Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood and Bourbon

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Story Eleven, Amelie IV, Caroline IX

“Nothing in your Requiem is easy, Amelie. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you can start carving one out for yourself.”
—Caroline Malveaux


Saturday night, 20 February 2016, PM

GM: Relief does not come.

Death does not come.

But sleep, perhaps, comes.

There is no half-conscious “nodding off” and transition period from wakefulness to sleep. One moment, she lies naked, bleeding, and huddled against the tub’s floor, spent even of tears.

The next, Amelie Savard is simply gone—pulled into a slumber so deep, total, and immediate it might as well be death. Hypnos and Thanatos were brothers to the ancient Greeks.

Amelie Savard could be dead for an instant. She could be dead for a thousand years.

Then.

Pain.

Burning. Everywhere. Pure red, as far as she can see. Fire burning from within and soothing from without. She screams in rapture. She screams in rage. She screams for more. She screams for it to end.

Waking to pain. Waking to bliss. Waking to pain. Exactly like last time. And the time before that. And the time before that. Always the same. Except someone’s slipped a little piss into her bliss, this time, towards the end.

Once again, she feels cold steel binding her wrists and ankles when the red haze finally clears. She still hurts. Everywhere.

Caroline stares down at her from outside the tub. She pulls away a bleeding wrist.

“Aren’t you a ravenous thing.”

She looks down at Amelie again, then effects a sigh.

“We can’t have you frenzying when Primogen Duquette picks you up, though. And we certainly can’t have you out hunting. Widney, tell Audrey to pick up a vessel for me. In the meanwhile, fledgling, I suppose it’s your lucky night…”

She raises her wrist to her mouth. There’s another flash of fangs—and more bliss falls over Amelie like a sanguine rain.

Amelie: Waking up to pain. It’s become rote. Waking up to the red haze of a blackout, however, is a worse fate. She wakes to the pain, and flinches at the piss muddled into the short flash of bliss she is ever allowed.

Amelies eyes open to another familiarity. To Caroline.

In her half conscious mind, she recalls the joy felt on her ‘last day’ of life. The thought of working with the krewes, the opportunities presented to her by this woman. Only for those around her to rip them down.

She feels a pang of guilt immediately though her ripped up chest for the blonde, that she’s had to endure laying with the snakes that’ve dragged her down. Guilt and…fear. An old, crude, and familiar fear that roils around in her chest. A fear of abandonment. Of what she would do without Caroline here with her to put up with her oddities and weakness. It sends a secondary thrill of panic through her chest as well, however. Caroline, who she has been on the fence about for days of sedentary staring at a wall thinking on who is her friend and who is her foe. It’s a feeling she can’t describe or process completely as she finds herself just staring slack jawed into the Malveux’ eye for an uncomfortable moment before a wrist is offered again.

Bliss finds her again though, fear assuaged for a moment as thin useless muscles flex out of stasis and slowly pulls the towel tighter around her.

“Did we… find Wilkinson, Caroline?”

Caroline: “No,” comes the heiress’ curt response. “Nor the shooters. Just more questions.” She brings up her wrist and licks the small wounds. When Amelie sees it again the trickle of vitae is gone, as are the wounds.

She looks over the teenage vampire and undoes the handcuffs around her wrists. They’ve moved Amelie to the living room. There’s a thick blanket under her keeping her ‘blood’ from soaking through to the leather coach.

Caroline has only the shorter blond with the carefully pinned and tied back hair with her now.
The smell of blood still hangs faintly in the air, but it’s stale, not the fresh stuff she had from the cholos, and certainly not the bliss from Caroline’s wrist.

Amelie: Amelie is slow and careful now as the cuffs come off, covering herself up and slowly sitting upright. She seems almost to the point of treating herself like glass. She finds it difficult to make eye contact with the blonde as well.

“That’s… too bad. There’s no time to keep looking, I assume? I don’t want to disappoint.”

Even her tone conveys more slack, though she finds herself chewing her lip looking for the source of the stale blood. Hoping it isn’t just the blanket under her.

GM: The clock overhead reads around half past 6.

Caroline: Two plastic bags stained red sit on the marble (or perhaps fake marble) countertop on the kitchen, visible to Amelie as she sits up.

Amelie: Her eyes slowly lock onto them.

“I hope those bags are not the clothes you were kind enough to allow me to borrow…”

Caroline: “Some of my emergency supply I keep on hand. If you’d checked the fridge—or anyone had seen fit to inform you—they might have kept you from slipping into torpor again last night,” Caroline answers.

GM: Widney says nothing at this.

Amelie: “Ah… I’m afraid my humors didn’t last past a shower and a look in the mirror. I didn’t even consider the fridge.”

She doesn’t make a move for them. Or much at all, sitting there staring at the clock.

Caroline: “You won’t want me to wake you up like that again,” Caroline replies. “As a rule you should try to avoid resting with wounds. Your body will burn through whatever vitae you have left to try and close them while you sleep.”

She looks over the tattered fledgling. “As for continued searches for our missing man, without a good lead to go on, I’m not especially inclined to continue through the city in the hopes that something productive comes of it.”

GM: “Your schedule has the hand-off to Primogen Duquette at a quarter to ten, ma’am. We’ll want to leave in another fifteen minutes in advance of that,” Widney states, briefly glancing down at a phone.

