alike remember the eyes. Should you seek a face easily disguised, something plainer will do. Then you can become your own canvas. Alternatively, I can create an ideal version of the old you with enough changes that no one who was not intimately familiar with your face will recognize.”

“If you are still undecided… I am a sculptor. Sometimes the flesh speaks to me and tells me what it wants to be.”

Emmett: “Sculpt,” Em says. “I will talk with you as you do. Maybe I’ll look more like myself than I did before.

But… you said the eyes have something of the soul. If you saw a picture of me, could you give me my old eyes back?”

Support: “Yes. I could. I will warn, however, that eye modifications are among the most painful bodily altercations I can perform.”

Emmett: Em smiles faintly.

“Well. Maybe you can give me a treat if I don’t cry, afterwards.”

He looks at Camille. “Do you happen to have an image of my old face in your phone, or something?”

GM: His sire only gives that question a thin smile.

Emmett: “Fine,” Em says. “I’ll get it.”

He holds out his hand. He does it without thinking about it, flexing that part of him that still hasn’t processed that he’s no longer a being of spirit rather than flesh.

A pair of eyes float inches above his palm, staring into the night doctor’s. They’re dark as a dark night and full of cruel mirth — but for all their cruelty, most people would kill to get the joke.

They’re Emmett Delacroix’s eyes, he realizes. The dream of his eyes, gathered and held for the good doctor to see. By the time the conjured gaze dissolves, he expects it’s left an impression.

GM: “Well done,” Camille purrs. “Veiling can also be used to resume your old face, should the need arise.”

“Or should I say, the rest of your old face.”

Support: It’s difficult to tell whether the display leaves an impression on the doctor or not. The black mask gives nothing away.

“I can see,” she says mildly, “why you’d like them back.”

“Consider it done.”

Emmett: “Then let’s get started. Where do you want me?”

“Um. Also. Do I need to be naked for this?”

Support: “Not yet.” A flash of fangs accompanies her amused tone.

Dicentra looks to Camille.

“I do not allow others to observe my process. I will take him to the Red Room and send for you when we are done.”

Emmett: Red Room. Sounds, dare he think it, erotic?

What else would red signify?

GM: “Of course, doctor,” answers Camille as she rises from her seat. A smile plays across her caramel features as she brushes past the masked Kindred. One of her hands strokes the night doctor’s breasts as lightly and idly as a serpent’s flicking tongue.

“What luscious thoughts swim underneath the mask, I wonder…” she murmurs into Dicentra’s ear, “that one with the power to alter flesh would wear so luscious a form, even disguised… I bet you’d be a lot of fun, with it off.”

She winks knowingly, then turns slightly to address Em as well.

“Sami will swing by in an hour or so. Think of a new name to go with your new face. It can be real-sounding, or something poetic like Harlequin or Sundown.”

Support: The doctor looks as if she might follow in Camille’s wake at that touch; she reaches out, snagging the snake’s wrist in her hand before she can go too far.

“Perhaps,” the voice from beneath the mask purrs, “one night I shall seek you out and grant your wish to see beneath the leather.”

Dicentra only turns to Em once his sire has taken her leave and beckons for him to follow her. She leads him through the halls of the Evergreen with casual certainty, obviously familiar with the layout of the club. She makes no idle chatter as she walks, though the vibe that he gets from her is less “foreboding” than it is “contemplative.”

Eventually they reach the Red Room. She takes him inside and closes the door behind her, ensuring their privacy with the click of a lock. Looking around, Emmett can see the reason it is called the Red Room: though they have been drained of blood, bodies sit on metal shelves around the room. Some of the corpses have had their throats torn out. Others have been split from sternum to groin. Still others carry a multitude of marks upon their skin, holes from which they bled their last. Male, female, black, white, and in between, but all of them have been stripped of their clothing and their life.

It might be cold to the kine, but the freshly dead fledgling does not feel the chill upon his skin. A table has already been set up in the middle of the room.

“You can remove your clothing now.”

She gestures toward the table. Metal, like the shelves, reminiscent of the sort of gurney found in a coroner’s office. Holes have been drilled into it to allow for easy cleanup; beneath Emmett’s feet the tile floor slopes gently toward a drain set in the middle.

Emmett: He does so in efficient, experienced bursts, only somewhat belied by his relative inexperience in this passenger. He pulls stolen cloth from stolen flesh and then approaches the table. The whole thing is very Six Million Dollar Man.

“This seems uneven,” he says wryly, as he sits the stolen body on the table.

Support: The doctor watches from behind her impassive mask. It’s hard to tell how she thinks or feels when her features are thus hidden.

“You must be new,” she says, though the words aren’t unkind. “You will get used to being naked in front of other Kindred.”

GM: He did it all the time as a whore.

Emmett: “Oh, I’ve been a whore. That’s not the hard part. It was more of an invitation by way of observation.”

Support: “Clever,” she purrs, “I can see why your sire chose you. Shall I call her in and let you share me?”

Emmett: “Is it wrong that I don’t want to share my first time?”

Support: Low, throaty laughter sounds from beneath the mask.

“Perhaps if you don’t scream that will be the aforementioned treat.”

Dicentra tells him to lie back and removes the gloves from her hands, reaching for his face. She stops just shy of touching him.

“May I?”

Emmett: “Please.”

Support: Her fingers stroke his skin, their touch cool.

“Young,” she murmurs.

The pad of her thumb traces his lips. He can feel it shift beneath the gentle pressure; pain flares, but it is fleeting, banished by the light touch that follows. A moment later it dissipates.

“Made for smiles.”

Two fingers slide down the bridge of his nose, squeezing as they go. For a moment he’s blinded by the pain. Then it, too, flees before the words that come.

“Guilty.”

The doctor pauses.

“Dead.”

Cool fingertips brush against his skin from his hairline to his jaw. They trail down his cheek, a whisper-soft touch that reminds him of butterfly kisses and the wind on his face. They remind him of every girl he’s ever embraced, every longing thought, every moment of ecstasy.

“Close your eyes,” she whispers. “Go inside.”

Emmett: He does so. It’s easy to listen to her. She’s been right enough, so far.

And those fingers, besides. There was nothing like them in the Shadowlands.

Support: The last thing he sees before closing his eyes is motion behind the mask the doctor wears, the slight suggestion of a smile.

Then she’s gone, and him with her. He’s transported; no longer lying on a metal table within the Red Room, he finds himself in a long hallway. Rich carpet gives beneath the soles of his shoes, burgundy tussore woven through with saffron and ivory. Cream walls hem him in to the left and right, their continuous lines broken only by the frames of doors that open onto empty tableau. Colorful lights shine from beneath the frames of the doors: crimson, coral, amber, viridian, azure, indigo. He recognizes the settings as he passes:

A sitting room in Madam Devillers’ house, devoid of life.

Cafe Soulé, where a smiling Madeline delivers a pair of hurricanes to a younger Emmett and a beautiful girl in a sling.

A hotel suite. He doesn’t linger long in this doorway. Hotels have never been kind to Emmett Delacroix.

The Giacona manse, where a woman with poison eyes asks him how much he’ll give to get what he wants.

Louisiana State Penitentiary, his final resting place.

The rooftop garden he just vacated, the place of his rebirth.

All of them speak of his past. It is the door in front of him, however, that speaks to his future. White wood inlaid with swirls and whorls of gold and silver that dance before his eyes, slithering across the frame. A golden handle waits for his touch.

Emmett: He touches it, hopes his fingers can do the same thing to it the night doctor’s touch does to him as he turns it—

Support: It opens into a well-appointed suite. A king-sized bed sits in the center of the room, its ornate bedspread covered in rose petals that have spilled from the bed to the floor in a puddle of red. To one side another set of doors open onto what he imagines is a closet, beside it a mahogany armoire and floor length mirror. The windows look out over the city he has called home for most of his life, an idealized, colorful version of it that makes the Shadowlands’ grayscale a far distant memory. The yellow, green, and purple of the Quarter dominate the scene.

A champagne bottle rests on ice in the center of the bed, but when he pops the cork the heady scent of blood reaches him. Blood. The bread and butter of their kind now. The only thing he will ever taste again. A glass waits beside it should he choose to quench his thirst.

Emmett: He drinks. When has he not?

But there’s such a large bed, and plenty to drink, yet nobody to share it with.

Support: Despite the ice the blood within the bottle is hot. It slides down his throat, viscous and warm; it tastes like a comforting embrace, like the mythological siren of Poseidon or Hades beckoning him down into the depths of the water to deprive him of his last breath; it tastes like unrequited love, like ruby red lips and kohl liner, like leather and lace. It sets a fire in his belly, unfurling outward to sing through his veins.

“Delicious, isn’t it?”

A black-clad woman reclines on the bed beside him. Black gauze obscures her face; there’s no movement beneath the fabric, no way to tell if she has a mouth or eyes or features beyond the flat mask. Different than Dicentra, but somehow Emmett knows: it’s her.

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“You’re like me,” she tells him, “a man without a face. But that’s okay. We’ll find you one.”

He looks into the mirror and sees that she’s right. He has no face.

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Her voice echoes through his mind and body.

“Who are you?”

Emmett: His voice answers hers in a murmur, one that tugs his lips in the waking world as surely as they responded to the taste of blood.

“A bad, bad man. I’m worried I might be too good at being a vampire. People have always been disposable to me.”

Support: The mask over her face moves, suggesting a smile.

“You are in good company, then. Those whom you call friend and ally will tell you that to be good at one thing you must be bad at another. They will ask you to shed your human shackles.”

Emmett: “Do you believe something different?”

Support: “Not in so many words, though as in all things I believe there is balance to be found within your Requiem.”

“Strong enough connections can keep you tethered to your humanity. You need not be a purveyor of wanton destruction to succeed, though many will say that is the swiftest path.”

“But this is your rebirth. Who do you want to be?”

Emmett: “I want to be free,” he says truly. “To love who I love and fuck over who I don’t. Free to watch movies and maybe make one when I get bored. Free so… mmh.”

Free so the souls I destroyed went for something other than Abélia’s larders, he’d been about to but just barely does not say, mindful of the French Quarter lord’s warning. He’s not normally this open, is he?

Damn her hands.

“I want to be on top,” he finishes without so much as stuttering.

And winks.

Top-shelf flirting for a dead man, really.

Support: “Big dreams for the freshly dead,” the masked woman tells him, “but we all start where you are now. I’ll give you the advice that was given to me when I was still a greenfang: make yourself useful to someone. You’re at the bottom of the mountain now, but it is not insurmountable.”

There’s definitely a smile beneath the wrapping. The hands touching his body have moved from his face lower; beyond the scene in his mind he feels the tips of her fingers against his traps, unwinding muscle fiber.

“The great thing about hierarchies is that they change. As do people, Kindred included. Take your time to try on new masks as you will, but you need a face beneath that.”

Emmett: “Could I be of use to you?” He pushes on, lost in her touch.

Support: “Aside from the favor you will owe me for this work?”

There’s a momentary pause, though the hands on his body do not cease their work.

“Perhaps I will see what you make of your Requiem and seek you out. Pick a pretty enough face and I know a former whore with whom you might compare notes.”

Emmett: “And what if I wish to find you?”

Support: “I have a phone. Unlike the Anarchs, you won’t need to rely on tagging a random surface and hoping that I find you.”

Emmett: “Anarchs are which ones again? Vampire communists?”

Support: “Rebels who think they have a cause.”

Emmett: “I didn’t even have to die to meet those.”

He lifts a hand to her obscured face. “Could I see yours? Since you’re the first ever to see mine.”

Support: The doctor does not resist his touch. His fingertips brush against the gauze and it fades away like smoke, dissipating into the air.

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His own face stares back at him.

Emmett: He blinks.

Not the smartest cookie, but he can figure this one out.

“You know me.”

Support: “We’re inside your head. You know yourself.”

Emmett: “How are you doing this? This dreaming thing.”

Support: “Shadow dancing,” she tells him. “Not dreaming. You can get out of it at any time. The lick I mentioned earlier taught it to me in exchange for some work. If this is truly your face, she has a pet that might be interested in knowing. She can tell you more.”

“But we’re here to pick a new face for you. The man you were is dead. Who are you now?”

Emmett: “Tired. Older. Wiser, maybe.”

But maybe not, of course.

Support: Dicentra considers him for a moment. A wave of her hand opens the set of double doors to the side of the room, where a thousand faces hang from a thousand gilded hangers. A crook of her fingers summons one to them.

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“Tired and old,” she tells him, “and perhaps some wisdom in there somewhere. Is this the face you seek?”

Emmett: He laughs. “Some men age gracefully, don’t they? I want a face people trust, for all that. Thirties, more than forties.”

Support: She laughs with him., dismissing the first face into smoke and shadow.

“Your own face, but better? Older?”

Another takes its place. Him. The two sides of him: young and old, light and dark, dead and alive. Wicked and innocent.

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Emmett: “Older,” he agrees. I always wanted to be grow up, some day. Now I suppose I have forever.”

He requests some cosmetic changes, too. A few roguish scars about the face. A bit of aging here, smoothing there. His hair can afford to be messier now than it once was, he expects.

His face lies. Makes him a new man.

But his eyes will tell the truth.

Support: The face of the man floating in front of the two of them shifts as Emmett speaks. Dicentra controls the movements with a twitch of her fingers, and every word that comes out of Em’s mouth makes another alteration to the flesh in front of them. They build the ideal face together. Dicentra remains predominantly silent; she just sculpts. She is the paintbrush and he the hand that directs it, and only when he asks for input does she speak to offer a word of advice—“that scar will suit you better on this side,” or “the symmetry is off.” She offers guidance without judgement.

She asks if anyone has explained how their bodies work, and tells him that any changes she makes will be permanent, though any that he himself makes will only ever be temporary. He could shave his head one night and will find that the next it has regrown to its original length and color. Some Kindred find ritual in their daily grooming, while others despise the wasted time and curse the styles that were en vogue when they died.

Younger, he says, and she teases him with a boy.

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Messy hair, he says, and laughingly she gives him a mop of curls that will never be tamed.

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He wants a smile that can shatter hearts, and she smiles at him with his old face and gives him the smirk of someone who might have cut those same hearts out of their chests.

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Less like a serial killer, he asks, and it changes again.

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Distantly, Emmett feels the doctor’s hands across his body. His flesh shifts beneath her touch; there’s pain, dull and sharp by turns, and inside the suite of his mind the doctor tells him to keep going. She distracts him with this game of faces, preventing the pain from overwhelming him, teasing and coaxing him to make absurd changes to make him laugh. He feels it, but it’s muted, and all the while the new face comes together.

When they’ve decided on a face she asks about the body, and the pain that flares at her touch shifts to something less red hot while she reworks muscle and skin at his direction. Buff or willowy, hard or soft, big or little—yes, even there—she gives him what he wants.

He doesn’t know how much time has passed when the work finally ends. But the Dicentra in his head smiles at him and tells him it is done.

She withdraws from his mind, her black-clad form dispersing into smoke and shadow.

When he opens his eyes, she holds out a mirror.

Emmett: It’s not such a young face, really. Younger than his father, as far as that goes. Younger than his uncle, too.

But this face looks like maybe its been to prison. Like maybe its seen the ugliest parts of being human, from the inside looking out.

But for all the ugly inside him, Em thinks he comes out looking pretty good.

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Maybe a little soviet, at that.

Support: As if Lord Savoy or his sire would give him some second-rate night doctor.

Behind the mask, Dicentra smiles down at him.

“There are showers to rinse yourself of blood,” she tells him. Her hands, he sees, are bloody up to the elbow, and his body is covered in it.

Emmett: “Oh,” he says. His new voice sounds strange, but also comforting to new ears.

“How do you feel about saving water?”

Support: “I’d hate to waste such a renewable resource.”

Emmett: “So we should share a shower? That’s terribly unfortunate.” He rises, tests the feeling of his new, undead flesh.

Support: “I hope you’re not looking to bump uglies,” the doctor drawls, eying his new form with blatant interest. “The breather way doesn’t do it for us anymore.”

Too bad, that thing between his legs looks rather nice.

“But it’s this way.”

The Red Room isn’t too far from the semi-public showers that Savoy has had installed for his guests. Dicentra tells him on the way that there’s a “lost and found” closet if he needs clothing for his new form, as well. She leaves the discarded parts behind.

The Boggs will eat well.

Emmett: “What uglies?” he says easily, following her like a satisfied puppy. “Your work is flawless.”

“I suppose I’ll have to find somebody to teach me how vampires fuck, then. Otherwise I’m going to be all awkward at parties.”

Support: “Fangs, mostly.” But she smiles at the compliment. “Blood. Like everything. If you’re looking to lose your V-card, Lord Savoy hosts parties on Saturday evenings after court. There are plenty of horny licks around.”

Emmett: “V-card? Really? That’s a long lost cause, even if this is a new body. Anyways, what day is it?” He reaches for the knob that activates the shower, and a pink mist levitates off of his skin and spatters the both of them.

“Saturday seems like a long time to wait.”

Support: “It’s Monday,” the doctor tells him, “but I’d be stunned if your sire doesn’t fuck you before then. She has quite a reputation.”

Blood from her hands rinses down the drain. She has yet to remove her leathers.

Emmett: “You’re letting me start off my Requiem with a rejection?” He pouts. “I was just trying to thank you.”

Support: “You already owe me a boon, pretty boy. Didn’t anyone tell you how our economics work?”

It’s not a no, though.

Emmett: “I’ve worked very hard to become a man,” he protests, “with a few wrinkles and facial hair and everything. And besides. Economics is one thing. I’m talking about gratitude. Completely different phenomenon.”

He turns his back on her. Blood runs between his shoulder blades down the channel of his spine. “But if you prefer your privacy, I won’t look.”

Support: “Don’t blame me if your sire is upset she didn’t have you first,” Dicentra says to that.

But she turns around and gestures at the zipper in the back of her suit, letting him have the fun of unveiling her.

Emmett: It takes him a minute to realize she has also turned around.

But he obliges her, running his new fangs against the nape of her neck as he sheds the layers between them.

He hasn’t had an actual fuck in a while.

Like, a long while.

He’s almost nervous.

Support: He shouldn’t be. Dicentra seems more than happy to explain the rules to him and let him get his feet wet; she’s been patient enough so far. Em knows he doesn’t need to breathe anymore, but there’s a little gasp of pleasure and a shiver that runs down her spine at the touch of fang to neck. Her blood pools in the wound, waiting for him to lick it clean.

The leather slips free from her like a second skin, revealing the body beneath. Just as luscious as the leather implied.

It’s the face that might throw him off. Pale. Pierced. Thin brows, full lips. Pretty but… familiar.

Almost like the girl he’d met on the roof. The one who hadn’t smiled at all.

Pic.jpg
Way prettier, though. He can’t imagine Preston ever wearing makeup, taking her glasses off, or letting her hair down.

Emmett: Indeed, the very comparison is one he feels immediately guilty for even making.

Nobody deserves to be compared to Nat.

“You’re sure I don’t know you? You’ve got one of those faces,” he deadpans, albeit with a note of sensuality since he’s talking quietly into her ear. She has a feeling the question is ceremonial more than earnest.

