“I guess there never really was… any way this was gonna end well.”
Saturday night, 20 February 2016, AM
GM: “¡Dos de mis soldados están muertos!” Diego furiously swears over Caroline’s phone.
(“Two of my soldiers are dead!”)
“You didn’t say, not fucking once,” he continues in English, his voice no less livid, “that dyke puto was one of you! Juan and Axel—both in the fucking ground!”
Caroline: Caroline feels a spike of alarm and concern—what exactly has Diego gotten himself (and her by proxy) into—but clamps down on them as he continues and redirects.
“I understand you’re upset. Not on the phone,” she replies sternly.
“Can you make it to the Alpha Site?” she asks, referring to the largely abandoned building she bought to get to Lou.
GM: “No,” Diego seethes. “You come over for this. You see this yourself. You fix this yourself.”
Caroline: His tone is not acceptable, but she’ll deal with it in person.
GM: He rattles off one in southern Algiers, then hangs up on her.
Autumn never would. Or Widney. Or any of the others.
Caroline: She growls lowly as she shuts off her own phone, resisting the urge to fling it across the room. Thankfully it’s a burner—she’s too careful to give her notional ‘living’ line to him—but his lack of discipline is no less irritating for it. She picks up the smartphone from her desk and sends out a short text to a group chat. It reads, 10 minutes. Parking lot.
She’s damn sure not going off into the Outlands alone again, especially not if Diego kicked up a hornet’s nest. Especially not if he may be compromised. She rises to change her clothes and grab a bag of equipment—both quick—before she heads out the door.
GM: All of the ghouls Caroline texts meet her at the Giani Building’s underground garage. Some of them look more tired than others, but being called to action during the early hours of the AM is part and parcel of service to any Kindred master.
Caroline: Caroline is brief before they get into two separate vehicles. There’s been an incident in Algiers. Bodies are certain, police may or may not be en-route. At least one Kindred is involved.
They’re going to clean up the scene as best they can and get out. The catch is the details are light, and being outside the city proper makes it dangerous, so they’re going in heavy.
GM: Autumn starts by looking up news reports from Algiers on her phone. At this hour of night, they haven’t yet hit mainstream news sites, but the ghoul still reports,
“There was a suicide jumper off the bridge to Algiers… it looks like it’s closed now. Probably crawling with cops.”
Caroline: Caroline scowls. “That’s a massive diversion.”
GM: “Mississppi’s a good river to kill yourself in,” Fuller observes. “Strong current. Dirty. Hard to find anyone who goes under.”
Caroline: “Divert. Better not to get stopped on the bridge in view of them,” Caroline asserts. There are enough firearms in the vehicles to invade a third world country.
GM: Fuller nods. “Other ways in, if we want to get there fast. Boats. Choppers.”
Caroline: “Bridges.” Caroline scowls.
Saturday night, 20 February 2016, AM
GM: The 45-minute drive through Bridge City and Elmwood has everyone on edge. Fuller scans the darkness past the lit road repeatedly, but reports nothing. The gloom seems hungry. Patient. Waiting.
The two cars reach their destination at a modest house in Terrytown. Fuller, Green, and Martell look alert at the odd gunshots and car alarms they hear through the blighted neighborhood. Widney and Autumn look on edge.
The Cottonmouth tough who receives the group at the door looks worse. He looks like hell. His ashen, haggard face is deeply shadowed and his eyes are haunted. His clothes are clean, but Caroline can smell the blood on him. Traces of it, on his lips. Powerful blood.
The same blood coursing through her own servants.
The ghoul, who Caroline has never once seen before, is armed and refuses the group entry. He shouts for Diego, who arrives at the door with several more armed gangsters. All of them look like hell. All of their lips smell of Kindred vitae.
Diego looks between Fuller, Green, and Martell. It’s not a friendly look.
“They wait outside,” he growls in a low tone.
Caroline: The Ventrue does not look amused. “What the fuck is this?” she demands of Diego, looking at the other Cottonmouth ghouls.
GM: “The fuck’s this? This is you, amiga. Coming to help clean up the mess that got two of ours killed,” Diego replies.
The other Cottonmouths wordlessly stare at Caroline and her own ghouls. Their weapons don’t leave their hands.
Caroline: “Where did they get their blood from?” Caroline replies.
GM: “You can tell? That’s interesting,” Diego says.
He looks towards the others.
“Sniper, Javier, Jesús, Paiyaso, any of you want to tell my amiga where you got your blood?” the Cottonmouths’ leader asks.
“Bled for it,” grinds out one man.
“Died for it,” says another.
“Filling a vampiro full of lead,” says a third.
“Usted sangró, soldados!” Diego roars, pumping a tattooed fist.
(“You bled, soldiers!”)
“¡Nos desangramos!” comes the answering shout from the other wild-eyed ghouls.
Fuller and the other security ghouls maintain their grips on their weapons. Autumn looks apprehensive. Widney’s face is a mask.
“And now, amiga, that thing’s body is yours,” says Diego, turning back to Caroline. “Your problem to get rid of.”
Caroline almost didn’t notice it at first, against Diego’s white wifebeater. She might have thought they were shark teeth. But they’re unmistakable.
Two fangs hanging from a necklace under his gold crucifix.
Caroline: “Very impressive, boys.” Caroline lets the Beast loose in their minds slowly. She eases it in lightly, softening their feelings toward her. “Not very many that can make the same claim.”
She spares her own ghouls from the mental glamor. But not Diego. She can see in his eyes he’s no longer hers. He’s gotten a taste for something else.
GM: Caroline’s supernal presence washes over the room of ghouls like an unseen tide—not enough to pull them under, but enough to leave their footing unsteady. Gazes around the room instantly rivet towards the Ventrue.
“The Cottonmouths bite!” boasts one of the men.
Caroline: “So I hear,” Caroline replies with a toothy smile, allowing more of the Beast to slide into their minds now that she’s captured them. “Are you the only ones that know about this?”
GM: “Mi novia knows,” says one of the other ghouls. He grins, an expression that looks utterly out of place on his grim and haunted features. Almost macabre. “We going to go all night, now!”
There’s manic, almost forced laughter from the other Cottonmouths.
Caroline: It goes on like that. Caroline and Widney work their way through the group, separating each, cowing them and bending their wills. Before long they’re disarmed, in cuffs, and Diego is leading Caroline deeper into the house.
Once everything is secure she extracts the full story of what happened and how Diego brought his brothers into the fold, as well as his intentions, both in general and for her specifically. She has the ‘body’ brought before her.
Through it all her two newer security ghouls keep an eye—and a long gun—on the gangbangers while Fuller keeps an eye on the outside. The Outlands are far from safe.
GM: Diego initially shakes off his state and reaches for his gun, but it’s Autumn who sharply orders, “Freeze,” with almost pitying eyes. Caroline and the others impose their wills over the other, soon glassy-eyed Cottonmouths and handcuff them seamlessly. Fuller and Green collect their guns.
Diego leads Caroline to the body.
It’s Amelie Savard’s.
Caroline almost doesn’t recognize her at first. She looks awful. There’s a hardness to her jaw, a gauntness to her cheeks, and a shadow over her now-lined features that wasn’t there before—and is still there, even when she’s unconscious. She looks like she’s aged ten years. Her still-short hair is filthy. So is the rest of her body, but especially her grime-coated hands and bare, obviously worn feet. She’s ‘dressed’ in the ragged, blood-spattered remains of a partly damp white lab coat.
She’s also Kindred.
Caroline can hear it, from the telltale lack of heartbeat. Can smell it, from the vitae coursing through her veins. The same vitae that courses through the Ventrue’s own.
There’s blood in her mouth, too. Bloody gaps where two canines should be.
Autumn looks over her body.
“Oh, wow. I… guess it’s lucky they didn’t know that’s a torped out lick,” she remarks upon seeing the missing teeth.
Caroline: The scene sends a fury through Caroline. Not for Amelie—she hardly knows the girl—but that her ghoul thought to defy her so. That he brought this entire scene upon her. That he thought it fitting to take her blood and give it to others. That he betrayed her.
She gave him loyalty, and he gave her a Masquerade disaster.
The Ventrue says nothing to him and allows him to tell her the rest of the tale as she tightly binds Amelie’s thin wrists ankles, first with zip ties but again with steel handcuffs.
