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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Eleven, Celia II

“You may not have done the right thing, but I think you did the rightest thing you knew how to do.”
Coco Duquette


Sunday night, 29 August 2010, PM

GM: The gray stone monolith arrogantly looms over the surrounding CBD. Tall, unbent, unbroken. Unconquered by crumbling mason, acid rain, and the relentless march of time, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is supremely confident in its holy purpose—but not its hegemony. St. Louis Cathedral smugly holds up the 221 years since its dedication to Patrick’s 178, showing them off like jealous children comparing baseball cards. St. Patrick’s must sullenly accept its status as only second-grandest, second-oldest, and second-best cathedral in New Orleans.

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The cathedral’s interior is a vast and cavernous space. The faintest whisper feels as if it could echo and echo off the Gothic arches and stained-glass windows until it reaches the ears of God. Whether He would respond to Jade’s kind is another matter.

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So is whether they would want Him to.

Caine’s damned children have converged upon God’s house like flies to a corpse. Some hide their natures underneath bespoke suits, haute couture gowns, and fashions so cutting that they would hardly seem to need fangs with which to feed. Other Kindred revel in their sinful natures, adorning their eternally young and nubile bodies in the most head-turning extremities of dark couture: dresses made of knives, jackets constructed of barbed wire, and shining black PVC garments that cater to the wildest fetish. Others simply don’t bother dressing up: some wear leather jackets, torn hoodies, and denim jeans. The especially slovenly and monstrous-looking (or simply pathetic) garb themselves in little more than moldering rags and the dirtiest, dumpster-scavenged grunge fashions.

It’s not Jade’s first time at Elysium by Veronica’s side, though it is one of her first. Tonight the mood seems different. Reflective. Somber. Everyone here knows the significance of August 29th, 2010.

The fifth anniversary of Katrina’s landfall.

Celia: If you are overdressed it is a comment on them. If you are underdressed it is a comment on you.

Jade would not be caught underdressed in a place like this. She would not be caught underdressed period. Full stop. Do not pass Go. There is no coming back from that sort of debilitating humiliation in the eyes of her clan. A poseur for life, and when life is eternity… well, that is worth the effort it takes to become flawless.

So it is this night she has become that which she admires most, with hair slicked back from her face and then left to fall in loose waves around her bare shoulders. It’s hard to go wrong in a black dress, though this one has lost the L in LBD. Its skirt sweeps the ground behind her when she walks, Choo or Manolo or LB on her feet, with a slit so high up her thigh that no step is impeded by too much material. Black shoes, black hair, black dress, black winged liner, eyes so dark they seem to bleed into black, too.

There’s a pop of color at her neckline. Silver is its chain, and black its cage, but the middle of the pendant is a sapphire the size of her thumb, green instead of blue. Rich, vibrant, eye-catching. Like her. Like Jade.

It it surrounded by eight little legs that jet off toward throat and sternum, holding that gem into place. A gift from Pietro for a long ago comment. Stolen, of course.

Everything tastes better when it’s stolen.

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She keeps herself to Veronica’s side. She is there to learn. To see and be seen, but to remain silent.

GM: Jade’s purported sire, in contrast, has come as Katrina. Her ‘dress’ is two layers of transparent plastic filled with water and assorted storm debris: clumps of dirt and rock with random bits of wood, plastic, and cardboard with scraps of camo cloth. There’s also a few bones that may or may not be human. She doesn’t have any underwear on. The storm debris shifts and swirls as she walks, sometimes covering her privates and sometimes not. The plastic’s exterior is splattered with red food coloring. Several attached tree branches form a collar around her shoulders. Her earrings are wood splinters haphazardly stabbed through the flesh. She looks like a walking hurricane. Her shoes are black rubber rain boots, the kind worn by first responders, with an 8-inch platform heel.

She’d remarked it would “take a few years” for Jade to “find some imagination.”

“Mourning black is acceptable until then.”

Celia: Jade hadn’t wanted to compete for attention with her elders. Better to blend, she responds, just another face in the crowd on this day.

GM: Indeed, the most risque outfits seem to be worn by older Kindred. Veronica had thought a bit, then said that “something more subdued” is appropriate for tonight. At least in Jade’s case. And those of a few “special others.”

Storm-related themes seem in vogue tonight, unsurprisingly. Black is a common color. It’s always a common color, with them, but tonight it seems especially so. It’s a color of mourning, after all. But there are scattered bits of color, too. Whites, blues, and the timeless purple, yellow, and green. Symbols of hope and renewal amidst the mourning.

Celia: She doesn’t question what her sire means by ‘special others.’ She is silent, observing the procedural arrival of the Kindred from around the city, though her eyes are drawn to those, like Veronica, who thought to commemorate the storm with themed clothing. She’s almost certain the woman with black skin and white hair in the leather and cape took Storm in a different direction than her brethren. Her lips twitch in mild amusement.

GM: The joke seems lost on most of the older Kindred attendees, at least.

There’s some initial socializing before the assorted Kindred all seat themselves along the church’s pews. Jade’s had the basic protocols of Sanctified masses explained to her: the higher a Kindred’s place in the Camarilla, the closer they sit to the altar. Ghouls sit in the very back. Antoine Savoy, Donovan, and the assorted primogen and regents occupy some of the front-most seats.

Jade recognizes the Brujah primogen Coco Duquette among them. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, at least as much so as Veronica, with high cheekbones, smooth white skin, long sun-blonde hair that freely cascades past her shoulders, and piercing blue eyes which silently smolder with that undeniable Brujah fire. Her outfit is also Katrina-themed, though less celebratory than Jade’s purported sire’s: it’s a dark rain jacket she wears open with a sports bra that shows off her finely toned physique. Black cargo pants and rain boots, all still dripping with water, complete the ensemble. The one concession she wears to her apparent past is a bonnet rouge: a red cap with a tricolor red, blue, and white cockade.

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But she’s mainly notable for the fact that Celia’s ex-boyfriend Stephen is sitting right next to her.

Just one row ahead of Veronica and Jade.

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Celia: What.

She tries not to stare. Maybe she’s successful. Maybe she isn’t.

She probably isn’t. It’s hard to think about anything else when he’s there, right in front of her, when all she can think about is that last night at the bar with him. Her fangs in his neck. Him screaming her name.

At her side her hand curls, fingers digging into the wooden pew beneath her. He’s here. He. Is. Here. He’s here. She’d tried to keep him out and somehow he’d found his way in. And her. Beautiful. Statuesque. No wonder.

She doesn’t breathe. She doesn’t need to. It never helps. She just holds herself still, looking at anything but him.

GM: The… other vampire just looks straight on ahead, not even seeming to see her.

Philip Maldonato, the seneschal of the city, gives a sermon/speech from the altar.

Jade doesn’t really hear it.

Emmett.

Paul.

Pietro.

Veronica.

Donovan.

Some of them several times.

Paul a lot more than several times.

All of those times.

And she didn’t even come clean.

Only told him about one time.

Fed on him. Without his asking. Without his knowing.

Is that rape, too?

Even lied about her dad’s sexual abuse. He touched her in ways that hurt her, oh yes, but never in that way.

Celia: She had to. She had to lie to him. She had to get him to leave her alone. She’d have lost control. She did lose control. She almost killed him.

GM: She didn’t ever have to cheat on him.

All those times.

All those countless times.

Celia: She didn’t. She didn’t, she didn’t, she didn’t. Everything she did she had to do. She had to. To get out. To keep her family safe. To keep him safe. It all had a purpose.

Maybe, if she tells herself enough, she’ll believe the lies.

She has to get out of here, though. How long can this event possibly be? She’s glad for the mourning black. Glad that she blends, that she is just another face in the crowd, like she’d said to Veronica. She’ll blend so hard she just disappears.

