“We’re all the fucking bad guys here.”
Monday night, 29 February 2016, AM
GM: Caroline’s phone rings. It’s Jocelyn.
“So, uh… I’m doing what you suggested.”
“I broke the news to Gwen. About Evan.”
There’s a pause.
“We have a problem. A big problem.”
Caroline: “What problem?”
GM: An address appears in her text messages.
“Come over here. You… you have to see it to believe it. And I sure as fuck don’t want anyone else to.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “I’ll be over as soon as I can.”
GM: “Okay. See you in a bit.”
Caroline: The address is for an apartment complex in the CBD, along with a unit number.
The Ventrue gathers her ‘entourage’, those on call for the evening, and a few items as well and heads out for the evening with Widney, Fuller, and Green, her curiosity piqued.
GM: Jocelyn actually texts her about that a little while later. Don’t bring your GI Joe renfields. The redhead, whatshername, might be handy.
Wasn’t she a Krewe cleaner?
Yeah she might be
Caroline: Caroline scowls. She’s asked Jocelyn to lay off on the Kindred-specific references on the phone before.
I’ll be there soon. Will call her in if we need her, she replies noncommittally.
While Green drives she pulls up the address Jocelyn sent on her phone, digging into its history.
GM: Julia Row of the Thirteen Sisters was built in 1832-33 as a speculative development, or so Zillow tells the Ventrue. Upon its completion, “Julia Row became one of the most affluent addresses in the American Sector.” Each three-story house with attic and three-story service wing was a single-family residence that architect Alexander Thompson Wood designed in a transitional Federal to Greek Revival style. However, that was clearly all a very long time ago, given that rents now start at $1,350 a month. The 13 “sisters” have since been renovated into single- and two-bedroom apartment units.
Caroline: It’s interesting, though not as much as who owns it now, and whether it’s appeared in the news recently. Caroline appreciates the ‘news’ column of Google.
GM: Caroline sees no recent news. The building is owned by a real estate company based out of Dallas.
Caroline: She has Green circle the block looking for anything that jumps out before she pulls over to let the rest of the group out.
GM: “Hey, look at those shades,” the ex-SWAT observes. “Little different make than the others.”
Caroline: “Good eye,” she compliments, studying the apartment in question.
GM: It matches the floor Jocelyn said to meet her at.
It’s a short ways up to the apartment. Caroline passes one or two people leaving or going up to the units, but nothing gets in her way. She knocks. There’s a shadow behind the peephole, then Jocelyn pulls it open.
“Okay, glad you’re here.” She looks at Widney. “Thought I said to bring the redhead? The butler girl’s not really gonna be helpful.”
Widney merely remains at silent, studious attention.
Caroline: Caroline smirks. “Don’t underestimate her.”
GM: Jocelyn closes the door behind them. “Gwen, she’s here.”
The one-bedroom apartment’s non-bedroom area looks like most any other twenty-something’s. IKEA furniture, a TV, some rugs and posters for Christian bands. Microwave and fridge by the stove and sink. Not really any food out.
“Gwen!” Jocelyn calls.
There’s the sound of running water from the bedroom, then Gwen steps out. It’s been a long time since Caroline saw her in person: the last time was the hand-off between her and Eight-Nine-Six in City Park, in fact, what feels like a lifetime ago. Gwen is a pudgy girl with a somewhat sad face, large bust, and shoulder-length black hair. Winters in New Orleans are mild enough affairs, and she already has on a spring-appropriate striped top, dark skirt, and silver crucifix earrings.
Her eyes are dry enough. But Caroline can still smell the wiped-off coppery tang.
When she sees the Ventrue, she stops in mid-stride, traces the sign of a lance, and starts whispering prayers.
“Look, relax, we’re… gonna take care of this,” Jocelyn says.
But her voice sounds flat.
“The… in the bedroom still,” Gwen says quietly.
She closes her eyes.
“Oh Longinus, Longinus, Longinus…”
Caroline: “What happened?” Caroline demands, her hackles rising.
GM: Jocelyn just points at the door.
“You… you have to see it.”
Widney looks between the vampires, but remains silent.
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes narrow. “Jocelyn, where did we meet?”
GM: “At church,” she says. “We didn’t really talk until we were outside though.”
The Toreador frowns a bit. “Why do you ask?”
Gwen whispers more prayers.
Caroline: The Ventrue’s eyes don’t change. “Because you’re acting really weird.”
“Because you’ve never asked me not to bring over a ghoul.”
GM: “I don’t want lots of renfields knowing about this!” Jocelyn hisses. “They won’t help, anyway. I mean… okay, I don’t even fucking know. But the GI Joes sure won’t. They can’t… just shoot this.”
Jocelyn looks as if she’s about to say more, then just shakes her head and pulls open the bedroom door.
It’s a comfortable enough-looking bedroom. The oversized bed takes up well over half the space. It’s white, with fat comforters, lots of pillows and smaller blankets, the sort of bed someone could just drown themselves in. There’s a Sanctified lance mounted above the bed, along with a cross. The nearby shelves have a few books, and a wood letter carving that reads “LOVE,” but they’re mostly taken up by an enormous collection of stuffed animals, including everything from teddy bears to bunnies to a cartoon vampire with a cape and widow’s peek. There’s a placard on the bedside table along with an unlit candle holster.
The first thing Caroline’s eye falls upon, though, is the small yet heavily pregnant Latina girl tied spread-eagled to each of the bed’s four posts. Her swollen belly stands out all the more against her petite frame. She’s blindfolded, thrashing deliriously, and making muffled sounds of panic past a cloth gag. There’s blood all over her face and torn clothes.
Jocelyn stares at the bound figure, her eyes flaring.
Gwen buries her face in her hands.
Jocelyn is silent for a moment.
“Taste her, Caroline.”
Caroline: The Ventrue runs a finger along the woman’s bloody clothes and holds it to her tongue.
GM: She tastes the diluted tang of the same vitae that’s inside Widney.
“That’s not a ghoul,” Jocelyn whispers.
Her chest rises and falls as she takes needless heaving breaths.
Caroline: “She tastes like one,” Caroline replies.
GM: “It tastes like it,” Jocelyn repeats. “But it is fucking not.”
The Toreador looks almost sick.
Caroline: “What the fuck do you mean it’s not?” Caroline asks.
Jocelyn waves a disbelieving hand.
The bound figure gives a muffled wail and thrashes against her bonds.
Caroline: She looks at Gwen. “What the hell did you do?”
GM: “I… I didn’t try to!” Gwen exclaims. Her face is a mask of horror. “I… I thought I was…”
“You thought WRONG!” Jocelyn flares.
Caroline: The Ventrue turns away. “Jesus…” she mutters, firing off a text to her security ghouls to wave them off.
GM: Widney stares at the bound woman uncertainly, but continues to hold her tongue.
Caroline: She looks back to the bound Latina. “You tried to Embrace her?”
GM: “Tried,” Jocelyn repeats.
There’s numbness in her voice.
Caroline: She looks at Gwen. “What the hell were you thinking?”
GM: Red leaks from the other Toreador’s eyes. “I… I didn’t mean…”
Caroline: “What did you mean to do?” she asks angrily.
GM: “It was EVAN!” Gwen sobs, burying her face in her hands again.
“I… I was…”
The red flows freely.
“I m-m-missed h… him…”
Caroline: “A pregnant girl!?” Caroline all but snarls.
GM: Gwen’s bloody tears flow. “I didn’t mean to! I… I didn… I jus…”
“Caroline…” Jocelyn’s voice has dropped to a whisper. “I don’t know if that’s…”
Jocelyn just points at the woman’s swollen belly.
The Toreador looks nauseous.
Caroline: “Just…” Caroline wants to vomit. “Start at the beginning with what happened and why. We’ll deal with what to do about after you explain how we got here.”
GM: “I… it was, was Evan, and how…”
Gwen stares at the girl.
“The living room could be a better place, ma’am,” Widney offers quietly.
Caroline: Caroline looks at the girl again, then nods. “Yeah…”
She closes the door on the scene of horror.
GM: Her last sight over the blindfolded girl’s frantic, muffled sobs is of her enormous belly rolling back and forth over the bloody, foul-smelling sheets.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Caroline: Caroline is grateful, not for the first time, that she’s dead. If she were alive she’d have puked already. She doesn’t know how Widney is keeping it together.
GM: Her resume did commend her level head. Then again, perhaps it’s simple ignorance. Autumn was supposed to debrief her on Kindred physiology, but the two ghouls haven’t ever gotten along.
The four sit down.
“She didn’t even go apeshit,” Jocelyn says flatly. “Oh, I mean, I’m sure she’s scared and pissed and… and everything as all hell. But she wasn’t an animal. Not like we get. I know the difference.”
Caroline: “Just…” the Ventrue shakes her head. “Just start talking, Gwen..”
GM: “And being tied up like that? I, you, we could all burst out, easy, if we burned enough juice.”
Caroline: “She’s a thin-blood,” Caroline agrees numbly with Jocelyn. “Gwen, I don’t hear you talking.”
GM: “I…” Gwen starts haplessly, wringing her hands.
Caroline: “No,” Caroline cuts her off. “Stop wringing your damned hands.”
“You own this. So own it.”
GM: Gwen says nothing for a moment, then sets them down.
“It was… Jocelyn told me, that Evan was… that he really was…”
Red leaks from the Toreador’s eyes.
“It… it was like, like a hole… he knew me… he… he really knew me…”
“Yeah, Houston, we know that, Gwen,” Jocelyn interrupts.
“N… no… no, you don’t… not l… like… he…”
The Toreador just weeps red. Her top is a mess.
Jocelyn fills the moment as she does. “You can see why I said the GI Joes wouldn’t be any help, now?”
Caroline: “I think that one might be a matter of opinion,” Caroline replies more sharply than she means.
GM: “Seriously though, call your little Krewe cleaner already. Maybe she…” Jocelyn motions, “I don’t know, has seen this before?”
Caroline: She looks back at Gwen. “You were lonely, we get it. Then what? Who is she and what did you intend on doing to her?”
GM: “Well what the fuck do you want them to do, bravely defend us against that… that…” Jocelyn says, then just settles for, “that might not even have fangs!?”
Caroline: “No, that wasn’t what I meant at all,” comes Caroline’s cold reply.
GM: “I don’t know if she even has any! I seriously don’t!”
