“The nature of these sorts of feuds is for them to keep escalating.”
Sunday evening, 13 September 2015
GM: Caroline’s sleep may be fitful, but it is mercifully brief. A second after her head hits the pillows, she’s awake. Now that she no longer needs to conceal her true nature from Aimee, Caroline gets to sleep in a real bed again.
Caroline: All it cost was her friend’s soul and freedom.
GM: Completely burying herself under blankets, together with drawing the shades, seems to do the trick against the sun.
The clock, meanwhile, reads half a day later. Caroline’s her phone is full of messages that care little for a lone ghoul’s travails. Rain patters against the windows outside.
The first is from her old associates at Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale, L.L.P. The legal team evidently had other things on their plate, and much of what they have to relay to Caroline, the Ventrue was already able to reasonably guess. The neighborhood is a fairly run-down one. It’s no Ninth Ward, where violence is expected as a matter of course, but it’s no Garden District either. Police response times are around an hour.
The next message is from the Storyvilles, who have changed one detail. Roxanne is going to the meeting with Eight-Nine-Six, along with Jocelyn and another Storyville named Gwen, who Caroline doesn’t know. Another unknown Storyville named Wyatt will be participating in the safehouse raid with Turner.
Caroline: Caroline ‘humphs’ at that as she dresses for the evening. Dresses to kill.
GM: Turner, meanwhile, is bringing along two her “friends” from Blackwatch: Daniel Hayes, an ex-SEAL who she says is fairly professional, and Earl Hager, who thought abducting a woman from her home sounded “fun”. Or at least “funny”.
There’s also a text from Autumn. She says she’s outside Audubon Place and ready to go.
There’s an additional one from an unknown number on Wright’s burner. It states that for her weekly corvée, she is to bring a restrained and unconscious vessel who will not be missed, or an equivalent number of blood bags, to the house in Audubon Place where Donovan’s herald last received her.
Caroline: She passes the last bit on to Turner, indicating that if she sees any blood bags, or has an opportunity to snag any Eight-Nine-Six thugs Caroline would prefer they be recovered. The last she thinks is unlikely given the military-grade weapons and gear that the Blackwatch mercs are armed with, but you never know.
GM: Caroline can’t see the merc shrug, but she responds that she’ll bring back whatever’s left. Blood is blood, and they’d rather not leave behind a mess.
The last message for the night is from “Aimee.”
Dueling Oaks. 90 minutes.
Autumn, meanwhile, has sent another text. It’s a simple phone number, followed by:
It’s for one of Coco’s people. Dug it up during the day. Didn’t know if you had.
Caroline: Caroline texts out the venue change to the Storyvilles.
They changed venues.
GM: One arrives back from Jocelyn.
Caroline: Dueling Oaks. Time remains 90 minutes. Plan otherwise unchanged.
GM: Oaks oh thats subtle
GM: Its a dueling spot
Caroline: The message is similarly sent out to Turner and others.
GM: The seneschal has some guy who won a million duels there in the 1800s as his ghoul
Caroline: That’s a lot of bodies, Caroline texts back.
GM: Well I dont think rly a million. But ok, meet u outside 10 mins early?
And with that short word, Caroline is committed. She just has to stop for some fast food along the way.
Sunday evening, 13 September 2015
GM: Autumn says she has some stuff to go over with Caroline, and the Ventrue doesn’t have long to wait. It’s fast food for a second night as she pulls outside the O’Tolley’s drive-thru for a college student looking for some cheap food, and just as cheap company. He idly mentions he did football in high school, but didn’t make the cut for college. He guesses he’s thinking of engineering.
Caroline: One “makeout” in the back of the former jock’s car later, his blood fills her gut and she’s topped off for the night.
She climbs back into Autumn’s modest car for the ride to the historic dueling site in sight of the New Orleans Museum of Art.
GM: Lacking her own car at present, Caroline heads back to Autumn’s blue minicooper. The ghoul sits inside on the driver’s seat, the bag of money she retrieved on Caroline’s behalf during daylight hours sitting next to her.
Caroline: She examines some of the gear she’s had stowed in the vehicle as she lets to ghoul speak.
GM: “So a couple other things. I got a text from Jennings, who says he’ll hold onto the car for one more day before he gets paid,” Autumn remarks as she pulls out of the drive-thru.
Caroline: “Tomorrow,” Caroline agrees. “If I forget, take care of it. You have access to several accounts now,” she observes, reflecting on the designation letters that got her access to withdraw the money for this exchange. “What else?”
GM: “There’s also Maurice. He’s not waiting on anything, but… that body must smell awful by now.”
Caroline: “Tonight, assuming this all goes according to plan,” she agrees.
GM: “Okay, last thing. You mind if I make a monthly withdrawal from those accounts? The Krewe’s, well, officially cut me off.”
Caroline: “Not at all. Support yourself as needed, within reason. That’s half the reason you have access.”
GM: The ghoul looks relieved. “Okay, thanks. It’s mainly to help out my family with bills. I actually get groceries for free since I’ve been ghouled.”
Caroline: Caroline pauses and arches an eyebrow at that last bit.
GM: “Stealth mode,” says Autumn. “Uh, that means I could shoplift them. The Krewe didn’t drown me with money. The savings add up.”
Caroline: One hand rests on a block of cocaine recovered from her brother as she shoves it into the bag with the cash.
“You used gloves with all of this, right?”
GM: Autumn nods at Caroline’s question. “Yeah. I’m surprised you remembered gloves.”
Caroline: “Three years of forensics classes.”
GM: “True. Most licks figure they can just muck all over stuff. You guys might not leave DNA traces, but you can still leave evidence.”
Caroline: “When you drop me off I’ll approach first. Get the makes and models of any cars they have, and plates if you can. You’ve got a telescopic lens I’m sure. If this ends peacefully as soon as we break I want you to call in those vehicles in association with the violence Turner is kicking up to 911.”
GM: “Okay, I’m glad to stay in the car. It’s… usually ghouls who get caught in the crossfire when deals like this go sour.”
Caroline: Caroline smiles thinly.
“What did you find out, if anything, about their hideout?”
GM: “Okay, so, first thing, it’s in an apartment complex. Kind of a shitty one, but an okay place to crash in a pinch. No name on the lease and can just mind-screw whoever lives there. Or just kill them and move on,” Autumn says more quietly. “But that’s bad for the Masquerade.”