The gangbangers are ordered to line up against a wall, get down on their knees, and put their hands on their heads. Her ghouls keep guns trained on them. Caroline bends over the torpid vampire. She dips a finger in one of Amelie’s wounds and and brings the vitae to her lips.
GM: There’s a heat underlying Amelie’s blood. A fire. Something fierce. Something willful. Something that stokes Caroline, something that burns her up inside, makes her feel vigorous and alive. Really alive again. And her Beast, too. The monster seems to swell, arch its back and roar, all-too eager to tear down the walls of its prison.
The fire dwindles just as swiftly as it came.
Hot blood. Dangerous blood.
Blood like Coco’s blood.
Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue across her fangs. It’s tempting to finish her off. She knows of the forbidden act now, after what she… learned from Abélia. She’ll almost never have a better chance. She doubts anyone will miss this helpless morsel…
But it’s only that—temptation. And a faint one at that. There’s something else that eats away her darkest impulses like a snake swallows a rat. Something that resembles pity for this newly-made thing, made of a starved and beaten body, and now reduced to a helpless shell.
It could have been her. Could have just as easily been Caroline that fell beneath a ghoul’s weapons, or those of another Kindred, or even a mortal. Amelie deserves better. Something better. Perhaps an opportunity. Caroline doesn’t know that she can give it to her, but she knows she can give her something better than this.
The Ventrue waits for Diego to finish his tale. The story of her ghoul’s betrayals is worth understanding before she wakes up this stranger.
GM: The tale begins simply enough.
The Cottonmouths found Axel dead near “his corner,” mauled almost beyond recognition. They piled into Diego’s car to search for the hijo de puta responsible. They saw Amelie, walking the streets naked but for a bloody lab coat. Diego remembered her as one of Caroline’s “items of interest” from a rare trip to the Giani Building. He thought he’d trade her to the Ventrue for another hit of vitae.
“Idiota pissed off my soldiers,” the glassy-eyed Diego recites.
Amelie gave a spine-chilling hiss that scared his man beyond reason. Diego’s suspicions were aroused. A physical altercation ensued. Amelie vanished into the night like a ghost.
“Faster than you could snap your fucking fingers,” Diego sleepily recites.
The Cottonmouths went after her. Diego was suspicious she might have been the one to kill Axel. He had a hunch where she’d be headed, on foot, and followed her to a convenience store. Amelie had murdered the clerk inside. There was so much blood. The Cottonmouths broke in. Amelie fled to the store’s back. They followed.
Diego stares blankly at Caroline. Then he screams.
Caroline: Caroline silences him and has the ghoul pick up after the traumatic scene.
GM: Diego’s eyes bulge as he chokes for several moments. He resumes his tale in a faltering voice.
He and the Cottonmouths saw Amelie trying to break in to his car. Another altercation ensued.
She fought back. They knew what she was—Diego had long since told the other Cottonmouths everything he knew about vampiros. They beat her dead—or at least what they thought was dead. Caroline told Diego little about her kind’s physiology, or he’d have known to keep beating until the torpid vampire was ash.
The gang celebrated their victory by feasting on every last drop of Amelie’s blood. Diego never received enough vitae from Caroline to share, but there was more than enough to go around this time. As far as Diego was concerned, his men had earned every last drop. Juan was dead now too. The Cottonmouths destroyed the convenience store’s security tapes and shot apart the cameras. They fled the scene with the bodies.
“You told me mierda,” Diego sleepily recites. “Everything here, turned to shit since I took your blood.”
As far as Diego was concerned, Amelie’s inconvenient corpse was Caroline’s to dispose of. That was the start of how she was going to pay him back. He loved her, but this was her fault. Partly. What happened to his men. Everything turning to shit.
But Caroline was still his amiga. He loved her. And this shit…
The obviously conflicted ghoul’s face twitches. He wasn’t sure what he planned to do with Caroline, after unloading Amelie’s body to her. But Caroline is sure of this:
Her ghoul’s first loyalty was always to the Cottonmouths. He didn’t need Caroline for anything. He was his own man. He’d made it in this city alone. He rose to lead the Cottonmouths on his own. Caroline was just some rich gringa who felt like rolling around in the dirt with him.
Her blood was nice, though. It made him strong. Powerful. He found himself caring about her, though he couldn’t for his life explain why. She was a rich and pampered gringa. The kind who’d make his mother and sister scrape their fingers to the bone for a pittance, and sneer at them for it. The kind who looked upon him and the Cottonmouths like rabid animals. But some part of him, somehow, couldn’t hold that against Caroline.
“You aren’t… like the others,” he recites in the same monotone.
Still, one indisputable fact remained: he didn’t need Caroline. Not after the Cottonmouths took down their first vampiro. They would take down others. They would drink their blood. They would become the most powerful gang in all New Orleans.
“The Cottonmouths… give no warning. The Cottonmouths… give no retreat. The Cottonmouths… bite,” the gang leader finishes tranquilly.
Fuller’s mouth creases with distaste.
Widney looks like she’s come across a gross error in the accounting books.
Autumn’s face is written with equal parts incredulity, horror, and grim resignation.
“He’s right about one thing,” grunts Fuller. “He didn’t need you.”
Caroline: “Get a full list from them of everyone they’ve run their mouths to,” Caroline instructs her ghouls. Acid drops from her voice.
“We’re putting an end to this mistake.”
GM: There’s a moment before Widney speaks.
“You want to kill all of them, ma’am?” she asks slowly.
Autumn and Fuller remain silent.
Caroline: “Find out how much they know,” Caroline replies without answer. She looks down at Amelie.
GM: “This is… how it sometimes gets,” Autumn says quietly as she moves to check on the others.
Widney ignores her, then goes to do the same.
Fuller stands silently in place.
Caroline: Caroline stands over the torpid vampire. She didn’t make things this way. Didn’t send the ghoul after Amelie and his his men in the ground. She didn’t start it, but as always, she’ll finish it.
She pulls back her sleeve and sinks her fangs into her own wrist, letting a trickle of vitae flow into the bound and torpid Brujah.
GM: Amelie’s eyes snap open. A monster stares out. The fang-less creature isn’t able to so much as snarl before clamping its flat teeth onto Caroline’s wrist hard enough to tear flesh.
Caroline: Or at least, they would have had Caroline been less cautious. The Ventrue’s lightning-quick reflexes jerk her hand away from the thrashing beast’s mouth. The eyes that gaze down are one part pity, another part scorn.
GM: The thing finally howls—not screams—and thrashes mindlessly.
Caroline: “Yes, I can imagine you must be starving,” she finally says. “Ah, but you have no fangs. Well, let me help you, wretched thing.”
She orders Diego to close his eyes and kneel near the thrashing vampire.
Saturday night, 20 February 2016, AM
GM: The red haze returns.
Bliss fills Amelie as she yet again wakes to pain. Fire burns her from within and soothes her from without. The contrast is torturous. It’s beyond maddening. She screams until her throat is bloody. For it to stop. For it to go on.
The pain does not abate. But the bliss does, and with it, just enough of the madness.
She’s indoors. The muscled and tattoo-sleeved cholo is kneeling directly in front of her, his face expressionless.
She can smell it. Hear it. All but see it. The hot blood coursing through his veins with each thump of his powerful heart.
Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump.
Caroline: A tall woman in a black outfit covered in a heavy coat stands besides the cholo. She’s all long legs from where Amelie can see over boots, but the thing that most stands out isn’t her face, clothing, or any other obvious physical feature. It’s the smell coming off of her wrist. Amelie can clearly see a trickle of red even in the dimly lit room. It smells better than blood ever has.
Amelie: Next to that smell, that red, nothing else seems to matter about Caroline. Not even her lack of heartbeat.
It’s a new kind of hunger twisting around inside of Amelie’s husk now. It’s so different from any pain she’s endured, and she’s endured a lot of pain. That red filter over her vision feels like it’s going to be a permanent fixture now. She stares daggers at the tendons in the cholo’s neck like they’re an ice-pack on a swelling bruise over her body’s most sensitive place.
Amelie’s nose pulls her to the side. As soon as her eyes lock on it, she feels her body tense and slowly tries to rise towards it. Her modesty is gone. Her tongue simply lolls out her mouth as she strains towards the red trickle. She feels near-mindless, like a hungry ghost weakly clawing towards the promised meal that’d finally end its suffering.
