“Don’t trust any of them, Caroline. They’re all snakes. The only question is which ones are closest to your throat."
Wednesday night, 23 December 2015, AM
Caroline: Meeting privately with Claire, Caroline tells her mother about her bizarre meeting with her uncle. His exaggerated vices and compulsions. The near insanity with which he spoke. There’s a fair amount of ground to cover, but Caroline’s destination is more important than the journey: she doesn’t think Father Malveaux is capable of creating ghouls. She asks bluntly if her mother has any evidence that he’s done so in the past. More to the point, if he cannot do so, such a detail is something she doesn’t think others could have failed to have noticed over time. It puts a very different spin on Ferris.
GM: Although the two met only hours ago, Claire wants an update on the Orson meeting as soon as possible and has her daughter over again. She listens to Caroline’s account very attentively, and is typically cynical over how Father Malveaux doesn’t really care about his family. Of course he doesn’t. The fact things got so out of hand and his own apparent indifference towards Orson’s utilitarian value, though… Caroline said that Antoine Savoy had told her the soon-to-be bishop was insane? That claim does not appear to be entirely without basis.
As to his capacity to create ghouls, Claire frowns and says she doesn’t think her daughter has the full story. It’s true that she can’t name very many “slaves he’s contaminated with his blood” next to even the ones Caroline has. But she can name one. A little girl albino, who’s been at his side for years. She seemingly hasn’t aged a day during any of that time.
Perhaps creating ghouls is simply harder for him. Perhaps it carries a greater cost. Perhaps he can only “contaminate” humans who fit a certain criteria, much like he and Caroline are restricted in the ones they can feed on. Claire also points out that he has hated Caroline and given her comparatively few opportunities to become acquainted with his “slaves”. Maybe he hides them from other Kindred out of paranoia. Maybe he could have ghouled Alphonse and exercised some power (he is proficient with blood magic) not to do so. His questionable mental state makes his actions even harder to place context to.
It is apparent that he relies on ghouls less than other Kindred. But it is difficult for them to definitively say more. Claire does believe, though, that if Father Malveaux is capable of making ghouls (and simply under greater restrictions than most Kindred), Roger Ferris makes eminent sense as one of the few ghouls he would keep.
Caroline: If his only ghoul—or only known one—has been around for a long time, and shares his albinism, she proposes two additional possible answers there. Perhaps, as her mother suggests, he indeed can only ghoul those that meet a specific criteria. It’s also possible that he has some psychological compulsion about it, or that he’s simply lost the ability over time.
“There have been certain things that came on later, for me,” she admits. “Weaknesses.”
None of which mean for certain that Roger couldn’t have been a ghoul in his service. The Albino has many allies—the strongest of which is perhaps the sheriff. She could conceive of him having someone else ghoul Roger ‘for him’. He wouldn’t have the same ties from the bond—which might explain his willingness to cut a deal with him at the expense of the Albino previously. It’s also possible that someone else ghouled Ferris and set him on the path towards her, or at least dangled certain things in front of him that she’d presumed came from the Albino.
“I can’t help but remember that the other man with him didn’t want to show his face, that this whole thing cropped up when the Albino was out of town, and that Savoy had his lead enforcer available to respond so damn quickly. And even if he didn’t, I can’t help but think such a weakness in the Albino isn’t something he wouldn’t have known about.”
GM: “That wouldn’t surprise me,” Claire replies over a sip of her drink. “All of your kind are poison. We might investigate this other slave of the Albino’s more closely to better ascertain his capabilities.”
Caroline: The heiress folds her hands. “I’ll see what I can find out, but I don’t expect him to be exactly forthcoming, if it really is an area of weakness.” She shakes her head. “Maybe I’m drawing connections where there aren’t any. Honestly, these webs are so tangled I can barely keep track of them. Abélia, Savoy, Maldanato, the Albino—there are so many secrets and plots. It’s navigating a pit of vipers in the dark, and I feel deaf and dumb half the time compared to the other players. So easy to make a misstep. If one of mine had been a little less skilled with the camera, or I’d not thought to put her up there in the first place, I’d probably be fully wrapped up in Savoy’s coils right now.”
“And it’s not as though I can exactly have these discussions with anyone.”
GM: “Don’t trust any of them, Caroline,” her mother replies. “They’re all snakes. The only question is which ones are closest to your throat.”
Caroline: “All of them,” Caroline snaps, angrily. “They’re all around my throat, and I don’t.” She balls a fist, then releases it.
GM: “Just wait. It sounds as if they’re about to all bite themselves apart with the prince’s torpor on the horizon.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “That’s a nice idea, but I don’t think it’s tenable. Everyone is going to want firmer commitments before that happens.”
And when it does, my window closes, along with my Requiem.
GM: “Including me, Caroline. Six weeks. The rest of the world is not waiting on us.”
Caroline: As for getting closer, she has an opportunity to do so, to perhaps get a closer look at the Albino. They’re to go out at some point in the not distant future, to see how he would treat ‘sinners’ and find his feast within the bounds of their notionally shared faith.
GM: Claire’s eyes sharpen at this statement.
“I trust the opportunity that presents isn’t lost on you, Caroline.”
Caroline: “May present,” Caroline agrees more mildly.
GM: Her mother merely gives a dry look.
Caroline: “If and when it presents a significant opportunity I’ll bring it to you.”
GM: “Opportunities happen when one makes them happen, Caroline. Your father taught you that.”
Caroline: “And if nothing else I’ve created an opportunity to learn more about his hunting habits and preferred victims, which I’m sure is of some use. If it grows into more than that, I’ll keep you in the loop.” She bites her lower lip. “If nothing else, you’d need a countermeasure to his apparent invisibility.”
GM: “It will be arranged. The more you can learn about his personal capabilities on this trip, the better.”
But “beyond the topic of the Albino,” Claire remarks with some distaste, she is… gladdened by her daughter’s recent actions. “Orson is a disgusting pig and a heavy-handed tyrant, of course, you’re right. I think fewer of the family would mourn his death than even Westley.”
Caroline: “People mourned Westley, Mom,” Caroline offers softly. “People that knew him.”
It’s evident in her eyes that among those people is Caroline herself. Rene’s taunts, that he ‘screamed her name’ still haunt her.
GM: Her mother says nothing for a moment at that. She doesn’t look quite sad. Or quite glad.
“I suppose that both… they are, or were, family, whatever else they might be. Better that the archbishopric remains in our hands than a stranger’s. You’re right that Orson dying would’ve created such a headache…”
Claire’s expression softens. “And in… more ways than one. The family has been through enough death… even his, would have just cast such a shadow over Luke’s and Cécilia’s wedding. She and her sisters might even mourn him more than some of us—they’ve not had to put up with him for years.”
“And with the Albino on board with your ‘coming out’… now you don’t have to ‘die’ too.”
There’s something small in Claire’s voice. Something quiet, but soft, perhaps even warm. Caroline cannot help but think back to her mother’s earlier words. Hope is a luxury. I deal in realities.
Claire takes a slow sip from her drink, then declares quietly, “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be around, Caroline.”
She looks old, next to her daughter. The lines on her face are so much deeper. Her own blonde hair so much drier and wispier. Her fingers and cheeks thinner.
Caroline: “You’re not that old,” Caroline answers defensively. “Sixty is the new forty, I’m told.”
But she can’t deny that Claire has aged at least ten years in the last six months. Since ‘all this’ started. Caroline’s Embrace. Westley’s death. Claire’s outing to Donovan, the seneschal, and others at Caroline’s hands. It all starts with her, and one way or another it’s hard to deny that it’s likely to send her mother to an early grave. It’s a fact she doesn’t want to face, an ugly truth.
GM: “You’re right I’m not that old,” Claire answers calmly. She does not retract her earlier statement.
“I’d like this to go right for him… and for her. Whether I get to see it or not… just knowing it maybe will, after tonight, and that your brother is getting married… I think I could be all right with that.”
She trails off and just looks at Caroline for a moment, in that way only mothers can.
“You look… good, did you know that? Less pale, maybe.”
Caroline: The look makes Caroline uncomfortable, makes her unconsciously smooth her skirt and creates an urge to adjust her hair that she only barely fights. Her mother was her first, and her best, critic. She braces for the next critique and is pleasantly surprised when it’s positive instead. It takes a moment for her expression, pointedly neutral, to catch up, but eventually she cracks a slow smile that spreads across her face.