For one thing, he is not looking at her face when he says it.

Support: The question makes her laugh.

“I think you’d remember me,” she purrs in his ear. But she seems to like the attention all the same; she stretches luxuriously, arms above her head to lift that beautiful rack even higher, as if now that her outfit has come out she can finally breathe again.

Then her fangs come out and his back is against the wall when she puts a hand on his chest to shove him back, the tile cool against his skin, her body cool against his, but the water is warm. So very, very warm. His blood flows where she nips at his neck and chest and shoulder, letting it sit for long, precious seconds before she comes back to drink.

Emmett: It’s been a long time. But he knows better than to keep talking.

It’s bizarre, this vampire fucking. Rougher than he was into, for sure. More about the nuances of pleasure that is ripped from your other’s pain, and learning that pain enjoyed the right way can breed enormous pleasure.

They hurt each other, and it is glorious, and the sordid details of the coupling are lost in blood and drainwater.

When they’re done, which is some time later, he lays with her below the raining showerhead, and does not know if he is soiled or clean.

Only that he is happy.

“Wait a while before dropping the other shoe, will you?” he mutters to her.

Support: Despite the tile, neither one of them are uncomfortable. Dicentra seems content to rest next to him with her head on his shoulder while the water rinses away the evidence of their coupling. Her fingers trace idle circles across his chest and lower stomach.

“No other shoe to this, just fun. The Saturday parties I mentioned earlier almost always end up something like this.” He can hear the delight in her voice at the thought.

Emmett: “Maybe not to this. But you?” He squeezes her shoulder. “I’m in danger of actually liking you, Dr. Dicentra.”

“I suppose I’ll have to come back on Saturday, then. You mentioned a phone, earlier? It seems a shame to wait so long before we… talk.”

Support: “You’re a shameless flirt,” the doctor laughs. “I don’t even know your name and already you’re asking for round two?”

“But yes. I’ll give you my number before we go. You have seventy-two hours to decide you want minor modifications before it costs you more. For your… gratitude.”

Emmett: “Finally. A woman who appreciates my nobler qualities.”

“The least of which is my name, really.”

Support: “Shame the best part of you doesn’t work anymore. I heard it’s rather enjoyable to have it sucked if you give a little nip.”

Emmett: “That’s a strange way to talk about my eyes.”

Support: Her eyes find his face.

“Mm,” she muses, “I stand corrected. Those are gorgeous. I’d say I good do work—and I do—but that was some great starting material.”

The doctor finally rolls off of him, rising to her feet to rinse off the results of their tryst beneath the spray of the shower.

“I’ll get you that number. And the one for my friend. I think she’ll like you if you make it a habit of showing gratitude with sex.”

Then she’s gone, plucking her outfit from where it had been left on the ground on her way out the door, and just a card with a hastily scrawled name and a pair of numbers is all the memento he has from his time with the night doc.


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Story Twelve, Celia XXX

“People have done things to me. Used me. Hurt me. I couldn’t be Celia around them.”
—Celia Flores


Monday night, 14 March 2016, AM

GM: It’s a short trip back to Randy’s house to drop off Dani, who mentions that her mother and other ghouls are asleep there. After that, it’s another trip back to her haven. Roderick’s left a note saying he’d go “stir crazy” staying there after talking with Dani, but says he’ll be back by dawn.

He gets back earlier. He doesn’t seem to want to talk much, just fuck.

He’s enraptured by her. He loses himself in her. They fuck each other silly, again and again, before falling sleep in another’s arms.

Evening comes. Celia awakens to texts from her ghouls and Emily. Alana says she’s at Flawless, along with her mother, and asks if Celia’s going to come by. It’s been a while since she saw any clients.

The ghoul also says she’s “been in touch with one of your friends.”

Celia: Celia lets Alana know that she’ll be by shortly. She checks the text from Emily as well, assuming it’s also about her mother.

GM: It is. She mentions that Diana took a “mental health day” together with Lucy, and asks if Celia thinks things are all right and whether it has anything to do with Maxen.

We still on for that dinner with him?

Celia: Maybe. Mom seemed more willing to take it slow after we talked the other day. Didn’t want to interrupt your romantic weekend. ;)

Think prob just stress tho.

GM: lol. there was a lot of fucking and studying but some romance too

Celia: fucking is romance girl, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

GM: There’s also a phone message from Diana about dates for dinner with Maxen. She wants Celia’s opinion.

In person, I’ll be at the spa, sweetie! Getting treatment from Emily today so you can focus on other clients if you need to. :)

Celia: Oh. They’re all there. That’s convenient.

See you soon, Mom.

GM: Dani’s also sent a text thanking Celia for being there for her last night, and asking if they talked about getting her laptop + textbooks + clothes. She forgot all about that.

She mentions Alana also brought her to the spa.

Also your mom seemed upset last night, maybe talk with her

Logan’s sent Celia a YouTube video of a talk show host taking down an angry liberal professor.

oh yeah you wanna do anything with those evenings still?

Celia: There’s a lot to get back to. Celia handles it all relatively quickly.

She lets Dani know that she’s on her way in and will be speaking to her mother shortly about it to set things right.

Thanks for the heads up. Appreciate you. And happy to help.

Celia watches part of the video and texts Logan back that, he sure showed that guy lol.

Before she answers his question she looks to Roderick.

GM: He looks back at her as he finishes dressing.

“I’ll bet you $10 these clothes will be off again before I leave the door,” he smiles.

Celia: “Probably,” she agrees.

“My brother has a rage problem. You think boxing is a good outlet?”

GM: “Hm. I’m not a boxer, but my clan has fights to get our rage out. They can help. We’d probably be worse without them.”

Celia: “I just don’t want him to get kicked out of school. Or the ROTC.”

GM: “If he’s angry, he needs an outlet. Rage doesn’t go away on its own.”

Celia: “Maybe you can smack him around.” Celia grins at him.

GM: He smiles at her remark.

“I probably could, if you want me to.”

Celia: “Would your Beast try to get out?”

GM: “Only if he’s able to hurt me. But unless he’s a hunter or world-class badass, that’s hard for ordinary breathers to do.”

Celia: “Just an angry college kid.”

Have some ideas. When do you want to hang to chat? she texts back to Logan.

“What’re you up to tonight, then?” Celia asks Roderick.

She hasn’t bothered getting dressed yet, so when she rises from the bed she’s still naked from their coupling the night before.

GM: How’s tomorrow or the day after? he shoots back.

“It’s a Monday. Law work to start off with,” says Roderick. “My day job.”

“Moving more things to the new temporary haven I’ve set up. It’s another apartment until I finalize things with a house.”

Celia: Wed prob good. Looking forward to it.

“Did you find a house or you’re still looking? Remember: closet space.”

GM: “I’ve found a couple I like. Still deciding. Closet space in them all, though.”

k cool

His smile from surveying her naked form dims a bit. “How did things go last night with Dani after I left?”

Celia: “It… went well, I think. She asked that I not try to spare her feelings anymore.”

GM: “That sounds like her. Does she want to see me again?”

Celia: “She didn’t say no. But I think she needs some time to come to terms with everything. We’ve talked about some ideas for her on how to handle things.”

GM: “I feel like I really blew things.”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment.

“D’you want honesty?”

GM: “Always.”

Celia: “It could have been worse. You could have lost control and hurt one of us. But… yeah. It didn’t go well.”

GM: “I didn’t expect her to be so angry.”

Celia: “She’s been in your shadow her whole life. She thought she finally had something of her own.”

“And I… I could have prepared her better. I just… I didn’t know how.”

She finds the floor with her eyes.

“Are you mad at me?”

GM: He lifts her face up to meet his. “Of course not. I could never be mad at you for taking care of her.”

Celia: “I just wanted her to be happy with the hand she was dealt.” She presses her face against his chest. “Everyone is so awful about them, and she was so sad, and she’s been through so much.”

“I’m going to find who did this to her.”

GM: He hugs her. “Me too. I’m glad you were there for her.”

“I can’t do much to help look around the Quarter. But once you find them.” He gets a dark look. “Leave them to me.”

Celia: “I will.”

Then, “Is it wrong that the thought of you beating the shit out of someone is kind of a turn on?”

GM: “I think it’s something all girls like, on some level.”

Celia: “Mm. We’re all damsels, et cetera. Spank me harder, Daddy.” Celia rolls her eyes at him.

GM: “I’ll point out you’re the one who wanted me to spank you, too,” he smirks.

Celia: “You offered. I just confirmed I’m into it.”

GM: “Was I kidding when I offered? Spanking doesn’t really do it for me.”

Celia: “Oh.”

GM: “But if you’re into it, I do still owe you.”

Celia: “No, it’s okay. Asking you to do something you’re not into will kill my boner.”

“I have a whole fantasy around it, anyway. It’s silly.”

Libido sufficiently smothered, Celia asks if he’d like to meet back here at 10:30 to get ready.

GM: “Sure.” He looks rather less than thrilled. “What’s the fantasy, though?”

Celia: “Things you already told me you’re not into. Schoolgirl stuff. Rulers.” She tries not to think of Paul. He had liked her in plaid skirts and white knee-highs. “But I’ve got a bunch of them. We can list ‘em all out one of these nights, find something we both vibe with. Wouldn’t mind doing it in public again, though not needing to breathe means the whole ‘be quiet’ thing isn’t as much of an issue…”

Celia smiles up at him.

“We’ve got eternity to try it all. And, really, as long as it’s with you I’m happy.”

“I love you, Rod. Even though your nickname is Rod.”

GM: He smiles back at her.

“I love you too, Celia. You’re the one lick who’s honest with me. The one lick not working some kind of angle.”

“Fantasy list sounds like a great idea. We’ll find some that click for us both.”

Celia: There’s only one lick she’s ever been fully honest with and it’s not him. Too much rides on keeping her mouth shut. But she isn’t out to hurt him, and none of what she’s keeping deep inside has any bearing on them.

“I’d do anything for you.”

One night, maybe, she can tell him everything.

Just not tonight.


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

Celia: Celia waits until Roderick leaves to finish getting ready for the night. She takes a quick rinse in the shower, selects an outfit, and spends a bit of time in front of the mirror fixing her face to make her look like herself again. Her aged self, anyway, which to some extent is just another mask, but it’s the one that they’ll expect at the spa.

It doesn’t take long before she’s out the door and on her way to Flawless in the standard spa uniform: black yoga pants and a fitted shirt that has her business name scrawled across the front. A pair of pink sneakers that match the lettering completes the look.

She stops by Alana’s office first.

GM: Her ghoul meets her there. Lucy sits on Alana’s desk.

“Deacon Benson got back to us, mistress. She’s willing to meet you in Marigny at 2 AM tonight.”

Celia: “Excellent. Thank you. Any word from Carolla or Cambridge?”

She’s a little disconcerted to see the doll on her desk. Hadn’t she put her in a bag to find someone to speak for her?

A plan she’d abandoned with Dani in tow.

Tonight, then, before she meets Elyse.

GM: “Carolla says he can meet tonight at 4 or Thursday at 1.”

Celia: “Thursday.” Something to look forward to. They can take their time.

GM: “All right, mistress. Cambridge said he was thinking 8 or 9 on Wednesday, so you have some time on the casino floor.”

Celia: “I can make that work. Let’s do 9.”

“When is your audition for the show? Did they reach out about that yet?”

GM: “Yes, mistress. That’s on Wednesday at 1 PM.”

“I tried to get a night audition, in case you wanted to do it, but those seem to mostly be for independent films.”

Celia: “I’m sure you’ll knock it out of the park,” Celia smiles at her. “But I appreciate the effort.” She leans in, nuzzling Alana’s neck with one hand on her hip and the other cradling the back of her head.

“You’ve been so very amazing these past few nights with everything going on. You really stepped up. I have a seduction job tomorrow evening; would you like to come with me and we can share him? And afterward,” she whispers in her ear, “you and I can spend some alone time together.”

GM: “Yes, mistress,” the ghoul purrs under Celia’s touch, leaning into it as her breath catches in her throat. “I’d love that, so much. That sounds wonderful.”

“Can we sleep together, too? I hate the thought of you lying anywhere by yourself, during the day.”

“Someone should always be around to admire your perfect body…”

Celia: “Certainly, ‘Lana. I hope you’ll wake me the next night with your mouth, or maybe that toy…”

GM: “I’ll give you a wakeup you’ll never forget, mistress,” beams Alana. “I’ve missed sleeping with you.”

Celia: “I know, darling.” Celia trails kisses up her throat to her mouth. “But I’m here for you.”

GM: The ghoul kisses her rapturously back. “I’d still love to suck your cock, if you want to include that in our alone time…”

“I love the thought of getting on my knees for you…”

Celia: Celia nudges her backwards until the ghoul’s backside touches the desk. Her hands roam the perfect body she’s created.

“I do,” she murmurs, squeezing one of those shapely breasts in her hand. Her thumb traces the nipple. “I want to turn myself into a boy for you and take you like a man takes a woman. With everything that entails.”

GM: The nipple quickly stiffens under her touch. Alana whimpers and closes her eyes, smiling as Celia enjoys the body she designed.

“Just the thought is making me wet… master,” the ghoul purrs.

“I’ve never seen you make yourself a man…”

Celia: Celia slides a hand down Alana’s front and under the waistband of her skirt to check for herself. Two fingers come away slick.

“I’ve never wanted to be a man for anyone but you.” Celia brings the fingers to Alana’s lips. “Taste yourself,” she murmurs.

GM: The ghoul takes Celia’s wrist in her hands, gets down on her knees, and starts slowly sucking. She moves her head back and forth as her tongue plays between Celia’s fingers. A preview of the oral pleasures to come.

Celia: Celia watches the ghoul sink to her knees. Her fangs grow long in her mouth at the sight; she itches to hoist the girl back up and bend her over the desk, but she has nothing to fuck her with. She’s jealous of all the men in the world who can just take what they want. Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow she’ll have a cock. Tomorrow she’ll show Alana how much she appreciates her.


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

Celia: Celia leaves her ghoul quivering in delight with a final lingering kiss and a promise to show her a good time tomorrow, when they can finally be alone. She makes her way back down the stairs to get the room ready for her client this evening. Death hasn’t made it impossible to work on clients, only slowed her down; rather than a full day of bookings she contents herself to an evening schedule, which is more convenient for the men and women who work long hours and want to unwind before their trip home. The excuse is that she’s busy running the place and looking for a second location, and once that opens and she (or rather Alana) starts shooting the TV show and then movie she’s sure that she’ll be under less scrutiny to fit people into her schedule.

She stops off at the front desk to pass Naomi’s information to Natalie and asks her to reach out to set up an appointment, then swings by the Tranquility Room to pick up her client: Charity Pierce. Celia—or rather one of her alters—knows her as one of Robert’s girls. They’ve worked a few johns together when her sister was busy with school (Violet can’t pass for her sister, but it’s still two girls at a time and there’s no scoffing at that). She’s also a delightful snack, but this evening at least she won’t be fed from. Celia’s Beast is quite full.

“Good evening, Charity,” Celia says to her with a warm smile. She brings the girl into the treatment room to get started.

Charity and her sister usually come in on Mondays together to get waxed, primped, and primed for their dates during the upcoming week. They had told her it’s the one luxury that they allows themselves: waxing every four weeks, vajacials a week after the Brazilians to keep everything fresh downstairs, the occasional facial and lash lift. It’s an investment in themselves, the girls had said when they’d splurged on a handful of products. Their bodies are their money makers so they need to take care of them.

Celia understands perfectly.

She checks on her products for the vajacial while Charity settles herself on the table, naked from the waist down.

“Anyone fun lined up this week?” Celia asks as she slides on a pair of blue nitrile gloves. Ordinarily she doesn’t chat much during the treatments unless the clients want to, but there’s something vulnerable about being spread open on a massage table with a girl staring at your pussy that’s usually a little uncomfortable, so Celia chats during treatments like this to put them at ease. Charity had been very open with her about what she does, and the two often gossip about the clients that they both see: Charity while she’s on her back and Celia while they’re on theirs. Some of them overlap.

Charity had been waxed last week, leaving the skin between her legs smooth and silky. Celia starts with the cleanser, lathering a small amount of it between her fingers and then applying it with small, circular movements across her mons. Vajacials only work on the visible surface; the vagina itself is very temperamental and doesn’t like these sorts of products being shoved inside of it, so while Celia is thorough she’s also careful to keep the cleanser off of and out of anything sensitive.

GM: Like draws to like. Flawless makes people beautiful, and so draws beautiful people. Charity is a lovely 20-something young woman with full lips, excellent proportions, and smooth chocolate skin. She’s also casually dressed as she shows up for her session. The evening dresses and heels wait for her clients (most often on weekends), or when she’s arriving to get her face and nails done.

Pic.jpg
Some of Celia’s clients are squeamish about spreading their legs for her. Her mother perhaps surprisingly wasn’t: “You’ve seen just about all there is to see with me already, sweetie,” she’d said.

Charity seems to fall in that camp too, if for different reasons. She spreads her legs for enough strangers.

“This week’s been awful, honestly,” she answers.

“Christina just found out her niece died.”

“She’s doing her best to stay professional, but it casts a cloud over everything.”

Celia: Once you get used to the discomfort of a Brazilian and bond over the first session it’s pretty much all water under the bridge with your tech from there on out. A lot comes out on the table, especially when you’re naked or getting hairs ripped out of you. Not that this is a waxing service, but that’s how they’d met years ago; what lies between Charity’s legs is a familiar sight.

“Oh my goodness,” Celia murmurs as she rubs the cleanser onto her skin. “That’s awful. I can’t even imagine going through something like that. Is she okay?”

GM: “I don’t think so, to be honest,” Charity answers from her back.

“She’s been really angry about it too.”

Celia: “I can imagine,” Celia says. “Wasn’t she one of the girls caught up in that incident last August?”

GM: “Yeah, she was. She got some jail time for it. That’s where she died.”

Celia: “She died in jail?”

GM: “Yeah. Orleans Parish Prison is one of the worst jails in the country. It’s worse than a lot of federal prisons.”

Celia: “Isn’t that a men’s prison…?”

GM: Charity shakes her head. “I’ve been there. It’s the parish jail, not a prison, despite the name. It has separate areas for men and women. And it’s awful.”

“It’s comically easy to smuggle in contraband. There are inmates who go around with guns. The guards don’t care unless they actually shoot people.”

Celia: Celia makes a tsking sound with her tongue against the roof of her mouth.

“That’s awful. I’ll have to send her something. Nothing makes up for the death of family, but maybe I can… take her mind off of it for a while or something.” Celia pushes the air from her lungs in a sigh. “That’s heavy.”

GM: “It really is. Christina’s niece got stabbed to death.”

Celia: “Wow,” she breathes.

GM: “She also killed one of her attackers.”

Celia: “At least she went out swinging. Still. That’s terrible.”

GM: “I’ve seen lots of fights break out there. The infirmary is a joke. So people have to get sent to hospitals, but a lot of the time the guards just don’t care enough. So people just die there.”