GM: “… listen: my word is the word of one who holds the Spear, the Spear that pierced the side of the Jesus the Living Christ, who lived, and was dead, and rose again and ascended to Heaven, where we cannot go. He will come back and judge the living and the dead, but he will not judge the Damned, for the Damned were judged on Calvary when Jesus looked down upon the Soldier and gave His blood. No judgment awaits you, for you have already been judged. And this is my vision: The Sanctified shall always survive, and this book shall endure, and as long as judgment has been served on us, the Damned shall have the word of this book to stand by.”

“The cities of the living shall become high and wide, and full of blood and sin, and we shall be the vessel through which God shall cast his judgment upon the world, but no more shall judgment fall upon us, for we were Damned at the beginning. If you heed the word of the Soldier, if you take heart in the Spear, you shall have nothing to fear. Your Damnation is secure, and cannot be changed. Know that you are Damned, and rejoice.”

Maldonato motions to several black-clad servants. One of them opens a back wall door and ushers in a flour-white vampire who is clad in a long white robe. His head is shaved clean and his eyes are missing, the wounds around the empty sockets indicating that they were removed recently. He stands next to the seneschal, clutching something in his hand.

Simultaneously, two other servants lift an unconscious black man from behind the cathedral’s altar and lay him down. Maldonato somberly draws a dagger and cuts the man’s arm, draining his blood into a large chalice. He then holds it up and dips his fingers into the blood, saying, “‘Seeing that Christ was dead, the soldiers did not break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out.’”

“‘A drop of Christ’s blood fell upon the soldier’s lips, and he wiped it away with his hand. Yet the next day, he slept past the sunrise, and roused from his slumber only at nightfall. And after tasting Christ’s blood, he thirsted for more.’ These were the words of Longinus, who revealed Christ’s divinity and revealed our place as wolves among the mortal flock. You, now, must take your place among us, the Sanctified.”

Veronica sharply jabs Jade’s side.

Her face remains impassive and fixed on the altar, though.

Another Kindred has approached the altar, clad in a black dress and heels similar to Jade’s. She kneels low before the seneschal. Maldonato’s bloody fingers hover near her forehead as he asks, “Roxanne Gerlette, do you join the Lancea et Sanctum, accepting our tenets as yours, our faith as yours, leaving behind the mortal world and walking in darkness forever, as our Lord God intends?”

“Yes, Your Grace, I do,” answers Isabel Flores.

Her hair is black now, instead of blonde. It might be Celia’s imagination that she walks less gracefully with one foot.

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Celia: If you can’t go first, go last. No one remembers the middle bit.

So Celia waits, simmering. Those knuckles of hers are white from how tightly she clutches the pew. The Beast is inside of her, snarling. Isabel. Isabel is here. Isabel is here, has joined her in this unlife, when Celia thought she was rid of her. Her chest is tight with how the thing inside of her paces, stretching, itching to get out. It wants to rip and tear. It wants to bite, to bleed, to listen to that little bitch beg like their mother begged. It wants to strip her bare and parade her on a leash in front of this assembled gathering and watch as they laugh at the disgusting worm who isn’t fit for polite company.

She keeps it lidded. The only thought that keeps her going is her sister bent over their father’s knee, tears streaming down her face, screaming as he beats her raw and bloody. The way she sounded when the hacksaw bit into her flesh. Robot Dancer. Now who’s the robot dancer, Izzy?

Roxanne. Even her name is pretentious. Like everything else about her. Dress from last season, off the rack. Shoes bought at the local bargain bin discount depot. Pathetic.

Her lip doesn’t do so much as curl.

GM: The seneschal brushes his bloody fingers across Isabel’s lips and forehead.

“Welcome to the fold, my child.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Celia’s sister answers. “I swear obedience unto Prince Vidal, his laws, and the Camarilla’s laws; this I swear to God, to Longinus, and to…”

She goes on for a bit. Maldonato accepts her oath of obedience on Vidal’s behalf.

“In the name of your aforesaid prince and liege, I receive your oath by the grace of God, and he swears in turn to be a good and faithful lord, and to honor faithful and obedient service with wise and just rulership. Rise now as a subject of the Sanctified Archdiocese of New Orleans.”

She rises and curtsies to the crowd’s polite applause.

She turns when he dismisses her and walks back to her place among the pews.

Her eyes meet Celia’s.

She says nothing. Just stares for a moment. Her gaze was already hard, and now as one of the Damned it seems razor-sharp.

Celia: Jade’s lip finally curls. Her sneer is truly worthy of Veronica’s childe.

GM: Roxanne starts to mouth something. Jade isn’t sure what. It looks hateful.

Hisses of disapproval, interspersed with lowly mocking laughter, start to go up from the assembled throngs at Roxanne’s action. She promptly moves to sit back down, a number of rows behind Veronica and Jade. She can feel her mortal sister’s gaze burning with hate.

Celia: Jade schools her features into calm neutrality. The damage has been done.

GM: Veronica pets her hair, as if to say ‘well done.’

GM: Maldonato dips his fingers in the sanguine chalice again. He is a slender and exceedingly tall individual who stands around a head over most men. His skin is dusky and smooth, with only the merest hint of age’s wrinkles around his deep-set almond eyes. He’s dressed in archaic-looking Arabic attire: navy silk galabiyya (robes), alquice (cloth draped over shoulders) with elaborate geometric print, and imama (turban-like head covering). A gold signet ring set with a sapphire and traced with Arabic script rests upon one of his long, slender fingers.

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“Hezekiah Santana, step forward.”

Support: A wall stands up. No, not a wall; a man. The gentlest thing about him are his glasses, and that’s only because they just barely soften the churning, seething passion that resides in his eyes.

He isn’t dressed up for this. He wears a black shirt with short sleeve, marked only by the priest’s white at his neck. Black slacks, too.

He has the light brown skin of the mixed-race, like so many in this city, but any question about his upbringing is squashed beneath the heavy, steady weight of his footfalls.

This is a man raised on street corners and curbside brawls.

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GM: With his bloodied fingers hovering near the younger Kindred’s forehead, Maldonato asks, “Do you join the Lancea et Sanctum, accepting our tenets as yours, our faith as yours, leaving behind the mortal world and walking in darkness forever, as our Lord God intends?”

Support: “I do,” the Kindred thunders, and does not waste more words.

GM: The seneschal brushes his middle and index fingers along Hezekiah’s lips and forehead, anointing them in sinner’s blood. The unmistakable coppery tang fills his nostrils.

“Welcome to the fold, my child.”

He knows at this point he is to swear an oath of obedience to God, sect, and prince, as Roxanne did. He may use as few or as many words as he wishes.

Support: “I swear my loyalty to God, to the Camarilla, and to Prince Vidal, and to my flock,” the Brujah rumbles.

GM: Maldonato extends his sapphire-set ring for the new Sanctified to kiss.

“In the name of your aforesaid prince and liege, I receive your oath by the grace of God, and he swears in turn to be a good and faithful lord, and to honor faithful and obedient service with wise and just rulership. Rise now as a subject of the Sanctified Archdiocese of New Orleans.”

Support: Hez does so.

GM: After Hezekiah comes Christopher Guilbeau, a handsome young man around six feet tall with clean-shaven skin, light blue eyes, and long, sandy blond hair he has pulled away from his shoulders. He’s dressed in a dark suit with a burgundy tie it feels like he’d rather not be wearing.

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He declines to join the Sanctified, to which Maldonato merely says, “May faith come to you, and may the Requiem treat you well.” He still swears obedience to God, sect, and prince.

After him comes Celia’s former boyfriend, who Maldonato addresses as “Roderick Durant.” He’s dressed in a dark gray three-piece suit and maroon tie that he looks like he could argue a court case in. He also declines to join the Sanctified, but likewise swears obedience to God, sect, and prince.

