" have done more than enough to help this family already."
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
Celia: Celia does not delay further. She leaves the room, trusting that Pete is going to do right by Lucy with what they talked about, and slips into the night to cross the tiny courtyard and knock on Emily’s door.
GM: Pete takes out his phone, but looks like he’s staying where he is in the living room.
A very groggy-looking Emily opens her door a few moments after Celia knocks.
Celia: “I’m sorry for keeping you up,” Celia says, “but we need to speak. It’s urgent. Can I come in?”
GM: Emily rubs her head and steps aside. “’Kay. Sure.”
“Should we wake up Mom?”
Celia: She’ll be mad if she wakes up and Emily is a ghoul. Mad if she wakes up and Emily is dead. Mad if she wakes up and Emily is Embraced.
“Probably,” Celia sighs, “but there’s company here and I’m on thin ice.”
What kind of lick can’t make their own decisions and has to ask their mom for help? All the same, she wants it. Their situation is highly unusual, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just different.
“I’d prefer to let her sleep. She’s been through enough tonight.”
GM: Emily takes that all in.
“Okay, what’s the situation?”
Celia: Celia steps inside and closes the door behind her. She gestures for Emily to have a seat.
“The warden is here to alter Lucy’s memories of the past two nights. He is doing me a huge favor at no cost. But he knows about you. And he has agreed to keep it to himself so long as I do the right thing. I am going to offer you my blood so that you become a ghoul, like Mom. I will tell absolutely no one what you are, and you will tell absolutely no one what you are. I can give you a mark to hide it.”
“I will teach you what I know. I will show you how to shift. I will share my knowledge of the body with you and allow you to do the things that I can do. I will not treat you as a ghoul, but as my sister. I will not ask anything of you that you are not willing to do. I will protect you. Your life will not be interrupted or put in further danger. If you decide you want to see what vampire society is like, I will create a new identity and cover for you. If you don’t, I will not force it on you.”
“Tomorrow evening I will search for the alchemists and learn how to dilute the addictive properties of the blood so that there are no complications to your life or chosen path.”
She halts, turning toward her sister.
“Emily,” she says softly, “this isn’t an ideal situation. The alternative is death or memory loss.”
GM: “Wait a second,” Emily says slowly. Her face is very wary.
“We had a whole conversation about this. About blood being vampire heroin. About not wanting to be a drug addict.”
“I don’t know a lot about all of… this, Celia. Your whole world. But I saw the way Mom looked at that blood.”
Celia: “In any other domain I would already be on my way to the executioner’s block and you would be put down. He has given me a chance to do right by you.”
GM: “Don’t care,” Emily answers stubbornly. “Let’s find another option.”
“What’s behind door #3, memory loss?”
Celia: “He’d make you forget all of this. You wouldn’t know why Mom suddenly found her spine. You wouldn’t know why I’m never around. I’d resume lying to you about my activities. I’d distance myself from you to avoid anything like this happening again.”
GM: “But I thought you told me all this because there was just so much weirdness and you figured I’d put something together…?”
“I didn’t fucking believe it when Mom found her spine. People don’t change on a dime like that. They just don’t.”
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around how exactly that happened.”
Celia: “I’d like to be able to share that with you. All of it. Everything. Which is why I’m offering you the blood instead of asking him to erase it. But you’re right. You might figure it out again. So I’d… I’d probably stop coming around. In a few months or years I might fake my death. You wouldn’t have anything to question after that.”
“It’s what most of us do. What I should have done.”
GM: “…Celia, that is incredibly fucked up to ask me to pick between losing you and starting a drug habit,” says Emily. Her voice actually sounds a little choked.
“Like. Seriously one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever heard.”
Celia: “My other option is to watch them kill you,” Celia says quietly.
GM: “Then maybe we can come up with some other options.”
“Like, okay, the warden very thoughtfully wants me to get started on vampire heroin.”
“Why not just lie to him?”
Celia: “Because he’s a warlock and has ways of ferreting out the truth.”
GM: “Does he want me to take a drug test? Piss in a cup and see if if it pings yes for vampire heroin?”
Celia: “No, Emily. He won’t need to. He’ll read your mind. He’ll take your blood. He’ll read the psychic impressions in this room to see that we’d talked about lying to him.”
GM: “Do we know for sure he’s gonna do all those things?”
Celia: “Ordinarily, I’d say no. But this time? Yes. He’ll make sure I’ve done it.”
GM: “So can we fool him?”
“Because you can fool drug tests.”
“And I’ll admit there’s a lot here I don’t know, but is he seriously going to do three separate tests on me?”
“Like, is it much time or hassle or money to do them all?”
“Even a $30 drug test is a pain in the ass if you’re shelling out $90 and collecting extra piss samples for three tests. Lot of people just won’t do that.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head. “He won’t need to do all three. Even one of them will suffice.”
GM: “Okay, so can we fool one?”
“Like, give him Mom’s blood or something else?”
Celia: Lie to the warden. Lie to her grandsire. Lie again. Pick her kine family over her blood family. Pick breathers over her covenant. Show them that they’re right not to trust her.
Betray her family.
“Emily,” Celia says gently, “I know you’re scared about becoming addicted. I will do everything I am capable of doing and look into every avenue and path and pay anything I need to pay in order to prevent that from happening. I won’t let this interrupt your life.”
Celia squeezes her hand.
“My grandsire has a claim to the throne,” she continues in a quiet voice. “Once he becomes prince he’ll be in charge of the entire city. If you want to join me as a lick I will ask for permission and do it the right way. We’ll find you the proper sire and you won’t need to worry about being hunted down as a bastard. And if you don’t want that, we won’t.”
“I love you, Emi. I’m asking you to trust me. Please.”
GM: “Celia…” Emily says slowly, “I do trust you. I love you, too. But you didn’t actually answer my question.”
“Can we fool a drug test?”
“Or, that thing you did earlier. Where you found out my memories had been… fucked with, and got them back.”
“Could we just do that again?”
Celia: They could. She hasn’t told anyone about the memory manipulation she can do. Pete has no reason to suspect that she’s able to bypass his ability to steal memories.
She’s thought about telling him. About offering her services as interrogator should they ever need it. Another useful trick in her grandsire’s arsenal.