Caroline: “Hungry? Well, we can fix that.”
The blonde doesn’t quite smile down at her.
GM: Amelie can smell it off her, too. ‘The blonde’s’ blood. Far stronger than the kneeling cholo’s. It stands out like a bloody and fang-gnawed halo above her head. Like the same one above Amelie’s own.
Amelie: The voice gives the ghost pause. It’s not enough to stop her body, but enough for her eyes to tear up at the font of relief. They’re glazed and desperate, but they widen in recognition at corpse’s identity of the corpse, even as she continues to weakly crawl towards the promise of her pain ending.
GM: Amelie becomes conscious of something restraining her arms behind her back. The discomfort is a drop in an ocean.
Caroline: The blonde produces a blade—a real dagger rather than a knife.
Amelie: The blade’s appearance prompts another response from Amelie. She finally stops moving forward: the weapon in her gut is more of a barrier to her meal than the chains around her wrists. Something finally clicks in her head, how she’s been unable to control herself.
Caroline: “It’s fair play, little fledgling, he took your blood. You should take his.”
She drives the blade into the neck of the kneeling cholo in a single swift stroke. She then kicks him over onto Amelie.
GM: The man’s eyes snap open as the blade penetrates his skin. He lets out an inarticulate scream as he rolls over, away from the two women, and pulls mightily against his bonds.
Amelie: Amelie’s eyes remain fixed upon the droplets of blood rather than the weapon, spitting in the face of all her prior muscle memory. She still sees it in her periphery as the knife drives into neck. It’s as though someone dumped a bucket of water onto the floor with a drop of wine. The thirst drives her to try for both, until the body gets pushed towards her.
Every one of her new instincts sends her dive-bombing head-first towards the cholo. She hisses and screams as she tries to find purchase on his skin with her teeth, even if she has to cut her mouth open around the dagger. It’s like drinking a tapped keg.
GM: Amelie doesn’t even see it happen. One moment, she was falling upon the bleeding and shouting man. The next, aching relief fills her like she’s gorged on a five-course meal after days without food. It’s satiation, but some angry, fearful ghost of hunger remains and drives her to still eat. To fill herself up against any further lean times.
She looks down. She sees another body. Another gashed and red-smeared throat. Another set of blankly staring eyes.
Amelie: Amelie is genuinely surprised to find relief. It’s a wash of water over a burning coal, a jill-off finished in the woods after two weeks of back-breaking labor to met a deadline, and night smoking and pigging out with friends all at once. She’s warm.
She lets the cholo go as she feels her aches fading and her wounds (somehow) knitting. She feels back to square one. Back to when she first woke. Clear-minded, and almost vindicated as she stares down at the dead man’s accusatory glare. He backed her into a corner, and now he lies dead. There is guilt… but also vengeance.
She still smells that wine close by, and turns her gaunt, gore-drooling face stare the blonde right in the eye. She still feels her throat screaming. The harsh bubbling of what passes for her stomach overflows from her throat as she tries to speak. All she manages is a strained, scratchy, and half-feral,
Caroline: Caroline looks down at the bound and blood-soaked Kindred.
She pulls the blade out of the cholo’s throat and wipes it on the corpse’s already stained wifebeater.
Amelie: Amelie sputters and spits to clear her throat.
“Surprised to see you,” she rasps.
GM: There’s several other unfamiliar individuals nearby, men and women. The other gangsters are all lying tied up on the floor.
Amelie: She slowly looks down, her eyes searching for the drop of wine on Caroline’s body. Her ears find no heartbeat. It starts to sink in as she looks at the other tied-up figures in the room. Caroline is dead, too.
Caroline: “Well, that makes two of us.”
The Ventrue makes no move to help or release Amelie, but kicks the drained body away.
“I see you’re still making friends.”
GM: An auburn-haired girl around Amelie’s age stares after it.
Amelie: Amelie locks eyes again with the Malveaux. “You have no idea. I’m sorry for your… loss of yourself, I guess.”
Caroline: “I think you have rather your own worries right now,” Caroline replies. She leans over. “They did quite a number on you.” Her gloved fingers trace bullet holes, cuts, and two aching holes where Amelie’s teeth once were.
GM: Two fangs hang from a necklace around the cholo’s neck.
Amelie: The frail monster warily pulls away from the woman’s gloves. Her eyes rest on the necklace for only a moment. It’s difficult not to jump to conclusions.
“I would prefer you have your hands a safe distance from my mouth.”
There is no edge to her words. They’re downright dull.
“Why are all these people tied up here?”
Caroline: “They thought to become vampire hunters. Now they’ll learn the error of those ways,” Caroline replies.
GM: The unbound figures survey Amelie without comment.
There’s an older, bald man with hard features and a gun casually held in his hands. A blonde woman and darker-skinned man with similar demeanors, also armed. Two last figures, a tight-featured woman with her hair pulled back in a tight bun, and the younger, glasses-wearing redhead, are the only ones not carrying weapons.
Amelie: Amelie’s face betrays a bit of uncertainty as she looks from the cholos, to the figures, and up to Caroline once more. Her eyes probe this time.
“I’m not certain just yet if that’s… what I am. Last time I was fed on, I don’t recall that vampire losing control and ripping out my throat.”
GM: “I think the evidence is literally right in front of you,” says the redhead. Her voice is tight.
Caroline: Caroline laughs darkly. “You’re a vampire, though that term isn’t particularly in vogue. I recommend the term we use among each other, ‘Kindred.’”
“What do you mean, though, the last time you were fed on? It sounds like you have some explaining to do.” The heiress’ eyes glimmer.
Amelie: Amelie’s eyes flick over to the ginger.
“That’s good to hear, if true. There’s a lot more out there than just ‘Kindred.’”
But they flit back to Caroline quickly, looking over her hair a moment.
“That’s a bit of a long story though. Best I can shorten it, I wasn’t a normal human even before… this.”
Caroline: “I think most people would agree with that statement,” comes Caroline’s dry response.
Amelie: “Such barbs,” she quips. “I watched myself be fed on. Closely.”
“Plenty of time for that later, though. I guess I should backpedal first and start with a thank you. If this is a rescue.”
GM: The unbound figures all remain silent.
Blood continues to seep from the glassy-eyed body’s throat over the carpeted floor.
Caroline: “It’s close enough to one for your purposes,” Caroline replies. “Why don’t we start with what matters, though. Who made you?”
Amelie: “I was hoping you could answer that. I only know where and when. I woke up in a morgue near Booker T. Washington High School. 9 PM near the dot.”
GM: “Was anyone else there when you woke up?” the redhead asks. Her eyes slowly look up from the body.
Amelie: “A mortician that I thankfully did not completely rip the throat out of. No ‘Kindred,’ however.”
Amelie slowly looks down at herself. She wonders if they cared enough to clothe her.
GM: Amelie is already on the floor and can ‘look down’ no further.
The redhead’s gaze has become very attentive.
Caroline: “Thankfully did not completely rip the throat out of?” Caroline asks harshly. “As in you left a living witness?”
Amelie: Amelie meets Caroline’s eyes again immediately, snapping back up at a potential threat.
“I don’t know if he’s still alive. He was bleeding heavily when I left. Broke windows, so he might have bled himself even further. I was more concerned with the fact I was dead. And attacking people in what felt like blackouts.”
GM: “I could tip off the Krewe,” the redhead says to Caroline. “We’re out here in Algiers, and with the bridge closed… someone needs to get this cleaned up.” She frowns. “It’s already been hours, he said 9 PM…”
Caroline: “Pull up the school, tell me where it is, then make the call to the Krewe and tip them off that you got a tip about someone causing a ruckus over in that area.” She looks at Amelie. “Anything else you’d care to share about the matter?”
GM: “It’s in Mid-City. Anarch territory,” says the redhead, looking up from a phone.
Amelie: “I blacked out and a security guard died because of it. I pulled him down a flight of stairs to cover up…”
She has to take a moment. It feels sickening to admit it.
“When I came to, I’d twisted his neck around.”
GM: “You’re a real killing machine, huh,” the armed blonde remarks dryly.
Amelie: Amelie feels it like a punch to the heart. It’s true. It was so easy. Scarily easy.
“And there was the gas station… something is there. I think it might have… fed me. Toyed with me. Something. But I think these cholos killed it when I unleashed it.”