“Less of the monster tonight, I guess, than the daughter.”
“It comes and goes,” she admits. “I feel more like me though tonight than I have in a while.”
Still, it’s evident that her mother’s compliment means a great deal to her, both for what it is, and for the apparent recognition of her attempts to fight the monster.
GM: “Well, keep it up. Your skin tone is already pale, more doesn’t flatter you,” Claire answers, perhaps just as unused to doling out the praise as her daughter is to receiving it.
Caroline: She has more to discuss as well, about the Devillers. She relates the high points of what the twins hinted out—a dark secret they weren’t willing to share lightly, but that she suspects she can get at. Along with some details about their ‘notional’ parentage.
GM: “Who—or what—might have ‘raped’ Abélia?” Claire poses thoughtfully. “Their sisters imply a long-term relationship, abusive or not. Cécilia is 26. Simmone is 10. I suppose it’s possible the girls could have different fathers, but they look so alike that seems very improbable.”
“Then again, it’s impossible to be certain if the children are even hers. Perhaps Abélia was speaking figuratively to Cécilia. Or simply lying.”
“But you’re right getting the full version from her younger sisters could only be to our benefit.”
Caroline: So far as she can tell, none of them have real knowledge of the supernatural. But, then, she’d believed the same true of her mother, she admits.
GM: “Yes,” Claire agrees simply.
Caroline: Still, there’s even more surrounding them than she’d thought. She relates her reaction to trying to use her abilities on Simmone. The black blood and the veil between worlds going thin.
GM: Claire purses her lips. “Then it’s probably fair to assume her other children are so protected. I’m glad we know that now.”
“But you shouldn’t rape people’s minds so casually in any case, Caroline,” her mother frowns critically, as if Caroline just confessed she’s been binging on Ben & Jerry’s to relieve stress. “That isn’t any way to calm a child down.”
Caroline: “I don’t make a habit of it,” Caroline replies defensively. “And it gave us something else to go on.”
GM: Claire purses her lips again, but seemingly chooses to leave the matter be.
Caroline: Caroline continues how, of course, that Abélia has seemingly moved herself into the LaLaurie House—a goal of hers all along. Or at least, so her daughters believe.
GM: Claire’s expression looks very dark at that news. Finally she replies,
“I don’t trust coincidences, Caroline. I’ve heard and looked into enough of the details, about that night the Devillers and Whitney girls were shot. That’s very convenient for Abélia how events played out. Some homosexual or transsexual or whatever youth, and uninvolved police officer, are the only ones injured at the house itself. Then, Abélia is ‘forced’ to buy the property. Immediately, in an effectively no-bid contract. It could have taken years normally for that house to go on the market and for even more eccentrics like the last owner to make different offers for it.”
Claire looks thoughtful. “If you still mean to dig into her finances, that might be illuminating to see whether it looked as if she was preparing to make a major purchase. I don’t know how many millions that house had to have cost, but even your Uncle Matt wouldn’t simply buy it as an impulse purchase.”
Caroline: Caroline nods in agreement on coincidences. “Neither did the girls. And my how it also generated goodwill with the Whitneys, with the house no longer as their headache, and her taking it off their hands without causing a scene.”
She’s less optimistic about chasing the money that went into the specific purchase, though she’s not disinterested in it. Financing is relatively ease with large assets to leverage against.
GM: Claire agrees it costs little, at least, to investigate. It’s the news that Abélia has moved in with Simmone, though, that causes Caroline’s mother to simply stare.
“It’s one of the blackest sites of evil in the entire city, Caroline. You don’t just move in with your ten-year-old on a lark.”
Caroline: The heiress arches an eyebrow. “You don’t say? If she wanted the house, it was for a reason.”
GM: “Just study the history. The things that woman did to her slaves were beyond atrocious. Even your kind would be hard-pressed to do much worse. That sort of evil… it doesn’t pass without consequence. It leaves its mark. Stains that never come out.”
Caroline: She pauses. “Didn’t the original Madame LaLaurie flee to France?”
GM: Claire considers. “I think she did.”
Caroline: The heiress nods. “I don’t think that Abélia is LaLaurie… but honestly, some of those things she’s described as doing match some of the things I saw in the Dungeon in their horror. Maybe even influenced by someone familiar with it. Someone that might have followed her and her family to France and only recently returned?”
She folds her hands in front of her. “It’s thin, but it would explain the interest in the house… and her lack of fear of it.”
GM: Her mother frowns in consideration. “What reasons would someone have to follow LaLaurie to France, then return during Katrina?”
Caroline: “Lots of vampires bit it during the storm, including plenty of powerful and important ones. Maybe some rival did. Or just enough knowledge of her did.” She bites her lip. “Or maybe it’s the decline of the prince. There’s talk that he’s never quite recovered from Katrina. She mentioned wanting to see him learn some lessons. Maybe it’s her last chance.”
GM: “The power vacuum. Of course, that would make sense. But why follow LaLaurie to France? Assuming, of course, that Abélia is an elder vampire, and had something she wanted from LaLaurie, she could simply fake the woman’s disappearance and keep her in New Orleans.”
Caroline: “Honestly, Mom, our motives are as complex as any person’s. Maybe even more so given you’re dealing with beings that can see plots in centuries and others whose very blood drives them insane. Maybe she had genuine affection for LaLaurie. Perhaps the entire LaLaurie flight from the city was orchestrated by another vampire as part of a broader move against her. Maybe she was willing to move on to Europe—or perhaps return.”
GM: “That’s difficult for us to do much more than speculate on.” Claire pauses. “But not for her ‘daughters’. I’d mine them for further information about their lives back in France, too.”
“We should be no less curious exactly who, or what, ‘raped’ Abélia, especially if she is centuries old. Those girls are only 17.”
Caroline: Caroline expects her ‘coming out’ will create an opportunity to chat further with them, and she’ll continue to do as her mother asked and ply into the details of that family her brother is marrying them into.
GM: Claire approves of this. She speculates as to the possibility of playing Abélia and the Albino against one another, but grants they need more intelligence on the former.
She also raises the possibility of Caroline mining further information from the other sisters. “You said Simmone is almost constantly by Abélia’s side these days. And Cécilia may know the most of the family’s past, if Abélia told her the twins’ secret freely.”
Caroline: The heiress gives a grim smile, though offset by the oddest look of strain or discomfort.
“She’d eat him for breakfast.” She’ll continue to investigate.
Wednesday evening, 23 December 2015, PM
GM: Shit hits the fan. Caroline’s phone explodes with texts and voicemails. Luke, Adam, Gabriel, and Carson all want to meet Caroline and talk. Savannah offers to meet her for coffee, further adding that “I don’t blame you, at all.” Vera leaves a shrill and nasty voicemail about how Caroline “keeps ruining things” for everyone, “right when your uncle is in the hospital, no less! No wonder he had a heart attack!” Virginia sends a text simply saying sorry. Her father, Matt, Thomas, Elaine, and Charlotte don’t contact her.
Caroline: Caroline takes the notes from her assistant and retires to listen to the messages from her family in her bedroom, all but slamming the door in Widney’s face. She doesn’t even listen to all of Vera’s message—the first few words are more than enough—before she presses 7 to delete it. The others she sits through patiently, making some notes. A couple she listens to more than once. All of the messages she saves.
The night before, with Orson, had barely felt real with the Albino watching and Orson’s insane rantings and threats. Even discussing it all with her mother, who knows the truth hadn’t hit her. Listening to the messages though from the rest of her family hurts: from her angry and confused brothers, to Carson (who she knows she’s disappointed more than, perhaps, anyone but her father), to Savannah (whose secret she selfishly stole and appropriated for her own purposes). It hurts, in a way she’d almost forgotten she could hurt.
The Ventrue is grateful that she’s alone as she sits on her bed and pulls her knees up to her chest, listening to her ‘future’ and the relationships she’s had her entire life die through her phone. Vampires can’t really sob—with no need to breathe there’s no need for the shuddering breaths and faint whimpers that accompany such a human reaction, but it doesn’t stop her from staining her cheeks red as she plays the messages and selfishly wishes in some ways that she’d just agreed to ‘die’. At least then they’d be the ones crying and sad and alone, instead of her. There isn’t even anyone she can talk to about it.