Caroline: Caroline nods through the information.
“You passed all of this on to Turner?”
GM: Autumn nods. “You, uh, should tell her that saying ‘vampires’ is a faux pas. She didn’t seem to think much when I brought it up.”
Caroline: “There will come a time when it offends me, but we’re not there yet. For now, I’ll settle for her pulling this off without a hitch. Anything else I need to know before we go into this?”
GM: “A few more things, but… you really shouldn’t have her use that word. The harpies would have a field day with her.”
Caroline: “Noted. Now, for your end. If anything goes wrong, really really wrong tonight, clean out those accounts, split it with Turner, and vanish.”
GM: Autumn nods soberly. “Anyways, other things. There was… I think another ghoul, snooping on them.”
Caroline: “Probably one of the Storyvilles’.”
GM: “Could be. Anyways, the windows were all shut tight, shades drawn. That’s usually a sign of licks. I left a cam running all day, came back for it, and only one unit kept them down all that time. A couple gangbanger types went into the building. Might have been ghouls, but didn’t otherwise look out of place.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. Gangbangers, even ghouls, should have a tough time against military-grade weapons and tactics, especially with a Kindred for support.
“All right then. Let’s get to this.”
They drive up S Carrollton avenue towards City Park. Just as a river becomes visible, Autumn mutters, “Shit,” and turns the car around.
“That’s Bayou Saint John. Inconvenient. It’s the closest point to Dueling Oaks.”
Caroline: “What about it?”
GM: “Anyone who goes in dies, by the prince’s law. No explanation. Just that if you go in, you die.”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes get wide. “That seems like a rather important piece of information to leave off the travel brochure.”
GM: “Yeah. There’s… I think a few licks who’ve gone in by accident.”
Caroline: “Only once,” Caroline replies darkly.
GM: “Yeah…” Autumn looks ahead.
“Well, we can still take the road in.”
She glances down at her phone. “Actually, there’s a parking lot not too far off from the Oaks. I can wait there?”
Caroline: “As long as they don’t snatch you up while you’re away.”
GM: “Not impossible. But if none of them are any good at snooping I probably won’t get caught.”
She adds, “That’s ESP, mind-reading, second sight.”
Caroline: “Just be careful.”
Sunday evening, 13 September 2015
GM: Autumn and Caroline drive past rows of suburban-looking homes and into City Park. It’s the largest park in New Orleans, replete with a miniature golf course, art museum, amusement park, playground, restaurants, and other attractions to the point that “park” actually looks rather scarce, or at least this far south.
Autumn pulls into the closest parking lot to Dueling Oaks. A children’s playground is visible across from the asphalt. This late at night, the swings, slides, seesaws, sandbox, and other playground equipment stand still and barren in the dark.
Caroline’s ghoul stares at it for a moment, the parking lot’s streetlight harshly glaring down over her face. “I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen one of you by a playground. It’s… odd.”
Caroline: Caroline starts to respond, but her words catch on something instead, and she slowly closes her mouth as she looks over at the playground equipment. Emotions play across her face, almost too quickly to pick one out among the others. Sadness? Anger? Regret? Autumn hasn’t known Caroline long enough to be sure, but it’s evident something is moved within her as she gazes across the park. A long moment passes, and still silence reigns.
GM: Autumn studies her domitor’s face as the silence stretches, but doesn’t break it. Perhaps she’s not sure what to say. Perhaps she simply thinks better to say anything.
Caroline: At long last, Caroline reaches out. One hand for her umbrella to fend off the nagging rain, another for the sports bag with the meager (by her standards at least) funds for the exchange. “If things go sideways, I’ll leave it to your discretion on how to respond.”
GM: “All right. I’ll take off if you don’t text me in an hour or if I spot anyone funny.”
Caroline: With that, Caroline exits the vehicle and begins the march across the bridge towards the meeting site.
GM: Autumn locks the doors (for what good it may do) as the Ventrue sets off. It’s a short walk down the driveway, part of which goes over a river, to Caroline’s destination. Rain steadily patters against the Ventrue’s umbrella. One’s eye naturally winds towards the expansive, well-lit lawn and further-off art museum. Dueling Oak is tucked away in a corner of the park that most people would simply walk past.
Caroline: A text to ensure her allies are in place as she waits, and then the waiting.
GM: A weeping willow, the eponymous Dueling Oak, spreads its drooping branches overhead. A lawn-level light blazes against the tree’s trunk, throwing weird shadows against its boughs. The rain steadily patters by.
Caroline is left to reflect on her present locale. No stranger to the Big Easy’s history, Caroline knows that in early Creole days more duels were fought in New Orleans than any other American city. Creole honor was a thing of intricate delicacy, to be offended by a word or glance. The Duelling Oaks were a favorite setting for these affaires d’honneur, with either blade or pistol.
Creoles were expert swordsmen and often delighted in any and every opportunity to exhibit their art. Duels were fought over real and trivial insults, and were sometimes deliberately provoked by young men anxious to display their skill. A quarrel between rival lovers, a fancied slight, a political argument, a difference of opinion regarding an opera, any one of these things was ample excuse for a duel under the oaks.
Residents of the neighborhood grew accustomed to watching the daily processions to the Oaks and to seeing them depart, often one man being carried away, perhaps to his family for burial. Of course, duels did not always terminate in a fatality; often injured dignity was appeased by the first blood drawn, and the duellists sometimes left the park arm in arm.
Many of the contests ending at the Duelling Oaks began in ballrooms. A popular lady might be asked for half a dance belonging to another gentleman. No argument would ensue on the refusal of the first gentleman to relinquish his partner, but the next morning the thwarted gallant would see that the other received a challenge to a meeting at the Oaks, the whole affair conducted with exquisite politeness. By evening one or the other of the gentlemen might have performed his last courtly bow in this world.
Little, however, would indicate that Caroline’s expected company is going to display similar politesse.
A voice finally breaks the rain’s muted patter.
“You’re here early.”
The speaker is a young, curly-haired blonde woman who looks around Caroline’s age. She wears a simple sweatshirt and pair of jeans with tastefully applied makeup. She could pass for a waitress or college student. She stands under one of the willow’s boughs, an umbrella nevertheless drawn to ward off the rain.