Caroline: “And they said I made a mess,” Caroline tells the redhead.
GM: “One—two dead,” she says, looking back down at the body. “One maybe dead. All hours ago. Jesus.”
She looks back down at her phone, up at Caroline, and then back up to Amelie. “And maybe you should start with the last thing you remember before waking up in the morgue, and then just tell us everything that happened afterwards.”
She looks back down at the phone and rapidly starts tapping.
Amelie: Amelie feels a bit of… frustration roiling in her gut at how they are treating her. But she takes several steadying breaths, despite her lungs being wholly useless now.
“I died in Orleans Parish Prison,” she states, rather plainly. She goes through a quick and concise summary while her eyes search the tied-up cholos for the one who touched her with his gun barrel.
GM: The redhead, and occasionally the woman with the tightly bound hair, interject with questions and requests for additional information.
Caroline: Caroline seems content to allow the other two to ask most of the questions.
GM: Unfortunately, it goes so much like the police interview in the hospital… the disbelief is plain on their faces almost immediately in.
“BS. What aren’t you telling us?” asks the redhead.
Amelie: Amelie answers them as best she can. She grasps how important this is to them and agrees to an extent with covering it up. But she feels a familiar pattern when that question comes up.
“What was the first thing I said to you, ginger girl?”
GM: The redhead frowns. “Uh, what does-”
“You’re here to answer questions,” the deep-voiced bald man cuts in. “Not ask them.”
Amelie: “It was rhetorical. The first thing I said to her was that there’s more out there than just ‘Kindred.’ When I blacked out, an entity tied to Delphine LaLaurie mocked my last moments. Just as another from the same house started me on this path.”
GM: The redhead stares at her. “And what the hell is that even supposed to mean?”
Amelie: “Just what I said. If you want details, Caroline is the one to ask.”
GM: “I’m pretty sure you’re the one who’s going to be spilling details, actually,” says the redhead. “But never mind, we can go back to that later. Pick up with what happened after you blacked out during the prison fight.”
Amelie: “Just what I said. I can find the painting of it if you’re willing to give me an arm back. But whether it was insanity or a real entity, it mocked me during my final prayers. It recanted over them with darker verses. And then it hurt. Everywhere. Like I was a white-hot brick of iron.”
GM: Amelie gets alternatively blank or ‘what the hell is she going on about’ at the mention of a painting. The redhead continues to thoroughly question her about the specific sequence of events until Amelie has brought them all the way up to the present.
“Cut that out,” she snaps irritably to the fledgling vampire at one point. “If you wanna resist, there’s way rougher methods we can use to get answers out of you.”
Amelie: Amelie strains against her bonds for a moment as a small panic runs through her system.
“You’re doing this? You can’t threaten me, look at me. I’m covered in more scars than skin,” she grunts. “You want in, though? Go ahead. Knock.”
She goes quiet though, keeping eye contact with the ginger so she can try again. She hopes she finds something horrific and tries to summon up all the horrors she’s seen over the past weeks. Maybe the ginger will see them all at once. Hopefully that’s how it works.
GM: The redhead continues to question Amelie about the sequence of events after she woke up, and seems particularly concerned by the details of the murders she committed.
She eventually looks back up to Caroline and says, “Well, I’ve ESP’d him. His story checks out—at least so far as he believes.”
Amelie: Amelie feels a bit disappointed the ginger isn’t screaming at this point and looks to Caroline. “Ginger boys and their manners.”
GM: “You blind? She’s got tits,” scoffs the gun-carrying blonde.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t dignify the blonde with a response, waiting for their obvious boss’ reaction to things.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t seem interested in getting in the middle of the slap fight between her employees and Amelie. Instead, she pinches the bridge of her nose as she lets them question her.
Anarch territory leaves a lot of potential options for a sire.
“It sounds like her sire was hanging around at the morgue, if there hasn’t been any noise about what happened there. Which raises an obvious question as to whether or not she’s legal or illegal.”
Caroline dearly hopes it’s the former, but suspects the latter. Most legitimate sires wouldn’t let their childer run amok and get torpored by a gang of thugs, much less cause the mess she has already. Unless her sire lost track of her when she jumped off the bridge as well.
She looks down at the bound Amelie. After a moment, she takes off her coat and lays it over her. Amelie can see what looks like an armored vest of some kind underneath the peacoat. There’s a firearm on one hip that was also hidden, and opposite it—which Amelie had already seen—a long, thin blade.
All in all, the blonde looks almost as battle ready as the other three—minus their long arms and kneepads.
Amelie: Amelie seems rather surprised when the coat comes down on top of her. It’s the first straightforward act of kindness she’s experienced beyond the ‘thing’ potentially feeding her since… before she can remember. It gives her legitimate pause.
“If we’re thinking ‘who’, depending how long it might take to…‘change’, it could have been the prison, morgue, or even hospital. If Tulane Medical is where I may have been taken to try and save my life, it could have been the Kindred I saw while watching my body from the underworld. Female, blonde hair, long, past the shoulders. And if the bridge is closed, we could borrow a tugboat to make it across the river. If it’s urgent for you, Miss Malveaux. I could potentially get one running. Or if that would cause too much attention, I know an access point in which we can get into the guts of the bridge, and pass underneath.”
Caroline: “Not necessary, Miss Savard,” Caroline replies absently.
“You really have no idea what you’ve gotten into, or rather, have been brought into.”
Amelie: “No, I don’t. I expected a much different death,” she offers.
“What happens now? I still don’t even know why you came for me. My death sounds as though it’d solve problems for you.”
GM: “Milk’s spilled. You’ve already killed two or three people,” says the blonde. “Though hey, maybe you had plans on chowing down a few more.”
By this point, the blood that flowed from the dead man’s stabbed throat has started to dry into the carpet.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t look to her, but stares at the blood on the carpet. Such a handsome man dead. It still hurts seeing death.
“I chose Algiers to run to because of the low population. I could have gone straight to an occultist, but ran the risk of blacking out and killing if I saw someone. I never wished to hurt anyone. It’s why I ran from these man, instead of fighting them.”
GM: “Good on you, boss lady’s probably still gonna need to kill them all,” says the blonde.
Amelie: “That’s a shame. I wanted to know how they knew what I was. And why they were hunting me. And what they saw when I opened that door at the gas station.”
Caroline: “I think it was the blinding speed that gave it away,” Caroline replies dryly.
Amelie: “I don’t know if I’m convinced they were ignorant beforehand. The only car in a large empty section of that city. And they seemed to know where I was when they found me the second time.”
Caroline: “Honestly, I don’t really care what you’re convinced of,” Caroline replies plainly. “You’re entirely within my power in more ways than you can imagine. You’ve murdered at least three people this evening—that you’ve confessed to—and done so in the messiest way I can imagine short of on live television.”
GM: “She’s got the state police up in arms,” says Autumn. “That bridge’s still closed.”
Caroline: “Great,” Caroline replies.
“Let me explain to you your position more clearly. You’re a fledgling—a newborn vampire—with no sire—that is creator in sight. By all rights I should hand you over to the prince right now and let him disposes of you—and make no mistake, that’s what’s likely to happen.”
“You’ve broken the rules of our kind at least half a dozen times already. So kindly don’t think you have a vote in this—the fact that I’ve even allowed you a voice is a courtesy that most are denied.”
The blonde heiress is a far cry from the milder version of herself Amelie remembers from only months ago. There’s a harder edge to her words. A cruelty to them.
Caroline promptly turns and draws out her phone. She thoughtfully taps her finger on the Solaris’ screen, then lowers it after a moment.
“While I think on this mess, we need to clean up the other.”
She turns her attention to Autumn. “I know this one is difficult for you. Are you all right?”
GM: Autumn looks at the body again.
“I’m… better than he is.”
Caroline: “He made his choice. He was my mistake, but if I hadn’t dealt with it he would have eventually come for even me, unless he got himself and a lot of others killed first—likely yourself included. You know what he did couldn’t be allowed to slide, and not just tonight.”
Her gaze sweeps towards the remaining members of the gang.
GM: “I know,” Autumn nods slowly. “I guess there never really was… any way this was gonna end well. At least it’s done. Before things got any more… out of hand.”
Caroline: “That was as clean as I could give it to him,” Caroline nods. “I need you to find out from the others if anyone outside of this group knows, or if it was confined to his closer contacts, and find out how far back they go.”
