“You’re the best thing in my life. Better than I deserve.”
Monday night, 14 September 2015, PM
GM: The crowd filters out of the theater’s front doors as the Ventrue takes her leave of her brother and his girlfriend. But a few figures remain, like bits of blood Caroline couldn’t completely clean off, and which can only dry and curdle and ferment. Many are pale-faced and still as death, with lean and hungry gaits that only mimic semblances of humanity. They no longer hide what they are away from the masses of ignorant kine.
Caroline: In contrast, Caroline almost looks human. Statuesque in her beauty, but still breathing, moving, without that telltale stillness of older Kindred.
GM: Gus Elgin moves through the throngs of departing and arriving undead. He announces that it will be a few minutes before the night’s second half of entertainments begin in earnest. He bids the assembled Kindred to “enjoy themselves” in the interim by watching a troupe of glassy-eyed, seemingly oblivious kine musicians play further Mozart.
But the music draws little attention. Stares linger on Caroline.
Caroline: She’s been a goldfish in a bowl before, and adopts a slightly amused expression as she stakes out a spot a little off from the rest of the crowd.
GM: Almost the entire room is staring at Caroline. She recognizes a number of previous Kindred she has met. Coco. Halrequin. McGinn. Adelais. Cartwright. Roxanne.
They are not friendly stares.
They look even less friendly at Caroline’s air of amusement.
Gus Elgin approaches the Ventrue and requests in a reproachful tone, “Please clean yourself, Miss Malveaux, and thoroughly. The scent emanating from you is… distracting.” Two fangs distend past the Nosferatu’s chapped, puffy lips.
Snide remarks are audible among the sneering crowd.
Caroline: “Ah, my apologies, Master Elgin.” Her smirk doesn’t quite fade, but does waver, and she takes her leave from him towards one of the restrooms. She takes advantage of the sinks, now free from kine, to wash more of the vitae from her scalp. Blood runs red in the basin.
GM: Caroline does her best to scrub her hair down to the root. The bathroom’s brighter lighting helps, even despite her excellent night vision. She can only imagine what a difficult task it was for Meg had to clean the two Kindreds’ hair in the dark.
A text buzzes from Autumn.
I’m not a med student, but is there any eye or face stuff Turner could pick up for Aimee? Her face looks really bad
Caroline: Ask Turner. She’s done triage before, Caroline texts back, almost annoyed by the intrusion into her night.
GM: K will do
Caroline spends another minute or so scrubbing before a light knock sounds against the bathroom door.
Caroline: “Yes?” she calls curiously.
GM: “Is this room unoccupied, ma’am, or would it be better if I came back later?” asks a young-sounding woman’s voice.
Caroline: Caroline watches the last of the bloody water flow down the drain and looks at herself in the mirror. “Come in.”
GM: Becky Lynne Adler steps in. The shorter blonde wears a sun-colored dress cinched at the waist, tan heels, and a diamond necklace and earrings.
“Oh, hello there, Miss Malveaux. I’m rather relieved to see it’s not a harpy.”
Caroline: “Aren’t we all, Miss Adler? How has your evening been so far?”
GM: “Very well, thank you. I hope we can say the same for your own,” the other Ventrue smiles, setting down her purse in front of the mirror. “The concert was lovely… I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s any Toreador now fixin’ to ghoul some of the musicians.”
Caroline: “I rather enjoyed it,” Caroline agrees. She considers for a moment what to do with her still-wet hair and settles setting it into a braid, her fingers working with a deftness she never had in life.
GM: Becky Lynne tilts her head. “I find that balanced salt solution usually does the trick. The Lady Speaker Defallier passed that tidbit on to me… I couldn’t tell you why it works, but I’ll take whatever gets the red out.”
No expert but no slouch either at the physical sciences, Caroline knows that hemoglobin being a protein is soluble in salt solution.
Caroline: “I’ll pack a salt shaker next time,” Caroline remarks wryly, but she smiles after a moment. “Lots of experience with this?”
GM: “I think we all pick up experience there, sooner or later,” Becky Lynne smiles back depreciatingly as she opens her purse.
Caroline: She finishes the braid and turns to examine her work. “Serviceable.”
GM: The smell of blood is much fainter, but still odorous to Caroline’s sensitive nose.
“Not too much we can do about our cravin’s behind closed doors, but we can at least gussy up past open ones,” the other Ventrue nods.
Caroline: “Yes, you do so look like you need it,” Caroline replies, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
GM: Becky Lynne laughs lightly as she pulls out some eyeliner and inspects her face in the mirror.
“It’s even more effort for us, I’ve found. We aren’t supposed to look as if we still use things like makeup, but lord almighty, what woman can leave home without?”
Caroline: “Truly our woes are many, what with looking perfect to begin with.”
Or perhaps too pale. The other Ventrue’s comments set off a flight of anxieties that Caroline carefully puts to bed one by one in the mirror.
GM: “If you’ll forgive my bein’ forward enough to say so,” Caroline’s clanmate adds as she withdraws a cylinder of skin-colored Siren Cosmetics lipstick and re-touches her lips, “I can still smell the red… we have such good noses for it, that stuff’s impossible to get completely out, once it’s in, short of a long bath.”
Caroline: “Not too forward at all, though I’m at a loss for a solution in this moment.”