“Her… her name’s Natalia, Garcia…” Gwen speaks up. “I mean, Natalie. Or was it…"
“You turned her into… and you don’t even know her name!?” Jocelyn scoffs.
Gwen closes her eyes. “I wasn’t, thinking…”
“Yeah, I’ll say.”
“I… I wish I hadn’t…”
Jocelyn looks like she’s about to say something, as if there’s a thousand things she could say, and then just doesn’t.
Caroline: “So what did you intend on doing, Gwen.”
Convince me that I shouldn’t cut your fucking head off for this one.
GM: “I was just, I was just… talking with her. I met her at, and we just… talked. About families. Our families.”
“She’s got a… a really big family. They were all really happy when she got pregnant, they weren’t mad, even though she’s young, and they want to help her with the baby, so she can keep going to college…”
Caroline: The words ‘loose ends’ scramble across Caroline’s consciousness despite all desires to the contrary.
GM: “She said her sister’s in politics, and really pretty, and her husband’s a vet… and that he really wants… for the baby…”
More red wells from her eyes.
“I… I wanted kids… lots of kids… and her family, it sounded so… so… I… I don’t know what, but I was… crying, and she was hugging me, and… she was so warm, so nice, and I could feel the baby kicking… and I wanted… I just wanted… I was so sad, and…”
“You lost it,” Jocelyn says slowly. “She just got too close, when you were…” the Toreador motions halfheartedly. “And you just lost it.”
The words aren’t understanding. Or even, in fact, recriminating. Just flat.
“And you attacked her.”
“N… no!” Gwen protests, wiping at her eyes. “I didn’t, I was just… just, being… it was the Beast…”
She traces a lance.
“Oh, Longinus, forgive me…”
Caroline remembers another individual speaking similar words. More eloquently. More knowingly. All-too knowingly.
Or maybe it’s nothing so strategic but was an act of poisoned passion. He could have seen you, been totally ignorant of your name and birthright, just seen your beauty and been swallowed up with lust and terrible loneliness.
Caroline: “And when you came to she was so very still, so you tried to put the pieces back together,” Caroline fills in.
GM: “I…” Gwen says unsurely. “Maybe? I guess, that makes sense.”
Caroline: “What do you mean, maybe? Did she trip, fall, and land on your vitae?”
GM: “I don’t know! It was… I was so…”
“She sounds as if she was very distressed at the time, ma’am,” Widney interjects quietly.
Caroline: ""And if she’s maimed some random person that would be one thing," Caroline replies with icy patience. “Instead she put her poison in that girl, and into her child, but couldn’t even do that right.”
She looks at Jocelyn. “And then presumably called you?”
GM: “Sort of…” Jocelyn says. “She called me, yeah.”
“She had the body in a bathtub.”
Caroline: Dread fills Caroline.
GM: ""She was a wreck. The body, it’d… been there, all night. All day. For god knows how long. And then it…" she finishes lamely, “wasn’t a body. We tied her down, then I… called you. And here we are.”
“Seriously, call your little Krewe cleaner already. I’m paranoid we might’ve…” Jocelyn gestures. “This is a mess. Fuck, what if the Krewe knows already!”
Gwen looks horrified at the thought. “Oh… oh god, you’re right, they’re everywhere…”
But it doesn’t look like a new one.
Caroline: “What do you want her to tell you? That there’s some fix for this? You murdered a girl that people are sure as fuck going to look for. You murdered her child. Then you Embraced her with your weak blood,” Caroline spits out. “There is no easy fix for this.”
GM: Gwen’s face doesn’t look like it could look much lower.
Jocelyn heaves a needless sigh.
“Given these facts and circumstances, ma’am, what is the ideal outcome we would like to achieve?” asks Widney, seemingly uncertain of the full nuances of what’s happened, but wanting to start planning and organizing.
Caroline: Caroline looks at Gwen and her Beast roars out into the crying Toreador’s mind. “Do as I say. Stop crying and sit there.”
GM: Gwen stops crying as her face goes blank.
“What the fuck!?” Jocelyn exclaims.
Caroline: Caroline turns to her lover. “Widney is right. You need to start thinking very carefully about what you want out of this, Jocelyn, because this isn’t some minor fuck up.”
GM: “She wasn’t getting in the way!” Jocelyn gapes. “Okay, fine, she was weepy, but you don’t need to turn her into a ’bot!”
Caroline: “She doesn’t need to remember this conversation,” Caroline replies firmly.
GM: “So, what, you want her to forget the whole ‘thin-blood in her bedroom’ too?!”
“And wow, if that isn’t the most Ventrue shit I’ve heard all year! What the fuck! I thought your butler was right about planning, and… we didn’t even plan, anything! You just turned her into a ’bot!”
Caroline: “No, I want you to decide if someone that murdered a pregnant girl then Embraced her as a thin-blood is someone you want to risk your Requiem for, because right now you’re an accessory to her crime.”
The Ventrue’s tone is viciously cold, like stone pried from the earth after a thousand years, but Jocelyn knows her well enough to know what it hides: anger.
GM: Seeing that look in her lover’s eyes, Jocelyn falters for a moment.
“Look, I just… couldn’t we have just, talked it out, first?”
Caroline: “She doesn’t get a vote,’” comes Caroline’s oh-so-cool response.
GM: “She brought us in! Okay, she screwed up, huge, but… so have you! She wants to fix things, even if… fuck if I know how.”
Caroline: “_She murdered a pregnant girl because her life sounded too nice,”_ the Ventrue grinds out between clenched teeth. “And then illicitly Embraced her and her unborn child for her trouble.”
The Ventrue’s fists clench as she grinds out those words.
GM: “It… it happens! You should know, I thought your sire Embraced you under pretty sketchy… look, fuck, we’ve all fucked up! Just give her a chance to help, even if she’s crying a lot, please?”
Widney remains silent and still throughout the argument between the two vampires.
Caroline: “Yeah,” Caroline replies, her volume increasing. “I you might even say I’m an expert on being fucking horribly murdered for no reason other than someone else’s pettiness then given someone’s vitae.”
She gestures at Gwen. “SHE is not the fucking victim here.”
GM: “I didn’t say that,” Jocelyn says quietly. “Yeah, she fucked up. She killed someone. Worse than killed someone. Two someones.”
Caroline: “That girl is the victim in there, and the only reason I haven’t shoved a stake in her,” Caroline gestures to Gwen again. “And dragged her in front of the prince is because it was you that called me.”
GM: Jocelyn looks about to start again, then settles for, “Look. We’re all sinners. We could all do that. Pot, kettle, black. We’re all the fucking bad guys here.”
“Just let her out of bot mode, Caroline. She hasn’t screwed up the damage control beyond crying a lot.”
Caroline: Caroline folds her arms. “So what is damage control here, Jocelyn? Are we trying to lessen the blow when it hits her, or are we trying to this,” she gestures to the other room, “up?”
GM: “I don’t know, Caroline. I’m just saying you don’t need to mindfuck her before we’ve even made up our minds what to do! Let her go, all right?”
“And just to pitch things from the Ventrue angle, she can’t owe you big for this if she doesn’t even remember you showing up.”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes flicker with anger again. “I don’t give a damn about her owing me. I care about what you want to do, Jocelyn, because when you talk about what to do, there’s really two options.”
“You turn her in,” she gestures to Gwen, “and she begs for mercy but probably gets executed. Or,” she gestures to the closed bedroom door, “you start plotting how you’re going to dispose of that girl and her child. How you’re going to destroy them and cover up Gwen’s crime.”
GM: “What?!” Jocelyn exclaims. “No, No, there’s-”
“Ma’am, what are all of the possible options here that occur to you?” Widney ventures quietly.
Jocelyn closes her mouth for a moment.
“What are all of the things you can think to do, at least right now?” Widney continues.
“Okay, so…” Jocelyn starts. “Well, there’s confession. You tell your crime to a priest and you get off easier. I mean, the prince… has forgiven Embraces like that before. When you confess.”
She frowns. “But… the thin-blooded part… adds a wrinkle. That makes this a lot worse. I mean, I think? Maybe he’d kill…” Jocelyn gestures to the bedroom, “and spare Gwen.”
Caroline: “They cause problems,” Caroline replies bluntly.
GM: “Though there’s also…” Jocelyn trails off, then glares, “Okay, if you’re mindscrewing Gwen, you’re DEFINITELY mindscrewing the renfield. She doesn’t need to hear all of this. Can’t hear all of this.”
Widney gives a faint but indignant frown.
Caroline: “Widney, please go check on the girl. If you can calm her down, the better,” Caroline replies. “I don’t imagine she’s going to be especially welcoming to that, but someone explaining something to her, or even talking to her, I suspect might help some with the terror she feels right now.”
GM: “I’ll do my best, ma’am,” Widney replies, rising to her feet.
The sounds start again, when she opens the door. The gagged cries. Then they mute as she closes it.
Jocelyn looks after the door for a moment.
She shakes her head.
Caroline: Caroline is silent for a moment.
GM: “Everyone goes on about how we’re damned, but… god. Just imagine waking up as one of… those. Not even a real vampire. Just some… abortion that couldn’t even die right.”
Gwen just stares blankly ahead. Jocelyn has stopped looking at her.
Caroline: “I was talking about it with Garcia a while back. He mentioned some of them don’t even have fangs, many don’t, but they still have to suck down blood.”
GM: Jocelyn makes a face of disgust.
Caroline: “And the baby?” She shakes her head gravely. “The best case is that it’s dead.”
GM: “Is… that how it even works?” Jocelyn asks uncertainly. “I’ve heard some… really weird stories about them. Like, they can walk in the sun, eat, shit, and… have kids.”
Caroline: “I mean, thin blood is…. weird, but usually if you introduce the blood to a pregnant woman in any way, she miscarries. There’s some horror stories out there about it becoming a little vampire fetus, clawing its way out of the mother… but I haven’t heard any good ones.”
GM: “God, a… vampire fetus? Yeah, that’s a pretty… wow. And I thought the licks Embraced as little kids were creepy.”
“There’s one in my clan. He looks like he’s in middle school. Feels kinda… off.”
Caroline: Caroline shivers. “I don’t even want to think about that.”
“But we still don’t have an answer.”
GM: “Well, middle school licks seem pretty tame next to… yeah.”
Jocelyn looks at the bedroom door.
“I hear there’s supposed to be a bunch more thin-bloods these days. Nights. That they call themselves ‘duskborn’, even, to be proud. I think that’s one of the things Meadows does, though. Kills them where she finds them.”