Amelie: Amelie assumes vitae is their polite word for blood, judging by the root of the word vitae itself and the context. But she nods at the lesson slowly. She grabs the thick blanket and brings it up around her, sitting covered as her mind ticks.

“If only there were more time. I’m sorry for the awkward question, but how far are we from the Superdome?”

GM: Widney gives her an odd look, but glances down at the phone again and replies, “One mile and eight minutes by car.”

Amelie: Amelie frowns, a small shudder going through her form. She had considered maybe dropping back into the underworld. But hearing how close they are to the tower makes her strike the idea.

“It’s dangerous to be so close to it. Caroline, would you mind just… spending the remaining time we have talking? I have questions..”

GM: Perhaps something in the Malveaux heiress’ eyes softens. Amelie would like to think it does. That Caroline feels something for her, after all she’s done. All the kindness she’s shown.

“Regarding?” she asks.

Amelie: Amelie doesn’t know what any of this really means anymore. She continues to keep her eyes off of Caroline, mostly staring out a thousand yards away.

“My new condition. For instance, you called it ‘frenzy’? These violent blackouts.”

GM: “I did,” Caroline answers.

Amelie: “Why do they happen?”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “That’s an existential question I don’t have a good answer to. Kindred call it ‘the Beast’, a monster inside all of us that is the root of our gifts, and also our greatest weakness. When exposed to things that frighten or anger us, or when we hunger, it tends to lash out. Sometimes an individual can restrain it. Sometimes… well, you’ve had plenty of experiences with the alternative.”

Amelie: Amelie thinks on the word beast, and then finds herself wondering back to the existence of Nathaniel Blanch. The Beast seems like a good word for it if that’s what it does to the oldest of ‘them.’ The thought is still foreign and horrible, that she’s related to that thing. The answer she gets is even less comfort. It’s scary not knowing exactly what you share your body with.

“So none of ‘our kind’ know what it is, exactly? Not even if it’s a separate entity inside of us?”

Caroline: “I imagine there’s probably some of our kind that have a better idea than others. But like almost all knowledge about our ways and condition, that knowledge is likely dangerous, and certainly valuable.”

Amelie: “Nathaniel Blanch. It’s called ‘the Beast’ and he was… well, how he was. Is that connected? The older we get the more of a monster we become?”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “Age makes it more difficult to remain in touch with humanity, but any of us can slip away and become nothing but the monster inside, Amelie.”

“In any case, the best answer I can give you about the origin of the Beast comes from the Sanctified. The Church teaches that the Beast is the collective sins of our kind, passed down sire to childe, back to Caine’s original murder. To be Embraced—made a vampire—is to be eternally damned by the weight of that inherited wickedness.”

She pauses to let that sink in. “It also holds however that all those Embraced are already damned by actions in their life. I would bid you give thought as to why you were chosen for this fate.”

Amelie: Amelie finally makes eye contact with Caroline after that last statement. She feels strange again. Usually she would feel a need to spit in someone’s face for saying that to her. But she can’t bring up that anger towards Caroline.

“Maybe I wasn’t chosen. Maybe I was given a choice. Did you know I wasn’t going to go into that mansion? A spirit told me I would die if I went into that house. And yet I went anyway. Because I couldn’t talk Yvette into not going. And it turned out to be a hazing that ruined my life.”

Caroline: “Only the sinful are Embraced, Amelie,” Caroline replies firmly. “I’ve yet to meet a Kindred that didn’t have some stain on their soul before the Embrace.”

Amelie: Again the familiar urge to spit and hiss doesn’t rise. If she had a stomach, she wonders if she should be sick to it as a result.

“There isn’t a person on earth who doesn’t have sin or isn’t lying about having none. But honestly, I think I wish to give God the benefit of the doubt in this horror show. Especially since I’ve stepped foot into a circle of hell.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t scowl, but her expression turns downward. “I’m not talking about lying on your taxes, Amelie. Or not paying a parking ticket. Or cheating on your girlfriend.”

“Good people don’t become vampires. The sooner you stop lying to yourself and accept that, the better off you’ll be. Not only because it’ll help you accept what has happened, but because it’s the first step towards the Sanctified.”

Amelie: Amelie finds herself wanting to. Almost. She feels the pull of listening to her, but as she looks back on her life. All that hard work. She knows her sin is wrath, ironically enough the who who probably knows that best in New Orleans is Caroline’s cousin. But maybe it was just destiny. Inherited destiny.

“You’ve mentioned that twice now. Who are the Sanctified? A vampire congregation?”

Caroline: “The vampire equivalent of the Catholic Church,” Caroline replies.

Amelie: Amelie has to choke down the question of if there is a vampire pope, just from pure curiosity.

“I imagine they’re big in New Orleans, considering the kind of city it is.”

Caroline: “The Sanctified rule New Orleans,” Caroline clarifies.

GM: Widney by this point is alternately scrolling through and tapping on the surface of a tablet. She clearly does not wish to put her time to nonproductive use.

Caroline: “Prince Augusto Vidal is one of the oldest and most powerful Kindred in the city, and the entire New World for that matter. And yes, he is a member of the Lancea et Sanctum. As are many of the elders in the city. Including Seneschal Maldonato, who will decide your fate tonight.”