So far she hasn’t mentioned it. Just to Durant, who blew her off and hadn’t believed her anyway.
“It is possible to fool a drug test,” Celia says hesitantly, “but it’s not guaranteed and there will be no second chance. I’m unwilling to risk your life on a chance. But I have… another idea. A compromise, of sorts.”
GM: “Okay, what’s your idea?”
“And what would happen if we failed to fool the drug test?”
Celia: “You’d be killed or forced into becoming a ghoul anyway.”
“Probably someone else’s.”
“Who would use and abuse you as they saw fit.”
GM: “Wow, fuck that.”
“Fuck this warden guy, too.”
Celia: “If there was no risk of addiction, would you consent to becoming a ghoul?”
GM: “Uh, sure, but you said this stuff was stronger than heroin.”
“And you can’t use heroin recreationally. It’s just too addictive.”
“The line between recreational drug use and drug addiction can be really blurry anyways.”
Celia: “He’s actually one of the nice ones,” Celia says, “and has helped me out of plenty of terrible situations in the past. If I hadn’t…” Celia cuts herself off before she accepts another invitation to a pity party. “It’s my fault we’re in this mess. Not his. He’s just doing his job, and he’s being more lenient and merciful than I deserve.”
GM: “Yeah, well, you’ll forgive if I don’t share your glowing assessment right now.”
“’Cuz he could always just choose not to do his job.”
Celia: “He might have once. But I created this problem.”
“I’m going to have him remove your memories with the caveat that I will unlock them if I can find a way to make the blood not addictive. I will find a way to stay in your life even if you don’t know about me being a lick. Is that fair to you?”
GM: “Uh, how likely is it that you could make the blood non-addictive?”
“But, okay, you don’t want to fake your death even if I forget all of this?”
Celia: “Same probability that vampires are real and I can turn into a cat and others can fly.” Celia shrugs. “Anything is possible.”
“But I won’t fake my death even if you forget.”
“If I can’t make it work, if I can’t make you a ghoul without the risk of addiction, I’ll stick around anyway and just be extra careful.”
GM: Perhaps another’s eyes and ears would be fooled.
Celia’s are not.
Her mother might be pretending otherwise, but she is awake and listening.
Celia: Celia could pretend, too. Say she hadn’t realized. Lie again, let this fester, try to hide it.
Or stop running like a coward at the first sign of dissension and face things head on.
“That sound okay to you, Mom?”
GM: Celia’s mother slowly gets up.
“Oh, Mom, we didn’t want to wake y…” starts Emily.
“This was worth waking for,” Diana says heavily.
“We are not putting Emily on the blood. Not unless you find a proven way to make it non-addictive. I don’t know if that’s possible or not. Right now, it sounds like not. It’s out of our hands.”
“Right, that was my thought too,” says Emily.
“I don’t know if this is going to just be as easy as telling Emily to forget,” says their mother.
“I listened good with Caroline. She said the things vampires can do, to erase memories, can’t erase feelings. That was why we needed a story about the cats getting sick with Lucy.”
Celia: “I had a cover for Emily planned.”
GM: “What’s that?”
“Because, sweetie, Emily has been on an absolute rollercoaster of feelings.”
Celia: “We got into an argument on Friday night when Henry came over for dinner. I found out that she and Stephen slept together. I got mad, accused her of being a whore, then fired her.”
GM: “Uh, that’d definitely inspire some… strong feelings,” says Emily.
“I’d have probably said fuck you, I’m graduating in a couple months anyway, I’m gonna start my residency this summer.”
“Is that the best you got?”
Celia: “It will damage our relationship. You’ll think I’m a drama queen and better not to be around. I’ll keep my distance. Lucy will be safe. You’ll be safe. In a few months we’ll move past it. You’ll have used it as an excuse to drink heavily and blur the past few nights. Mom’s change is explained by watching us fight.”
GM: “Nah, I wouldn’t get smashed over that. I’d want to rub in your face how little it meant to get fired from a job I’d have had to leave anyway.”
“Girls, do not start a fight over a pretend fight,” their mother says dryly.
Celia: “Did you?” Celia asks, head canted to one side. “Did you sleep with him?”
GM: “Girls,” Diana repeats.
“Have that out later if you want to.”
Celia: “We broke up. He put me in a microwave. Cut my arm off. Tried to make me sign over my assets. Called me stupid. Made me watch him fuck someone else.” Celia shrugs. “So I’m just curious now.”
GM: “Wait, what?!” says Emily.
Diana stares at those words with a very stern look.
“Wow,” says Emily. “Jesus. I’m sorry I introduced you to him. I really thought he was a decent guy.”
Celia: “He was. I loved him. He loved me. But I cheated on and lied to him, among other things going wrong.” Celia shrugs. “Long story, I’ll tell you some night. Right now we need to figure out you.”
GM: “He is no longer welcome in this house,” says Diana.
“And yes. As horrific as all that sounds, right now we need to work out how to stop something horrific from happening to Emi.”
“I am not an expert on… what do you even call this. How vampires invade people’s heads and change their memories.”
Celia: “Stiffs call it the lordly voice. Since, you know, they run the circles and all, makes them feel powerful and in charge. Mesmerism. Domination. I mostly just call it mindfucking or mind control.”
GM: “Okay. Mind control. I am not an expert on mind control-”
“I prefer mindfucking,” says Emily.
“-so, do you think that story would work?” asks Diana. “Stop it from being ‘a scab’ Emily would keep picking at?”
Celia: “Probably. I’ll say some hurtful things, like that I seduced Robby or something, things that are obvious lies. So the disbelief she’s been feeling will have some basis.”
GM: “Well, having a bad fight with you doesn’t sound fun,” says Emily. “And… so does forgetting all of this, honestly. This side of you. Everything you’ve told me. I want to remember it. The shit you did with your body, yeah, and the fact that vampires and god knows what else is real, but also just… this side of you, like I said. It felt like we were growing apart and didn’t really talk anymore. You were never around, except for work or family dinners, and we weren’t really just hanging out. I thought you were purging and not telling me about it. I mean, things were good between us, it just… felt like we were moving apart. Not being sisters who could tell each other anything. Getting drunk with you and prank-calling Stephen together was just really fun and I don’t want to lose that.”
