“What is there in truth? Where’s the money, the feel-goods? People want whatever makes them feel good.”
Friday night, 11 March 2016, PM
GM: Daysleep claims them instantly and recedes just as instantly. It’s a poor substitute for the sleep of the living. It never feels like they’ve actually slept, or like any time has passed. Perhaps there is a reason the elders long for torpor.
Roderick strokes her cheek.
“This is somewhat less romantic, but getting hard for you isn’t even that bad.”
Celia: She can’t help but laugh.
“You know if I were less confident that would be the worst thing to say to me.”
GM: “Hey, if you were less confident I’d remind you how we normally don’t do that.” He frowns a little. “Veronica must give you a pretty hard time, for still liking it the breather way.”
Celia: “Veronica’s idea of a good time is putting a spiked heel inside of someone’s ass, so.”
GM: “Pietro can’t seriously be into that.”
Celia: “You know when I was still a breather I saw them fuck, it was… intense. They ripped skin off of each other.”
GM: “That must’ve been really scary, if you had no idea what it all meant.”
Celia observes her surroundings look different. The apartment has been cleaned up. The salvageable furniture and sundry have been moved back into place, the trashed ones moved into a corner. The fluid stains on the cushions, and their bodies, have been cleaned up. They’ve both got clothes on. Celia’s got on a dark minidress that looks similar to the one they met in, though the cut is more modest than Alana’s usual choices.
“By the way,” he smirks, “you’re a total sleepyhead.”
Celia: “Ah, see, I was only pretending to sleep so you’d move things around for me. It worked.”
GM: “Nah, you were totally out of it. I could’ve put you in overalls, clown shoes, and drawn a mustache under your nose, and you’d have still been a total mannequin.”
Celia: Her eyes narrow at him.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
GM: “I know how serious you take looking good,” he answers somberly.
Then he grins. “So only if there’d been a floor-length mirror I could’ve moved for you to wake up to…”
Celia: Celia rolls away from him, crossing her arms over her chest. She sticks her nose in the air—at least as much as she can considering she’s still in bed—and huffs.
“You’re fired. Go away. You’re never getting laid again.”
GM: He laughs and pulls her against his chest.
“Not haute culture enough? Maybe also shaved you bald…”
“I will murder you in your sleep if you shave my head.”
GM: “But whenever I’m asleep, you’ll be asleep, so I’ll always get away with it.”
Celia: “I’ll set an alarm.”
“And wake up just to smack you.”
“Then go back to bed.”
GM: “And you’ll still be bald.”
Celia: “I’ll tell all your friends you got beat up by a girl.”
GM: “But unlike your dad, I’m not insecure enough to let that bruise my ego. Coco or Opal could kick my ass anytime. Caroline also sounds like she could give me a run from what you’ve described.”
“Men of quality do not fear equality.”
Celia: Celia huffs again.
“It’s against the constitution to shave my head. Cruel and unusual punishment. You’ll go to jail.”
GM: “Mmm, but that particular piece of it only applies to the federal and state governments. Your legal defense is in tatters, counselor.”
Celia: “I’m a national treasure. You can’t deface me.”
GM: “Not even in the Constitution…”
He smiles and hugs her close.
“But you’re right. You are a treasure. A UNESCO world heritage treasure. Every country in the UN would go to war, if ours allowed such a crime against humanity to take place.”
Celia: She positively preens at the praise.
“I forgive you for thinking such heinous thoughts, then.”
GM: “It was fun to dress you, anyway. Like I said. Total mannequin.”
Celia: “You know most people would find that creepy instead of cute.”
“Ah yes my boyfriend watches me sleep and puts me in clothing.”
GM: “Hey, I was already cleaning up everything, and figured you’d appreciate it. Keeping you naked would also have been incredibly distracting.”
Celia: “Did you bathe me? I seem to recall more bloodstains than this.”
GM: “Yeah, actually. I was going to do a sponge bath, but then I figured, you’d probably want me to be thorough.”
Celia: “I wasn’t even awake to enjoy it,” she sighs. “Now we have to recreate the scene. Rose petals, champagne flutes of blood, LED candles…”
GM: “And it was a way to pass the time. Didn’t even use superspeed to make it faster. I didn’t want to leave you alone, in case… more hunters.”
Celia: “Oh. Right.”
She twists in his arms so that she can see him.
GM: “Unlikely at night, granted. But no lick should sleep completely alone.”
“And you’re welcome.”
Celia: “Have you ever heard the word ‘glinko’ before?”
GM: He thinks. “Nope. Context?”
Celia: “That was it. Just the one word. Something I came across while cracking the phones. I thought it might be a name. It’s… not a word. Not in English. Bulgarian, though, it means ‘clay.’ And there’s a ‘glinko’ mask that a cosmetic company has, it’s a clay mask people use to draw out impurities from their skin, so that makes sense, just…” She trails off, shaking her head.
GM: He raises his eyebrows. “I’m impressed you managed to get into those.”
Celia: “Yeah, well, despite what Maxen says, I’m not stupid.”
GM: “It’s not a question of intelligence, just training. I don’t know how to hack a phone.”
Celia: “Mostly you press the buttons and hope they don’t have a lockout timer.”
GM: “Oh, that actually works well with superspeed,” he says thoughtfully. “I might have been able to brute force a phone like that too.”
Celia: “I’ve seen you brute force a phone, Rod, there’s a lot of broken glass involved.”
GM: “Ha ha. The other kind of brute force.”
Celia: “I know, I know, I’m just teasing.”
GM: “I’ll have to keep that in mind for security with the new place, though. Lockout delays.”
“Oh, when I was cleaning, I saw food in the fridge. I thought you didn’t share this place with your renfields?”
Celia: God damnit.
“Uh. I don’t.”
She can’t even think of a way to spin it.
She changes the subject instead.
“How would you improve security here, anyway?”
GM: “I’ve looked it over. There’s a couple ways. Why do you have a bunch of salad and casserole, though?”
Celia: “Oh. That. My mom. I forgot it was in there.”
“She made me eat with them last night. You know how she is about leftovers.”
GM: “Oh. That must be awkward.”
Celia: “It wasn’t pleasant. There was cake, too.”
GM: “I saw. And you can’t say no without being rude.”
Celia: “I could only come up with so many diet excuses. Emily finally called me on the bullshit.”
“So now I have to make sure I’m, uh, really full before I go over in case they decide they want to eat.”
GM: “Well, count yourself lucky. I’d love to still come over for dinner with my dad.”
Celia: Her face falls.
“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to complain. I’m lucky to have them.”
GM: “It’s okay. I still doubt it’s much fun, if it tastes as bad as they all say.”
Celia: “It’s worse on the way up.”
“If you really want to try it you can help yourself, though.”
“Hell, if we make this work you can come over for dinner.”
GM: “You don’t think your mom would mind, if I’m just going to throw it up?”
Celia: “She wouldn’t know. It’s not like I tell her what I do. She’d accuse me of bulimia or something. Then Emily would tell me how it rots my teeth and the stomach acid destroys my esophagus. Then she’d say something like, ‘if you destroy your gag reflex you’ll never be able to suck another dick,’ and then my mom will make a face at us. It’s a whole thing.”
GM: He smiles. “They sound like a great family.”
Celia: She arches her brows at him.
“That is not the response I expected.”
“But they are. I’ll hook you up with some prosthetics and you can come over.”
Celia: “Like facial things. Inserts. Special effects makeup.”
GM: “Ah. That made me think of artificial limbs.”
“That would be nice, though. I spent a while wondering if Lucy was my daughter or not, so I feel… at least a little close to her, if that doesn’t sound weird.”
Celia: “It doesn’t. Makes me wonder sometimes, you know. What if you’d have approached me after your Embrace, before our release. How that would have gone. Finding out about each other like that, rather than… how we did.”
“I think you’ll like her, though.”
GM: “Who knows there. But she seemed like a pretty happy little toddler, last I looked in.”
“I wouldn’t mind getting to see your mom again, either. She was always so nice to me. Just a total 180 from your dad.”
“I had this fantasy a few times, you know, that if we’d gotten married, we could’ve set up our parents together.”
Celia: “…wouldn’t that make us stepsiblings, though.”
“Well, wait a minute. Hold on. Is your dad still available? Because Mom wants to get back with Maxen and I’m just… not about to let that happen.”
GM: Roderick frowns in thought.
“Well, my dad never remarried. He’s always been so busy with work. I think how bitter the divorce with my mom was just burned him out to the idea of marriage. Made him not want to put that effort into another one when it could go into his career.”
“I asked him about it, once, and he said he wasn’t really thinking of dating until Dani and I were out of the house. And maybe college.”
Celia: “So now’s the time.”
GM: Roderick looks thoughtful.
“He’s going to die alone, if Dani disappears and he doesn’t find someone else. I’ve thought about that.”
“How he’s going to think both his kids are dead.”
Celia: “Dani doesn’t need to disappear. She can stay here. In the Quarter.”
“And… there’s a rumor, you know, that… that Lucy is yours. I was with you and the timeline meshes, and maybe… I mean… a grandchild isn’t a replacement for a child, but maybe if he thought that, too…”
GM: Roderick seems to pause in further thought.
“Coco asked me, once, which I thought was more important. Truth or beauty.”
“I said truth. I know my dad would too.”
Celia: Celia had also asked him that. Right before he’d smashed her face in. But it doesn’t matter since she’s not Coco.
GM: “That’s a sweet thought, to give him a grandchild. But he’d rather have truth.”
“And your mom knows the truth. She knows he’s not the grandfather.”
Celia: “I know. Just…” she doesn’t sigh, but she looks like she wants to. “I just… feel terrible.”
GM: He strokes her cheek.
“I know there’s a lot. What about?”
Celia: “You. Becoming what you are. You dying. Your dad. Your sister, even. I know… I know Coco said I was overstating my own importance, but… I still feel responsible.”
GM: “You aren’t. Coco made the offer, and I said yes, because I saw a way to destroy the Mafia.”
Celia: “I want to help.”
GM: “I’d welcome that help. It’s funny how I just haven’t gotten around to it. Like you and your dad, I guess.”
“Right now, though, I think I want to keep my family safe and happy first. The Mafia will still be around after they’re gone.”
“I think my dad could really use someone. He took my death… he’s moved on, but it’s cast this eternal shadow over him.”
“I don’t know what losing Dani might do.”
Celia: “Then don’t make her leave, Roderick. Don’t do that to him. Let her stay here. If she’s a thin-blood… I mean, you know the rumors, that they don’t rage. It’s safer. And isn’t it better if she’s here, with someone who loves her?”
GM: The Brujah looks torn. He really does.
“But Savoy knows who she is. What she is. She’ll always be leverage over me.”
“If I thought he didn’t know, then no question, I’d want her to stay.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“He’s known who my family is this whole time and he’s never done anything to them. He’s not like that.”
GM: “He’s an elder.”
Celia: “So is Coco.”
GM: “Celia, I get to listen to a roomful of them when they let down their hair. I’ve gotten to listen for years.”
“Dani is leverage to him. That’s just how their minds work. You would not believe how ruthless, cynical, and utterly without conscience they can be.”
Celia: She would, actually, but she doesn’t tell him that.
GM: “Henry Kissinger could take tips.”
Celia: He’s going to know she told. He’s going to know she told Roderick the truth about his family, and he’s going to… to be done with her. That’s it. Second chance. Gone. It’s like she can see her family dying in front of her eyes. Lucy, Emily, Diana. The only people she cares about anymore. Heads rolling. Worse.
She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t know what to say.
GM: “Coco cares about me. And she’s decent, for an elder. But when push comes to shove she can be ruthless too.”
“I told you all about those thin-bloods…”
He shakes his head.
Celia: “Then why would you side with the people who made that happen?”
“Yeah, Roderick, he’s an elder. He’s probably as ruthless as the rest of them. He wants what he wants. But he doesn’t butcher people because of an accident of Embrace. He doesn’t round people up and sell them out.”
“And if that Asian bitch hadn’t dragged Max out like you said, you think the Sanctified would have stopped at murdering the thin-bloods? No. They’d have taken down the rest of you because that’s the kind of rule Vidal has.”
GM: “I think there are a lot of ways that could’ve gone south for them. Sanctified casualties, Anarch survivors running to Savoy. They didn’t want a fight with us, even if they’d have won. Too much mess.”
Celia: “But they would have done it. They would have come after all of you. And that’s the difference.”
“You told me. You said he counted back from ten. Anyone inside would die with the rest of them. They don’t care. Vidal doesn’t care. You’re all expendable. And your own sire sold them out. She knew what she was doing. That she sent her people to die. That the other Anarchs who believed in her could die if they did what they normally do.”
GM: “I think it may have been a bluff. We outnumbered them. I don’t think we’d have won, but I think that’d have been an ugly enough fight they’d have tried to avoid it. You can’t try to butcher dozens of true-blooded Kindred without a really big mess that benefits Savoy. Again, Sanctified casualties, Anarch survivors all fleeing to Savoy, not to mention Coco and Opal for the sheriff trying to destroy their covenant.”
“What it ultimately comes down to is practicality, not morals. That’s why Coco and Opal were complicit. The Camarilla says the pogrom is over, Vidal is just a hardliner who refuses to get the message, and pushed my sire to go along. She cares about the thin-bloods as much as Savoy does. It will always be a question of expediency to them.”
Celia: “Do you hear yourself? You’re literally defending them.”
GM: “I’m not! What Coco did was wrong! But you’re kidding yourself too if you think Savoy will be a good faith actor, or that Dani won’t be a hostage he’ll use to control me with.”
Celia: “What do you think is going to happen when Vidal konks out?”
GM: “I don’t know what’ll happen. Maybe Vidal will try to take Savoy and the Baron our before he does.”
Celia: “And it’ll be my head if he doesn’t get to.”
GM: “You’re not one of Savoy’s inner circle. If there’s war, you can hide out, and I’ll do everything to keep you safe in the aftermath. They can’t execute every single Savoy partisan. You’ll probably lose your domain, but you could survive this.”
Celia: “I’m not talking about a war. I’m talking about the fact that I’m the only person who knows what and who Dani is. I’m talking about the fact that I was seen leaving the Quarter yesterday in a car that belongs to you. It doesn’t take a genius to put that together.”
GM: “I doubt Savoy keeps a database with my car make that his people have memorized. His people probably wouldn’t even give it a glance with you behind the wheel.”
Celia: “All it takes is a quick online search, or a whisper in the right ear. But it’s fine. I get it.”