“I’m not going deeply into the politics of the city tonight though,” Caroline continues. “All of this knowledge is valuable, and you don’t exactly have a sterling credit score right now. I’d also not overly poison your view before your meeting.”

Amelie: “If that’s what you want, of course. What about the conditions? Does garlic hurt me, must I be invited into houses, and God forbid do I sparkle in the sun?”

Caroline: “No, no, and definitely not,” Caroline answers. “Though you’ll burn quite nicely.”

Amelie: “Anything I’m missing? Stakes through the heart? Crosses? I have to assume I can take a mauling, I can take a sharp stick.”

Caroline: “Stakes will paralyze you if through the heart. Crosses… garlic, many of the more outlandish means of harming vampires can exist for specific vampires, but they’re irregular. Not universal to our condition. You see them more in elders and ancillae, that is, vampires that have outlived their mortal lifespan.”

Amelie: “Irregular? You’re saying vampires aren’t uniform? I’d assumed these ‘clans’ I heard about were just political camps.”

Caroline: Caroline bites back a testy response. It’s easy to forget that six months ago these were her mistakes.

Amelie: “Faux pas subject? We don’t have to talk about that.”

Caroline: “No, it’s fine. Clans are your ancestry, back to the first after Caine. Those eldest ancestors all left marks on their descendants, including the curses each must deal with and the gifts that come naturally to them. Your own clan, for instance, is most well known for physical prowess. And for being especially vulnerable to frenzy.”

Amelie: Amelie pauses for a moment at the name Caine. An auspicious figure to be considered ‘the first’ among vampires.

But the mention of physical prowess makes the young monster look down in shame at her body.

“Whoever my sire was is about six months too late on that front. It will take me awhile to get my body back to how it used to be.”

Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue across her fangs and is silent for a moment. Finally, “Amelie, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but your body is frozen in time at the moment of your Embrace. What you have now is what you’ll have for the rest of your Requiem.”

Amelie: Amelie feels an involuntary pull at the sides of her lips, a small smile with the meaning flipped on its head.

“No it’s not. I’ll be back to looking like a bulldyke in no time.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip, then slowly shakes her head. “No. You won’t. You’ll grow stronger with age, and as you master the gifts of the blood, but your physical body will not change, Amelie.”

Her lip quivers, and unfamiliar words pass her lips. “I’m sorry.”

Amelie: Amelie finds herself feeling out the borders of her form mentally. Her weight, her appearance, that aged horrid face in the mirror. Her hair stringy and useless. As though she’s being shipped on a train where a bunch of perfect blonde-haired blue-eyed cunts had decided she was to be starved and killed.

Anger wells up again, at the injustice of it all. Fear of weakness mixes into the pressure cooker, as does the inavoidable howling of loss of what she was once so proud of. It doesn’t feel enough to burst with the lethargy aching through her heart, but enough to make her wish she were back in the shower.

However, as she feels the quivering apology from Caroline of all people, she feels it smoothed down. Like running a hand along the fur of a snarling dog to put it back into place, and bringing it from a beast back to a companion. It’s raw, and a rare rare kindness that brings her back into her calmness.

However, that calmness brings thought back into the young woman’s skull, and she remembers the screaming. The absolute horrific warbling scream of a soul being hammered into something else. As if to prove the law of everything. Nothing is immutable. She reaches out a thin disgusting hand to Caroline, about to place it on her knee to try and comfort her, but stopping just shy, pulling back in worry it might dirty her clothes.

“Don’t be sorry, Caroline. Please don’t feel bad about me. Nothing is immutable, I’ll find a way. I’m a blacksmith, it’s my calling to make hard twisted lumps of things presentable.”

Caroline: The Ventrue gives her a faint smile. “Well, the slim comfort is that you were not Embraced by a Nosferatu—their clan curse is physical hideousness and deformity.”

Amelie: Amelie frowns.

“Nosferatu? Isn’t that a bit on the nose for modern times?”

As she says so, it looks as though something dawns on her. Nosferatu was an unauthorized remake of Dracula that was ordered destroyed in a court proceeding after Bam Stoker’s estate sued them. Dracula catches in her mind, such an imposing figure whose weapon of choice inspired Amelie to adopt the same.

“Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, voivode of Wallachia. Was he really ‘one of us’ as well?”

Caroline: Caroline nods after a moment. “He was a real Kindred, and a fairly powerful one at that. How much of the novel is truth or fabrication though, I can’t say beyond that it was and is a fairly egregious example of a violation of the Masquerade—that is, the wool we pull over the eyes of the living as to our own existence.”

Amelie: Amelie looks amazed for a moment, thinking back to the kilij that he took from the Turks and the amount of blood it was capable of spilling. It makes mild sense that he’d pick that weapon to be so fond of. What disgusts her however is the new opinion slowly forming in her head of impalement. It’d be like tapping a maple tree.

“That’s confusing. There was 420 years between the novel and the day they say he died. Is he still ‘living’?”

Caroline: “Perhaps you’ll have an opportunity to investigate the matter,” Caroline replies. “Kindred can exist—‘live’ is a gaudy word—essentially forever if they’re careful. We have elders in New Orleans that have existed for longer than that.”