Emily looks a bit sad at that.
Maybe more than a bit.
No, definitely more than a bit.
“But going back to how things used to be sounds better than developing a heroin habit.”
Celia: “I’m sorry,” Celia says quietly. “I… I messed up, Emily. Mom. I messed up big. I wish I hadn’t messed up and that you could keep your memories and stay human. I’m sorry that you’re paying for my mistakes.”
GM: Her mom rubs her back. “We’re making the best of a bad situation, sweetie. However we can.”
“Though what if we just tell this warden ‘no’?”
“Fair point,” says Emily. “I mean, we could just tell him to pound sand. What happens?”
Celia: “The warden is Pete, Mom.”
GM: “Doesn’t change a thing.”
“I liked him, when we met him, and I appreciate what he did for us, but Emi will always come first.”
“I bet that’s where you’d say ‘I did not give birth to him’, but you can’t say that about me, can you?” smirks Emily, slinging an arm around her mom.
“Lookit me, ruining all your good lines being adopted.”
Celia: “Best case scenario? He does it anyway. Worst case, he brings me in, locks me up, executes Emily, turns you over to a new domitor, I die… you know, fun things.”
“I’ve become a headache,” she says bleakly, “you don’t generally give them the benefit of the doubt after they mess up.”
GM: Whatever smile Diana might have managed at Emily’s words dies utterly with Celia’s.
“So what if we stop him?”
“You said these vampire groups were like gangs, though,” says Emily. “Does he have many buddies?”
Celia: “Yes. He does. He works for my grandsire. My grandsire controls the Quarter.”
“If we stop him, if I use lethal force, then we’re all dead.”
“They hunt us down.”
“He knows who I am. He knows my other identities. He knows I can shift.”
“If I weren’t blood, I have no doubt my grandsire would have put me down for messing up already.”
GM: “All right, that kinda sounds like a lot to bite off and I’ll admit I have no idea what we’d be getting into,” says Emily.
Diana’s eyes just look flinty. Her spine looks tall and stiff.
“Mom. You can back down or fight another day without being a doormat again,” Emily tells her quietly.
Celia: “I just need to show them they can trust me again. Things will go back to normal. They’ll get better. I won’t… won’t be afraid of constantly making mistakes anymore.”
GM: “I don’t like backing down from anything,” says their mom, frankly. “But if both of you think that is for the best… I will relent. And not stand up to the warden.”
Her eyes do not look pleased at the concession.
Emily rubs her shoulder.
“Sometimes it’s enough to know you have the guts to stand up. Even if you choose not to.”
Her mom makes a noncommittal sound at that.
“So, okay. It sounds like this… mindfucking thing will work,” says Emily. “And that it’s a better option than, you know, heroin or dying.”
“Just, two more other options I’m mulling over.”
“One, could you just do that… whatever you did earlier, and un-fuck my head later?”
Celia: “If we give it enough time to blow over, yes.”
GM: “Okay,” says Emily. “That sounds to me like a good option.”
She looks at Celia.
“Are you okay with it, though? Do you want to share this side of yourself with me?”
Celia: “I’d love to share this side of myself with you. I’d love to be able to tell you everything. I’m scared you’ll get hurt and that I’ll ruin your life and that I’ll die because I can’t keep my mouth shut, but… I imagine a future where we… maybe you become a lick with me and we do amazing things together, or maybe you become a ghoul and we still do amazing things and when you decide to move on you do. Or maybe you just stay human and you have a million kids and you know that someone will always be looking out for them. That Aunt Celia will pull strings and keep them safe.”
“Yes. Of course. Of course I want you to know me.”
GM: Emily rubs her back. “Yeah. I know I want kids with Robby. Lucy’s been a joy.”
“Though… between her and maybe now Abigail,” she adds with a glance to the sleeping infant, “I could go without popping out any of my own.”
“Sweetie, I don’t want to deter you from having children if that’s your goal,” says Diana.
“I don’t blame Robby at all if he wants kids of his own, and having them will make the two of you closer.”
“In fact, I’d be worried about your two’s relationship if you choose to give up having kids with him. All of this is already a huge secret you’re keeping.”
“What will you have that’s yours?”
Emily frowns in thought.
Celia: “Licks can’t have kids,” Celia supplies. “Nor can ghouls without some tampering.”
She’s quiet a moment.
“The last time Stephen and I had sex we didn’t use protection. I’ve always wondered if…” She touches a hand to her abdomen.
GM: “Oh…” says Emily.
Celia’s mother embraces her.
“I’m so sorry, sweetie,” she murmurs.
Celia: “Better this way,” Celia says into her mother’s shoulder. “He turned into an abuser.”
GM: Did she, too?
Celia: “And me,” she adds. “I’d have ruined him, too.”
“And a kid.”
GM: “Oh, baby, you’d have been a wonderful mother,” consoles her mom, rubbing her back. “Whatever his faults, whatever he turned into.”
Celia: “I’m the reason he turned out like this,” Celia says. “But we can… later, we can talk.”
GM: “Yes. Later. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that you are a mother, to someone who calls you Mom every time she sees you.”
“And you might have just made all the difference in little Abigail’s life.”
“I’d think it only fair for her to call you Mom, too.”
Celia: Celia’s smile is subdued.
GM: “Sweetie, there is no halfway option when you take a child in,” says Diana. “If I’m going to be her mom, that’s that. She gets the same ‘other’ moms and aunts and uncles as Lucy does. And a sister, too, in Lucy.”
“You can’t exclude a child you take in. They can’t be made to think, in any way, they are less loved or less a part of the family. It has to be all in or all out.”
Celia: “No, that’s not it. I’m just wondering if I made a mistake with her. If this is another headache waiting to happen. If I won’t be able to adequately provide. And I wonder how we’re going to explain her to Emily now.”
GM: “What is the alternative?” asks her mom, plainly.
“You said she had no one else.”
“Can’t go into the foster system or be put up for adoption.”
Celia: “I don’t need the warden breathing down my neck because of her is all. But we’ll figure it out.”
GM: Her mom rubs her back. “I think you are doing a good thing with her, sweetie. I think God will notice that.”
“Emi, are you nodding off?”
Emily blinks awake.
“Mmf. Sorry. You been through way more shit than I have.”