She’ll probably never see her father again, and the memory of what he said to her when they last saw each other face to face is of bitter comfort. If she sees her brothers after this week it’ll be through a crowd. And her mother… her mother’s convinced she’ll be dead in the year as well—another matter to lay on her conscience. Caroline Malveaux is effectively dead, almost as dead as she actually is. She weeps for herself even as she hates herself for that weakness.
GM: Neil also leaves a voicemail. He’s sure she’s heard already, but adds that her uncle underwent surgery and is in stable condition. “I know you two weren’t close, but… I hear you saved his life. You might’ve made a pretty good doctor after all, Caroline.”
Caroline: It’s Neil’s message that finally breaks her from her self-pity. It’s a welcome respite from the barrage of vitriol, but even more than that it’s a reminder that for everything she’s lost today, she’s retained some things as well. She pauses in her listening to wash her face, then calls him back to thank him for the update and adds a few more medically pointed questions about her uncle’s recovery. She also, almost on impulse thanks him for making her go after Angela. “There’s some family stuff going on—I’m sure you picked up on it based on their absence from the party. It wasn’t fair of me to take out my frustration on her.”
She calls back Carson, Luke, Adam, Gabriel, and Savannah, her tone colored by her relationships with each.
With Carson she’s contrite and reserved, almost seemingly waiting for his admonishment. With Luke and Garbiel she’s sanguine. With Adam she’s merely quiet. With Savannah calm. She’s willing to meet each of them privately. She suggests that Luke and Gabriel might find cover under Christmas Eve plans with the Devillers, and is certain the sisters will be happy to give them an opportunity to chat privately. Carson she’s available for tonight, if he wants to see her then. Adam she’s happy to meet at the church one night this week after hours—she expects he’s going to be very busy with Christmas services. Savannah she tells her schedule is open, though she suggests perhaps something more private than a coffee shop. She understands that she’s persona non grata, and doesn’t want that to rub off on her successful cousin.
GM: The Ventrue well knows that many judges work more than 50 hours per week, and as chief judge for his court, Carson works more hours than most. He reminds her of this, and frankly tells her that it was inconsiderate to wait so long before returning his 7 AM voicemail. That makes it even harder to fit her in. It’s after 7 PM by the time Caroline returns his call and he calls her back.
“Let’s have this out before Christmas,” he says tiredly. “You can come by my house. Barbara and I go to bed at 9. We’ve already had dinner.”
Caroline: Caroline agrees and drives over to meet with her uncle. She texts the Devillers twins and tells them she has a few more family meetings, but will be home later tonight and would love to see them.
GM: The sisters avidly agree in kind.
Luke agrees to see Caroline while they’re over with the Devillers. Maybe if things… Luke doesn’t say ‘work out’. There isn’t that much hope in his voice. But “at least it’ll be before Christmas Day.”
Caroline: The heiress is happy to meet him there. She’s not particularly hopeful either, and adds that he shouldn’t let anyone do anything stupid on my account in the family.
GM: Luke just sighs. “We’ll… we’ll talk about it there, Caroline.”
Gabriel doesn’t find it as convenient. He tries to spend Christmas Eve, and Day, between their grandmother in Baton Rouge and their larger family in New Orleans. That’s already inconvenient and he didn’t have any plans to spend the holiday with the Devillers. “Grandma doesn’t really have anyone else except Jordan, Caroline, and he has family he wants to spend time with too… we’re already juggling schedules so she doesn’t have to be alone on Christmas. Could you make it up to Baton Rouge? Grandma… I haven’t told her you’re gay. It’d just upset her. Or… maybe it wouldn’t. She’d love to see you. She’d love to see anyone.”
Caroline: Caroline isn’t willing to drive to Baton Rouge. “It would just be bringing all of this home to her,” she states. She is willing to meet him a day or two after Christmas though.
*GM: “It doesn’t matter to her, Caroline. She’s past caring. Everyone else in the family forgets she even exists,” her brother entreats. “Please. She doesn’t have a lot of time left and it’d mean a lot to her.”
Caroline: Gabriel’s plea doesn’t fall on deaf ears, and Caroline is grateful they’re on the phone rather in person so he can’t see the cracks in her mask. Still, she’s firm that she’ll not be driving to Baton Rouge. She’s sorry, but she has enough problems without opening up a can of worms by visiting family in that way, and she isn’t going to bring it home to her grandmother or her little brother who has his whole future ahead of him.
GM: “None of that matters to her, Caroline,” her brother repeats, his voice increasingly pained. “She’s 86. She doesn’t care anymore. She doesn’t even have anything to care about. No one talks with her. I think she’d actually be happy if Dad or Orson called her up and yelled for talking with you. All she wants in her life right now is… is just more people.”
“And you’re not ruining things for me either! No one would even know if you drove up. No one pays attention to Baton Rouge anymore. No one lives there. There’s just me and Grandma left, everyone else has moved to New Orleans or DC. And I’m going to college next year. PLEASE, Caroline, it would mean so much if you came up!”
Caroline: The (now disinherited) heiress doesn’t budge. Her whole life is coming part: side trips the capital aren’t on her agenda. She scolds him for his commentary about no one caring if she goes up. People would very much care, and he should too. If he hasn’t noticed, Malveauxes are a dwindling group. Especially among his siblings. He has responsibilities, and she isn’t going to drag him down with her. She’s not actually sure if meeting with him at all is a good idea.
GM: Gabriel doesn’t take it well and reiterates he doesn’t care. Caroline’s his sister and he’ll love her no matter what. Hate the sin, not the sinner. He’d wanted her to meet Linda this Christmas.
Caroline: Caroline gets that. She’ll always love him, but she’s done enough damage. She also plants the seed that seeing the family again will cause her trouble (implied to be from the family).
The whole conversation is miserable for her.
GM: She’s not the only one it seems miserable for.
Gabriel mutters angrily about “this whole family being fucked” and insinuating about confronting their parents before finally, and angrily, hanging up.
Caroline gets the distinct impression his Christmas is going to be rather less merry.
Caroline: That makes both of theirs, the heiress thinks. It’s with a heavy heart that she finally hangs up.
GM: Savannah agrees to meet Caroline at either of their apartments. Whatever’s most comfortable for her right now.
Caroline: The Ventrue suggests that Savannah’s place might be better. She doesn’t come out and say that the family is probably watching her place, but Savannah is smart enough to read between the lines.
GM: Her cousin agrees and sets a date.
Adam agrees to meet with Caroline at a point before Christmas services start in earnest. He suggests St. Louis Cathedral. Father Connelly has passed away and he is now its presiding priest.
Caroline: The Ventrue is happy to set a date with Adam as well.
GM: Caroline receives updates about Orson’s condition from a few family members. All except Claire are consternated by the lack of timely response. “It’s also ‘out of the question’ that you visit him, you’re probably not surprised,” the older Malveaux adds.
This makes the third time the pair have seen one another within 24 hours. Whatever else Caroline might say about her mother, she has clearly wanted to keep her finger on the pulse of recent events with—or perhaps between— Caroline and the family as closely as possible.
Caroline: “He said pretty much everything he needed to when he tried to have his goon haul me off to Venezuela for a lobotomy,” Caroline replies to her mother’s observation. She asks for an update from her mother about how much the story—and what of it—has gone wide to the family before she sets about making arrangements and returning calls.
GM: Caroline is gay. Orson confronted her over that fact and was so shocked and enraged that he had a heart attack. Alphonse saved his life with CPR and called 911. She can probably guess what the gamut of family reactions are to her being a homosexual. There is also anger and blame over what happened to Orson (“because of her”). That ill regard will expedite the process of family ties being cut. “Likely what the Albino was hoping.”
Orson and Alphonse “dealt” with Caroline during their meeting together. The archbishop terrified the living daylights out of her and declared she was to be completely cut off and outcast from the family proper, as well as excommunicated from the Catholic Church—a very rare thing in the modern era, but Orson is making it happen. Or will, at least. Once he’s out of the hospital.
“The family will be curious why Orson isn’t sending you to the Ursulines, once he’s better. But that sort of punishment has always been his style. The others are content to simply disown you and cut off contact… or try to maintain it under the table.”