Who cares about the girl you claim to love when your sister is in danger, right?
GM: “But you are right, it’s still a needless risk to keep using my car when we could just use another.”
“Look, tonight’s Elysium Primo. All of Savoy’s important people will be there. Maybe see what you can find out. If they know about you driving my car.”
Celia: “He knows I know, Roderick. He knows I know, and he knows what you are to me. He’s not stupid.”
GM: “He isn’t omniscient either.”
Celia: “Yeah, well, you can deliver the news to my mom if he puts me down for the betrayal.”
GM: “It isn’t a betrayal. You just failed to convince me to sign on. I doubt he’ll be happy with you, but I’d say that’s better than Dani being a hostage he could kill anytime I make him unhappy, wouldn’t you?”
Celia: “I don’t think he’s going to give me a third chance,” she says quietly. “I might as well just cut my losses and run.”
GM: “So because you’re not useful enough… he kills you? That really sounds more like Vidal.”
“But, look. If you’re really scared… you could come over with me. To the Anarchs.”
Celia: Celia turns away. She presses a hand against her face, wiping at her eyes. The scent of blood is unmistakable.
“It’s fine,” she says again. Her voice exudes a cheerfulness she clearly doesn’t feel. “It’s fine.”
GM: He wipes her eyes too.
“It’s not fine. You’re crying.”
Celia: “It doesn’t matter. Your mind is clearly made up. You’d rather support the butcher on the throne than take a chance and work for change. It’s easier that way, right? Just go with it. Let yourself get distracted playing Kindred politics, forget about what matters.” The Mafia. Cleaning up the city. The reason he’d agreed to Coco’s offer. Generations of Garrisons all fighting for the same thing, and him the only one left in any position to do something about it. The dream will die with his father.
“Any of those elders you regularly listen to will feel the same way, but fuck it, let’s get them in when Vidal kicks it.”
GM: “Vidal isn’t going to be around much longer. Whoever succeeds him won’t be able to govern the same way. And to hear the primogen talk about it, Savoy’s no better than any of them.”
Celia: She wonders if he even hears himself.
“Savoy wouldn’t throw out his own for the scourge and sheriff and hunters to exterminate. He wouldn’t sacrifice childer because it’s easier than trying to deal with an external threat. He wouldn’t make an example of thin-bloods by sending his lapdogs to slaughter them.”
GM: “I think he’d do all of those things if it was convenient. That’s how all the primogen talk about him.”
Celia: “You don’t even know him.”
GM: “I hear how other elders talk about him. He’s one of them. They all think so.”
“Hell, they want him on the primogen. Him and the Baron.”
Celia: “So you’re just going to take Dani out of the city because it’s a little bit dangerous. Send her to another place where she doesn’t know anyone, where she has no one to rely on if things get tough, where you can’t look after her. Where I can’t look after her.”
GM: “Do you hear yourself? It’s way more than a little dangerous. Savoy will kill her as soon as I step out of line.”
“Houston is a bad option, but at least there she won’t be an elder’s hostage. There are no good options here, just bad and worse.”
Celia: “Why,” she asks, “would he kill her? She’s not worth anything if she’s dead. If you were a ruthless elder, would you kill her?”
GM: “If I had no more use for Roderick anymore? Yeah, I might.”
Celia: “I wouldn’t. Death is very final. Life is full of possibilities. People are always useful, even if it isn’t readily apparent.”
GM: “Except to elders there’ll always be more people. Life is cheap. More always comes along. But loose ends can always pop back up to make trouble.”
Celia: “Sure. Your sire could find someone else. I mean, she let Micheal go, what’s another one, right?”
GM: “Don’t even start on Mike. He went out of his way to alienate her. And me. She did everything to be a good sire to him and he just threw it back in her face.”
“I think he never got over his stupid complex. He never went to school. He never read books. He’s everything that gives our clan a bad name as a bunch of angry thugs and punks instead of scholars and philosopher-kings.”
“Coco tried to teach him to be more. He has no idea what an incredible opportunity that was. She’s collected countless degrees from the city’s universities. She’s seen hundreds of years of history. She has a tested IQ over 150. And she was willing to be his personal tutor, for years. But he just pissed that opportunity completely away.”
“I don’t accept that not everyone can improve themselves, either. Coco used to be even less educated than Mike. She was illiterate until she was around 20 years old, did you know that? She hadn’t read a book or gone to school a day in her life, until my grandsire taught her. He’s at least as smart and well-read as she is, but she didn’t let her ego get in the way of bettering herself. She wanted to give Mike the same gift William gave her. She tried and tried and tried. And he just threw it back in her face. I don’t blame her for washing her hands of him, any more than I blame you for not wanting your dad back in your family’s lives. Some people—actually, probably most people—just do not ever fucking change.”
“Your dad was also half-right. You aren’t stupid, and you’re way smarter than he ever gave you credit for, but some people are stupid. Some people have no desire to better themselves, even if they get the opportunity. Unpopular opinion here, but one that a lot of well-read people secretly hold: we’re better than them. Mike realizes that, deep down, but he’s too lazy and egotistical to admit he could improve himself. So he chooses to be small and petty and stupid for eternity.”
“Coco didn’t let Mike go. She tried and tried and tried with him, and he cut her out. I don’t blame her one bit for that.”
Celia: Saying she’s smarter than her dad gave her credit for isn’t much of a compliment considering what her dad thought of her, but she doesn’t bother to point it out to him. He wouldn’t understand. After all, he’d almost said it to her—about her—last night. As if it means nothing. As if it didn’t take years to finally put it behind her.
She wonders if he’d feel the same way about Micheal if he knew what Veronica is doing to him. How she treats him. Night after night after night. But hey, Mike is stupid, right? He deserves it.
Her lips thin.
“I used to be jealous of you, you know. That Coco is your sire. That she keeps you busy with everything. Got you a spot as the scribe, protected when the sheriff comes calling, talks to you about history. Embraced you so you could realize your dream of taking down the Mafia.”
When he’s done playing lapdog to her, anyway.
But he’s a well-read, smart sort of guy. Better than other people, isn’t he? She doesn’t need to say it.
GM: He grasps her arms as it seems to click on his face.
“I didn’t mean it like that. I’m not better than you.”
“I’m sorry. That was the wrong thing to say. I know that must be sensitive after how much your dad insulted and belittled you.”
Celia: “That and everything else,” she mutters.
All that book learning and he’s still ass at reading people.
“We have some time to kill before we need to leave. Why don’t we go upstairs and you can show me how to throw a punch without breaking my hand.”
Really knock her around since he’s so good at that.
GM: He glances at the time. It’s around 10 PM.
She really has been sleeping late.
“Tonight’s Elysium Primo is at midnight. You don’t have anything else on the docket until then?”
Celia: “Why, trying to go meet up with your other lovers? ‘Cause listen, I’ll fight them.” She holds up a fist. Or rather a poor interpretation of a fist: her thumb is tucked inside her fingers, popping out the knuckles on her first three digits.
It’s quite possibly the worst form anyone has ever seen. Easy way to break her thumb, her knuckles, even her wrist.
GM: Roderick smirks.
“If you know how to fight, like you said you did, you know what’s wrong with that. Or else it’s a good thing you didn’t use your fists against those hunters.”
“But okay, we can get in some practice,” he says, pulling off his nice Elysium clothes for a t-shirt and sweats. “We’ll try not to fuck each other’s brains out until the end, this time.”
Celia: There are too many things to say back to that: a reminder that she doesn’t need to fight because she’s so pretty no one would even think to swing on her so of course her form is wrong. An accusation of actually having other lovers since he hadn’t denied it (and when had that changed?). A scowl and reminder that she’s able to control herself and doesn’t need to fuck him, thank you very much.
The words die before they ever reach her lips, though, when he starts peeling off his clothes. Her eyes follow the movement of his shirt as he pulls it up over his head, revealing the unblemished, flat stomach, the muscles that play beneath the skin. So much more buff now than he was when they were together as mortals, and she gets to enjoy it. Forever. Now, even, all she has to do is reach out, and…
Celia blinks a few times and turns her face away, then finally gets up and moves across the room to distract herself so she doesn’t pounce on him while he’s half-naked. She opens the refrigerator in want of something else to do. His earlier question made her wary.
GM: Celia smells the coppery tang as soon as she opens the fridge. The grisly “food” is where she left it in the lower produce compartment: leakage is easier to clean up there. There isn’t much blood left at all in the plastic-wrapped body parts. Celia was very thorough. A human probably wouldn’t smell anything. But she isn’t human.
Celia: She shuts the door just as quickly.
How had he missed it? Or does he just not care that she’s got a fridge full of body parts?
That’s what love must be: finding a body in your girlfriend’s apartment and not asking questions.
GM: She finds Roderick on his phone wherever they’ve decided to practice. He sets it down and tosses her the best workout clothes he could find in her closet.
It’s not like they ever sweat. Or need to work out.
Celia: It took her all of two seconds to open and close the door, but she supposes that’s the problem with millennials. Can’t pry them away from their devices.
“Are you telling your other girlfriend you’re going to be late?” she asks as she strips and changes into the offered clothing. Yoga pants. T-shirt. It’s not like she only owns ball gowns.
GM: He watches her appreciatively at first, his fangs lengthening in his mouth, then turns away.
“What gave you the idea I had another girlfriend?” he asks with amusement.
Celia: “Cute guy like you?”
GM: “I’ve been with other girls. But not in a while. Plenty else to keep busy with.”
Celia: “I’d ask who, but then I’d have to beat them up, and apparently I don’t even know how to make a fist.” Celia sighs at him, hands on her hips.
GM: “I can see why. I already want to do you over the bed.”
“The way you move, the way you dress, the way you look… you make everything hot.”
Celia: Celia beams at him. She tosses her head, hair flipping over her shoulder.
“Maybe if you win I’ll even let you.” She watches him for a minute, then asks, “you’re not gonna lose it on me if we’re not really fighting but I hit you or something, are you? Because, just… I don’t know if I could actually take you like that…”
GM: “God, and your smile,” he smiles back. “I really just want to flip you over right n…”
He trails off at her question, but shakes his head. “Maybe if you were fighting with your claws out. Bare-handed shouldn’t be enough to seriously hurt me, though.”
Celia: “That’s why we never got anything done last time,” Celia reminds him, but she’s still grinning. She finds a tie for her hair and pulls it up so it’s out of her face, bouncing lightly on the balls of her feet.
“This one of those things where I have to call you sensei? Teacher? Mister Roderick? I think I’ve got a plaid skirt somewhere…” she trails off, wiggling her brows at him.
GM: “It’s in the way you move, how you just make every little thing so sexy… you’re irresistible…” he murmurs, pulling her close. His hands start to explore her body as he nuzzles her neck.
Her next words only seem to make him more excited.
“Mmm, why don’t I help you change out of these clothes, first…”
Celia: She starts to tell him that they’re supposed to be doing something—she doesn’t get dressed like this for no reason—but it flies out of her mind the moment he pulls her in. Her resolve falters; why put in the effort of learning how to fight when the lick in front of her is so much sweeter?
They’d made it further than usual, at least. All the way into sweats.
GM: Before those come off.
Friday night, 11 March 2016, PM
GM: The lovers lie naked and spent in one another’s blood-streaked arms. Roderick chuckles.
“You’re never going to learn to fight at this rate.”
Celia: “Probably not,” she agrees. She doesn’t look too put out about it though. “If someone comes after me I’ll just blind them with my dazzling smile.”
GM: “Could you make yourself look, maybe… uglier?”
He laughs again.
Celia: She gives him a flat look.
GM: “You’re really too sexy for your own good. It’s very distracting.”
Celia: “I could get a bag, maybe. Poke some eyeholes in it. Would that work for you?”
GM: He looks thoughtful.
Celia: “Oh my god. I was kidding.”
GM: He smirks and squeezes her against his chest. “I’m just worried it wouldn’t make you un-sexy enough.”
Celia: “You’re ridiculous,” she mutters. She leans into him all the same, a satisfied smile pulling at her lips. “I have a weird question for you.”
GM: “Can’t be weirder than my thinking you should wear a bag over your head,” he smiles back.
Celia: “I wonder if we can say it’s a new trend and convince the rats to try it.”
“But I was wondering… you don’t get off the same way I do. But you said earlier that you don’t mind it. So I’m just kind of curious what it feels like.”
GM: “It’s… it’s really not that bad, actually. It’s kind of like the first time I got off, where I felt so close, and didn’t have any idea when I would finally come. Part of me wanted to stop, but also keep going…”
If Celia didn’t know any better, she’d say he was enjoying himself.
Celia: “Hm.” She can’t relate. The first time she’d gotten off had been with him, and she hadn’t had much choice in the matter; it had kind of just snuck up on her all of a sudden without her doing much of anything. He’d taken care of all of that, the first time. “But you don’t mind it? Or you… like it?” She looks up at him.
GM: He seems to think for a moment.
Celia: “I was just going to say if you’re not into it we don’t have to do it every time, is all.”
GM: “No, no, I think…”
He trails off, then smiles.
“Would you like to play with my dick? As an ‘experiment?’”
Celia: Celia doesn’t need further encouragement than that. She’s happy to lend a hand. Then her mouth. The rest of her, too, even if he doesn’t take her up on it yet, so she sticks to her mouth, with her fingers wrapped around the base. Just as she used to do for him, the way he showed her he liked all those years ago.
GM: He swiftly grows hard under her touch. Celia keeps going for a while. He breathes and pants (both needlessly, but perhaps a psychophysiological reflex). Towards what feels like the end, he tenses and breathes harder, but Celia doesn’t feel anything come out of his shaft.
“That felt… good.”
Celia: She looks up at him from where she’s kneeling between his legs.
“Yeah? Like you, ah, got there good?” She’d almost thought there’d be blood. “Or like it was mildly enjoyable good?”
GM: “I’m pretty sure I got there…”
He smiles and puts his hands around her, just under her armpits, and lifts her into the air. He sets her down on the couch and pulls her against him. His arms encircle her belly.
“You make everything around you better. You know that? Everything you touch comes out with a coat of gold. The makeup is part of it. Making people look like their best selves. But that’s only part of what you do.”
“The way you gave Emily a family. The way you turned your mom’s life around. The way you brought, bring, so much happiness into mine. You’re like a fire. A sun. The closer someone gets to you, the more the more warmth and joy you bring into their life.”
Celia: Nestled against him, snug within the circle of his arms, she can almost believe him. That she makes things better. That she’s capable of being good.