Caroline: “It’s the civilized thing to do.” Caroline stands out in the rain, shielded only by her own umbrella.
GM: “Well, I appreciate it. It gets lonely out here.”
Caroline: “Were you asked to mediate?”
GM: “Coco was. She’s sent me in her place.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “Thank you then. I can’t say that I’m not grateful for the presence of a calmer head, all things being equal.”
GM: The ghoul smiles. “Not just mine. She’s in the art museum on some other business, and only a call away if trouble breaks out.”
Caroline: “Will you pass on to Primogen Duquette that my own silence in the matter was not intended as disrespect?”
GM: “Certainly. You aren’t her vassal. Though you can also offer it yourself, if you’d like. She’ll be in the museum for a while.”
Caroline: Caroline smiles. “I may well do so. You’ll excuse me?”
She pulls out her phone and fires off a one-handed text to Autumn, trusting the ghoul to pass the information on.
GM: Autumn texts back her affirmative.
Caroline: She tucks the phone back away.
“An interesting site, this one. I heard tale that one of Seneschal Maldonato’s ghouls fought a great many successful duels here. Lots of history. A great deal of blood.”
GM: Coco’s herald smiles. “Ah, you have? Yes, I think his name…”
She thinks for a moment. “Don Jose Llulla, that’s it. I hadn’t heard he was a ghoul.”
“You know, I think he was actually more famous for how many losers he spared than how many duels he won. The Creoles had… odd manners about those sorts of things. They were all very polite about killing one another. But they’d do it at the drop of a hat. Not too unlike the Camarilla, in some ways.”
Caroline: “Proper. Something like Kindred,” Caroline echoes the thought at the same moment as the ghoul.
GM: Haley smiles. “Great minds.”
“Or simple ones incapable of original thought.”
Caroline: “Plenty of great ones are incapable of originality,” Caroline contends. “And indeed, it is often the simple ones that buck the trend with original thought. At least, so I can hope for myself, if I’m to have any future.”
GM: “Any future? That’s fairly bleak.”
Caroline: “Well, one must bank their future on their talents, Ms. Haley. I shall settle for originality for trend setting. After all, the trend for sireless fledglings seems rather bleak.” A smile.
GM: “Maybe for some. One ended up a hound, and he didn’t even catch his sire. Yet, anyways.”
Caroline: That catches Caroline’s attention with a raised eyebrow.
GM: “Yes, Alexander Wright?”
Caroline: “I had understood that his own experiences were more the downside of having a sire, rather than being entirely without one.”
GM: “For some it’s not much different. Coco’s told me stories about mass Embraces during the Revolution. Fledglings sired, not even told what they were, and hurled at enemies to die like spitballs.”
“That is, the French Revolution,” Haley clarifies after a moment. “She never means the American one.”
The ghoul smiles. “She still thinks France did theirs better.”
Caroline: “Lots of history there. Lots of blood,” Caroline echoes.
GM: “There, and here. Seems there’s no escaping it wherever you go.”
Haley tilts her head. “You’re nice for a lick, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
Caroline: Does the Kindred actually flush, or is it simply the warm blood flowing through her veins?
“That’s kind of you to say.”
GM: “Well, it’s no less true. I don’t feel like I’m tiptoeing around a sleeping tiger.”
Caroline: A faint smile. Caroline starts to speak but cuts herself off, that smile returning.
GM: Haley offers a slightly sad one.
“Though I guess you’re still young.”
Sunday evening, 13 September 2015
GM: Footsteps sound down the road as three figures stride into the light’s view. Caroline recognizes Jocelyn and Roxanne. The third is a pudgy college-age girl with dark hair, a sad face, and a large bust. Silver crucifix earrings dangle from her ears. All three Kindred are dressed in coats. The Kindred who Caroline doesn’t know holds an umbrella to cover the trio’s heads.
Caroline: Caroline bites back her first thought over the crucifix earrings.
“Good evening,” she greets the Storyvilles. “Thank you for coming.”
GM: Roxanne looks between Caroline and Coco’s ghoul, then states, “You’re welcome.”
“This is Gwen,” Jocelyn volunteers with a nod towards the unknown Kindred. “I don’t think you’ve met.”
Caroline: “Not yet. A pleasure.” Caroline might extend a hand normally, but under the circumstances she instead offers a smile.
GM: “Hi,” the other Kindred ventures back, seeming to share Caroline’s own feelings.
None of the Storyvilles address the ghoul.
Roxanne looks at her phone. “Kaintucks being late. What else is new.”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs nonchalantly. “Transportation issues, I expect. Something about their vehicles getting towed.”
GM: Roxanne scoffs. “Wow. What idiots to lose their cars.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “Quite unfortunate, really.”
GM: “I’ve talked a bunch of cops out of tickets since getting Embraced.” Gwen.
“Well they probably don’t learn those disciplines.” Jocelyn.
Caroline: “Something about them being full of drug money, blood, and being stolen to boot.” Another shrug.
GM: “Oh, blood. That’s sure good for the Masquerade.” Roxanne.
Caroline: “Medical supplies are actually a pretty popular black market commodity even outside of Kindred.”
GM: “Hmm, too bad. Could’ve tried blackmailing them over it.”
Caroline: “Apparently it’s cheaper to get a street doctor and buy illegal stolen goods than a hospital for the average thug with a gunshot wound.”
GM: “Huh. That’s pretty sad.” Gwen.
“Well, health care costs are pretty insane.” Jocelyn.
Caroline: “So are legal bills.”
GM: “Yeah. My parents’ lawyer billed them for talking about his vacation to Jamaica.” Gwen.
“You’re not going to make a joke comparing lawyers to us.” Roxanne.
Caroline: “Bloodsuckers,” Caroline murmurs.
GM: Footsteps sound over the rain’s patter across the bridge.
Four figures approach the Dueling Oak. The first is a broad-shouldered African-American man wearing a drawn-up black hoodie, baggy pants, and basketball shoes.
The second is a Hispanic woman with breast-length reedy black hair, a beanie hat of the same color, and nose studs that resembles nails driven through her nostrils. She wears a leather jacket over a torn wifebeater that exposes her lower belly and a tattoo of the Virgin Mary, topless and smirking as she bares her naked breasts.