GM: “Well, off-hand,” Becky Lynne considers, “short of getting a bathtub brought in, I’d say there’s leaving and comin’ back. You might miss a bit of the event, but the rest should be smoother sailin’.” She smiles. “This is an ‘extra credit’ Elysium Primo anyways, what with tonight bein’ a Monday.”
Caroline: “I wasn’t the one struggling with it,” Caroline observes.
GM: Becky Lynne tucks the lipstick back into her purse, but doesn’t pull out any other cosmetics as she remarks, “Miss Malveaux, if you’ll forgive my bein’ forward again, blood in the water is blood in the water… it attracts sharks, even a mile off.”
Caroline: “Should I be afraid?” She certainly doesn’t sound concerned.
GM: “If I were standin’ in your shoes, yes, I would be afraid,” Becky Lynne answers.
Caroline: “Of another Kindred losing control of themselves?”
GM: “Oh no, I think Sheriff Donovan is here for tonight’s Elysium. Him and the seneschal. I won’t be gettin’ goosebumps over anyone’s Beasts, not within these four walls.”
Caroline: “Then what?”
GM: Becky Lynne tilts her head. “I reckon you grew up with the same cotillion lessons I did, Miss Malveaux. You know how these salons are. How things must be said, must be done, all just so.”
Caroline: “Ah, I’m setting myself up for problems down the line for a lack of propriety, then?”
GM: “Propriety. Now that is the word for it,” the other blue blood smiles.
Becky Lynne is a head shorter than Caroline, give or take… it feels like it would be so easy for her to slam the blonde against the wall, pull back her neck and sink canines into that smooth pale skin. To taste the same ecstasy that Jocelyn’s veins offered. Maybe even sweeter ecstasy… she’s probably closer to Caine than the Toreador, if she’s a primogen’s sister. Such vitae would not be forced on Caroline, as Donovan’s or McGinn’s was, but claimed…
Caroline: Alone with a potential victim or not, richer blood than Jocelyn’s or not, there’s one thing that weighs even heavier on Caroline’s mind: Aimee’s sniveling pleas. Autumn enslaving herself, just for a fix.
That isn’t who she is. She isn’t weak.
GM: “You know how it is,” Becky Lynne continues, seemingly oblivious to Caroline’s brush with temptation. “One girl shows up with even an itty-bitty stain on her dress, and the others just go whole hog.”
Caroline: “Oh yes, I remember middle school.”
GM: Becky Lynne lightly laughs at that, gives herself a final look-over in the mirror, and picks up her purse.
“Well, I had best be goin’ now. I’m sure I’ll see you around, Miss Malveaux.”
Caroline: “Put money on it,” Caroline advises with a sickly smile that matches the Kindred’s sickly sweet demeanor.
GM: Becky Lynne opens the bathroom door and turns around to smile back at Caroline.
“That sounds rather like a bet. It’s temptin’, but I’m not a woman to make bets—just investments.” Do enjoy the rest of your evening. If you’ll be around, the closing prayer service is a lovely affair."
Monday night, 14 September 2015, PM
GM: As Caroline departs the womens’ restroom, she sees a small crowd of seated Kindred gathered in the auditorium. Their heads are bowed in prayer. Ghouls sit in back rows behind their masters. The affair does not appear so formal as a weekly Catholic mass and communion, for there is merely a model lance rather than full altar set up upon the central stage. Gus Elgin has donned the priestly vestments appropriate for an evening prayer—stole, tippet, surplice and cassock, but not the chassuble, girdle, and amice that would be worn at mass. He ministers to the crowd alongside Philip Maldonato, who wears a double-breasted gray suit similar to the one in which Caroline last saw him.
“…you shall honor the Dark Father and give thanks for the perfection of his sinfulness and the miracle of his transformation. Say to the Lord: My God, all praise is due to You for the miracle of transformation that You bestowed upon the centurion. Blessed are we who know the truth of divinity in the world because of the blood of the Christ that gave the centurion sight and life! May we ever walk in his ways and follow his example, by Your power and will. Amen.”
Caroline: Caroline actually stumbles a bit at the sight and words. Not enough to fall, but enough to trip over her feet for a moment.
She makes her way outside to Turner’s parked van.
GM: The Blackwatch merc flatly asks her domitor whether “all ghouls but me are freaks and geeks one bad day away from slitting their wrists.”
Caroline: “Not all of them, but many are,” Caroline concedes. “I take it you weren’t impressed?”
GM: “I thought they couldn’t get any sadder than Leaf One and Leaf Two, but that Meg girl sure proved me wrong.”
Caroline: “Be nice,” Caroline chastises. “Autumn is doing the best that she can.”
GM: Turner just grunts at that, asks her boss where to, and starts up the car.
Caroline: Caroline digs a first aid kit out of the gear stowed in the back of the Blackwatch Suburban, biting into her wrist as she gives directions to the mercenary. The light trickle of blood into a thermos can barely be heard over the sound the vehicles tires sliding smoothly across the Big Easy’s pavement and cobbles.
GM: However pathetic Turner might disdain her fellow ghouls, her stare is no less hungry than theirs.
Caroline: She fires off a message to Ms. Haley, explaining she had to depart but meant no offense, and would still like to speak with Coco, while she waits for Turner to arrive.