Veronica had explained the order of sires releasing their childer. The Sanctified sires went first. Among them, first the Ventrue sire, then the Brujah sire. After them came the non-Sanctified. The Ventrue sire first again, with Marcel. Then Coco, as the primogen, and finally Veronica.

“Jade Kalani, step forward.”

With his bloodied fingers hovering near the young Toreador’s forehead, Maldonato asks, “Do you join the Lancea et Sanctum, accepting our tenets as yours, our faith as yours, leaving behind the mortal world and walking in darkness forever, as our Lord God intends?”

Celia: “I do.”

And then, following his next question,

“I swear obedience unto Prince Vidal; to his laws, and the laws of the Camarilla; to our Lord God; to the Sanctified; to these laws, to this sect, to our God and our prince, I give my obedience, my fealty, my reverence.”

GM: The seneschal brushes his middle and index fingers along Jade’s lips and forehead, anointing them in sinner’s blood. The unmistakable coppery tang fills his nostrils.

“Welcome to the fold, my child.”

He extends his sapphire-set ring for the new Sanctified to kiss.

“In the name of your aforesaid prince and liege, I receive your oath by the grace of God, and he swears in turn to be a good and faithful lord, and to honor faithful and obedient service with wise and just rulership. Rise now as a subject of the Sanctified Archdiocese of New Orleans.”


Sunday night, 29 August 2010, PM

GM: The Midnight Mass (tonight is, fortuitously, a Sunday) lasts several hours. The announcement of the Embrace moratorium’s lifting, and the release of Jade and the other four neonates from their sires’ tutelage into Camarilla society, comes after the pomp and ritual of mass itself. The implicit statement is clear that even so significant an event as the city “finally getting back to normal” from Katrina is secondary to the reverence and fear that all Kindred owe to God.

Jade has been to several Elysia, but this was her first time attending a proper mass. The ritus offered much pomp and circumstance: smoldering incense, flasks of blood, rote memorandum chanting of parts of The Testament of Longinus, call-and-response. The congregation recited certain passages of the text with the priests, and maintained a contemplative silence for the rest of the rite, which was led by Father Malveaux and Father Elgin. The ritual transubstantiation of a sinner’s blood into Longinus’ own, and its ritual feeding to the Sanctified attendees, seemed an almost mocking perversion of the sacred Eucharist.

The sermon after the liturgical readings is brief, reminding all the Kindred that they are damned and unholy creatures who will burn forever in Hell for what they are: their only salvation lies in fulfilling God’s intended function for them as man’s perfect predators. Avenging angels to punish the unfaithful. The wolves of God. Katrina is invoked less as a thing to be mourned than as a symbol of God’s wrath: no Kindred, no matter how mighty they hold themselves, is ever unaccountable to the Almighty. The hand of God can lay low even the eldest of them, and entirely without warning. At any point, one’s immortal soul may suddenly be judged and held to account for one’s sins. The presumed ‘immortality’ of the Kindred is still but a speck in the eternal eye of God. Katrina is a reminder of how small the children of Caine truly are, and a reminder that they must never waver in His holy purpose for them, lest they face His judgment tomorrow with sin heavy upon their hearts. Praise be unto God and His almighty damnation!

The crowd of Kindred disperses with plans to reconvene several hours later at the Presbytère, where a Kindred-exclusive exhibit will be held on Hurricane Katrina and the storm’s aftereffects. Gus Elgin promises there shall be “diversions, amusements, and commemorations aplenty.” There will be no tears shed for destroyed monsters in a house of God. In a house of man, however, the storm’s fallen may be mourned, celebrated, and remembered.

Even Veronica looks solemn rather than sneering at that prospect. Everyone Embraced before Katrina lost someone to the storm. Everyone.

The various costumed Kindred begin to make their way out of the church. The logistics involved in preserving the Masquerade are no small thing to coordinate, Mélissaire had explained to Jade. The kine cannot see a parade of monsters attired like Veronica all coming out from the same building, strolling through the same streets.

Some of these Kindred will draw upon their varied gifts of Caine to keep themselves hidden from mortal sight. Others will have servants or allies do so on their behalf. Some Kindred will change out of their more outrageous fashions before departing the church: some will have the clout to secure a private changing space, others will do so publicly before the court’s eyes. Some Kindred will simply wear attire that does not breach the Masquerade. Being able to don such attire, and being able to leave Elysium with minimal apparent inconvenience to oneself, is another badge of status. Another game to be played.

Everyone who can show off wants to show off. Veronica departs arm in arm with Pietro, who exaggeratedly draws his hand over the other Toreador with a flourish, like a magician about to produce a rabbit from a hat. The pair immediately vanish like snuffed-out candles.

Mélissaire told Jade she could simply walk out. Her attire isn’t strange enough to draw attention. She should wait a while, though. The Kindred who remain behind aren’t all supposed to leave at once—better for the Masquerade that way. Elysium’s ‘afterparty’ is a good venue to socialize with what the harpy had charitably termed “the bottom feeders.” Rank neonates like her.

“Roderick’s” sire vanishes from the church in a blur of motion, too fast for any mortal eye to follow. Jade remembers what it was like to be that fast, once.

She and her former boyfriend are left among the remaining C- and D-list Elysium attendees who can’t immediately leave. For good or ill, they are their own Kindred now.

“Roderick” starts chatting with Christopher Guilbeau. He doesn’t seem to immediately notice his ex.

But how could he not? He saw her get up there, before the altar. Heard the seneschal call her by a name as fake as his own.

Roxanne remains in conversation with her sire, who evidently isn’t important enough to immediately leave. Jade can feel her mortal sister’s eyes digging into her back like daggers.

She could approach Roderick here. Or wait until the Elysium finally closes down, and catch him on the way out.

Celia: When Jade had first been Embraced she’d wondered how the immortal spent their years when there were so many of them now allotted. Forever sounds like something magical out of a blushing bride’s dream, but the reality of the situation is, decidedly, not.

They play games. They amuse themselves by playing games, and everyone is a pawn to someone else; every action, every word, every stolen glance is nothing but fodder for the denizens of the undead. It isn’t like mortal politics, where one can bury their head in the sand and be free of it. Everyone plays, and the only way to win is to bury everyone else so far beneath your own feet that they don’t have a chance of ever climbing back out.

Isabel’s glare is paid no heed. To answer such frivolity would be to stoop to her level which, Jade has decided, is so low that doing so is, frankly, unimaginable. How many rows behind her had the bitch sat? Ah, yes, too many to count. She would be doing her lost sister a service if she were to engage in some sort of open rivalry.

So too she sizes up the others, like her, who are left, and her eyes are drawn continuously to the pair in the middle. Christopher and Roderick. A power team of neonates if there ever was one. The Golden Sons. How easily she’d flit among them, butterfly that she is.

And yet…

And yet. That final moment between them lingers in her mind. She plays it over again and again: the way her stomach had fluttered at the thought of running away with him, the anger in his eyes when she told him some version of the truth, the final act of sinking her teeth in. And the taste. Oh, yes, the taste most of all, the genuine emotion, the care, the love.

That is the magic a Kindred can spend their whole unlife trying to chase and never find.

The thought is dismissed as quickly as it came. She rises from her seat, dress sweeping out behind her. Her heels click along the floor.

She moves past him.

There are others to occupy this time until she can catch him alone.

And, like the spider at her throat she claimed to be that evening not so long ago, she will weave her web.

GM: Her ex likely can’t do anything but notice when Jade walks past him. But he doesn’t turn away from his conversational partner. You should assume, Savoy (not just Mélissaire) had cautioned Jade, that anything you say out loud in Elysium will become public knowledge. Gossip for the harpies if it’s juicy enough. Kindred who wish to speak without being overheard should learn to communicate their true meaning circumspectly (“there is an art to it!” the French Quarter lord had chuckled), rely on a discipline for that purpose, find a private rendezvous in the building, or just talk outside Elysium.