Caroline: The heiress—well, once heiress at least—grinds her teeth at Alphonse getting credit for saving Orson, but finally takes and lets out a deep breath and admits to her mother that it’s better that way anyway. Her ‘saving’ him would raise too many ugly questions in the family and potential conflict over her ‘excommunication’ from all things Malveaux. She laughs at the idea of her slovenly pig of an uncle ‘dealing with her’.
GM: “Orson ‘deals’ with the family all-too well, normally, Caroline,” her mother reproaches. “He isn’t, I suppose, as directly combative as your father… but there is a reason he’s able to exert as much frankly undue influence over the church as he does, and cow the the rest of the family so well. It isn’t the Albino. No leech wants a slave that can’t pull their own weight.” She snorts. “Though god knows that’s wholly figurative in your uncle’s case.”
“If you hadn’t been turned into… what you are, though, make no mistake that you would either be with the Ursulines or on a plane to Venezuela. Explaining why you aren’t may even be its own headache. No one in the family stands up to your uncle.”
Caroline: “I’d be curious as to how much he’ll remember and how much the Albino will plant in his skull,” she admits. “I told him if he tried to get ‘handsy’ I’d start leaking scandals. Didn’t stop him from offering the convent though.” She more seriously continues to her mother, “I won’t of course, but that’s the story I’m likely to sell when the questions come up about the Ursulines. Unless you think it’ll cause too many problems with Savannah.”
GM: Her mother probably shakes her head. “Orson would send any other niece who dared threaten the family—and him—like that to Venezuela. We’ll deal with that question whenever it emerges. Until then, I’d simply keep quiet, or insinuate you’re hoping to keep a low profile and for this whole thing to go away amidst all the fuss over your uncle’s heart attack.”
“Come to think, Caroline, the family is going to find it strange if you continue to advertise that you have money. You’ve been cut off from your trust fund, of course. And disinherited. Your father and I are writing you out of our will.”
“Your father is…” Claire starts, then pauses.
“Never mind,” she merely says.
Caroline: Claire can’t see Caroline’s face through the phone, but the silence on the other end speaks volumes.
“Yeah,” she finally says at least.
“As for the money, I’m sure that’ll be the next source of outrage. I’m afraid there are relatively few assets the family can actually freeze. I presume Orson will invoke the excommunication clause on the Trust. Losing out on the final investiture stings, but a significant amount of that has been vested already. The joint accounts are mostly empty, and it’ll become apparent relatively soon if they poke around that a significant amount of that money has moved into accounts solely under my name. Between that and certain other ventures, I’m fairly confident that I can plausibly maintain a quieter but significant standard of living.”
“Besides, it’ll give them something else to be furious about. Another good reason to hate me and cut off contact like he wants.”
GM: Caroline gets the impression of her mother pursuing her lips. “The narrative the family believes about you is someone whose life was falling apart. Out of control. Carefully moving around assets in anticipation of a final break doesn’t support that image. I don’t think any of them except your uncles are likely to look into your finances too deeply, but I’d put on an appearance of being at least inconvenienced by this.”
Caroline: Caroline is silent. "It’s way beyond inconvenience, Mom. But I’ll work out something that more readily explains it, if it comes to that, and jives with the narrative. And before long the firm is going to come online.
GM: “You might consider joining it publicly. An attorney’s salary is a plausible, and, in fact, logical source of apparent income for you.”
Caroline: “It’s an option,” Caroline agrees. “It would eventually create its own longer-term headaches, but it may be the best option. It’s all moot though unless I pass the bar.”
GM: “I should well hope you’re going to after your father and I paid to send you to law school,” her mother remarks critically.
Caroline: “I’ll casually wander in on Monday morning for the first section. Don’t mind the smoke—could you please close the blinds?” Caroline replies sardonically, before holding up a hand to forestall her mother’s forthcoming critique. “I’ll make it happen, Mom. It’s not insurmountable. You should appreciate though the amount of work that’s going to go into making it happen. You’ll be the only one that can.”
GM: “Raping the examiners’ minds isn’t a great deal of work, Caroline,” her mother declares somewhat sourly. “You’re right that it’s a far from insurmountable obstacle to your kind.”
Caroline: Caroline scowls at the critique, and replies with bitter defensiveness all too familiar between them, “I actually had the thought of playing it completely straight—well, so straight as it can be without being there in person. If I can get the test questions a night early, I’d like to take it under the same constraints as everyone else.”
GM: Her mother looks at her almost curiously. Certainly, she appears taken aback.
Caroline: “It wouldn’t mean anything if I just cheated my way through it,” she continues to defend. “I have to break the rules to get my answers submitted, since I can’t just waltz in, but… it’d be like printing out a degree otherwise.”
GM: “That’s certainly a degree of academic and even personal honesty I hadn’t been expecting, Caroline,” her mother remarks, eyebrows raised. “I would… endeavor to keep that up.” The praise sounds all-too awkward.
Caroline: “I’m glad I can still give you pleasant surprises on occasion.”
Wednesday night, 23 December 2015
GM: Caroline meets Carson at his house. True to the criminal judge’s words, he and his wife have already finished dinner and are settling down for the evening. There is no shared meal of steak, mashed potatoes, collard greens and peach pie awaiting Caroline this time. Barbara just looks at her sadly without saying much of anything and leaves the two to themselves in the living room. They sit down. There’s not any offer of coffee or refreshments.
Caroline’s uncle looks her over for several moments. His face isn’t angry. It isn’t mournful. It’s hard to say what he’s thinking. Finally he simply asks, “What happened, Caroline?”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t lie to her uncle, so far as the family matter is concerned. Investigators broke into her home, found pictures of her with a woman on her electronic devices, and that was that. “You know as well as I how Orson reacted.”
GM: “I mean with you, Caroline,” Carson says. “Not with Orson. Not with the help.”
He still doesn’t look angry. Or upset. But he does look thoughtful, or at least the closest that Caroline can recall to seeing him as such.
Caroline: That thoughtfulness is worse than anger.
She bites her lip. “It all fell apart.”
GM: Carson listens.
Caroline: She doesn’t offer excuses, or even explanations. Just relates what happened. Going out during Decadence. What happened there. Meeting Jocelyn as her life fell apart. “It was the only thing that didn’t fall to pieces.” She doesn’t have to fake the haunt in her eyes.
She frowns. “I made my choices, poor though they were.”
GM: “I remember that night after you saved the girls. First thought was how you could have done more.”
Caroline: That night seems like a lifetime ago, but Caroline remembers. “It was a bad night.” She looks down on her hands, as though expecting to find blood on them, but finds them all too pale and clean tonight. “Still could have done more. Sarah got really lucky.”
GM: “It’s a shame it was only her.”
Caroline: Caroline’s expression hardens. “I don’t need sympathy. I can live with my choices.”
GM: “Those choices make me sad for you, Caroline.” Carson’s tone is frank. “All of us have to. But I’m glad you can.”
GM: Caroline flinches. “I’m sorry.” The words don’t mean anything, but she says them. All the same.
“I didn’t… I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
GM: Both of them know Carson can’t say she didn’t.
Both of them know there’s no point in saying she did.
For a little while the criminal judge doesn’t say anything. Caroline only hears the steady tick-tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the background.
Caroline: The silence tears at her nerves. Finally she breaks it.
“Just… just say something. Scream at me. Tell me I’m a failure.”
GM: Her uncle looks at her. Really seems to look at her.
“I’m sorry, Caroline,” he finally says.
Carson’s voice is weary, and so are his eyes. So is his face. He looks old. He’s had gray hair for as long as Caroline can remember. Everyone always said silver suited him. It always made him look vigorous, or at least curiously unaffected by time, with how straight and sharp the lines of his face were, and how doggedly the ex-major kept in shape. But now those facial lines look sagging. Tired. Like the rest of his years have finally caught up, with interest. Like a once-crisply pressed suit that’s been worn out for too long, on too many sweaty days.
It’s hard not to think back to how old her mother looks, too, how certain of her imminent death. Or of Savannah’s remark that there are no children left in their generation.
They’re all getting older. They’re all dying. And she’s not.
Caroline: “No,” Caroline answers in seeming disbelief. “NO!” she shouts. “Don’t do that. Everyone’s sorry. Everyone is upset. Just fucking tell me I’m wrong! Tell me I’m a blight. Tell me I’ve ruined everything. Tell me you never want to see me again. Tell me…” she shakes her head.
“Tell me anything but that. Not you!”