Caroline: “Bad for the Masquerade,” Caroline replies bitterly.
GM: “Sally told me scourges used to be kinda rare, but there’s been a bunch since the ’90s when thin-bloods really started cropping up. Guess our city was ahead of the curve.”
Jocelyn looks grim.
“It’s… hard to see a happy ending for her. Vidal says thin-bloods are all vermin.”
Caroline: “I mean, think how hard it is to maintain your Masquerade, then imagine doing it with half your gifts?”
Caroline: “How difficult it would be for her to feed without making a mess.”
GM: “Though I guess easier in some ways, like if they can walk in the day. I hear some of them even age, like kine. They actually get older. Some super fast.”
Caroline: “Lots of rumors,” Caroline replies, “not a lot of facts.”
“Guess that’s what happens when the official policy is to kill them.”
GM: “Yeah, I guess.” Jocelyn looks thoughtful. “Though… not everywhere, from what I hear. There’s supposed to be a bunch in the French Quarter. Because there’s just so many licks there, all crowded in, with already weak blood. And I guess they get sloppy. And Savoy I guess isn’t really… murder gung ho, like the prince.”
Jocelyn looks thoughtful at that declaration.
Caroline: “Don’t even think about it,” Caroline replies.
GM: “Caroline, she…”
Jocelyn eyes the door.
“God, I don’t know. It seems horrible just to be one of them. But… there’s supposed to be a lot of them, out there. I guess they just… exist, like anything.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “It’s not enough to exist. Not when you cause as much misery by simply by doing so as we do.”
GM: “It seems kinda like we should ash ourselves if we wanna ash them, honestly. I mean, total heresy, ruin your rep thing to say. I wonder how many people they kill next to us though. I mean, I guess they get up to all sorts of crap, but it must be actually hard for them to kill normal breathers, because they’re so weak.”
She shivers. “God though, I’m glad my sire had stronger blood than Gwen’s. I would not want to be one of them. Or to make one.”
Caroline: Caroline shuffles uncomfortably. “There’s a lot that I disagree with the Sanctified on, Jocelyn… issues I have with the faith, with how it does things, but there’s one thing I can agree with completely. If there isn’t some purpose to this existence, if there isn’t some value in it, we’re all just monsters that deserve to burn.”
GM: “Doesn’t she have a purpose, though? With that big family, and the husband?”
“God, she can’t even really hunt sinners, can she? No wonder the prince just wants to kill them all.”
Caroline: “I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the guy that’s been doing this for a thousand years,” Caroline replies quietly.
GM: Jocelyn looks uncomfortable.
“Caroline, I’ve killed people. We… we all have. I hear there’s some holy order of ‘Kindred virgins’ who haven’t, but… well, I don’t know any.”
Caroline: Caroline’s killed. She can still remembers faces, but the list of names has gotten so long she had to write it down.
GM: “But it’s never been… like this’d be. Just handing someone over. Knowing they’ll die.” She thinks. “I hear the Anarchs are supposed to be less… kill-happy with thin-bloods.”
Caroline: “It’s called responsibility,” Caroline replies aloofly. “All your other murders…. well, that was the Beast, or it was in the service of god, right? This one… well… we own that. It’s a whole different thing to kill someone with intent.”
Caroline should know.
GM: “Maybe we could try with them?” the Toreador offers. “I mean, at least look into some options?”
Caroline: “Any option that doesn’t involve Gwen in front of the seneschal is one that puts your Requiem…. and mine on the line,” Caroline points out.
GM: “What if no one saw? I don’t think the Krewe is actually everywhere. They can’t be.”
Caroline: “They’re not,” Caroline replies. “But they’re in enough places. Someone would see her. She’d eventually come before someone. And does Gwen seem like a bundle of stability to you right now? Like she’s going to keep a nice lid on things?”
“You know what the ‘right’ answer is.”
GM: “I haven’t even told Roxanne yet,” Jocelyn says quietly. “About Evan. And this is what happened when I told Gwen.”
Caroline: Caroline puts a hand on Jocelyn’s. “I’m sorry…”
GM: Jocelyn leans against the taller Kindred’s arm. “I don’t even know how I’m gonna break this. Roxanne is going to just… go nuclear.”
Caroline: “You just do the best you can… and you keep doing the best you can, every night. Eventually it’s either enough, or…”
She doesn’t shrug with Jocelyn leaning on her, but she tilts her head as though she might.
GM: “Yeah… every night. Best you can.”
Jocelyn’s eyes are starting to look a little more resolute.
Caroline: “We just have to be grateful for what we have. That we’re not that girl…. god, I don’t even know where to start with her.”
GM: “I don’t wanna kill her, Caroline. Natalie. I’m just… I’m tired of always being the bad guy. Of things always being horrible. She’s… what she is, because of Evan, and what happened to him.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t agree, but doesn’t say as much.
GM: “Everything’s just gone completely to shit, since Evan left. Since he disappeared. Died. I’m just tired of that. Of everything getting worse, for everyone.”
Caroline: “Yeah… but…” Caroline interrupts gently.
“Did everything get worse just because he disappeared, or did it get worse in part because he isn’t here to make things better?”
GM: “Maybe both,” Jocelyn wonders. “I don’t know. I don’t really know what I believe now, either. About God. About the church. I just…” She looks tired. “I just don’t wanna kill someone, who doesn’t have to die. I don’t. It feels like… it feels like this is my first shot, to do something… right, since Evan. Actually right.”
Jocelyn rubs her head against Caroline’s shoulder.
“You’re smart. You’re strong. How could we pull this off?”
Caroline: “You’re assuming she’d even want to keep going,” Caroline points out gently.
GM: “Why don’t we ask her, then? Try taking out the gag?”
Caroline: “I’m willing to do that…. if nothing else, we could find out if she has any last wishes…. things she wants done.”
GM: “I don’t wanna kill her, Caroline…” Jocelyn repeats.
Caroline: “I know.” Caroline stands up, drawing Jocelyn with her. “Let’s go talk.”
GM: Jocelyn bites her lip. “Okay…”
Caroline: The Ventrue leads the Toreador back into Gwen’s bedroom, to the bound ‘girl.’
GM: The bedroom is much as they left it. The same huge bed with its overstuffed, overly many pillows and bedding items. The same stuffed animals and religious iconography.
The same heavily pregnant… girl, Kindred, in-between, tied down spread-eagled, over sheets that reek not just of blood, but other fluids… perhaps sweat.
She’s still gagged and blindfolded, but she isn’t struggling anymore. Widney looks up.
“I’ve been talking to her, ma’am. She’s calmed down, though I would not expect her to be completely rational.”
Caroline: “Good job,” Caroline praises the ghoul. The stink of the room is… almost unfamiliar. A reminder of things that seem so long past to Caroline.
She approaches the bound girl. “I’d like to talk with you. If I take the gag out, are you willing to do that?”
GM: There’s silence for a moment, and then a slow nod.
Caroline: “I know you must be very scared, and have a lot of questions,” Caroline continues, not yet removing the gag. “I’ll answer as many of them as I can.”
She waits another long moment, then reaches down to loosen the gag.
GM: The still-blindfolded woman gasps and works her jaw as the bunched-up dish towels come out. Her dusky skin lacks Caroline’s pallor, and gleams faintly with… perspiration? It could also just be the dried blood. Her black hair, worn in two knotted braids, looks frazzled and damp.
“Please… please let me go,” she begs. “I don’t know your names, your faces. I won’t tell anyone. I swear.”
Caroline: “I’d like to, but I have a few questions first, do you feel like you can answer those?” Caroline replies gently.
GM: She swallows.
Caroline: “What’s the last thing you remember before waking up here?”
GM: “I… it’s so blurry…”
Caroline: “I know,” Caroline encourages, “but I need you to try.”
GM: “I was on campus, going… one of my professors had late office hours, I was asking about some assignments… I mean, an exam. There was… I had an appointment with my OB/GYN, during the exam, I wanted to see if I could take it early. The syllabus said we couldn’t do that, that we couldn’t reschedule exam dates. I still wanted to ask. He didn’t say yes, so I was going home, thinking about what to do next, and… it’s so blurry…”
Caroline: The words are daggers to Caroline. “I understand, that’s…. not unusual.”
It certainly wasn’t for her.
“Moving to the present, do you feel any… differently?”
GM: “I… I’m thirsty.”
Caroline: Caroline looks to Widney. “Can you get her a glass of water?”
GM: Her voice drops to a low whine.
Widney returns after a brief moment with a glass of water. She holds it to the bound woman’s lips.
Jocelyn stares with something between pity, revulsion, and morbid fascination.
Caroline: Caroline waits for her to finish, then asks, “Is that better?”
GM: “I… yes, but I’m still…”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip and looks at Widney. “Do you mind? I’ll give you some back as soon as we leave.”
GM: “Ah. You mean, ma’am…”
Widney doesn’t say what it is.
Caroline: The Ventrue nods and gestures for Widney to offer up her wrist to Caroline. She knows her domitor’s teeth are sharper, neater, than any knife.
GM: The majordomo’s expression remains mostly level as she holds up her wrist.
Caroline: Caroline’s fangs punch two neat holes in the shorter woman’s wrist, and she sucks on it for just a moment, just enough to get the blood flowing and cover up the pain of the wound with an instant of the ecstasy of the kiss, before she relinquishes it.
GM: Widney closes her eyes for a moment. Her mouth opens, just a bit, and her cheeks redden as she feels the Ventrue’s kiss take so-brief hold.
She slowly moves her bleeding wrist over the glass and lets the red flow.
The two—and a half?—vampires watch it.
Slowly fill up.
Caroline: Caroline nods. “That’s enough.”
GM: Jocelyn looks at Widney with an all-too hungry gaze. Caroline see the hint of two protruding canines.
Caroline: She takes Widney’s hand and licks closed the two tiny wounds, once again letting just enough of the kiss cover up the pain. She’s not Caroline’s type, but it isn’t for Caroline.
The Ventrue looks at her lover and runs a finger down the Toreador’s spine. “Be nice.”
GM: She can hear the thin-blood’s breathing, too. Labored. Almost anticipatory. See it in the flare of her nostrils.
“I’m not on a diet like you…” Jocelyn mumbles, her eyes fixed on the glass.
Caroline: “Thank you, Sarah,” Caroline tells the ghoul as she takes the blood filled glass and brings it to the bound girl’s lips.