But that’s not true, isn’t it? None of the planets closer to the sun than theirs can sustain life, and a fire eats up all the oxygen in the room. It’s like her. It just destroys. The pretty little flames melt the skin off anyone stupid enough to get too close.
Would he still think the same if he knew the truth? If he knew how monstrous her sire is, the terrible things that she has done, still does, plans to do? The lives—and unlives—she’ll destroy to claw her way to the top? Could he still care for her then?
Celia tucks her cheek against him. She’d asked herself two nights ago if she could be better for him. She can. She can try, at least. He’s worth that much, deserves that much from her.
“That was really beautiful, you know. You give me hope for the future. That it can be beautiful, even with this thing inside of us. That we can be good, do good things, be better than the rest of them, than what they think we have to be. You make me think it’s all possible.”
GM: His hand traces along her flank.
“That’s what Carthage was, you know. Maybe not literally. But as a story. An ideal. That a whole city of licks, just like us, could all decide to be better than what everyone thinks we have to be. To use their powers and immortality as a force for good. To live in harmony with mortals, to no longer need any lies between us, with both races using their abilities to build something together that they never could apart.”
“That’s what I see, too, when I look at you. A citizen of Carthage. The promise of something better.”
He hugs her close.
“I love you, Celia. I love you so much.”
“I don’t know how I was able to spend so much of my Requiem without you, or how I could’ve been so stupid as to throw you away, but I’m not ever going to make that mistake again.”
Celia: His words fill her with warmth. She’s safe here in his arms, pressed against his chest. Cheek on his shoulder, she breathes him in and closes her eyes, letting his love wash over her.
She’ll never tell him. Never tell him that she’s not what he thinks. Never give him a reason to look at her like she’s some sort of monster. She can protect him from that, from the worst of their kind. Maybe she’s not a fighter, but she can still be a shield of sorts.
“I love you too, Roderick. I missed you. Every night we weren’t together I missed you. So much.” She twists in his arms, turning to face him. She touches a hand to his cheek, trails kisses across the other side: brow, cheek, jaw, lips. “People say they have all the time in the world, you know, when they talk about the future. But it’s true for us in a way it isn’t for others. We have forever. Eternity. Together. We don’t need to be apart again. We never have to be apart again.”
It doesn’t feel like enough, not next to what he said to her. But it’s what she has, what she can give him.
GM: He kisses her forehead. Traces a hand along her hair as he stares up into her eyes.
“God, I don’t even want to go to Elysium tonight. Having to pretend as if we’re total strangers in public.”
GM: “Part of me wants to just spend more time with you. Actually get started teaching you to fight.”
Celia: She gives him a wistful smile.
“I wish. I’d love to tell those blowhards where to shove it. Tonight, though. Afterwards. I have a few things to take care of immediately after, but spend the day again. I feel safer when you’re here. And we can amuse ourselves until dawn however you want.”
She glances at the clock.
GM: There’s enough time to get ready and go to Elysium without rushing, but probably not an extended martial arts lesson.
“Okay,” he relents. “Are you going to talk to Dani tonight?”
Celia: She’s more concerned about the ghoul’s body she needs to put back together than the boxing.
“If I can find her.”
GM: He looks worried. “You can do that, can’t you? Or else how do we get her out?”
Celia: “Yes, Roderick. I’ll find her. Of course I can find her.”
She hesitates a beat. What if she can’t find her? What if she’s overly optimistic about this whole plan? She tries not to let him see it, the uncertainty. But she’s never been able to hide her emotions from him, has she? It’s there in her eyes, all he has to do is look into them. Belatedly, she averts her gaze.
GM: “Oh my god! Celia, we can’t just have her running around loose with no idea where she is!” he exclaims.
Celia: “And I can’t make contact and tip our hand until we’re ready to move her. It has to be one smooth operation, otherwise it’s going to get messy. Is that what you want?”
GM: “I want you to at least know where she is! How the hell are we going to move her without that?”
Celia: “I’ll find her,” Celia says again. “I just don’t think I should approach her yet.”
GM: “Okay, just… find her. We need to be ready to go, as soon as Ayame comes through.”
Celia: “Roderick… what if she doesn’t?”
GM: “We’ll deal with that then.”
Celia: She makes a noise that might be assent. She doesn’t say anything. Not for a long minute. She’s not particularly hopeful that everything will go off without a hitch.
She finally changes the subject.
“What do you know about Carolla? If we’re going to take down the Mafia we can start there.”
GM: “Brujah, like me. He’s showed up to the rants. I’ve slugged it out with him a few times.”
“Can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Decent in a fight, though.”
“There was a stupid rumor going he’s Coco’s childe.”
GM: Roderick actually looks a little angry at that.
“It’s pure bullshit. You’ve probably heard how coy he plays over his sire.”
Celia: Is it, though? She’s kept Roderick too busy to pick him off, anyway.
GM: “My guess would be it’s a nobody and this is how he builds up his rep.”
Celia: “Thought Brujah didn’t care about who their sires were, just their own merit.”
“Anyway, isn’t he First Estate? Kind of lame for a Brujah.”
GM: “We don’t, that’s the thing. He makes it a mystery and that gets people curious, anyway.”
Celia: “Ah. The game of rumors.”
GM: “Also, we might not, but the other clans do.”
“Sheriff spared me because of who my sire was, at the massacre. I’m not blind to that.”
“Or how being able to say I’m Roderick Durant, childe of Coco Duquette, childe of William Starkweather, childe of Eleanor de Valois, childe of Adana de Sforza, childe of Losario, childe of Troile, opens more doors with elders.”
Celia: “Do you think it matters, though? Who someone’s sire is?”
She doesn’t bother pointing out that the sheriff spared him because Coco set up the massacre. He has to know.
GM: “100% not. I’m not my sire. Or grandsire. Or so on and so on down the line. If you mean ‘matter’ in the sense of ‘should it entitle them to preferential treatment in Kindred society,’ at least. For good or ill, it definitely has consequences.”
Celia: “What about those people who have super fucked up sires. Like real monsters. You think they come out like that? Like how people turn into their parents?”
GM: “I’d say they can, but they don’t have to. Wright had a horrific sire and he’s turned out… mostly okay. But not everyone is that lucky or resilient, and I doubt things are perfect with him either. A horrible sire can fuck your Requiem up in all sorts of ways, just like a horrible breather parent can.”
“In a perfect world, either of those scenarios wouldn’t be a barrier to your future opportunities, but we don’t live in a perfect world.”
“I’m very lucky with who my sire was. Both that she descends from a fairly prestigious line, which opens more opportunities to me, and also because she treated me decently. Which also opens more opportunities, in other ways.”
Celia: “People think I’m a slut. Because of Veronica. And how she sleeps with everyone. They assume that I’m the same way. I’ve heard rumors…” Celia trails off, shaking her head. “The things they say about me are just… ugly. And I wonder, y’know, what it’d be like if she weren’t my sire. If it were even someone like Pietro, or if my grandsire had gotten to me instead. Same line, different reputation.”
“Anyway, sorry, we were talking about you. And beating up Carolla.”
GM: “You probably would have a different reputation,” Roderick says thoughtfully. “For good or ill, our sire colors everything about our Requiem. Some licks think that’s unfair and some think it’s right and proper, but there’s no avoiding it.”
Celia: “It’s the same as anything, really. Like you said. Being born to a different breather family would have made my life different, too.”
GM: “And even among the Brujah, we aren’t completely indifferent to it. Elders tend to put more stock in lineage than neonates. And if your sire was someone like Jeremy MacNeil… we might not think you’re better than another lick, but you’ll have people wondering what you did to impress such a badass sire.”
Celia: “I mean, aside from him just being an accident. But you think he’s making it up.”
GM: “I think he does it to get licks talking, which is exactly what we’re doing.”
Celia: “Maybe. I asked about him, you just brought up his sire,” Celia points out.
GM: “It’s the only noteworthy thing about him.”
Celia: “Because you’re mad that Coco might have Embraced him. Doesn’t his dad run the Mafia?”
GM: Roderick gives her a flat look. “Coco didn’t Embrace him.”
Celia: “I could find out. If you really want to know.”
GM: He looks angrier. “I just said she didn’t Embrace him!”
Celia: Celia holds up her hands, placating. “Sorry. I was kidding.”
GM: “I’ve seen no evidence. Absolutely none.”
Celia: “You mentioned him a while back. I remember because I made fun of his name. And you said there was something weird about him?”
“But then we got distracted.”
With sex, probably.
GM: “Sorry, don’t remember. That was a while ago.”
Celia: “You are dead to me,” Celia says with a sigh.
GM: “Oh, too bad. I was going to suggest we take a shower together before Elysium.”
“But since I’m dead…”
Celia: Celia considers him.
“I’m actually a necromancer, so… I guess I can bring you back.”
She presses the palm of her hand against his forehead.
GM: He smirks, gets off the couch, and picks her up, positioning his arms under her knees as she holds onto his shoulders.
“Let’s see how healed…”
Friday night, 11 March 2016, PM
Celia: Their shower turned into another bout of sex, more enjoyable beneath the spray of the water as members of the undead than it had ever been while they were alive. She’d made him wash the blood off of her after that, scrubbing her back while she was awake to enjoy it, and she’d returned the favor once he was done with her.
It’s a feeling she can get used to, more showers with Roderick. Waking up with him. Spending her evenings with him. Already she’s looking forward to the end of Elysium so she can hit up the Evergreen, fix the ghoul, and jet back here to spend more time with him. Eternity, right? Somehow it doesn’t seem long enough.
He’d laughed at her when she had dithered over what to wear. He has it easy, she tells him, all he has to do is slap on a suit and tie and he looks presentable. Plus he’s an Anarch, it’s not like anyone is really judging him for what he wears. She walks a finer line. Not quite welcome in this domain because of who she serves, childe of a harpy, grandchilde and great-grandchilde of two primogen, hangs with the bitches who titter all night over a faux pas… it’s a lot to handle.
She’d changed twice before settling on the green gown. Seafoam or mint or shamrock or emerald, some such variant that means green without being so gauche as to actually say the word, because god-forbid licks like her stoop to such plebian descriptors. Mermaid cut, gauzy, with a tiny train and cutouts along the midriff and thighs that offer a peek at the delectable Kindred wrapped inside the ruched tulle.
Jewels glitter at ear and throat, though her neck is left bare, and, as always, she wears her fire opal ring on the middle finger of her left hand. A pair of black heels complete the look. None so tall as her sire glides around in—she’d be a fool to try to mimic Veronica’s footwear—but strappy all the same, with a delicate strap around her ankle.
She even finds an overcoat in case it rains, pulls her hair into an effortless up-do that leaves a few strands free to curl around her face, and swipes on a fresh coat of lipstick. She almost can’t pry her eyes from the mirror once she’s done, and she’s glad that she and Roderick had fucked themselves silly because she looks bangin’.
Celia winks at her reflection before she leaves.
GM: Roderick agrees. He runs his hands along her shoulders in shoulders in massage-like motions as she finishes up in the mirror.
“Keep that on,” he murmurs into her ear. “I’m going to fuck you in it later.”
Celia: Do they really need to go to Elysium?
She doesn’t think it’s possible for her stomach to flutter anymore. She’s dead. But it does anyway. A thrill runs through her at the words. She’s already wondering what part of her evening she can shift to tomorrow so she can get back here more quickly.
GM: Roderick’s hands move down from her shoulders. They squeeze her breasts and rub up and down the hips her gown’s mermaid cut makes so deliciously plain.
“Wrapped and dolled up just like a present…”
Celia: Celia only lets him touch her for a minute, only leans back against him and closes her eyes while he tells her the words she loves to hear for long enough to think that maybe they could just skip it…
No, no, no.
“Shhh,” Celia says, pulling his hands away, “if you don’t hush I’m going to jump you again, and then we’ll definitely never make it.”
GM: “Would that really be so bad?” he smiles. “I know you’re thinking it.”
Celia: “I am thinking it, that’s the worst part, that I just want to lock the two of us in here and let you ravish me.”
GM: “Sex with clothes on is messy. But we don’t even sweat…” he murmurs. His hands move back to her hips, then start appreciatively tracing her rump. “We could make it fast… I could do you right here on your vanity, arms around my neck, sexy dress on the whole time…”
Celia: “And show up smelling like sex and blood so everyone knows that we just fucked each other?” Celia gives him a look. It’s an appraising look, because she very, very much wants to do as he says. To hop up onto her vanity and let him slide the dress up her legs, to let him part her thighs with his hands or body and slip inside. To fuck. He doesn’t have to make it messy, she doesn’t have to make it messy, he’d said before that he just likes to drink blood, none of the kinky shit…
She shivers in his arms, clearly torn. She wants him. Wants him now, wants him later, wants him forever. He’s hers. His blood calls to her, and it’s so close, right beneath the surface, all she has to do is lean in and… bite.
Unless he means fuck like breathers.
Then there really is no mess. Nothing to clean up because he doesn’t actually…
She stops her thoughts from traveling further down that line. They don’t have time. It’s the blood, she knows, the collar they share, their prior history, his adoring words. It’s just like last time, when they’d never actually gotten to any of the rants because they’d been too busy bumping into cars and fucking on the roof to get anything done.
She’d never imagined there’d come a time when she wanted to turn down sex. Not with him. But she has things to do tonight. People to talk to.
Finally, she shakes her head, turning in his arms to press a kiss against the underside of his jaw.
“Later,” she whispers in his ear, “after you’ve been thinking about me all night, about the things we’re going to do together, after you’re so riled up and turned on that you can’t even think straight. Then…” she trails a hand down his chest, “then you can unwrap your present.”
GM: “Oh, I want to fuck my present with the wrapping still on, when she looks this delicious…” Roderick grins, his hands longingly kneading and squeezing her ass.
He relents after a moment, though, with a wistfully effected sigh.
“But I guess you’re right. Licks to see. Things to do, besides each other. And it does feel like a waste for you to get so dressed up without going out.”
He hefts her up, moving one arm under her legs and the other around her back.
“Carry you to your car, at least?” he smiles.
Celia: He spoils her, truly. It’s the sort of treatment she can get used to, the kind of thing she deserves, beautiful creature that she is. She shouldn’t have to walk, not when there’s a dashing Brujah here to do it for her, not when she fits so snugly against him. Cradled in his arms, head against his chest, her thoughts run as wild as the hands that roam his body. Teasing, gentle caresses, nipping at his neck, his ear, his lips. He reminds her to lock the door and she does it in a haze, back to him before she’s even finished putting the key back into her purse.