GM: The merc drives for a while. Caroline decides on another change of venue.
The Tree of Life, one of Audubon Park’s main attractions, is a gnarled Southern live oak that resembles nothing so much as a twisted wooden knot with foliage hanging off of it. It’s at least as old as Caroline’s sire, and possibly even some of the city’s elders. The tree abuts the Audubon Zoo’s giraffe cage and allows enterprising climbers to watch the long-necked animals over the wall.
Caroline doubts it would normally be a good hunting spot. But weddings also take place under its majestic boughs on a semi-regular basis, and she has a feeling. She finds a sad-looking twenty-something woman staring at the trunk with her arms crossed.
The first words out of her lips when Caroline strikes up a conversation are, “We were going to get married here.”
Caroline: Caroline settles down beside the woman. Maybe a bit closer than normal, to listen to her sob story.
“Tell more more.”
GM: The Ventrue draws out the full story. Her fiancée killed himself. It was with a gun to the head. She has no idea why. She thought they were going to be so happy together. He didn’t leave a note. He just abruptly chose to check out of the world. She’s hurt, confused, and questioning everything—what could have made him do a thing like that? Her love-sick pain is so raw and fresh.
Caroline provides the comfort she doesn’t know she seeks.
Caroline: Suicides need something to live for, a voice whispers all too close to her ear.
Sure they do. So do those they leave behind.
But right now Caroline needs something from the woman. Something more personal. She drinks deep as her fangs pierce skin.
GM: The taste is plain next to the hot rush that was Jocelyn’s vitae, but it’s a step up from her meal before that too. A home-grilled steak rather than an O’Tolley’s burger… or an upscale restaurant’s fillet mignon.
Caroline: Caroline takes her fill. She then takes the woman’s name, phone number, and other contact information. She stares into the woman’s eyes, tells her what to remember and what to forget, and deposits her outside of Turner’s van.
GM: She gives her name as Sasha Mcmillan. She is still pained, still confused, and still bleary-eyed when the Ventrue is finished. But there is a desperate want behind those eyes now as the almost-widow confusedly stumbles away. She wants more of whatever staunched her heart’s bleeding.
Wherever Caroline looks, she sees more addicts.
Monday night, 14 September 2015, PM
GM: Caroline and Turner drive back to the Ventrue’s home in Audubon Place. Inside, Autumn has cleaned up the broken glass and gotten rid of the table’s useless legs. The already bare house feels just a little more bare for its loss.
Aimee lies motionless on the floor. Autumn’s washed her face, brushed off the glass and applied some bandages, but she still isn’t moving. The ghoul reports that, “Not a lot’s happened, but I checked your mail. I found this…”
It’s an envelope made from high-quality navy paper and wrapped with gold ribbon. Fancy white calligraphy reads, “You are invited.”
Caroline: Caroline drops a particularly out of character bit of profanity as she unwraps the ribbon.
Aimee has waited this long. “While I read, what do you know about blood blonds between Kindred?” Caroline asks Autumn. “Like, the voluntary kind.”
GM: Caroline finds a letter in similar-quality stationary paper with an ornate gold border. It’s from an Antoine Savoy who introduces himself as a fellow Kindred and the Lord of the French Quarter. He greets Caroline warmly and says he expects great things from this latest scion of Malveaux blood—he’s heard all about her grace under fire and heroism in saving those two girls at the Eighth District shooting. He invites her an “Evergreen Plantation” with an address on Royal Street, to “discuss a matter of mutual interest.”
“Discrete transportation,” if Caroline desires it, will be provided and pick her up from a location of her choosing. She may RSVP by 5 AM texting the address she wishes to be picked up to a provided phone number.
Caroline: Caroline quickly folds the letter and tucks it into her dress for now, damn lack of pockets, while she waits for Autumn to expand on the topic from her own perspective.
GM: “Well, it’s the same as any other collar, I guess. If you drink someone’s juice three times, you’ll fall in love with them.”
The expression on Autumn’s face is… hard to place.
Caroline: “What is the Krewe’s view on it between Kindred?”
GM: “They never talked to me about it, so I guess they don’t have one? Collars don’t really threaten the Masquerade.”
Caroline: “Good.” She looks over to Aimee’s still form. “I think you should give us the room now, for a little while, Autumn.”
GM: “Sure. Just gimme a shout if you need me.” The ghoul briefly glances at Aimee, then heads off.
Caroline: Caroline approaches her maimed ghoul, surveying the wreckage she left behind.
GM: The blood and glass are gone from Aimee’s face, but she otherwise looks little better. Her unwashed face looks worn and tired. Her hair is slightly greasy and unkempt. She’s still dressed in the same now-bloodstained sweats that she wore when Caroline “rescued” her.
She smells unpleasant. It’s been two or so days since she last showered.
Caroline: She’s repugnant. The entire scene is repugnant. It’s a slap in the face after her time with Jocelyn, or even her time with Sasha. Aimee is just… a problem. She has been since this all started, almost a lifetime ago. A problem of her own devising. Looking at her here, and now, Caroline has to admit to herself that she hates her. A part of her, deep down, hates herself for the admission, but that part has been buried deeply in only a week.
Buried under gang members, under ghouls, under poor girls that just wanted someone to hold them tight in the night. Buried under hunting men and women like animals.