GM: “Right,” Autumn nods. “Lots of these people could have spilled… I guess that was really the thing. They meant more to him than we did. He didn’t keep secrets from them.”
Amelie: Amelie says nothing. Maybe Caroline is taking too much satisfaction in lording her power over someone else to consider that the ‘fledgling’ is no better than a newborn sent screaming into a world trying to kill her. Or maybe Caroline just doesn’t care.
But the questions still swirl. About this ‘prince’ who’s the authority. Why Caroline is even here.
Caroline fills in some blanks when she links herself to the gang. They’re hers. Amelie could have vanished if not for these thugs.
She looks towards the dead cholo to see if the dagger is still in his neck.
GM: It remains embedded.
Caroline: Caroline looks back to Fuller. “We’re going for the border house special on this one. Make it look like drug wars gone bad—if and when anyone finds it. I don’t want to take the risk of moving the bodies around while the police are swarming around.”
She’s not comfortable here, not only in the outlands, but also with this kind of body disposal. It’s part of why she brought in Diego. Still, she’s learned her fair share since her Embrace, and from picked up almost as much from Diego’s mind.
“Pull out the vacuum bags and the drywall sheets.”
GM: Fuller nods. “We’ll get to work on the walls.”
“Too bad about Rivera. He could’ve done this better than us.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “He could have done a lot of things better.”
GM: “Said it himself, though. He didn’t need you.”
Caroline: She looks back at Amelie. “Little fledgling, you should patch yourself up. Wherever I decide to take you when we leave, it’s better to put on a brave face. At least grow your fangs back.”
Amelie: Amelie strains against her bindings, trying to sit up so she can get to her knees.
“I should mention that gas station again. Its security footage and the fact it was shot up by these men. And if you’re trying to keep the supernatural away from the living, the nest that was made in it.”
Caroline: “It’s taken care of,” Caroline replies.
GM: “He was smart in his own way,” Autumn says quietly to Caroline. “He might’ve done a lot of damage, once he was able to learn more of the rules.”
Amelie: Amelie rolls her jaw around as she struggles to her knees. She can already feel her body slowly trying to knit itself back together. She tries to focus that power on her jaw.
“May I ask a question?”
Caroline: Caroline glances away from her ghoul back to Amelie.
“You haven’t seemed to stop yet.”
She begins to see why others were so exasperated by her own actions.
Amelie: Amelie’s jaw cracks pointedly. She wants to snark about Caroline’s first night as a vampire. Assuming she wasn’t one when they met—that was in broad daylight—it has to have only been in the last six months.
“Forgive me my ignorance. I’ll keep it to myself, then.”
Caroline: “Spit it out. You’re likely to get a kinder answer from me than most.”
Amelie: “Must I kill? When I drink, do they HAVE to die?”
It seems like a silly question even to Amelie. But its answer will decide much of her future.
Caroline: Caroline looks down. Her voice softens.
“No. Not if you can control yourself. Not if you’re careful. In fact, it’s usually better not to.”
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t feel like a weight just got lifted from her shoulders. It breaks over them and sends pieces crumbling around her. A future where she had to kill just to eat would end at a gun’s barrel, and she’d have been the one begging for enough strength to pull the trigger.
She can’t hold it back as her face twists into a near-sob. She still grieves all that’s been lost, but there’s relief too, for the safety of others. She doesn’t need to die so that others can live.
After a few moments, she wipes her face on a clean section of carpet and sits up straight again.
“Then I’m ready to put on a brave face through anything. And hunt down that son of a bitch who made me go through this alone.”
GM: The section of carpet looks like it has some blood on it.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t smile. “You might well get your chance,” she replies.
Amelie: Amelie instinctively sniffs and starts looking around the room. She marks the skinniest cholo as the one whose clothes to take before she looks back to Caroline. Her face is determined.
“I’ll do what I can to help you until then. Please let me.”
Caroline: “I think you’ve done more than enough,” Caroline replies. “For now, watch and learn.”
She lets her ghouls start on the cleanup and leaves Amelie to her own thoughts for a moment as she withdraws a short distance away to make a phone call.
Saturday night, 20 February 2016, AM
GM: “It’s Jen, hello there, Miss Malveaux,” sounds the voice of Coco’s herald.
Caroline: “Good evening Ms. Haley,” comes Caroline’s crisp voice. “I hope this is a good time.”
GM: “As good as any. What can I do for you, ma’am?”
Caroline: “I have a matter that I think would be of significant interest to Coco, but it’s both rather sensitive, and rather specifically time sensitive. Do you know if she’s available, or when she might be?”
GM: “Lucky timing. I’m in the same room as her right now, actually. I’ll pass you along.”
Caroline: “Thank you, Ms. Haley.”
A man once said ’there’s a providence that protects fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.’ Apparently he forgot about Ms. Savard.
GM: “Hello, Caroline,” sounds Coco’s velvety voice. The Ventrue can make out indistinct noises and blues music playing in the background.
Caroline: “Good evening, Coco.” Caroline has slowly become more accustomed to the elder’s preferred title—none.
“I’m sorry to bother you on short notice, but I thought this matter deserved your rather direct attention. I’ve come across a lost puppy, poor thing seemingly born tonight, and had a thought you might be interested.”
GM: “Oh, really? No owner anywhere in sight?”
Caroline: “Not that I can find. Left all alone in the night to get itself into trouble—and finding plenty of it.”
GM: “I see. Where did you find the poor thing, and where are you now?”
Caroline: “Someone called me about it, so I went on a field trip across the river,” Caroline replies. “It looks like it’s been through hell. I know you typically have a soft spot for strays. I thought you might have rather more in this case, as I think it may be from your neighborhood based on the breed.”
“I confess, I don’t keep track of the breeders in the area that closely, and don’t know who it might belong to. But you know how the city is about strays.”
GM: “Not so well as you,” the Brujah observes.
Caroline: “Some of us have to learn lessons the hard way,” Caroline agrees. “The smarter move was probably to let it go, but I confess I have something of a soft spot with these matters.”
GM: “No, the smarter move was to bring it to someone’s attention,” Coco says. “Come bring it over to my usual hangout. I’d advise sooner rather than later. South of the Mississippi can be a bad place for pups’ owners’ too, at this time of night.”
Caroline: “I wasn’t planning on an extended visit, I just need to finish with the mess it made here.” She runs her tongue over her fangs. “I’ll be in touch.”
GM: “See you both soon.” The line clicks.
Saturday night, 20 February 2016, AM
Amelie: Amelie does keep her eyes on the others, but it doesn’t stop her from slowly pulling at her restraints. She tests how they rest on her as she starts to memorize their process. If it’s a job to do with one’s hands, after all, it’s a job for her.
She keeps her body busy even while she watches. After confirming she’s no longer strong enough to even attempt breaking them through brute force, she tries something else. She pulls the binds taught and idly starts vibrating her arms. She twitches her muscles as fast as she can, moving them at the same scary speed they’ve shown themselves so capable of. She starts small, if only to keep it silent while Caroline is nearby.
Caroline: The heiress returns after only a few moments. There’s a noticeable urgency to her motions and in the orders she provides to those with her that quickly accelerates into outright blinding speed. Evidently the phone call did not go well.
A hole is cut in the drywall of a thicker interior wall and multiple sheets of vacuum sealing plastic laid out while Autumn interrogates the remaining thugs. The first slain thug’s body goes in the plastic bag, and a small vacuum sucks the air out around it out through a one-way valve. All parties other than Caroline wear gloves.
While they wait for Autumn to finish the replacement drywall is prepared—cut to size and pre-staged with dry-walling mud around its edges. The bloodstained carpet is pulled up around a moved Amelie and rolled up to be placed inside the wall alongside Diego.
GM: Autumn reports that all of the Cottonmouths have known about vampires for months. Diego told them everything not long after he was ghouled.
Amelie: Amelie watches in the meantime. The plan to stuff the bodies in the wall makes her wonder. Someday people might demolish this house and find them. The logic doesn’t make sense to her. Better to vacuum-seal the corpses and toss them in the river, right? The current from the lake drainage into the main Mississippi River would pull the bodies right out to sea. She does the math quickly in her head and finds they’d only need around 15 pounds of weight each for a corpse to sink and stay at a depth of around 30 feet in the ocean as currents carry them.