“The pendant suits your sire’s childe, Miss Kalani,” smiles a nearby male Kindred. Jade knows him from Savoy’s court. Reynaldo Gui. He’s a tall, attractive young man with a thin frame, goatee, and glinting brown eyes. His dark hair has a slight wave to it, and it hangs down to the top of his shoulders. His skin is dark, especially for a vampire, and he’s left the top buttons of his white button-down shirt open to accentuate his model-good looks. Risque fashions like Veronica’s don’t seem to be for him: Ventrue always trend towards conservative. Jade knows by now that Gui’s is often the first face to greet most of Savoy’s visitors at Elysium, all the better to put them at ease.

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Celia: “What a roundabout way of telling me I look fetching, Mister Gui.” Jade’s eyes glitter as brightly as the jewel at her throat as she leans in to kiss each of Gui’s cheeks in the Italian style of his supposed sire.

GM: Gui’s eyes twinkle as he lifts her hand to his lips.

“Wit has to find roundabout ways of telling obvious things, or everyone would have it.”

Celia: “How unfortunate for those who find themselves lacking.” Her eyes drift toward Hez and the large man he stands next to, then back to Gui. She keeps them on his face rather than chance a look at either of the two she knew as a mortal. “So many somebodies with promising young progeny this evening. Pity about the first.”

GM: “Yes. I think a lot of the audience were jealous they and their childer couldn’t have been presented first,” Gui smiles. “But there’s only ever one spot at the top.”

This was also in Mélissaire’s lessons. It’s impossible to get one Ventrue to badmouth a clanmate, at least in public. The blue bloods strive to project a united front to outsiders. It doesn’t do for the Camarilla’s purported rulers to be seen squabbling in front of their lessers.

“So what are your plans now that you’re released, Miss Kalani?” Gui asks, nevertheless clearly changing the topic. “Madam Alsten-Pirrie’s had a few good things to say about your cosmetology skills. It’s not often she says good things about anyone.”

Celia: One can try, at least. Imagine the shock if he had given in to the desire to cut the cunt down to where she belongs.

Jade accepts the change of subject with good humor and a radiant smile. She says that she is pleased her sire is pleased; “she is truly a beautiful canvas. Perhaps one evening you’ll permit me show you firsthand.” Her eyes sweep his form, lingering momentarily at the open button. “Though hard to say how I can improve upon such excellence.”

When in doubt, shamlessly flatter. That was one of Savoy’s earliest lessons.

GM: When in doubt, feed a Ventrue’s ego. That was another one.

“How do you think you’d try, then?” Gui asks, seemingly amused but also curious. “I’ve actually never had a professional work on me, like that.”

“My folks always said salons were for women.”

Celia: “Most people think that,” Jade agrees. “Spas and salons are a closely guarded female secret. We pretend to play at cosmetics when really we get up to so much more. Perhaps I’ll be the one to change your mind about them. Even without improving that which is impossible to better there are things you can enjoy. Muscle work, deep tissue release. Have you ever melted under someone’s touch?”

GM: “Depends in what sense you mean,” Gui smirks. “I’ve actually never had a professional massage. I had a kine associate who recommended it, after my Embrace, but I figured it would lose something after you’re dead. With muscles no longer changing. Has that been true in your experience?”

Celia: “Not at all,” Jade tells him. “Though I suppose there is some argument to be made for different schools of thought. Our bodies don’t change. They can, rather, but come nightfall the next evening we’re right back to where we began. So if you were to be Embraced, say, with a crick in your neck, you’d always wake up to that pain. And yet we do not feel those things because our bodies naturally heal themselves. Is it the blood? Maybe.”

“But you don’t lack the ability to feel. Your muscles can change, even when you’re dead, if you give it the right stimulus.”

“You are familiar, I presume, with Mary Shelley’s cult horror classic Frankenstein. Body parts brought back to life when given the proper jolt of electricity. What some don’t realize is that her work had a real life basis: the research and showings of Giovanni Aldini. In 1803 he had a live showing of what happens when you ‘zap’ a corpse, and in 1818 the showing was repeated by one Andrew Ure. Supposedly the corpse resumed breathing and sat up to point its finger at the audience.”

“You see, the cells of the body do not die when a person breathes their last, which is why it is possible for organ transplants and blood transfusions to work. The death of a multicellular organism is rarely instantaneous, but instead a gradual closing down. An extinction by ages. Nerve and muscle cells continue to retain their hold on life for some time after the individual is dead. Spark of Life, if you’d like to peruse further.”

“During a massage your muscles are worked for a variety of purposes. Generally the goal is to lengthen the fibers to reduce pain. But the act has an effect on almost all of your body’s systems: digestive, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, lymphatic, integumentary… and the nervous system. Most of those systems don’t matter to us, we’re dead. But the nervous system and our muscular system still function. Given the right stimulus at the right time with a practioner who knows your body is passed, it’s possible to retain the changes that your body underwent while on the table. So I wouldn’t suggest a kine therapist, since you can hardly say ’I’m dead.’”

There’s a pause, and Jade smiles at him.

“Of course, the other benefit is that it simply feels amazing. I am very good at what I do.”

GM: “I bet you are,” Gui smirks back.

He seems to look Jade over again. The smirk gives way to a more thoughtful look.

“Beauty and brains is a dangerous combination,” he finally says. “Especially with us.”

His earlier expression returns after a moment. “You’ve still convinced me, though. Where do I sign up for one of these massages?”

Jade can see that several other nearby Kindred have paused to listen to her explanation-cum-lecture. Roxanne looks as if she is deliberately avoiding listening, but the others all look interested.

Veronica, Savoy, and Mélissaire had all told her that Elysium was a good place to ‘network.’

If she isn’t off her mark, Flawless has found its first Kindred customers.


Tuesday night, 31 August 2010, PM

GM: Stephen looks good, for a dead man. A little pale, maybe, but so does pretty much every Kindred. He doesn’t look like the porcelain corpse-doll Jade had found herself transformed into: making her skin pretty and lifelike again was one of the esthetician’s tougher challenges. (But certainly worthwhile—the way her mom sometimes looked at her felt too much like the way the woman had looked at Maxen.)

Really, he looks about the same as he did when they were together. He doesn’t have a six-pack, but he looks like he’s gotten buffer, and his figure was already slim and in shape from those runs and baseball games her dad looked down upon. His clean-shaven face and light brown hair are well-groomed and well-cared for, perhaps with some of the same products she’d recommended—one of the benefits to having a girlfriend in cos school.

He isn’t a sculpted goddess, like Veronica. He doesn’t ooze effortless confidence and aplomb like Savoy. He lacks the frigid, soul-numbing intensity of Donovan. He’s just Stephen. Cute boy. Former significant other.

Who now happens to be a vampire.

Part of him feels different. It just does, even beyond the pallor. More tension, maybe, to the way he walks. Silently sizing up prey and rival predators. That unspoken question of what his fangs look like in his mouth. What sorts of people (girls?) he feeds on. How many times he’s killed. It doesn’t feel anywhere nearly as relaxing, this time, to see him with his clothes off. Especially when he lies down. Predators do not naturally bare their throats and bellies. Or expose their backs. That underlying instinct is there, the same one that makes Pietro and Veronica seem like animals mating rather than people fucking when they get off.

Or it might be the pack of lies she’s fed him. Is still feeding him.

But her kind lie as often as they drink.

Their kind.

So Roderick lies there, on the table, his back exposed to Jade.

And it doesn’t feel at all like it did when Celia massaged Stephen.

Not one bit.

“So when did you open this place?” Roderick asks conversationally.