GM: Carson just looks at her sadly, looking every bit his 63 years.
“I’m sorry, Caroline…” he repeats in a gravelly voice.
Caroline: Caroline stares at the old man. Those three words hurt worse than every filthy name and depraved insult Orson threw at her.
“I couldn’t do it,” she finally admits in a small voice. “I tried. Kept trying. To be what everyone wanted me to be.”
“To find a line that made sense,” she continues, to the uncle that taught her of such things. “This was the best I could do.”
GM: “I’m glad you’re not second-guessing yourself this time,” Carson states wearily.
There’s precious else to be glad for.
Caroline: Caroline clenches her fists in frustration, but instantly regrets it. It’s a childish reaction. She just wishes she could explain. Explain that she’s not an idiot, or a deviant. That if she was, she wouldn’t casually leave photos that could destroy her life laying around. That she’s doing what she has to, for the good of herself and the family both. That the alternatives were all worse.
She releases her fists and looks Carson over. He’s never looked old, or weary, to her eyes. Not until tonight. Time taking its toll on everyone, the thought drifts through her mind, except me. Time and her own actions, she admits. But then, that’s what’s brought her here tonight. She wonders if she’ll have a chance to make this right, to explain to him why she’s done what she’s done, in any way, before he’s gone. He’s in his sixties. He could live another decade, maybe two.
Perhaps it’s within her power. She hopes it is. For now all she has empty words.
“Someday you’ll understand,” she says at last. “Not tonight, or tomorrow, but someday. Why it has to be this way.”
Wednesday night, 23 December 2015, PM
GM: News apparently leaks to the Devillers. Yvette and Yvonne show up in person to Caroline’s apartment during the afternoon—Widney had to lie to them, several times, that Caroline wasn’t home. They got Widney’s number and texted her incessantly until Caroline was finally “back”. Both teenagers fiercely hug the Ventrue and gush over how they completely accept Caroline for who she is, how they are happy she loves who she loves, and how this changes nothing between them (except how glad they are she’s no longer in the closet). They cite how much more LGBT-friendly French culture is. “Another thing you Americans do so wrong,” Yvette declares airily. They want to know if she’s okay—her PA said she was off “taking some time to herself” for a lot of the afternoon.
Caroline: Caroline smiles when she sees them and apologizes for keeping them away all day—and into the night. She’s dressed more casually tonight than they’ve usually seen her, in a loose black skirt, sandals, and a white button down blouse with long sleeves. Her hair is up and off her neck in a loose french braid. It’s the first time she actually seems dressed for comfort, rather than for style. Not that she wears it badly.
“It’s been insane today,” she admits timidly. “All hell broke loose last night—as I see you’ve already heard.” She seems almost embarrassed. “That would have been insane either way, but with Orson… well..” she gives a weak smile.
GM: Both girls agree how nuts things must be.
“’Ow’s your uncle doing? We ’eard ’e ’ad a ’eart attack…” they mention.
Caroline: “He’s doing… well, as well as can be expected.”
GM: “Well, we ‘eard ’e’s stable, so… that’s good.”
They’re also hurt she didn’t tell them she was LGBT during her birthday. The girls clearly don’t want to make Caroline’s “coming out” about them, but their feelings are not difficult to fathom. They’re confused, pained, and even a little betrayed that she did not share that ‘secret’ about herself when they’d opened up so much.
The closest they come to skirting the topic is when Yvette says, “You… you can trust us, Caroline. We just want you to know, with anything.”
Caroline: “I’m sorry…” She bites her lip. “I knew it was going to be a thing, I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly. It all happened so fast.” She invites them to take seats in her living room, and promises them more of the story than anyone else has.
The first thing she makes clear is she doesn’t really consider herself ‘LGBT’ in the same sense that the people at a pride march or gay bar are LGBT. She’s not planning on putting up any rainbow flags, and it isn’t that she’s not attracted to men. “I’ve had boyfriends. Serious, long-term boyfriends, and not just to hide or anything.”
GM: “So you’re pansexual? You don’t really think about their gender, just ’oo they are?” Yvonne asks.
“Or you’re bi, you like guys and girls?” Yvette.
Caroline: The Ventrue purses her lips. “I guess bi? I don’t know. I don’t think I could be attracted to like, some transsexual. That’s just… a little too weird to think about.”
GM: “So you’re into binary people? Guys and girls, in the traditional sense, just both?” Yvonne.
“Oui, that sounds bi to me.” Yvette.
Caroline: The heiress looks between the two. “You two know way more about the details of this stuff than I do.”
GM: “Ah guess so. You Americans, so uptight,” Yvette says with an air of exaggerated (and just slightly real) snobbishness.
“New Orleans isn’t that bad. It’s a great city to be LGB—oh, Ah’m sorry, you didn’t want us to use that term?” Yvonne.
“Oui, Ah don’t think you should participate in the ‘ole subculture unless it makes you comfortable. It’s just useful to ‘ave words, to be able to say things like ’Caroline is bi, this is ’ow she broadly feels about guys and girls’.” Yvette.
Caroline: “I mean, that makes sense,” Caroline agrees. “And my feeling aren’t like, hurt by the word. God knows it’s easier to say a word than give an essay about your feelings. I just hate all the baggage associated with it all. You can’t just care for who you care for, that instead that label seems to take over and dominate so much of people’s lives.”
GM: “Ah guess that’s true so far as labels.” Yvonne.
“Ah guess for you none of them ’ave… that good a ’istory.” Yvette.
“Ah bet your family are all just saying you’re a lesbian, right?” Yvonne.
*Caroline: The heiress nods in agreement. “I’m a ‘lesbian whore’ and always have been.”
GM: Yvette rolls her eyes. “Americans.”
“So ’ow’d you find out… ’oo you liked?” Yvonne asks in a sly tone.
Caroline: “It just sort of… I don’t know, happened.”
It wasn’t long after Decadence and her life was coming apart. She’d done some things she wasn’t proud of. Between that and what happened to her, she was alternating between drinking heavily and self-loathing. She ran into her at a church of all places. It was easy, and fun, and felt natural, and one of the few things that wasn’t terrible, especially for those few weeks afterwards.
“I thought it would end before anyone else found out, and maybe it would just be one more thing I didn’t talk about with the rest of the family. I didn’t expect it to be serious or anything. I don’t know that I expected anything out of it.” She gives a weak smile. “I just needed something… something that made me feel good about myself, and like there was a reason to get up every day.”
“And then with you two… sharing it,” she wrestles internally for a moment, “I liked the idea that you thought I sort had my life together. And I definitely didn’t want to conjure up any ideas that would put me in the same image in your mind as… well. You know.”
GM: “Oh mon départ, non!” Yvette reflexively exclaims, her eyes flashing. (“Oh my go, no!”)
Yvonne shakes her head just as emphatically. “‘E _’urt_ our family, Caroline!”
“You saved us!” Yvette.
“Ah mean, so what if you both like girls? That’s like saying-” Yvonne.
“-you and ’Itler are both white, so you both must ’ate Jews!” Yvette.
“You don’t ’ave anything in common-” Yvonne.
“-we only ragged on ’im being a dyke because, well… it was just too easy.” Yvette.
“Ah think it’s merveilleuse you like girls.” Yvonne.
“You ’ave twice as many people to love!” Yvette.
“We ’aven’t told Sarah yet,” Yvonne adds. “We wanted to be sure you’d be completely okay—with everything.”
“’Oo is she? Your girlfriend?” Yvette asks.
“We want to meet ’er!” Yvonne.
Caroline: Caroline seems mostly placated by their assurances that they’re not associating her own activities with those of Amelie. She laughs at the comment about twice as many people to love. “Honestly, I’ve found one at a time works best.”
The heiress leans rises from her seat and walks over to the attached bar connecting the living room with the kitchen. An array of papers—opened and unopened mail, a volume of the Louisiana Rules of Evidence, and several manila folders—are scattered across the bar, but she picks up a food stained one and walks back to her seat. She fishes out a photo and passes it to the twins, seated on the sofa across from her.
The picture features Caroline and Jocelyn on the roof of the Giani Building, seated at one of the small coffee tables with steaming mugs in their hands watching the sunset. “Her name is Jocelyn. She’s an artist.”
GM: The sisters look the pictures over.
“Aww, that’s so sweet!” Yvette exclaims.