“It also happened… something like a month ago, that Christina’s niece was murdered. The prison didn’t notify her until now.”

Celia: “What? How could they just not notify her?”

GM: “The place is a complete shit show. You have to see it to believe it. I’m honestly not surprised over something like that.”

Celia: “Is she having a service for her niece, do you know?”

GM: “I don’t think so. There isn’t a body left.”

Celia: “Christ.”

GM: “The jail already took care of it.”

Celia: Celia takes a moment to pull a warm towel out of the caddy and wrings it out, then wipes away the cleanser on Charity’s skin.

“And that’s normal for them? I just… I can’t even imagine how something like that slips through the cracks.”

GM: Charity smiles briefly at the feeling. “I don’t think it’s standard for them to wait a month, but there is a lot of stuff there that slips through the cracks.”

“Like I said. The place is a complete shit show.”

“Literally. A woman took a dump when I was in the holding cell, where you stay when you’re being processed.”

“She’d been there for most of the day, I think had diarrhea, and couldn’t hold it in anymore.”

“A bunch of the other inmates beat her half to death for it. The guards just didn’t care.”

Celia: “What, there’s no bathroom?”

Celia reaches for the mask. It’s the first of two and she applies it liberally, then pulls the steamer over to get the warm mist going across the area. She gets the extraction tools ready while the mask sits.

GM: “Nope,” says Charity. “Those are in the individual cells.”

Celia: “What were you picked up for?” Celia asks in wry amusement.

GM: “Oh I bet you can guess,” she smirks.

“It was a while ago, though. I was dumber. If I get sent to jail now I’ll deserve it for being that dumb again.”

“Christina is beyond livid, anyway. Her niece had been in the hospital before then. She had a head injury and fell into a coma. That was the better part of a year ago. She didn’t know Amelie had woken up from the coma, either.”

Celia: “So she woke up from the coma and was transferred to the jail and died and no one told her? What is wrong with people?”

GM: “Yep. She just got this call out of the blue that her niece was moved from the hospital to the parish jail after waking up, and also had died a month ago.”

Celia: “…wow.”

“What is she going to do?”

GM: “I don’t know, but she’s going to do something. She’s a former lawyer.”

“I’ve never heard her so angry. She’s going to find someone to blame.”

Celia: Celia just shakes her head.

“I hope she finds peace. It’s not easy, losing a family member like that. A friend of mine lost her brother and her dad was torn up about it for a long time. I wonder if there’s anything I can do.”

GM: “I don’t think there really is. ’I’m sorry for your loss’ only does so much.”

Celia: “Empty words,” Celia agrees.

GM: “It doesn’t bring them back.”

“But I guess life goes on. Still taking clients.”

Celia: “As awful as it is, the world doesn’t stop spinning for one person.”

“How are you holding up, though?

GM: “I’m okay. I mean, she wasn’t my niece. I didn’t lose anyone.”

Celia: “No, but it affects you. Work environment.”

GM: “I’m sad for Christina. She’s been a really good boss.”

“Like I said, she’s trying to keep things professional. I’m amazed she’s even still running the business. But I can tell how much it gets to her.”

“Her condo had a break-in before this, too. The burglar saw she was there and attacked her.”

Celia: “What?”

“Jesus,” she murmurs.

GM: “I know. She’s had a really awful past month.”

“She says she sleeps with a gun now.”

Celia: “I don’t blame her. I would too.”

GM: “And installed a whole bunch of new security around her place.”

“And get this, one of the girls in the building disappeared the same night.”

“Or, no, I think the burglar might have tried to get into her place too, and she moved away.”

“Something else happened.”

Celia: She can’t help but wonder who Defallier pissed off that someone is going after Roberts like this. Or if Roberts pissed someone off herself.

She’s quiet for a moment while she removes the mask, then warns Charity she’s starting the extractions. A metal tool presses against any closed comedones she finds to bring the sebaceous gunk to the surface, wiped away with a cotton round soaked in something similar to alcohol that sterilizes it when she’s done to prevent infection and kill anything left on her skin. She finds a handful of ingrown hairs that she pulls free as well.

“On top of all that, something else?”

GM: Charity nods and prepares herself, but doesn’t look too discomforted. Celia’s hands and well-practiced.

“No, something else just happened with the burglar in the building. And the other girl.”

“Isn’t my problem, though. I’m just glad Christina was okay.”

Celia: “Work still affects you, even if it’s not directly,” Celia says as she leans over to extract a particularly full pore. A spray of sebum comes out at her light touch. She wipes it away and keeps going. “The girls and Landen are affected when I’m not at my peak. Morale can sink. I hope she finds closure. Whatever that looks like.”

GM: “Probably making someone pay, knowing her.”

Celia: A second mask follows the first, this one focused on hydration. It’s a gelatinous texture that she spreads across Charity’s lower body with her fingers, making sure to cover every bit of exposed flesh.

“Good.”

GM: “I love how smooth this gets me.”

Celia: “Bet your clients love it too,” Celia says with a wink.

GM: “You bet they do.”

“This is my last semester at community college, I don’t think I mentioned. I’ll finally transfer to Loyola.”

Celia: “Oh, congratulations! What have you decided to major in?”

GM: “I still need to decide. I’ve just been so focused on work and Chastity, taking classes just became another regular thing rather than a long-term plan.”

Celia: “As long as you keep moving forward you’ve going in the right direction. It took me longer than usual to finish with everything I had going on. But I’m psyched for you. That’s awesome.”

Celia beams at her as she pulls another towel from the caddy to wipe away the second mask.

GM: “Agreed. And I can keep doing this until I get wrinkles if I need to. At least paying for things isn’t a problem.”

Celia: “You won’t get wrinkles if you keep coming to see me,” Celia assures her. “But I know what you mean. Feels like a slog after a while. But it’s a good feeling once you get your hands on that piece of paper.”

GM: “Ha. I bet. And I don’t mind doing it. It pays well. Christina’s a good boss. There just isn’t any future in it.”

Celia: “You’ve done it longer than most, haven’t you? Could take over for her if she’s ever looking to retire.”

GM: “That’s true,” Charity says thoughtfully. “I’ve been with her longer than any of the other girls.”

Celia: “It’s not something you do forever, right? Management is the next step.”

“You already know the business. And the clients. And the girls.”

GM: “Oh no. Once you get wrinkles, you’re out.”

“We’ll see, anyways. Christina’s only in her 40s. But who knows how she’s going to feel after all that’s happened.”

Celia: “I’m not telling you to take over,” Celia assures her, “just saying that if I were going to have someone manage the spa for me I’d choose one of the people already with me. They know the ins and outs.”

A brightening serum follows the second mask to lighten any dark spots, and she follows it with a general moisturizer once that has a moment to sink in.

GM: “I agree. Christina brings a lot of valuable experience to the business as a lawyer, but she hasn’t slept with clients herself.”

Celia: “Someone told me once that even during a recession escorts will always have work. It might be a luxury to some, but it’s a necessity to others. It doesn’t follow the same economic trends as the rest of the world, so it’s always a safe bet.”

GM: “I’d say it’s still affected, just less affected. The best clients are rich ones, but not everyone who sees an escort is rich.”

“One of my last clients was a not-rich guy turning 30 who wanted to lose his virginity. He’d probably saved up for it for a while.”

Celia: “If I’d waited that long I’d probably want something worth it, too. Sex kind of builds into this big thing in your mind if you don’t have it for a while, or ever, and it gets intimidating. I bet it was a good time for him.”

GM: “He said he was afraid of how he’d perform with other partners if he had no experience. But here he could be honest and get that.”

“I think it was, too. We did some pretty basic oral and missionary.”

Celia: “My first time was oral and missionary.” Celia grins at her. “It was still enjoyable. And now he gets to go into his next time with more confidence.”

“Guys have it hard sometimes, you know? They’re supposed to be these sex gods but they don’t even know what they’re doing any more than anyone else. And our stuff is all tucked up inside and everyone likes it differently.”

GM: “Yes. At least girls aren’t expected to be sex gods. You can get away with just lying there and taking it. You don’t have anything to prove.”

“I’m glad that guy saw a sex worker, anyways. He was awkward, because you don’t get to 30 and stay a virgin without something being wrong with you, but he tried to fix the problem.”

Celia: “I knew a guy like him once. Kind of a misogynist, to be honest. He was a client here for a while and kept talking about how women owed him for his friendship.”

GM: “Did he get off to how you did stuff around his junk?”

Celia: Celia snorts.

“Almost every guy pops a boner on the table. He never tried anything with me, though.”

“Well, that’s not true. He made some awkward happy ending jokes.”

GM: “There’s never sex in these places. Or at least there’s not supposed to be.”

Celia: “Mm, there is in some. But no, not worth the loss of my license. If I’m going to jack a guy off I’ll do it elsewhere and charge more.”

GM: “Smart.”

Celia: There’s not much left to do once the serums and moisturizers go on. The brightening spot treatment she’d applied earlier will rid Charity of any hyperpigmentation or unsightly dark spots—she only has very minor ones after coming to see Celia as often as she does—and the rest of her skin stays smooth and supple. Perfect for someone to bury their face in it.

Flawless.


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

Celia: Celia excuses herself from the room to let Charity dress and takes her up to the front desk to leave in Natalie’s capable hands.

Now there’s an idea.

She returns to the room to clean up for her next appointment, another long-time vessel and client that Celia does not drink from this evening: Evelyn Jameson. Technically her grandmother. Also technically not her grandmother. Also younger than her, which makes the whole thing feel very silly. But the two get on well enough despite most people’s assumptions that the woman is a vapid cow only after Jim’s money, such as it is, and they make idle chatter while Celia applies wax with wooden sticks and rips it off with linen cloth. If she’s bothered by the amount of sex that Jim still has at his age or his wife’s inclination to talk about it she doesn’t let it show.

Evelyn, too, is seen to the exit once she’s done with her, and after cleaning up the room Celia is done for the night. Mondays are often her busiest days, but with everything up in the air for her at the moment she’d asked Alana to keep her schedule lighter this week. Enough to feed, enough to gossip, but not so much that she gets bogged down by the kine world when things are moving so quickly in the Kindred one.

GM: Step-grandmother, in fact.

Evelyn is, annoyingly, pregnant, but Celia has experience with that, even if it’s a pain to have them on their sides and propped up by mounds of pillows.

Celia: Celia is less annoyed by the pregnancy and pillow forts now that she has new tables with an incline that she can set up for her pregnant clients. She’d gotten it after the Diana pregnancy to make it easier on herself and her clients. Solid investment. Evelyn’s hips needed a bit of realignment, but otherwise her pregnancy is going swimmningly and Celia is excited to spoil her… step-cousin? Step-mom? Step-aunt? She’s not quite sure what the little girl will be, only that they’re somehow related, even if not by blood.

She flips off the lights in her room and goes to find her mother and Emily, if the latter is still around.

GM: Celia finds Emily, their mother, and Lucy in one of the massage rooms. Diana’s lying down on the massage table as Emily works her back. Lucy’s sitting off the side and slowly reading aloud from one of several children’s books. Green Eggs and Ham.

“I do not like green eggs an’ ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am,” reads the six-year-old.

She looks like her nails have had a fresh coat of sparkly pink.

GM: “Hey, Celia,” smiles Emily as she walks in.

Her mom turns a little, though not enough to expose her breasts around the first grader. “Hi, sweetie.”

“Mommy, it’s been forever!” says Lucy, setting down the book to scamper up to her.

Celia: “Hello ladies,” Celia says to her mom and Emily. She doesn’t normally interrupt treatments, but Diana had never minded. “And hello little Goose,” she says to the girl, picking her up to put on her hip. “I like the new polish choice. You’re ahead of the trends with the sparkly pink, you know. I heard it’s going to be April’s color.”

GM: Lucy giggles. “Pink an’ sparkles should be all the months’ colors.”

“You wanna show your mommy what you have for her, Goose?” smiles Diana.

“Yeah, it’s in the book,” says Lucy, pointing at the Green Eggs copy.

Celia: “Oooh, what is it?” Celia carries the six-year-old over to where she left the book.

GM: “It’s this!” says Lucy, paging through it as she picks it up. She pulls out a crayon drawing held between its pages. It depicts a semi-stick figure Celia with red lipstick and sparkly nails, Emily in a doctor’s coat and stethoscope, and Diana in a ballerina’s tutu. A shorter Lucy stands in front of them. Their house is behind them. A bright yellow sun shines from above.

“I made it at school.”

Celia: Celia’s face brightens at the drawing.

“It’s beautiful, Luce! Good color choice on the lips. I love it.” She kisses her daughter on the cheek. “Where should we hang it?”

GM: Lucy beams at the praise. “How about… someplace here?”

Celia: “I’ll put it in my treatment room, how’s that? All my clients will be able to see it. Will you sign it for me? I want to be able to claim I have the first Lucy Flores original.”

GM: “Yeah!” nods Lucy. She looks around. “I need a pencil.”

“I’ll get one,” says Emily. She returns in a bit with a pen.

“Lucy told her teacher we were all her mommys, but that Mom was her grandma too, and that Celia and Emily were her mommy-mommys,” says Emily.

“I bet she had some interesting thoughts about us.”

“Yeah, ‘cuz you’re interesting!” says Lucy.

Celia: “I imagine so,” Celia says with a grin.

GM: “We sure are, Goose,” smirks Emily.

“Oh, I’d better explain things to her,” Diana says with a rueful chuckle.

Emily sets the drawing down on the table as Diana scoots to the side a little. Lucy signs with a flourish.

“Tah-daaah.”

Celia: “That is a beautiful signature, Luce. To go with the beautiful drawing. Thank you very much for it.”

GM: “Yes, what a stylish signature,” smiles Diana, tussling the child’s hair.

“You’re welcome!” says Lucy.

Celia: Celia smiles at the little girl and picks her back up, promising that once they’re done here they’ll hang the drawing in her own room.

“How’s the massage going, Mom? Leg okay?”

GM: Diana nods. “Emily’s a magician with her hands too. She’d been doin’ my back when you came in, as you can probably tell.”

“Can we get a frame?” asks Lucy.

“Sure thing, Goose. We’ll pick one up tomorrow,” smiles her mother.

Celia: “I mean in general,” Celia clarifies to her mom, “and of course we’ll get a frame for it, Goose.”

She sits to the side while Emily resumes her work. They’d done four-handed massage on Diana before (and it’s one of their most frequently booked services), but tonight she lets Emily do her thing.

“I got your text, Mom. Did you want to talk about it now or later?”

GM: “Maybe now would be good,” says Diana. “Emily, can you watch Luce for a bit?”

“Sure thing. Why don’t you read to me some more?” Emily asks Lucy. She picks up the six-year-old from Celia, sits down on a chair, and sets Lucy on her lap.

“I do not like green eggs an’ ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am,” resumes Lucy.

“Can you hand me my clothes, please?” Diana asks, then turns away from the trio to re-dress. She follows Celia out to her office.

“Are you hungry, sweetie? I’d be happy to feed you,” she offers with a slightly nervous smile, clearly remembering the strained end to their last conversation.

Celia: Celia closes the door behind the pair of them and gestures toward a chair for her mother. She leans against her desk.

“I am not hungry, no. Thank you. I appreciate it, though.”

There’s a brief pause while she gathers her thoughts.

“First, I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for how things ended. I didn’t get a chance to tell you about everything that is going on with me, but the past week or so has been… stressful. There’s been a lot going on. And I felt like I was drowning, and I took it out on you. I’m sorry.”

GM: Her mom immediately looks relieved and pulls her into a hug.

“Oh, it’s okay, sweetie! I’m sure it is, I can’t imagine how many more things you must have to worry about, from all that Dani’s said… all we want to do is help you, okay?”

“I’m sorry if I made things more stressful for you, too. I just feel so out of my depth. But I don’t want to do that, I want you to be happy and successful, same as always.”

Celia: “I know, Mom,” Celia says as she returns the hug. “That’s what I’d like to talk to you about. Helping. I wasn’t sure how this would work, but I think I figured it out. There’s a lot to cover and I’m sure you’ll have questions as we go, so feel free to jump in, okay?”

“But first, did you want to talk about Maxen?”

GM: Her mom nods. “Let’s talk about you, sweetie, at least first. You’re in my life more than he is.”

“I’d love to help you, just tell me how.”

Celia: Celia nods.

“So. I guess I kind of want to start at the beginning, if that’s okay. There’s some stuff I won’t share, and if I don’t it’s for a valid reason, okay? So if I tell you I can’t answer something, don’t press the issue. How much of the vampire society stuff did Dani tell you? She’s new to it as well and I just explained it to her on Friday.”

GM: Diana nods. “Okay, I won’t press. Dani gave me the gist, about the Carmilla, clans, churches, and what have you. I admit I wasn’t really sure what to make of most of it.”

“I mainly asked her about… vampires themselves, so I could understand you better.”

“She said she wasn’t hurt by the sun, isn’t that funny?”

Celia: “Okay. So Dani is a little different than me. She’s what we called duskborn, so her abilities and my abilities are different. I’m what some people call a true-blooded vampire, and she’s… kind of a half blood, if that makes sense.”

Briefly, Celia explains the differences, and tells her about the Toreador.

“But she does get some benefits. Like the sun thing.”

“Over the next few nights I can get into more of it with you, but I guess the main thing you need to know right now is that there are three factions in the city. I work for the guy who runs the Quarter. It’s why we live here, and why I run my business here. And it causes a problem because of where you work. The factions… think of them like gangs, right? Turf wars. They don’t want people outside of their faction on their turf. And you are going to smell like a ghoul, which vampires like me can pick up on immediately, so I’m going to teach you how to hide that.”

“Since the alternative is to, you know, quit your job and find something here, and that messes up Lucy’s education plan and your finances.”

“And I’d like to interrupt your life as little as possible.”

GM: “Yes, please!” nods Diana. “I don’t want to get attacked by a gang, but if I leave McGehee that changes just so much. There aren’t any schools in the Quarter, anyway.”

“So, all right, that sounds like a good idea for you to teach me how to hide how I’m a, ghoul is it?”

Celia: “Right. Ghoul.”

GM: “Ah, why do they call it that? It sounds pretty…” she chuckles, “ghoulish.”

Celia: Celia smiles in wry amusement.

“So, traditionally right, ghouls are kind… human-like creatures. And you’re now a human-like creature. You’re not quite human but rather the next evolution. Sort of. You’re still you, but you drink blood in addition to the food you eat. My blood. It’s what will keep you young and give you the powers I’ll teach you.”

“Sometimes people call them other things. Renfields.”

GM: “Okay. I’m just curious why ‘ghouls,’” Diana says with another chuckle. “Really seems like a funny name.”

“But… is it permanent, sweetie?” she asks, concern creasing her face.

“I’d like to die and hopefully go to Heaven eventually. I’d like Emily and Lucy and the others to outlive me. Parents shouldn’t bury their children, you know?”

Celia: “It’s permanent so long as you drink my blood. You won’t age. You’ll be able to shrug off and heal things that would down most people.”

GM: “Okay. But I’ll get to pass on eventually?”