He fills her world. He is her world. Sire who? No one else matters, not when she has Roderick. Soul mates. There it is, the beautiful word that ties them together. Have to be, don’t they, because she can’t think of another place she’d rather be than right here nestled against him.
Her feet find the ground again, but Celia pays it no mind. He says something, his lips moving, but she doesn’t hear the words because she’s busy pulling him in, pressing her lips against his, her body against his, her arms around his neck, holding him close. A flash of fangs against his skin, not enough to cut, but to give it to him two ways, lick and human both.
She could drown in his love. She is drowning, spiraling down, further and further, and she doesn’t need the air to breathe so she doesn’t care, they can find the bottom of the abyss together, see how deep the trench goes.
But something else pulls at her too. Commitments. Things she said she’d do, people she needs to see. She claws her way back to the surface, fighting against the shackle that has her by the ankles, the anchor that wants to sink her. She fights against it, kicking and screaming to pull herself up, up, out. Her head breaks the surface and she can breathe again, but the waves keep rolling over her, crashing again and again, and she clings to him, her little place of safety in the turmoil.
She’ll see him again. Soon. That’s what makes her finally pull back, touch a hand to his cheek, look up into his eyes. Soon. Thirty minutes. He’ll be there, and they’ll pretend they don’t know each other, that they mean nothing to each other, but it’s just another game. Another game to keep them safe. Another game in a city of lies.
But tonight. Later. Errands, then him. All night, all day, the next night and day. Him.
“Temporary goodbyes shouldn’t hurt so much,” she whispers.
GM: Perhaps she notices how long it takes him to carry her to her car. More likely she doesn’t. It’s a nice feeling to not need to think about anything in the world, even walking, except the lover with his arms under her.
Her teasing touch when he finally (and so reluctantly) sets her down clear electrifies him. He pulls her close, her breasts pressing against his chest, his hands squeezing her rear, as he plants hungry kisses against her lips. His tongue explores her mouth, tracing against her fangs. She can feel how long and sharp his are, too. He runs his hands through her hair. He wraps his arms around her back and hugs her against him like he wants nothing more than to hold her in place there forever.
Some of it has to be the bond, this sheer intoxication with one another. But it’s real, too. She knows it is. It’s a rose planted in already fertile soil.
“It almost feels like a crime to set you down,” he whispers ruefully into her ear. “Those dainty little feet of yours shouldn’t ever have to touch the ground. You should have admirers to carry you everywhere.”
Celia: Her eyes all but shine as she looks up at him, cheeks flush with blood. She doesn’t care that it’s a conscious act to send it there, she wants him to see what he does to her, the effect that he has on her.
It’s real. It is. His sire has said it is rare, and their kind maybe don’t believe in it, but she knows the truth. They’re both capable of love, and they’ve found it in each other.
“How would they ever get close to me if you’re around to beat them off with a stick, hm?” Celia slides her hands up his chest, then around the back of his head to slide through his hair. “I don’t need any admirers but you.”
GM: “God…” he murmurs, his hands continuing to appreciatively trace up and down her backside.
“You’re too good for them, for Elysium. It’ll only seem fair if they declare you’re the exhibit. The center of the evening, for everyone else to gush about and admire.”
“They should put you on a throne. And all the other licks should have to beg just for a turn of getting to help carry it.”
Celia: “Everyone already knows that,” Celia tells him, smirking. It’s true, though. Jade’s face was designed to be the prettiest lick in the city, and anyone who says otherwise is simply lying to themselves. She’s not so gauche as to brag about it, though. She’s never even said as much out loud.
“A throne, hm? I’ve a crown somewhere, maybe I’ll put it on tonight and make you worship me.”
GM: He just presses her close. “Oh, I already worship you. When Elysium’s all over, and we’re back here, I’m going to carry you inside. I’m going to set you down over the sink, and hand-wash the bottoms of your shoes, so we don’t ever have to be reminded they touched the earth. Then I’m going to carry you to bed, and unwrap my present, just a little, when I crawl up between your legs, with your sexy dress still on. Then I’ll really worship you, to pay you back for that blowjob.”
Celia: “Now that,” she murmurs, pulling him down to press her lips against his once more, “sounds like a perfect end to the evening.” Her body responds to his words, nipples stiffening and moisture pooling between her thighs at the thought of him kneeling before her. Oh, yes, a wonderful evening indeed.
It’s difficult after that to extricate herself from him, but a glance at his watch tells her that if they don’t get going they’re both going to be late, and that will set all sorts of tongues wagging. Not in the good way, either. Not like he promises to do later.
“Four?” She turns it into a question. Four am. Enough time for her to complete her tasks and get back here so he can ravish her, provided Elysium doesn’t run long.
GM: “Four,” he repeats longingly. He opens her car door, then picks her up and sets her down in the driver’s seat, as if solely to enjoy having her in his arms again. He pulls up the hem of her dress, pulls down her panties, and runs his fingers along and inside her womanhood, getting as much of her dampness all over them he can.
“Have to keep you dry so your dress doesn’t stain,” he smiles.
It doesn’t help that she probably just gets wetter.
Celia: It doesn’t help at all. She almost yanks him into the car with her so that he can finish the job. She makes a noise, clearly discontent when he pulls away, her lips pulled back from her teeth to growl at him.
GM: “Turnabout is fair play,” he smirks, though his eyes turn concerned after a moment. “I can grab you a towel from inside, though. You don’t want to have even a hair out of place around the harpies.”
“Maybe some new underwear too, if yours got wet. They might be able to smell it.”
Celia: Celia pats the purse, then makes a vague gesture to her glove compartment as well.
“I have wipes,” she tells him, “and I’ll simply remove my panties. Now you have to think about that while they drone on tonight.”
GM: “Oh, are you sure? You don’t want me rifling through your underwear drawer and picking out a sexy pair?”
Celia: “Oh, no, I’ll let you dress me for tomorrow, so that when I go to this tedious dinner function you’ll know I’m thinking about you.”
GM: “That does sound incredibly tedious without me there. But okay, if you’re not wearing panties tonight…”
Celia doesn’t see the lightning-fast Brujah do it, but she feels her suddenly close-together legs shoot up into the air. The she sees the panties dangling from his hand. He rubs his wet fingers against them to towel off.
“I think I’ll keep these inside my jacket as a good luck charm.”
Celia: “Then you’re going to smell like sex,” Celia points out, but she’s too busy giggling at the sight to put any heat into her words.
GM: He smiles back, ruefully. “You’re right. I suppose I’ll just have to keep them in my car, until I can get them framed or mounted to a plaque in my new haven.”
“Or maybe I should donate them to an art museum as a priceless piece of cultural heritage.”
Celia: “You could auction them off online. I think my panties might sell for a pretty penny, especially worn.”
GM: “But there’d be no one with enough money to buy them. It’d be like with the Cullinan, where all they could do was give it to the British monarchy.”
Celia: “I guess they’re yours forever then.” She tilts her head, considering. “I kind of like the idea of you carrying around a little piece of me.”
GM: “I like it a lot too.” He leans in to kiss her.
“All right. I love you. Make sure you get everything with the wipes.”
Celia: “I will. I love you too. I’ll see you soon. Or rather, I’ll studiously avoid looking at you soon and sneer at the mention of your name.”
GM: “You and me both,” he says with another rueful look. He closes the car door, waves, and heads off to his own car.
It feels like it’s going to be a very long Elysium.
Friday night, 11 March 2016, PM
GM: The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is located in the CBD next to Lee Circle, the traffic circle dedicated to the eponymous Confederate general. It’s a five or so minute drive.
The tall and looming building almost resembles a prison, with an impassive male face staring through a partial cage of iron bars. It’s a popular Elysium locale, and Celia has even been there a few times when she was alive with her parents. The Ogden’s collection, she knows, consists of work by artists from or associated with fifteen Southern states and the District of Columbia. Since its foundation by Roger H. Ogden, the museum’s collection of paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, wood and crafts has grown to include more than 4,000 works donated from individuals and collectors from across the US, and constitutes the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world.
Celia: It’s a five-minute drive that turns into ten. Roderick’s words linger in her mind: make sure you get it all. She doesn’t need the harpies tittering over the state of her on top of whatever other perceived slight they’ll find to mock this evening. Even those inside the circle are torn viciously apart by their barbed tongues. So she uses a wipe between her legs before she even puts the car in gear, another at a red light—and wouldn’t that be a sight if someone happened to be around this hour of night, a woman with her dress hiked up around her waist and a hand between her legs—and a final time before she gets out. She smooths her dress back down prior to opening the car door. No need to flash anyone, at least not for free.
Legs lengthened by the heel on her shoes, Jade unfolds from the vehicle and glides towards the entrance of the museum.
GM: It’s too bad Randy isn’t here to drive her. She could get everything. While he watched.
Celia: She gets everything anyway, it just takes an extra minute.
GM: Maybe he’d make do with sniffing and licking the wipes while he rubbed one out, after she left.
Celia: That boy needs to get laid.
GM: She’s also late. There’s no way around it. Jade doesn’t see any other vampires entering the building, though maybe that’s just them being discrete.
There’s one Kindred, though, who’s seemingly waiting outside. Becky Lynne Adler stands near the museum’s front entrance, conversing with a ghoul while she taps into a phone. Embraced in the flower of late adolescence, she has delicate features, soft sun-blonde hair that falls slightly past her shoulders, and deep brown eyes. Jade knows her to smile easily and often, which together with her slight build and short height (she barely breaks 5’0"), give her a harmless appearance—the sort of girl who couldn’t intimidate a grade schooler. She wears a strapless white evening gown cinched at the waist with a pink bow and matching heels. Two diamonds glint from her ears, while a silver heart-shaped locket rests on a chain around her neck.
“Oh, hello, Miss Kalani,” the Ventrue smiles as Jade approaches. “I had a hunch you’d be here… what do you say we go in together, so there’s less stir with the harpies?”
Celia: Jade’s smile stretches across her face as the sight of the stiff waiting for her. Her eyes sweep the blonde’s form, taking in the dress—white? that’s brave—with the cutesy bow and heels, the jewelry at her ears and throat. Tasteful, as always. Effortless, or at least that’s what the Ventrue would have them believe. Just as she’d have Jade believe that she happened to be caught up outside. Had a hunch? Indeed.
She halts just before Becky Lynne, for once a giant among her peers. In height, at least. Heels may be the great equalizer, but someone as short as this one would need to don the platform pumps of Veronica to put her on even footing. Still, it would be a silly lick indeed who let her small stature fool them into thinking she’s harmless.
“Good evening, Lady Speaker.” Were they not on the grounds of Elysium they would both let their masks slip enough to refer to each other more familiarly as they often do but here, at least, they play their roles. “I am always happy to share your presence. Doubly so when it allows us to duck their ire.” Jade flashes her a conspiratorial grin.
GM: Becky Lynne smiles back. “My mama always liked to say—trouble’s gonna come after you at some point, so no sense in goin’ after it yourself. Same with harpies and their ire!”
She turns to her ghoul. “Peggy, can you be a dear and wait outside with the car, usual time?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the ghoul nods. She’s also short blonde, and comely enough, but pudgier of face and more plainly dressed than her mistress. Everything about her looks like a plainer version of her mistress. She inclines her head and moves off.
“Good thing we’re showing up without any ghouls, too,” Becky Lynne smiles again. “My brother was telling me about a Kindred who showed up to Elysium with half a dozen ghouls, once, and the harpies just never let it die down. Which makes sense enough—we all have them, so no sense in showin’ off that we do. Less there is more, I think.” She gives a light laugh. “Unless we’re able to make them into ensembles as stylish as Regent Harlequin’s, of course.”
She reminds Celia of her mom, in some ways.
Blonde cutsey Southerners eager to make nice.
Celia: Is she, though? Eager to make nice for niceties sake? Hardly. Even Diana has a purpose for being as sweet as she is, and she doubts that Becky Lynne’s motives are as altruistic as she would have people believe. A Southern woman grows up learning how to put poison into her smile.
Jade has never brought her ghouls to Elysium. It isn’t their place.
“Less is more with many things,” Jade readily agrees. “Easier to add something than to take it away once it’s in the pot, as they say.”
Still, the sweet-as-pie Becky Lynne is preferable to the caustic tongues of some others she could name. So long as she’s aware of what the girl is she’s hardly a knife in the dark. Jade even likes her for all that because she gets it. She does the same thing. So it’s not as if she needs to feign interest in the blonde or force a smile, and her company is hardly a chore. She appreciates the cover with the harpies; solidarity in numbers and all that.
Even if her brother is slumming it and her sire is the most hated lick in the city.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be in line with my clan to confess that I couldn’t think of a more aesthetically pleasing exhibit for ghouls than Regent Harlequin has. I hope you won’t tattle for my lack of artistic bodily expression.” The wink is implied. “Think we should make the rounds and pretend we were here the whole time or throw ourselves into the thick of it?”
GM: Alana had always wanted to go. On her hands and knees, wearing a collar and leash, for everyone to see how Jade owns her.
“Oh, I think bodily expression is exactly what the artist behind Flawless is known for,” Becky Lynne smiles back, then taps two thoughtful fingers against her chin.
“Hmm. Makin’ the rounds makes it easier to slip under the radar. A harpy who notices might think we’re trying to fool them, though, and nobody likes that.”
“Goin’ right into the thick of it is bold. That might mean something, but it’s also a lot more scrutiny, and it’s always easier to get bad attention than good.”
“What do you think we oughta do, Miss Kalani?”
She seems to think some more. “Hm, or actually… maybe the best trick is to distract them with something else. Something more worth talking about than the fact of our arrival.”
“I wonder what we could do there?”
Celia: Jade had been about to suggest that they cozy up to the most important lick in the room and simply pretend that their presence was so much more important than that of the tongue-wagging harpies. Someone like sheriff. Not that her eyes seek him out. Oh no, not even a little bit. Not even a glance.
Well, maybe a glance. Once around the space to see if he’s there.
Other targets, though. Any of the elders, really, what harpy could complain about that? McGinn or Marcel, Becky Lynne is friendly enough with both of them, isn’t she? And it would cut through trying to deal with Josua if the blonde could get her an audience.
But dangling something shiny in front of those wagging tongues is certainly just as appealing—more believable and spreads what needs spread.
“Well…” Jade trails off thoughtfully, as if she doesn’t know exactly what the girl is thinking, “I suppose we’d have to share something scandalous.” She waits a beat.