“You look really ’appy together.” Yvonne.
“Really ’appy,” Yvette smiles.
“She looks pretty young, does she go to college ’ere?” Yvonne.
“Shorter than you, too. Ah guess you kind of are the butch one…” Yvette ribs.
Caroline: “I guess that makes two of us,” Caroline jabs back at Yvette, gesturing between the twins with a smirk.
GM: The sisters both laugh.
“‘Ey, that’s not fair!” Yvonne.
“Oui, everyone says ’ow alike we look!” Yvette. “Ah can’t be the butch-”
“-she’d ’ave to ’ave big, rippling, muscles!” Yvonne exclaims, exaggeratedly flexing her arms.
Caroline: “I mean, relatively speaking,” Caroline clarifies teasingly. “Like being the most butch Victoria’s Secret model.”
GM: All three young women can readily conclude there are worse things to be.
Cécilia and Adeline call Caroline to express their support and acceptance. Noëlle and Simmone send texts. Simmone’s is longer and includes some photos of her family’s fluffy and white-furred cats. There are also rainbows and a few juvenile well wishes on loving whoever she wants to love.
Cécilia says this doesn’t change how they’re both getting a new sister. She slyly remarks that she “got the details wrong, but the spirit right” back at the Orpheum, and also wants to meet Caroline’s girlfriend. She says that of course the hero and sister-in-law who saved her younger siblings’ lives is going to be a part of the wedding, there is simply no question. She was going to bring this up another time, but she’d like Caroline to be her maid of honor. She’d like her girlfriend to be a bridesmaid too. Would they all like to get fitted for dresses together sometime soon? They could have dinner the same evening at her family’s house. It’s plain that Luke’s fiancee still wants to make Caroline feel loved and accepted after being disowned by her own family.
Caroline: Caroline gushes back, genuinely, about how kind, accepting, and generous the girls have been not only today and tonight but in general. She’s incredibly grateful for how they’ve opened their hearts to her. She admits, coyly, that Cécilia was right on the money at the Orpheum. But then, so was Caroline it seems.
She’s even more shocked and grateful about the offer to be her maid of honor, and reiterates that she’ll be grateful to be a part of the wedding in any way Cécilia wants, though she tries to get off the topic of the wedding quickly.
She mentions that Jocelyn is a little overwhelmed by the entire thing with Caorline’s family, but she’s going to meet her a little later in the evening and talk things over with her. She’ll get back to Cécilia after they talk a bit. “Just give her a little bit of time though, she’s not exactly used to the spotlight like we are.”
GM: Cécilia gives the impression of nodding over the phone and assures Caroline they’ll do everything they can to make her girlfriend comfortable. If there’s anything else she can think of, she has but to say. She’s thrilled by Caroline’s answer regarding the wedding—and privileged that her family are in positions to open their hearts to her.
She also extends her family’s collective invitation for Caroline to spend Christmas eve and—specifically phrased by their mother—“all day” come Christmas day with them. Her girlfriend is also more than welcome to attend, if they don’t have any existing plans.
Caroline: Caroline is happy to accept their Christmas eve invite. She claims that Christmas day may be spoken for already—or may not. As Ceclia can imagine, Caroline’s schedule has gotten somewhat complicated. She’ll ask her girlfriend about it tonight and get back her, remarking wistfully that it feels weird to use that term.
GM: “I saw how you looked at that theater, Caroline. I couldn’t imagine anything less weird,” Cécilia smiles over the phone. “I’m happy you have someone. And we’ll all be happy to meet her.”
Thursday night, 24 December 2015, AM
Caroline: It’s not long after her last trip to Elysium that Caroline approaches Jocelyn about some of the talk that surrounded it—and her specifically. She’s been busy—to say the least—preparing for the bar, trying to deal with her conflict within her clan, and dealing with the fallout of her frenzy with her ghouls, but carves out time just prior to Christmas Eve with the Toreador photographer: she wants to talk before the next Elysium.
They’re at Joceyln’s apartment rather than Caroline—the Ventrue enjoys invading her lover’s work space and seeing what she’s working on in her free time—on an unseasonably warm and foggy late into what is for most the Christmas holiday.
“I had no idea how big this Fangbook thing was. So many of the licks I talked with brought up that last shoot you posted. ’Jocelyn’s so talented. Jocelyn does such great work. Those photos were great.’” she imitates playfully, pitching her voice and turning her nose up in far from her best snob impression.
GM: Jocelyn’s loft apartment is decorated with a small Christmas tree, lights, and garlands despite the irreverence her Sanctified faith ascribes to the holiday (or rather, its belief that such joy is not for the Kindred and it is not for their race to celebrate Christ’s birth). The Toreador dismisses such theological concerns with, “I love the lights, decor, and whole atmosphere. Always have. I figure if I’m not buying presents for anyone, that’s good enough.”
Caroline: “Honestly, it’d probably be even further away from celebrating the birth of Christ if you did buy gifts for everyone,” she replies half-seriously.
GM: “Sorry, what do you mean there?” Jocelyn asks.
Caroline: “Rampant commercialization of the holiday?” Caroline prompts. “Plenty of people .couldn’t care less about the birth of Christ, but still trade gifts. Just look at how many retailers no longer say ‘Merry Christmas’, just ‘happy holidays’ as they shovel merchandise into the hands of people. The War on Christmas may be in full swing, but there’s no war against commercialism.”
GM: “Huh, that’s actually a good point,” Jocelyn says thoughtfully. “Geez. You have so many books and movies people watch every year all saying Christmas is about more than just the presents, but that’s the first thing we all still think about.”
“Though I don’t think retails saying ‘happy holidays’ is that bad. There’s lots of people who don’t celebrate Christmas.”
Caroline: The heiress arches an eyebrow, “And how many of them complained about ‘Merry Christmas’ before 1985? It’s just another front of the culture war. Some people won’t ever be happy.”
GM: “I think they were kind of complaining about even worse things, actually. But whatever,” Jocelyn waves off, “it’s Christmas in my haven.” Caroline knows her California-raised lover has a somewhat more liberal view of social issues than her family, although she at least seems less opinionated regarding such things than Neil, and fairly apathetic towards mortal politics.
True to her statement, however, her latest photographs reflect her yuletide mindset:
Some music plays from a speaker at low volume:
“Oh really, you did?” Jocelyn asks, pleasantly surprised from her position on a couch while she’s fiddling around on a tablet. “Yeah, the guilds don’t really care for my stuff, so… better audience on Fangbook and a couple other Kindred sites. Hell, the stuff that’s not bad for the Mask I post on breather sites too. These ones and our last shoot are also on Instagram and DeviantArt.”
Caroline: Caroline’s examination of Jocelyn’s current work from over her shoulder is abruptly interrupted by the Toreador’s last statement. “All of them?” she asks seriously.
GM: “Yeah, I mean, they don’t break the Masquerade or anything,” Jocelyn answers, then sees Caroline’s look. “Okay, the ones that were basically porn I didn’t post on DeviantArt. But your name isn’t on them or anything, if you’re worried about that. Just another tall, statuesque blonde.”
Caroline: “And what happens when some DNC goon stumbles across when and brings them forward, then my mortal family starts asking why the photos their PIs supposedly took ended up online?” Caroline asks sharply.
GM: Jocelyn rolls her eyes. “What, they spend their time browsing art sites? My handle isn’t my name, it doesn’t even have my face. I’m just another model when I show up in the pictures. There’s nothing to connect you.”
Caroline: “Someone’s looking at that art. Do you think it’s that much of a stretch that someone would see it in their down time and connect it? And it’s not about connecting you, or even pictures of us. It’s about what happens when someone drops a folder full of those specific pictures taken off the net that exactly match the same one’s he was looking at from his PI’s when he banished his daughter.” The frustration is plain on Caroline’s face. “It’s a loose end.”
GM: “All sweaters are made of loose ends if you tug hard enough,” Jocelyn retorts with some annoyance. “You’ve already been kicked out of your family. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Caroline: “For you or for me?” Caroline asks angrily.
GM: “For me then, ‘cuz you’re already making it sound like I only care about myself.” Jocelyn huffs. “Of course for you. Seriously, what’s actually the worst that’s likely to happen?”
Caroline: “Someone backtracks your IP and they send someone to break into your apartment during the day to snoop around,” Caroline snaps.