Amelie: Amelie nods in agreement. She will look into it.

“I have to admit I’m… excited. I literally lived in the past for so long, now I’m walking in a world where it exists.”

GM: “My experience has been the past can bite, Miss Savard,” Widney states without glancing up from her tablet.

Caroline: Caroline directs an amused, but also faintly inquisitive, smile at her employee before continuing, “Hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to explore that excitement. For now, lets focus on that.”

“You’re going before the seneschal because one of the laws of our kind is that none may create another without the approval of the prince. That makes you an illegal—or illicit—Embrace. Typically the penalty for such things is the execution of both sire—that is, the one that turned you—and childe.”

“These things happen though, and the prince has permitted certain allowances for those childer that are willing and able to turn on their sires and attempt to bring them to justice. Of late, the policy has become somewhat more restrictive than in the past. Rather than simply allowing sireless fledglings to wander the city making a mess of all the varied traditions of our kind, they require an established Kindred to take custody—and responsibility—for them.”

“At least for those of a recognized clan,” she amends. “That’s the first hurdle. Sometimes even vampires from clans produce childer that are clanless, and the clanless as a whole are more prone to that kind of lawless stuff. It’s murky. Fortunately your blood seems to have stuck. Often when you see an abandoned childe they’re clanless.”

“In any case, that also means it’s more likely that another—hopefully of your clan—will come forward to claim you and take on responsibility for your actions. We’ll see if Coco was able to stir up any interest in you.”

Amelie: Amelie becomes slightly worried hearing about the situation at large for her. The fact that there has been a crackdown on things like her. She’s figured out by now that her becoming a Kindred has been an accident of some sort, but to think it’s illegal as well. But as Caroline speaks about blood ‘sticking’, and the clanless, she remembers talk of her own clan’s role and falls slowly into thought.

Why would someone from a clan known for physical prowess turn her into this? So many questions. But motive might be the savior of the day. As well, HOW they had access to her. Was she just a snack in the morgue? Did they have her before she was on that autopsy slab?

But she does crack another sad almost reflexive smile at Caroline’s last statement.

“I should have sold myself better. Seven languages, recognized master class artisan and restorationist, great interest and knowledge of chemistry and history. I can fix cars. Shit, I could have written a resume.”

There’s a bitter laugh pulled out from her chest, before she considers something else.

“So if I beg to be allowed to hunt my sire, and am given leave to exist, must I kill them? The rules are absolute?”

Caroline: Caroline says nothing at the recited skills. “No rules are utterly absolute, but it would take relatively exceptional circumstances for an illicit Embrace to get overlooked. I suppose it’s faintly possible that you weren’t actually illicit, and your escape from the morgue gave your sire the slip. If so, they’ll also be on the hook for all the trouble you caused.”

Amelie: Amelie nods and wrings her hands slightly. If she finds that person, maybe there’s a chance for them to answer for their crimes without their death.

“What is the… I guess ‘process’ for the Embrace? What do you do? Just bite someone and drain them dry? No virgin rules, like in the books?”

Caroline: “Certainly no virgins required,” Caroline offers with a light laugh. “Though thank you for the update on your sexual history.”

Amelie: “I was making a joke,” she quickly corrects, sharing in the laugh with Caroline.

Caroline: “I’m sure,” Caroline replies, amused as her laugh trails off. “As an aside, that particular problem won’t trouble you in your death. Like many feelings, that one is as dead as you are.”

She pauses. “As for the exact process of the Embrace, it isn’t something that you might do on accident simply by feeding. You have to give them your blood under specific circumstances.”

Amelie: Amelie lets the talk of her sexual past go as quickly as she can. She thinks instead on how it couldn’t have been an accident.

“So… between me being stabbed to death, bleeding out, and waking up in the morgue, someone fed me their blood to turn me into this.”

It sounds more like she’s reciting it to herself, but looks at least relieved of the slimmer chances this has all been a grave mistake.

“That being said, I have been wondering something. How do you know me and Coco have the same ‘clan’ without knowing who sired me?”

Caroline: “The same way you can tell a watercolor from a charcoal without being able to tell who painted it,” Caroline replies. “Every now and then you see an unintentional Embrace though. The blood has incredible healing properties in mortals. A drink from your wrist outdoes modern medicine every time. Sometimes a Kindred tries to save a mortal from dying and accidents happen. It’s relatively rare though.”

And sometimes those ‘accidents’ are covers for something else, she bitterly thinks to herself.

Amelie: Amelie feels her heart sink back into her chest at the news. So it can be an accident. Shit.

“I’m not certain I understand your example. I can’t really tell how your blood is different from mine just by looking at you, for instance.”

Caroline: “There are methods,” Caroline replies. “Some of which might become more well-known to you in time, along with some of the other gifts that can come with the blood, beyond what you’ve already shown or seen: incredible resiliency, healing capabilities, speed, strength, night vision, and so forth. Coco was quite certain as well, if it puts you at ease.”

Amelie: Amelie nods and clenches her fists slowly open and closed. She tries it again, and for a moment her hands become sputtering blurs.

“Can it do things to your mind? I am still thinking back on that gas station. Whatever that thing was, it had something from my pocket before I even got on the property. And then she… I never even got a good look at it when I opened the door.”