The third is another Hispanic woman in a green camo-patterned jacket, messy black hair, torn pants, and with a long nasty scar across her right cheek. She walks barefoot.
The fourth is Aimee. She looks horrible. Her face is blanched white as a sheet, where it isn’t swollen black and red with bruises. Unhealed puncture marks are visible all over her neck, and her glassy eyes do not change at Caroline’s presence. She wears a t-shirt and sweatpants that someone would go to bed in, soaked through with rain, and walks barefoot. Her pinkish and scabbed-over feet don’t look as accustomed to it as the second woman’s.
Eight-Nine-Six’s eyes meet the Storyvilles’. Hisses sound and canines flash as the vampires’ lips pull back in feral snarls. A few krewemates on both sides flinch and look away.
Coco’s herald sharply speaks up, “I’ll remind everyone that Primogen Duquette is a shout away—and will not look kindly upon violence somewhere this public.”
Caroline: Caroline’s free hand curls into a fist at the sight of Aimee, but she fights to keep her face carefully blank at the sight of her tortured friend.
“A very prudent reminder,” she growls out, taking her cold comfort in the hope that even now Turner is mowing down their ghouls with an automatic weapon.
GM: It’s an all-too human, and all-too justified-feeling rage that seethes behind Caroline’s mask at the sight of her friend. She doesn’t notice the Beast’s presence until it’s clawed its way up her back, crooning that this isn’t its hunger, that it would be right, that it would just, to tear out these fucking savages’ throats and drink their blood and leave them empty and suffering.
Perhaps it’s not her own self-control that finally throws the Beast off—but simple knowledge that her foes’ servants are already facing lethal retribution at the end of an assault rifle’s barrel. It’s enough to whet her inner monster’s appetite. For now.
Caroline: For now.
GM: Eight-Nine-Six and the Storyvilles, meanwhile, growl at the herald’s warning. Fangs do not retract, but neither do the vampires leap for one another’s throats.
The black man’s mouth twists in a half-sneer, half-snarl at Caroline. “Show us the money.”
Caroline: “Release my ghoul,” Caroline counters.
GM: “Fuck you,” hisses the woman with the Mary tattoo. “You’ve seen your renfield. Show us our money.”
Coco’s herald looks between the two vampires. “Perhaps, Ms. Malveaux, you would be willing to pass the money to me. And perhaps you, Mr. Ambrose, would be willing to release your krewe’s hold over the ghoul. She doesn’t look like she can run.”
The vampire’s glare turns to rest on Caroline.
Caroline: Caroline turns to face the ghoul. “That seems agreeable.”
GM: Haley takes the money bag from Caroline, looks through the piled cash, and quotes a figure.
The other Kindred grunts and smacks Aimee’s head. “Wake up, bitch.”
The ghoul falls flat on her face, a low thump sounding as her body hits the wet grass. A moan goes up from the ground.
Caroline: Nails bite into a clenched fist, while the other is wrapped in a pale bloodless death-grip on the umbrella. Words fail her for a moment at the sheer vindictive pettiness of the thugs.
At last she turns to Ms. Haley. “Thank you for your time.”
GM: The herald smiles. “You’re welcome, Ms. Malveaux. There is also the matter of my mistress’ fee for her time.”
She looks to Eight-Nine-Six, draws out a stack of bills, counts them, and pockets them.
The krewe watches with blatant misery.
She turns back to Caroline. “A bag of your ghoul’s blood would be acceptable. Though I don’t think she looks up for any donations right now.”
Caroline: Caroline arches an eyebrow at their calling of a mediator and her own obligation as a result.
“I’d be happy to make arrangements to do so, though you understand under the circumstances that is not immediately possible? I’m afraid I wasn’t informed of your involvement until your arrival.”
GM: The herald frowns. “I’m sorry, Ms. Malveaux, you didn’t agree to this?”
Caroline: “I’d have contacted you if such has been my intention. That notwithstanding, I’m happy to ensure Primogen Duquette is not shorted for her efforts. I can have it for her by the end of the night, or tomorrow if you’d prefer. And I am grateful for her time, and your own.”
GM: “She’s lying! That’s fuckin’ bullshit!” the barefoot woman snarls.
The ghoul reaches into the money bag, counts out another stack of bills, then pockets them.
“Your share has been paid, Ms. Malveaux.”
Caroline: Caroline nods with a grateful smile. “All the same, please tell Primogen Duquette that I shall have something for her, if only for not confirming with her. Given their advice as to contacting her if I was concerned for my safety, I should have expected them to involve the primogen on their end.”
GM: “I shall be certain to pass that along, Ms. Malveaux,” the ghoul answers. She then looks between the two variously smug and surly neonate krewes.
“Understand that my domitor is happy to mediate disputes involving Mid-City’s residents and encourages all such Kindred to bring their concerns before her—as the majority of you are aware, such arbitration is normally offered freely to the parish’s residents.”
“Primogen Duquette is displeased that her involvement was necessary so soon after the sheriff rendered his own judgment—and trusts that it will not be necessary a second time.”
Coco’s herald passes the money bag to Eight-Nine-Six.
The black man referred to as Ambrose bares his fangs at Caroline.
“Oh, it fuckin’ won’t.”
He then turns, elicits a strangled moan from Aimee as he steps on her fingers, and moves to file off with the other two Kindred.
There are some growled taunts and insults between the Storyvilles and the Anarch gang, but in the end, the later’s members head off with their money.
Caroline: Caroline itches to go for Aimee, but there is still business to see to. It isn’t every day vicious rivals make grievous errors.
She turns back to Coco’s herald. “I’m sure you will convey their attitude and general behavior to the primogen?”
GM: “I’m afraid that stepping on a ghoul’s fingers doesn’t warrant punishment, Ms. Malveaux,” Jennifer offers with a half-sad smile.
Caroline: “Nor would I ask you to demand as much, but I would have you convey that this was their anthill they kicked over, and by their attitude and behavior they seem unlikely to heed her warning. I would also ask you convey that until this meeting I was unaware of her discontent over the matter, and any actions taken prior to its meeting, and I would urge her to consider that moving forward.”
GM: Coco’s herald seems to mull over Caroline’s words, then nods.
“Well, from what I’ve been able to gather, I suppose they did fire the first shot with kidnapping your ghoul. I’ll pass that along to Regent Duquette, and that she can consider you at one strike rather than two.”