GM: The Ventrue draws in a little (and needless) breath, the tips of her fingers fluttering over her mouth as her eyes scan their surroundings. But there’s some amusement dancing in them, too.
“Oh? Did you have somethin’ in mind for us to share, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: About your brother’s affair? Maybe the prince’s unknown childe? Or his diet of neonates?
Not the sort of thing she’d like to speak aloud in a place like this. Especially to a stiff. Something less volatile, then.
GM: Smith spoke ideas like those aloud.
Vidal could only execute him once.
Celia: And Smith was a somebody. Relatively, Jade is a nobody. She can’t imagine that the prince would be any more lenient towards her. Would he execute her publicly, she wonders, or have her abducted in the middle of the night? Maybe she’d go the way of the rest of the Storyvilles and serve as his midnight snack.
She wonders if her sire would be stirred to action should his liege order her execution. Maybe he’d be sent to deal with her. He’d berate her for the clumsy handling of the information he wanted her to spread. Would he use the sword? That new gift she gave him? Simply rip her heart out of her chest, poetic justice at its finest? After all, it has always belonged to him.
The amount of times that she has pictured her death at his hands makes her stomach clench.
No, none of those will do. And the others… she can think of too many ways that the information would be more useful in the hands of someone wiser. If only Savoy had sought fit to see her prior to this evening to offer guidance; what a field day she’d have with it now.
Jade tucks a curl behind her ear and bites her lip. Finally, she lets out a breath as unnecessary as the Ventrue’s earlier gasp.
“Well,” she says slowly, “it’s about a neonate, and it’s a little gauche…”
Exactly the sort of thing they’d like to sink their teeth into.
GM: It does make her stomach clench.
But perhaps the danger is part of the appeal. She can’t picture Roderick ever doing something like that.
Except when he loses it and really manhandles her.
“Well now, it’s all in how one presents it, isn’t it?” Becky Lynne smiles.
Celia: The difference between Roderick and her sire is the systemic destruction versus mindless chaos. Roderick losing control is bedlam, a whirlwind of rage, literal frenzy. An inferno. He obliterates everything around him. With Roderick she can only attempt to throw herself from his warpath and hope he passes her harmlessly by, then console him when it is over.
Her sire is a different beast altogether. Beautiful. Meticulous. Frozen. Utterly lethal annihilation. He does not smash; he shatters. He lays ruin with exact precision, destroying only what he wishes to see ruined. A scalpel to Roderick’s hammer. The difference between fire and ice.
His is a controlled burn.
And it terrifies her, how close she seeks to put herself to that cold fire. That she would let it—him—consume her. Have it. Have it all. Keep it, if only he’ll keep her too.
The thought is disquieting. She does not let it linger. Her eyes seek those of her would-be conspirator.
“Then I suppose, Lady Speaker,” she says at last, “that we must dazzle them.”
Celia: She leans in, lowering her voice.
“Perhaps you can assist me with neatly packaging this: I found one of the Storyvilles on a cam site.”
GM: “Oh my goodness,” Becky Lynne murmurs, holding a hand to her mouth.
Celia: Gauche, as she said.
GM: “She might be very, very grateful if that were to remain between us three.”
Celia: Jade acknowledges the point with a dip of her head.
“She might be.”
If only she weren’t dead.
GM: Talking further, Beck Lynne (perhaps unsurprisingly) seems to think that she and Jade stand more to gain by helping Storyvilles save face than spreading rumors about them. She won’t stop Jade if she wants to do that, though—including to her as an apparent explanation for the Toreador’s tardiness.
Celia: Jade supposes that Becky Lynne is right. Or at least she supposes that she doesn’t care enough about the Storyvilles to save or ruin their reputation, and every moment she spends out here debating the merits of spreading a rumor versus not is another moment she could be doing… literally anything else. She’s unsurprised to learn Becky Lynne’s stance on the subject; apparently she only hangs around the harpies so she can listen to rumors and refrains from spreading any herself, angel that she is.
Deft maneuver, she can’t help but note. She gives in graciously—there are other stories she’d prefer to spread about the coterie anyway—and offers to let Becky Lynne lead the way.
GM: The two make their way inside. A crowd of Kindred is gathered around what looks like a central exhibit.
It sounds as if Celia and Becky Lynne have missed the opening prayer and whatever opening words Gus Elgin had to greet the attendees with. A glassy-eyed mortal man in fine eveningwear next to Gus Elgin sleepily recites,
“…the act of wrapping objects and binding things together is as ancient as mankind itself. Weaving is at least 12,000 years old (recent discoveries suggest possibly 27,000), and the world’s oldest sewing needle (made of bird bone possibly by Denisovans) dates back to approximately 50,000 years ago. While it is an ancient and very human act, perhaps the inspiration arose from observing nature. Spiders bind filaments together to form a web, and wrap their prey in silk. Vines wrap and cling for support and movement. Birds build nests and bagworms build homes through binding objects together. Each and every one of us begins life bound within the womb, one life entwined with another. Perhaps that is part of the primal urge to wrap objects: to protect them, hide them, contain them. Wrapping can be a preservative endeavor, like the mummy’s quest for immortality. It can be a violent act, like the coil of the snake or the chains of human bondage. It can be an act of solidarity and devotion, as with the hand-fasting rituals of marriage. Every wrapped package or bound bundle contains a secret—a hidden thing, the unknown—and activates the very human emotions of curiosity or fear.”
Music soothes the savage beast. Calm and reflective words seem to to have a similar enough effect upon the assembled predators, each one’s pale and motionless face concealing so very savage beast. One misspoken word, one shed drop of blood, and perhaps this hapless kine would lie screaming for his life as the city’s Kindred fell upon him like a pack of wolves, staining the hardwood floor red with his blood. For now, listen attentively, like civilized people who go to art museums do. But in each and every one of their breasts lurks a monster that couldn’t give two shits about the subtleties of object-wrapping next to the hot taste of blood.
“From Native American sacred medicine bundles to the Jewish laying of tefillin, wrapping and binding have been used as a symbolic device by humans throughout history. Both the ritual act and the act of creating art are ways of putting concrete reality to abstract ideas. Drawing inspiration from the traditions of various cultures—Haitian Voudou, Appalachian broom-making, Calabrian silk production, Peruvian rope coiling, Congo Nkisi—the contemporary artists in this exhibition engage wrapping and binding as both symbolic aesthetic device, and often as a ritual practice within their work.”
The children of the night have come out in all their pageantry. Philip Maldonato’s tall frame, garbed in archaic-looking Muslim robes, is immediately noticeable. Antoine Savoy wears an Enlightenment-era courtier’s outfit. Vidal and the Baron are not present, likely to the surprise of few. They rarely are.
Among the primogen, Jade espies Pearl Chastain in a hennin and medieval-era gown. Little interest passes over her face. Jade may wonder if she has anything better to do. Accou, unsurprisingly, remains close to his sire’s side in more recent but still centuries-dated finery. Coco opts for more modern garb in a black turtleneck and dress slacks. Roderick looks at Jade as she arrives, but moves away his gaze after a moment.
How much is he thinking about the things he’d like to do with her, once Elysium is finally over?
Vein Steinhausser stands present and impassive in an archaic Enlightenment-era gown of her own, as if to say everything is still normal for the Tremere. Miss Opal, alone among the primogen, is not present tonight.
But he is there.
He isn’t tall and dark. He’s dark and feels tall. He’s dressed in the same utilitarian black garb that could come from any number of decades. It reveals nothing of his origins—no more than his expressionless, marble-like face reveals of his feelings. He does not spare Jade a single look.
Celia: How fitting, the topic of the evening. Bindings. It has long been on her mind, the question of why he will not take her fully. Why he will not let her have that third sip from his wrist. She has her own private theories why he denies it, none of which give her comfort. She’s often wondered how angry it would make him if she were to take that step with someone else. What he’d do to her. To them. Or if he’d care at all.
Looking at him now, in his dark garb of no note with his eyes resolutely turned away, she doesn’t think that he would. A flicker of emotion passes through her, something like yearning. For him, even now, fresh from a tumble with someone else, late because she had fallen into the arms of another lover. What would it be like to be able to stand beside him in a place like this? What would it be like to be known as his childe, not the childe of the vicious slut? How might her Requiem have changed?
Not at all, she thinks. It isn’t as if he and Doriocourt canoodle in a corner. And she knows why he has done it. Why he ignores her. Why he sent her off with Savoy. She knows, or thinks she knows, and if it is a lie she tells herself then it is a beautiful lie and she clings to it with every bit of delusional strength she has. It is her light in the darkness, her secret fantasy, and she will not let it be snuffed out.
Jade does not let her gaze linger on the dark one. She sweeps it past Roderick, no flicker of emotion giving away the squirming of her insides. Not here. Here she beats it down. Roderick is nothing to Jade, no matter how Celia may want him.
Perhaps she should take some sort of public lover, someone to hide their dalliance from the rest of their kind. The art thief, maybe; she’s been seen arm and arm with him before, and it isn’t as if he expects monogamy. He might even find the whole thing amusing. Or Gui. Now that she’s had him she wants him again. Years of flirtation finally paid off, and what a delicious paring it was. And it would make sense, wouldn’t it, two young bloods from Savoy’s faction shacking up. More sense than the decades-older thief, anyway.
She can’t imagine it would go over well with Roderick. He, at least, is hot-blooded enough to get a rise out of. In a hundred years she wonders if that will still be the case, if he will still be the same man that she met in college. Do they change at all once they die, or is he stuck at 22 like she is stuck at 19? She’d like to think she has changed. Can change again, be the girl he wants her to be. But isn’t that the girl he knew back then, the sweet one who would do anything for her family, who died to save her mother, who made a devil’s bargain for the desperate chance to finally do something for once rather than continue to sit idly by?
Isn’t that still her? If she ignores the rot that has taken hold of her, the Beast inside her chest that eats away at her humanity bit by bit, she thinks it might be. Only he doesn’t know what she’d done the night she died, the way she had given in to the darkness, let it consume her. Only when her psyche had begun to shatter did she pull back.
She died broken. Perhaps that is who she will always be. Perhaps the girl he thinks he loves is what died that night, stripped away with the rest of her innocence.
Jade pulls her thoughts from that downward spiral. Pulls her gaze from the assembled primogen and sheriff—her thoughts flicker his way once more, wondering if he is wearing the gift beneath his clothing (and what else he’s hiding beneath that dark garb, and if he’ll ever—), but she does not let either linger overly long. She moves it across the room once more before finally settling on Savoy. She has so much to tell him. Already she’s looking forward to tomorrow when she can present him with everything, where he will tell her how smart and capable she is, pat his lap for her, let her curl up, whisper in her ear. She’ll convince him to get rid of Preston for an hour. Maybe they’ll soak in the hot tub once they’re done tearing each other apart, and he’ll tell her… tell her that he’s proud of her? No, she doesn’t think that’s what she wants to hear from him. That he’s pleased with her, maybe. Yes. Pleasure. That’s what she wants from him.
Perhaps she’ll take Mel up on her offer to come naked to a meeting and see how that plays out.
Two minutes in and she’s already lost sight of what she came here for. She looks for her pretend sire, or Marcel’s most recent fuck toy.
GM: She espies Veronica among the other harpies. The Toreador wears gold sandal heels and a black and brown dress that Jade doesn’t have to be an esthetician to identify as being made from human hair.
Perhaps, she may wonder as she looks upon her purported sire’s so-often sneering face, that’ll be her in a hundred years.
Perhaps a hundred years ago, Veronica was Celia Flores. A well-meaning girl in over her head and driven to darkness.
Celia: Veronica was never a girl like Celia.
GM: Maybe that’s what the neonates will say about Jade in a hundred years.
She was never a girl like them.
Celia: Then again, she’d just wondered why Veronica would wear a dress of human hair when it could be human skin, and she’s been dead less than a decade.
Perhaps she really will gift her “sire” something from her new line.
GM: Veronica’s bitch isn’t there. “Micheal,” if one were to be kind and use his name. Shep also seems to have skipped Elysium, but Pietro’s there next to her, along with the other harpies. Adelais and Sundown and Marguerite and Katherine and Harequin, and the rest of the in crowd, plus the hangers-on (like her) hoping to someday join their ranks. There are worse Kindred to be childe to than a harpy, than a primogen’s childe and a leader among her covenant, whatever her reputation.
Jade could have gotten saddled with someone like Isabel’s sire, and been a mere handful of steps away from Dani’s fate.
Or she could have been turned by whoever cursed Roderick’s sister with their feeble brand of dime store damnation.
Celia: There’s a thought. Celia the thin-blood. She doubts she’d even have to make a new name for herself if she were to have gone that route. Who cares about another half-breed mongrel, anyway? She’d have been slaughtered with the rest of her kind. Turn in by her boyfriend’s sire. Would he have protected her, she wonders, or just stood idly by while the murder brigade did their ghastly deed?
She couldn’t help but notice Opal’s absence this evening. Planning another massacre?
Jade is glad she doesn’t need to worry about such things, at least. And Pietro is a welcome sight at her sire’s side, in any case. These events are always brightened by his droll humor.
Her eyes and thoughts flit back to the speaker and the exhibit.
GM: “…each artist in this exhibition approaches the simple acts of wrapping and binding from a unique perspective. Some are involved in the haptic absorption of repetitive handwork—a sort of ritual meditation on texture and rhythm. Others are exploring the symbolic power of the physical act—weaving narratives through form, image and materials. This exhibition contains a feast of texture and a vast range of materials—clay, fabric, rope, egg tempera, driftwood, loofah, antler, bone, wire, coffee, ashes, teeth, yarn, wool, chalk and a plethora of found objects. Through wrapping, painting, weaving, coiling, drawing, or knotting, each artist binds their own unique and thoroughly contemporary vision to an ancient, universal and very human practice.”
Celia: If only the ancients among them would allow for the introduction of more contemporary visions.
GM: There’s a few final words before the assembled predators start to disperse into their own cliques and stroll down the museum’s empty halls. Perhaps this man has some inkling of how much safer he now is. Sundown starts off the conversation with a joke about spiders in the centers of their webs. Binding and weaving is an all-too familiar practice to the Kindred. Katherine Beaumont concurs and draws comparisons to the chains of blood that bind them to their clans and kin. The ties binding mortals to their lives and duties are weaker, Gus Elgin states: “Just as one must tie an object more securely to withstand a hurricane than a summer breeze, the ties that bind us to eternity must by necessity be stronger than the ties binding kine to mortality.”