Celia: “Yes. We can arrange that. When you’re ready to go you can stop drinking my blood.”

GM: “All right,” nods Diana. “Drinking your blood like this… do you think it’s a sin? Will I go to Hell for it?”

Celia: “I don’t think so, no. It’s all in what you do with it.”

GM: “I know the Bible has a few lines about drinking blood, but this seems just so far beyond what’s in there… anyway, all right. Is there a priest I can talk to, about these things?”

“I know you don’t want me runnin’ my mouth about all this. So I just want to ask you if there’s anyone it’d be okay with.”

Celia: “I can find you one.”

GM: “Okay. Thank you, sweetie,” her mom smiles.

“If the, ah, turf war ever changes… could we move to the Garden District? It’s just such a pretty neighborhood.”

Celia: “Ah… I don’t know that it will ever change that much. So probably not, to be honest.”

GM: Stephen thought the Quarter could turn into a bloodbath.

Celia: “But maybe. If it does.”

GM: “Okay. Long-term thing, then.”

“I guess this does explain why you wanted to live in the Quarter so much, back then.”

“Were you… when did you become a vampire, sweetie?” Diana asks curiously. “The last time I can remember seeing you during the day was… oh, gosh, that was a while ago…”

“Around the time I was getting your brothers and sisters back? I remember making breakfast for you.”

Celia: Celia gives a small nod.

“Yes. That was one of my last days before my Embrace. I met my sire that evening.”

She considers the merits of telling her mother, then finally does.

“I was going through a bad time, mentally. I was with Stephen, but Dad was… it was bad at home. I wanted more for you, for the others. I had a friend I thought could help, so I went to him. We drank. Smoked. Planned. I left and stopped at a bar, and I met a vampire. I didn’t know what he was, of course. Not then. But he took me home with him. And he fed from me. His cousin was there, a very, very beautiful woman. I woke up to them arguing. I tried to go out the window, but they… they’re fast. She caught me, brought me back in.”

Celia glosses over the rape, the long nails, the sex. It doesn’t matter. Not now.

“Eventually they got distracted and I ran. The next night, when Maxen came for you, I called the bar to see if he was there. He’d told me he was a thief and I wanted you back. I thought he could steal you.”

“But they wanted me to prove myself first, so she made me a deal and gave me her blood, her power. I was fast. Strong. Alluring. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt, Mom. It was incredible.”

“I came for you. I got you out, took you to the hospital. I carried you in my arms. We were flying across the ground.”

This is where the story deviates. She doesn’t tell her mother Celia’s truth, just the events that she and Savoy and Veronica had decided on as Jade’s truth.

“She was pleased. She was amused by the tape that was leaked afterward. One of her sisters is politically active, Maxen was a client for a while. They don’t get along. It made their firm look bad. And she liked my skill with a makeup brush. She tested me that night, before she gave me her power. I don’t want to know what would have happen if I’d failed.” Celia shakes her head. “I don’t know if you saw the place after that, but it was destroyed. She did that.”

“So once she had permission she Embraced me. I’ve been dead since 2009.”

GM: Diana gasps and holds her hands to her mouth.

“You… you became this because of me, sweetie?”

She’s silent for a moment as she processes.

“Do you… do you regret it? Are you happier this way?”

Celia: “Sometimes it’s lonely. I didn’t like lying to you. A lot of people have petty reasons to hate each other. There’s not a lot of trust, and sometimes the people suck. But it’s… I mean, I get to do really amazing things. I have forever to learn new tricks, I meet really cool people, I’ve learned so many new things about the world and history and art. There’s a whole new culture to explore.”

“I don’t regret it. Not at all.”

“And I’m dating a pretty amazing guy, so that’s always a plus.”

“And, Mom… I don’t regret saving you. Not at all. I love you. I’d do it again.”

GM: Her mom hugs her again. “Okay. Good. You’re happy. That’s what matters to me, sweetie. That you’re happy.”

She smiles. “And at least you don’t have to lie to me anymore, now. That makes me happy too.”

“And… it might be seven years late… but thank you for saving my life.” She pulls away, but squeezes Celia’s hands. She looks a little misty-eyed. “These past seven years have been some of the happiest I’ve ever lived. Bringing Emily and Lucy into our family has just been such a blessing.”

“I already knew I owed them to you. So I guess this is another reason I do.”

Celia: “I love you, Mom. I’d do anything for you. I want you to know that. It’s why I lied, it wasn’t safe, but… I’m glad you know now.”

“You deserve to be happy.”

“And I was hesitant about Lucy, you know, but seeing how much joy she’s brought you… it’s been worth it.”

GM: Her mom nods. “I remember how Emily was too. But her name means born at dawn. I chose it for a reason. She was a new light at the end of a very dark time for us.”

Celia: “Was that why?”

GM: “Yes, sweetie. She was God’s way of showin’ us that good can come from bad. That bad doesn’t have to last forever.”

Celia: “You never named anyone Lucy before?”

GM: Diana falls silent.

Celia: “You don’t want to talk about it.”

GM: Celia’s mother mutely shakes her head.

Celia: “I will for a moment, then. I’ve had the other Lucy for years.”

GM: “Stop,” Diana whispers, holding her hands to her ears.

Celia: Celia looks like she might say something more, then just shakes her head.

“Okay.”

GM: Her mom removes her hands after a moment and plasters on a smile.

“You said you wanted to talk about me helping you, sweetie?”

Celia: “Yes. I spoke to a friend of mine. I have some ideas. And some other news, incidentally. I told you that Maxen wanted to take you to a place in Texas to fix your leg. And Emily was skeptical, remember?”

GM: Diana nods.

Celia: “It’s a real thing that exists. I know because I know of people who can do it. I took you to see someone shortly after my Embrace, after your toes came off. He reattached them. I don’t know that I can see him again, there’s a whole faction war going on and he’s on another side, but there are two others I can reach out to. I’ve held off because I didn’t know how I’d possibly explain it to you. But I’d like to do this for you.”

GM: “You… could fix my leg?” her mom asks. “Just… just like that?”

Celia: “Yes. Just like that.”

“I mean, it’s an involved process. But the blood can do pretty amazing things.”

GM: Her mom gives a little noise, not quite crying, and pulls her into another, even tighter embrace. “Oh, sweetie! That’d be… yes, oh please!”

“I thought you meant me helping you, when you brought up help… you just do so much for me… you’re such a good daughter…”

Celia: “You will be helping me,” Celia says into her shoulder. “But I’m helping you first. And I think what I’m going to ask you to do is something you’ll enjoy.”

GM: “Anything, sweetie,” her mom sniffs. “Anything.

Celia: “I told you that we’re a clan of artists. Dance is art. I’d like you to dance again. For me.”

GM: Her mom gives a little gasp, then starts crying again and squeezes her tighter.

But they sound like happy tears.

Celia: Celia holds her mother tightly in her embrace.

“I’d like to show you off to other people, too. And let them admire you. At parties. And shows. I want them to see how amazing you are.”

GM: “I’ll need a little time to practice, to get back in shape,” her mom smiles with another sniff. “It’s been so long, and all.”

Celia: “You’ll have plenty of time,” Celia assures her.

GM: “But I do still practice, every day, I just haven’t done any pirouettes or other tricky moves that’d place strain on my leg.”

“But you didn’t even need to ask about that, sweetie.” Her mom sniffs again. “I’d love to dance for you. I’d love nothin’ more. What’s the point of dancing, if other people can’t watch?”

Celia: She smiles at that.

“There’s more, but I completely agree.”

GM: “Sometimes I dance a little by myself, when it’s just me in the bathroom, or my classroom’s empty and I’m in the mood, it’s a dance space and all, but you know what I mean…”

“It… might be a little tricky for me to rejoin a production company, though, they’ll probably think I don’t have many years left in me. I’m past 40 after all, so why bother…”

Celia: “Well, that’s the other thing. I’d like to get you a new identity. A new face. You’ll still be Diana Flores, but you’ll be someone else as a dancer. Around anyone like me you’ll wear a different face. It will keep people from looking too closely at you and wondering about our connection. It will keep Lucy and Emily safe as well.”

“So if you want to be a younger dancer, you can be a younger dancer.”

GM: “It’d keep them safe?” Diana asks. “How’s that?”

Celia: “Because no one will know that you’re a ghoul.”

“There was a guy a while ago. Executed. His ghouls were executed. His ghoul’s families were executed.”

GM: “Executed?” Diana blinks.

Celia: “He broke the Masquerade, so they put him down for it.”

GM: “By… by who? The vampire king?”

Celia: “The prince, actually. We don’t have kings.”

GM: “Ah, right, that’s what Dani said it was. Prince.”

“I admit that’s pretty hard for me to wrap my head around, sweetie, but if you think it’s for the best, then okay.”

“Ballet isn’t something you do if you want to get a lot of individual recognition. We all look the same in our makeup and tutus, after all. Or at least mostly the same.”

“I mean, there are famous ballerinas, but it’s a lot harder to earn recognition than it is for, say, a musical band. You go to a local Swan Lake performance, there probably won’t be anyone in the audience who remembers the dancers’ names and faces.”

Celia: “This is one of those things I just need you to trust me on.”

GM: “I will, sweetie. I trust you. I don’t need to get credit or be famous, ballerinas don’t expect to anyway. I’m happy just to dance.”

“It might still be tricky to get me into a company, though. You’ve done a great job taking care of my body, a lot of people are surprised to hear I’m past 40, but I don’t look 20 either.”

Celia: "Ah, well, I don’t know about joining the company. I’d have to talk to my sire, she’s more into the live action performances than I am so she’d have a better idea about what that would look like. “Or if it’s just a solo thing.”

“But, again, you’ll have a new face. We can make you look younger. Alana is actually your age, did you know that?”

GM: “You’re pullin’ my leg.”

Celia: “Not at all.”

“Alana isn’t even her real name. But when she joined me we got her a new face and body and identity. And that’s who she is now.”

GM: “Oh. Why did she want a new… all that?” Diana asks curiously.

Celia: “Alana was… very unhappy when I met her. She was on the verge of, ah, ending her own life. She was obese, bad skin, wasn’t doing well at work. She was a hairdresser but no one wanted her to work with them. She’s mixed race, you know, so she was too dark for the white salons and too light for the black salons. I ran into her one night and she kind of just confessed everything to me and we fixed it for her.”

“And she’s been a great manager.”

GM: “Oh, no, that poor woman! But I’m happy you were able to give her that fresh start. It’s no wonder she’s so happy to work for you.”

Celia: “She gets perks. A lot of the people who keep ghouls can be pretty mean to them. I try not to be like that. She has some leeway with me. She’s working in the industry she already wanted, she has a hot new body, and we’re probably much closer than most people are with their ghouls.”

And sex.

Lots of sex.

GM: “I hope we’re pretty close too, for…” her mom chuckles, “I’m sorry, it just sounds so strange to call myself ‘a ghoul.’ I don’t think I’m too ghoulish.”

Celia: Celia smiles at her.

“We have multiple terms for a lot of things. Maybe you’ll find one you like more.”

GM: “We’ll shop around, then. But as far as ballet, sweetie, I’m definitely happy to give solo performances, but understand that’s a bit like goin’ to a restaurant and only ever ordering drinks. Ballet is a troupe-wide endeavor and that’s where it’s most beautiful. That’s one of the reasons ballerinas don’t get as famous as musicians, because we’re just one piece of a bigger whole.”

Celia: “Sure,” Celia agrees, “but you’ll also be doing more solo work. And sometimes people do go to restaurants just to drink. That’s why bars exist.”

GM: Diana nods. “Solo work is what climbin’ the ballet hierarchy is all about. Getting a more individual role as, literally, a soloist, instead of being in the corps de ballet. Literally, ‘body of the ballet.’”

“I’m just lettin’ you know the full, best experience is with a troupe. Or another dancer or few.”

Celia: “Actually, I was about to tell you. There’s a group that performs a lot at the events. The Monster Dolls. I think they were the Maidens at some point but then they had a few gentlemen join their numbers and the name didn’t fit anymore. But they’re very, very strong dancers. It started with Middle Eastern dance and then branched out from there when the performers began to try new things and they added new blood to the mix. They do group performances but have soloists as well. Everything from ballet to hip hop, which is… less admired by the older members of my clan, but a big hit with everyone else.”

GM: Diana’s lips purse a bit when ‘hip hop’ comes up.

Celia: She’ll fit right in.

“You don’t want to pop, lock, and drop it?”

GM: “I’m not goin’ to say it’s not dance, sweetie, so I’ll just say it’s not my kind of dance.”

Celia: “They do all sorts of things. I can probably find out who owns them and see if we can get you a partner, at least.”

“Though with that many of them I’d be surprised if they were controlled by any one individual…”

GM: “Ah. Okay.” Diana sounds relieved. “I thought you were going to ask that I join.”

“I just… I’ll admit I can’t quite take them seriously, from that description.”

Celia: Celia arches one brow at her mother. “I never figured you for that much of an elitist about dance. Art comes in all forms. So does dance.”

“You’d also have to see them to understand, really.”

GM: “Maybe, sweetie, but ballet is not a thing you do casually, as part of a mix and match! It takes about a decade of practice, starting at a very young age, to dance on a professional level.”

Celia: Definitely Toreador material.

“Well, I can hardly ghoul a whole troupe for you. And there’s another lick who runs most of the theater production companies anyway.”

“Not interested in getting into a pissing contest over taking a dancer or two.”

GM: “I just take a little offense at someone saying they ‘do ballet,’ like they can do hip hop. It isn’t something you can just do, even if you have years of practice in other forms of dance. Ballet takes a lot of work!”

Celia: “No one said that. I was just explaining that they incorporate a lot of things in some of their work.”

GM: “I just took a little offense, I guess. Ballet isn’t really something you can just pair with hip hop. It is a very specific type of performance dance. Take inspiration from, maybe?”

Celia: “That’s probably a better way to phrase it.”

GM: “Ah, okay. That does sound much nicer. I don’t try to make a big deal about things like that. There are girls who wear ballet-inspired fashions, and some ballerinas say it’s appropriation, but I don’t see what the fuss is. They aren’t claiming to be ballerinas, they just like what they’ve seen and want to emulate it.”

Celia: “Right. Well, that’s settled. It reflects back on me that I chose to give you my blood. So we’ll find you a partner and do some performances and you’ll bring honor to your family.” Celia might be quoting a movie.

“And there’s one more thing. I’d like you to learn how to fight. Fencing, specifically.”

GM: Diana blinks. “I’m sorry?”

Celia: “You always told me it got its start in ballet.”

GM: Her mom nods. “The other way around, but yep. Ballet originated in 15th century Italy as a dance interpretation of fencing. Some people ask if that’s a myth or not, but it’s true. Catherine de Medici brought it to France and Louis XIV made it a big thing.”

“Though it was a very different thing, back then! Heeled shoes didn’t completely disappear from dancers’ costumes until the French Revolution.”

“But, why do you want me to learn fencing, sweetie?”

Celia: “Multiple reasons. The first is that it’s another form of art and I’d like you to master it. The second is that I need to know you can defend yourself and Lucy. The third… the third is that I’d like to utilize your skills to serve as physical protection in places that my other ghouls can’t go. More importantly,” Celia says slowly, “it will give you something to work toward. It will give you an outlet for what I imagine is going to be an influx of energy. It gives you a goal. A source of pride for me as well as yourself. And I think, given your background, you’ll be great at it.”

“I’d like you to start with Robby. Emily trains with him on Sundays, or she’s going to start. After church. I’d like you to join them. Call it family bonding.”

“When you’ve become adequate… I’d like you to meet another trainer. Someone who served as a bodyguard to a prince. Someone who was damn good at what she did.”

Celia tells her about Miriam.

“You should have seen the way she moved, Mom. I couldn’t keep up.”

“And I think it might be good for Logan, too.”

GM: “Oh. I just don’t know that I’d be very good at it, sweetie,” her mom hems. “I’d like to help you, but I mean… I am a woman.”

Celia: “Did you not hear what I said about Miriam?”

GM: “Well, you know, she is a woman too.” Her mom gives a self-deprecating little laugh. “Obviously.”

Celia: “Obviously. Then why, if she can do it, can’t you?”

GM: “Oh, well, are you sure she can do it, sweetie?”

Celia: “Yes, Mother. I saw her with my own eyes.”

GM: “Well, you know, it’s one thing to be fast, and another to…”

She hems a bit. “Emily wouldn’t like me saying this, but women aren’t really cut out for fighting.”

“I mean, the military doesn’t let them serve on the front lines. In combat roles, Logan told me about that.”

Celia: “Then think of it like ballet with a sword.”

GM: “The area we live is very safe, you know, sweetie. I’ve never been afraid for Lucy’s safety. Or yours! You avoid the worse parts of the Quarter, right, and you stay away from the gutter punks?”

Celia: “Mom, the city is in the middle of a cold war. It might turn into a civil war. I’d like to not have to worry about you dead in a ditch somewhere.”

GM: “Oh. But why would someone do that? I’m harmless, aren’t I? I’m just a mom.”

Celia: “Because you’re mine.”

GM: “You’re not in danger yourself, are you, sweetie? You’ve talked about this whole gang war, but you stay out of it, don’t you?”

Celia: Celia gives that a tight smile. “Everyone is in danger. Every vampire in the city is in danger. Even if I didn’t work for who I do, anyone could use it as an excuse to settle an old score. Maybe they’ll take me out because my sire pissed them off fifty years ago and they think it’s funny to take the only childe she’s on good terms with. Maybe I stepped on someone’s toes once without realizing. Maybe they don’t like that I’m pretty. There are plenty of reasons someone could come after me.”

“And the Quarter might see the worst of it. There are a lot of us here.”

“No one wants it to come to that, but it’s a possibility.”

“If I stay at your house during the day I need to know you can keep my body from harm.”

GM: “So you’re really worried? That somebody might try to hurt you?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “Okay. I can learn with Robby, if you think that’s best. Though I really think you’d be better off relying on a man. I can be your, ah, backup option.”

Celia: “Do you think I’m less capable because I was born with two X chromosomes?”

GM: “I wouldn’t say that, just that the sexes are each good at different things.”

Celia: “Sure. I’d agree with you to some extent. Humans, specifically.”

“But we’re not human anymore. I can be just as strong as a man. I can be faster than the world’s fastest sprinter. I can throw a punch that will shatter your spine.”

GM: “Don’t be silly, of course we’re still human. You’re just better at some things now.”

Celia: “That’s… all right, I’ll let Alana tell you about that.”

“Being born a woman doesn’t mean I’m not as good at something that a man can do. I’m not a woman anymore. I’m a vampire. It’s a different species.”

“And if you really don’t believe me, I’ll give my sire a call and you can watch her strut around in an evening gown and sky-high heels while she fends off five men at once.”

GM: “Would you like me to meet her, sweetie?” her mom asks, seriously. “She sounds like an important person to you, if she… made you.”

Celia: “Maybe eventually.”

Not her real sire, though. Definitely not him.

GM: She’s already met him anyway.