“I also didn’t drink myself silly,” says her mom.
Emily rubs her head. “Yeah. That hangover wasn’t fun.”
“Glad I didn’t get hammered on an empty stomach.”
“I threw up in the spa.”
Celia: “Did you?” Had Celia forgotten?
GM: “Yeah. After you left.”
“When Alana woke me up. She was telling me I had to leave and coming on really strong.”
“Gave me a real glare of death after I tossed my cookies.”
Celia: “Oh. She didn’t mention.”
“There were a lot of licks around that night. I just wanted you to be home safe.”
GM: “There’s a lot she doesn’t mention,” says Celia’s mom.
Celia: Celia presses her lips together.
“Tell me. Once this is resolved. Let me go get Pete so Emily can get back to bed. Or… I guess Emily can come with me so he doesn’t see Abi.”
GM: “It’s fine, sweetie. We have more than enough on our minds,” says her mom. “And yes, that sounds best. For all of us to go to Pete. I will be there when he is… mind controlling one of my children.”
“Wait a sec, did something happen with Alana?” asks Emily, frowning.
“‘Cuz I know she doesn’t like you. Or me.”
Celia: “Wait. You said she kissed you.”
GM: Celia’s mother sighs. “Yes. She did. It was a while ago.”
“Did you consent?” asks Emily.
Celia: “Why did she kiss you?”
GM: “I have no idea,” says her mother. “I was disgusted. Mortified. I couldn’t look her in the eye after that.”
“Well maybe that’s what she wanted,” says Emily.
Celia: “How long ago?”
GM: “A while. Maybe a year after you hired her. I didn’t want to cause waves.”
“So I didn’t say anything.”
Celia: “How did that even happen?”
GM: “I was at Flawless. Though I suppose, where else. I’d tried to give her some food.”
“She never seemed interested. I offered less often, but never really stopped.”
“She gave me a very cool look, said ‘I don’t want your slop’, then gave me a french kiss, abrupt as you please.”
Celia: Celia just kind of gapes.
“That… doesn’t even… that doesn’t even make sense.”
“Not that I don’t believe you, just that it’s so… weird.”
GM: “Why’s that?” says Emily.
Celia: “Because why would she do that? Like Reggie I know has a thing for moms, he’s wanted to get with you, but Alana? She’s… yeah like a hornball, but it just… why?”
GM: “Yeah, well, sexual assault is about power, not sex.”
“Think she just wanted to bully Mom.”
“‘Cuz what’d you do about it?”
“I didn’t do anything,” says Diana. “Just stammered and hurried away.”
“I didn’t really offer her more food after that. Tried to avoid her, or avoid being alone with her.”
Celia: “That just… really doesn’t sound like her is all,” Celia says slowly. “She didn’t do anything else? Say anything else? You didn’t feel woozy at all?”
Celia: “Like when I feed from you.”
GM: “No, not that I recall.”
Celia: “And you…” Celia trails off. “Can I take a look at that memory?”
GM: Her mother gives her a tired look. “We have a thousand other things on our minds, Celia. Why do you want to spend time on this?”
Celia: “I didn’t mean now.”
GM: “If she tries it again, it will not go well for her.”
Celia: “I just meant in general.”
“Because it’s super out of character for her to randomly kiss you like that and I don’t think it was her.”
“And now I’m wondering who it was and what they did.”
GM: “If you’d like to. All right.”
“Why would someone else make her kiss Mom?” asks Emily.
Celia: Celia shrugs. “It might not have been that at all. Could have been someone said or did something to her that made her disgusted, covered it with a kiss.”
“Maybe it’s nothing.”
“Maybe I’m jumping at shadows.”
“Anyway, let me get Pete so you two can sleep.”
GM: “You mean we’ll go to see Pete,” says her mom.
“So he doesn’t see Abigail.”
GM: “Is this a bad time to bring up how Celia’s brought up turning me into a vampire… three-ish times and I’ve been kinda thinking about it?” says Emily.
Her mother gives her a long look.
Celia: Celia goes quiet. “I can’t turn you. Not yet. Not until my grandsire takes the throne. You’ll be a Quarter rat. That’s worse than being a ghoul.”
GM: “What’s a Quarter rat?”
Celia: Celia does her best to explain.
“They’re basically the illegal immigrants of Kindred society. They’re bastards. Caitiff without a clan or those Embraced without permission. They’re considered scum by most. They don’t get domain, they go hungry, they have to fight for every scrap they do get. They’re nobodies. They can’t leave the Quarter because they’re not legal, so they’re stuck here forever. If they leave they risk getting caught and then executed.”
“It’s uh… it’s like being a poor black woman in a society of rich white dudes.”
GM: “Well, that sounds like it fucking sucks.”
“Being a vampire sounded like it was more of a mixed bag than… that.”
“Is that what Dani is?”
Celia: “No. Dani is a thin-blood. The only thing the rats can look down on.”
“Being a legally Embraced vampire is better than that. Having a powerful patron is better. Having someone in your corner makes it easier. But the way it would be done for you right now isn’t the way to do it.”
GM: “How would it be done for me?”
“That way? Or I’d be a thin-blood?”
Celia: “If you want to be Embraced, I’d rather wait until my grandsire is prince or find another way. Because right now you’d just be a rat. And that’s… worse.”
“It’s a death sentence to Embrace without permission.”
“For sire and childe.”
GM: “I don’t know if I want it, I’m just thinking about it. You’ve brought it up a couple times now.”
“Emily…” her mom says slowly.
“I don’t think that is something you should want.”
Celia: “It’s a big change. Life changes. It’s… I never got to explain it all to you, but it can be bad. It can be great. But it can be bad. Consider it for the future, maybe, but it’s not an option tonight.”
GM: “Okay. That’s reasonable. I have to be up for school anyway.”
“It does sound like there’s a lot of awesome stuff and a lot of terrible stuff.”
“Is there more I could see, to get a better sense of what it’s like?”
Celia: “If you become a ghoul I can bring you places to show you, yeah.”
GM: “We couldn’t just fake it? Are all vampires gonna give ‘urine tests’ like the warden?”
Celia: “Can you please stop pushing me into things that are going to get us in trouble or killed? If I can swing it I will.”