But she doesn’t question them outright yet. She just watches them move at that impossible speed and mutters at them to blow the dust off before applying mud as they go.
Amelie cannot help but be impressed past the obvious grim reality of the situation, though. Even Ginger seems to know how to lay down a good mud patch on a dry-wall job despite seeming to have an entirely different specialty.
Caroline: As they get close to done with the setup, Caroline turns her attention back to the gangbangers. She gets her initial report from Autumn, then adds questioning of her own. How long have each known about the supernatural? How much do they know? Do did they believe the stories before tonight? Who did they talk about the stories with? Did they take them seriously? Did anyone they discussed them with take it seriously?
Her worst fears are somewhat alleviated as it’s revealed that until tonight, the Cottonmouths did not completely believe Diego’s stories about vampiros. He had long since demonstrated his powers to them, of course, and the gangbangers knew something had changed in their leader. Something made him faster, stronger, more than he had been earlier. He had become larger than life, more than just a man. But it was hard to accept that a race of blood-drinking monsters who walked in men’s skins could exist until they saw Amelie with their own eyes and sated her thirst with their own blood—and sated their thirst with hers.
Autumn has a list of friends and family members who heard the half-whispered stories. Diego fortunately didn’t want to give away the full extent of his powers, even to those Cottonmouths who enjoyed his confidences. He let just enough slip—stories of how he crushed men’s throats in with his bare hands. Stories of how a mere look from his burning eyes could make la policía piss themselves in fear. Larger than life exploits attributed to the crazy hijo de puta who’d been raised by the cartels—they had to have been. A legend is a useful thing to have.
When she’s done—having recovered everyone and everything of note from them—Caroline has the men each lay down on their respective bags. She looks back to Amelie.
“I have to imagine you’re still thirsty.”
Amelie: Amelie grits her teeth as she watches the men lay down on those beds. It’s awful. She doesn’t want to see this, but knows she has no real chance of stopping Caroline. The blonde’s question presents a chance, though. It’s practice and a safe-ish meal.
“And naked,” she points out. She looks through the cholos to find the skinniest one. It’s like a twisted and thigh-squeezing buffet as she nods.
“But yes. I would… appreciate the practice. To not harm someone while drinking. Under your supervision, if possible, Miss Malveaux.”
GM: “Should probably give her some clothes too,” says Autumn. “The bloody rags are an eyecatcher. And she looks a little out of place in a coat that nice, honestly.”
Caroline: “You don’t need to worry about harming them,” Caroline replies. “Or about clothing. Drink your fill. Close up as many of those wounds as you can.”
After her experiences with Jocelyn and others, Caroline always packs a couple spare sets of clothing.
GM: The bald man removes Amelie’s restraints if Caroline doesn’t countermand him.
Caroline: Caroline lets him remove Amelie’s leg restraints—and cautions her not to try anything.
“Grab one of the backpacks from the car,” Caroline instructs the shorter of the blondes. “Something that will not be completely out of place on her.”
GM: The bun-haired woman returns with one in short order.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t know that and thinks she’ll be just be made to walk around naked like an animal for another night. The mention of a backpack gives her a glint of hope, though.
GM: Caroline’s assurance that she need not worry about clothing also may.
Amelie: She lifts her arms up for the bald man to pull off her restraints and slowly flexes with the new range of motion she has. She moves over and kneels beside the cholo who had the gall to call her a faggot.
“Mira dónde estás ahora… ‘maricón.’”
(“Look where you are now… ‘faggot.’”)
She uses her knee to pin his chest and headbutts him in the side of his face, keeping him from biting her before a new set of fangs hungrily un-sheathe in her mouth.
GM: Amelie’s mouth feels as empty as it did before. The bald man glances at Caroline, who nods. He kneels and nicks the neck of Amelie’s victim with a knife. The latter man gives a shout of alarm and strains against Amelie before Caroline catches his gaze and firmly orders him to “stop resisting.” The man’s face goes blank.
Amelie: Amelie braces herself with a single calming and ineffectual breath before taking a deep bite into the man’s bleeding neck. She tries to take cues from the Kindred who fed on her in the hospital as she fills her mouth with manna.
She’s like a child with new teeth, trying to think their way into biting into an apple. Her eyes widen as her mouth fills with her first conscious mouthful of fresh blood. There’s a second renewed slurp as she drives her face harder into her one-time tormentor’s neck.
It’s more than licking it off the ground. She can feel the tiny surges of blood pushing from his heart, like they should be making a bed creak. It takes more than a little willpower not to groan into his neck like a beast in heat. It lives up to every dream she had of something else. Every thump in his chest is heaven.
But she slowly pulls back, her tongue roughly cleaning his wound and her own lips as she feels a mixture of relief and pride at her accomplishment. Her eyes are half-lidded as she kneels over him and feels her body slowly knitting back together.
GM: The man moans like a whore in heat under Amelie’s kiss and tugs against his bonds.
“Joder, sí … joder!” he pants.
Amelie: Amelie slowly licks her lips and slides a foot up to be on one knee before violently headbutting him right in the nose.
“That’s for molesting me, coño.”
GM: Amelie’s weak headbutt is still enough to break the man out of his evident stupor. He blinks, snarls, and awkwardly tries to lunge at her. Muffled curses in Spanish sound through his gag.
Caroline: Caroline moves in immediately to shove a rag in the man’s mouth as soon as Amelie’s actions breaks her control. She holds him down until she can re-dominate him.
GM: His face goes still again beneath the Ventrue’s commanding words.
Caroline: Only when she’s secured him does she turn her attention to Amelie, her Beast rising up as she bares her fangs and emits a menacing hiss.
“Knock that off. I don’t have time for your petty shit right now.”
Amelie hasn’t really seen it, not until now. The monster inside the heiress. It bleeds through her words, around her. It fills the room with oppressive presence around Amelie, pushing down on her like an almost physical force. It’s massive, savage. It dares Amelie to step out of line.
“Finish your meals so I can get this over with.”
Ultimately, the missing blood will contribute to the narrative that the bodies were killed elsewhere and dumped here, should anyone discover them before Caroline can arrange a more permanent resolution.
Amelie: Amelie’s Beast doesn’t even show itself in response as her eyes meet Caroline’s. The command is not a suggestion, and the fledgling’s position is more than clear. She says nothing, but hurries to take the chance to feed herself. She goes neck to neck practicing nonlethal bites and feels a final climax topping off the bliss she’s already taken in. When she finishes, she carefully uses a wifebeater to clean her face, and waits for the next step in the Malveaux’s plan.
Caroline: The heiress inspects each set of wounds to make sure Amelie has licked the wounds closed, and instructs her otherwise in how to do so clinically. When Amelie’s had her fill, one of the security provides Caroline a suppressed firearm.
“Let her get dressed while we finish up here.” Her voice is hard, cold. Distant.
GM: “Shouldn’t she see this? Her fault, too,” says the larger blonde. “Her fault mostly, actually.”
Caroline: “She can watch,” Caroline answers.
Amelie: Amelie looks to the blonde with slight annoyance. She wonders how it’s her fault their people turned into vampire hunters and targeted her. She resolves not to watch and looks down at the floor.
GM: The bald man grabs a fistful of Amelie’s hair and yanks her face up.
“When someone bleeds. When someone dies. You watch.”
His voice drips with disgust.
Amelie: Amelie’s neck is too weak to resist. Her eyes look to the side to avoid directly watching. She doesn’t respond to the man’s ignorance, either. When someone dies or bleeds for a purpose, you watch them to carry a piece with you. It’s a lesson in history, leading to many ruins and victories.
But slaughters are not things to internalize. She has to keep her soul in place and close her heart to the slaughter. She can’t take their deaths on her shoulders lest her back break.
Caroline: Caroline briefly takes a knee and draws forth a small rosary from under her shirt. She prays quietly to herself for a moment before tucking it away and taking up the gun. It’s over very quickly, cleanly.
She places several rounds in each man’s chest and head. It’s a big hulking .45 and a slower-velocity round to begin with. With the suppressor she’s not worried about punching through the other side. The bags are sealed in short order.
GM: The bald man twists Amelie’s arms into a lock when she tries to look away. It hurts. Still, she averts her gaze. Perhaps not her soul, but at least her gaze.