“They did fire that shot in response to your earlier poaching, though, so you need to leave them alone from here out. The nature of these sorts of feuds is for them to keep escalating. It’s important that neither side gives the other an excuse to do so.”
The Storyvilles, meanwhile, stare after Eight-Nine-Six’s diminishing forms. Roxanne turns back to face Coco’s herald.
“You may pass on the Storyville Krewe’s gratitude to your domitor for arbitrating.”
“I will be sure to, Ms. Gerlette.”
Roxanne looks towards Caroline. “We’re going to meet up with Wyatt. You can leave with us or by yourself.”
Jocelyn glances down at Aimee. “You need a hand moving her, either? Bodies are pretty heavy.”
Caroline: Caroline can hardly believe Eight-Nine-Six haven’t stormed back in response to waiting messages on their phones, but perhaps Turner has met with more success than Caroline anticipated.
“I’d be grateful for both.”
GM: Caroline and Jocelyn swing one of Aimee’s arms over their shoulders. Jocelyn’s right. A limp body is really heavy. It doesn’t help that Aimee is Caroline’s… type. Or covered in cuts and bruises, both new and old. No mortal would smell any blood, but to Caroline that telltale coppery whiff is as strong as skunk spray. It smells delicious. And she’s helpless in the Ventrue’s grasp. Caroline can feel her fangs protruding in her mouth. It wouldn’t hurt just to take a lick of the blood that’s dried…
Caroline: She thrashes internally against that monster lurking inside her as she tries to clinically break down Aimee’s many wounds. It’s difficult to do. Fighting against the personal horror of her tortured friend, wrestling with monstrous desires, keeping on a blank face with the Storyvilles: it leaves little room for anything else.
GM: The Storyvilles’ faces are from from blank either. Jocelyn’s fangs protrude, and her eyes furtively steal towards Aimee more than once. The other two Storyvilles, following behind with an umbrella, are noticeably staring as well.
Aimee, for her part, seems pretty out of it. The four Kindred exchange distracted farewells to Coco’s herald and make their way back to the parking lot with Autumn’s minicooper.
Autumn looks out, mutters, “Aw, geez,” and pushes open the door.
Caroline: Caroline carefully loads Aimee into the back, with help from Jocelyn, and turns back to the krewe. “Shall we go see what ill-gotten gains we have?”
GM: Autumn pulls down the front seat so Caroline and Jocelyn can awkwardly lift Aimee into the back. It’s when they shrug the helpless ghoul off her shoulders and turn her around, the rain lightly pattering against her jugular, that Jocelyn can no longer control herself. The Toreador falls upon the helpless meatsack, fangs gleaming, and pierces its neck.
Caroline: “No!” Caroline blurs with speed to intercept the plunging vampire’s fangs, literally putting herself between the Toreador’s canines and her helpless friend.
GM: Jocelyn doesn’t even see the “swap”. Caroline, though, all too keenly feels its results as Jocelyn’s canines pierce her jugular and thirstily suck.
Caroline: She arches her back in pain as her Beast roars in fury, beating at the gates of its cage.
GM: It’s an attack, it’s theft, it’s violation. But there’s something about that feels so good, so hot, fast, like she’s fucking her dream man on the living room couch in her parents’ house. It feels forbidden, like anyone could walk in, like something she’s never done, like there’s so many ways this ends badly, and that just gets her blood racing hotter.
Caroline: “Jocelyn.” Caroline’s voice… is that her voice? It’s husky and hot in a way she hasn’t felt in truth since her Embrace. “You have to…”
GM: The other two Storyvilles intervene, grabbing Jocelyn by both arms and pulling her back. The Toreador hisses and tugs, but after a moment, her struggles cease. Aimee’s head lies halfway inside the car. Jocelyn looks the woman over with a glazed expression.
“Sorry,” she slurs.
Caroline: Caroline half-falls into the empty seat, her knees weak, and for a moment breathless as those tiny fangs pull away from her. One hand wraps over the open door, the other the roof of the car.
GM: Autumn, meanwhile, has pulled out her stun gun. She looks cautiously between the four vampires. She clambers over the driver’s seat and awkwardly, hurriedly, begins pulling Aimee all the way in.
Jocelyn looks away. She looks at Caroline.
Caroline: Caroline slowly recovers, half pulling herself to her feet.
“I’m sorry too.”
And she is. Sorry that it stopped.
GM: Jocelyn slowly licks her lips. “We don’t have t…”
“We’re leaving,” Roxanne says brusquely. “We’ll stay in touch.”
Caroline: It’s difficult to keep her gaze off the lithe Toreador, but Caroline forces hers to Roxanne.
“As soon as I meet with mine,” she agrees. “If we got Bliss, she’s yours to interrogate.”
GM: “We’ll meet up with Wyatt and work things out later. Come on, Jocelyn.” The Storyvilles briskly make their way off with their comparatively sluggish compatriot, whose gaze still lingers on Caroline. Their umbrella lies discarded by the car.
Autumn lets out an audible breath as the three Kindred retreat.
“I never like getting pulled into those.”
Caroline: Caroline slides into Autumn’s passenger seat with a long-released breath.
“Please, just drive for now.”
She closes her eyes and leans her head back. And she thinks on, for a moment… happiness?
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, PM
GM: Autumn lugs Aimee into the back seat and lays a blanket over her body, head to feet. “Hard for anyone to see her when she’s lying in the back, but…”
Autumn drives. Caroline gets a call from Turner on the way back.
Caroline: At first Caroline can’t suppress irritation as the call breaks into her good mood, with portents of weal or woe, but she grudglingly answers after a few rings.
GM: There were a few gangbangers, Turner reports, oblivious to her boss’s “afterglow”. She isn’t sure if they were ghouls or not. They’re dead either way. They posed little threat to the three military-trained and Iraq-hardened vets. They were just tough enough not to go down too fast, but pathetic enough the mercs (or at least, two of them) can make fun of them afterwards.
“Hager blew one’s fucking brains out. Literally. Shot him in his dick and his head, right over this white wall. Splatters looked like postmodern shit.”
“Hayes just did his job.”
Caroline: “Your friends,” Caroline reports at her complaint.
Caroline: “Good, though. I hope you killed everything that moved.”