GM: “Not trying to push you. Just asking whether it’s possible.”
Celia: “It’s possible.”
GM: “Well, possible and practical.”
“’Cuz, again, not pushing.”
Celia: “It’s not practical.”
“You get caught, you die.”
“You get tortured and die.”
GM: “How would I get caught?”
Celia: “Emily. Stop. The warden is waiting.”
GM: “Girls, this is a discussion you should have later,” their mom says tiredly.
“Hmph. Read my mind.”
“I will say this, Emily. You have a life ahead of you. You have a family, a career, and a likely husband you want children with.”
“Everything I’ve seen about vampires makes me think it’s humans who are getting the better deal.”
“You’d be giving up all of that except your current family.”
“And even then, you’d be giving up everything to do with us during the day.”
“You’re right that is a lot, Mom.” Emily rubs her head. “But like you say. Better discussion for another time.”
Celia: “So. Memory erasure. We got into a fight over dumb shit. It’ll explain the last few nights and we can make up in a week or two.”
GM: “All right. Sounds good.”
“I am looking forward to… remembering this, and talking about it with you, and seeing the stuff you wanted to show me.”
Celia: Celia smiles. “Me too, Emi.”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
GM: The trio walk back to the main house. Pete is waiting in the living room and occupied on his phone. He looks up as they arrive.
Celia: She should have gone ahead. Spoken to him alone. Told him what she plans so he doesn’t think she’s lying to him again.
She catches his eye.
GM: He meets it, and the other two’s.
“Hello Mrs. Flores, Miss Rosure.”
“Hi, sir,” says Emily.
“Hi, Detective Pete,” says Diana. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your last name.”
“Lebeaux,” he answers. “Pete or Detective Pete is fine.”
Celia: “Thank you for your patience, Warden. I did not intend to take up so much of your time this evening.”
Celia glances at her family, then looks back to Pete.
“We went over our options,” Celia says, “and I think it might be best if we erase her memories with Lucy’s. There was an incident a few nights ago that we can build from to provide explanation for the turbulence in emotions, and the same story can be used with Lucy so that there are no hiccups.”
“I’ve heard of licks using this with additional clauses built in, and we wanted to know if you’re willing to do such for us with Emily. To remember the events as they were should she become a ghoul or lick in the future. I am looking into a way to negate the addictive properties of the vitae with the alchemists, as you suggested prior.”
GM: Pete effects a sigh.
“To be honest, Celia, that’s probably a fool’s hope. Meth is addictive. Crack is addictive. Vitae is addictive. Just what it is.”
Celia: “Oh,” she says, finally aware of how much hope she had been pinning on that idea.
“Maybe they just didn’t find a way yet,” she continues in a quiet voice. “Maybe no one combined the right things yet. Maybe it takes alchemy and biology and sorcery and the secret is just waiting to be revealed to the person who keeps looking.”
GM: Pete just grunts.
“It’s bad to keep talking about these things if you’re sincere about wiping your sister’s memories.”
“I also would not count on discovering non-addictive crack.”
Celia: So much for hope. So much for possibility. So much for having her family and her covenant both.
“Then I guess we just… take her memories, Pete.”
GM: “For what it’s worth, you’re making the better decision.”
He seemingly addresses Celia’s mother and sister as much as her.
Celia: “She deserves better than being an addict or a Rat,” Celia agrees.
GM: “I don’t want my daughter to be an addict,” her mom echoes.
“All right,” he says. “What’s the story you want her to remember?”
Celia: “On Friday, Henry Garrison came by for dinner. At dinner the fact that Emily and Stephen had dated came up. I confronted Emily. We argued. Nothing from that night needs changed. Nothing from Saturday needs changed. That all happened. So… Sunday, we escalate. Boyfriend comes over for dinner, Maxen comes over, everyone is already in a bad mood because of that. I get insecure when the boyfriend laughs at Emily’s quip, accuse her of being a whore and trying to steal my new boyfriend, start a fight, wine glass breaks, more fighting, Maxen mentions missing Isabel, I leave to reach out to my detective friend—that’s you, Pete—and come back to see Mom and Maxen cuddling on the couch, Emily glowering. She and I get into it about inviting him over, then Mom snaps and says something like ‘I have one missing child already I will not tolerate your infighting now,’ kicks Maxen out. Emily and I call a truce to celebrate getting rid of Maxen, we both get drunk, we start fighting again. I demand to know if she slept with Stephen. She says yes. I slap her. Maybe she slaps me. This is probably where Lucy walks in and sees us all upset and fighting, vomiting from alcohol, not sure how to explain the fire, and, uh… yeah I guess I storm out and she’s hungover all day today and night.”
GM: “That’s some family drama,” Pete says mildly.
“Are you actually mad at her?” he asks Emily.
“Uh, not really,” says Emily.
Celia: Celia’s face falls.
She thought it had been a good cover: based in reality, dramatic, doesn’t need to make vast alterations.
GM: “Feelings need to be real,” says Pete.
“You say someone was mad, they don’t actually feel mad, that’s a hole.”
“For that matter, why does your mother kick out her ex because her daughters are fighting?”
Celia: She doesn’t think Pete will appreciate her “movies have plot holes all the time and they still make millions” quip, so she keeps it to herself.
Emily would think it’s funny.
GM: She probably would.
Celia: “How were you feeling?”
GM: “How was I feeling when?” asks Emily.
“That night with Maxen?”
“Mix of nauseous dread and angry as hell.”
Celia: “I could… side with Maxen. Publicly. And… I guess that still… doesn’t help the emotions towards me.”
GM: “Nope,” says Pete.
“So if she wasn’t mad at you, that part needs a rewrite.”
Celia: “Don’t suppose you could just ward her head against intruders and pretend you saw nothing.”
GM: “No,” he says flatly.
Celia: “No,” she echoes, “I assumed not. I, ah, I wasn’t serious about that, Pete.”
Celia pinches the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. Solution. She needs a solution. Not more problems.
“I guess we just leave the angry-at-me part out. Tell you I broke up with Randy and came out as a lesbian. You probably wouldn’t care, but you’d have all sorts of feelings over me hiding that from you that might echo what really happened. Explains the tension with you and I and Mom when Lucy found us. Doesn’t explain kicking Maxen out. Maybe he… called me a dyke, and Mom got all, ‘God will judge you, but I’ll always love you’ on him.”