The silencer is as loud as guns on TV. Audible, but not deafening. Each man stares blankly ahead, until the bloody hole in the center of his head and chest appears. Then his face stays that way forever. His fellows watch ahead blankly as each black bag gets done up like so much trash. They don’t shout. They don’t scream. They don’t cry. They’re like zombies.
They don’t even beg.
Caroline methodically goes through each man, execution-style, but it’s more like watching livestock get slaughtered: not even an act of death, except to the audience. Silence hangs pregnant in the air.
Amelie: Each gunshot makes Amelie jump. She hates the noise they make. She hates the smell of gun-smoke. She hates the added scent of blood that comes from the pits the bullets make. Guns are awful.
When the bald man releases her hair, she finally looks over the scene, taking slow and calming breaths to keep her nerves.
Caroline: Caroline’s hand doesn’t shake, but she quickly turns from the bodies to her ghouls.
“This isn’t on any of you. It’s on me. I killed them. If any of you have any problems or hang-ups about it after the fact, come speak with me when we’re done.”
GM: ‘Brian’ isn’t the only one to look at Amelie with disgust when the slaughter is over.
“You can lead a horse to water,” the blonde woman remarks.
Amelie: Amelie feels no need to take their disgust as any mark against her. If anything, with what’s happened here, it’s a good thing she still has ideals that can clash against them.
Caroline: While the bodies are zipped up and put away Caroline draws forth the rosary again.
GM: “Had to be done,” the bald man says, releasing Amelie’s hair.
Caroline: Caroline finishes her prayer and tucks the rosary away.
“I know. Thank you, Brian.”
GM: “Me too.” The redhead looks queasier than the bald man, but nods slowly in agreement with Caroline’s initial statement.
“There… wasn’t gonna be any happy ending here.”
Caroline: “The happy ending left when the words left Diego’s mouth,” Caroline agrees. “Let’s just get it done. It isn’t safe here.”
Amelie: Amelie says nothing. She waits for her last restraints to come off so she can dress herself.
GM: “I say ‘she’ looks fine in rags,” says the larger blonde, as if in response to that very thought.
Caroline: “Enough. She’ll learn or she’ll die. It’s the only choice available. Especially with her clan.”
Amelie: That gets some of Amelie’s attention. ‘Especially with her clan?’ She looks towards Caroline confusedly at the mention of such an odd word.
Caroline: Most of Caroline’s clothing would fit Amelie particularly poorly. The blonde ghoul has dug out a rare set that’s still imperfect, but is certainly more serviceable than simply a coat. It includes black pants, a red and gold shirt, and a tight black coat that will be noticeably less tight across Amelie’s meager chest. The bottom of the pants will have to be rolled several inches as well. Still, it’s better than being naked. The bra is a needless formality that Amelie doesn’t require and isn’t given.
No one seems to have much attention for her dressing as the bodies are stacked and the hole patched with inhuman speed. A light coat of paint covers up the recent work.
Amelie: She takes the chance rather quickly. The outfit is a little gaudy for her, but she pulls it on with some haste. She does the rolls herself, pinches and folds the cloth, and tucks it around and up to keep it at a proper angle before she tightly pulls the coat on. She’s finally in clothes. Nudity was a nightmare that’s finally over as she fixes her hair.
Though she watches them all work, she looks for an opening after it is done to ask Caroline about her mention of a ‘clan’.
Caroline: When Amelie has dressed herself Caroline has her re-cuffed, though she’s generous enough to have it done in front this time, rather than behind her back. She doesn’t entertain questions until they’re complete and loading into the waiting vehicles outside.
GM: The moment doesn’t come.
It seems impossible how they could have missed it.
The figure sitting on one of the living room’s chairs.
He’s shorter than Amelie or Caroline. About the same height as Autumn. Dark brown hair lies flat against his head, coming to rest in a slight curl just below his ears. A scruffy mustache and Vandyke would give him an almost roguish appearance, if his lips were quirked in a smirk. They are not.
The marble-like pallor to John Harley Matheson’s and Augusto Vidal’s still features made them seem like statues come to life. The comparison is all the more apt with the present figure, who sits naked and bereft of any clothing. His small body is firm, stringy, and compact, without an ounce of excess fat. His genitals have not been circumcised. Light dully reflects off his marble-like skin.
But he does not resemble either of Caroline’s elder clanmates. Not fully. Some trick of the light makes his form seem hazy, indistinct. Ethereal. He seems to almost glow. His nude form is covered by a coat of silvery fur, no thicker than an army recruit’s buzzcut. His posture, too, is odd. He’s not sitting the way a normal person sits. Something about how his shoulders are hunched, the way his claw-nailed hands grip his knees, at once stiffly and casually, seems… off. As if he doesn’t know how to sit on a chair. As if he’s watched Caroline do it, and is now trying to mimic it. Badly.
His face is off, too. It looks human. Enough. But the contours are… wrong. The jaw is subtly curved and misshaped. His teeth are just a little too large in his mouth. It’s as if some indecisive sculptor cast an animal’s head from clay, changed their mind mid-way through, and tried to fashion a man’s instead. It was too little and too late.
His eyes are a deep gray-blue, like pools into fathomless depths. The inky black pupils are as wide and wild as any animal’s. One could stare into those eyes forever. But one need only glance into them once to be sure of a single fact:
This creature is not human.
It has not been human for a long time.
Caroline: Caroline whirls on him the moment she sees him, but holds up a hand to forestall any action by her ghouls.
GM: The ghouls all startle, some more than others. The armed ones level their guns.
The creature does not stir.
Amelie: Fear all but flips the pit of Amelie’s stomach as her eyes dart over the figure’s form in every which way. The fur, the claws, the posture. He… it… feels wrong in its own skin. She remembers tales of the goat-man around the fire, a poor mimic of humanity that could simply be in a room and have you count it as always being there. It could have watched them for hours or seconds.
Her right foot slowly moves back, ready to kick off the ground, but her eyes don’t leave the creature. Everything about it after her encounters thus far tells her it’s not something to fight.
She slowly pops her jaw in her mouth, eyes darting from Caroline to the creature and back again, trying to find the dagger on her body.
Or look at them.
Caroline: Caroline suspects she’s found the ‘danger’ here.
“Good evening,” she greets it—him—firmly.
The words feel like they break a barrier between them and the thing.
GM: The creature’s voice is a soft whisper. Its lips do not seem to move.
“You are in my domain.”
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t step forward. She opts for another route and slowly, carefully, lowers herself down to one knee before the creature in a bow.
“Forgive us. It is… my fault,” she chokes out, trying not to shake.
GM: The creature’s fathomless eyes survey Amelie.
It offers no reply.
Caroline: “I was not aware that Algiers was a recognized domain, regent,” Caroline replies mildly. “My apologies.”
This is no pretender.
“We were preparing to take our leave. Might I offer you a boon in apology, and for the troubles created within it?”
GM: The creature’s voice is soft, still barely more than a whisper. Caroline has to strain to make it out.
Caroline: “Might I offer you something else then, in return, beyond my respects and apologies, regent?” Caroline asks carefully.
GM: The creature’s face does not change as it whispers,
Amelie: Amelie feels another shudder at their exchange. Is this another ‘kindred’? What the hell are they?
She stays on her knee and slowly looks up to face the creature’s form again. The fear is like hot iron inside of her, but she can still feel the others in the room. Lives. Caroline’s unlife. They saved her, and still yet live.
“The blunder is… mine. Anything I can possibly extend to you, my lord, is yours.”
The next words feel like torture out of her throat.
GM: The creature stares at Amelie.
Amelie: She lowers her head again, digging her nails into her palms.
Caroline: “She is an unreleased fledgling,” Caroline replies. “And unknowingly blundered into your domain. It is my intent to return her to her primogen, with your permission.”
GM: The creature’s completely still face remains fixed on Amelie. Another whisper escapes its motionless, oddly-shaped mouth.
“Who are you?”
Amelie: Amelie’s second knee lowers the floor and she bows lower.
“Amelie Savard, my lord. I am a smith.”
GM: The creature’s eyes have not blinked.
“I am no lord.”
Caroline: “Caroline Malveaux, of Clan Ventrue,” Caroline replies.
Amelie: “Apologies. I am simply below you. The title lept to me out of ignorance.”
GM: A ripple passes through the creature’s eyes.