“No doubt she’s preferable to Meg,” Caroline murmurs into Jocelyn’s ear as she watches the blood hit the girl’s lips.
GM: Her mouth opens instantly, without hesitation.
Garcia wasn’t completely right.
Caroline can see fangs.
But they’re wrong.
One of them protrudes from her front-most upper tooth, like a beaver’s, rather than several teeth to the side like where Caroline’s are. The second fang even more discordantly juts up from her lower set of teeth. It’s no longer than any of its neighbors, but it is far thicker, like a molar from the back of someone’s mouth. Rather than one sharp point, it’s split into two uneven ones. If symmetry is the measure for beauty, then by that measure, it is an ugly set of teeth.
Caroline: Caroline scowls in disgust, but continues to watch.
GM: Jocelyn all but gapes at the sight and looks at Caroline incredulously.
The thin-blood gulps down Widney’s vitae. Hungrily. Eagerly. For a moment, all the tension and apprehension in her frame goes away.
She licks her lips, then winces as her tongue brushes across her lower half-split canine.
“Please… more,” she begs.
Caroline: “I suppose that puts any questions to bed on that topic,” Caroline murmurs.
“Was that better?” she asks more loudly.
GM: “Yes… yes…” the woman answers hoarsely. “Please, more… please…”
Caroline: The Ventrue passes the bloodstained glass to the still ‘pointed’ Toreador. “You can lick the bowl if you want.”
GM: There’s little enough to lick. The thin-blood drank every last drop she could get, and even ran her tongue along the glass as Caroline pulled away.
“Ehhh, that’ll just give me the munchies,” Jocelyn replies. “And…”
She stares at the bound girl with a faintly disgusted look. It eventually softens to pity.
Caroline: “I don’t have any more for you right now, I’m sorry.”
She falls into silence for a moment before continuing, “You feel them, don’t you, in your mouth.”
GM: The woman’s disappointment—if not despair—is all-too plain.
Caroline: “They’re ugly enough to make a Nosferatu proud, but they’re there.”
GM: “Nosferatu? I… what?”
Caroline: “I’m sorry, I’ll explain in a bit, just a couple more questions. Do you feel any differently?”
GM: “Yes. I’m… sore. I hurt.”
Caroline: She looks to Jocelyn to see if she has anything to add before she brings up her next topic.
GM: The Toreador shakes her head.
Caroline: “How about… the baby?”
GM: Caroline can hear the immediate fear in the young mother’s voice.
“What… what about…?”
Caroline: “I don’t know anything you don’t,” Caroline replies so pacifically one can almost picture her holding her hands up. “I’m just asking if anything feels different.”
GM: “No. No, he’s still kicking. His name is Miles.”
The woman’s voice breaks.
“Please. Please, let me live.”
Caroline: “I’m not going to hurt you,” Caroline replies gently.
GM: “I have a husband, Jake, parents, brothers and sisters, and we’re all… we’re…” the woman sobs, “please… I don’t know anything, I won’t say anything, I swear, I swear…”
Jocelyn stares at Caroline when she hears the word ‘kicking.’
Caroline: She’s lying about it, Caroline knows. From experience, she knows most people would say almost anything when captive. She certainly did. Still, it doesn’t embitter her to the girl. Quite the contrary. It stirs up ugly feelings about herself, about what she’s done, and what she’s become. How many people she’s hurt. Just how often she’s been the victimizer now, rather than the victim.
Caroline reaches down and unties the girl’s left hand even as she speaks. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she repeats. “Something… pretty horrible happened to you, and I’m here to try to make it right, but there are some things you need to understand first.”
She guides the slight girl’s hand to her own mouth and places her own finger against each of her fangs in turn.
GM: The girl flinches when Caroline takes her hand, but doesn’t struggle or resist.
“What, what happened to my…?”
Caroline: “Someone did something to you, and… I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve it.” Caroline keeps hold of her hand.
GM: “Please. Please, let me go,” she whines.
“What, what do you want? I’ll, I’ll do anything. Please. Just let me, us, go. Please.”
Caroline: “I want you to listen, and understand that the person who did this to you isn’t in here, and that we’d like to release you, but we need to make sure you understand what’s happening first, so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.” Caroline replies patiently.
GM: “Okay, okay, I’ll listen,” the girl agrees immediately.
“The, the person who did this isn’t here. I, I understand.”
Caroline: “You’re not human anymore,” Caroline continues, knowing full well the reaction that’s coming.
GM: That statement actually makes her falter for a moment.
“Okay. I’m not human anymore,” she then repeats.
Caroline: “Do you know what you were just drinking?”
GM: “N… no.”
Caroline: “But it satisfied that thirst you have better than the water?” Caroline continues.
GM: No hesitation.
Caroline: Caroline nods, though she knows the girl can’t see it. “Are you religious… I’m sorry, I haven’t even asked your name.”
GM: “Natalia. Natalia Garcia. I’m Catholic.”
Caroline: “That makes it easier to explain then,” Caroline replies reassuringly. She sends Jocelyn a very unhappy glance about her krewemate not even getting the girl’s name right.
“Natalia, there’s not really an easy way to say this, and most people don’t believe it until they see it, but you were killed, then brought back as something else.”
It’s a harsh and blunt truth, but it gets no easier or kinder the longer she beats around it.
GM: “Brought back? As, as what?”
Caroline: The Ventrue bites her lip. That’s a complicated answer.
She also doesn’t believe for a moment that the girl will go along without a demonstration.
She reaches down and draws back the blindfold from Natalia.
GM: Natalia blinks as it comes off. She looks college age, with dark eyes, Hispanic features, and a long nose.
Caroline: Caroline puts on her best fake, reassuring, smile for the girl.
She whispers something to Widney that sends the other blonde headed back into the living room as she continues, “Well…” She gives a sigh. “You have no reason to believe this, so let me get that out of the way first.”
She leans in a little closer. “Look at me, Natalia, look very closely.”
She smiles, showing teeth. Showing too long, too sharp, teeth.
GM: Natalia pales. Actually pales.
“Oh Dios, que nos conoce en medio de tan grandes peligros, que…”
(“O God, Who knowest us to be set in the midst of such great perils, that…”)
Caroline: Widney returns with a paring knife from the kitchen, which Caroline takes from her hand. “It’s appropriate that you should pray,” the blonde agrees. “But I would leave no doubt.”
She flicks the knife across her own palm with inhuman speed, neatly parting skin, before handing it back to Widney.
GM: Natalia tries to pull away when she first sees the knife, eyes wide.
Caroline: With that newly freed hand she takes Natalia’s own, forces it into the cut on her palm. “You can feel the that, right?” she asks, her eyes boring into the teenager’s. Vitae wells in her palm around the cut.
GM: “Feel… feel what…?” she asks falteringly.
“Please… let me go, please let me go…”
Caroline: “This isn’t some parlor trick,” Caroline replies, slowly willing the wound closed even as she holds Natalia’s fingers against it.
When the wound is closed she draws her hand away and gestures for Widney to hold out her hand before pouring the collected vitae into her assistant’s cupped palm.
GM: Natalia watches disbelievingly.
“Yeah, vampires,” says Jocelyn. “We’re real.”
Caroline: She reveals the whole and hale palm to Natalia. “Lacking in artistry, but capturing the point,” Caroline replies to her lover.
GM: “Hey, my medium’s pictures. Just one says a thousand words.”
Caroline: “We’re the walking dead, the life drinkers, the blood drinkers.” She bites her lip. “Now… what exactly you are is less clear.”
GM: “What… what I am!?”
There’s a rising panic to her voice.
Caroline: “Some weaker form, with life still clinging to you, for better or worse… but you are definitely a blood drinker.”
GM: “You drank blood,” says Jocelyn. She holds up the red-rimmed glass.
Caroline: “Sorry,” Caroline continues after a moment.
GM: In spite of herself, Natalia starts to protest in horror.
Jocelyn interjects, “Look, maybe you could use another demonstration…”
She fills up the glass with her blood next. Want, revulsion, and denial war across Natali’s still-pallid, wide-eyed face.
Want wins out when Jocelyn holds the glass under her nose and waves it back and forth.
She drinks. Thirstily. Needily. Ravenously. But still with those same, too-human eyes.
Caroline: “Christ, that’s freaking me out,” Caroline murmurs to herself.
GM: Her one upper tooth scrapes along the rim of the glass. She at looks once horrified, ashamed, and wanting when Jocelyn pulls the glass away.
Caroline: “Yeah… I recognize that look,” Caroline replies. “I saw it in the mirror the first couple times.”
GM: “Wh… wh… how!? Why!?”
“What about… what about my baby?!”
Jocelyn looks at a total loss for how to answer that.
Caroline: “I don’t know,” Caroline answers honestly. “If you were fully dead, like us… that’s pretty clear cut, but this half-alive thing you are…. there’s some hope.”
GM: “W-what do you mean, I’m half-alive?!”
“¡Dios mío, mi bebé! ¡Dios mío!”
(“Oh god, my baby! Oh my god!”)
Caroline: “Look at me, Natalia,” Caroline demands. “Look at me, because I’m risking my life just by talking to you.”
GM: Natalia starts weeping and lamenting in Spanish. Her tears aren’t red. Or clear. They’re a watery, diluted-smelling pinkish in between.
“Please, get me a doctor! He needs a doctor!”
Widney looks uncertainly towards her domitor.
Caroline: “No, you need something well beyond that… but it’s complicated,” Caroline replies. “So listen, because we aren’t going to have another chance to talk before things move out of our control.”
GM: “Please!” she begs. “Please! I’m a premed student, the longer you leave these things, the, the, I have to see a doctor!”
Caroline: The words tear at Caroline, but she knows how hopeless the plea is. How pointless.
“There is no mortal doctor that can help you right now, Natalia,” Caroline replies firmly. “Your only hope, his only hope, is with elders of our kind, and most of them would as soon slay you for what you are as speak to you.”
“So listen, because every minute you’re crying is a minute you’re losing, and so is he.”
GM: Natalia falls silent. Not hoping. More like praying.
“The Ordo’s supposed to be the experts on this stuff…” Jocelyn raises.
Caroline: The Ventrue falls silent as well before turning to Jocelyn. “You should call him. You know who.”
GM: “What… what should I say?” Jocelyn asks quietly.