Some of the present Kindred seem to be following along and considering the conversation. At least as many others are exploring the museum exhibits on their own, or in discussions with their other cliques.
But there are still plenty of cold eyes resting upon the tardy arrivals.
Celia: Bully for them and their cold eyes. Jade would roll her own if she were anywhere but here. She doesn’t bother to move closer to them to join their discussion, turning instead to begin her own with the Ventrue at her side.
“Interesting,” she remarks to Becky Lynne, her voice quiet so as not to compete with the others, “his comments on the mummies and their bindings. It isn’t why they wrapped their kin, but I suppose he couldn’t resist the tie-in.”
“It was actually,” she continues unprompted, “because of their obsession with order, and their desire to defeat chaos. As a concept.”
GM: Those cold eyes include her purported sire’s.
And the other harpies’.
And assorted other Kindred of greater standing than the neonate’s.
Celia: Ah, right. Fuck her for trying to engage with something other than vicious gossip. Cold stares and wagging tongues really makes her glad that she bothered to show up instead of turning around to find literally anything else to do when she realized she’d be five whole minutes late.
Personally, she thinks the discussion on Ancient Egypt is fascinating, but clearly the harpies never heard that “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people” quote.
Jade can dig into the mud with the best of them. She gives Becky Lynne an apologetic smile. For a moment longer she talks about Egypt and their burial customs, chaos, the historical idea of evil, and the afterlife. She manages to tie it together and swing it back around to something that someone as vapid as the harpies can understand in the end:
“…which is why I think that Storyville started on the cam site, you know, and there’s months of content. It’s tragic. You should see some of those videos…”
GM: Becky Lynne listens attentively to Jade’s initial explanation. There’s a lot more interest on her face than Roderick’s, but Jade supposes the Ventrue hadn’t just heard her sister was a thin-blood.
“Oh my goodness,” she repeats upon hearing the salacious rumor, covering her mouth with several fingers.
“Yeah, I don’t buy that,” says Duke Elmhearst. The Sanctified neonate has a face with eyes meaner than a gator’s and a sneer that could shame a rattlesnake, all framed by a shock of dirty blond hair. Jade has heard a few of Savoy’s people make fun of Duke’s face for “looking like an internet picture that gets you idly thinking of ways to murder him, ten minutes after you meet.”
But Vidal’s people probably don’t say anything nicer about Jade.
“Sin against God to endanger the Masquerade like that. That isn’t them.”
Amused eyes among onlookers flicker between the two neonates.
Celia: Duke looks like the kind of guy that might benefit from visiting a cam site himself. All that pent up male aggression, she bets he’d get off on telling some poor slut what to do. She’s not put out by his doubt, though. She glances at him and smiles. It’s a pretty smile, like the rest of her. Regardless of what Vidal’s people say about her, they can’t take that away. She waves him over.
She’s happy to discuss it with a doubter.
GM: He smirks and saunters over.
Celia: Jade smiles up at Duke. She hasn’t gotten to know him well, but she’d like to. She likes the cut of his jib. Likes his arrogance. Likes his swagger, even, in an “I’d like to punch him in the face” kind of way. But she’s enjoyed plenty of people like that. She stands close to him—really close, Jade likes that physical contact—and shows him the screenshot on her phone.
It’s a pretty standard-looking still from a cam site. A girl on her knees dressed in skimpy attire, bra and panties, black lace. It’s almost beautiful against her pale skin. But instead of a dick in her mouth it’s a long dildo, cheeks bulged out around it. The screenshot includes the chat telling her to suck it, the recent donation of $5. Jade swipes right and shows him the next one, where the girl in the picture puts the dildo—purple, huge, spiraled—into herself with her legs spread wide. Her eyes are closed and her mouth open, like she’s panting heavily. The donation line reads $15 this time, and the chat is wild with people telling her what to do, to fuck herself, to show her pussy, to spread herself wide, that they want her to bend over and take it like the slut she is.
Even with her eyes closed, Roxanne’s face is unmistakable.
Jade looks up at Duke, brows raised.
GM: Duke eyes the playing video. His face briefly catches.
It really does look exactly like Roxanne.
“That’s so fake,” says the Brujah. “It doesn’t even look like her.”
Celia: Her brows threaten to disappear into her hairline.
Jade swipes right once more. It’s another screenshot of Roxanne. Only this time she’s got a dude in the photo with her. Two dudes. It’s pretty clear what’s going on: one is fucking her from behind while the other cums on her face.
GM: Titters and knowing glances start to go up from the onlookers. Perhaps they can’t all see exactly what’s happening, from this distance.
But they can make out enough. They can read the two licks’ expressions.
And there are assuredly at least several Kindred here with very, very good eyesight.
Harlequin starts to laugh.
His four ghouls are with him tonight, like they are every night. Each one dressed in nothing except chain links over their naked bodies. Their faces are hidden beneath silver masks that resemble deformed infants with varying, eerily adult expressions of lust, contempt, horror, and despair.
As one, they clutch their hands to their masked faces. As one, laughter spills from their concealed lips.
Veronica starts to laugh, too. The other three harpies do not take overlong before joining in. Elyse Benson makes a remark disdaining the “imperfections” of such a lust-driven creature. Randolph Cartwright sneers how much she looks like she’s enjoying herself. Esther Sue Parker shakes her head disapprovingly. Speculation starts to go up about Roxanne being a pervert. If she actually enjoys doing it the breather way.
The Ventrue are the only ones not to laugh. They just don’t say anything.
Duke rolls his eyes. “I don’t know any blue blood who’d take money to do something like that. Ha ha at the fake video, I guess.”
He stalks off to salve his pride.
Just like that, Jade fees welcome in polite company again.
Celia: Jade slips the phone back into her pocket. She watches Duke disappear into the crowd, wondering if there’s something she can do there to soothe his wounded pride. He could have spun it another way, she thinks, laughed along with them, nudged her in the ribs, made it look like he only asked because he wanted to show the rest of them what a little whore Roxanne is. She’d have winked at him and played along and let him save face.
Ah, well, they can’t all be winners.
GM: Becky Lynne smiles and politely excuses herself. She’s played her part.
“I want to see this up close,” declares Veronica, striding up to Jade’s side. Pietro, Abraham Garcia, Andy Philips, Will Carolla, and Laura Ravenwood all seem to want a closer look too.
Celia: Jade is happy to show the harpy who claims to be her sire. She pulls her phone back out to show Veronica and the assorted others who crowd around her, scrolling through photos as needed. She’s pleased with the turnaround.
Pleased, too, that Carolla came to her and not the other way around. She hadn’t thought to approach him directly, but when he falls so perfectly into her lap… well, she’s never been one to pass up an opportunity. She catches his eye across the little circle.
GM: All of them. All of them laugh. All of them mock.
Where did Jade ever find these?
She doesn’t find it hard to catch the Brujah’s gaze. He’s a strong-jawed and thick-framed young man with brown hair dressed in a dark suit.
“I know some people who might pay big bucks for her as a prostitute, if she’s looking for work,” he remarks with amusement.
Celia: “Mmm, the whole thing was quite by accident, really. My ghoul, you know, he’s very into movies, so apparently when he’s not busy he likes to watch them online, only the thing he was trying to watch wasn’t available on his preferred platform in our country, so he got around that with a VPN, and I guess he forgot to switch it off when he went browsing further because there she was. So he calls over to me, ‘hey don’t you know her?’ and points her out. Naturally I did a little digging, and there it was: tons of past videos. Apparently if you pay enough you can get the models on these sites—yes, really, they call them ‘models’—to do anything, so I thought about what a lark it would be to tell her to fuck a dog, and, well…”
Jade trails off, lifting her shoulders in a shrug.
“I guess when you’re desperate for money you’ll let anyone put something inside of you.”
She smiles at the Brujah. She tells him that she’d love to get together some time to talk about it.
And other things, is the unsaid implication.
GM: Laughter goes up from the clique.
“I suppose she’d be in good company,” Pietro remarks with amusement.
“More like the dog would be in bad company,” sneers Veronica.
“Maybe the dog should get paid,” says Laura.
There’s more laughter.
Carolla remarks with some amusement that he should meet with Roxanne, if they’re talking about ‘work,’ but assents to see Celia later. He’ll have one of “his people” contact hers to schedule a time.
As far as her implication goes, the Brujah looks as if he wouldn’t mind fucking her.
Like almost everyone.
Celia: Almost? What. Who is holding out?
No one she cares about, surely.
She winks at the Brujah and says she’s looking forward to it.
GM: Well, probably Emily and Celia’s mother.
Celia: She hopes so.
Emil too, she bets.
He taught her about VPNs, so he’s on her mind.
GM: If Em were here, he’d probably say the only thing Emil wants to stick his cock inside is a computer port.
Celia: Too true.
She pushes the hacker from her mind, though. He has no bearing on this event. No bearing on the Brujah in front of her who is, decidedly, easy on the eyes. Maybe not the one she wants warming her bed, but she wouldn’t mind ‘getting to know him,’ or whatever the kids are saying these days. She lets her gaze sweep his form one last time, knows he’s doing the same to her. He’s not the only one, either.
Jade smirks up at Veronica, waiting until the harpy and her clique has had their fill to put her phone away.
GM: The others have their laughs and start to drift off into the museum.
“Clementine said you’d called about some filthy little idea running through your filthy little mind,” Veronica remarks.
Celia: “Mhm.” Jade nods once they’re relatively alone, watching the last of them disappear down the halls. Never truly alone, not in a place like this. Ears everywhere, she knows. She turns to regard Veronica with a sly smile.
“I did. I don’t know if it can top the filth that was just shared, though.” Privately, that means. Veronica is coy enough to get the message, she’s sure.
GM: She, Mélissaire, and Savoy had all instructed Jade in that much. Assume anything you say out loud in Elysium will be overheard.
“Probably not, unless you wanted to suck a cock right here.”
Celia: Oh, no, that’s for later.
She’d need a bucket of them, anyway, to outdo her sister.
She says something witty. Something clever. Something that lets her “sire” know, in no uncertain terms, how unlikely that is. It’s not as if she’s ever admitted her perversions to the harpy or engaged in that sort of sexual deviance in front of her. She’s not entirely sure why anyone would think she’d have done so, really. Hadn’t Roderick made that comment a few times, something about Veronica belittling her for it? As if she’d tell. It’s like everything else to do with the blood: she’s perfectly capable of controlling herself.
She doesn’t point out to Veronica that perhaps it’s her reputation that makes the city come down so hard on Jade when the only person Jade has ever admitted it to and engaged in it with is the same boy whose mind she plans on blowing later tonight. If Veronica weren’t such a voracious slut maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to up the ante with her childe.
But fuck her, right?
Regardless, if Veronica doesn’t want to bite then Jade is happy to end their conversation and seek out someone else with whom to spend her evening.
Maybe she’ll find a few cocks to suck while she’s at it. Since apparently that’s all she does.
GM: The harpy seems amenable enough, her caustic words notwithstanding. Both to conversing now and meeting in private later. She does seems amused, though, by her alleged progeny’s soreness.
Celia: The soreness that she didn’t let slip at all because she’s better bred than that, but sure. Veronica’s amused by everything, why not this too.
There’s a smile somewhere in her toolbelt. She reaches for it now. Lets it stretch across her face, lift her eyes, wipe whatever imagined emotions people think they see from her face.
She makes plans to meet with Veronica at a later time.
GM: Jade’s sire takes her leave. Meanwhile, the rest of the exhibition awaits.
GM: She spends a little time observing the exhibits before Laura Ravenwood circles back to her. The other vampire is a slender, pale-skinned woman in seemingly her early 20s with wavy auburn hair. She wears a shape-hugging black silk dress with heels and lipstick that are the same deep red hue as her nail polish.
It’s a comely enough package for the creoles to overlook the Caitiff’s clanless heritage. Enough, at least, to let her into Elysium.
“I heard you talking earlier about why the Egyptians wrapped their mummies, Miss Kalani. You’d said it was to defeat chaos?”
Celia: If Jade is bothered by the Caitiff’s origins it doesn’t show on her face. She offers the same smile she’d give to anyone with a real bloodline.
“Indeed, Miss Ravenwood. The concept of chaos, rather. Their whole society was based around the flooding of the Nile, you see. Every year it would flood at the same time and deliver the sediment and nutrients at the bottom of the river to fertilize their soil. If it were ever to flood too early, too late, or not at all, their whole society would be in shambles. They were obsessed with order. Maintaining things exactly as they are. We see this in their graves and their attitudes towards the afterlife. They thought that by preserving and wrapping their dead it would allow them some measure of control over the decay, which they viewed as another form of chaos.”
“They also,” she adds, “used to use green wrappings, which was symbolic of life to them.”
GM: “Oh, that makes perfect sense,” she nods at the explanation. “I didn’t know they used green wrappings. We think of mummies as having sand-colored ones.”
Celia: “It might have changed over time,” Jade admits, “but when they began the process it was green. Their maps were different back then. You know how kine say ‘up north’ even though north isn’t really up? Back then ‘up’ meant topological.” Which, she realizes, is off topic, and only on her mind because of the mention of maps. She reins it in before she hits lecture mode.
“But they used blue to color the Nile, and green for the fertile area around it, and brown for the area beyond that where there was no life. Green was life. So they used it to fight against death, which they viewed as chaotic.”
“If I’m not mistaken, theirs was among the first cultures to turn death into a business.”
“In that they sold things to help you get into the afterlife or serve you once you were there, I mean. And the things they sold, the things archaeologists found in their graves, suggests that their idea of order persists into the afterlife with them.”
“It was just another way for them to impose order on chaos. Another ritual to keep it at bay.” Much the same as their kind dress up and play this polite charade of art critics to stave off the snarling Beasts inside them all.
GM: “I once read a comic about a high priest who unwrapped a mummy, threw it out of the tomb, wrapped himself up in its bandages, and then killed himself, all so he’d be able to enjoy the same afterlife as his pharaoh.” The Caitiff smiles with amusement. “I doubt something like that actually happened, but when you say they turned the afterlife into a business… it’s only natural some people would want to steal the merchandise.”
“They thought you could take it with them, didn’t they, which was why they buried the pharaohs with so many treasures?”
“Well, entombed them.”
Celia: Jade’s lips twitch in amusement at the mention of the comic.