Celia: She recognizes that scent. Cedar, magnolia, grapefruit. Molton Brown volumizing shampoo. It had been the bottle she’d gifted him after that first month of being together, shyly handing it to him and explaining that the Kumudu Fruit would enrich and thicken his hair, the amino acids would increase the shine.

It had been hard to focus when he came in like that. When she’d walked into the treatment room and seen him lying, shirtless, with the sheets down around his hips. Moments like these she’s glad there is no heartbeat to give her away, no telltale flush to her cheeks. She’s glad, too, that she does not need to draw breath; every time she does she breathes in that scent clinging to his skin and it makes her knees want to wobble.

The oil in her hands is warm. The drawback of being dead is cold hands, but the spa industry has a number of tools to use to to circumvent that particular issue, such as hot towel caddies and bottle warmers. She uses them to great effect with her kine following, and Pietro had mentioned, when she’d done it with him, that it was “a surprisingly decent gesture.”

She knows his body. All of it. She knows where he holds the tension, or at least where he held it while mortal, and her hands instinctively drift to those areas. Despite the body’s deceased status it can still hold areas of physical tension, though among her kind they are not so prominent. He had mentioned there was a twinge in his neck, and Jade had followed the levator scapulae down to the supraspantus and infraspinatus to find the source of the issue, lodged firmly beneath his shoulder blade.

She has his arm tucked behind his back now, wrist resting at his lumbar, to wing the scapula so that her fingers can get beneath it.

“Earlier this year,” Jade tells him. Her voice is quiet; it always is in this room, and she generally does not speak unless she is spoken to. That is the rule of the massage room. Of most treatment rooms, truth be told. It is their time, not hers. “My benefactors gifted me the startup in anticipation of my new independent status.”

Her hand slides beneath the head of the humerus, lifting slightly. The pressure lets her dig further into the spinatus along the back.

“Pain here?”

GM: Tension starts to subside in Roderick’s back as the Toreador begins her work. She’s had lots of practice, and on this specific client no less. She knows where and how to move her hands on his body. She knows how this is done.

Stephen loved getting massages from her. He tried to give one back, a few times, but his touch was clumsy next to the trained (or at least, training) professional’s. So he would usually just eat her out, in return for long massages. It was a good trade.

But Roderick doesn’t relax as completely as Stephen did. Oh, he definitely responds to her touch. But she’s a stranger now, rather than his girlfriend.

And there’s that simmering tension underneath everything, even with his fangs concealed. Veronica had even offered her own two cents on the matter, after a massage. “You’re not ever going to get Kindred to unwind like kine. You’ve got to satisfy the Beast, not just the Man.”

When Jade asked how, Veronica had answered, “Have a good hard fuck on the table with them. Give the massage once the Beast is tired out.”

“Yeah,” says Roderick. “Baseball injury, from a while ago.”

“You’re good at this.”

Celia: “Thank you.” There’s a brief pause. “Your body holds onto it. Sometimes I wish they told us, prior to Embrace, what they had planned and how we would be stuck.” Her tone is wry.

It had been on the tip of her tongue to tell him the words of her sire. To offer to soothe both Beast and Man. At the back of her head were the words of her esthi instructor, and the vision of The Yellow Book. “Every esthetician, cosmetologist, and massage therapist that loses their license because of sex is in this book. They’re stripped of their title and their name will last here, forever, for everyone to know their shame.”

But Jade Kalani does not exist, and thus her name cannot be stricken from the records. Still, there is no casual way to bring it up. “Wanna fuck?” does not eloquently roll off the tongue. Yet that question lingers, and inside of herself Celia wars with the dilemma. Jade wins, in the end. She always does.

“Your internal struggle will prevent the change from taking hold,” Jade points out after a moment. “My work will not be complete without its satisfaction.”

GM: Veronica had approved of that, too. She hadn’t even deigned to respond when Jade told her about the Yellow Book. Just sneered. That look said it all.

The Yellow Book is for kine.

They are Cainites. They take what they want, answerable to “no law but Lilith’s.”

“Some sires do,” says Roderick to her first question. “She didn’t tell me everything, but she said to take a shower and have everything shaved and cut the way I wanted it, because I’d be stuck like this forever.”

He pauses and frowns for a moment at her second one.

“My struggle?”

It’s almost like their first time again.

Questioning. Uncertain.

Almost.

Celia: There is no small amount of jealousy that surges inside of her at his words. She had told him. He had wanted it.

She had left him alone that night, thinking that he was above this all, and yet when given the opportunity he had jumped.

And she had been there when he showered. Had it been romantic? Had she posed as the girlfriend, the Celia stand-in, and only taken him when she’d broken him down into her loyal pup?

Had it been Celia leaving that had prompted that in him, the certainty that this was what he wanted?

GM: Maybe this is how it felt, too, when she told him.

Celia: Her fingers dig.

“Pressure now,” she says, belatedly.

GM: There’s the faintest hiss, almost a whisper. Perhaps a bit of fang shows.

Celia: “Let it out,” she tells him. “That’s the way to freedom from your mortal pain.”

GM: “I’m Brujah. It’s bad when we let it out.”

Celia: “Ah. Of course. No controlled burn for the Brujah.” She finds a nodule and presses down. It’s uncomfortable, though not painful. “Slower going this way, then.”

Slower going. Multiple sessions. More chances to put her hands on him.

That’s not stalkery at all.

Just call her Coco.

“Anyway,” she says after a moment, “I’m talking about fucking, not fighting.”

It’s not the kind of thing Celia would ever say. She had never asked Stephen to ‘fuck.’ She would allude to it with euphemism, the delicate arch of a brow, a pointed look. But Jade has that going for her: she’s more direct.

GM: Roderick raises an eyebrow.

“Do you do that with all your massage clients?”

Celia: Jade’s laugh is warmer than the rest of her.

“Do I fuck every kine and Kindred client that ends up on my table? No. And I wouldn’t offer it to you if I weren’t worried that your Beast will react poorly with what I’m about to do. Like you said, it’s bad when you let it out.”

She presses on a spot that will send reverberations through his body. It’s the source of that old injury, the one he probably doesn’t feel anymore, but it’s still there lingering beneath the surface.

“Do you feel that? Fighting inside you when I touch here? Your body will never fully relax until it’s sated. Our conversation has made me see I’ll need something in place for the future, some sort of reinforced panic room to let it out prior to appointments, but since that isn’t available at this moment I’m offering you an easy out. The alternative is to do shorter sessions more frequently.”

Like a series of dates.

GM: “What do those offer next to the ‘out?’” Roderick asks. “If, like you say, the Beast needs to come out. Meeting more often sounds like essentially more of what we’re doing right now.”

Celia: “There’s still work I can do that’ll stick. Smaller changes over a longer period of time.” Her fingers release the pressure. She slides her hand out from underneath his shoulder, smoothing out the skin across his back. It’s a gliding movement rather than kneading, meant to soothe. “Shy, Roderick? I can take you out first. Make it special.”

GM: There’s no physiological impulse in the dead to sigh, as Jade knows, but Roderick seems to relax under her practiced touch.

“We’re both pretty new to this. My sire says it isn’t a big deal for licks to share blood.”

“But something special first sounds nice. I don’t think I’ve really been one for casual sex.”

“The last one-night stand I had with a breather ended up turning into something committed.”

Celia: “Good looking guy like you? I can see why.” Her hands flatten on his back, palms pressing against his sacrum. She pushes and holds the stretch. Working on Kindred and their undead muscles is definitely a unique experience, but she hadn’t been lying to Gui when she’d told him that, even without the lasting benefits, it still feels good. Isn’t that what life is all about? Dying had perverted the pleasure, but the desire for it is still there.