Caroline: “The truth. That you need a meeting with the seneschal. He might be persuaded to grant a stay in this… well, very specific circumstance.”
GM: “You think he’d…? He hasn’t seemed to stop the prince…”
Caroline: The Ventrue falls silent for a long moment, then speaks, her voice melodic and foreign.
" حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ الرَّبِيعِ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الأَحْوَصِ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ وَهْبٍ، قَالَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ حَدَّثَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَهْوَ الصَّادِقُ الْمَصْدُوقُ قَالَ “ إِنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ يُجْمَعُ خَلْقُهُ فِي بَطْنِ أُمِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ يَوْمًا، ثُمَّ يَكُونُ عَلَقَةً مِثْلَ ذَلِكَ، ثُمَّ يَكُونُ مُضْغَةً مِثْلَ ذَلِكَ، ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ مَلَكًا، فَيُؤْمَرُ بِأَرْبَعِ كَلِمَاتٍ، وَيُقَالُ لَهُ اكْتُبْ عَمَلَهُ وَرِزْقَهُ وَأَجَلَهُ وَشَقِيٌّ أَوْ سَعِيدٌ. ثُمَّ يُنْفَخُ فِيهِ الرُّوحُ، فَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ مِنْكُمْ لَيَعْمَلُ حَتَّى مَا يَكُونُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ الْجَنَّةِ إِلاَّ ذِرَاعٌ، فَيَسْبِقُ عَلَيْهِ كِتَابُهُ، فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ، وَيَعْمَلُ حَتَّى مَا يَكُونُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ النَّارِ إِلاَّ ذِرَاعٌ، فَيَسْبِقُ عَلَيْهِ الْكِتَابُ، فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّة.”
She looks at Jocelyn. “The exact meaning is multifaceted, but it refers to when the soul enters a unborn child.”
GM: Jocelyn stares at Caroline, her mouth hanging just slightly agape.
“You have… you have such a beautiful voice…”
A red tear falls from her eye.
“It’s beautiful, Caroline!” the Toreador chokes. “Let’s record it, right now!”
She pulls out her phone, taps a few times, and holds the device up.
Caroline: The Ventrue gives a faint smile. “For the seneschal there can be no doubt that the child is an innocent and possessing of a soul. If I were to put my faith in anything in the city, it would be in in his desire to spare that, if possible.”
GM: “Do that again, Caroline! It’s beautiful!”
A wide smile spreads over Jocelyn’s face.
“Go on! We’ll make you famous! We’ll have you sing at the guilds! Oh, it’s beautiful! You’re beautiful!”
Jocelyn falls on the Ventrue and starts ‘kissing’ her. Running her lips and protruding fangs over her lover’s skin.
“Oh, god, I love your ass, how tight it is, and how fucking tall you are, you’re like a queen…”
Caroline: “Jocelyn,” Caroline interrupts.
GM: The Toreador starts pulling at the seems to her clothing.
Caroline: “Do you want to go back to your place? Then I need you to make that phone call we just talked about.”
GM: “No, no, here’s fine, oh god, fuck me me now, you busty…. blonde… giant…”
She pulls open Caroline’s blouse and starts pulling her breasts out of her bra.
Uncomprehending. Even scared.
Widney frowns deeply and looks towards her domitor in silent query.
Caroline: Caroline scowls, shoves her back, and does up her clothes. Her gaze tears across the space between them.
“Knock it off,” she snarls.
She’s heard about Toreador doing this. ‘Spazzing out’ over things they find beautiful. Even seen Jocelyn do it. It was mostly harmless until now.
GM: “Oh, rough, huh,” Jocelyn smirks as she starts pulling at the Ventrue’s clothes again, “you’re such a blue blood…”
Caroline: “Stop it.” The words carry more than Caroline’s voice this time.
GM: The ardor slides from Jocelyn’s face as her hands fall slack.
Just another tool.
Caroline: No, she snarls back at that thought.
GM: It’s what she said about Aimee and Gabriel, after all.
That she wouldn’t use her powers on them.
Look how long that lasted.
Jocelyn had a good run, at least.
Caroline: The Ventrue tears her gaze from her slack lover back to Natalia, her jaw clenched in an ugly line.
“God damn it,” she mutters, then snarls as she angrily scours the top of a dresser of its unlit candle, obnoxious quote, and assorted items.
She looks back at Natalia. “I said I’d never fucking do that to her.”
GM: The thin-blood looks apprehensive, confused, and fearfully questioning of Jocelyn’s sanity.
“I’m… I’m sorry.”
Caroline: Not that the half-kine cares, that she understands exactly what that cost Caroline, what it might still cost her. Natalia has no idea just how little Caroline has left. Doesn’t know that she’s given up her family. Doesn’t know how empty the Ventrue’s Requiem is, how few the anchors there are for her to cling to. How important Jocelyn is—and perhaps now was—among them.
She can’t look at the Toreador. Can’t think of the fallout of this. She takes an unnecessary breath and heaves a guilt-ridden sigh.
“No, I’m sorry. Sorry you’re involved in all of this… sorry for what might still happen.” And angry. Angry at the world that put her in this circumstance, with this poor girl.
“Sorry someone killed you because they are an irresponsible childe. Sorry the only people that might be able to help your son—if he can still be helped—might do it again because she didn’t even have thick enough blood to kill you right… it’s just… it’s all fucked.”
“The world isn’t fair.”
She closes her eyes, and when they open again that moment of vulnerability is gone. “Look… I presume you’d take any risk, even if it might cost you your life, if it gave you a chance to save him, if there was even a slim chance, right?”
GM: Natalia just stares for a moment when Caroline opens them. There’s dread, panic, uncertainty, desperation, and more in the thin-blood’s eyes. The Ventrue can only imagine what she’s thinking. Torn between what any mother would want to do, and the scraps of too-incredible, too-horrible things her captors have said.
“I’d… yes, I’d do anything for him, please…”
Caroline: “Fine,” Caroline replies. She holds out a hand to Widney. “Phone.”
When the assistant produces one from her coat pocket, Caroline punches through a handful of screens before hitting send.
GM: The ever-silent, ever-unobtrusive ghoul produces the Solaris without comment.
Caroline waits for half a dozen rings before his herald Annabelle picks up, inquiring in an almost gloomily bored tone as to “your business, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “It’s rather complicated, but also urgent. I’m calling in my favor from him,” she replies.
GM: “Hmph,” she says airily, “and how do you wish to do that, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “I request his assistance in arranging an escort of myself and two others to a meeting with the seneschal’s herald this evening.” She pauses before adding, “It is a matter of some urgency, that I believe Hound Agnello to have both a professional and personal interest in. I would not make such a request lightly.”
GM: “Hmph,” the ghoul airily repeats. “Stop by his place in an hour, Miss Malveaux… you can tell me all about this urgent request there.”
Caroline: “I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Caroline replies icily. “If he is unable to answer his debt at this time, I understand, and will refer him to you when he inquires as to why he was not informed of ongoing matters intensely cognizant to his interests prior to their revelation to others.”
GM: There is a cold silence from the line.
“Do feel free to tell him, Miss Malveaux, that I have made myself available to you on his behalf within an hour,” the ghoul replies frostily. “If that is too slow for your expectations, I suggest you have miscalculated your worth in his eyes—and no few others.”
“If you do not wish to meet with me concerning Hound Agnello’s boon, then you may wait until he is next available… whenever that may be.”
Caroline: “Perhaps, or perhaps a more inquiring mind might wonder, what was so vital that it could not easily delay an hour?” Caroline replies, hate smoldering to life in her eyes. “Please pass on to him my strong desire to speak with him at his earliest opportunity, and my apologies that this matter was not able to come before him first.”
GM: “Of course, Miss Malveaux. Be assured that your desires are of the highest importance to us both. Good night,” the ghoul replies with icy politeness.
The line clicks.
Caroline: “Cunt,” the Ventrue snarls.
GM: Natalia does not look hopeful.
Caroline: She eyes Jocelyn, still standing blank-eyed in place.
She turns her attention back to Widney. “Pick out some clothes from her from what Gwen has. I need to talk to her and Jocelyn before we go,” she directs the ghoul, before leading Jocelyn by the hand back into the living room and releasing her control over the shorter Toreador.
GM: “Wait! What’s… what’s going to happen?” the still-bound Natalia calls.
Caroline: “We’re going to take you to see someone, as soon as I convince these two that’s the best option,” Caroline replies. “Just… give me a minute. All three of us are putting our necks out on this one.”
GM: “Can you untie me… please? I’m sore…”
She can’t keep her gaze away from Jocelyn, though.
Caroline: The Ventrue pauses for an instant before replying. “I’m sorry… not yet.”
GM: “Please. I won’t try to run. You’ve said this is my only chance…”
Caroline: Trust never came easy for Caroline, even before she was damned. Since then it hasn’t at all. She leaves Natalia bound.
GM: There’s a despairing look on the thin-blood’s face before the door closes over it. After Caroline releases her control, Jocelyn blinks.
She looks down.
“How did I get here!?”
She looks at Caroline.
Caroline: The Ventrue doesn’t speak. Doesn’t meet Jocelyn’s gaze.
GM: That’s not the real question in Jocelyn’s exclamation.
It’s not how.
And maybe it is how, too.
Another kind of how.
Caroline: “I’m sorry,” the Ventrue says at last, the words sliding out as painfully as a blade from between her ribs.
GM: Jocelyn just stares at her too.
Like she’s been stabbed.
Right where it hurts most.
Right where she left open.
Right where she didn’t, couldn’t, expect.
Caroline: “I didn’t mess with your memories or anything,” she continues slowly. “I just…”
GM: Jocelyn stares. Amidst the shock, the disbelief, the betrayal, Caroline sees a snarling, mindless rage beyond rage unlike anything in the thin-blood’s eyes. Jocelyn’s eyes twitch as her mouth dumbly opens and shuts, revealing Beast’s protruding canines.
She gives a strangled half-snarl, then turns and sprints for the apartment door.
Caroline: The Ventrue doesn’t let her make it that far.
Jocelyn might be fast, but Caroline is… well, much faster.
GM: “GET OFF! GET OFF! GET OFF!!!!!” Jocelyn screams as Caroline intercepts her. She clamps her eyes shut and pulls her head away to avoid meeting the Ventrue’s will-stealing gaze.
Caroline: The Ventrue doesn’t fight the Toreador. She doesn’t strike or try to hurt her. She just holds her.