GM: “Will that work?” Celia’s mother asks Pete.
The Tremere chews his lip.
“I suppose we’ll find out.”
“Miss Rosure, I’d like you to relax and look into my eyes.”
“Well… bye,” says Emily, then meets Pete’s gaze.
Celia’s mom takes her hand.
Pete slowly recites what happened and when, faithfully following Celia’s describe narrative. Emily stares into his eyes with a sleepy look. The Tremere finally tells her to go back to her room, take off her shoes, go to bed, and fall asleep.
Emily turns and walks away as though she’s sleepwalking. She does not close the door behind her.
Celia: Celia does for her. She makes sure Emily’s door is shut, too.
GM: “This is one of the patchier jobs that I’ve done,” Pete says frankly when she returns.
“I don’t know if it’s going to hold up.”
Celia: “Then I’d better be quick with the addiction thing or find her a sire.”
GM: “You aren’t going to find anything there,” Pete snaps. “You don’t know a thing about magic, Celia. You don’t get something for nothing. Ever. There is no addiction-free variety of juice out there. You think it wouldn’t be widespread, if there was? That a greenfang who can barely keep her own Requiem together will not only somehow find it, but find it quick?”
Celia: “If the alternative is watching my mother lose another daughter or subjecting my sister to a life of addiction and slavery, then I will look, and I will consider every viable path and option that don’t involve a miracle cure while I look. I am not burying my head in the sand and hoping the patch job holds, Pete.”
She doesn’t raise her voice. She doesn’t snap back at him. She just looks at him, determination in her eyes.
“I won’t sit idly by while my family pays for my mistakes. People used to think space travel was impossible and we’ve been to the moon. I don’t have the resources or the training of the Pyramid, no, but that doesn’t mean that I am useless or that I have created nothing with my Requiem. Everyone thinks star mode can’t get inside people’s heads and I made that happen too.”
“If the memories come back and I’ve found no other solution I will immediately tell you and follow your mandate. But I can’t just not do anything, Pete.”
GM: Pete grunts.
“I won’t fault your logic in not wanting to sit on your hands.”
“If the patch job fails and her memories come back, you’ll let me know. At that point, she’ll need to be ghouled or Embraced for real.”
“There’s some element of risk in choosing to do things this way. I don’t know what memories could come back first or how she could react.”
“But she deserved a shot at a normal life.”
Celia: “Thank you for your help in giving her that shot.”
GM: “Thank you, Pete,” Diana says quietly.
“If I might ask, what made this such a patchy job?”
GM: The detective regards Celia’s mother for a moment.
“Too many and too strong emotions,” he answers, shaking his head. “Learning vampires are real and that your sister is a vampire is enough to rock someone’s world. Anyone’s world. There is no equivalent experience. Not in the big picture, not down to all of the little nuances. This is like stuffing a too-big lady into a too-small dress, made from too-thin fabric. Something is likely going to rip. It doesn’t help either that I wasn’t here when Celia told her about Kindred. I can’t custom-tailor the new memories as thoroughly as I might otherwise. It’s always better to have an eyewitness to the real memories handle a memory job than a second party, for the really involved jobs.”
“Consider, as a counter-example, the midwife who was there for Lucy’s birth. I swapped your face with Celia’s, so in that woman’s head, Celia was the one giving birth while her mother watched. Just a single alteration that re-purposed the memory’s existing details, and in a self-consistent manner that the subject wasn’t ever likely to question. She had no emotions associated with the mother being you versus Celia. Even if someone questioned her at length about what she remembered, and made her re-examine and go over every little thing, I’d fully expect the memory job to hold up. It was, if I may say, one of my best ever jobs.”
Pete shakes his head again.
“That was tight, light, and subtle. This job was not. There are too many ways it could unravel, and I’ll count us lucky if it holds. So it’ll be incumbent on you to make sure it does. Don’t press Emily about what she remembers. Don’t talk about it. Keep her mind on other things. Let it fade into her subconscious.”
“The fact it will be hard for you to do that, and that she will want to talk about what she remembers, is part of why this is such a patchy job.”
“Just don’t feed her imagination. Try to distract her with other things.”
“Would be a good time for another family crisis, if you were waiting to spring one.”
Celia: Celia glances at her mother, brows slightly lifted.
She can think of several.
GM: Celia’s mother listens attentively like Pete is a doctor prescribing how she should administer her child’s medication.
“Maybe Isabel,” she says. “Better if that comes out anyway.”
“And better, too, if they know something of the truth.”
Pete raises his eyebrows and looks at Celia.
He knows what happened to Isabel.
Celia: Celia meets his gaze.
“I told her what I did.”
GM: “Hm. Perhaps no surprise,” says Pete after a moment.
“I’m not under a ‘blood bond’ to her,” says Celia’s mother. “I know what she did. I know she murdered her sister.”
“I choose to forgive her. I choose to love rather than hate my daughter.”
Pete’s thick eyebrows raise still higher.
“I’m very impressed, Mrs. Flores.”
“Your daughter enjoys a rare and precious love that not many licks get to. Not many at all.”
He glances sidelong at Celia. “I’ll do her another favor and overlook the fact you haven’t been properly collared.”
“I advise you not to mention this fact around other Kindred.”
“Thank you,” says Celia’s mother. Not quite earnestly, but at least politely. “I don’t have any interest in meeting further vampires, from what Celia tells me, but I’ll make a note not to.”
“Good,” says Pete.
“What would happen if one found out?” asks Diana.
“At best? Force the collar on you,” answers Pete. “At worst, ask Celia to use her imagination. A ghoul without a collar is a dog without a leash.”
“I am not a dog,” says Celia’s mother.
“You aren’t, but our society sees you that way,” says Pete.
“Do you see me that way?” asks Celia’s mom. “She’s told me stories. Will you chop off Lucy’s fingers if I backtalk you? Should I be grateful if you don’t?”
“No, no, and no,” says Pete.
Celia’s mom pauses. “I didn’t know you knew I was her mother.”
“Celia enlisted my help to make sure the midwife couldn’t tell anyone,” says Pete.