“I think it’s less taboo for casual sex with the licks. I had an experience with one when I was still mortal. Did this trick with a drink. Was worried it was a roofie at the time, probably just star mode though. Worked when it wouldn’t have normally.”

She releases the stretch. Her hands flow back up his spine, on either side but not touching the bones themselves, and finishes the motion with her fingertips at the base of the occiput.

GM: Jade can still feel the Beast’s tension in Roderick’s spine, but she can feel the Man’s steadily diminishing as she does her work and the conversation flows.

“It’s a useful way to hunt,” Roderick agrees. “I guess it’s a little stupid for us to get hung up over ‘casual sex’ with each other when we’re out having it basically every night with random breathers.”

Celia: “We all need a code.”

She doesn’t want to think about him having sex with randoms. How much sex does he have? Every night? Surely not. He’s exaggerating. Wouldn’t be hard for him to pick up girls like that, though. Flash a little smile, maybe a wink.

They probably throw themselves at him.

“I think it’s kind of sweet.”

Celia thinks it’s sweet, anyway. With her former partner under her hands it’s been harder and harder to keep her under wraps.

“Suppose ‘drinks’ are off the table then.”

GM: “Yeah. It’s too bad. We don’t really have an equivalent icebreaker.”

Celia: “Naked on my table doesn’t count?”

GM: “I guess there’s that,” he grants with a chuckle. “I got a lot of massages when I was breathing. It’s too bad for Gui he missed out on that.”

Celia: “It’s the kind of thing most men need to be talked into. Then they spend the whole time making super uncomfortable happy ending jokes, or tell me to drop an elbow into their spine because ’they’re real men and they can take it,’ despite the fact that spine is, you know, bone and not muscle and I don’t touch it.”

There’s a pause while her hands continue their work.

“Bet a Brujah would give a killer massage. Speed and strength? Sign me up.”

GM: “Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into massage. Most people outside the industry don’t appreciate how physically demanding it can be.”

“Getting Embraced had to be a big perk, there. You don’t ever get sore or tired.”

Celia: “Date someone in the industry?”

GM: “Yeah. That earlier relationship I mentioned.”

“She used to give me long massages like this in return for going down on her.”

Celia: “Nice trade.”

GM: “Yeah.”

Celia: “Miss her?”

GM: “We split up under pretty ugly circumstances.”

A pause.

“But yeah. Sometimes.”

Celia: Every girl’s fantasy, right? Find out if your ex misses you.

“I was with someone. Before all this. Had to break it off after, make sure he wouldn’t try to come for me. Told him some ugly things, too. Kept thinking, ‘what if I just ghouled him,’ right? Then I looked at that life and thought it wasn’t worthy of him. Wanted him to go on and do great things.”

“For what it’s worth, Stephen, I cried for days.”

GM: Just like that, his body is suddenly as tense as a startled cat’s.

He turns around to look her in the eye.

“What’d you just call me?”

Celia: Her hands finish the movement they’d been in the process of before halting and lifting from his body. She doesn’t take a step backward, but the tension in his body is echoed in hers.

“Your name. The one from before all of this. Before we broke up.”

GM: He stares at her.

“Drop the fucking stealth mode.”

Celia: “I can’t. It’s a permanent change.”

GM: “What the fuck? Who did this to you? Why the fuck?”

Celia: “My Embrace was more brutal than yours. It left some permanent… damage.”

GM: Even without touching him, she can feel the Brujah’s rising temper behind his words.

“My Embrace wasn’t brutal? You’re the whole reason I’m a vampire!”

Celia: “…what?”

GM: “You, you tore out my heart, Celia. Tore it out and stomped it into fucking bits. I was a mess. A wreck. Just a total wreck.”

“Coco swooped in at just the right time. She said I could destroy the Mafia, if she made me like her.”

“And you know what?”

“I said I had nothing else to fucking live for.”

Celia: Her hands move to cover her mouth.

She had done this. She’d tried to keep him out of it and instead had brought him in. Her earlier fears were true: she’d hit him hard enough to make him pliable for Coco.

“I couldn’t stay with you. I almost killed you that night. Think about it: would you have let me go if I hadn’t… done it that way?”

GM: “I don’t know. I just know you’re why I’m a vampire,” Stephen says flatly.

Celia: “I was trying to keep you out of it.”

GM: “What about Lucy?” he suddenly asks.

Celia: “Maxen raped my mom. All of the accusations leveled against him were true. Lucy is her daughter. I said she was mine to keep her safe.”

There’s a pause.

“Nobody else knows.”

GM: “Oh. I guess that makes sense.”

Stephen suddenly gets up and hurls the massage table aside, smashing it into the wall with a terrific crash. The towel drops from his naked body, but it’s his jutting fangs and bulging, furious, eyes that Celia’s gaze might be most drawn to. He shudders for a moment, as if trying to hold in his inner monster, and clenches his fists.

“Except how you’re still lying to me and I can’t trust a single fucking thing you say!”

Celia: Celia moves as soon as he does, backing away from the boyfriend turned Kindred turned raging monster. She lifts her hands in front of her, placating.

“I’m not. I’m not lying. I swear I’m not lying. I haven’t lied to you about anything except my name.”

GM: “Bullshit!” Stephen seethes, taking several jerkish steps towards her as his eyes burn. “Come clean, right now, or I swear to God, I won’t be able to stop you from learning why the other clans don’t piss mine off—even if I fucking wanted to!”

Celia: “What do you want me to say? That Lucy is yours? Do you want to meet her so you can know the truth? Do you need me to find the footage of what happened that night? Should I show you what I look like underneath all the makeup and reconstruction?” She matches him, step for step, until her back hits the wall behind her. The room isn’t large enough for his budding rage.

GM: That rage is larger than him, too.

There’s no warning except a feral snarl. Suddenly, he’s flying at her, hitting her, beating her, raining down blow after blow as a monster stares out from his eyes.

The too-familiar red haze descends as Celia’s own monster bursts its bonds.

Then only darkness.


Date ?

GM: Bliss burns Celia’s lips.

There’s hurt, everywhere else.

There is pain.

There is hurt.

There is want.

But it all pales, next to the bliss.

Celia: She drinks. It hurts to swallow. It hurts when her head moves to find the source. It hurts when her lips press down and she sucks. But she swallows, because there’s pleasure there too, and she needs it, she wants it.

GM: Eventually, the life-giving font recedes.

There is still pain.

There is still hurt.

There is still want.

And there’s nothing to satisfy it.

But the red haze is gone. Her surroundings materialize. Celia’s in what looks like a ratty upstairs office space. There’s a desk with papers, a computer, and assorted clutter. A few chairs, a leather couch, and more assorted clutter round out the dingy walls. A dartboard hangs from one of them. Music dimly pounds from under the floor.

Celia’s on the couch. Coco Duquette is seated next to her. Stephen’s sire is dressed in a black turtleneck, chic leather jacket, gray paratrooper pants, and black mid-calf boots. Her now-curly hair is purple now. Darker at the top, redder at the bottom.

“Rise and shine, fledgling.”

Celia: “Turtleneck,” is the first word out of Jade’s mouth. It hurts to move. Hurts to open her eyes, even; how badly had he beaten her that her eyelids hurt? She’s afraid to look. Glad there’s not a mirror readily available.

She’s alive. Relatively.

GM: “Yes, I suppose they are a giveaway,” the elder Brujah remarks.

“I guess you’ve learned the hard way what happens when we lose our tempers.”

Celia: “Y’were… followin’ ‘im. N’my fault.” Talking hurts. Words hurt. Movement hurts. Thinking hurts. Had it always hurt?

GM: “Yes. It was his decision. And mine.”

“You might’ve influenced his emotional state, but the only way not to ever do is to feel nothing for nobody. Flap your wings in Brazil if you’re a butterfly and you might cause a tornado in Texas, and all that.”