“Okay. But we’ll agree to disagree there, so far as you being a different species.” Celia’s mom smiles and cups her cheeks in her hands. “You’re still my little baby who I dressed in a bunny costume.”

Celia: Celia was the cutest bunny.

GM: “You know we have pictures to prove it!”

Celia: “That doesn’t surprise me. You can show my boyfriend when you meet him; I’m sure he’ll be amused.”

GM: “Ah. I meant in the sense that… we left your baby album with your dad,” Diana admits, her smile dimming a little.

“But maybe he’ll give it to you, now?”

Celia: “I can ask.”

“What do you want to do about him?”

GM: “I’d like to have dinner with him and see where things go.”

Celia: “I don’t know if anything long term is viable, I’ll be honest. It was before you took my blood. Now, though…”

GM: “Oh, why wouldn’t it be?”

Celia: “The person he belongs to hates the people I work for, and me by extension. He’s not like you. He’s ignorant about all of this. But he still belongs to someone.”

GM: “He’s my husband, though.”

Celia: “He’s your ex-husband.”

GM: “Well, yes.”

Celia: “And the person he belongs do doesn’t care.”

GM: “Oh. Maybe we could… ask them? Write a letter?”

“It seems a bit silly, he’s his own person, anyway. He doesn’t need permission to have dinner with his wife.”

Celia: “No. He doesn’t. But the fact that he’s seen having dinner with someone who is connected to me is suspect, and he won’t hesitate to come after me.”

GM: “Oh.”

Diana sounds a little crestfallen.

“What can we do, then? I’d like to have dinner with him. I think he’s changed.”

Celia: “I… don’t know, honestly. He’s not omniscient, but I’m concerned something will happen to you because of it. I was worried when Emily stabbed him not because of him or jail time, but because of the person he belongs to.”

GM: “Oh! Speaking of that, Emily talked with Viv.”

Celia: “Oh?”

GM: “Viv said she’s not in any danger, legally. At all.”

Celia: “Good. That doesn’t stop this person from taking off her head, but good.”

“Speaking of which. You told me years ago that someone threatened you with a letter about my paternity?”

GM: Diana blinks. “Emily’s head?!

Celia: “Mom, we operate outside the laws. He’s hardly going to have her arrested. I mean, we don’t go around killing people left and right, but I wouldn’t put it past him.”

GM: “He can’t kill Emily! No! What can we do?!”

Celia: “If he hasn’t yet I doubt he’s going to.”

GM: “But are you sure? Positive?

Celia: “About 90%.”

GM: Diana’s face plummets.

“We have to do something, sweetie! Right away!”

Celia: “Right. So. That’s why I’m asking you about the paternity thing.”

GM: “How does… that help?”

Celia: “It’s a mess for his pawn. I clean it up. He leaves Emily alone.”

GM: “It’s 13 years old, sweetie… nothing ever came of it.”

Celia: “Maxen never ran for higher office. Not like this, anyway.”

GM: “But he did become majority leader. He moved up in the ranks. He’s now the party chair.”

Celia: “Mom, can you just trust me on this?”

GM: “Yes, of course! Whatever’s best for Emily!”

Celia: “So who sent you the letter?”

GM: “I… I wish I knew, baby.” Diana’s eyes start to rim. “I’d honestly forgotten about it… for years… but I don’t remember it saying.”

“There was just the test result. I don’t know why they wouldn’t have leaked it, around the election…”

Celia: Because he already knows.

“That’s what started the fight that night, isn’t it?”

GM: “Your father… your father wouldn’t have kept you, Celia, if he knew. I’m dead certain.”

“He’d have… I don’t even know what he’d have done to you.”

Celia: “Drowned me in the tub and blamed you for it, probably.”

GM: Her mom’s shoulders sag.

“I’ll be lying to him, if we get back together.”

Celia: “If that didn’t start the fight, what did?”

GM: “It just happened on the victory party. We’d been drinking, well, more like he was getting me drinking, and things just… your father was very dangerous then, Celia, and with the drink in our systems…”

Celia: “He said you said something about a man at the party. A black man. Is that true?”

GM: Her mom shakes her head. “Nothing happened at that party, sweetie.”

“I’d have never cheated on your father. He’d have… killed me for it.”

Celia: “Then what happened?”

GM: “I think we just got drunk, and one thing led to another. He was… he was a loaded gun, at the best of times.”

“It was such a big night. It’d been a really tough campaign. I might have just said something and he lost it. He was already beating me very badly. He was already so angry. All sober.”

“But, sweetie… can we help Emily with this?”

Celia: “I don’t remember him drinking much. He had all that alcohol in the house and never touched it.”

“And yes. That’s why I’m asking.”

GM: “He didn’t, but he drank at the party.”

“I mean, I never drink either, you know that, but I did there.”

Celia: “But why?”

GM: “It was a victory party. People were insisting, your dad was insisting. I couldn’t really say no.”

“Honestly, it’s probably the only time in my adult life that I’ve ever touched alcohol. I’m just not a drinker.”

Celia: No, Elyse had seen to that.

“But neither was he. I guess it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

“You mentioned a woman at the party. Do you remember her?”

GM: “I did? When did I?”

Celia: “I don’t know,” Celia admits, “it was a long time ago and I’m kind of fuzzy on the details. But when I came to see you in the hospital you said… said something about everything being fine until you talked to a woman, or maybe he talked to a woman, or something.”

“I just think if you remember her then maybe she’s someone who set up you and dad to fail, and if she’s an enemy of his then it’s enough to buy a break for Emily.”

GM: “Oh. Maybe… you could lie about it, sweetie? Or would anything else buy a break?”

Celia: “He’s not the type of person you can lie to.”

GM: “All right. I could help pay for it, if it’s a question of money. I don’t care how much.”

Celia: “Money means nothing to him.”

GM: “Oh. Why not?”

Celia: “When you’re that old, you have money. Anything we could give him is a drop in the bucket.”

GM: “Ah. That makes sense. Would anything else buy a break?”

Celia: Nothing Celia cares enough to pursue with her mother. If Donovan cared that Emily had stabbed Maxen he’d have already done something about it. He was in her head. He saw everything.

“I don’t know,” she finally sighs. “I’ll work on it. I admit to some personal curiosity over who destroyed our family as well. And… I mean, I was there that night. It shaped my childhood. It would have been nice to know who was responsible.”

GM: “But is Emily still in danger, when you do?” Diana asks gravely.

“You said 10%, but that might as well be 100% when you’re a mom.”

Celia: “I won’t let anything happen to Emily.”

GM: “Okay. You’re sure she’s safe? Positive?”

Celia: “Yes.”

“I’ve protected you both for seven years. I’ve got this.”

GM: “All right. You said to trust you, sweetie, and I do.”

Celia: “If you are interested in pursuing that further, there’s something I can try with you to see if the memory has been tampered with. I don’t know if it will work if it’s just that you don’t remember, but… it might be worth a try.”

“But there are a few other things to discuss. And I’d like to do that now rather than later. Mostly it’s about how our relationship is going to change.”

GM: “Oh. How so, sweetie? I like our relationship. I love our relationship!”

Celia: “I do too. But there are some changes that are inevitable.”

“Politely put, the vampire is the adult and the ghoul is the child. It’s a shift in power dynamics.”

GM: “Child how?”

Celia: “Subservient. People like me see people like you as less than. Most of them treat ghouls poorly. Very poorly. Expendable.”

GM: “Oh. But you don’t see me that way, I know.”

Celia: “No, I don’t. Which is why we’re having this talk.”

GM: “Okay. You said our relationship was going to change?” Her mom looks worried.

Celia: “It’s like this.”

Celia explains the power dynamics between vampires and ghouls. How some see the ghouls as little more than slaves to be snapped at to get what they want, but how Celia—and some others—treat theirs better. She doesn’t want anyone who works for her to be unhappy.

She explains, too, the masks that her ghouls wear.

“Ghouls like mine, those I have around my mortal identity, they treat me differently in front of you versus when we’re alone versus when we’re around other Kindred. Alana is very submissive around other Kindred. She calls me ‘mistress’ and other vampires ’ma’am.’ It’s a respect thing. Alone, she still calls me ‘mistress,’ but only because she likes to. Randy calls me ‘babe’ when we’re alone and in front of humans. In front of other vampires, it’s ‘mistress.’ I don’t really bring Rusty or Reggie around the others like me. Do you kind of see where this is going?”

GM: “Oh. So you want me to call you ma’am in public?”

“I guess that’ll feel a little funny, but if it’s part of pretending we aren’t Celia and her mom when we’re together, then sure.”

Celia: “If you’re going to be around them with me, there’s a way to speak with me and to them. Alana will run you through what’s expected. She’s mastered the etiquette.”

“So… yes, basically. When I’m Jade and when you’re my ghoul, the dancer or the bodyguard, it will be mistress or ma’am. It’ll probably be weird for a little bit. But when we’re alone, or when we’re with family, we can be like how it is now.”

GM: “Okay. But I’ll look different when I’m your ghoul, right?”

“I don’t really mind that, anyway, sweetie, it’s just acting.”

Celia: “Oh. Good. And yes, you’ll look different. We’re just playing a role.”

“You’re still my mom. I still love you like my mom.”

GM: Her mom smiles and gives her a squeeze. “Good. I love being your mom too. I was a lil’ worried you were going to say things had to be different.”

Celia: Celia smiles at her.

“No, not so different. Just sometimes. There’s also… the blood. My blood, specifically. I’d like to be very clear with you on when you will get it, when you’ll get extra, and when you won’t.”

GM: “Oh, speaking of, sweetie… I’ve felt great, since yesterday. Just wonderful, like I’m made of air. I feel so light. Would you mind if I had another sip?”

Her mom smiles again as she makes the request, but her eyes are hungry.

Celia: “Right. This is what we’re clarifying.”

Celia explains what she expects from her mother. And what she expects her not to do, as well. Diana is to make Celia’s life easier. She is to make Celia and Jade look good. She is to get along with the other ghouls versus not. Essentially, she is to be useful versus being a burden.

Which includes begging for blood.

GM: “Oh, you don’t even need to ask, sweetie, of course I want to get along with the others!” Diana nods. “Of course I want to help you and make your life easier and be useful. I’d like nothing more.”

“I’d just really like another drink, if you can spare one. It tastes so good, like how your massages feel.” She gives her daughter another smile.

Mélissaire said Jade would need a clear system of rewards and punishments. “When you punish them, it can’t feel arbitrary. They need to know ahead of time that breaking the rules has consequences. And they will break the rules if there are no consequences.”

Celia: “Right,” Celia says after a moment, “this is what I mean about being useful versus a burden. When you ask for blood, you’re asking vampire Celia, not your daughter Celia. We’ll call her Jade. You’re asking Jade for blood. Jade isn’t your daughter. Jade is a blood-sucking monster from someone’s nightmare. Giving out excess blood takes a toll on Jade and she doesn’t like it.”

“If you ask for extra blood, you will be punished accordingly, because this is a vampire transaction and not a family transaction. Being given my blood is a privilege. It is a reward. I don’t give it out because you ask. I actually won’t give it out because you ask. You’ll get it when I tell you that you get it, not before.”

“We have a whole system set up for punishments and rewards that you are now in on. Do you understand?”

GM: “I’m—I’m sorry, what?” Diana looks confused, and hurt too.

“I… I’m not sure if I do, sweetie, can you maybe explain for me?”

Celia: “I am not your blood vending machine. You do not put a dollar in and get blood out. You do not ask me to feed you extra. Asking for an extra hit is the surest way to arouse my ire. And right now, Diana, I am not your sweetie. I am your master and you will address me accordingly until this conversation is through.”

GM: “What? You’re my baby, of course you are! And please don’t call me by my name like that, it’s… it’s not what children do!" Her mother looks hurt. “I’m sorry, sweetie. If you don’t want me to ask you for blood, I’ll stop. I won’t again. I didn’t realize it was a big deal to you.”

Celia: Jade smiles at the kine woman. It’s not a nice smile. A hint of fang peeks from beneath her lip.

“I don’t think you heard me, Diana. I am your master and you will address me accordingly until this conversation is through. What did we say was the proper way to address me?”

GM: Diana holds up her hands. “All right! I don’t want blood! I won’t ask again! I just want to talk to Celia, please!”

Celia: “Certainly. When the conversation is over you can speak to your daughter as her mother. We were speaking about the system of rewards and punishments.” Her lips pull back from her teeth. “I asked you a question, Diana. I expect an answer.”

GM: Her mother starts crying. “Celia, please don’t be like this! You’re reminding me of, of your father!”

“I’m sorry I asked you for blood, I didn’t realize I was wrong, I swear I won’t again!”

Celia: “We can move on once you’ve answered my question.”

GM: Mélissaire had even advised, “It may help if you visually distinguish Jade the domitor from Celia the daughter. Maybe some quick alterations to your face you can change back.”

“What, what questio—oh, sweetie, there’s no need for that! I’m your mom, you don’t need to punish me! Just tell me you don’t want me to do something, and I’ll stop!”

Celia: Celia can see that her mother needs a firm lesson in this. It isn’t enough to simply ask, and she will not be moved by tears and begging. Her hands move across her face. They don’t blur, not quite, but she makes a few minor alterations: sharper chin, higher cheekbones, a brow that was made for easy scowls. She had done it once to Veronica, had sharpened her features to turn her into a deadly goddess of war rather than beautiful goddess of love, and she does it now to herself. A fingertip against her eyes and a long blink changes the color from brown to a bright green that smolders with intensity as she looks at this almost-blubbering juicebag.

Green, for Jade.

“Cease the waterworks. I explained the rules to you. I explained that I want you to be useful. I explained what you are to call me and how you are to address me when we are vampire and servant. Answer my question, Diana: how do you address me?”

GM: Diana’s already seen Celia—Jade?—turn into a cat. She doesn’t scream at the changes, but she holds her hand to her mouth as she takes several steps away.

“You said it was just pretend, around other vampires! Stop, stop calling me that! Please, sweetie!”

Celia: “I am not your sweetie, Grace.”

GM: Diana’s face whitens.

Celia: “I am its domitor, not its daughter. I asked it a question. I expect an answer.”

GM: The woman swallows. Her eyes glisten, but her tears stop flowing. The look in her eyes is dead.

“Grace is sorry. It doesn’t remember. Jade said that Alana called her mistress, and also that she was Grace’s master. Grace isn’t sure which name it should use.”

Celia: “Grace will call Jade mistress.”

GM: “Yes, mistress. Grace will call Jade mistress.”

Grace’s voice is distant and numb.

Celia: “I will explain the rules to it again.”

“I am Jade. I am Grace’s domitor. I can be a benevolent domitor, and rewards can and will be plenty if Grace follows the rules. There are two sides to me. When Grace speaks of blood, it speaks to Jade. Jade does not enjoy being asked for extra blood. Jade does not enjoy tears. Jade does not enjoy explaining things twice.”

“I told Grace earlier that the polite way to view the relationship is as adult and child. I tried to spare its feelings, as Grace is precious to Jade. I see now that this is wrong and Grace came away without a clear understanding. I will correct this. I am the master. Grace is the slave.”

“Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Grace… understands,” Grace repeats hollowly.

“Grace… wants to know how to earn the rewards. Grace wants to be good.”

Celia: “Grace is expected to obey. Grace will not ask for blood. Grace will learn shadow dancing from Alana and Rusty to mask its half-breed stench. Grace will learn to fence with Robby. Grace will impress the guilds for its domitor. Grace will answer its domitor’s questions when asked without protest. Grace will treat its domitor with respect. Grace will do as its domitor says. Grace will keep its domitor’s secrets. Grace will meld seamlessly into its new role as slave to Jade.”

“When these things have been completed, Grace will be rewarded. Grace will be rewarded when Jade is happy. Grace will be rewarded when it has learned to mask its half-breed stench. Grace will be rewarded when its teacher says that it is ready for new things. Grace will be rewarded when it makes its domitor look good in front of other Kindred.”

“Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes.” Grace’s face is still, its voice hollow. “Grace understands.”

Celia: “Things run smoothly when all of the pieces work together. Grace has a place at Jade’s side if it can follow directions. Grace can be rewarded beyond belief if it pleases its domitor.”

“But it will be punished when it doesn’t.”

“Grace will accept its punishment when rendered. Grace will explain to its domitor what it did wrong when it is punished. Grace will know that it is punished to correct its behavior. It will not be punished arbitrarily. If Grace follows the rules, it will not be punished.”

“Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Grace understands,” Grace recites numbly.

Celia: “I am pleased that Grace understands. I am less pleased that it sought to avoid punishment and that it took two explanations to accept its place. Grace will choose between the following punishments: physical chastisement or an evening with the doll Grace created.”

GM: The response comes immediately.

“Grace chooses physical chastisement, mistress.”

“Thank you for letting it choose.”

Celia: “Very well. Grace will remove its skirt and panties and bend over the desk.”

GM: Grace unzips its skirt, drops it, steps out, then removes its panties. It bends over.

Celia: “Grace will count out each smack as follows: one, thank you mistress. Two, thank you mistress. Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Grace understands,” says Grace. It doesn’t look up.

Celia: Jade takes a step forward. She rests a hand on Grace’s back for a long second. Then the first blow comes across her left cheek with a resounding THWACK.

GM: Grace cries out.

“One… thank you, mistress.”

Celia: A second blow follows the first.

Then a third.

All the way to ten.

Jade waits for Grace to count out each one before she delivers the next. She does not hit hard enough to bruise. She does not leave marks behind, though Grace’s pale skin turns a bright red.

GM: Grace bites its lip and clenches its eyes. It cries a bit, but quietly.

But it counts out and says thank you after each one.

Celia: Jade keeps a hand on Diana’s back after it’s done. She does not let her up yet, leaving the woman bent over the desk with her bottom exposed.

“What has Grace learned?”

GM: “Grace… has learned not to avoid punishment. Grace… has learned not to make its mistress explain things twice.” A few more tears roll down Grace’s face, but it doesn’t sob.

Celia: “Jade understands that Grace is new to this life. Jade is certain that Grace will succeed with time and make her proud. Jade will not let the lines between their relationship blur further.”

“Grace is bright. Grace is strong. Grace is beautiful. Grace is everything that Jade could want in a servant.”

GM: “Yes, mistress. Grace understands,” Grace says meekly.

Celia: “Grace was good just now accepting its place. Good behavior is rewarded.” Jade touches a hand to Grace’s reddened cheeks. She feels the heat coming off the flesh and onto her palm. “Grace will get dressed. After it dresses, it may take the name Diana again. It will thank its mistress once more for the lesson and it will be given a reward as Diana. When that has been accepted, Celia will return. Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Mistress. Grace understands.” Grace takes a breath, but doesn’t move from its position. “Grace… would like to make a request.”

Celia: “Ask.”

GM: “Grace would like to thank its mistress for the lesson as Grace and be rewarded as Grace. If that pleases its mistress.”

Celia: “Very well.”

Jade removes her hand from Grace’s back.

GM: Grace rises, wincing, and pulls on its clothes.