GM: Jocelyn madly slaps, shoves, and scratches to free herself.
Caroline: The Ventrue’s tough skin turns aside the worst of what she as to offer, even as Caroline wraps her arms around the Toreador to keep her from swinging.
“You can leave, and you can hate me, but not like this,” Caroline chokes out.
GM: “LET ME GO! LET ME GGGOOOOOO!!!!!” Jocelyn screams at the top of her lungs.
Caroline: The Ventrue clamps a hand over her mouth. “Fucking stop it!” she demands, her tone thick with emotion. “Just listen for ten seconds and you can do whatever you want.”
GM: Jocelyn muffledly screams and thrashes.
Caroline: Tears leak from the edges of Caroline’s eyes, but she doesn’t let go.
“I’m taking Natalia to Perdido House,” she grinds out in a voice that sounds like rocks scraping together.
GM: The Toreador’s fangs rip into Caroline’s palm as a bestial howl roars from behind. A monster stares out from Jocelyn’s wide-open eyes.
When the red haze clears, her lover’s broken, savaged, motionless corpse lies at her feet. Blood is spattered over the floor, walls, and her clothes.
Caroline: The Ventrue looks down at what she’s wrought with a mixture of shock, horror, and abject self-loathing. She doesn’t look at her hands. She knows they’re covered in Jocelyn’s blood. Jocelyn, who trusted her. Maybe the only Kindred who trusted her. If she were weaker-willed she might wail over the sight. She might scream against what she’s done while cradling the broken body in her arms.
She locks the guilt and horror away in the moment. There will be plenty of time in the rest of her Requiem to dwell on her actions—however long that may be—but the demands of this night remain. A whispering ragged voice mutters in the back of her mind about how much better she is at locking away guilt than she is at holding off the Beast. She doesn’t argue with its logic. She doesn’t argue with it at all: there’s no point in arguing with a weak, dying thing.
Caroline sets to work picking up the pieces instead, just as she’s done time, and time, and time before. The motions have become so familiar as to almost be rote, colored this night only by how dreadfully personal they are. But then, in truth, that’s not new either, is it? It’s not the first time, far from the first time she’s lashed out and maimed or killed people she cared for. A stronger, more cynical, voice laughs that it’s only a matter of time before she does this to everyone in her life.
Jocelyn’s corpse is wrapped in one of Gwen’s already bloodstained rugs with gentleness utterly at odds with the violence just visited upon it and set aside for the moment. Caroline coaxes Widney out of the bedroom and tells her to call both Audrey and Autumn. Audrey needs to pick up a couple guests for dinner at the Giani building. Autumn needs to get here. Not immediately, but within the next couple hours. She wants the scene cleaned up, and not just the site of her frenzy. This apartment stinks like vampire.
The heiress releases her hold on Gwen’s mind. Caroline doesn’t dance around her intentions: she’s going to bring the girl to Perdido House. If there’s any chance that her child is still alive, they owe it to try. Gwen is welcome to join them: she needs to go give confession anyway. Caroline asks who her confessor is, and ruthlessly squashes any reluctance from the young Toreador at the prospect of confessing her crime. That her reaction was to call Jocelyn and the topic of doing anything but confessing came up at all is a blight on Gwen’s supposed faith. She doesn’t outright force the Toreador to do so, but she does all but.
Finally, Caroline returns to untie Natalia and help her dress in something of Gwens’s that is the closest fit—and modest. Whether Gwen joins them or not, Caroline’s first stop is the Giani building, where Jocelyn is bundled up and into the building, up to Caroline’s apartment, through the back elevator. She locks the reinforced bedroom doors between Jocelyn and anyone else and makes clear that no one is to touch her.
As they drive to Perdido House Caroline is gentle as she can be while remaining honest with Natalia: the most likely outcome, even in the best case where her child survives, is that Natalia won’t survive the night. If the girl has any questions, or of she has any wishes beyond attempting to see to the welfare of her son, Caroline invites her to air them. The Ventrue will do whatever she can to honor those wishes.
The Ventrue escorts the girl into Perdido House, seeking and audience with the seneschal’s herald.
GM: To call Widney and Natalia disturbed when they see Caroline would be accurate enough in the former’s case and all-too inadequate in the latter’s. They heard the sounds. The screams that weren’t human screams, not with the two vampires’ Beasts in control. They see the blood. The gore.
No one asks where Jocelyn is.
Widney obediently starts to help pick up the pieces. Natalia just stares ahead in mute horror.
After all, this is new to at least one of them.
When Gwen awakens, she dumbly looks over her blood-caked surroundings. Maybe she immediately assumes Jocelyn. Maybe she doesn’t. Either way, her first demand is:
Caroline: The stupidly cruel ignorance sets Caroline’s nerves on edge.
“Exactly what you think happened. Jocelyn will be fine. You have other problems,” she responds bluntly.
GM: There’s a pause, like a last fatal crack appearing in an already chipped and melting ice sculpture—and then the whole thing collapses as another howling, burning-eyed vampire falls upon Caroline in the throes of their Beast.
The Ventrue’s own red haze recedes moments later. Another, equally savaged, blood-caked, and broken corpse lies at her feet.
Poison, she said once.
It never stops. It always wants.
Natalia is visibly trembling when Caroline approaches her. Widney suggests she should probably shower and says she’s texted Autumn to bring some clean clothes.
Caroline: “When you ask later why, why the others are so cold blooded, so ruthless about everything, remember this moment,” Caroline tells the girl.
“Remember that I just ripped my lover apart with my bare hands. That this is what being one of us costs you,” she doesn’t quite snarl.
She stalks off to wash the gore from herself at Widney’s suggestion.
GM: The ghoul has a change of clothes ready when her domitor gets out of the shower. Gwen’s own plus-sized clothes make serviceable enough maternity wear for the thin-blood. She doesn’t care what they put her in. Fuller, Green, and Autumn show up shortly later to help with the clean-up.
Then the police do. Green hisses there’s several officers outside the door’s peephole.
That’s when Natalia tries to make a break for it. She starts screaming, “HELP! HEEEEEELP!” at the top of her lungs.
Caroline: The Ventrue hisses for Fuller to put a stop to that stupidity immediately.
GM: Natalia keeps screaming.
Fuller re-gags her.
The cops outside yell for them to open up. Green does so at her domitor’s signal. The officers blink at the gory scene being cleaned up and draw their guns. They shout for everyone to put their hands on their heads and get down on the ground.
Caroline: Caroline and her people mesmerize the two police and leave them with fake memories of responding to a false alarm—cats fucking and making noise. Memories of coming inside and finding nothing.
GM: Autumn agrees this place stinks like vampire. “Guess we’ll have to go knocking on doors for the 911 callers.” She looks at the cops thoughtfully. “Actually, could have these guys do it…”
Fuller and Green get started pursuing the cars of anyone who fled the apartment building after hearing the sounds of violence. They might have called or texted people. When Autumn says loose ends in apartment buildings are such a hassle to clean up, Widney makes a prissy remark at her for doing her job without complaint. Or rather, not doing.
Caroline: Caroline lets the ghouls figure their personal issues out. Her father always said kingmaking amid a staff just fed more resentment and as often as not gave the wrong person the job.
GM: Autumn starts critiquing Widney’s “amateur hour” mistakes as she continues cleaning up, tweaking the majordomo’s nose for not being the professional she prides herself as.
Natalia by this point has stopped struggling and making noises.
It only took a few moments after she saw them deal with the police to stop.
Caroline: She lets the gagged Natalia watch her break the cops’ minds, then turns crossly to the girl.
“You’re making my life harder than it needs to be and endangering more people for no reason.”
Her next words are hard, but no more than doing what needs to be done is.
No more than this entire existence is.
“Maybe you are one of us.”
Monday night, 29 February 2016, AM
GM: The stop at the Giani Building proceeds uneventfully enough. Fuller, Green, and Autumn get out to see to their various tasks. Widney remains in the car to drive her domitor and their reluctant passenger to Perdido House. When she removes Natalia’s gag before starting the car with Caroline’s permission, the thin-blood flinches at the contact.
“Y… you killed them,” she whispers after a moment.
Widney only pulls the car out of the underground garage.
Caroline: Caroline gives a bitter and joyless laugh. “Not hardly. We’re hardier than human. More like put them in a coma.”
“As for why,” she continues, “we’re not just monsters because we’re damned by God parasites on humanity, sucking the literal lifeblood from people.”
“There are a lot of different explanations, but the one that always stood out to me is that we all carry the sins and hate and anger of all the vampires in the line that made us inside us. Sort of like original sin.”
“And when that gets out, when we have a moment of weakness and it takes control, we lose control.” She gestures to Gwen’s corpse beside them. “I don’t even remember doing this, just coming to after it was done.”
Her voice is hard, joyless. “Jocelyn lost it on me because I invaded her mind to make her stop trying to fuck me while you were trying to get an explanation. Gwen wasn’t real happy when I woke her up to find Jocelyn torped and lost it as well.”
GM: Natalia stares at Gwen’s corpse.
Caroline: “When the Beast is in control it doesn’t matter if they’re your best friend, your lover, your own mother. This is what happens.” She gestures to Gwen again.
GM: “Ms. Wade isn’t dead, ma’am?” Widney asks from the driver’s seat with some surprise.
Caroline: “I mean, semantically she’s as dead as I am. But to actually destroy one of us in a wake we won’t eventually wake up from requires some pretty specific means,” Caroline replies, frowning that Autumn hasn’t gone over this.
“Hitting, even shooting or stabbing us until we stop moving won’t do it in the long term. The morning after I was turned I got shot in the head. I shrugged it off.”
GM: “Ms. Rabinowitz is unwilling to debrief me on vampiric physiology, ma’am,” Widney states. “Among other topics of relevance to my duties.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “We’ll talk about it later.”
She looks at Natalia again. “Not that I wouldn’t have liked to kill Gwen,” Caroline continues to the girl. “This is less than she deserved after killing and fucking up her turning of you.”
GM: Widney looks as if she wants to smear Autumn into the mud further, but refrains at her employer’s request.
Caroline: “But that justice isn’t mine to dispense, though she may very well receive it. What she did to you… that’s usually punishable by death.”
The Ventrue shrugs. “I don’t know if that makes you feel any better.”
GM: “Why… why can’t you just let me go?” Natalia asks falteringly. “What did I do? What, besides get…”
She just looks at Gwen again.