GM: “Actually, I use a VPN,” Jocelyn ‘corrects’. “So good for them, they can go break down someone’s door in Romania.”
Caroline: “And what about if Father Malveaux had vetoed the idea and told me to destroy the pictures and someone saw it in the interim?” Caroline responds. “You think he’d just be ok with a ‘oh, my bad’ from me?”
GM: “Oh, come on. You think he even knows what the internet is? I mean, fine, I’d have cut out your face if he was that upset over it. And there goes like half the shoot,” the Toreador declares crossly. “I don’t get a lot of recognition. Fuck him if he wanted to ruin that.”
Caroline: “He’d flip his fucking shit and accuse me of intentionally ignoring his wishes and damaging his domain,” Caroline answers her own question, seemingly ignoring Jocleyn’s. “And the other Ventrue would take his side, and so would the Sanctified, because he’s about to be the fucking bishop. I’d be lucky if they only dragged me out of my home and made me suck him off again. And he wouldn’t even be completely wrong to do it,” Caroline snarls, anger and frustration rising to the surface.
GM: “Okay, okay, okay,” Jocelyn says annoyedly. “What do you want, the pictures down?”
Caroline: The Ventrue sighs in a decidedly intentional way given she doesn’t actually breathe. “No, I just want you to be aware of stuff like that!” she implores.
GM: “Then why did you even get this upset!” Jocelyn interrupts. “You coulda just said, ‘hey, be aware’.”
Caroline: “Because I thought you’d know better in the first place!”
But she knows that’s not really the reason. Between the stress of the Malveaux meetings in the last couple days, her ghouls, her doubts about her mother, the fresh collar around her neck, and the breakup from her family, she knows there’s far more to it.
GM: “Well great, now I know, and nothing bad even happened.” Jocelyn crosses her arms as if to say how much Caroline is making a scene over nothing.
Caroline: "Caroline crosses her own arms. If she was still a breather it’s obvious she’d be huffing. She stares down her lover.
GM: “What?" Jocelyn asks annoyedly.
Caroline: “You literally can’t even say ’I’m sorry,’ can you?” Caroline snaps back.
GM: “Why should I say sorry? You were the one who got all bent out of shape,” the Toreador retorts.
Caroline: “Because of something you admitted was stupid! I go out of my way to consult you when something is going to affect you, and you just let it ride. You weren’t even going to tell me about it!”
GM: “There you go, being a bitch about it again,” Jocelyn rolls her eyes. “You can drop the whole ‘hardass Ventrue’ routine around me, y’know. Maybe be nicer and I could even say sorry.”
Caroline: “Is that what you think?” Caroline all but snarls. “That I’m trying to put on a show?” Emotions battle across Caroline’s face, ranging from anger, to hurt, all the way to jealousy. “You want me to be nicer, more like Josua maybe? All fawning?”
GM: “Wai—what?” Jocelyn blinks. “Where is this even coming from, ‘a sh’—and forget, never mind Josua! Where’s that coming from? I just said you could stand to be a little less bitchy maybe, and then I might feel like saying sorry!”
Caroline: “Look, if you’re bored or are just tired of my fucking problems, just say it!” Caroline almost shrieks. Red rims her eyes.
GM: “Where is this coming from?!” Jocelyn repeats. “I never said that!”
Caroline: “You just, you don’t know what it’s like!” Caroline wails, looking away and burying her face in one hand to hide her tears. “Everyone wants something, or expects something, and-” her voice cracks as her expression twists into something like a voiceless sob, before she continues, “-and I don’t even know if any of them actually give a damn.”
GM: Jocelyn looks at her for a moment, then takes Caroline’s bloody hand.
“I give a damn, and I don’t want something. I’m on your side.”
Caroline: Caroline looks away, but more to try to try to compose herself then to avoid Jocelyn. She almost slips that Ventrue mask back on before her expression breaks when she turns back to face the Toreador.
“I got disowned today,” she chokes out. “And excommunicated. Lost faith in other people I trusted. I can’t even talk about it.”
GM: “I’m sorry,” Jocelyn says.
It’s maybe the only thing there is to say.
She sits back down on the couch and gently pulls Caroline after her.
“With your mortal family?”
Caroline: She nods. “My father didn’t even call,” she continues weakly.
GM: “I’m sorry,” Jocelyn repeats. “You two were close?”
Caroline: “Yes,” Caroline replies, then a second later, “no. I… I spent my whole stupid life trying to please him.” She wipes at her eyes, and accomplishes mostly smearing her pale face with the vitae.
“You remember that stupid purity ball picture Roxanne had? I had one of those, with him. Stupid…” Her voice cracks again. “It was a political stunt, but I didn’t even mind because I got to spend the whole night with him.”
She gives a bitter and strangled laugh. “Spoiler, I guess Ventrue sires do like rich girls with daddy issues.”
GM: “Wow, I guess so.” Jocelyn looks at Caroline for a moment, then breaks the somberness with a laugh of her own. “Those balls are seriously so creepy. I can’t believe you went to one. Well, okay… maybe I can. But I can see why you might’ve, if that was really the only way.”
Caroline: Caroline gives Jocelyn a very flat look that teeters between annoyance at her joking in this moment and cynical amusement. “It would be awful enough if it was just the family stuff. I’d half accepted that was coming, even if it hurts worse than I thought.”
GM: “I didn’t mean it like that,” she adds. “I mean, sure, they are creepy. But it sounds like you really did want to be close with your dad, if that was the only way he’d really allow.”
Caroline: “It was like my whole fucking existence. Being a good Malveaux. Being his good daughter. Honoring the family name. Fails across the board there. Now I’m not just a failure, I’m a lesbian whore, harlot, monster, victim, disaster.” She ticks off each on her fingers. “And the other shit, hanging over my head since the day I got Embraced.”
“I went to… just… other Kindred for help with…” She shakes her head and finishes lamely, “stuff. Half of them treated me like dirt on their rug, half of them wanted something from me, half of them only gave me the time of day because I gave them things, and fucking all of them are goddamn fucking liars. I spent half my fucking nights licking boots, and it’s not even to get ahead.”
GM: “I’m sorry,” Jocelyn offers again. “I guess… you can’t really count on any that aren’t family, and even that’s a toss-up…”
“I know the coin didn’t land on the good side for you, but… if you’re really in trouble, or just need someone who isn’t… well, all of what you said, I could get in touch with my sire. She’s been around knows what she’s doing better than I do. And whatever it is you need help with, she’d do it for me, if I asked.”
Caroline: Caroline can too well imagine how that call might go—and sound. The thought of it makes her ashamed.
She shakes her head lightly. “No. It’s… it’s just something I have to work out. Involving anyone else would make it worse.” And probably get them killed. “I’m just tired, Jocelyn. Tired of bad things happening. Tired of not knowing what to do. Tired of being the ugly poor kid in the class. I’m fucking not.”
GM: “You absolutely aren’t,” Jocelyn nods. “And if you just want advice, so far as not knowing what to do… my sire could help there. Like I said, she’s been around.”
Caroline: “Maybe if she ends up in town,” Caroline tentatively agrees.
GM: Jocelyn doesn’t look like she wants to argue further, as her tone is softer when she ventures, “You can let people help you, Caroline.”
Caroline: “I’m sorry,” Caroline apologizes again, lightly shaking her head. “The stakes are just always so high, and everyone has an agenda, and… and this has been the only thing that’s felt real.”
GM: “Well, I’m glad it has. Really glad,” Jocelyn nods. “But… offer’s open. My sire would want to help, if she knew this, you, were important to me. And like I said, there’s a lot she could do. She’s pretty old.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip, searching for a better way to phrase it, before just asking, “How much of the night I visited Matheson do you remember?”
GM: “A fair bit,” says Jocelyn, frowning. “It was… really ugly. You remember that.”
Caroline: “I didn’t exactly come out of that night unscathed.”
GM: “Uh, yeah, and Katrina got the city a little wet.”
Caroline: “Nor is it oversharing to point out how well that whole thing went over with my clan, then the tension with Father Malveaux and my mortal family.”
GM: “He didn’t wanna share? Yeah, I guess that’s no surprise.”
Jocelyn frowns. “I don’t know if I mentioned, but he’s my confessor now. I kinda preferred Mother Doriocourt, but… he’s gonna be the bishop. Couldn’t really say no.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “He asked you to swap? When?”