Celia: Jade watches her movements, a cat with a mouse. There’s a stillness to her that isn’t present when she wears Celia’s face, a predatory cast to her features and expression altogether missing from Diana’s daughter.

She waits, expectant.

GM: “Thank you for the lesson, mistress,” Grace says slowly. “Thank you for the reward. Thank you for fulfilling Grace’s request. Grace will be good.”

Celia: Jade sinks her fangs into her wrist and lets the blood bead at the puncture wounds, little red droplets that every addict hungers for.

“There is one last directive,” Jade says at the blood cools. “Grace will unlearn its belief that women are inferior to men.”

GM: There’s a blank, noncomprehending look.

But Grace’s eyes fix on the blood.

Celia: It begins to drip down her arm.

Jade waits.

GM: “Grace… will unlearn,” Diana says thickly.

Celia: Jade offers Grace her arm. She is careful not to let her drink from the source. She has no wish to bind the doll further.

GM: Perhaps Celia wonders if that’s kinder than bringing out Grace.

Jade likely does not.

Grace sinks to its knees and drinks needfully, rapturously, shivering as it imbibes. Its tongue desperately runs along Jade’s wrist to get it all. As if the taste alone can make this worth it.

Celia: Nothing will make this worth it.

Diana is broken, no matter what Roderick said about people breaking. She’s a shell of a person. Maybe someone else would like this sort of broken toy, maybe they would think that Diana is subservient and broken in rather than simply broken, but Jade takes after her sire in that manner: she doesn’t like broken things.

There is no gluing her back together and hoping for the best. She has a shelf life. That’s all there is to it.

Celia surfaces as Diana’s tongue nears her wrist. She pulls away, disgusted by herself and what she has just done. Her Beast snarls inside her chest at the sudden shift in emotion, sensing weakness. It strikes while her guard is down. It takes like the greedy monster that it is, punishing her for her momentary weakness.

She fixes her face and licks the wound closed on her arm.

GM: Her mom doesn’t get up from the floor.

But she stares up at Celia with glistening eyes.

“I love you,” she whispers.

Celia: “I love you too, Mom.”

What’s another lie after all that?


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

GM: Moments pass.

Celia’s mother crawls up to her feet, like a whipped dog returning to its master’s side, and hugs her legs. Diana hugs the rest of her daughter, but only if she chooses to kneel down. It takes Celia’s mom a little while to say anything, but she smiles when Celia calls her ‘mom.’ She smiles like she has nothing else left.

“Is… is it pretend, sweetie,” she gets out. “In public. Around other vampires. You’re still… you’re still Celia, to me, just… pretending to be Jade, around them?”

Celia: Some time after Jade’s disappearance, Celia sinks to the ground with her mother and draws the woman into her arms. Warmth floods through her at the proximity to the so-willing vessel; she remembers the taste, the way it felt as if she were drinking bottled love, the way it filled her. Her heart beats beneath the surface of the skin.

thump-thump.

It calls to her.

What does mangled love taste like?

“The world I navigate is dark,” Celia tells her mother. “Anyone who isn’t strong enough to withstand that will be cut to pieces. When I was a child, you taught me how to bend. You taught me that there is good in the world despite the darkness if only you know where to look. You taught me how to survive.”

“There are people like me who do not know how to bend. They break beneath the pressures of our society. They lose. I do not lose. I will not lose. Maxen could have broken me, but you were always there to hold me together, and I have loved you for your quiet strength.”

“But I am also now your domitor. This is me now. This is us. There are things I will not bend on for you. There are things I will not tolerate, that I cannot tolerate, that show weakness. I can’t be weak or they will take everything I love away from me. They’ll take you, Mom. I’m not willing to lose you. Not again.”

Celia pulls back, cupping her mother’s face in her hands.

“You are my mother. I am your daughter. I will always be your daughter. I will fight for you. I will never let them hurt you. I will shelter you from the worst of it. And I will love you. Fiercely. Always.”

GM: Celia’s mother clings to her as though Celia is the parent and she the child.

She listens, gratefully, to her daughter’s words. So gratefully.

It’s as Celia learned with Paul. With Butterfly.

A little comfort makes all the difference.

She stares up into Celia’s eyes as her daughter cups her face.

“Celia… that hurt,” she whispers.

“I… I understand. I can’t ask you for blood. I won’t. I won’t, ever again.”

“But that… that hurt, sweetie…”

Celia: The lesson has sunk in. Celia relents.

“I know, Mom. I’m sorry.”

GM: “I’m… I’m scared.” She swallows. “I’m scared I’m going to mess up and… she’ll come back, and hurt me again…”

She’ll.

Not you’ll.

Her eyes squeeze shut for a moment, and when she speaks again, her voice trembles. “C-Celia, baby, I’m so scared…”

Celia: At least she understands.

“It’s an adjustment period. You’ll learn. She can be patient while you learn. I know you’ll find your stride in this, Mom. I believe in you.”

GM: “I don’t… I don’t ever want to see her again, Celia, she was…” Diana shudders. “She was horrible…”

“She was like your father, used to be…”

Celia: “We all have to face things we’re afraid of.”

GM: Her mother’s eyes are full of terror at the thought. “But I… I’ll… I can’t face her, I couldn’t face your father, I’m too weak…”

Celia: “There are different types of strength. Find yours.”

GM: Her mother’s shoulders hang. There is no strength in her posture, only submission.

“I’ll obey, Celia. I’ll be good, I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t let her… don’t let her hurt me again…”

Celia: “She won’t, Mom.”

GM: “Will you, will you warn me if she’s about to come back? If I mess up again, so I can know to stop?”

Celia: “Yes. I can do that.”

GM: Her mom gives her a trembling, grateful smile. “And it’ll be… it’ll be pretend, in public? Even if I call you mistress there, I’m still your mom?”

Celia: I’m still your mom?

Inside her chest her heart cracks.

She stares at the woman that gave birth to her. The woman that raised her. The woman that has given and given and given of herself.

And she knows that she fucked up.

She’s already on her knees. She can’t sink any lower. But the hug that engulfs her mother changes. She clings to her like the liferaft that she is, that she had always been when Daddy got mad and came after her, one of the few solitary beacons of light in Celia’s world of darkness.

She doesn’t want a doormat.

She doesn’t want Grace.

She wants her mother.

Tears leak from her eyes. The red runs down her cheeks. It stains her mother’s shirt where Celia presses her face against the fabric. Her shoulders shake; it’s an effected movement, one she doesn’t need to make. Her body doesn’t move outside her will. But the gesture will be familiar to her mother. Human. Safe.

“I—I’m sorry, Mom, I’m so sorry.” Quiet, desperately whispered words to the woman in front of her. “You’re my mom, of course you’re my mom, I’m sorry I hit you, I shouldn’t have done that, it was wrong, so wrong of me.”

GM: Celia can feel her mother’s sudden stiffness of limbs, her elevated heart rate, and her increased perspiration at Celia’s equally sudden change in affect. There’s an instinctive wariness, like a struck dog shying away from the hand trying to pet it.

It only lasts, though, until the tears.

At the sight of those, at that maternal instinct to comfort and make them cease to flow, Diana cradles Celia’s head against her chest and runs her fingers across her daughter’s hair. Blood stains through her blouse as she murmurs assurances.

“It’s… it’s okay, sweetie,” she says, hoarsely at first, “Your new life is hard, and difficult, and scary… I hadn’t learned, I hadn’t understood, but I understand now…”

Celia: “It’s not okay,” Celia says back to her, voice cracking in the middle. “It’s not okay. I became another Maxen, another Elyse, another Payton. Another abuser. It’s not okay. You’re my mother. You’re a ghoul, my ghoul, but you’re my mom. I need my mom. I need you as my mom, not as a ghoul, not as a slave.”

Celia doesn’t want her on her knees like that, no matter what Mel had said about her being perfectly suited for it.

GM: “I’ll… I’ll always be your mom, sweetie, don’t worry, I’ll always be your mom…” Diana gets out her, voice breaking too. “It wasn’t really you, anyway, she wouldn’t cry, she wouldn’t want your mom…”

Celia: “She is me. She’s me. I’m her. They’re just two sides to me. We’re the same person.”

GM: Celia’s mom just hugs her head tighter. Her hands continue to stroke.

“Oh, baby, she wasn’t anything like you, anything at all, you’re so much better than that…”

Celia: “No,” Celia sniffs. She doesn’t need to sniff, but she does it anyway. Another wasted human gesture meant to comfort her mother, to put them on the same level. “She’s me. I’m not better than her. I’ve done awful things. Terrible things.”

GM: “But you’ve done wonderful things too, baby,” her mom assures her, dabbing at Celia’s eyes with a dryer corner of her blouse, “you saved me from your dad, you gave Emily a loving family, you hid Lucy… you haven’t been perfect, none of us are, but whatever else you’ve done, I know you’ve also done amazing good… what’s that Emily said, how you never stop trying to push people to be better…”

Celia: “It doesn’t balance out the negative. I just hit you. I turned you into her again.”

GM: Her mom falls quiet for a moment, as if trying to think of a way to excuse that.

Celia: There’s no excuse.

GM: “I forgive you, baby,” her mom finally says, giving her another squeeze.

Celia: “No.” Celia shakes her head. “No. Don’t. Not yet.”

“Don’t just accept an apology. Don’t forgive and forget. Don’t go back to being nothing. Don’t let me turn you into that.”

“It was unacceptable. Completely, utterly unacceptable. You are not a doormat. You are not nothing. You are my mother and I need you to be my mother. You are the only thing that kept me together, that kept me from turning into Maxen, and I need you to be that woman for me or I’ll turn into someone just as terrible as he was.”

GM: Celia’s mother sniffs and squeezes her tighter. “You won’t, sweetie, I won’t let you… I’ll always be your mom, and you’ll always be my baby… always… you’re so much better than him, you really are… Emily says all the girls at your salon say what a great boss you are, too, paying them well, havin’ them as real employees, not contractors, not askin’ them to show up to work if they don’t clients…”

Celia: “That’s not the same. That’s not the same, Mom. That’s just work. This is us. I just hit you. I turned you into Grace again. I hurt you. I don’t want to be that person. I won’t be that person. I refuse to be that person. I don’t want you like that. I don’t want to do that to you. You don’t deserve that. You’re so much better than that.”

GM: “Okay… this is us…” her mom nods, several times, “maybe you have somethin’ for my bum, then? It still smarts a little, but this is a spa we’re in…”

Celia: It’s an absurd idea, but it seizes her anyway.

“Do it to me,” she says. “To Jade. To me. We’ll get rid of her, kick that part of me from our relationship so we can be Celia and her mother, not Jade and her ghoul.”

GM: “W… what?” Diana asks confusedly.

Celia: “We’ll get rid of her, right? This… this shadow that she’s casting over both of us. We’ll force her out. Show her that you’re not afraid of her. Tell her off. Fight her. Spank her.”

“We’ll tell her that she’s not welcome in this relationship. She has no place here.”

GM: “Well… I, ah, I guess that’s one way… but I don’t want to hurt you, sweetie!”

Celia: “You won’t. Or rather, I heal very quickly.”

GM: “But I don’t want you to go through that, too! It’s…” her mother’s cheeks turn faintly red, “it’s humiliating, too, there’s more than one kind of hurt…”

“I don’t want to humiliate you, baby…”

Celia: “It’s just us. We’re the only two here. You can see me like that. You can remind yourself that I’m still your little girl, no matter what else I might have become.”

GM: “But even just us… it still was…” her mother takes a moment to repeat the word, “humiliating, for me… are you sure, sweetie? I’m okay if we hurt Jade, if we tell her she’s not welcome, but I don’t want to hurt you, also!”

Celia: “We’re the same person,” Celia tells her again. “You need to understand that. She’s just a mask I wear, but we’re the same. I need you to do this so I don’t slip into her around you. That part of me has no place with you.”

“I know you want to help me. You said you would. You want to be in on this. I need this.”

And Diana needs this, too.

GM: “All… all right, if you really think it’ll help you, I’ll do my best…” her mom says with a slow nod.

Celia: Celia pulls back. She changes her face so that her mother can see the physical manifestation of the monster she might become if she’s allowed to continue down this path. She turns into Jade.

But it’s still Celia’s voice that comes out of her mouth, still Celia’s warmth when she tells her mother to do it.

GM: Her mother’s eyes fill with terror as Celia’s brown turn into Jade’s green. She takes several steps backwards and holds a hand to her mouth. Perhaps she thinks back to the words they shared.

I am its domitor, not its daughter.

I am the master. Grace is the slave.

I am also your domitor. This is me now. This is us.

She can hear the kine woman’s heart hammering in her chest as she flashes back to the memory. Her whitening face looks almost sick.

It really took so little time to break her in.

It’s only at Celia’s voice that Diana points and falteringly says,

“Ben… bend over the desk…”

Celia: Jade makes no move toward the kine. She holds perfectly still, waiting for instruction. When it comes, she does as asked. Two steps take her toward the desk and she leans across it, bending at the waist.

“Tell her why,” she says before Diana can strike her.

GM: “Your, ah, your leggings…”

Diana might be pointing.

Celia: Jade slides her thumbs into the waistband of her leggings and pulls them down. The panties follow. She steps out of them and waits, silently, for Diana to tell her why this is happening.

GM: “You…” Celia’s mother starts, “you hurt me. You made me scared… you made me scared of Celia… and…” she takes a breath, “I was scared you’d come back, just so scared. I thought I’d make more mistakes and I told Celia how scared I was. She said she had faith in me and loved me and would even warn me, if Jade was about to come back, but…” her mother swallows, “but she said Jade would still be there, that this was us now, and I felt… I felt like Celia was slipping through my fingers, and I was trying to hold onto her, but she was already gone, and that it was just… that she didn’t mean it anymore, when she said she loved me…”

Diana’s voice breaks towards at the end.

Celia: “You want me to go away,” Jade says once she’s done, “so you can have your daughter back.”

GM: Diana gives a shaking, uneven gasp when she hears Jade’s voice.

“Y… yes…”

Celia: Jade considers the kine for a moment. Celia, too, watches from behind the mask. She knows what Diana needs right now.

“Make me.”

GM: Several moments pass until she approaches and delivers a light swat to the vampire’s backside.

“Go… go away. Please.”

Celia: The blow is a whisper against her skin.

Diana will need to do more than that if she wants to be in control of her own future again.

“No.”

GM: Diana waits again, as if for a response, then delivers a firmer but still fairly mild spank.

“You aren’t, you aren’t welcome here.”

Celia: Better. But they’re not there yet.

“I go where I please.”

GM: There’s another pause, and then another smack. Slightly firmer.

“This is, this is Celia’s space, with me. Go somewhere else!”

Celia: Getting there. She pushes slightly further, choosing her words with care. You can’t make me will only set her back.

“No one can make me do what I don’t want.”

GM: Another smack, at the same intensity, but without the pause.

“F… fine, just do it someplace else! Celia needs me! She says she needs her mom!”

Celia: “Celia is mine.”

GM: There’s a much swifter, angrier smack.

“Excuse me! I gave birth to her!”

Celia: “She’s mine,” Jade repeats, “I own her. No one can protect her.”

GM: Another sharp smack.

“Celia’s strong! She owns herself, and she wants her mom! There, there isn’t room for a domitor!”

Smack.

“It’s, it’s perverted, a ‘rewards and punishments system!’ That’s not what children do with parents!”

Smack.

“And she is my sweetie, she’s my sweetie all the time! We, we cuddle on the couch and watch movies, with Lucy and Emily!”

Celia: “Help me, Momma,” Celia’s voice pleads, “make her go away.”

GM: There’s a much harder smack, one that might actually hurt to receive.

“Go away! Celia doesn’t want you! She says you’re turning her, turning her into her father!”

Diana’s hand strikes flesh.

“She says she’s done horrible things! That’s not the Celia I know, the Celia I know helps people!”

“Did you make her, did you make my daughter do bad things?”

Celia: A giggle floats up from the bent-over Kindred.

“I made her do terrible things,” she says with glee.

GM: A hard, angry smack.

“Well go on, let’s hear them! I’ll tell her how each and every one was your fault!”

Celia: “I made her lie to you,” Jade giggles, “for years.”

GM: Smack.

“I forgive her. She had to.”

Celia: “I made her hurt people.”

GM: “That’s your fault.”

But the smack is angrier, harder.

Celia: “I made her dig into your painful history to sate my own curiosity.”

GM: Diana raises her hand high and brings it down hard. Smack.

“That’s your fault?! You didn’t have that right! It’s none of your business!”

“That’s nobody’s business! I don’t want to talk about it! I don’t ever want to talk about it!”

Celia: “I made her hit you.”

“You’re kine,” she adds. They’re close. She can tell. She pushes further, giving her mother one last little nudge. “You couldn’t stop her. You can’t stop me.”

GM: Smack.

“You’re evil!” Diana exclaims angrily. “You made me afraid of her, of my own flesh and blood!”

Smack.

Celia: She is.

But she’s trying to be good. She’s trying to be better.

“What are you going to do about it?”

GM: “Go AWAY!” Celia’s mom yells, bringing her open palm down on the dead flesh, again and again.

“I’m not talking to Jade anymore! I’m not! You’re not my ‘domitor,’ I’m not her ghoul, that’s a silly name anyway! Celia is not my master, she’s my sweetie! You don’t, you don’t decide when I talk to my daughter! I’ll keep talking to her! ‘System I’m now in on,’ what a, what a load of crock! We will talk this out as a family! What to do about my, my… addic—why didn’t we just talk about this!? I can’t believe this all started over, that she hurt me, because of… I want my baby! My baby, not blood! How could you, how could she, let that come between us, make her hit me, make me scared of her, because of… blood!?!

Diana doesn’t have Maxen’s cruelty, his physical strength, his desire to inflict pain and humiliation with each blow. Or Jade’s. She strikes the dead and pale flesh, manically, like it will exorcise this awful thing that passed between them.

“GO AWAY! And take Grace with you!”

Celia: It’s not the same as being bent over her father’s knee.

It’s not the same as when Paul did the same, holding her down while she kicked and struggled and flailed.

It’s not like when her sire took the sword to her skin, or when he broke every bone in her body the other night to teach her a lesson.

There’s nothing humiliating about this, not in the way Diana thinks it might be, and when tears finally spring to Celia’s eyes it’s because she’s proud that Diana has finally come out of her shell, that she’s rising up to become her own woman and won’t let someone else kick her around anymore.

“Fine!” Jade finally snarls. “Then you protect her!”

Just like that, she’s gone.

Her hands shift. Her face rights itself. And it’s Celia bent over the desk, bare-bottomed, crying into her arms now that Jade is gone. Celia who asks for her mother.

GM: “I will, tha-”

Diana pulls Celia into her arms and sinks down to the floor with her, cradling her daughter against her breast and stroking her hair.

“Celia, baby, I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”

Celia: Celia clings to her mother, shaking her head back and forth, back and forth. Like a child. A half-naked, adult child.

“N-no,” she tells her mom, “you didn’t hurt me. You stood up to her. You got rid of her.”

GM: Celia’s mom just holds her close, and at least for now, has no eyes for her daughter’s nudity.