GM: “Yeah. We did. Cleaned up as much as we could too.”
Caroline: “Recover anything of note?” That’s the six million dollar question.
GM: “Well, Hager ended up cutting one’s throat instead of shooting him. Body isn’t that ruined. We carried out all the bodies, but this fuck’s probably in good enough shape for one of you to eat. Like you said you wanted.”
“We also found some drugs and money. Let Hayes and Hager split those, so little less you’ll have to pay them. They’re doing this on their own time, by the way. Blackwatch hasn’t signed off on anything. No middleman.”
Caroline: “Anything else?”
GM: “We got the vampire who fit your description. Passed her off to that Wyatt kid.”
Caroline: Caroline bares her teeth in a vicious grin. The night just keeps getting better.
GM: “He did… something to the others. They don’t remember giving her away.”
Caroline: “Of course he did.”
GM: “He did that to a couple witnesses who stumbled by too. Killing’s really noisy, even with silencers. He took the other bodies off our hands. What was left, anyway.”
“Not sure who owned the apartment. Might’ve killed them. Or maybe they’re just gonna walk in and find blood all over the walls. Sucks to be them either way.”
“Thought vampires would be tougher. Whole thing was really easy.”
Caroline: The bottom falls out of Caroline’s good mood.
GM: “Dunno. We had surprise. Guess we didn’t actually fight any vampires either.”
“But we’re out. You want me to drop off the body at your house?”
Caroline: Caroline considers. There’s going to be blowback from this. Hard. The only question is when and where.
“No. Better to keep it as far away as possible. Just need the blood anyway, unless you found a stash of it there? "
GM: “Yeah, I guess you could say there was a big stash. And we left an even bigger one. Not in bags or anything. though.”
“Closest is the guy who got his neck opened.”
Caroline: Caroline rolls her eyes. Blood. Or a captive. Well… she’s halfway there with one of them?
GM: “This body’s gonna need to go somewhere though. Wasn’t Leaf or whatever yammering about a disposal expert?”
Caroline: “Hold one.” Caroline leans over to Autumn. “What was the proposed fee for body disposal?”
GM: “I think $20,000 for you. He varies it by what he thinks clients can pay. I’ve known him to haggle for other things besides cash too.”
Caroline: “Such as?”
GM: “Juice. Immediately-paid favors. Information. Basically whatever you can offer that he can collect soon, or collect with a guarantee.”
Caroline: “When we get back, see if he’s interested in blood.”
Twenty thousand dollars isn’t a terrific amount, but she’s spent money like it’s going out of style already today.
GM: Autumn nods and continues driving. Turner says nothing over the phone. A low moan goes up from Aimee in the backseat.
GM: “Are you gonna give her a hit? Juice’s a lot faster than a hospital stay…” Autumn ventures.
Caroline: “I was thinking about it.” Caroline’s voice is ice, and spoken out of the microphone.
“Just head back. We’ll figure it out when you get here,” she says to Turner.
GM: “On my way,” the merc repeats before hanging up.
Caroline: Caroline looks back on her covered-up friend. “I..”
Her moment of bliss is gone as reality comes crashing back down. Her responsibilities. Her needs. Her monstrosity. Her shame. She buries her hand in her face.
GM: “Well, uh, I’ve also got news on Eight-Nine-Six’s cars,” Autumn says over her domitor’s… she doesn’t seem exactly sure what.
“Good and bad. Bad is that that I couldn’t find out which cars Eight-Nine-Six were using. I don’t have the Krewe’s access to police databases anymore.”
“Good news is that I looked at all the cars parked by the building, and called 911 with plate numbers for the ones that looked sketchiest. I also wrote them down. You could probably glamor a cop into running those.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head as she regains her composure, folding her hands across her lap.
“No. Nothing else against them. Not until they do something stupid.”
So probably sometime soon.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, PM
GM: Autumn pulls into the fortress neighborhood that is Audubon Place. The same high concrete walled, black-masked mercenaries, and leashed attack dogs patrol its perimeter. Thomas stops her car on the way in.
“There was a big angry dog that tried to run out of the neighborhood. Name on the tag is Caesar. He yours?”
Caroline: Caroline’s face contorts into a frown. “He’d been missing.”
GM: “Shit,” Thomas mutters. “I’m real sorry, Miss Malveaux, but we shot him.” He adds, “Vet fixed him up, though.”
Caroline: Relief, anger, and frustration play across Caroline’s face in no particular order, so much so that the pause draws on unnaturally for a moment. At last there is a break in it as she settles herself, biting her lower lip.
“I’m sure you and your men did what you thought you had to. I should have notified you.”
She sees Caesar thrown against a wall again by Wright, hears his whimper, and her Beast stirs to wakefulness. Or perhaps simply rattles at the cages, restless though it feels tonight. They shot her dog. Grab this man, break him. Make him fear you. She isn’t even sure the whispers are just from the Beast anymore. If she wasn’t so repelled by the smell of him, she’d want to sink her fangs into him.
GM: “Jones, bring out the dog if you can manage not to fuck that up,” Thomas drawls, oblivious to the struggle warring between Man and Beast (or just the Man?) in Caroline’s soul.
The subject of his address is another black-garbed merc whose half-hidden face has fewer lines than his fellows.
The younger merc sullenly heads inside the guardhouse and wheels out a very large kennel. Caesar is inside. One of the dog’s legs is bandaged and done up in a splint. His ears go flat as he bares his teeth at Caroline and emits a low snarl.
“Huh. Angry sumbitch,” Thomas remarks.
“We’re not dog-catchers,” Jones defensively remarks to Caroline. “He looked really mad-”
“Shut your mouth,” Thomas snaps.
The younger merc glares, but falls silent.
Caroline: Another reason to remember Thomas’ name.
“Thank you for making sure he was treated. I’m sure it would have been easier not to.”
She’s read at length about how the police tend to treat dogs.
GM: Caesar continues growling. His face is still half-covered in mummy-like bandages.
Caroline: Caroline gestures to the tiny car. “Would you mind bringing him down to the house?”
GM: “Wasn’t nothing, Ms. Malveaux. Jones, take care of it.”