“It could have happened,” she allows with a grin. “Like stealing someone’s car to make off with whatever they’ve got inside. But yes, even tombs of normal people had things inside of them. Cosmetics, combs, tools, food… things that wouldn’t really help in the afterlife. It’s part of what made the archaeologists and anthropologists believe that their afterlife is exactly like the real world, but better. A step up. Everything tastes, smells, feels better. They thought they would need to take these things with them. They even had these little statues they would buy to serve them in the afterlife, so that they didn’t need to do work.”
GM: “I thought the Egyptians believed in reincarnation, too, after their hearts were judged and they didn’t get eaten? Was all of that essentially just temporary?”
Celia: “Sort of. Their whole view of what it took to get into the afterlife is pretty fascinating and there are a bunch of steps. First, you die. You lose all of your senses. Then there’s a ritual performed on you by Anubis, the opening of the mouth. You’re essentially ‘reborn’ and you regain all of your senses, which I believe is what you’re referring to. Their idea was that you are more ‘alive’ than you were back then. You can see more, hear more.” Sort of like their Kindred senses, she realizes.
“Then you go through 22 gates. Each of the gates is guarded by a god, and you’re asked by the god to give a negative confession. ‘I did not do this thing.’ Scholars aren’t sure if this meant that you needed to stick to a moral code or if you were fine as long as you confessed and repented, but this is one of the first examples of an afterlife we’ve seen where personal choice seems to matter. Between the gates were what is essentially chaos. Scorpions that multiply if you attack them. Beetles that are twenty feet tall. Things that are changed from the natural order. In order to get past these things the people would need spells from the book of the dead, which was just another way for them to make money through all the customization that they could do, to put things back to their natural order. Then the weighing of the hearts. Those who were balanced would move on to the Field of Reeds.”
GM: The more vivid senses bit does sound a lot like Kindred existence.
It seems like an open question, though, what’d happen to her if her heart got weighed.
Laura, though, listens to the impromptu mythology lecture with interest. So do a few other Kindred within nearby earshot.
“I knew the part about evil hearts getting devoured by a monster,” she says. “But good hearts, too? What happened to those?”
Celia: “Well, that’s when we kind of get into the idea of good versus evil. Their idea of evil wasn’t bad acts, it was chaos. So if your heart was balanced, it was ordered, which is good. You got to move on to the Field of Reeds.”
GM: “Oh, that makes sense. What would a person do that was chaotic versus how we’d define evil now, simply not follow cultural norms and keep faith in the gods?”
Celia: “Very similar to what we’d consider evil today, to be honest,” Jade admits. “Their scrolls—the book of the dead—they had these list of negative confessions that they would have to offer to the gods before the gates. If they wronged someone, false feelings, slept around, committed fraud. The basics.” She smiles. “They also apparently had a very dim view on liminal states.”
“That being said, their moral transgressions were not inalienable. Scholars have found tons of graves with these little sculptures, Heart Scarab Beetles, that had phrases carved into the bottom. The gist of it was, ‘heart don’t sell me out when you’re on the scale.’ And the confessions before the gods, the chaos that they fought between the gates, that all helped re-order their hearts.”
“Both of those things were purchases people could make. Their rituals of death became very economics-based.”
GM: “That sounds similar to papal indulgences,” remarks Abraham Garcia, a slender Hispanic man with deep brown eyes, thick black hair, and a large nose.
“Actually, it sounds exactly the same. There’s always plenty forgiveness to spare, so long as it makes somebody a buck.”
Celia: Jade inclines her head toward Garcia. The topic is something a little too hot-button for her to take up in Elysium, of all places—her own opinions smear the church and religion itself pretty hard for all that she’s a member of the Sanctified—but she gives him the benefit, at least, of agreeing.
“It’s a profitable business. Just look at what the kine have done with it. Funeral homes make tons of money for all that they’re selling a box to bury someone in. Even urns get costly.”
GM: “Well, at least those look pretty. People will always spend money on pretty, even if it’s pretty they won’t get to see. But with those scarabs the makers could sell people absolutely nothing at all.”
Celia: “They sold them the idea of eternity.”
“Which, in and of itself, is beautiful.”
GM: “I’m sure it seemed even more beautiful if you were in the scarab business. Who wouldn’t want to sell ideas, rather than material things?”
“The scarabs were material things,” says Laura.
“But only as a means to an idea. I’m sure they made them as cheap as they could.”
Celia: “Of course they did. That’s how a business operates. Is selling an idea any less viable than selling an experience?”
“They’re not tangible things that you can hold onto, experiences, but you can treasure them all the same.”
“So it goes with ideas. If I said to you that I could sell you something for a trivial amount that would assure you a happy unlife, would you not be tempted?”
GM: “There’s no one who wouldn’t be, unless the happiness was predicated on false premises. But I’d probably give you at least 50/50 odds of still getting customers then. People don’t care about truth next to feeling happy.”
Celia: “We do so love our beautiful lies. There are entire industries that have developed due to that intrinsic desire to feel happiness.” Jade offers him a smile. “But I would also concede that those 50/50 odds depend entirely on the speaker.”
GM: “I think it depends on your point of view,” says Laura. “Baudelaire said imagination is the queen of truth. Doesn’t that just seem so exciting, if you think about those words, for the possibilities they open up? Everyone can be a queen. Everyone can enrich the world through their truth.”
“But are you defining truth as an objective measure of reality, or simply what makes you feel satisfied?” asks Roderick Durant. He glances briefly at Jade. “Those are two different things. Everyone likes to throw around ‘truth’ as a rhetorical construct, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what the definition actually is. It’s the measure of reality, nothing more or less.”
“Well, that’s an unpopular view these days,” drawls Garcia. “People like the good Caitiff here are a lot more common. What is there in truth? Where’s the money, the feel-goods? People want whatever makes them feel good. And they feel even better about feeling good if they can find ways to philosophically justify it. To turn their feelings into validation that they’re right about the world. People love feeling right as much as they love feeling good.”
Laura seems to bristle a little, but doesn’t say anything.
Celia: If Jade is bothered by Durant’s sudden appearance it doesn’t show on her face. Her expression stays perfectly neutral at the interjection.
“I might have to say that I disagree with you, Mr. Durant. Truth can be entirely subjective. There are such things as symbolic truths. Shakespeare, for instance, wrote about the truth of family dynamics, war, and romance with Romeo and Juliet. Were they two real people? Is their story objectively true? No. But symbolically? That is truth.”
“And isn’t feeling good, feeling happy, someone’s truth?”
Religion is a symbolic truth. The Bible. Neither of which she will bring up here. Perhaps later they can have their own debate on things that would label her blasphemous.
“Such things would hardly hold up in court, I imagine,” she acknowledges with a smile.
Mr. Durant, though. She can’t think of the last time she called him that. It brings all sorts of things to mind that she shouldn’t dwell on: a wooden ruler, knee-high socks, the plaid skirt in her closet.
One of these nights, she thinks, she’ll learn that mind-to-mind communication trick so she can plague him with these images at times like this when she has to stand across from him and pretend they barely know each other.
GM: Perhaps he’d have his share to plague her back with.
Though maybe she’d win that round. Is her mind dirtier than his?
“Truth is the state of being in accordance with reality,” states Roderick. “Since ‘reality’ encompasses so many things, it’s important to exercise specificity in language. As a historical record, Romeo and Juliet isn’t in accordance with reality. As you say, the characters weren’t real people and the events described never happened. But it does accurately portray the culture and social environment its characters lived in, so by that metric Romeo and Juliet is true. It also contains moral lessons and insights into human nature, though the truth of those is more debatable.”
“But again, when we talk about truth, we have to be specific in our language. Saying ‘happiness is in accordance with reality, which we define as truth’ means absolutely nothing when you pause to deconstruct it. Mr. Garcia is, unfortunately, right that many people would rather feel better about themselves than know more of truth.”
“Well, you can’t blame them either,” says Garcia. “Everyone likes that metaphor of ‘truth as light,’ but it’s a damn painful light. Who wants to burn their eyes when it’s nice and cool in the dark?”
“If you’re blind either way, I’d rather be blinded by truth than lies,” says Roderick.
“Truth can be painful. But we can grow accustomed to pain, and to excessive light.”
“Ironic that all of us can see in the dark so well,” observes Laura with a faint smirk.
Garcia laughs. “It’s not ironic. God knows truth has even fewer adherents among us than among the kine.”
Celia: Jade tilts her head to one side. He’d said something similar to her once about preferring truth to beauty. Then he’d smashed her face in when she’d given it to him. He’s doing it again now with the wilful ignorance in which he regards his sire.
“I believe we’ve circled back to the preference of beautiful lies and ugly truths.”
Ah, truth to beauty, she gets it now. By attacking her he’d made his thoughts clear. He’d ruined her face and no more. The pretty thing about her.
“Though I suppose,” she says at length, “that the real determining factor is how much pain an individual will weather when their truthful light would ruin a beautiful lie.”
GM: “I imagine you’d suffer any amount of pain for the truth, isn’t that right, Mr. Durant?” asks Garcia. He isn’t quite leering, but there os a look approximating one on his face.
“That makes it sound more heroic than it is,” answers Roderick. "Lies are their own pain. "
“Only if you find out they’re lies,” observes Garcia.
“Truth always comes out.”
“Were you in the Boy Scouts?”
“Oh, no reason.” There’s a faint grin on Garcia’s face.
Celia: He knows something.
Jade doesn’t know what it is that he knows, but she’d like to find out. Her expression mirrors her clanmate’s, amusement tugging at her lips while she watches the exchange.
GM: “What about you, Mr. Garcia? How much pain would you suffer for truth?” asks Roderick.
“Miss Ravenwood and Miss Kalani, I think, would prefer beautiful lies. I may disagree with their values, but I can respect their consistency. I’m less certain where you fall.”
“Mm. I suppose it’d depend on the lie and how beautiful it was,” answers Garcia.
Celia: “I would ask that you not speak for me, Mr. Durant, as my preference depends entirely on the speaker and the situation.”
“Were it someone that I don’t care about or would never see again, then beauty would suffice. Were it someone I respected or felt some measure of affection for?”
“Truth, then. Always truth.”
GM: “I’d say that too,” agrees Laura. “Most of the time, I’d prefer beauty. But every time? Some lies can be too harmful, even if they’re beautiful.”
“Life is shades of grays, when it comes down to it. I don’t think any of us can say we’d always prefer truth or always prefer lies without being dishonest.”
Celia: “Those of us who do are simply lying to ourselves.”
GM: “Maybe so,” Roderick grants. “But there’s appeal in that sort of purity.”
Celia: “Is it appealing? There is a saying about trees that have learned how to bend so they do not break. Can the same not be said of us? After all, the plants that learn to flourish in various climates are those that would outlast the others.”
GM: “They might. But are those trees the tallest ones, that inspire so many others with their majesty?”
Celia: Her smile flickers, the retort dying on her tongue. To delve into this topic is too akin to bad-mouthing those mighty “trees” in public, and that is something she cannot do.
“I recall learning in grade school about the different levels of the rain forest. How each of them adapted to their position in certain ways. The flora at the bottom have giant leaves to soak up what little sunshine filters through. Is that not also majestic?”
GM: “I’d say it’s efficient and successful at adapting to its environment. But majestic? That word makes me think of soaring trees.”
Celia: Jade bites back the insult to his clan. She takes a moment to consider her response, eyes sweeping toward the floor before finding his face once more. She looks up at him through long, black lashes.
“Perhaps beauty is simply in the eye of the beholder, Mr. Durant. Personally I find it compelling when things can thrive in otherwise hostile or derelict environments.”
As much as Jade wouldn’t mind passing her evening engaged in debate with Roderick, she has other people with whom she needs to speak. This exchange of words is doing neither of them any good: not only are they unlikely to change their minds and must bandy their words with care, but they shouldn’t be so publicly amiable. She also fully intends to spend the remainder of her evening debating the merits of various surfaces in her haven with him. Wordlessly.
She inclines her head toward Roderick and Ravenwood, thanking the latter for the conversation with an invitation to continue their discussion of mythology at a future date, and the former for his lively debate. She turns to regard Garcia.
“Will you walk with me, Lord Garcia?”
She hopes that their shared covenant will prevent him from snubbing her.
GM: The other two Kindred exchange parting pleasantries and take their leaves.
“I’ll never say no to a sexy lady’s company, Miss Kalani,” her clanmate smirks. “I wonder what those pieces are, over there.” He points. “They look like… brooms?”
Celia: It’s not that she goes out of her way to put a little extra sway in her step. She’s always sashayed like this. Really. It has nothing to do with Roderick watching her go, arm in arm with her clanmate.
Her eyes follow Garcia’s pointing, brows lifting at the sight of… broom heads. She lifts her brows.
“Perhaps there’s more to it than meets the eye from over here. Shall we?”
Jade leads or lets him lead the way, making idle commentary on the other pieces that they pass. Her eyes roam the halls even as she speaks, searching the faces of those licks who remain. She looks for her sire. Her true sire, not the woman whose blood she claims.
She turns the conversation around as they walk, spinning it back toward Durant and Ravenwood. More idle commentary on the art around them, though it relates back to the subjects they had just been speaking of. Finally, she says,
“I wasn’t aware you and he were well acquainted.” A question colors her voice despite the lack of upward inflection at the end of her sentence.
GM: “We aren’t, personally, but I still know him fairly well.”
There’s a sardonic leer.
“He’s an idealist.”
Celia: Jade’s lips curl, an amused smirk gliding across her face.
“And what are you?”
GM: “Someone with open eyes.”
Celia: They reach the things that look like brooms. Jade tilts her head in quiet examination, finally flicking her eyes back toward Garcia.
“What do you see?”
GM: He shrugs. “I’m a photographer. Broomheads against a wall. Good shot, though if it wasn’t a good shot in a museum, the people responsible should be fired.”
“Symbolically, a look up close at domestic labor.”
“The silent worth and dignity inherent to the work.”
“A look up close at daily existence for the migrant maids in our houses.”
“I don’t think that’s what it’s actually ‘supposed’ to be about, to the artist, but what fucking ever. Stick some broomheads on a wall and you’ll get different opinions.”
Celia: She manages to contain her peal of laughter. It isn’t hard, being dead, but she touches her fingers to her lips anyway as if it might be stolen from her.
GM: He smirks. “So what do you see?”
GM: “You should forget being a makeup artist. Be a broom artist. Stick a plaque saying ‘Disillusion’ under those and they’ll still mean a million things to people.”
“But a different million.”
Celia: She wasn’t talking about the brooms. But she smiles all the same.
“That’s the appeal of art, I believe.”
“The fact that it is subjective.”
She thinks, though, that her own art is less subjective, and perhaps his as well.