And yet… for all of that…
She frowns and reaches down with one hand to gently run her fingertips over the girl’s maimed face. Over what she wrought.
It would be so much easier not to feel, not to have to feel.
GM: Caroline feels tender human flesh, so frail in comparison to her own. After this little time, Aimee’s various cuts and bruises have had little opportunity to heal, and the Ventrue’s fingers come away damp. Her Beast stirs in excitement.
Always, it wants.
Caroline: She turns her attention back to her own perfect flesh, to her wrist. For a moment she sways, suddenly uncertain.
Does she really want to do this? Does she really care? Or is she simply going through the motions?
GM: It would be so easy, her Beast purrs. To just drain her here, end the problem, and have a full belly to boot.
Caroline: She knows too much, a voice purrs.
She’s a liability.
She brought it on herself.
She’ll never be anything but a reminder of the past.
GM: The Beast only growls:
Caroline: And ultimately, that’s what pushes her over the edge. She sinks her fangs into her own wrist, lowering it to Aimee’s lips.
I am not a slave to you, she snarls at the Beast.
GM: “I wish there was a way to fight against it and win. But there isn’t. I’ve searched. I’ve seen. All I know how is the way to lose more slowly.”
Her inner monster only licks its chops. And waits.
Aimee does not drink from Caroline’s bleeding wrist, and the Ventrue finds that she must pull open her ghoul’s mouth and let her vitae steadily drip down.
Some of the fresh cuts over her face fade a bit more, the body’s natural healing process sped by a factor of God knows how much, though Aimee still does not awaken.
Caroline: It’s a little disappointing that she doesn’t stir, but ultimately Caroline convinces herself that it’s for the best. She doesn’t really know what they’d talk about after their last conversation ended with Caroline grinding her face into a pile of broken glass.
She does her best to examine the damage from a distance. Not… too bad.
She approaches Autumn and checks her phone.
GM: There’s a new message from Haley. She informs Caroline that she’s given no offense, as they never scheduled a private meeting. Coco will still be at tonight’s Elysium for several hours if Caroline still wishes to speak with her. If that doesn’t work, the ghoul can attempt to fit Caroline into her mistress’ schedule at a later date.
Caroline: Caroline turns to Autumn. “I need to go back to Elysium. She should be stable, and might even wake up. Try to keep her down, if it comes up move her to her room upstairs. Don’t leave a phone in the room with her.” She bites her lip.
GM: “Okay. I don’t think either of those things should be too hard.”
Caroline: “Anything else you need from me?” She frowns. “No, think on it. I need to take a shower.”
GM: The shower is long, hot, and salty. By the time Caroline gets out, it’s around an hour later. Downstairs, Autumn has moved a pillow under Aimee’s head and draped a blanket over her body, though she is still lying on the floor. Autumn is fast asleep on the couch. A plate with some sandwich crumbs sits on the adjacent table.
Caroline: Caroline collects the plate and deposits it in the sink, then gathers up a blanket from upstairs to lay over Autumn, moving with unnaturally light feet. The too-human gestures send a pang of melancholy through her, a reminder of everything she’s given up. Meals she’ll never share, and rest she’ll never enjoy.
She’s tired. Just mentally fatigued. The last week of nights has raced from one into the next like a runaway train, and with no human schedule like school or work to ground her there is no break in it. It follows as one coherent—monstrously coherent—experience. There is, however, no rest for the wicked. Dressed to kill, with elegant black Louis Vuitton heels that turn her killer legs into killing machines, a form-fitting (or showcasing) black dress that is perhaps a bit risque (but only a bit) in his length, and no more lingering scent of vitae clinging to her like a miasma, she heads for the door and Turner’s still waiting vehicle.
She has appointments to keep, and a new array of problems to consider. She’s grateful for Turner’s quiet professionalism. Grateful for her dependability. And mostly thankful because with the mercenary driving she can close her eyes and pretend to sleep for the short drive.
Can. But of course doesn’t. There’s always more to do. She fires off a text to Jessica, asking about the Cécilia’s stalker—in particular for a bit more information on his past criminal record, criminal associates, and home of record. Nothing that she couldn’t get through public records, just things that would take a great deal longer.
Then she turns her attention back to her driver. “You seemed to have a favorable opinion of Mr. Hayes. I hope he won’t mind that I mentioned his name to someone else in the market for a bodyguard.”
GM: “Nope,” Turner answers as the well-kept neighborhood rolls past. “Don’t think he’d mind working as one. Doesn’t like his boss.”
Caroline: “Cécilia is a family friend. Little spooked by some creep that followed her home singing love songs and trying to break in.”
GM: “You want, I could break his legs,” the ghoul volunteers.
Caroline: Caroline shows her fangs. “If it comes to that, I think I’d prefer something a little more personal.”
GM: Meanwhile, a text pings back from Officer White, who Caroline recalls fortunately works the 10 PM to 6 AM death row shift. Mouse has no prior criminal record, but his brother Francis “Fizzy” Fernandez is a convicted felon who’s spent time in the Farm. He (Mouse, not Fizzy) lives on-campus at Tulane University.
Caroline: Those teeth show all the more clearly for a moment.
“Yes, I think I’d indeed like to visit him for a little chat.”