The young merc approaches the cage. Caesar’s low growl rips into a full-on snarl as he awkwardly (but no less heavily) hurls himself at the bars, snapping at the approaching Jones. The merc swears and pulls back to the sound of laughter from his fellows. He finally settles on grabbing the top-most portions of the cage and awkwardly half-kicking its lower half. He eventually manages to lift it into the trunk of a pawprint logo-emblazoned Blackwatch car, with another merc’s grudging help. They slam it closed and the dog’s angry woofs fade to a low din.
“You should put him down. All he does is growl,” Jones glares.
“Was ‘shut up’ too many words for you, Jones?” Thomas snaps again.
Autumn drives her minicooper up to Caroline’s house, followed by Jones and Caesar in the company car. The two vehicles arrive at their destination after a brief drive. The tall house’s nearby trees, row of hedges, and encircling iron fence give little evidence to the break-ins, near-murders, kidnappings, mind-rapes, and robbery that have all taken place inside within the past week.
Jones get out of the car and pulls open the trunk. Caesar snaps at his hand when he tries to haul out the cage, prompting the mercenary to sigh that he can’t do this by himself. Autumn volunteers to help, climbs into the trunk and takes hold of the cage’s top-most bars together with Jones, but the ghoul isn’t very strong. The cage slips as she loses her grip and hits the pavement with a resounding crash. Caesar bellows and starts gnawing the bars. His eyes are mad with hurt and rage as his teeth dully clang against the stainless steel.
“I’m off. Still say you should put him down,” Jones remarks.
Caroline: “Did I ask for your damn opinion?” Caroline snarls at the young merc, before something in his smug smile shatters what is left of her tattered control. Bars made brittle through the night crack and shatter under the Beast’s need to put this… insect, this not even prey, in its place. She lashes out with a feral hiss, smashing him with the power of the monster unchained.
GM: “Hey,” he protests, “I-”
Jones staggers backwards as if punched by the force of the vampire’s raging Beast. His face whitens as he awkwardly tries to hunker down at the same time, and instead just bumps against the car. His eyes dart to and fro as he chokes out in a faint-sounding voice, “H-hey…”
There’s a low hiss splitting the air, but it’s not coming from Caesar. Caroline can feel her canines protruding. Long, sharp, and all-too visible. Autumn, too, is visibly slinking away, though the Beast has little mind for kine besides the object of its wrath.
Caroline: She’s faster than she looks as she closes on him and throws a jab into his face.
GM: The punch sends him staggering back, bleeding from his nose. Caroline then seizes the cowed boy’s neck and smashes his head against the open car’s trunk with a painful crack. His already punched nose is a messily spurting wreck. He makes some raggedy grk-grk sounds as he strains against her grip.
Caroline: And just like that, the Beast looks down at its victim, smiles, and saunters back inside, leaving Caroline holding its victim by the hair. She drops him messily to the ground and recoils. Her hand drops with his free-flowing blood, and for a moment she can only stare at the destruction she has wrought.
GM: Jones coughs and hacks, blood still dripping off his face. He pulls out his sidearm and levels it squarely at Caroline’s chest with shaking hands.
“What… the… FUCK!”
Caroline: The rage boils back up, swallowing remorse whole. She stares him in the eye.
GM: The gun clatters to the asphalt as Jones’ face goes slack.
Caesar’s ears have gone flat again. The dog can neither attack nor retreat from inside his cage. He just emits a low steady growl.
Caroline: She snatches up the pistol.
Her voice is so cold. Sterile and frigid like an examination table at a cut-rate clinic.
GM: “…yeah?” The ghoul ventures. She’s standing a safe distance away from the violence.
Caroline: She extends the weapon to her ghoul to pocket. She never breaks eye contact with Jones.
GM: Autumn approaches and gingerly sticks the firearm in her pants.
She then adds, “Someone could see this, outside…”
Caroline: “Forget I hit you,” Caroline commands. “Forget about your pistol. You fell over.”
GM: Sleepy acceptance registers in Jones’ eyes.
Caroline: “You hit your head.”
GM: Jones rubs his head.
Caroline: “Autumn, go get a first aid kit out of the bathroom.”
GM: “This might be better inside…” The ghoul begins, but she doesn’t wait up either as she heads towards the house. She tries the door. “Uh, I need keys.”
Caroline: Caroline hands the ghoul the keys and releases her control even as she turns on another form of more subtle influence.
“Are you ok?” she asks, putting a somewhat real bit of concern into her voice. “That was a nasty fall.”
GM: “Ohhh, fuck…” Jones groans, rubbing his face as Autumn disappears inside the house. He looks at Caroline warily for a moment, but the emotion fades as her supernal presence washes over him. He touches his bleeding nose and winces. “How’d I…”
“That fucking dog,” he growls.
He glares at Caesar. The dog just keeps snarling.
Caroline: “Can you stand?” Caroline asks.
GM: “’Course I can,” the young man half-angrily, half-defensively retorts. He grabs the edge of the open trunk to pull himself up.
Caroline: “My friend ran inside to grab a first aid kit.” Caroline pushes on him with her overwhelming presence. “You shouldn’t move too quickly.”
GM: Jones seems reluctant to, but goes wide-eyed as he’s hit a second time with the force of Caroline’s glamour. Autumn returns with the first aid kit as well as a damp washcloth. She helps the Ventrue clean Jones’ face and apply disinfectant and bandages over his nose. He sheepishly mumbles his thanks…. in fact, the 20-year-old seems quite deferential and even shy in the presence of someone he’s truly impressed with. Caroline sends him back to the guardhouse in his car.
Autumn is meticulous to wipe the blood off the car before he goes.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t interfere.
She smirks faintly as Jones leaves. Between falling on his face and losing his gun, he’s certain to be the butt of many jokes.
For once, someone else’s night has sucked worse.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, PM
GM: Around the same time, Turner’s car pulls in. Autumn speaks up, “You might wanna knock on the next-door houses’ doors, just in case anyone saw.”
Caroline: Caroline sends Autumn inside to contact her body disposal ghoul while she and Turner carry Aimee inside. They lay her out on the couch and return to deal with Caesar.
GM: “Looks kinda like a burrito,” Turner remarks as they carry in the half-wrapped softly groaning woman.
Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue at that one.
GM: Caesar snaps at the hands of anyone who tries to touch his cage, especially Caroline. Turner grunts and simply grabs a chair from inside the house, pushing it against Caesar’s cage, and letting him blunt his teeth against the wood as she awkwardly wheels him back in.