Caroline: Caroline sighs. “I don’t know. What did you do? I’ve never met one of us that didn’t have some deep dark secret buried in their past.”
She turns her dead eyes on the girl intently. “So what did you do to deserve getting killed and damned?”
GM: Natalia looks more than apprehensive under the scrutiny and answers, “N… nothing. I got, I got pregnant, before I was married. I just want to have the baby and get my degree. That’s all.”
Caroline: “Nothing? Not ever? You never hurt anyone or took advantage of someone?” Caroline pries.
GM: Natalia answers like someone who thinks their life may depend on it.
“Hurt, hurt how? Everyone’s done something…”
Caroline: “You’re right. They have,” the Ventrue replies. She takes another needless breath and gives another sigh.
“It’s like looking in a mirror,” she says at last, more gently. “When this happened to me I asked the same questions. I demanded the same things. I protested. But deep down I knew the truth. The sins that Damned me way before the first drop of my makers blood passed my lips.”
“It didn’t excuse them for doing it, but I knew I wasn’t innocent. Not really.” She shrugs, “I don’t care what you did. Not really, Natalia. It’s not my business to judge you. Hell, none of this is really my business.”
“But I don’t know what your future holds, and honestly the hours left in your life are probably as few as the minutes we have left in the car, so if you want to get something off your chest before it’s out of my hands, and yours, I’m here to listen.”
GM: “But I, I confessed to my priest. Having sex and getting pregnant when I wasn’t married. But I got married. My family was so happy. He said God forgave me.” Pinkish, watery-copper tears well at her eyes. “I don’t know what I did. I don’t know why, why you want to kill me. Why do you want to kill me?”
“I would also find it informative to know why, ma’am,” Widney says quietly. “From what you’ve said of your own… initial unlife circumstances, they sounded similar to Ms. Garcia’s.”
Caroline: Caroline pauses to collect her thoughts. “I have no intention of hurting you, Natalia. I have no desire to. If I did, I would have simply left, I would have called the sheriff and told him of your existence. I’d have let Gwen find some way to dispose of you.”
The silence stretches on. “But nor can I simply turn you loose in the street. That wouldn’t benefit me, or you, or any of the people you’d hurt before someone else dragged you in front of the sheriff or the scourge found you and murdered you in some dark alley with her claws.”
“And I know what you’re thinking—that you wouldn’t hurt people—because I thought the same thing. I thought it right up until I ripped out someone’s throat when he tried to drag me out of a closet during the day. When the first time I was starving I bit into a girl’s throat. When the first time I was hurt and couldn’t control myself I drank and drank and drank until they were dead.”
She looks at the thin, half coppery tears. “And I am possessed of all the strength of a ‘real’ vampire. I can invade minds and rewrite memories. I can make you my friend with just a glance. I can shrug off bullets and literally move faster than you can see.”
“How are you going to feed your thirst? What are you going to do for your unborn child? What doctor are you going to go to that will understand what you are, what he may be, and what either of you need? That would believe you anything but crazy? And one better, wouldn’t simply result in someone less gentle than myself coming to collect—and then promptly dispose—of you for endangering the secret that is our existence?”
“So I’m taking you to the prince—because it’s the law—and with good reason. I’m taking you to the prince because he might know what to do about your son. And I’m taking you to the prince because it’s the right thing to do. But I’m not going to lie and tell you everything is going to be alright.”
GM: “You said I’m going to die. In… hours.” Natalia’s voice is small.
Caroline: Caroline wants to reach out and comfort the girl, but she knows just how little good that would do. She’s not a savior in Natalia’s eyes, just a terrible monster whose grasp she’s in.
“I… I don’t want to lie to you, Natalia… you’re what’s called a thin-blood. It’s what happens when a vampire that’s too weak tries to make another vampire. You’re also an illegal Embrace—a vampire created without the prince’s permission.”
“Typically, either of those is enough to get you executed, because creating a vampire without permission is a high crime precisely to prevent stuff like this from happening, and because… being a weak vampire just means your existence is going to be even harder than it is for the rest of us. And typically the people that suffer when a vampire’s existence is difficult are the people around them.”
“The laws of our kind are harsh, by necessity. And even when they’re not, most of us are every bit the monster you think I am right now. You can’t go through night after night manipulating and hurting people just so you can suck the life from their veins without it twisting you into something awful.”
She sighs. “So yeah… you could die where I’m taking you… but it’s also the only place you might get help for your son before that happens.”
GM: “But, but I’m 27 weeks,” Natalia protests. “My water hasn’t broke. He’ll be dead too, if you go through with this. If they kill me. How can he get help? How can he get help if I’m dead?”
Caroline: Survival rates at 27 weeks are actually pretty good, Caroline thinks, but doesn’t say. She doesn’t expect it’ll calm Natalia down, but Caroline judges the ‘pre-med’ student for not knowing more about her pregnancy.
GM: 80 to 90 percent, as Caroline well knows. High to a premed student.
Perhaps lower to a mother.
Caroline: “Yeah, so that’s the rub for them too,” she says instead. “I don’t think the seneschal would want to execute a pregnant woman, and I’m hoping between dragging your sire’s torpid body in for justice and that, that they’ll grant you a stay.”
GM: “The seneschal? That’s, that’s who’ll decide? Who are they?”
Caroline: “The hand of the prince in night to night activities. The seneschal is… ancient, hundreds of years old. He is wise and merciful.”
“Well… by our standards.”
GM: “So… they could let me, us, live?” Natalia asks uncertainly.
It’s not quite hope, but maybe wants to be.
Caroline: “Natalia, I wouldn’t be bringing you there if I didn’t think it was your best chance,” Caroline replies genuinely. “But I don’t want to lie to you and tell you everything is going to be fine.”
“There’s a way this could go wrong, so… I know this is a difficult thing to think about right now, but if it does go that way… if there’s anything you’d like to see done, any last wish type things…” she continues gently.
GM: There’s no hesitation.
“My baby. Let my baby live. If you, they, kill me, let him live. Please.” The thin-blood’s voice breaks.
Caroline: “I know, I know,” Caroline replies. “I know. I meant anything other than that.”
GM: “Say you’ll do it. Say you’ll let him live. Please.”
Caroline: “I will do everything in my power to let your child live,” Caroline replies. “I already am.”
Can’t she see that? snarls a nasty voice in Caroline’s head.
But she knows it’s just the voice of pain and loss. She knows that she just became all the more threatening to the girl than Father Malveaux was in her earliest nights. He didn’t beat two other vampires into torpor in front of her.
GM: Natalia looks at once unsure of that answer, and like she wants to believe in it more than anything.
“And that you’ll bring him back to my family,” she continues. “My husband’s name is Jake Abel.” She adds an address.
Caroline: Caroline makes a point of plugging both into a note on her phone.
“I know you don’t believe it, Natalia, but I am trying to help you.”
GM: “Say you’ll do that. Please.”
Caroline: “If anything happens to you, I will do what is within my power to ensure your son is turned over to his father,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “I’d… I’d like to say goodbye to him. And my parents.”
Caroline: The Ventrue bites her lower lip. “I think that would be hard to explain, but for what it’s worth, I’ll make it clear. One idea though, that I might have more influence in might be writing him a later that could be given to him when he’s older.”
“Nothing specific to… well, all of this, but you could tell him the things you what to say about yourself, about life. You could leave something to let him know you loved him, and you’d do anything for him.”
“And if the worst happened… I’d do everything I could to ensure it reached him down the line.”
She pauses again. “Or… even better, if you thought you could keep it together… you could leave a message behind on my tablet. You could say what you wanted him to hear, he could hear it in your voice, and it would be something he could have.”
GM: “I meant, I meant saying goodbye to my husband,” Natalia says at first.
She’s silent for a moment at Caroline’s mention of saying goodbye to that other ‘him’. The Ventrue’s suggestion of leaving behind a letter or recording elicits a choked little sound.
“I… what could I even say, to Miles, to explain all…”
All of this.
Caroline: “You couldn’t,” Caroline replies. “Not to explain this. But if I had one message to leave for someone I cared about for the rest of their life, it wouldn’t be about what happened for me. It would be about what I felt for them.”
GM: “Yes. Yes, I do I want to say that.” The thin-blood sniffs. Actually sniffs. “I just want him to know that, that I didn’t abandon him. I don’t want him to grow up with that.”
Uncertainty flickers across her face. “What’s, what’s Jake and my family going to know, what happened to me?”-
Caroline: The Ventrue bites her lower lip. “Honestly? I don’t know. I mean, in broad terms it’ll get covered up some how. Accidental death is popular.”
GM: Natalia doesn’t say anything for a moment. Then, “Okay. I’d like to record something. Please.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “Sure, just… keep it generic. A ‘just in case’ video that you could have recorded without outside prompting.”
She digs a tablet out.
GM: Natalia doesn’t even reach to touch it until Caroline hands it over. When the Ventrue does, she tries to smile. She does, but Caroline doesn’t think she’s ever seen a sadder one.
“Miles. Hi. This is your mom.”
“I don’t know if you’re going to hear this. But I want you to have something. In case…” She takes a shaky breath. “Just in case.”
“I love you. I want you to know that. I love you.”
“Your dad, your grandma and grandpa, and all your aunts and uncles, I know they’ll tell you stories about how your dad and I met. When he asked me if he could compare Biology 101 notes, and how he only did that so he could ask me out.” She gives a little laugh. It sounds genuine, even if the fear, worry, and exhaustion behind it does too.
She sniffs. “You were a surprise. A big surprise, actually. Some people thought I shouldn’t have you. But I knew, as soon as I knew you were alive, you were special and, and a blessing, and I wanted to give you the best life I could.”
“I was scared, at first. That other people, that your family, wouldn’t see you the same way. That it was going to be hard to give you the life I wanted you to have.”
She gives another laugh that’s all-too genuine in all the right and all the wrong ways.
“Well, I guess you know how that turned out.”
“With your family, it was love at first sight. Not even first sight. First, I guess sound. They were so happy when I told them about you, so happy like you couldn’t even believe.”
“You don’t know what it’s like to hear that after being so scared. I was so happy, so happy I wondered if this was even happening, for you and for me. You have so much love in your life. Just so much love. You’ve felt like, like the luckiest baby in the world.”