GM: “Fucking pervert with those love songs. Who the fuck actually does that outside movies.”
Caroline: “Too much Disney,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “Fuck Disney,” Turner concurs.
Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, AM
GM: The Blackwatch van clears Audubon Place’s perimeter. Turner drives back for the Orpheum.
Caroline notices it, though, out of the corner of her eye.
They’re being followed by a white minivan.
Caroline: “God fucking damn it,” she hisses as she sees it.
GM: “Change of plans?” Turner asks.
Caroline: “Just keep driving. Path through a non-main street with a stop sign.”
She carefully doesn’t turn around, but does discretely check the seat beside her for several of the many ‘toys’ that Turner’s status with Blackwatch makes easy to travel around with. They’ve picked a bad time.
GM: “Central City’s up ahead. Can go through there or a nicer part of town.”
Caroline: “Central,” Caroline replies tersely.
GM: Turner wordlessly drives. Urban growth thickens as Riverbend’s and then Uptown’s primarily well-to-do residential neighborhoods give way to slums and urban blight. Graffiti-vandalized skeletons of buildings, smashed streetlights, and needle-littered yards of parched brown grass roll past the window.
The van behind them speeds up.
Caroline: Too many possibilities. Too many threats. Her sire? Eight-Nine-Six? Savoy? The Krewe? Her uncle? Her father? Little choice but to play the waiting game for now.
GM: The van behind them is getting closer.
A lot closer.
Caroline: “Turner!” Caroline warns, watching it in the side mirror.
GM: Headlights blare into the car’s side mirrors. For a moment Caroline can only see light.
It all happens in an instant, even to the Ventrue’s preternatural reflexes. Tires screech. Metal screams. Glass shatters. The airbag explodes. The car spins like an angel madly capering on the head of a too-small pin. There’s motion through the windows. Caroline’s surroundings flu madly past.
A second crash. The Ventrue is hurled forward, slamming her head against the dashboard. The seatbelt yanks taut against her torso.
Caroline: Fortunately, rear-ending a slow-moving car isn’t ideal for inflicting damage. The jolt is still shocking, and disorienting, for a moment.
The brunette mercenary doesn’t even hesitate for a moment. She claws through the safety features designed to get her killed and slides out the driver’s side door, lining up her weapon on the two nearer attackers and depressing the trigger, riding the weapon’s mild recoil up to ‘stitch’ them. There’s a look in her eye that Caroline has seen before. A hunger, and a satisfaction.
GM: Turner’s automatic screams hot lead and belches spent casings into the night. The two closest approaching figures, both female, don’t scream so much as roar as the bullets riddle their bodies. Incredibly, to the ex-Marine’s sight, they don’t go down. They sound pissed as hell, and they twist like dancing schizophrenics off their meds, but they don’t go down.
One moment, the female figure has only just leaped out of the car. The next, she’s right next to Turner. She’s Hispanic, 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 torn wifebeater that exposes her lower belly and a tattoo of the Virgin Mary, topless and smirking as she bares her naked breasts.
The snarling woman-creature flies at the merc, a jagged knife dancing in her hands. Turner punches her in the throat with newly-honed reflexes her comrades in arms would kill to have, and could kill even more people if they did have. The sidestepped blade drives a deep, organ-ruining gouge in the van’s side.
Caroline: Caroline can’t see much from within the car. The shattered windshield. The air bag in her face. The blood fury. But she can see that whore with the tattoo as she lunges for her mercenary. Can see her pretending she’s something. She remembers that brutal beating in the alley, hoping against hope that Marco would show up on time. And her hand closes around something next to the seat. Something very familiar in her hand.
The Beast roars with glee.
She neatly slices through the seatbelt with the same motion that draws the sword sitting beside her, and then she’s out, prowling. Hunting. Fighting. Establishing HER dominance on these thugs. This trash. And her father said fencing was a distraction.
GM: The car door flies open and Caroline is no longer there. The fencing sword spins in a deadly arc—and one of the onrushing figures is no longer there either.
The knife screeches against the surbuban again, leaving a shower of sparks and nasty long white scar in its wake. But Caroline isn’t there either. She’s in front of the other vampire, her sword rammed through through the Virgin Mary’s bared breasts. Blood spurts from the etched nipples like a mother’s milk. The other vampire howls at Caroline, knife flashing. The Ventrue pulls down and simultaneously yanks her blade free, leaving a nasty red slash down her rival’s pelvis as she tucks into a roll and comes up from behind.
Caroline: She all but roars with satisfaction.
GM: Meanwhile, gunshots explode at Turner from the other car. The ghoul isn’t fast enough to dodge speeding lead, but the Kevlar vest does its job.
The last of Caroline’s attackers, another Hispanic woman with a scarred face, messy black hair, and sharp claws protruding from where her nails should be, looks between the fighting combatants and gangs up on the already under-fire ghoul. Instead of rushing into the melee, however, she grabs a handgun out of the car and squeezes off another few rounds at the Blackwatch merc.
The hooedie-wearing black man bares a truly feral grin at Turner that displays his canines. “You mine, juicebag.”
He flies at her, not even bothering with a knife, with the same wide-armed grab that Caroline herself has seized up more than one victim with. The ex-soldier isn’t so easy a catch, however, and smashes her gun’s butt into his kidneys, sidesteps him as he gags, and slams his face against the car with another timely auto-whip to the back of his head.