She’s pretty confident what her dad would answer to that.

It can’t hurt if you’ve never done it.

But first times usually are painful.

Celia: It wasn’t painful with Stephen.

Except for this time. Where he beat her. Speaking of…

“Mmph. Mhm.” She doesn’t know what else to say. “He’ere?”

Had he broken her jaw?

It feels like he did.

GM: “He’s feeling a little testy, still. He dropped you off so I could wake you up.”

Celia: There’s a level of decorum here that she should observe, she’s sure. But she can’t seem to think of it. What do you say to your ex boyfriend’s sire who he blames you for Embracing him after she wakes you up when he beats you into a bloody pulp at your place of business?

She’s pretty sure Lord Savoy would know the answer.

“’E tell you?”

GM: “Yes. I was a bit curious why he was so concerned for Jade Kalani.”

“He still is concerned, even if he is angry.”

Celia: That had been her next question. There’s a crack in her jaw as it rights itself. She stretches it, then snaps her teeth back together with a click.

“Didn’t mean to hurt him. Thought it was the right thing at the time.”

That’s how it always goes with her.

Maybe she should start doing the wrong thing.

GM: “You may not have done the right thing, but I think you did the rightest thing you knew how to do,” Coco agrees.

“He has been following you on social media, though. Celia Flores’ face appears in quite a few pictures.”

Celia: That thought, absurdly, makes her giddy.

“Photoshop.”

GM: “He’s been following you outside social media, too. Baby Lucy has really kept him up, figuratively speaking.”

“I suppose the name is a little old-fashioned for someone of your generation.”

Celia: He’d been stalking her. The thought is disquieting. He’d never said anything. Never approached. Hadn’t he wondered? Why hadn’t he just… said something? Called? Texted? It’s not like she had dropped off the face of the planet. She had social media. She hadn’t changed her phone number.

Did he know it was her spa? Is that why he’d made the appointment?

“How much did he say?”

GM: “All of it. I suppose you’re even, so far as what you know about each other’s old lives.”

Celia: “And now you know.”

GM: “That explains, too, why you’re so cozy with Savoy. I imagine he’s been more than receptive towards the idea of taking down your mortal father.”

Celia: “I tried. I failed. You know what happened because of it.”

GM: “I’m sure he’s almost as unhappy over it as you are. That scandal really should have been enough to torpedo any politician.”

Celia: “He has friends in high places.”

There’s a brief pause. Celia sighs. She doesn’t want to ask, but she’s going to.

“Did he follow me because of Lucy or because of me?”

GM: “My guess would be some of both.”

Celia: “Salvageable?”

GM: “Maybe, if you can be honest with him.”

“Though honesty doesn’t come easy to us.”

Celia: “Everything I say to him he’ll say to you.”

GM: Would that be so bad, some part of Celia asks?

“At this point, definitely.”

“If you become something more to each other again, I suppose we all have our secrets from the people and Kindred close to us.”

Celia: “You would have gone after him anyway, even if I hadn’t… ‘ripped out his heart.’ He’d have been yours. Never mine. Not for long.”

GM: “I’d had my eye on him for a while.”

“But if you two had gotten engaged?”

“That’s a lot to walk away from. I don’t want a childe who’s anything but certain this is where he or she wants to be.”

Celia: Well. Fuck. So it is her fault. Everything is her fault.

GM: “Or a childe who resents me for stealing him away from the family he could have had.”

Celia: “Then I did the work for you. Shattered him, so he was easy pickings.” Her laugh lacks humor. “It wasn’t a choice at all for him, and now I have to… acknowledge that. Forever.”

“I didn’t have a choice. I guess I’m glad his sire is more humane.”

GM: “If you wanted to, you could find ways to blame everyone from your father to your mother to Veronica for him getting Embraced like he did. All of them played a role in the chain of events that led to him dying under my fangs.”

Celia: “I’d rather acknowledge my hand in it and mend the damage. Though I hardly see it as a punishment.”

GM: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that we often grossly overestimate our own degree of importance. To just about everything.”

Celia: “Ha.”

She sees what Coco did there.

Backhanded consolation. She’ll have to learn that trick.

“I almost asked him to run off with me. Months prior. Before everything. But I suppose I’ve spent enough of your time asking about mortal heartbreak. It shouldn’t matter anymore.” Still, she sounds bitter. Wistful. “Will you let him know, when he’s ready to listen, that I’ll tell him everything?”

GM: “Time and honesty heal most wounds,” agrees Coco.

“Until that night.”


Previous, by Narrative: Story Eleven, Jon II
Next, by Narrative: Story Eleven, Caroline III

Previous, by Celia: Story Eleven, Celia I
Next, by Celia: Story Eleven, Celia III

Comments

Emily Feedback Repost

Time Skips & Connections

The nature of skipping ahead has allowed me to make subtle characteristics about the relationship between Celia and other Kindred, which we see here twice with Pietro. The first is the stolen necklace he gave her, the second is when he makes a comment about the massage she’d given him. Nothing major, but I like the freedom in being able to do that. I think, as her sire’s lover, they have a friendly enough relationship that I am eager to explore in game as well. He is one of my favorite NPCs.

Elysium

Side note, what were Donovan / Savoy wearing at the Katrina release? I’m curious to know, and of course I won’t in game, if there was any emotion that either one of them felt at Celia’s release and welcome to the flock. I can only assume Donovan knows that Jade is Celia (though this is something you and I discussed would be worked out in game, I’m operating on the assumption that he does as she is introduced as Veronica’s childe), and I know he doesn’t outwardly display any emotion, but this might have been the first time he had seen her / seen her with her new face since that rooftop meeting the prior year. I’d love to know what was going on inside his head, if anything. I assume probably nothing because he is a block of ice that doesn’t feel emotions, but still.

On that note, the fucking double whammy of both Isabel and Stephen being vampires. Same scene. Jesus Christ. I think I’ve already shared how I felt about Isabel being a vampire. I could literally go the rest of the game never seeing her again, and then boom, there she is. Like damn. Now that I reread Emil’s vision on the subject I can see it, but yeesh. Fucking out of left field. And then for her to blame Celia like it’s Celia’s fault. Fuck right off with that. Part of me wants to find out why, the rest of me just wants to keep her staked. She is one of two characters that I would be happy to literally never deal with again. I guess I’m glad the congregation laughed at her when she went to say something mean to Celia. You can actually feel Celia’s hatred later, how she’s so snide and dismissive of her:

“Roxanne. Even her name is pretentious. Like everything else about her. Dress from last season, off the rack. Shoes bought at the local bargain bin discount depot. Pathetic.”
“How many rows behind her had the bitch sat? Ah, yes, too many to count. She would be doing her lost sister a service if she were to engage in some sort of open rivalry.”
“Imagine the shock if he had given in to the desire to cut the cunt down to where she belongs.”

Like she had just gotten over Stephen’s appearance and beating herself up about cheating on him and then boom, Isabel.

Fuck.

Is that all white guy Father Malveaux? Fuck why are his eyes gone???

Also, the beginning of this scene with Gui gave me pause when I was playing it. I was like, “what is he saying here? Is this friendly? Unfriendly?” I had to look into every double meaning it could possibly be so Celia didn’t embarrass herself. Talking with other Kindred is fucking exhausting.

I know we already talked about the speech that Celia ended up giving about dead muscle, and I’ve waxed poetic here a lot about massage, but I truly think it is a joy to read. I could maybe clean it up a little at the end, my thoughts got away from me because sometimes when I write I just assume people are in my head with me and know where I’m going with things, but that’s okay. I didn’t get to get into the “vibration” I mentioned earlier in this feedback with him. I also had a lot of fun doing the research on that. I was at work and had my notebook with me so I figured why not. What began as a way to cover up flesh craft turned into a fun lesson.