GM: “Pretty recently. Just this night.”
Caroline: The statement makes Caroline’s blood run cold, and she falls silent.
GM: “Is there a reason you think he’d do that?” Jocelyn frowns.
Caroline: Caroline can think of plenty of reasons, not a single one good, for the soon to be bishop to be meddling with her lover. She remembers the way he looked at her only nights ago.
She wrestles with how much to share, biting her lower lip. “It’s complicated.”
GM: “Yeah, I can tell,” Jocelyn nods. “And I remember how you asked me to help then, to pick you up from Perdido House. But it’s like since then… you’ve kinda, well, maybe not so ‘kinda’, shut me out. Why is that?”
Caroline: “Everything changed that night,” Caroline admits. “The seneschal wanted to execute me. I was certain he was going to.”
GM: “I know, you said he was going to. Those were your words. ‘Right there. On the spot.’”
Caroline: “With his own hands,” she agrees. “He held off, but not for free, and the cost.” She bites her lip again. “The cost is more than I want to think about.”
GM: “You talked about that too, afterwards,” Jocelyn nods.
Caroline: She looks back at Jocelyn. “At the same time, the possible rewards.”
GM: Her eyebrows raise. “Okay, definitely not about any rewards.”
Caroline: “Possible ones. Maybe. If everything goes right, and I’m the perfect little fledgling, and the perfect little Ventrue. And I don’t rock the boat.”
GM: “Okay, that sounds… like a good idea anyways?” Jocelyn raises. “I mean, great if there’s some payoff for it.”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “Think on who the most powerful and senior Ventrue in the city are, and how things were with them before. How they are.” She shakes her head. “Not that it mattered. I didn’t get a vote, so I started focusing on that. Because success is literally life or death. And not just success like I’d planned—a life for myself here—but quick and unreasonable successes for a neonate. And without any of the help I’d gotten before. With the sheriff breathing down my neck. With Agnello in my business.”
“Opportunities don’t exactly come easily as it is for younger licks either, you know? And then, part of being a ‘Good Ventrue’ is what you know. We don’t talk about it. About each other. And if you break those rules… well, you’re out. Only being out for me isn’t just losing their support. It’s a death sentence. And talking about the seneschal’s stuff can also get me ashed. The whole thing is just…” She shakes her head. “I didn’t want to drag you into the few things I even could, because if it all goes down in flames I wanted you to be able to walk away.”
“But then the other night at the Elysium they were all talking about how you were going to get bored with me, and how torries don’t do longer relationships.” She’s starting to ramble.
GM: Surprise, doubt, slow-dawning realization, and doubt again all blossom in Jocelyn’s eyes.
Before Caroline talks about what she heard at Elysium last night.
“Wait… who said that?” she frowns. “That’s… stupid. My sire and grandsire have been together since… well, since steamboats were still a thing, I guess. That’s just a stereotype. It’s not like all Jews are rich scrooges either, right?”
Caroline: “I… I guess. It just made me realize that didn’t want to lose you. That I’d thought amid everything else you were a constant, and that I was taking that for granted.”
GM: “Well, no one likes that, lick or breather,” Jocelyn nods. “But… that is really sweet, too. About being your constant.”
Caroline: “And with everything else… the North Star wasn’t there anymore either. Or might not be.”
“It made me think, at that point, what the hell am I even doing? What’s the point. I already gave up my mortal family. All the kine I know I’m going to lose. What the hell do I even want.”
GM: “Do you think you know?” the Toreador asks concernedly. “I mean, it’s always seemed to me like you have. I’m pretty sure it’s a requirement just to be a blue blood. But I’m actually not really sure what you do, specifically, now that you bring it up.” Jocelyn looks thoughtful at that remark.
Caroline: I want to take my place where I belong, Caroline thinks, but can’t actually say. At least not yet.
“Like all good blue bloods I want to rule the city,” she replies coyly.
GM: “Okay, I can get behind that, so long as I’m prince consort or whatever,” Jocelyn grins.
Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly. “More to the present… well. Lots of stuff that the seneschal wants. Or demanded. Power on the way to those things.”
GM: “So what’s he want?”
Caroline: Caroline squirms. “Some things I’m not allowed to talk about. Success with my clan. Submission to all the social norms and rules in general. Continued devotion to the Sanctified. Power at the same time.”
Caroline is grateful for her lover’s desire to help, and especially to draw in her own sire. The hardest part of the entire thing though, she admits, is simply bowing to the wishes of others. Whether in clan or covenant, she’s not used to being at the bottom of the hierarchy, and many of her early mistakes have come back to haunt her.
She floats lightly that unless Jocelyn’s sire can turn back time to undo those mistakes, advance her age about a hundred years to give her the gravitas of age on par with the older vampires of the clan, or change Caroline’s fundamental nature, she’s not sure it would help with the tasks that most hound her.
It does, however, bring her back to Father Malveaux (soon to be Bishop Malveaux), and his desire to take on Jocelyn.
Caroline discloses that she’s discovered that she has an uncanny resemblance to someone the priest cared for a great deal, back when he was among the living.
She expresses concern that he may be, in some way, jealous of Jocelyn, and their relationship. Obviously, she’d like to prefer to think that he has moved beyond such things, but hoping and believing hasn’t exactly gone well so far in her Requiem.
It’s clear she’s toeing a significant line between her desire to not break with her clan’s tradition of not speaking ill of others within it, and her genuine and not insignificant concern and (even) fear related to this latest development.
GM: Jocelyn looks more than slightly discomfited by Caroline’s disclosure about the soon-to-be Bishop Malveaux’s interest in her. “So, uh… what the hell do you want to do about that?”
She thinks Caroline’s clan’s tradition is stupid. “My clan trash talks each other around non-torries all the time. Whoop-de-doo.”
She does not, however, take the joke about her sire with much humor. “You get moody and start all these fights, and when I offer to help, you just laugh it off and won’t even say what the problem is! I’m getting just a little tired of that!”
Caroline: “I’m sorry,” Caroline apologizes quietly. “I just want what we have to be a space away from all of that.”
“Listen. How would you like to come celebrate Christmas Eve with me and some people? Humans.”
GM: Jocelyn seems to accept the apology, or at least not press the issue, if her silence is any indication.
Caroline: Caroline tells her about the invitation from the Devillers.
GM: “Well. The prince’s coronation Mass is at midnight, remember?” The Toreador supposes that leaves time earlier in the evening. She doesn’t have anything else going on—the Sanctified don’t celebrate Christmas, after all, so the Storyvilles haven’t made plans (Roxanne was firm over this). But the thought of forcing herself to eat food around a bunch of breathers doesn’t sound like the most fun way to spend her time.
“I guess, who are they to you?”
Caroline: The question isn’t without merit. Caroline ponders on it for several seconds.
“People that make me feel human sometimes,” she admits. “A part of the mask I wear. Valuable, powerful, accessible.” She laughs lightly. “One of them invited you to be a bridesmaid at a wedding I’ve been banned from attending.”
GM: “Thanks, I guess,” Jocelyn replies amusedly, then grows more serious. “But you know what the Testament says, right, about living like we’re still, well, living?”
Caroline: “I’m not trying to pretend that I’m alive, that nothing has changed,” Caroline replies defensively. “Just… not trying to give in totally to the Beast. Are you telling me you don’t have any kine you spend time with?”
GM: Jocelyn shrugs. “Not really, to be honest. I mainly hang with the Storyvilles.”
Caroline: Regardless, and the vulgarity of kine food aside, Caroline knows how much Jocelyn enjoys being the center of attention. She’d certainly get plenty if she came over, even if it was only for a couple hours. It’s also possible the Devillers could even open some doors in terms of places for her art to go up. She doesn’t have to go, but Caroline think she might enjoy herself all the same. It would certainly do good things for her own Masquerade.
GM: “Ehhh…” Jocelyn says. “I guess you do worse, but I really don’t wanna choke down and then barf up an entire Christmas dinner…”
Caroline: When pressed, Caroline admits there’s also an element of Kindred politics to it. She can’t—or won’t—provide a name, but their patron someone asked Caroline to maintain her ties to the family. “It’s not exactly a request I could refuse.”
GM: “That makes so many of them, doesn’t it?” says Jocelyn. Not without sympathy.
Caroline: If only she had any idea.