Caroline: Turner grins. “Are all vampires this pathetic?”
GM: The vampire’s Beast only screams back as he bares his fangs, his eyes mad with rage.
Caroline: Turner twists and clears her barrel again against the tattooed Kindred, already riddled with bullet holes. The weapon’s barrel flashes again, bullets snapping through the air with a supersonic crack.
GM: The hail of bulletfire chews apart the Blessed Virgin’s tattoo and a great deal more. The hole-riddled thing that stands barely looks human. Ravenous jaws snap towards Turner’s neck, but the Blackwatch merc whips out her combat knife and buries it in the monster’s chest to the hilt. It thrashes weakly, spitting blood in Turner’s face, and collapses in a heap.
Caroline: Caroline, lost in the Beast’s bloodlust, snarls and hisses as her victim collapses, but it’s a point of minor dissatisfaction. There are so many others available. She whirls on the slower of the two remaining Kindred. This one is already wounded, its blood already filling the air, and she closes the distance a savage grin that bares her fangs.
GM: The female bullet-riddled vampire drops the gun and raises her claws in counter-challenge as Caroline closes distance. The Ventrue sidesteps a swipe at her face and stabs at the rival Kindred’s flank, drawing a satisfying spurt of fresh blood. The monster howls and pulls back away from the lethal blade, cautiously circling Caroline.
The ghoul in the car squeezes off another few rounds at the already beleaguered Turner. The Kevlar does its job, but she still staggers under the impact.
Caroline’s foe eyes the Blackwatch merc as she goes down to one knee, then pulls away from the Ventrue.
The male vampire, now wholly in the throes of his Beast, roars at his foe and lands a viciously powerful punch against Turner’s face. Turner’s nose bloodily crunches apart. As Turner instinctively pulls back, the vampire throws himself at her, tackling the merc to the ground and burying his face in her neck. The other lick dog-piles on. Turner shouts and thrashes as the two vampires ravenously feast. And feast.
Caroline: The struggling mercenary screams back into their face, half rage, half terror, but all violence. “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!” Her knife slips free into her hand, and that hand slips free. Words hurt, but not as much as 6" of serrated steel.
GM: With a last defiant gesture, Turner’s six inches slash open the clawed monster’s throat in morbid parody of the same violence being visited upon her. The vampire’s mangled, jilting screams barely sound like anything human, or even animal.
Caroline: Caroline’s beast salivates at the sight of the black Kindred completely lost in his feast. It’s too much. To easy. Too inviting for a predator. She all but pounces on him.
GM: Caroline crashes into her foe like a sack of bricks. The Beast doesn’t bother with any fancy stabbing or parrying. It doesn’t care. She just stabs and stabs the fucking shit out of him, bringing the fencing sword up and down into him like Aimee’s head into the glass.
When that doesn’t prove efficacious enough, Caroline grabs the sword by its point with her other hand, ignoring the deep bite into her flesh, holds it like a crude garrote and crudely saws the whole length of the blade across his neck. Blood spatters everywhere over the frenzied Kindred’s screams. He thrashes back, and the two red-drenched monsters roll about like lovers in the snow. The Beast sees little difference.
The Beast sees a great deal more, too.
Caroline completely missed him. He was too far away. Too cunningly hidden. But in the glint of the meticulously polished fencing sword, Caroline sees the slim reflection of a sniper rifle-carrying gunman. He surveys the scene from his post, weapon carefully primed. For whatever reason holds his fire.
Meanwhile, the gunman in the car empties more rounds into Turner’s prone but still struggling form. Blood leaks over the ground.
Caroline: Turner’s voice is hoarse as she continues to scream obscenities through broken ribs, punctured lungs, a rent throat and frothy blood bubbling up in her lips. She continues to punch, stab, and kick, Marine to the core, 160 lbs of fury wrapped in flesh.
“Fuck you! Fuc…k you!”
She’s covered in blood. Her vest is torn to pieces, and yet, though her body reacts more and more sluggishly, she doesn’t actually feel pain. Adrenaline pumps through her veins like gasoline in a turbine engine, burning red hot and pushing away all feeling. She’s just numb, and weak, and maybe… a bit cold creeping in on her extremities. Stupid weak body. Stupid fucking vampires.
Stupid cocksucking father.
GM: The black vampire snarls as Turner grabs his knee and yanks him back from Caroline, stubbornly refusing to let go. Stubbornly refusing to die, like this stupid juicebag should have, so fucking long ago. The two vampires dogpiling Turner emit simultaneous snarls of rage at the punching, kicking, thrashing 160 lbs of Marine-trained fury.
But for all the blows Turner lands home, it’s two vampires against one prone woman. She can’t throw them off. She can’t stop their feast. The two’s grievous wounds visibly fade as they ravenously suck down the mercenary’s furious, adrenaline-spiked blood.
Turner finally stops struggling.
Seeing her finally down, the gunman opens fire on Caroline. Bullets sprays in several directions, but none catch the inhumanly fast Ventrue.