“Thank you,” Diana repeats, more sincerely. “Thank you. You saw what… my former husband did to Celia. At the hospital. I didn’t want that to ever happen to Lucy.”
“I don’t blame you,” says Pete. “Making Celia the mom on her birth certificate was one of the smartest ways you could have kept her safe.”
“Yes, it was,” agrees Celia’s mom. She manages a weary smile. “It was Celia’s idea.”
“Inviting your ex-husband over for dinner was damn foolish of you, though,” says Pete.
The smile dies on Celia’s mom.
“Yes, it was,” she agrees again.
“He won’t be back. He is not welcome in this house.”
“I will die before he, or anyone, touches Lucy.”
Pete regards Celia’s mom thoughtfully.
“You seem less the shrinking violet than your daughter made you out to be.”
Celia: “I found the way to undo what Benson did to her,” Celia says to him.
GM: “Good timing,” Pete remarks.
Celia: It went quickly enough once Celia realized what she was. What Benson had done to her. Maybe undoing the work of a Malkavian isn’t the same as finding a cure for vitae addiction, but she’s not the stupid whore society makes her out to be.
“Yes,” she agrees. “He offered a ward for Lucy’s room, Mom. To keep out demons. And advised a better home security system for everything else.”
GM: “A ward against… demons?” she asks.
“Yes. Potentially keeps them from entering the warded site, or hurts them if they do enter,” says Pete. “I have no idea if it’ll help or not, as I don’t know whether your ex-husband is actually possessed by a demon, but it won’t hurt.”
“Okay. I’d rather be safe than sorry. Thank you, Detective, very much.”
Celia: “Your sire said there’s a way to test that,” Celia mentions. “Though I imagine doing so will create a problem with Maxen’s friend.”
GM: “More likely any demon itself than his friend. It might be strong enough to take you.”
“Best fight is one you don’t have. I gave you that advice seven years ago.”
“Just keep him away from your family.”
Celia: Celia nods.
GM: “That’s sound advice whether there’s a demon or not,” Diana nods.
“What should we do about home security?”
“Get an alarm,” says Pete. “One with a motion sensor linked to your phones. Someone breaks in, you get an alert.”
“Don’t get one that detects changes in infrared radiation. They’re the most common, but they don’t work against licks.”
“Infrared alarms look for changes in body heat, which trigger the sensor. Licks are usually room temperature.”
Celia: “What about shadow dancers? They’ll still be picked up with motion sensors?”
GM: “Cloaking fools the mind. It’s a purely mental phenomenon. Literally all in your head. It doesn’t physically affect the environment, or fool sensory devices that observe physical phenomena. Though it will fool a person who’s directly observing a lick through those devices.”
Celia: Then how the fuck did the ghouls get into the clubhouse? The alarm would have woken her.
Celia doesn’t ask. Better that they hadn’t been deterred. Less effort spent bringing her in.
“Ways around everything,” Celia says eventually, looking to her mom, “but it’ll deter the most likely scenarios.”
GM: “So what kind of alarm should we get?” asks Celia’s mom.
“Well, there’s a number of alarms that don’t use infrared technology,” says Pete. “There are hidden cameras, electrical field sensors, signal emitters, and ultrasonic detectors. Each one has its own pros and cons, and what I’d recommend for a family home like yours isn’t necessarily what I’d recommend at a public or semi-public location.”
“But for this house, I’d go with an electrical field sensor. They operate like the touchscreen of your phone, except no contact is needed. If there’s motion, even from a room temperature source, the alarm picks it up.”
Celia: Maybe she should hire Pete to overhaul the security at her various havens.
She cants her head to one side, wondering if he’d be into it if she pays.
Probably not. Seems like more favors. She’ll do it herself. After she moves, now that the entire city knows where she sleeps.
GM: “Okay, an electrical field sensor alarm,” says Diana.
“You can also get ones that turn on lights or emit a recording of barking dogs,” says Pete. “Those also help deter intruders.”
Celia: Or get a dog. A hellhound for Lucy. Roxy has that certain touch with animals to help her out if she asks.
GM: “Cameras are a good idea too,” says Pete. “They’re piss poor at capturing licks’ faces, but they can potentially alert you there were licks, and they can capture other intruders’ faces.”
“You can also get alarms that call the police, the Quarter Response Force—the latter’s faster if you’re paying them—and the fire department.”
“Okay, that’s a lot to think about,” says Diana. “Excuse me for a moment, I want to write this down.”
She disappears into the kitchen and comes back with a notepad, then writes down what Pete says.
“Is there a specific alarm model you’d recommend I get?” she asks.
“There’s a bunch on the market,” says Pete. “Some better and some worse, like anything. Some cheap and some expensive. Do your research and see what fits your needs. Run whatever you find past me and I’ll weigh in. Celia has my number.”
Celia: Celia nods to show that she’s listening and taking it all in. She lets them sort it out, and only once the warden mentions his number does she speak up.
“I’ve got a question,” she says at length, “about magic. The ward. Would it be more powerful if you use the blood of someone close to her, someone who loves her, or does it not matter?”
GM: “Doesn’t matter,” says Pete.
Celia: Celia just nods again.
GM: “Probably could with some magic. Doesn’t matter with mine.”
Celia: “I’ll get that soon for you. Fix up your leg,” a nod to her mother. “Should rest easier after all this.”
Now would be a good time for her mother to ask about the magic lessons. To see what Celia is going to learn to do. Is it too much to hope she knows how to read her daughter’s thoughts?
GM: “Thank you, both,” says Celia’s mom, with a further nod towards Pete. “You’ve been extremely helpful, Detective. This will make me feel very safe about Lucy.”
For all the woman’s love, it does not appear to grant her knowledge of Celia’s thoughts.
Celia: Ah, well, no doubt he’d have been angry at her and accused her of using her mother against him.
“Thank you, Pete. For everything.”
GM: “You’re welcome. Let’s see Lucy.”
Celia: Celia leads the trio down the hall and opens the door to Lucy’s bedroom.
GM: She finds the girl asleep under her blankets. Diana sits down on her bed and touches her shoulder. “Hey, Goose…” she murmurs softly.
Lucy whimpers as she slowly starts awake. Her eyes are bleary and out of focus. “Mommy…?”