“You are known to me, Caroline of the Malveaux.”
Its head slowly turns from Amelie to stare at her.
Caroline: She meets his gaze fully.
GM: “Do you offer yourself to me… Caroline?”
The name sounds awkward, bizarre, wrong on the creature’s tongue. Not casual like Coco makes it.
Caroline: “I would offer you a boon in apology, but my loyalty is spoken for, regent. I know not even your name, and I would not offer my self or services thusly.”
She’s also seen just how an elder might treat a neonate that is theirs.
GM: The creature replies in its monotone whisper,
“Uthman names me Nathaniel of Blanch.”
Amelie: Amelie looks up, a small amount of horror and wonder on her face. Almost like she looks upon an idol.
“Uthman ibn Affan?”
GM: The creature only stares.
Amelie: She quickly bows her head once again.
“Forgive me for my outburst.”
Caroline: “Your name is unknown to me, regent, for which I apologize,” Caroline replies.
GM: “You offer yourself to me, Amelie of Savard.”
Something seems to stir in the creature’s too-deep eyes.
Amelie: Amelie’s head nearly hits the floor. Fear creeps over wonder once again.
“I have transgressed. I only have myself to offer.”
GM: “I am old, Amelie of Savard.”
The creature’s pupils dilate and sharpen to frightening clarity. Blackness swallows the rest of its eyes like morsels disappearing down a beast’s gullet.
“I am hungry.”
Amelie: Amelie’s nails dig harder into her palms as she sees the creature’s eyes turn into a shark’s. It is hungry. Fear grips her, but Caroline has saved her life, as have the others in this room. She marshals all her courage and stays on her knees. She stays put. She just prays for her life, for the courage to allow them to at least get far enough to be safe.
“I am alone. My ‘sire’ absent. My life saved by those present besides us, it is all I can offer to excuse their transgressions and my own,” she squeaks out. “Whether it is my service or… otherwise.”
GM: The creature stares.
Then, it is no longer on the chair.
It doesn’t rise. It doesn’t leap. It tries, perhaps, to do both, or just one—and the results are a lurching, almost awkward parody of motion, as unmistakably inhuman as the rest of its misshapen body. It stands before Amelie, shorter than her, but she has the uncanny sense it would be looking down at her even if she stood on her feet.
The creature does not react as the ghouls’ firearms train after it. But motion disturbs its malformed mouth.
Something gray and dry and sandpaper-like, snaking from a sudden gash across its lower face.
“I am old and I am hungry, Amelie of Savard,” the creature whispers, licking its tongue across its chops.
Its clawed, fur-lined arms spread wide like a pair of opening jaws.
Amelie: Amelie sits up in her kneeling position as the ancient thing makes its way to her. If behind a screen it’d be a comical motion. But in person it is wrong, bereft of cadence. It’s the first time she has seen its mouth move, she cannot tell if it is a tongue, a snake, or if both these words have lost meaning to him.
She feels the same fear she had staring into that tower. Gawking into the world of the dead. But there is no running.
Shaky hands move up to the coat Caroline gave her, unbuttoning what she had and tossing it aside, allowing herself less protection from the creature.
She gives one look to Caroline, soaked in terror, before she tilts her chin back. Fear has taken her words. She would like a sword but feels it would snap in it’s jaws. She would like to run but knows it’d rip her legs off before she could.
Her only hope is to plunge forward, pray for mercy, and for her courage to hold just awhile longer. If she dies, this time she dies through her own choices. This time she stares the abyss and does not gnash, but dive.
“I am… yours, Nathaniel of Blanch.”
Caroline: “Respectfully, Regent Bathaniel, she is not hers to give,” Caroline interjects.
GM: No longer is there motion. It’s as if the creature has finally dispensed with the charade.
One second, it stands before Amelie.
The next, it’s gone.
Pain saws and rips and tears and rends apart Amelie’s dead flesh. The taut-stretched tension finally snaps as Amelie’s scream pieces the air, raw and hoarse and welling with pain, welling like the blood that slakes the creature’s immortal thirst.
Amelie: Amelie’s strangled screams ring through gritted teeth as she takes it. She takes it like she’s taken molten hell on her back, blades in her skin, and countless humiliations at the hands of people who believe themselves her superiors without earning it.
But it’s different this time. She takes it for someone. For the old Caroline who showed her kindness, and for this one who she can prove her value over again and moreover.
It hurts. She feels it drain and slip. She feels fire in her needy needy veins raging around like snakes scrambling for water.
She finally lets herself go limp in the jaws of the creature, hoping she’s valuable enough to let Caroline run.
GM: Another ravaged, red-spattered corpse hits the floor with a thump. Bone gleams through torn apart and shredded muscle. It’s barely recognizable as Amelie.
The creature’s arms retract. Its mouth hangs open. Blood drips from serrated rows of jagged fangs.
Caroline: Caroline stares, fighting to keep her expression carefully emotionless.
GM: The creature’s arms hang slack and motionless by its sides, as if it has forgotten their use. Its eyes stare at Caroline, black and wide and hungry. Still so hungry.
“That name is not Uthman’s, Caroline of the Malveaux,” it whispers.
Caroline: “You have spoken only of how others would name you, not of how you would name yourself, regent. What name would you be called by?” Caroline asks.
Beyond ‘monster.’ Caroline doesn’t look at Amelie’s shredded, torpid body. This forgotten elder. A monster that cannot help itself. That could not resist. That still might.
GM: Blood drips from the creature’s open-hanging mouth.
Its lips do not move.
“Nathaniel of Blanch… is enough.”
Caroline: “Nathaniel of Blanch. Is there more you would take this evening, or do we have your leave to depart?”
GM: Blood continues to run down the creature’s jagged and yellowed canines, pattering lightly as it strikes Amelie’s face. The creature’s arms hang slack against its naked body.
“Amelie of Savard has paid for her trespass. You have not.”
Caroline: Caroline stares.
GM: The trickling blood from the creature’s fangs has finally begun to taper off. Red stains dot Amelie’s face.
“Demourelles,” the creature whispers.
Then, all of Caroline’s ghouls stare.
The creature’s brow furrows. The motion looks almost human.
“Sleep upon Demourelles for three days. The first with Amelie of Savard. Return here. Tell Misha Sipokni what you see. Your trespass will be… forgiven.”
The creature’s hanging mouth closes.
Caroline: “Where would I find Misha Sipokni?” Caroline asks.
GM: The creature’s form abruptly vanishes like a snuffed-out candle.
The ghouls stare. Some with more alarm than others.
“What the fucking hell was that?” asks Green. Her voice is not even.
Caroline: “An elder.” Caroline looks down at the maimed Amelie. Her own voice is steady. “We’re never coming back to Algiers. Let’s go. Gather her up.”
GM: Brian does so.
“Isn’t that what he said he wanted, though…?” Autumn ventures.
Caroline: “We’ll see what the future holds,” Caroline replies. “He also wanted me to spend the night on Demourelles with her,” she gestures to Amelie, “and she may be destroyed by next week.”
GM: “Well, at least it’s not another marker to have hanging over your head…”
Caroline: “Just a different kind,” Caroline remarks as they pile into the vehicles. Amelie’s torpid body goes beside her as they set off.
GM: The night rolls steadily past as they pile into their cars. Everyone looks over their shoulders and scans past the windows.
Caroline: Caroline can’t blame them. The appearance of the near-forgotten elder and his assault upon Amelie is still fresh in her mind, looming like an imposing shadow over an already dark night.
Murder. Masquerade. She’s killed before, but never so personally and at once impersonally. Her blood ran in Diego. She knew him. Or at least believed she did. It hurt to kill him. It’s a small wound in what she’d thought was an hard shell around her heart that the execution of the other cholos found and penetrated, drove a blade into. What she did might have been necessary, for the Masquerade, for the faith, and for herself. But she’s never taken lives so coldly or quickly before.
And then there’s Amelie. Once more torpid beside her. Another sireless fledgling. Alone, scared. Mauled now almost to the point of final death already—in her first night. It conjures up unpleasant memories and darker thoughts.
It’s been a dark night, and the dawn holds no relief or salvation for her. Nor will it ever.
It’s a dark world, and she only ever seems to find herself more immersed in it. There was a time when she believed she could be more than just a monster. That she would not become just another monster.
Tonight she’s not convinced she already hasn’t.