“I… I did? She isn’t ever going to come back, or come between us…?”

Celia: “No, Momma. She’s gone.”

GM: “I love you, baby,” her mom repeats, squeezing her.

Celia: “I love you too, Mom,” Celia says back to her. She even means it this time.

GM: “I’m, ah—I’m sorry, you’re undressed…” Her mother studiously averts her gaze.

Celia: She laughs at the mention of her nudity.

“Yes. I suppose I am.”

GM: “Would you like to, ah, rectify that?”

“I know you’ve seen me without my undies, but that isn’t the same.”

Celia: Celia finds her clothing and starts to dress.

“Nudity isn’t a big thing to most of my kind,” she says to her mother. “You might see a lot of bodily parts in the future.”

GM: Her mom politely turns her back as she dresses.

“Oh, why is that?”

“Ah, never mind. We’ll deal with it then. There’s something else to talk about, sweetie.”

Her mom clears her throat.

“I’m an… addict. Aren’t I?”

Celia: She starts to open her mouth to explain, but the second question cuts her off.

“Yes,” Celia tells her. “The blood is addictive. It feels good to give and receive. That’s why you asked for more. That’s why you crave it. It’s a drug. Worse than a drug.”

GM: Her mom is silent for a moment.

“Do we… is it the only way we can be together? I can’t just quit, and keep your secret?”

“Or maybe pretend that I’m your ghoul, somehow?”

Celia: “I don’t think you could quit even if you wanted to, Mom. It’s… it’s worse than heroin, they say.”

GM: “But, but could we, sweetie. Could we still be together, if I did.”

“Or is it really the only option?”

Celia: “If someone finds out that you know, that you’re not blooded, they’d come for us. I know it’s easy for me to say that and hard for you to understand because it’s just words, but… it’s a risk. A really, really big risk. And if someone finds out you know, if someone looks into your head and sees that, they won’t give me a slap on the wrist. It’s the first rule of being a vampire.”

GM: “Okay,” her mom says. “You’re right, sweetie, this is really all just words, but… I’ll trust you. If you really think me being a ghoul is the only way.”

Celia: “If there’s another way,” Celia promises her mother, “I’ll find it.”

GM: “Okay,” nods her mom. “You’re smart, I know there’s nothin’ you can’t do when you put your mind to it. We’ll just think of this as… temporary, until then.”

“But, ah, as far as how to manage things.”

Her mom clears her throat. “Celia, it’s there in the back of my head. Even after all that happened, there’s this voice I’m listening to, this needful lil’ voice, that already wants to beg for more.”

“That… that’s gotten louder, too, and already wants to beg more, because you won’t let Jade hurt me.”

Diana swallows.

“We can’t, we can’t let this define our relationship, sweetie. Or come between us.”

“Maybe you should just… only give me a fixed amount. Rain or shine. However much you think I need, no rewards, no punishments. On a… on a fixed schedule, maybe, so I’m not constantly wonderin’, when there’ll be more.”

“And… and if I get weak, if I beg, if I try to get more, you just won’t budge.”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment.

It’s similar to the system she has with Rusty. His brothers and Alana are all on the same system of rewards and punishments, but she had struck a different bargain with Rusty. He does more for her, unseen though it is, and she had leveraged that by giving him back his ability to walk without a cane or crutches, to move without pain. He needs more because he uses more, and he has never once begged beyond that. He’s learned to ration what he has. It’s a transaction between them, like everything else.

“Okay,” she says at length. “We can do that. I think that will work.”

GM: Her mom looks into her eyes closely as she’s silent, then nods in agreement.

“And maybe you can… I don’t know, mix it with prune juice or something? So it’s less addictive? Does that work?”

Celia: “Ah… I’m not sure, no one has ever asked me that. We could try it?”

“I don’t think it would be less addictive, but… we can try.”

GM: “I’m just spitballin’, sweetie. I don’t… I don’t want to be an addict.”

Celia: “There’s also maybe someone I could talk to about it, now that I think of it. He can do a lot with blood.”

GM: “Oh, yes, please!”

“I see those people in the Quarter, or at least hear about them, I only really see the worse parts from the car, they’re just… if this is worse than heroin, sweetie… I’m scared. How it could impact Lucy, if her mom’s an add…”

Celia: “I know, Mom.” Celia pulls her close again, as if a hug can scare the bad thoughts away. “I know. I’m sorry this happened to you. That’s why… that’s why I wanted to give you something to work toward, with the dancing and the fencing. An outlet for your need.”

GM: Her mom hugs her tight. “Maybe that’ll, maybe that’ll do it, sweetie. They recommend exercise programs for recovering addicts, you know, and the only real exercise I do now is my daily walks around the Garden District.”

Celia: “Everyone else like you is the same. An addict. We can talk to them. See how they manage. For most of them it’s… they need something to do. Something to keep their focus.”

GM: “That does make sense. I don’t need to say how much I’d love to dance again, that takes plenty focus and exertion. More than plenty. And I’ll learn to fence, too, if it’d be helpful to you.”

“Though, ah, learnin’ to shoot might actually be more helpful, when it comes to keepin’ you safe. Knife fight vs. gun fight, and all.”

Celia: Celia shakes her head.

“You can learn to shoot, but it won’t stop someone like me. Bullets don’t do much to us.”

GM: “Oh. Well, I guess they never do use guns in the movies.”

“Anyway, sweetie, we’ve taken up enough time here, Lucy needs to go to bed soon. Do you have a spare shirt or dress…?” She gestures down at her blood-streaked blouse.

“Your, ah. Your tears are bloody.”

Celia: “I do, actually. That’s one of the first things I learned: blood is messy. I keep a spare change of clothes pretty much everywhere.”

Celia finally rises to her feet, moving behind the desk to pull out the bottom drawer. The shirt is less fancy than the one Diana is in now, a simple “Flawless” tee like the one she’s in, but it’s clean and will fit her mother.

GM: “Thanks, sweetie. Can we pick up some clothes from the house, by the way…?” she asks as she turns away, slips off the bloody blouse, and slips the tee on. “I forgot to pack much last morning, and these are actually the same clothes I wore yesterday, I did them in a laundry load with all of the boys’.”

Celia: “Yes. The situation with her should be resolved tonight.”

GM: “Okay. I’ll think up something to tell Emily, about why we’re not goin’ home.”

“And… if the only way to know, is to be an addict… maybe it’d be kinder not to tell her. About vampires, and all of that.”

Celia: “I’ve thought about telling you both multiple times,” Celia admits with a sigh, “and it always came back to that. Not wanting this life for you.”

GM: Her mom squeezes her shoulder. “You’ll find an answer, on what to do. I know you will.”

“But maybe it is for the best that one of us knows.”

“You said… you said Jade was you, too.” Her mother’s voice grows quiet.

Celia: “She… she is.”

GM: “What happened, Celia?” her mom whispers, giving her another squeeze.

“She was… she was as bad as your dad…”

Celia: “I…” Celia doesn’t know how to explain. “I’ve been through… a lot. A lot that you don’t know about. A lot that has made me… hard. Cold. Angry. People have done things to me. Used me. Hurt me. I couldn’t be Celia around them. I had to be someone else. Someone like her.”

“The nicest one among them once told me that they’re a society of raging dicks. He was right.”

GM: Her mom’s heart looks like it’s breaking for her.

Celia: “The guy I work for is kind of nice,” she adds, as if that helps.

GM: Diana just hugs her close again, as if a mother’s embrace could somehow lift away all those hurts and hates and coldness.

“I feel like this is maybe more than we can unpack here in your office, sweetie. We should… we need, to talk about it later.”

“But for now, just know that I’m here for you, okay? I love you. Even with… even with Jade. I don’t think you’re all gone, if you were able to come back from what she did.”

“What you did. You came back, that’s what matters.”

Celia: She doesn’t let herself cry again, but the pressure builds at the corners of her eyes. She nods mutely, lips pressed together to keep the flood of emotion from pouring out of her.

“Thanks, Momma. I needed to hear that.”

GM: “It was your strength, sweetie. You’re still Celia. I don’t even…” her mom shudders, “I don’t even want to imagine what would’ve happened, if you hadn’t come to your senses. What our relationship would’ve turned into.”

Celia: A domitor and a doormat.

Veronica and Micheal.

GM: “You pushed that part of yourself back. Maybe… maybe you can, further, now that you’ve done it once.”

Celia: “Maybe,” she hedges, uncertain that such a thing is possible. “I can try. I… I keep mentioning my boyfriend, you know, but he’s… he makes me want to be a better person, too, and I keep… I keep thinking… what if he finds out how awful I’ve been? I want to be better. For you. For him. For Lucy and Emily and the rest of our family.”

GM: “I saw how awful Jade… you could be, and we still love each other, don’t we?” smiles her mom, giving her a squeeze. “You fessed up, you made it right… so right, sweetie. If your boyfriend is the good guy you think he is, I think he’ll forgive you.”

Celia: Celia doesn’t share her mother’s optimism.

GM: “And you’ll feel better, to have been honest with him.”

Celia: Ah, yes, but last time she was honest with him he’d beaten her for it.

GM: “Do you feel better, knowing that I have some idea now, and I’m still here?”

Celia: “Yes,” she admits. But it’s not the same.

GM: Her mom smiles again. “Confession’s good for the soul, sweetie. It’s a lil’ trite, but it’s true.”

“Anyway… I really need to put Lucy to bed. I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

Celia: “Okay, Mom. Have a good night. I’ll let you know how it goes. And… thanks. For loving me. And for being my mom.”

GM: Her mother gives her a last squeeze. “Thanks for loving me, too. And for wanting me to stay your mom.”

Perhaps that love is a small candle in the dark of Jade’s and Celia’s conjoined souls.

But perhaps it’s bright enough to illuminate whose is whose.


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Story Twelve, Celia XXIX

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.”
—Roderick Durant


Sunday evening, 13 March 2016

Celia: When the shower is over and Roderick is finally out the door and on his way (with the promise to fill her in on what she misses and keep an eye on Elyse), Celia pulls her phone from her pocket to call her favorite mobster. She wasn’t going to tell Roderick that she had him in mind, and she supposes he’ll see the cowboy soon enough if he’s down to deliver a message for her, but that’s altogether different than admitting she’s got the boy on speed dial.

She listens to it ring while she peruses her closet for an outfit for the evening.

GM: Being friendly with a mobster is a small deceit next to this latest one, anyway.

Gui picks up after a couple rings.

“Evening, lush.”

He’s probably getting ready for Elysium himself.

Celia: His voice always makes her smile. It takes the sting from what she’s just done.

“Hello, darling. Do you have a free minute? I was hoping to beg a favor from you, with reciprocity if you think it’s warranted.”

GM: “I’d say I hate to listen to a beautiful woman beg, but I’d be lying if I did.”

Celia: “I’d offer to get on my knees,” she purrs, “but I don’t think that does it for either one of us anymore.”

GM: “Only if you don’t take a nip too.”

Celia: “Well if you’re offering…”

GM: “We’ll let that be the reciprocity then, if I think it’s… warranted.”

Celia: Low, throaty laughter floats down the line. She sounds delighted

“I won’t be able to make it to the party tonight, but I thought that if you’re going anyway you might be willing to bring a gift from me.”

GM: “I’ll have one of my people swing by to pick it up. Who for?”

Celia: “The little Benson girl.”

It almost sounds like they’re talking about an actual birthday party for a child.

GM: “Let me guess. It’s a doll.”

Celia: “It is,” she admits. “Handle with care and all that, don’t need her getting upset.”

GM: “All right. Where should I tell my girl to pick it up from?”

Celia: Celia tells him where his girl can meet hers in about 30 minutes. Celia’s house, the one Dani had been staying at; it’s compromised anyway.

“Thanks, darling. I appreciate you.”

GM: “I’m sure you’ll show me just how much.”

Click.

Celia: She doesn’t have long to get ready if she’s to meet the messenger in thirty minutes.

Celia pulls the dolls from their assorted positions around her haven, running through a mental comparison on who she can send. Lucy and Lotus are out, obviously. Blossom is finally happy with her new beau, and the nameless one wouldn’t deign to be used in such a fashion even if she were to be so presumptuous as to ask.

Princess will make a good messenger. Princess isn’t as formidable as Lotus, but Princess is sweet in the way Elyse likes her dolls. She’ll be able to broker peace if anyone is. And all she has to do is deliver a message.

Celia disappears because Celia is a human and this is a message to dolls and their maker. Mother Elyse. The dolls’ father.

It makes sense somehow.

Lotus smiles across the bedspread at Princess and tells her about what she needs to say to Elyse: she’s sorry. She lost control and didn’t mean to. She wants to make it right and offers a boon for the inconvenience and insult, a second if Elyse will meet with her to speak of it and hear her out face to face. Perhaps in Marigny.

It’s flowery prose that Lotus tells to Princess to pass on, contrite and remorseful.

GM: Princess listens, sadly and silently, with her wide eyes and heart-shaped little face.

Can the doll pass a message on? Elyse seems to think so. Elyse says that all dolls talk to her.

Celia: Celia plans to send a letter as well. Nothing by half measures.

But Lotus waits to be sure that Princess knows what she’s to do.

GM: Princess stares back at Lotus with her wide, so-trusting eyes. She looks so sad. Surely if any of Jade’s dolls can, it’s Princess. Princess hates fighting.

Celia: Lotus tells Princess that she will see her again soon. She’s going on a trip. A big adventure back to Elyse. And then they’ll be back together.

It’s just for a little while.

And when Lotus is sure the message has been received she says goodbye to her sister.

Celia writes a letter with the same sentiments. She addresses it to the lady interpreter rather than Elyse; she thinks that Elyse might not want Jade to call her Elyse anymore, which is sad. But she powers through the letter, writing out the same message she’d given to Princess just in case Princess gets suddenly shy.

When it’s done she packs the two of them away in a little box for their trip through the city and goes to meet the messenger.

GM: The woman Gui sends smells like a breather and looks like a moll or higher-end prostitute. She’s pretty. “I’ll get this to the boss man,” she says as she takes the box.

Celia: She is pretty. But Celia is prettier, and she knows she’s Gui’s type. This breather has nothing on her. Celia thanks her with a smile and a few words before she’s on her way with the box.

Celia watches them go, hoping that this will pan out and that everything she’s done and offered and sacrificed is worth it. Two letters and a doll with a message ought to be enough to get the word to Elyse, and two boons should be enough to even the scales. More than even the scales; it puts power firmly in Elyse’s corner.

It’s enough, isn’t it?

It has to be.


Sunday evening, 13 March 2016

Celia: There’s a list of small errands to run tonight that she’d like to accomplish before she can meet with Roderick again, most of which she’ll need to be Jade for. It’s not ideal; she expects to be picked up at any given moment for something, but what other option does she have? Twiddle her thumbs until her boyfriend calls? Stay inside all night, afraid of leaving her own haven? Burn through blood with the constant face changing?

She’d done what she could to smooth things over. Time will tell if it’s enough.

In the mean time, she has shit to do.

She dresses for the night in a dress that’s the sort of thing Jade or Celia might wear, black and clingy, casual enough to be worn to a party or a club or even a decent dinner. Too risqué for a first date, but maybe it would be at home for a third date.

She heads to the Cat’s Meow to hunt; Dani had said she wasn’t hungry so Celia doesn’t feel too bad about leaving her behind. And, as someone with furry feet once said, there’s always second breakfast if the other girl later changes her mind.

Dress.jpg
GM: Jade thought it would be hard to find a flavor of blood that tops Celia’s mother’s. Perhaps it’s not so hard, though. The good-looking Toreador has no trouble at all finding an eager sexual partner, and in short order his car is bucking back and forth from their coital motions. He’s black, buff, handsome, and feels like he does this a lot, but doing it in his car (when Jade hears how far away he lives) really turns him on. There’s the thrill of transgression, getting caught, putting on a show for bystanders. When one man walks by and pulls out his phone to snap a picture, Jade’s partner just laughs and pumps harder. She’s reminded, too, of the time that Celia and Stephen did this, literally another life ago.

And possibly conceived a new life.

Perhaps the memory makes her feel alive. Perhaps it makes her sad for what she’s lost. Perhaps it’s bittersweet. But something of the moment feels as if it lives on in her. The way she fucked Stephen silly to silence the voices in her head, how flabbergasted he initially was, and then how into it he got, yelling for that bystander to “come get some.” Jade feels electric. She feels some of that same manic, irresistible energy in her skin, coursing through it with a low hum. All she has to do is touch someone to pass it on. To make them do something crazy too.

Celia: It would have been easy to take him into a bathroom to feed on him there. Easy but dirty, and it reminds her too much of picking up Dani and the sad, sorry tale she’d had to listen to afterward.

Jade isn’t the type of girl that fucks in public bathrooms. She deserves to be seen, to be admired, so when the boy mentions that his place is far Jade has no problem taking him right there in the car. He’s big but she’s small, and they make it work; her dress hikes up around her hips to let her move over him, and once he’s gotten close to that edge of climax she shoves him over with two points of fire in his neck.

Electricity floods her veins.

She’s on top of the world.

Flying.

Falling.

Spiraling.

In such a delicious, delicious way that she doesn’t want to stop. She wants to keep this big, buff black man as her pet. She wants to take him again, to bottle his essence, to make him hers so she can have him on tap and drink down this euphoria whenever she wants it. She takes enough to whet her appetite without being a glutton, still in control; even her Beast enjoys the fare.

When it’s done she nuzzles his neck, murmurs that she hopes it was as good for him as it was for her—he’d heard how much she enjoyed it when he found the right spot—and that maybe she’ll see him again sometime.

She leaves him with a long, lingering kiss before she’s gone, disappearing into the night with a swagger in her step.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

Celia: After her hunt, Celia calls Randy to let him know that Jade is on her way.

Dani will be there, she knows. It’s a risk to let the thin-blood know who she is, but she’s trusted Randy and Alana for years with the secret; what’s one more person? And if not, she can’t take Dani around to meet with anyone, which means they really will just be sitting at home waiting for Roderick to call. Sidra, after all, has no reason to speak to Celia Flores.

GM: Randy drives back to meet Jade at his house.

“Yeah, babe?” he asks. “Was helping Reggie find some guns to pick up.”

Celia: “Then who is watching Mom?”

GM: “Alana. She finished up at the spa.”

Celia: Alana isn’t much of a fighter, but it’s better than nothing.

“I’ll make it quick so you can get back with Reggie, then. You wanted a hit, and I need an introduction to Dani with this face so she doesn’t think I’m coming to kidnap her.”

GM: Randy’s face lights up at the offered hit.

“You gonna drop all this different face around different people stuff? I already had to tell Reggie and Rusty how you could change how you look.”

The Toreador recalls them not being surprised to see someone besides Jade.

Celia: She’d wondered about that.

“I don’t know,” Celia admits. “A few people like me know, but I thought it was safer for my family if it didn’t get out. Probably don’t tell them I can change my actual face though. I usually pretend it’s shadow dancing or that I see a night doc.”

GM: “You got it, babe. Secret’s safe.”