“Beauty and brains is a dangerous combination,” he finally says. “Especially with us.” Case in point about people thinking Celia is smart. Savoy said the same thing. Emily and Roderick/Stephen say it too, so does Diana. She’s not nearly as dumb as she lets people think she is, and Maxen is the only one who calls her stupid. Roxanne does, later, but Roxanne is actually insane, so I don’t even think I’m going to count it.

Stephen

I enjoyed adding the sense of smell to the scene with Roderick’s shampoo, giving it a little bit of fleshing out. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t make assumptions like that (Stephen still using products Celia gave him, Pietro giving her a necklace), but I like the depth it adds and I don’t think I overdo it or do it in such a way that I take advantage of it.

“She has his arm tucked behind his back now, wrist resting at his lumbar, to wing the scapula so that her fingers can get beneath it.” This is what I meant earlier when I was talking about the difference in massages. Celia wouldn’t have her mother do that since her mom was just looking for relaxation, though if her hands had found something on her mom to release there she would have. I, personally, don’t really think there’s much of a difference between the two massage types, mainly because I do a lot of medical/therapeutic work.

Some people think that a deep tissue massage can’t be relaxing, or that a relaxation massage is just rubbing on lotion, but the truth is if you schedule (with me, and apparently with Celia) one type you are going to get both.

“The Yellow Book” is a real thing for massage therapists. Celia obviously doesn’t care about it, but I thought it was fun to include. I’d like to speak to Veronica further about Lilith, too. I don’t know if Celia is interested, but I am.

I had fun with Celia’s jealousy. Imagining Stephen feeding on females. Imagining him having sex with them. Imagining Coco Embracing him.

One of the things that is strange to me on the reread is how rushed the scene feels. I know that when I’m actually playing things tend to take longer, but I guess I thought that she had lead more casually into who she is. I think I’ll need to make a better habit to reread the past few posts before I say anything to judge the pacing, because this “Hey it’s me your ex” feels like it comes on too quickly. I am not unhappy with how it ended (I actually enjoyed meeting Coco and would like to see more of her in the future), but I don’t like how I played it. Definitely room for improvement with the revelation.

For example, it just went from “Oh yeah I was seeing someone too.” And then no pause, just calls him Stephen. There should have been room for him to respond to that, to commiserate with her maybe. Sloppily done. Sometimes when I’m writing, and I think you see this with how often I edit / delete posts during a long enough break, I start to second guess myself or get self-conscious about something, so here I remember thinking “fuck it just do it.”

There have been a few instances in the past where Celia / Jade have shown to have vastly different personalities. I don’t think she has like an actual mental break or anything, and I don’t think Jade is actually her Beast since that’s the snarling mess, but I do like the idea of there being two distinct sets of self. Not as like a flaw, just…. as a way for her to keep the sides of her identity separate, I guess. Last log she almost frenzied and I think the line was, “instead of the Beast it’s the Beauty,” and here it’s “Celia thinks it’s sweet, anyway. With her former partner under her hands it’s been harder and harder to keep her under wraps.”

Back to the reveal, though. Rereading. Feels sloppy. I don’t like it. I also think she could have handled him better when he was raging, but I guess there isn’t much to be done about that now. She could have come clean. You literally told me, ooc, that she was still lying about the face thing, and I was like “nah let’s get belligerent instead.” Silly. Oh well. I also recall botching this combat roll (thank you dice pool), and Navy mentioning a reroll or rouse check, but I think this is one of those situations where botching a roll wouldn’t actually fuck me too hard and I kind of wanted to see what the outcome was. I wasn’t truly worried about it.

Coco

Again, I enjoyed meeting Coco. I was hoping he wouldn’t take her to Coco, to be honest, but the alternative was a third stage blood bond with Veronica, and Coco turned out cooler than I expected. I wish I’d taken the opportunity to talk about more than just Celia’s broken heart, but Celia can spiral hard when things go poorly.

Their conversation was illuminating, though. Celia can’t really 100% blame herself for what happened to Stephen, since Coco had already had her eye on him, but she might have been what pushed him over the edge. Like Isabel might have a valid complaint about Celia being the reason she was Embraced. Coco also gave some decent advice to someone who wasn’t one of her own; she seems to care deeply for her childe’s wellbeing, enough at least to give his would-be paramour the advice she needs. She says something about “wondered why she was so concerned about Jade Kalani,” and I thought “wait would he have just left her there if she wasn’t Celia? What a dick.” Lol.

It’s also amusing to me that he was essentially stalking her. It brings a fun speculative scene to mind I’ll have to get together.

Story Eleven, Celia II
 

Calder Feedback Repost

Calder Today at 10:13 AM
The necklace though
Oh shoot
Forgot to post Celia’s clothes
Lot of art in that log

Emily Today at 10:15 AM
Oh, I literally just thought you didn’t like the photos lol

Calder Today at 10:21 AM
If I dislike a photo I’ll just tell the player
I also like how time skips allow you to make declarative statements about interactions with characters
Savoy was wearing a sports coat or leisure suit
He has a bunch of different ones, but that’s the same basic outfit he wears most places
He isn’t big on formal suits with ties
Donovan wore the same black slacks and sweater he wears most places
Sometimes he’ll wear a suit, but that’s his default outfit

Emily Today at 10:26 AM
Like a cartoon character.

Calder Today at 10:26 AM
Some Kindred do that
Just wear the same thing everywhere
Stop caring about fashion
Or only wear a few outfits
I was amused how hard you trash-talked Roxanne
Well, trash-thought
It’s also ok for you to make statements like those so far as Roderick’s sh
Emily oo
They add to the game
If something really doesn’t gel I’ll correct it
That was a great detail with the Yellow Book
I couldn’t find anything for it on Google
Seem secrets seem like they remain exclusive to the industry

Emily Today at 10:33 AM
I think it has an actual name, they just waved it at us during school and told us to never let our names end up in there.

Calder Today at 10:34 AM
I thought the “hey I’m your ex” revelation was pretty good
not everything needs lots of buildup

Emily Today at 10:34 AM
You don’t think it felt rushed?

Calder Today at 10:35 AM
I think it’s a more of question of whether it actually had to be slow
She could’ve dropped it on him first thing when they were alone
But there was buildup
She asked him about his ex

Emily Today at 10:37 AM
I think there was just a lot of debate on my end about how to handle it so it feels more straightforward than it was.

Calder Today at 10:39 AM
Roderick taking Celia back to Veronica probably unlikely
“Uh, hi, so I beat up your childe.”
“Plz fix her kthnks.”

Emily Today at 10:40 AM
hahaha
He for sure made the better move.
I just didn’t particularly want to be blood bound to Coco
Though she seems chill.
And I like her.

Calder Today at 10:41 AM
She’s been a pretty popular character
Pretty much every player who’s interacted with her has liked her
Except Sam, who thinks she’s overrated

Emily Today at 10:41 AM
Ha
The advantage of being new: I get to go into the experience with fresh eyes, so no one is over or underrated.

Calder Today at 10:46 AM
I also liked how Celia having such a separate identity from Jade gave Roderick impetus to stalk her
And you can imagine he had a lot of incentive
Wondering if he was Lucy’s father
Or if it was the guy Celia cheated on him with

Emily Today at 10:48 AM
When we found out what was going on with Roderick, tbh, I expected like… a funeral scene, or maybe him stalking her and calling her out on something. Could have worked that way as well. Happy with how it happened, though.

Calder Today at 10:49 AM
Funeral-wise, he and his family had very much ceased contact with Celia
Or rather, she had with them
Fun fact though, as he explains to Celia later
Ah, actually, better to mention this IC

Emily Today at 10:50 AM
D:

Story Eleven, Celia II
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany

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