Caroline: “Some can, some can’t. There are varied means of doing so as well. Each clan tends to have talents they are more predisposed towards,” Caroline replies.

Amelie: Amelie quietly chalks it up to the clans. If hers is a ‘physical’ clan, then it explains how easy and smooth she moves. Maybe how she doesn’t tire.

“But this thing did more than just influence my mind. Maybe it wasn’t a vampire. Do you know much of what else is real, or is it just us? Growing up where I did, you hear a lot of legends.”

Caroline: “There’s all manner of strangeness in the world. I’ve been relatively fortunate to encounter little beyond our own kind,” Caroline answers. “The powers of our kind though vary greatly, and among elders or magicians can accomplish things you might not, even now, think possible,” the heiress continues.

Amelie: “Magicians? As in magic?” Amelie looks slightly intrigued. “You mean to say magic exists with Kindred?”

Caroline: “In varied forms,” Caroline answers. “Clan Tremere is well-known for it, as are the Sanctified’s priests.”

Amelie: Priestly magic makes Amelie think of rituals and rooms of people. As for ‘Tremere’, it makes Amelie put on a bit of a funny face in thought. There was a Canadian doctor she learned about in school named Arnold Tremere, who served for 40 years as first and then executive director of the grains institute. Such an odd name to hear here and now.

“So there is a Clan Tremere. And a Clan… Hellen?”

Amelie motions to herself, remembering Coco’s earlier words.

Caroline: “Toreador, Ventrue, Tremere, Nosferatu, Gangrel, Brujah, and Malkavian are the common clans,” Caroline clarifies. “There are others, but… honestly, it’s complicated.”

“Toreador are typically artistically inclined. Tremere are insular and known for their loyalty to each other and their sorcery. Nosferatu are hideously deformed by their Embrace—but usually more humane for it—and deal in information as a group. Gangrel are typically savage and animalistic. Malkavians are all insane in some significant way,” Caroline summarizes with stereotypes.

GM: “Ventrue are my typical client base,” Widney remarks dryly without looking up.

Caroline: Caroline cracks a smile at her ghoul.

“Brujah are known for physical prowess and… passion is a nice word for it. Lots of idealists like Coco. Just as many—or more—thugs.”

“And Ventrue are… well. There’s nothing I could say that wouldn’t seem conceited.”

Amelie: “Well-bred? I do believe I once called you ‘like a duchess.’”

Caroline: Caroline smiles, bemusedly or contentedly at that. “We’ll go with that.”

Amelie: “But I’m assuming Brujah is mine, then. Physical prowess is what I used to embody. But, well… I don’t know why I would have been Embraced how I am now.”

She thinks on it slowly, trying to pick her next line of inquiry out of the hat.

“How about your employees? They… smell different. That head thug in your group you killed was the same.”

Caroline: “Giving your blood to a living human turns them into something between us and a normal human. We call them ghouls—I don’t know why. It can impart many of our gifts upon them, and stops aging so long as they continue to receive regular amounts of it,” Caroline explains.

“There are ghouls in the city centuries old. Unlike the Embrace though, it doesn’t damn inherently. They retain a choice, and are able to keep a foot in the mortal world more easily. I’m told that many find the blood actually makes the mortal world more vibrant. Heightens appetites of all kinds. That sort of thing.”

She looks towards her ghoul. “What would you say to that, Widney?”

GM: “I’d say it’s a killer benefits package, ma’am,” the ghoul states as she looks up.

Caroline: Caroline cracks another smile. “Does that answer your question, Amelie?”

Amelie: Amelie is actually rather horrified by the prospect of humans being made… like that, by the blood of a Kindred. It adds an element to the whole cholos thing that translates into ‘armless and legless vitae filter.’ But even people normally being given the kind of powers she has without the consequences.

“It does. I don’t think I like the idea however. It sounds dangerous and terrifying for the ghoul. Still able to die so easily, but still sharing the world with all these horrors they can become fully aware of.”

GM: “You appeared to have an easy enough time nearly dying yourself, Miss Savard,” Widney states.

Amelie: “Six months in a coma withering your limbs to nothing will do that to you. And yet here I stand. Could a ghoul say the same?”

GM: “My domitor tells me your coma predated your Embrace, Miss Savard. Given this fact, I would imagine so.”

Amelie: Amelie just smiles.

“We should swap prison shiving stories sometime. Until then, Caroline, I do have another question. May I know just what you found in that gas station?”

Caroline: “We all die easily, Amelie,” Caroline replies stiffly, “but I think you’ll find my ghouls would die harder than most. As for the station, I didn’t go looking for further headaches.”

Amelie: She looks slightly disappointed, but maybe it’s for the best she doesn’t know. Whatever it is or was, it’s already paid for taking the mind of that poor poor clerk.

“That’s understandable. Whatever it was, I feel comfortable enough knowing it may be dead. Ah, speaking of that. Are you acquainted with Madame Tantsy, Caroline?”

GM: “I can’t claim to be,” the Ventrue answers.

“A full name would increase that likelihood, Miss Savard,” Widney observes, her eyes back on her tablet again.

Amelie: “It was a name once. Now it feels as though it’s more a title. Tante Lescaut’s Occult Curiosities, Horoscopes, & Palmistry.”