“I have seen some of your work, you know. Pictures are a thousand words and all that…” she pauses, offering him a small, private smile. “Yours, though, perhaps more.”
Unlike the elders of their clan, she does think photography is a valid format.
GM: Garcia smiles back. “That’s why I prefer photography. There’s subjectivity, but it’s over something tangible. Look at the picture of the lonely pretty girl. Is she ‘sad’ lonely, is she ‘wants to fuck’ lonely, or is she not actually lonely. How does the shot composition change which she seems like.”
Celia: “That is the trouble with those who simply pick up a camera to point and click, is it not? They give no thought to composition, framing, or lighting.”
“So we are inundated with photos, particularly now with the move to digital media, that fail to tell a story or move its viewers.”
She lifts one shoulder, a half-shrug to go with her wry smile. Perhaps she is wrong. She is, after all, one of those would-be photographers who takes pictures of her face to plaster them across the Internet.
“Have you dabbled in film at all?”
GM: “Sure. Digital didn’t exist when I started out. Everyone shot with film. Lots of photographers these days are all saying how great it is and how people should at least try shooting both to get a complete picture of photography as a practice.”
Celia: “My apologies, I meant more film in line with movies.”
GM: “Nope. Photography and movies are as different as drawing and sculpture. One uses two dimensions. The other uses three.”
“But as far as Facebook pictures, I don’t see those being less intelligent as a problem.”
“Any more than you probably see non-professionals being able to use makeup in their own homes as a problem.”
Celia: “How selfish of me if I did.”
GM: “Sexy women are always a little selfish.”
“Or a lot.”
Celia: That earns a smile.
“I hope you won’t tell on me.”
GM: “I’d rather show.”
She feels a hand idly caress her rear.
Celia: Expected. But thrilling, isn’t it, to know she can wrap them so quickly around her fingers. All the same, she’s too aware of how public this scene is, too aware of her lover in the next room, to let this go any further than what could be perceived as an accidental touch. She takes a tiny step closer, putting her hand on his shoulder as if to steady herself.
It tugs at her. The bond she has recently renewed with Roderick. She hardly thinks that canoodling here with Garcia is going to do any favors for her in that regard, despite how it adds to their cover. This is who Jade is: flirty, sexy, social butterfly, flitting from group to group, chatting and laughing and touching. It’s who she has been for years. It’s who they expect to see.
Not monogamy. Does he expect it from her still? They hadn’t had that talk. She thinks that he does. She blames him, really, for this show here in the corner with Garcia. If he hadn’t approached, hadn’t spoken to her, she wouldn’t have had to move off with someone else. But people watching—people are always watching—will know that the Brujah means nothing to her. Safer that way, even if it threatens to pull apart that thing in the middle of her chest.
She could whisper the words that Garcia expects to hear. Agreement. Encouragement. They would fall from her lips like the well-practiced lies that they are. After all, she’s played this game for a long time. She knows what to say to get their blood pumping, even if it’s a forced gesture from their kind.
She could, but she doesn’t.
After a brief moment Jade extricates herself from Garcia, giggling about public spaces.
GM: “Hate to see you leave, but love to watch you go,” he smirks after her.
Jade leaves and goes to find her grandsire. She finds him conversing with Coco Duquette over a piece of art depicting a chained man struggling to burst the links of his fetters. The two elders’ faces are smiles (wider in Savoy’s case), but beneath the surface meanings and artistic critiques, one can see their debate over the meaning of the man’s struugle is a battle of words over whether Vidal’s reign can hope to endure. Whether its ‘chains’ will be shattered by time and struggle. Spectators from both sides of the political divide watch the debate avidly.
“With respect, my lord, this debate accomplishes little,” Preston interjects. “We hide behind nuances and doubletalk when we should simply say what we mean: the prince has slaughtered over a dozen Kindred on the last occasion he went out in public. How many more unlives will he destroy before torpor claims him?”
Scandalized looks and furtive whispers greet the Malkavian’s open declaration.
Savoy raises his eyebrows.
The French Quarter lord offers her several conversational outs to downplay the severity of her words. Preston ignores them all, stating, “We all know it. An archon was even here for several nights. The justicars sent North to evaluate the situation. Even they believe things have gotten out of hand under Prince Vidal’s rule. If we do not resolve the situation, a justicar may do it for us.”
Louder sounds of offense go up at the Malkavian’s words.
Pierpont McGinn raises his eyebrows and smirks at his lover Adelais.
Celia: Ballsy, some part of her thinks.
Suicidal, whispers another.
Amongst the crowd, Jade watches the play between Savoy and his steward, biting her tongue to keep from interjecting her unwanted neonate opinion into… into what, she’s not sure. A ploy to make Savoy look more moderate? A sacrificial offering of the Malkavian to the powers-that-be?
She doubts that this is anything but scripted.
GM: The scent of blood in the water, though, swiftly draws sharks. Marguerite and Veronica both appear alongside Adelais. Benson and Doriocourt bring up the rear guard. It’s just as two of the harpies begin to ‘converse’ with Preston that Savoy interjects, and calmly brings up how the Malkavian has some pressing civic affairs in the French Quarter to attend to—he supposes he’ll be joining her shortly as well.
Preston mutely inclines her head and departs the Elysium.
Whispers blossom up like weeds in her wake.
Celia: Her desires with the halls of Elysium suddenly seem less pressing than the bomb that Savoy and Preston just dropped upon the city’s Kindred.
And here she is with the detonator.
She watches Preston go, listening to the buzz of whispers around her, watching the faces of the Kindred in the crowd to find those who seem more receptive than derisive of the Malkavian’s bold words. It would be easy to titter with the others and make “she’s finally showing her crazy” jokes, but Jade has another play in mind.
At last she turns to the lick who stands beside her, one Reynaldo Gui, and says to him the words that are sure to have even more people talking.
“I hope he isn’t too harsh with her. When I met with Archon North he implied the same.” Quietly, but who is she kidding? This is Elysium. Everyone hears everything in Elysium.
GM: True to Jade’s expectation, quite a few Kindred are tittering and making “finally showing her crazy” jokes. Some are wittier than others. Adelais’ icy barbs and Marguerite’s droll observations both draw laughter. Elmhearst’s mean cracks draw less. Roderick rationally points out that Preston is as crazy as any other Malk. A few members of the Moon Clan seem indignant, but they’re mostly younger ones. Harlequin only titters and makes references as to Preston’s “enlightenment.” The older ones never see their crazy as a curse.
Gui raises an eyebrow. “Oh, you met the archon?”
Nearby Kindred talking amongst themselves make only the vaguest pretense of not listening in over that tidbit.
Celia: Jade doesn’t make a spectacle of nodding. The movement itself is tiny, as if she doesn’t realize that others are listening.
“I did. He asked to meet with me.” She’d positively preen if she weren’t in the middle of Elysium. As it is, she doesn’t even allow herself a satisfied smile. “We had a very illuminating discussion. We met in Faubourg Marigny, at the Carnival Club.” Sundown’s domain. Neutral territory. “Have you been there? It’s lovely.” Idle words, or a glowing recommendation.
GM: “I have. The Afterhours King knows how to throw a party.” The Ventrue smiles faintly. “You also thought the archon was there to evaluate the city’s situation for the Camarilla?”
Celia: Jade leans in, lowering her voice further.
“He mentioned that he was interested in taking action against a problem in the city.”
GM: That draws even more glances and whispers.
“He left pretty soon afterwards,” says Gui. “The Tremere seem like they have a lot on their minds these days, I suppose. Maybe there’ll be another archon.”
“Or maybe he addressed the problem already,” speculates Anthony Brodowski.
Celia: “Perhaps,” Jade says to Anthony. “Only, well… he was most eager to meet with Lord Savoy, and it was so soon before he left…”
It’s clear by her tone, though: whatever drew the Tremere archon away from the city, it wasn’t that the issue was dealt with.
GM: “So he wanted to meet with Lord Savoy. But I don’t think he met with the prince, did he?” asks Gui.
“It’s possible they did in private,” says Brodowski.
“That would be quite the snub if our prince didn’t,” says Gui.
“It’s also possible North isn’t an archon any longer. There’d be no snub then,” says Brodowski.
Celia: “I doubt the prince wanted to meet with him after how he greeted Lord Savoy.” Right in the center of Elysium, for the whole city to hear: Lord.
After all, if the prince let off a known headhunter simply because he was a clanmate and old friend and searches for any excuse to slaughter his enemies under the vaguest of pretenses, why would he care about offending an archon?
There’s a word for that. It starts with “tyrant.”
“Besides,” she continues, “he was looking for an assistant specifically within the city. I highly doubt that’s the sort of thing an ex-archon needs.”
What’s that called? Server? Servant?
Servire. That’s the one.
GM: “The prince still granted North permission to remain in the city on a provisional basis,” says Brodowski. “I don’t think he was happy over the breach in etiquette, but it was a more measured response than simply throwing him out. Or doing what the Southron Lords did and shipping pieces of him back to his justicar by railroad.”
“Mmm,” Gui agrees noncommittally. “A servire, though? That’s interesting. I wonder who he had his eye on.”
The Ventrue smiles like it’s not obvious. A few more Kindred talking among themselves try not to look equally obvious in their glances towards Jade.
Celia: She knew she liked the cowboy for a reason.
She smiles prettily for him, making the same sort of noncommittal sound at Anthony’s words.
GM: “I don’t envy them,” says Brodowski. “Tremere archons blood bond all of their servires.”
“Whoever they might serve before, they serve the Tremere clan after they swear their oath.”
Celia: Jade slides her tongue across the long fangs in her mouth, as if she doesn’t mind the thought of sinking them into the very, very handsome archon she’d took a spin on the dance floor with.
He’s reaching, anyway. The archons bond their ghouls. And the servires generally only serve for a specific instance.
But whatever makes the little boy happy, she supposes.
“I guess that prospect should make the most of their remaining time as a free agent.” Sarcasm? From Jade? Never.
Jade turns an appraising eye to Gui. She lifts a brow, head canting to one side. Her eyes flick toward the exit. “I suppose we’ll hear all about it tomorrow. But if you’re free this evening…”
Tomorrow. Lord Savoy’s Elysia. In case the licks behind any of those not-so-subtle looks directed her way want to swing by and see what passes for a fun time in the Quarter.
GM: It’s rare that Lord Savoy’s court fails to draw invitees, but perhaps tomorrow it will draw still more.
“I can always find time for a beautiful woman,” smiles Gui. He nods towards his clanmate. “Mr. Brodowski, a pleasure as always.”
“Likewise, Mr. Gui, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: “Good evening, Mr. Brodowski.” Jade inclines her head toward the Ventrue, a pleasant smile on her lips. It widens when she returns her gaze to Gui and the two of them start toward the door.
GM: She espies Roderick and Abraham Garcia engaged in a debate over an art piece as they leave. It sounds heated.
Onlookers watch with looks amusement and entertainment.
Celia: Interesting indeed.
Jade gives a gentle tug on Gui’s arm, nodding toward the bickering couple. She smirks at him, lifting her brows in amusement, and drifts that way.
GM: He looks equally amused and drifts over to watch. Roderick does not look happy at the mafioso’s presence, but doesn’t let it distract him from Garcia as the verbal arrows fly.
Things start to get personal when Roderick accuses the Toreador (in barely veiled terms) of being a sellout who’s compromised all his principles and Garcia accuses the Brujah of being a privileged elder’s pet.
Celia: She should have expected this.
Maybe she did expect this.
Because it’s not as if she doesn’t know what this is about: Garcia grabbing her ass. She’d wondered what would come of it. Had expected a private argument between the pair of them later this evening. Maybe a beating. But the way Roderick is going on… she sees the logical end result: challenging Garcia to a duel.
Some part of her is flattered. Isn’t this every girl’s fantasy, a boy she likes challenging another boy over her? Her honor, or his honor, or someone’s honor.
In her dreams it had always been Roderick and her sire, and the winner would get to have her hand in marriage.
Her dreams are very sexist and archaic like that.
She supposes that Gui’s presence does little to calm the Brujah. She wishes he were anyone else. And that there weren’t any harpies around to watch this little tiff. But she does what she can, because she loves the poor sap arguing in front of her, and she’s not going to let him get humiliated if he loses to Garcia.
“I love their passion,” Jade murmurs to Gui. “What do you think has him all riled up? Do you think it’s a lover’s spat? Something like that I’d save for the bedroom, but… well, this is terribly amusing.”
She rakes her gaze down the Brujah’s form.
“I heard,” she continues to the Ventrue, “that he recently took out a whole cell of hunters by himself. Middle of the day and everything.”
That asshole Chris had been all but crowing about it to anyone that would listen.
Her tongue runs along the sharp points of her fangs. Maybe she’s thinking about asking him to show her what’s underneath that suit of his.
GM: She supposes her mom and dad would both approve of those dreams.
Well, her dad would probably still find something wrong with them.
Celia: That’s okay, Savoy walks her down the aisle and gives her away in those dreams.
GM: Laughter goes up from some nearby Kindred. Some eyes cut towards the present harpy, Katherine Beaumont.
“I didn’t figure them for an item,” Tina Baker remarks amusedly.
“Opposites attract,” says Frank Larsen.
“Oh, it’s true, he did,” remarks Amaryllis DeCuir, who was has not directly spoken to her pretend-sister since before the trial. “Whole cell of hunters. Jumped him in his haven and everything.”
“Did you, neonate? Tell us of this,” Katherine Beaumont requests.
“Yes, let’s hear it in Elysium if it’s already being told on the streets,” echoes Elyse Benson.
Roderick doesn’t look thrilled to be put on the spot, but goes on, “So it started when…”
Maxzille Babineaux approaches her sire and starts talking him with about other art. He takes the window to avoid a duel with the angry Brujah.
Gui smirks and heads off, clearly expecting Jade to follow if she’s already heard the story.
Elyse’s eyes briefly meet Jade’s before returning to Roderick’s.
Celia: She’d give a nod to Elyse on her way out, but the Malkavian has wanted to keep their association under the radar.
GM: She’d said the maintenance work on Lucy would be done soon.
Celia: Jade will need to pencil in a visit, then. She misses the doll something fierce.
Satisfied, Jade leaves Roderick to look like the hero while she slinks away, content with her role with… well, whatever this makes her.
GM: Perhaps a puppeteer. Someone who pulls strings from the shadows, where no one can see and no one can hurt her, because to do good is to look weak.
Perhaps that simply makes her another Kindred.
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