Caroline: Caroline’s vision can’t go red. She can’t scream or yell in fury as her bodyguard goes down. She can’t even admire the woman’s defiance to the end. She’s already too deep into the Beast, and all the Beast sees is two wounded, simpering, pathetic cowards too afraid to confront her directly. Two foolish rivals that once again turned their back on her. Two corpses to be. There’s no art to it. There’s no elegance, though there is grace. There’s a flash of sharpened steel, movements too fast to follow, and lots of blood.
GM: No art. No elegance.
Caroline’s fencing sword carves through her clawed adversary’s stomach like an apple peeler spitting out skins. The spilled entrails haven’t so much as hit the ground before the whirling blade punches completely through the gurgling vampire’s already ravaged throat. Caroline twists, yanking it out. The disemboweled, now-discarded corpse falls to the ground like so much trash.
Maybe her next adversary tries to fight back somehow. Maybe he tries to run. The Beast doesn’t notice. The Beast doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that a second ruined, stab-perforated corpse slumps to the red-streaked pavement.
The Beast barely exults in its victory before noticing in the corner of its eye. Motion. From the car. Caroline blurs after it.
She comes to. She’s in a minivan’s seat. Flat and stale vitae runs down her mouth. Her face is buried in a limp body’s neck.
Caroline: She should be breathless, exhausted. She’s fought before, as a mortal, and even after training bouts was left winded, everything left out on the floor. Instead she feels… no different. Not tired. Not winded. Just… wet. It takes her a moment to realize it’s the blood that covers her, from head to toe.
It all comes rushing forward, like she watched everything through a fog, or through a dirty window. She can’t quite taste their blood as it slashed across her face, or even remember how it felt, but she remembers it happening. She remembers the crash. The jarring, twisting, spinning sensation. The airbag exploding in her face. She remembers the bodies laying strewn about like a child’s toys. And she remembers Turner, screaming in fury as she was carried to the ground by two rampaging Kindred.
She kicks the limp, stale, pathetic gangbanger’s corpse away as she scrambles out of the van back towards the suburban, towards her maimed bodyguard.
GM: The man doesn’t look like much of a ganbanger when Caroline pulls away. He’s black, in maybe his 40s, with a mustache streaked with a few gray hairs. He wears a felt hat, rumpled tie and gray overcoat.
However, Caroline has little time for him. Her bodyguard lies in a bleeding motionless heap outside of the car.
Caroline: It doesn’t take a trained medical professional to recognize her torn-out throat, the hunks of flesh missing, the shallow rise and fall of her chest. The slow trickle of blood. Caroline rips open the side door for the two bottles she tucked away a little more than an hour ago.
She also digs out her phone, putting it on speaker phone and punching in a number as she kneels beside the fallen Marine.
GM: A high-powered sniper’s bullet gorily explodes the top of Caroline’s head as she stoops down.
Caroline: The bullet might travel faster than sound, but even a high-end muzzle break doesn’t completely hide the flash, and light is very fast indeed.
So is Caroline.
Perhaps more in instinct than on conscious action, that lingering Beast’s cunning, she disappears before that bullet can strike home.
GM: The bullet screams after her, all but caving in the side of the van as Caroline vanishes in literal mid-shot. The Ventrue reappears in a couch by Eight-Nine-Six’s car.
Silence reigns over the battlefield.
Caroline: Battlefield indeed. Bullet casings are scattered across both vehicles and between them. Rifles, pistols, and sub-guns discarded. Blood paints the street and walls of both the van and the SUV, and the corpses… the corpses are stacked high. Caroline looks at where the bullet impacted, the near-crater it left, and all that hot blood coursing through her veins from her latest victim runs cold.
She doesn’t want to think about what it would have done to her body.
GM: Or what someone would have done to her body after the bullet left her torpid and helpless.
Caroline: Through it all, the phone continues to ring.
GM: There’s a few rings.
Then, “Hey, Caroline?”
Caroline: “I need help.” There’s a note of panic in her voice. “But it’s dangerous.”
GM: As if to underscore Caroline’s point, there’s another sound. She has to strain herself to see from her position by the car. But Caroline more than hears Turner’s ear explode in a gory shower under the sniper’s fire.
“Was that a gunshot? What’s happening?!”
Caroline: "I’m at… " she looks at the street sign and rattles it off, grateful they stopped at a cross street. “All of Eight-Nine-Six are down, but there’s blood everywhere, two wrecked cars, and some psycho taking shots with a 50 caliber rifle at me. I can probably get him, but… I don’t know how to clean this up. They just attacked me out of nowhere at a stop sign.”
She eyes Turner, all-too aware that if she doesn’t act the gunman has no reason not to actually plug the mercenary in the face.
That wasn’t a miss. That was a threat.
GM: “Okay! I’ll get over as soon as I can, and see if I can bring the others!”
Caroline: “I’m going to leave this on, but I have to go.”
She eyes Turner again and tucks the phone in her bra.
GM: “I’ll be there, just hold on!” Jocelyn’s now-muffled voice shouts.
Caroline: Caroline slides into the van through the open passenger side door, betting that in the haze of the fight pulling the keys was the last of their concerns. She lays across the floor, not sticking her head over the dash, as she checks for keys and plots out her course.
GM: Caroline finds the keys where she expects, though it’s hard to initially notice past the exploded airbag.
Another gunshot explodes outside. Caroline can’t see where—or who—it hits from her vantage point.