Caroline: “Not really my area of interest,” Caroline replies mildly.

“There’s intrigue and danger aplenty among our kind without involving the other things that go bump in the night.”

Amelie: “That’s fair. Her ‘employees’ reached out to me, so I’d wondered if she was well known with our brand of bump in the night. Interestingly enough, they did so after listening on me speaking to a Father Malveaux.”

Caroline: There’s a minute skip in Caroline’s mask at that.

“Which Father Malveaux would that be? There’s actually quite a number.”

Amelie: “Young. Very kind, at the St. Louis Cathedral.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression cracks into what might be a sad smile. “My cousin. He’s a good man. Much better than I am.”

Amelie: “I heard him fretting over his senior. He sounded very kind. But not lax. He took my confession,” Amelie nods.

“But yes. It was over our shoulders listening to your cousin denying its existence. It followed me out of the church. And gave me a business card.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns again. “I think you’re wrong, Amelie,” she replies. “This belief that some demon is behind your Embrace. That you were targeted beforehand. I’ve seen nothing like that since my Embrace, but I have seen many jaded Kindred pursuing their pleasures in many ways, and more than a few very wicked people.”

“Ultimately though neither of those things matter, with regard to your Embrace, more than your own unaccounted for sins. It sounds like you did some pretty awful things in life. This is your opportunity to find a path back to God.”

“Lay aside the demon and monster notion, and accept that the monster is you.”

Amelie: Amelie slowly makes a face as she hears this and thanks back to all her past sins. All the sins of turning the other cheek until it was raw enough their hands hit bone before retaliating. No. She can’t accept it, it’s too much, even for Caroline. She can’t ask the young vampire to denigrate herself past where she now sits, not even the miraculous return of her mother might.

“I could go on and on, Caroline, about my life and the unfair punishments yours and other families put upon me for trying to protect their daughters while they tried to harm me. But it’d be pointless. I don’t know why I was Embraced, but as some measure of my sins? If I believed that for my own sins, it’d spit in God’s face.”

The answer is final for her, but she looks to Caroline like a child who has just spoken back to their parent, or lost an argument with their first serious relationship.

“I’m sorry if that’s not the answer you want to hear from me, but it’s the one I have.”

Caroline: Caroline stiffens at Amelie’s response, and for a moment says nothing. When at last she speaks it is with a lightness that belies the seeming gravity of her expression.

“Then I shall pray that in time you come to see the error of your ways, and find refuge as intended within the arms of the church for your tattered soul.”

She lets the reply hang heavy in the air for a moment before breaking her severe expression. “Now, you must have other questions, and we have some time yet left…”


Saturday night, 20 February 2016, PM

Caroline: Eventually their discussion draws to a close. Caroline binds the worst of Amelie’s remaining wounds with clean medical supplies brought in by the shorter bald man from the night before, and informs her there is an array of clothing for her to choose from while advising she be tactful in so doing.

She also bids Amelie that while regardless of what happens, she expects the seneschal will give her an opportunity to make a few final requests, but if she wants more certainty, she’s welcome to leave them behind. Caroline makes no promises but infers that reasonable ones within her power she might be willing to honor.

Amelie: The tone of the end of the conversation is somber for Amelie, she helps bind her wounds paying a small bitter smile to old scars. Mostly she makes she she’ll have no blood on Caroline’s borrowed clothes. But it’s a formal occasion, and covering as much skin as possible is a priority for her not to offend the seneschal. A black pea coat with wide rimmed sleeves, longer level gloves, and trouser pants ironed with the seam in front. The undershirt is a simple white dress shirt with nothing showing, and she had a black silk hankerchief stuffed inbetween the buttons to have over her face in public.And of course a pair of tasteful black ankle boots to keep herself a little taller. She picks it carefully and thanks Caroline again for her generosity.

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GM: The pair drive to Mid-City with several of Caroline’s ghouls. New Orleans’ sweat-inducing heat seems mostly gone in February to Amelie, but a thick fog has rolled in alongside a steady drizzle that’s just heavy enough to require an umbrella and just light enough to make holders have second thoughts.

The two vampires’ destination is the rear of a ratty-looking building where a scuffed red 2012 Audi RS5 Coupé is parked near several dumpsters. Coco leans against the door, dressed in a dark gray turtleneck, black denim pants, and brown leather coat. Jen wears seemingly the same jeans and hoodie from yesterday as she holds an umbrella over her mistress’ head.

Coco and Jen also share their umbrella with a handsome, young-looking male Kindred in a tan leather coat and gray pants. His face is clean-shaven, with clear gray eyes and neatly combed and styled brown hair.

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Caroline: The blonde woman—Amelie has caught her name by now as Widney—smoothly exits the car’s passenger seat and produces a large umbrella of her own that she provides shelter to Caroline with as the Ventrue exists the vehicles back seat. Once more the blonde is dressed in a neat and trim pantsuit. It’s hard to tell in the dark if it’s a dark navy or a black, but her cream-colored shirt beneath it stands out in firm contrast to it.

The heiress has opted for a thin black skirt that hangs to just above her knees and a black top with sheer and very short sleeves, and only a very narrow V at its neck, cinched at the waist with a narrow black belt. If the cold bothers her, she gives no indication as her pale arms and legs are bare to the night air.