“There’s so much I want to say to you, so much I want to share with you and be with you there for. I want to be there when you see your dad’s medal and know how brave he was. I want to have you on my lap and feed you your grandma’s garbanzos stew on Semana Santa, and I hope you don’t urp it up on your grandpa’s face like I did, they’ll tell you that story, but I’ll love you even if you do that too.”
Caroline: Caroline tries not to listen. She tries not to focus on what a better person Natalia is than she ever was. The words bite all the same.
They’re words she never said. Words she will never get to say. Words she never even considered. Damn you, Gwen. The Ventrue is actually glad the Toreador frenzied, glad she’s delivering Gwen’s torpid body along with the girl. Anything that might give Natalia a chance…
And it’s all chances. The slim chance her child is still alive. The slimmer chance that he’s not just some undead monstrosity like any Kindred child. The slim chance she can get the girl to see the seneschal. The slim chance the seneschal will grant mercy to this pathetic thin-blood. Chances within chances within chances. But what the hell else can she do? Throw her off into the world? Try to hide her with Savoy?
Even if the lord of the French Quarter was inclined to look after her—and she doesn’t know he is—there’s no reason to think he or his people would be able to help her. And what kind of life would it be, skulking around, trying to avoid notice, trying to figure out how to feed with the malformed ‘gifts’ of a half-vampire? She knows bitterly well difficult it is just to keep alive as a lick. Just how easily—and how many—people get hurt as a result.
Damn Gwen. Fucking damn her. The Ventrue feels a fierce satisfaction in her handiwork with the Toreador.
Another option dances across her mind. Someone as knowledgeable as the seneschal, and perhaps even more so. Someone who wouldn’t execute Natalia out of hand… but it dances away just as quickly.
She made extremely clear to Caroline that she was not there to solve the Ventrue’s problems, nor interested in them.
GM: As Caroline mentally weighs those many evils and re-commits herself to the lesser one, Natalia continues to falteringly talk into the tablet as Widney drives. She doesn’t move to stop at any point. Caroline supposes it’s no surprise. If there’s anyone she wants to talk to in this car, after all, it’s the baby she might never see.
She talks about random things. Hopes. Memories. Plans. How she’s going to school so she become a doctor, a family doctor. Her wedding with Jake, that they celebrated about a month ago. How he’s going to school too, to be an engineer. How they went through her parents’ collection of children’s books a little while ago (the one she wants to read Miles most is One Hundred Years of Solitude), and how Jake’s parents brought over his old Thomas the Tank Engine ones when they flew in for the wedding. How…
Caroline doesn’t think she’s ever seen Perdido House look so imposing as when the 40-story skyscraper abruptly soars into view. Natalia’s voice dies as she looks over the brutal glass and steel monolith with its silently howling gargoyles.
“I, I want you to do so many things,” she starts again. “The beach, the zoo, the, the Disneyland, and, and I know even if we don’t, if we don’t get to do them, I know your family loves you, and will do so much for you,” she stammers as the underground parking garage swallows their car. Checkpointed teeth close past as the guards wave them through, their grim faces utterly without sympathy for the thin-blood.
“You have so much love,” she continues in a choked voice. “In your life, from all your family. I, I don’t know if I’ll get to meet you, there’s nothing I want more, and I love you, and I’m sorry if, if, I love you, so much, and I’m sorry, I l…”
The car finally comes to an inevitable stop. Natalia breaks down again in those same pinkish, half-salty, half-coppery tears as the engine dies.
“It’s time, ma’am,” Widney says somewhat unnecessarily.
Caroline: “Just a moment,” Caroline replies, digging out several tissues from the seat-back in front of her and passing them to the girl.
“I know this is tough,” she begins sympathetically. “Believe me, I know better than anyone.” Once again she wishes she could reach out and touch the girl to comfort her. Instead she simply gives a weak smile.
“I can’t give you much time here, but I’ll buy you another minute—just one. Don’t end the message in tears, please, for him. Wrap it up with the truth: you hope he never has to see this, but you never wanted him to have any doubt.”
GM: Natalia dabs off her eyes. “But, but I already said…”
“We can edit out that part, ma’am,” Winey states.
Caroline: Caroline nods in agreement with her assistant. “End it how you’d want your mother’s last words to you to end. Tell him you’re sure he’ll do great things and you hope you’ll be there to see it all.” She cracks open her door. “One minute, Natalia.”
The Ventrue slides out to meet anyone that comes to investigate or greet them.
GM: Word travels fast in Perdido House. No one is outside that Caroline can see, but the elevator doors a short ways off are already dinging open. Camilla Doriocourt and two ghouls are already filing out.
“What is your business, neonate?” the unsmiling hound asks in an impassive tone all-too like her sire’s.
Caroline: “I have brought Gwendolyn Wade and her illicitly Embraced childe for the seneschal’s justice,” the Ventrue replies grimly.
GM: A coldly disdainful sneer curls the Toreador’s perfect lips.
“Bring them out.”
Natalia has had almost no time to amend her message.
Caroline: “There’s a complication,” Caroline interrupts.
GM: The priest waits in expectant silence.
Caroline: “Several, in fact.” Caroline pauses for only a moment before continuing, “Ms. Wade frenzied and was unfortunately,” a hint of a smile sneaks its way out of Caroline’s face at that word, “beaten into torpor. I’m afraid she’ll have to be awakened before she can speak to her crime.”
GM: “This fact poses minimal inconvenience,” Doriocourt states.
Caroline: “The second was that between the fledgling’s reaction to her Embrace and the violence of Ms. Wade’s frenzy, the police were to respond to her apartment. I entered their minds to convince them nothing was amiss, and sent them along with several of my ghouls to ensure the neighbors were similarly convinced. I beg forgiveness and understanding for this intrusion into the prince’s domain.”
“I can provide their badge numbers and names, if you wish to verify I had no ulterior motive and tampered no further with their minds than was necessary to protect the Masquerade.”
GM: “Do so,” the hound states perfunctorily. “Your actions shall be forgiven if what you have told me is true.”
Caroline: “Of course, Hound Doriocourt. My gratitude.” The Ventrue runs her tongue across her fangs and brings up her third point. “Finally, though I believe none presumed Ms. Wade to be especially close to Caine, the full truth of her blood’s thinness is reflected in her ‘childe’. That, until itself is I know not so irregular. The scourge does the prince’s will each night in helping preserve the archdiocese against the many dangers presented by such creatures, but Ms. Wade’s choice of victims…”
She pauses for a moment. “There is no polite way to say this. The girl is seven months pregnant. She reports the child is still moving within her. She herself still draws breath and still has a pulse.”
GM: Doriocourt stares at Caroline. The Ventrue cannot say what thoughts might be occurring behind those cold eyes.
Finally, she replies, “Show me Miss Wade’s mistake.”
Caroline: “Of course.” Caroline slides over to the other side of the car and opens the door. “Ms. Diaz, please step out.”
GM: It’s not until some time later that Widney corrects her employer that Natalia’s surname was Garcia, because the thin-blood doesn’t. She looks as if someone is dragging her before a hungry lion after she steps out and gets one look at Doriocourt.
The hound offers neither sympathies nor reassurances. She does not even speak. She wordlessly slashes Natalia’s palm with a knife from her coat pocket, causing the thin-blood to cry out. Doriocourt dabs a finger against the wet blade and touches it to her tongue.
She wordlessly yanks open Natalia’s mouth and examines the cavity’s interior as if inspecting a horse. Disgust crosses her face for a moment at the thin-blood’s malformed fangs.
Caroline can see the naked fear on Natalia’s face when Doriocourt begins to poke and prod her swollen belly, then removes a leather glove to press a too-cold palm against it.
Nothing crosses the hound’s face. No tenderness. No sympathy. Just clinical, scientific notation.
Finally, she turns away from the thin-blood without a word and approaches Caroline’s car. Widney pulls up Gwendolyn at her request. The hound slashes her wrist and presses it to the torpid vampire’s lips.
Gwen shakily starts, “Mother…?”
She is preempted with a cold, “Explain.”
“Mother,” she starts, her eyes widening as she looks at Natalia, “there was an accident, I was going to confe…”
The hound’s icy stare says it all.
She is too late.
Far too late.
Gwendolyn gives an explanation much like the one Caroline listened to. Doriocourt stares at her disdainfully.
Fear starts to give way to anger on Natalia’s face.
“You, how could you even-!”
Doriocourt stares into the thin-blood’s eyes and orders, “Be silent,” with all the regard of someone telling Alexa to turn off the lights.
When Natalia’s misshapen fangs do not retract, the Toreador contemptuously orders one of her ghouls to “hood this thing.” The man pulls a black sack over Natali’s head. She opens her mouth to protest, but no sound comes out. There’s just a despairing look before the hood eclipses even that.
Caroline: Caroline lays a hand on the girl’s shoulder.
GM: It’s there only for an instant before the ghoul offers her a hard shove in the direction she’s supposed to start walking. It’s too much. Natalia panics. She rips off the hood and tries to run.
Caroline: Caroline has control of her before she can.
GM: Doriocourt also stares into her eyes again and tells her what else not to do, then slaps her across the face hard enough to spin her head. Natalia glances at Caroline desperately before the hood goes back on. Gwen watches without protest and follows the group into the elevator.
“Your service to the archdiocese is noted, Miss Malveaux,” the hound states as the doors close.
Caroline: The Ventrue stares numbly after the doors have closed. Bitterly.
It was the right thing to do. For what Natalia wanted—the best possible chance for her child. For the good of the innocent girl turned into this half-living monster. For the good of all the people in Natalia’s life that she would have hurt and dragged down if turned loose.
It was the right thing to do. Forcing Gwen to pay for what she did. Trying to get some bitter justice in the world.
But when the doors close all that Caroline is left with is how little all of that means. With the price she paid tonight, and how little it bought her. Jocelyn’s battered body back at her apartment. The hurt and hate in her eyes when she realized what Caroline had done.
She knows how angry she’ll be too, about Gwen. That Caroline turned her in. About Natalia, that Caroline delivered her to the hounds. About everything. She can’t even blame her, wouldn’t want to.
Caroline wishes she could just wake up from this bad dream, this horrible night in which everything went wrong, and nothing went right. The night where Gwen murdered and Embraced a pregnant girl to make herself feel better. The night Caroline hurt her lover. The night she delivered the terrified girl into the least tender hands imaginable.
There’s no waking up. It never stops.
The Ventrue eventually breaks from the trance that holds her and gets back to work. Picking up the pieces.
It’s what she always does.