He introduces her to Dani, who’s still where Celia left her last on the borrowed laptop. The thin-blood is surprised by the new face, but accepts Randy’s explanation after asking Celia several questions only her brother’s girlfriend would know. (“What did you wear when we first met?”)

Celia: She even tells her about the dropped side dish and how Celia had offered to pretend she hadn’t seen.

“I have a friend who can do this kind of work,” she explains to Dani, but otherwise says she’s just borrowing Randy for a moment before they head out.

GM: “Can I learn to do that? It’s so… it could be so useful!” Dani exclaims.

Celia: Celia offers to teach Dani shadow dancing. She’s going to teach her mom, too, so she might as well do both. She says it’s similar, but that the night docs are pretty secretive and generally don’t teach it to others.

GM: “Great, I’d love to learn,” smiles Dani.

Celia: She takes Randy upstairs with her into his bedroom and asks if her mother is already asleep.

GM: His bedroom is a mess.

“Ah, she kinda has the munchies,” says the ghoul. “She’s been staying up hoping you’ll come back tonight. She’s been doing a lot of cleaning.”

Celia: Diana is cleaning everywhere but here, it seems, but Celia doesn’t seem to mind. She has eyes only for Randy.

“Can I ask you something?”

As if she wouldn’t ask anyway. But what she means is: can you be honest with me for a minute?

GM: Randy says that he asked her mom not to tidy his room.

“Anything, babe,” he nods at her question.

Celia: Even with Jade’s face, some of Celia shines through. She lets him see her vulnerability, her uncertainty, and the trust that she’s always placed in him. Even though she’s never slept with him, even though she’s never let him have her like that, he has the rest of her. He’s been around her family the most, has been her sounding board on more than one occasion; before Roderick re-entered the picture he was, and sometimes still is, her source of emotional support when the nights get too dark. She needs it from him now.

“D’you think I’m doing the right thing with my mom?”

GM: “Sure, babe,” he nods. “I mean, it was the right thing for my brothers and me, right?”

“We get stronger and faster and we get to live forever.”

Celia: “And Rusty gets to walk again.”

GM: “Yeah. I mean, it’s great.”

“It’s… it is kinda… I don’t think you need to punish Alana and me for stuff, though.” Randy’s eyes flicker. “Like you did that one time she lied.”

“And it’d be really weird if you… punished your mom.”

“Like, I can’t even picture doing that to my mom. Punishing is what parents do to kids, you know?”

“Hell, my mom still grabs us by the ear when she’s pissed. Actually still hurts.” He rubs his ear.

“So yeah, I’d just not do that with her. It’s just not the way things are supposed to be, kids punishing parents.”

Celia: “I know.” Celia never really had punished him for what he’d done in the sewers anyway; she hadn’t had it in her. She doesn’t like being that person. She doesn’t want to be that person.

She’s not even supposed to be having these conversations with them. Like they’re people. But they are people. And she’s still young enough to want them to remain people. Mel said it would fade eventually, but she’s seven years deep and she’d like to think she’s not a monster.

She can’t imagine her sire having a conversation with his ghouls about their feelings.

“I don’t like doing that to you,” she says finally. “It’s just how… how it’s supposed to be, in public. If I don’t, they see me as weak, and then they push me around, and then it’s bad for everyone.”

She tells him about Micheal.

GM: “…that’s so fucked up, babe,” says Randy.

“How does he just… why doesn’t he just make a run for it?”

Celia: “Honestly? I don’t know. I think he might be mindfucked.”

GM: “I guess.” Randy shakes his head. “That’s so fucked up, though.”

“Is he just gonna be their bitch forever?”

Celia: “I don’t know. I’ve never really spoken to him.”

GM: He wears a gag pretty often anyway.

Veronica says he has nothing of value to say.

“Well, long as you don’t do anything like that, I’d say you’re good.”

“I mean, you’re gonna live forever, why not keep around your mom?”

Celia: Because she’ll always be someone that people can use against her. Because it’s not natural. Because she’s going to turn her mother into an addict. Because if she’s not serving a purpose then she’s a waste of blood.

She doesn’t share any of this with Randy.

She doesn’t have an answer for him.

GM: “Can I have the hit?” he asks, smiling.

Celia: “Thanks,” is all she says. She goes to bite her wrist but thinks better of it; she pulls him in instead, slicing a fang across her tongue and pressing her lips against his in a desperate attempt to feel something human again.

It’s just another lie, though.

She’s a monster and he’s an addict, and that’s all they’ll ever be.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

GM: Celia looks around and finds her mother doing a load of laundry. She looks up at Jade with some surprise.

“Oh—are you a friend of Randy’s or his brothers?” she asks.

“Ah, this is Celia, Mrs. Flores,” says Randy.

He and Jade briefly explain why she looks different.

“Well, ah… I suppose if I’ve seen you turn into a cat, another person isn’t too big a stretch…” Diana says with a mildly forced chuckle. But she sets down the boxers she was folding and moves to hug her daughter.

Celia: Once again, Celia is thrown by her mother’s calm acceptance of what she is and what she can do. It’s not normal.

“Mom, you’re… awfully calm about all of this. Even Randy screamed when I showed him my fangs the first time.”

“This isn’t the first time you’ve experienced this sort of thing, is it?”

GM: “Is it?” Diana asks, her face flickering.

“I… think it is, sweetie?”

“I did scream,” Randy admits somewhat sheepishly.

“I’ll leave you two together, anyways. Thanks for doin’ the laundry.”

“You’re welcome, Randy. You three really need a lady in this house!”

Celia: Celia gives Randy a peck on the cheek.

“It’s a lot to take in. I’ll see you in a bit.”

GM: Randy kisses her back. “Heh, we’ll see,” he says to Celia’s mom, then takes his leave.

Diana looks back towards her daughter.

“This is about when I’d offer to fix you up some food, but, well… are you hungry, sweetie?”

Celia: “No,” Celia tells her, “I just fed. And you can’t keep giving like that without any regard to your own self. You’ll get hurt.”

GM: “I’ll be fine, sweetie,” her mom smiles. “I just want you to be full and happy.”

Celia: “No, Mom. You need to trust me on this. One person isn’t enough to sustain what I need. I’d drain you dry.”

GM: “Okay, if you say so,” her mom agrees. “I’ll wait until I’ve had some eggs or fish to offer again. You know, Vitamin D.”

Celia: “You’ve definitely done this before.”

GM: “Are you sure? I don’t think I have. I have donated blood at hospitals before, though they usually give a cookie and some juice.”

Celia: “I could dig into your memories, if you want.”

“Since we’re being honest with each other, how did you end up getting together with Ron that night?”

GM: Diana blinks. “I’m sorry, sweetie?”

“I’d had a lot to drink, like I said. Altogether… altogether too much.”

She doesn’t look happy to revisit the subject.

Celia: “You wouldn’t have, though. Not after what you’d been through.”

GM: Celia’s mother just closes her eyes.

“Please, sweetie, I don’t… want to talk about that.”

Celia: Her lips flatten into a thin line.

“No, you just want to learn everything about me and tell everyone else, but not tell me why I exist.”

GM: Her mom is quiet for another moment. “Look, I’ll… I’ll tell you about that night,” she says defeatedly. “Just… let’s talk about happier things too, when we’re done?”

Celia: “Of course.”

GM: Her mom makes a limp motion for her to proceed as she returns to folding clothes.

Celia: “You said you met him at a party. But it was after everything happened to you. And you were fighting with your mom.”

GM: Diana looks down at the shirt in her hands. “Yes, that’s right. We’d been fighting, so I went out drinking.”

Celia: “Why were you fighting?”

GM: “We just never got along, sweetie, not since your grandfather’s death. And how she didn’t approve of ballet, and how strict she was… the teenage years never are that happy, even under the best of times.”

Celia: “You were fighting even after she sent you to that school?”

“How, um. How did he die, anyway? You and Dad never really talked about it.”

GM: “Your grandpa died of heart failure,” Diana says, not without a note of sadness. “Ironic, I suppose, for the man who was a heart surgeon.”

“He worked at Charity Hospital, back when it was open before Katrina. I really wish he and Emily could’ve known each other. Two doctors in the family and all.”

“I really wish he and you could’ve known each other, too. He was a very sweet man. Kind and gentle. I like to think I take more after him than your grandmother. The two of us were so close when I was growin’ up.”

Celia: “I’d have liked to meet him. But you said after he died you and your mom started fighting?”

GM: “We were never really had all that much in common, to be honest. But after he died, things got so much worse. His death was very hard on the family.”

“Very hard on your grandmother, too. She used to smile more, when your grandfather was alive.”

Celia: That’s hard to imagine.

“So you two got into fights. You went out a lot at night. Your grades were slipping. She sent you to the dollhouse. You were released early. Then what?”

GM: Diana closes her eyes and covers her ears when Celia says ‘dollhouse.’

Celia: She’s going to be a terrible ghoul.

“So after that?” she prompts.

GM: “What after that, sweetie?” Diana mumbles, staring intently at the pants she’s folding.

“I went to school, I got together with your dad, he stopped your grandmother from murdering you in the womb… that was that.”

Celia: “Ron. The party. My conception.”

GM: “Right, yes, that was when your grandmother and I were fighting.”

Celia: “I need details, Mom.”

GM: “Sweetie, why does this matter to you so much?” her mom asks glumly.

“You’re here. God obviously wanted you to be here.”

Celia: “Because it’s literally the reason I exist. Because you never told me. Because now you know what I am and I want to know how I came to be. Because I think someone set the whole thing up and I’d like to know who and why.”

GM: “What? Why would… why would somewhat set that up, sweetie? How would they even do that?” Her mother looks at her confusedly.

Celia: “We have powers. We can make people do things.”

GM: “All right, but… but why? I was just a teenage ballerina.”

Celia: “That’s what I’d like to find out.”

“And I have zero leads to follow if you don’t talk to me about it.”

GM: “I don’t see why someone would do that, sweetie. I was just a ballerina.”

Celia: This whole thing was a mistake.

GM: “Your biological father was just a Hollywood writer or director or… whatever he then was, who hadn’t made it big. I just don’t see why…”

Celia: Big mistake.

She’ll just have to find someone to edit the memories for the past night. Her and the ghouls. Fuck it.

“And. Again. I’m trying find out. I’d appreciate it if you could work with me here instead of making it more difficult.”

GM: Her mom hangs her head again as she moves on to a pair of socks. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to make things difficult for you. What… what do you want to know?”

“I just don’t know what you’re looking for, but I’ll answer what I can…”

Her mother looks up her, more plaintively. “Just tell me what to do, sweetie, I don’t want you to be mad. Just tell me what to do.”

Mel always said she’d be a great ghoul.

Celia: They can’t do this.

They can’t have this relationship.

She has turned her mother into a fucking addict. She’s not the same woman anymore. She’s just broken, a shell, soon she’ll do anything for a fix. Celia doesn’t trust her to keep her mouth shut. Randy has already proven he can’t keep his mouth shut. He’s not interested in the truth or being there for her, just the red stuff in her veins. Alana just wants to fuck. Reggie just wants to fuck. Rusty wants to walk again, and maybe he’s the only one with any genuine depth to him. And Roderick… she’s fucked so hard with his mind that she doesn’t even trust him anymore.

She’s alone.

Utterly, completely alone.

She can’t even fix what she’s done. Doesn’t have the ability to mind wipe someone like that and extract what she doesn’t want them to know.

Elyse could. Reynaldo could. Pete could.

But not her.

Useless.

“You went to the party,” she eventually says, “then what?”

GM: “Well, I had a lot to drink,” her mom falteringly starts. She folds some more socks. “I talked with some people, I danced with them… I remember complaining about my mother, about school, how much I didn’t care, I had more to drink… I met your biological father, he gave me more to drink… it’s very hazy, sweetie, I just remember waking up… waking up and feeling very, very dirty…”

Her mother hangs her head again, red coloring her cheeks, but she steals a glance at Celia’s wrist.

Celia: “Who did you talk to? Dance with? What did they look like? What part of town were you in?”

GM: “It… it was a house party, by some other girl at McGehee… her parents were gone for the weekend, it was a dodgy party, I can’t imagine they’d have…”

“I don’t really remember a lot, it was so long ago, I’d had so much to drink… they’d have been girls at McGehee, born around the same time as me, in a nice part of town…”

“I think… maybe St. Charles Avenue…?”

Celia: “Which part of St. Charles?”

Not that she expects Diana to remember.

But it’s worth a shot.

GM: “Like I said, sweetie, this was years ago… but I think the residential portion, outside the CBD?”

Celia: “And Ron was, what, some random adult that showed up to a high school party?”

Creep.

GM: “I think he was, maybe there were others, but it was a kids’ party.”

Celia: She asks if her mom happens to remember anyone else of note.

GM: Her mom squeezes her eyes. “Sweetie, this… this is hard… I felt so good when I had some of your blood, it made my leg feel better, maybe if I have a little of that…?”

Celia: “Sure,” she says, “after you tell me what I need to know.”

GM: “Sweetie, please, this is hard!” her mom exclaims again. “It’d really help me think better, it made me feel just so good…”

Celia: “No.”

GM: Her mom starts crying. “Celia, I’ve been thinking about it all day… it made me feel all better, no pain, just no pain, don’t you understand what that’s like…?”

Celia: “Do you know,” she all but snarls at the crying woman, “what people like me do to people like you that beg for blood? Shall I get Alana for you to tell you about what happened to Clem when she got uppity with her domitor? Do you want to see what they do to juicebags at the parties, how no one bats an eye if you rip out their throat, how they use ghouls as playthings and fucktoys and do whatever they want with them and no one cares?

“I have been patient. I have let you in on everything that has kept our family protected since I’ve died. I will not sit here and give you blood because it feels good. Of course it feels good. It’s a fucking drug. You’re an addict now. Congratu-fucking-lations.”

GM: Her mother sinks to her feet as she cries into her hands. “Sweetie, don’t call me that… please don’t call me that… I just want something, for the pain, that’s all…”

Celia: She doesn’t bother to hide the disgust that crosses her face.

This was a mistake.

This whole thing was a mistake.

GM: Her mother looks up at her face, then just cries more and looks away.

“Please… please don’t look at me like that, baby… please don’t… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

“Just tell me what to do…”

Celia: Celia just turns away.

“I’m leaving. Go to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

GM: “Celia, wait!” her mother exclaims, hurrying after her daughter and wrapping her arms around her. “I’m sorry, baby, I’m sorry, just tell me what to do. I don’t want us to go to bed mad, just tell me what to do, okay?”

Celia: “I can’t do this, Mom. You can’t be like this. You need to be a mom, not an addict, not a servant, not a slave. I can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t watch you become like this.” At some point the tears start, red liquid that rolls down her cheeks. “You have other kids to take care of; you can’t spend all your time with me and ignore Emily or Lucy or any of the others. They need you, too.”

GM: Her mother sniffs along with her, though her stare lingers long on those heady-smelling tears. “I won’t, sweetie, I love them every bit as much as you, I always will, of course I’ll always be their mom.”

“I know this is hard, I know how scared you must have been, to tell me all these things. I want to be here for you. I don’t want you to look at me that way.”

“Just tell me what you need, okay? Just tell me how I can be a good mom for you, because I’ll always want to be that.”

Celia: No. She’ll just want blood. More blood. Constantly. She’ll beg for it. She’ll run her mouth. She’ll threaten Celia’s Requiem through her mere existence.

This is why they tell you not to keep a family.

GM: “I think…” Her mom closes her eyes and seems to desperately wrack her brain, “there was Fred Pavaghi, Warren Whitney, the junior one, and Lori Lancaster, Drouillard then, I think they were there, does that help you…?”

Celia: No. She’s grasping at straws anyway. None of it matters. She was just an accidental rape baby; there’s nothing poetic about how she came into the world. No one pulled strings. No one orchestrated this. The only person who gave a shit when she was still in the womb isn’t even her dad, and he’d hate her if he found out the truth. Accidental birth, accidental Embrace, useless fucking fuck-up.

Celia finds a cup. She sinks her teeth into her wrist and bleeds into it for her mom, thrusting it at her when she’s done.

GM: Her mother looks at it falteringly, then back up at Celia.

“Do… do you not want me to drink it, sweetie…?”

Celia: She doesn’t care anymore.

“Drink it.”

GM: Her mother gives her another faltering look, then obeys. She swallows, smiles, and closes her eyes.

“Oh… that really is better, sweetie…” she murmurs contently. Her smile spreads. “My leg doesn’t hurt at all…”

“Let’s dance!” she exclaims brightly, taking Celia’s hand.

Celia: Celia yanks away from her mom.

“Go to bed.”

GM: Her mom’s face sinks. “Please don’t shut me out, Celia. I just want you to be happy.”

“I dance with girls every day, every school day at least, I just thought that’d be fun.”

Celia: Okay, well, that’s not possible. You don’t fucking listen to me. You do whatever the fuck you want regardless of how it’s going to affect me. “Let’s tell Emily about your real dad.” “Let’s keep secrets you want to know but blab everything else.” “Let’s tell Emily you’re a fucking vampire too, get the whole family killed, that seems real fucking swell.” “Oh, you worked hard at keeping everything separate and now in one night four separate people found out because I wouldn’t just listen to you when you showed up to save me and now you’re expending all your resources to keep me safe? You know what would make you feel better? Giving me blood. Wasting more resources on me.”

She bites back the words she wants to spit at her mother. Her Beast, at least, approves of this subservient kine who wants to keep her happy; it hadn’t even stirred when she’d cut herself open to feed the bitch. Just another thing they disagree on.

“The fact that you don’t feel pain doesn’t mean that the injury isn’t there. You’re still hurting yourself when you dance. Yeah, the symptoms are gone, but the source remains. So take it easy. Go to bed. I’ll see you later.”

GM: “Oh. Okay.” Her mom looks a little crestfallen at the news her leg isn’t better, but nods and manages a little smile at Celia’s next words. “All right. I’ll trust the MD.”

“If you want to stop by later as a kitty, by the way, I bet Lucy would love to play with you.”

Celia: “Maybe,” is all she says to that.

She walks away before she can implode the relationship any further.

GM: “I love you,” her mother calls softly after her.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

GM: The Evergreen is quiet when Jade swings around. Perhaps the most so at any point during the week. Many of the Kindred are at Elysium, while it’s a week night for the kine. (Fridays see the place similarly empty of Kindred, but are obviously busy nights for the kine.) Mélissaire is around, though, and says Lebeaux can be expected back when church services are over. She’d be happy to convey a message if Jade doesn’t want to stick around.

“You seem a little tense, Miss Kalani. Anything up?” the ghoul asks sympathetically.

Celia: She supposes she hadn’t really expected to see him here. Everyone who doesn’t have fifteen fires to put out gets to go to Elysium, while she’s running around like… like this.

One night. How had everything turned to shit in one night?

Is she ever going to feel like she’s not drowning?

She’s being pulled in so many directions at all times that she can’t even think straight. She doesn’t know what’s next. She doesn’t know how to fix it. She doesn’t want to admit that the thought of killing her mom to get rid of the problem or giving her back to Ely