GM: Coco looks over the other pair of Kindred.

“So, what have you two been up to?”

Caroline: “We ran down a lead on the coroner,” Caroline supplies. “Without success. He might have been at the Covenant House—a shelter he’s associated with—but if he was someone else took a shot at him.” She continues, “Literally.”

GM: “There’s an app for that now,” Coco remarks dryly.

Caroline: “If it were him he took a shot back with others by his side,” she clarifies. “Which I found more interesting.”

GM: Coco inclines her head slightly as if for Caroline to go on.

Caroline: “I would not expect many coroners to have allies they could call on that would be willing to get into a shootout with opposing groups—or why many would want to take a shot at them to begin with.”

She tilts her head. “It’s possible that the shooting was unrelated, but it strikes me as an unusual coincidence with this matter on that night.”

GM: “Covenant House is on Rampart Street,” the vampire next to Coco states, glancing up from a Solaris he’s pulled out. “Moreno’s force hasn’t made as much dent on the violent crime rate there. But the timing is noteworthy.”

Coco nods at this. “Do the two of you have anything else from the scene?”

Caroline: Caroline gestures with one hand and Autumn emerges from the car with a black hard plastic case. She opens it to reveal several tiny vials with blood in them, and several bags with small plastic bags with individual shell casings in them. There’s also one only slightly mushroomed round in a bag that Amelie recognizes.

Amelie: When they arrive at the location after a quiet restful drive, Amelie steps out of the car and gives Coco a small smile, and nods to the man beside her respectfully, waiting for introductions.

But the developments keep her silent for now, looking over things and at the round that nearly went into her skull. She wonders if Caroline will bring up how close it came to her head out of anyone else’s, but lets things proceed until she’s addressed directly. Caroline, as always, is on top of things.

GM: “Good thinking with the blood,” Coco says, eying the vials. “Our people may be able to get a lot of answers from that. Rod?”

The other vampire taps his phone. “Max, Jonah, and Eris all have a heads up.”

Coco looks towards Amelie. “Cat got your tongue, fledgling?”

Amelie: “Just about everywhere else, Coco. Simply put, the leads we found point to many possibilities for this coroner. But I still failed, and am… processing the consequences. I’ve died a few too many times already.”

GM: “Yes, it is unfortunate you weren’t able to bring in Dr. Wilkinson. At the end of the night, someone is going to.”

Amelie: “I hope so. I’ve a bad feeling my gut about the man.”

GM: “But this is some indication of progress, at least, and that will help you more than nothing.”

Amelie: “Of course. But that the bullet in that bag, I fear it might not be a coincidence that my head is the one it missed. I’d like to join the hunt for him if given leave by the good sir seneschal.”

GM: “We’ll see what he decides,” Coco says. “Until then, we’ve a few accounts to settle.”

She looks towards Caroline. “Your remaining debt to me is waived. Jen will text you a time to come over to Blaze and we’ll talk about outstanding balances.”

“As for the two of you, what do you suppose is owed to one another?”

Caroline: “I’ll waive the shelter and protection under the banner of your request, Coco. And the delivery to you, vice other interested parties,” Caroline begins.

Amelie: Amelie is blindly unsure of how to proceed with the dolling out of debt as described by Caroline. But her generosity shows through in not demanding of her. The whole concept still reeks of medieval times and boon-days offered the lords of the land, extra days you put besides those required.

“I’m very unsure as to the worth of my own boons. I was born yesterday. But for being so patient with me, Caroline, I’d like for you to accept a minor boon from me. To start with.”

GM: “You died yesterday,” ‘Rod’ amends.

Amelie: “I’m trying to see it as a little of both. Just to make myself feel better.”

Caroline: “I would hold the investigation into the matter of the coroner as worth a boon. It consumed the remainder of the evening for myself and my ghouls and involved moderate risk The same is true of the significant amounts of vitae provided to keep her out of torpor. And the instruction, guidance, and information provided as to the nature of the Kindred condition, some politics, and so forth.”

She looks between Coco and Amelie. “Were she more established I might be willing to bundle it at a lower cost, but she has—as Hound Wright once said of me in so many words—poor credit right now.”

GM: “Coming out to three boons. What do you think of that, Amelie?” Coco asks.

‘Rod’ also looks towards the young Brujah.

Caroline: Caroline awaits the fledgling’s response, but her eyes are more interested in Coco and her companion’s response to the number.

Amelie: Amelie takes it in. She had not realized their talk earlier in the night was costing her. As well, keeping her out of torpor would have been possible if her ghouls had not shirked their duties in telling her of the blood in the fridge. The instruction was incomplete, too. Just sitting and asking questions doesn’t constitute a course in any way. She looks between Caroline and Coco and tries to use the chance to practice in haggling. She’s thankful they at least covered what ‘boons’ are.

“I’d argue for two boons, in that much of the blood from that group came at no cost to you, Caroline. And that my third torpor could have been avoided if I had been informed, even off-hand, of the effects of sleeping hungry.”

She seems unsure, hoping less that her point stands than if she has picked the wrong time to practice at this. It’s been made clear to her that their kind are predators, as much as she feels Caroline is well within her rights to demand three instead of two.