“I’m sorry to wake you up again, sweetie… there’s a nice man here, who I’d like you to meet. I know things have been very sad and very scary lately, but he’s going to make them better, okay?”
Celia: Celia takes a seat on Lucy’s other side, touching a gentle hand to her back.
“Hey, baby Goose,” she murmurs, “just a little longer and then you can snuggle under the blankies as long as you want. Shall I fetch Mr. Owl for you? I think he’d like to sleep in too.”
Mr. Owl is not an owl, but a stuffed rabbit. He’d taken the name Owl to swallow his fear of being scooped up and gobbled.
GM: “Okay…” Lucy answers sleepily, seemingly to both women.
“Good idea, with Mr. Owl,” says Diana. “Aslan can keep him company.”
“Keep him extra safe from any mean ol’ owls.”
Celia: Celia rises to hunt down the stuffed animal. Aslan is already tucked against Lucy’s side, but Mr. Owl is wearing a white bow tie at a table set for tea. Celia pulls out the chair for him and lifts him into her arms. She walks him over to Lucy, giving him a pep talk on the way about bad dreams and Queen Lucy needing some good beauty rest. She extols a promise from both of them to look after her while she sleeps.
“Mr. Owl and Aslan are ready for duty,” Celia says to Lucy, handing over the bunny.
GM: Mr. Owl seems receptive enough to the pep talk, and he hasn’t failed yet to remain by the side of his sleeping queen.
“Mmf,” Lucy answers tiredly as she hugs Mr. Owl in her arms. She lays her head against the stuffed animal (he’s bigger than many owls) and looks almost ready to fall back asleep right there. Diana lightly jostles her back awake.
“You can go back to sleep in just a moment, Goose. You’re being very patient for us. This is the nice man who’s going to make things better.”
Pete steps up to the bed, squats down on his haunches, and catches the child’s gaze.
“Hi, Lucy. Those are some mighty big stuffed animals you got there. Just look into my eyes now. That’s it. You’re already falling back asleep…”
“Just focus on my voice. You remember last night? It was pretty scary, I bet, but it’s gonna be all right. What happened was that…”
Pete goes on to repeat the narrative that Celia and Diana arrived at. There was a family fight, the same one he filled Emily’s head with. Celia broke up with Randy and came out as gay. Maxen called Celia names. Mommy made him leave. There were angry discussions. It was all very confusing and frightening for a child, but things will be better now.
Diana whispers something in Pete’s ear, as if unsure whether her voice will interfere with what he’s doing. The Tremere frowns, then continues they also had a scare with Victor getting hurt. They took him to see a vet friend in the middle of the night. Lucy got out of bed for that. It was very scary, especially after everything else, but the cat turned out to be fine.
The six-year-old dumbly follows Pete’s voice and takes that all in with a glazed expression.
“Lie your head down on your pillow and go back to sleep, Lucy. Get a full night of z’s,” Pete finishes.
Lucy lays down her head. She’s out like a light.
Diana tenderly strokes the girl’s hair, then pulls up her covers and props up Aslan and Mr. Owl around her.
She gets up, nods for everyone else to follow her out, then closes the bedroom door behind her.
“Thank you,” she whispers to Pete, earnestly. “Thank you, so much, Detective.”
“You’re welcome,” he answers. “It’s not my best memory job, but I’d say it’s more likely to hold than Emily’s.”
“Reinforce it. Say you’re glad things turned out okay with Victor. Maybe have a brief talk about the events of last night, staying light on specific details. Away from Emily. Not good for her to be re-examining those memories.”
Celia’s mom nods. “I can do that. We’ll be sure to.”
Celia: “Thank you,” Celia quietly adds when all is said and done. She’s said it a lot this night, but she means it a lot too: he could have turned her down. Turned her in. Done any number of things to her worse than harsh words and demanding an apology. But he’d shown up for her. Even if he does now think she’s a moron.
“I’ll get extra for the ward,” she continues, “so you’re not out anything. Mom and I will figure out how to disguise it and… hopefully that and the upkeep is all you’ll be back here for.”
It might not be the time to wiggle her eyebrows at the warden, but she does. Just a tiny wiggle. The mere suggestion of movement. She could even pass it off as a trick of the light if she were really inclined to, his mind playing tricks on him.
GM: Maybe the dry quality to the look he gives is her mind playing tricks on her
“Hopefully less, as you can do the upkeep yourself,” responds Pete. “Doesn’t take anything except blood.”
“And that’s a good thing for us all, Lucy especially. The less often licks come here, the better.”
Celia: “Oh. I thought I needed to…” she trails off, deciding not to get into it, and nods.
GM: “We aren’t ever going to talk about vampire things in the house again,” nods Diana. “I don’t know if I mentioned that. We’ll keep Lucy away from all of this.”
“Wise,” says Pete. “I hope you do.”
“Is there any way I can repay you, Detective?” asks Celia’s mom. “This is the second time you’ve helped my family out of a jam. Or, really, the third time.”
“Keep taking your daughter’s blood, Mrs. Flores,” says Pete. “You can be as involved or uninvolved with the masked city—that’s Kindred society—as the two of you like, but mortals don’t get to know about us.”
“And you’ve been through far too much for a memory job at this point.”
Diana’s face slowly sinks at that request.
She takes a step forward and places a hand on Pete’s arm.
“Detective. Pete,” she says softly. “I don’t want to lie to you, after all you’ve done for my family. I don’t ever want this,” she gestures, “for Emily. I’m not even sure if I want this for me. If the patch job fails, what’s the harm in us knowing? We won’t tell a soul. We just want to live our lives without being drug addicts.”
Celia: There’s a twinge in her chest at the expression on her mother’s face. She quietly adds her voice to the discussion.
“Emily and my mother have kept things between the three of us for years. They know the dangers of life and death situations. We’ve been through them before.” She glances away, then back. “They’re good people. They deserve some semblance of normalcy after everything.”
GM: “Blame yourself, blame them, blame even me. But whoever’s fault it is, normalcy is not in the cards anymore,” says Pete.
He looks from Celia back down the hall to Lucy’s room.
“And I have done more than enough to help this family already.”
He turns around.
“Drink your juice, Mrs. Flores. That’s how you can pay me back.”
The Tremere waits for no goodbyes, after that. He strides out the door and closes it behind him.