Caroline: While Autumn deals with her Krewe contact and Turner the dog, Caroline snoops around the closest houses.
GM: It’s an odd hour to be knocking on doors, but the force of vampiric majesty makes any apparent strangeness on Caroline’s part slide away like rain under windshield wipers. Caroline’s neighbors are only too happy to chat with her. Several interviews later, the Ventrue is convinced that no one saw the commotion in her driveway…. this time, at least.
Autumn nods approvingly, if not gratefully, when Caroline gets back. “The Krewe always checks for witnesses.”
Caroline: “Good habit. What did your body disposal expert say to the proposal?”
GM: “He’s willing to negotiate for juice in place of cash. For either all of it, or as part of the payment. He can come over tomorrow night.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “I don’t like the idea of these bodies here another night. Not after tonight. Find somewhere to stash them. We’ll actually see to disposal tomorrow.”
GM: “It’s risky moving bodies around, though. I mean, it’s not like anyone is gonna ransack the house.” Autumn adds more quietly, “Well, who isn’t a lick.”
Caroline: “And what happens if Eight-Nine-Six call in the police right back? They’re savages, but monkey see, monkey do.”
GM: “I’m not saying it’s perfect. I mean, there’s always a chance. But where else do we really have to hide any bodies?”
Caroline: Caroline sits down for a moment. “All right.” She drags out a pen and paper and writes out an address, explaining what she wants the ghoul (with Turner’s help) to do. “That should help take care of one problem.”
GM: Turner grunts her acknowledgment. Autumn looks a bit confused, but accedes. "It’ll raise some eyebrows for the body to be drained of blood. Are you just gonna get that from somewhere else?
Caroline: “Well, that raises a question. How likely is it to raise eyebrows with Kindred if I knock over a hospital for a few pints?”
GM: “Not as much as a bloodless body at a crime scene, I don’t think. I’m not actually sure whether a hospital would miss that much blood, though.”
“I know the Krewe has at least one ghoul at TMC, too. They consider the hospital their domain. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone found a way to skim off the blood there, so I’d do it at another hospital.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “Noted. You two have your business for now.” The frown deepens. “And work out among the two of you which is going to take care of Caesar. He can’t stay here.”
GM: The two ghouls look at one another.
“I don’t want a dog,” Turner says flatly.
“I could take him. I still live with my family, so I’d wanna see if they want a dog first. If they don’t, I can probably find… someone to drop him off with.”
Turner rolls her eyes as Autumn describes her living situation.
Caroline: Caroline carefully avoids doing the same at the two of them. “Figure it out. Text me when you’ve got everything in place so I can call it in.”
GM: “Okay. What are we going to do with the body upstairs?” Autumn asks.
Caroline: “I’ll figure out a short term on it.”
GM: “All right, last thing I can think of. Do you want me to stop by a car dealership tomorrow? I noticed you don’t seem to have a ride anymore.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “Not now.”
One of many problems to deal with later.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, PM
GM: Autumn doesn’t press the issue. Graver concerns loom over the Ventrue. After issuing final assorted orders to her ghouls, she sends them off, along with Caesar. Caroline is left alone in the still-bare house. Alone save for the weakly moaning blanket-draped body on the couch.
Caroline: It takes her a while to work up the courage to approach that body, even after her other ghouls depart, that tonic of shame and guilt garnished with fear of what’s going to come. Eventually however she does force herself to face it. Forces herself to stop hiding from it, as she pulls the sheet off her battered friend. Her once closest friend.
GM: Aimee looks as terrible as she did when Eight-Nine-Six brought her over to Dueling Oaks. Actually, she looks worse. Blades of wet grass are over her bruised and blackened face. The smell of the blood wafting off her tender body is simply intoxicating.
“C… Caroline…?” she croaks.
Caroline: Caroline’s knuckles go white as she fights back the sudden impulse to sink her teeth into Aimee.
“It’s me, Aimee. It’s me. You’re going to be okay.”
GM: Aimee starts crying. “‘M… ’m sorry, Carol… ine… I won’t… run… ’gain.”
Caroline: Anger rears up like a fiery serpent kicked out of a smoldering brazier, and wars in equal parts with self-loathing before both are swept away by sorrow. The Venture’s composure, so iron-banded throughout the night, falls to pieces and she finds herself weeping bloody beside Aimee.
“It’s not your fault. You couldn’t know… I’m sorry, Aimee. I’m sorry. I’m going to make this right…. I’m sorry.”
She wants to sweep up the girl into her arms, wants to hold her and tell her things will be all right.
GM: Caroline knows better by now.
Aimee can’t shake much from her position on the couch. Tears well and wash over her the dried blood coating her scabbed face.
“I’ll… I’ll do what… ever you say… I’m sorry…”
Caroline: “It’s okay, Aimee… just… drink. Just drink.”
A little nip on her wrist to get the blood going. Extension of the arm. She tries to keep the rest of her body away from the battered ghoul. Tries to focus on anything to distract her. Anything to break this moment.
GM: Aimee greedily gulps like a babe at its mother’s tit. The swelling around her eyes lessens as black and blue flesh reverts to light pink… though not all the way. Nor do the crusted blood or fang marks around her neck disappear. Aimee moans when Caroline retracts her wrist.
Caroline: Retracts her wrist… and herself, pulling away several steps. Anything to get away from the intoxicating aroma of Aimee.
GM: “More. Please… I feel so much better…” Aimee begs, her head weakly following Caroline’s wrist.
Caroline: “I can’t.”
Caroline has all but recoiled, and her blood-stained cheeks are contorted in pain as she fights with the revulsion of her Beast at her surrender of the precious blood.
GM: “Please! I feel better… so much better… I just need a bit more, for the pain… please… don’t leave me like this…” Aimee starts crying again.
“I thought you cared about me… please… just a little bit…”
But they’re not tears of pain. Not just tears of pain.
There’s want in them, too.
A junkie’s want for their fix.
Caroline: Caroline looks away while Aimee sobs pathetically.
“I’m sorry, Aimee.”
And she is sorry. But with every sob something else builds.
Anger at how pathetic Aimee is acting.
Anger at her as a junkie.
Anger that she’s turned her friend into this.
Anger at Lou’s words.