GM: Coco and the male vampire look back towards Caroline.

Caroline: “My soft spot for sireless fledglings only goes so far,” Caroline replies. “I slept many a night hungry and hurt without instruction. And I don’t ever recall anyone delivering bags of blood and liters of vitae so that I wouldn’t come before others starving or risk a further mess.”

“But I’m feeling generous tonight, so I’ll throw in a burner phone, some cash, and my number into the three.”

GM: Coco and the male vampire regard Amelie once more.

Amelie: Amelie feels a weird amount of pity in her chest as Caroline tries to guilt her, successfully even. Though she tries her best not to react there’s a small frown on her face from it. Any other time, she’s sure she would have laughed in a rich person’s face saying something unaware like that. Especially as she says it to Amelie of all people, who knew hunger and great pain before she ever became ‘this’.

“It must have been a difficult few months for you, Caroline. Your offer is accepted. The phone and money will do well for me if I’m granted my life, and the number even more so.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression is a stony mask at that. “Nothing in your Requiem is easy, Amelie. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you can start carving one out for yourself. Take it as a last piece of advice—and for free at that.”

Amelie: Amelie feels the words start to bubble over in her chest. A lot of things have been adding to it through the night. Her own face hardens slightly looking to Caroline, if just for a moment.

“Nothing in life or death is easy for most, Caroline. Thank you for taking care of me tonight, and I look forward to our continued cooperation.”

She gives the woman a light bow and goes to Coco’s side, ready to do as she needs.

Caroline: She turns to Coco. “You have her from here, Coco?”

GM: “You’re off the hook,” Coco says.

Jen opens her car door.

“There anything else we need for the investigations, Rod?”

The male vampire shakes his head. “It sounds like they’ve taken pretty much everything they could from the scene.” He nods towards his right, and a brown-haired, twenty-something woman approaches Autumn to take the plastic case. Her blood also ‘smells’ somewhere between Caroline’s and a human’s to Amelie.

Coco, Jen, and Amelie pile into the red Audi. ‘Rod’ and the other woman take the case and get into their own car. A few brief farewells are exchanged, then the three vehicles take off.

“You might have walked away with a lot more if you’d named a figure,” Coco remarks to Amelie as darkened cityscape rolls past. $500 sits in her coat pocket, along with an old-fashioned flip phone.

Unlike Caroline, the ‘primogen’ drives her own car. Amelie sits next to her. Jen sits in the back.

Amelie: “I was becoming a bit upset, and bargaining with Caroline was very difficult. I didn’t want to draw that out any more, so soon before my meeting with the seneschal. I need to be even,” she offers, looking out at New Orleans as they drive.

“Can I confide something in you, Coco?”

GM: “Feel free.”

Amelie: “I will survive tonight. I will find my sire. I will change my body back to how it was before. And I will carve out an existence in New Orleans and continue as a blacksmith.”

GM: “Harsh as this may sound, that’s not likely to happen if you don’t grow a stronger backbone,” Coco answers.

“As far as negotiating partners go, Caroline would have been a pretty easy one. Most blue bloods won’t blink at offering four figures in cash. But even friendly licks will walk over someone who doesn’t stand up for themselves.”

Amelie: “It was difficult. I would have gone for more, but ever since I woke up this evening I’ve felt different around her and having her glare like stone at me while saying those things made me sick in a pit in my stomach. I swear that is not how I usually am. I ran a storefront that attracted a lot of idiots.”

GM: “Yes, that would have been the collar talking,” Coco notes.

She flicks the car’s wipers on as rain patters against the glass.

Amelie: “Collar?”

GM: “Drink another lick’s blood three times over three nights, and you’ll fall under their sway,” Coco explains. “You’re already partly under mine from having a sip earlier.”

Amelie: “You’re fucking kidding me. So you’re saying I’ve been pretty much drugged?”

GM: “No, as most drugs don’t take very long to flush from your system. The collar isn’t slipped so easily.”

Amelie: Amelie strains the leather of her gloves as she tightens her fists, but says nothing. She just stares straight ahead for a good few moments before she goes slack again.

“I will remember that.”

GM: “It was unavoidable in your case,” Coco continues as her eyes follow the traffic. “Fall into torpor, and another lick’s juice is the only thing strong enough to pull you back out.”

Amelie: “And yet she and her ghouls just so happened to forget to inform me of blood housed in a fridge in the same apartment I fell into torpor the third time.”

GM: “I don’t think so. If they really meant to collar you, they could have waited three nights before bringing you to me. Or not left you other juice.”

Amelie: Amelie’s scowl doesn’t abate as she thinks about it. They certainly could have tried harder to keep it from her.

“It’ll be an interesting talking point next time I see her nonetheless. A nice little tidbit to leave out of a tutoring session I seem to have paid dearly for.”

She takes a deep cleansing breath, another ugly reminder of her lungs’ newfound uselessness. But the familiar motion soothes her.

“Now that I know, that won’t be happening again.”

She won’t be letting anyone walk over her again.


Previous, by Narrative: Story Eleven, Jon V
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Next, by Amelie: Story Eleven, Amelie V, Rocco III

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Next, by Caroline: Story Eleven, Caroline X

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