Caroline: She has little choice put to carry on, turning the keys and depressing the gas with her hand.
GM: It’s awkward with the airbag in her face, and even more awkward when she can’t see properly, but Caroline manages to twist the wheel and creep the car to the right. Enough to shield Turner—or her body.
Another shot rings out. Pain explodes in Caroline’s shoulder. Blood leaks from the bullethole.
Caroline: The Ventrue slides out of the clear side of the car, shimmying across the floor of the van towards her Turner, all the while dreading what she’ll find.
GM: The second shot did not explode her bodyguard’s head, but nor was it so kind as the first. Turner now has, at most, nine fingers.
Caroline: The heiress clenches her own perfectly formed fingers into a furious fist and slides down beside the bleeding out mercenary. She picks up one of the bottles of vitae from earlier, not trusting herself, and pours it down Turner’s throat. Stabilize first. Murder second.
GM: The fallen mercenary does not stir. Caroline must trust the Blood did its job.
Another hole explodes in the side of the car. Caroline twists to make out her opponent. He is faceless to her no longer. He’s firing from the window of a long and square bricked building with an adjacent sign that reads “Harney Elementary School K-8.”
Caroline: She’s done sitting and getting shot at. Gathering her sword and Turner’s pistol from her belt, she gauges that distance and fucking blurs.
GM: Caroline’s behind the the crashed minivan. A second later, she isn’t behind the crashed minivan. She’s crouched behind the school’s iron-gated entryway, by one of the first-floor windows.
Another blur. Caroline isn’t outside the school anymore. She’s inside a bare-looking classroom with upturned chairs stacked over the student desks. There’s a chalkboard, but no smartboard or other digital amenities like St. Joseph’s had.
Caroline creeps her way through dark and empty hallways. Graffiti mars some of the lockers (and walls), there are cracks and dark stains along the tile floor, and few visible amenities in the classrooms. She hears no further gunfire from outside.
She stalks up the wide, sweeping stairs and through further darkened corridors. She breaks into a classroom with a window overlooking the street. Her gaze sweeps the darkened room. Her foe is gone and has cleaned up after himself. There’s not so much as a spent shell casing left over.
Caroline departs the room. He can’t have gone too far. She flits like a ghost through darkened halls not traversed by the living, a predator on the hunt. Her prey is nowhere in sight.
More corridors. More classrooms. Gone.
Then in the distance. A single gunshot. Caroline looks around, but sees no head-sized crater, no evidence the firearm was discharged anywhere close to her.
Caroline: She moves in the direction of the shooting.
GM: She enters another classroom. Once again, shell casings are absent from the floor. The window is closed, latched, and undamaged. It’s the best place she can peg the sound from coming.
Caroline: Not there. She pulls out. Turns down the corridor.
GM: Her head splits open as the sniper’s shot rings down from the end of the hall.
Caroline: At least, the space where her head was a moment before splits open, the air shattering with the supersonic crack of the bullet’s passage.
Too slow, again.
And now too close. Oh so close. She flashes forward, in close. Closer. Oh so close.
GM: Finally, she sees him. Tall. African-American. Clean-shaven. He wears a drawn-up hoodie and blue jeans that belie his tapered physique, as well as the clockwork-like motions with which he discards the sniper rifle and charges straight at Caroline with a drawn machete, his expression calm and unafraid. The big knife slashes across her torso in three quick and fatal cuts.
Caroline: And just like that, he’s no longer fighting Caroline Malveaux, as the heiress is swallowed up for the third time tonight. He’s fighting that monster that hides behind her face. That demon that tears free. The gun clatters to the ground as she drives the sword into him like a pig sticker, movements inhumanly fast and utterly savage.
GM: Caroline’s sword slashes across her foe’s belly, but the impact feels notably dulled. Blood still wells from his stomach. The man neither grunts nor startles, but simply brings down his own machete. Caroline retorts back in kind and slashes open the man’s cheek. He accepts the blow, then draws his machete cleanly across the Ventrue’s throat. Blackness steals her sight as she crumples to the ground, the Beast’s roars finally silenced.
Caroline: Or at least, tries, as she blurs with speed again.
GM: The machete rakes across the students’ lockers, drawing a shower of sparks. Caroline ducks under at the blow and strikes up at his exposed chest, leaving a long and ugly red line. This time her foe finally grunts, starting to slow down. Another quick two slashes of the machete are sidestepped by the preternaturally fast Ventrue.
Caroline: The Beast never falters in its confidence. It never relents. Not against this pathetic thing, however sharp its claws. It doesn’t care about the deep rents in her shoulder. It doesn’t care about the bite of the machete. It doesn’t feel pain, or pity, or remorse. And it will not stop, ever, until he is dead. It uses Caroline’s body like a puppet, stepping inside the reach of the mystery man. Steel chews through bone as it drives the sword into the ghoul’s chest, then rips it out laterally, sawing through muscle, organs, and ribs.
GM: Gore sprays across the school’s halls as the lethal instrument does its grim work in even more lethal hands. The man’s chest is a leaking ruin, and he finally stumbles, sweating hard and breathing harder. His jaw sets.
He feints with the machete, then drops it and lunges forward, taking advantage of his larger frame to wrap his arms around Caroline in a crushing embrace. The frenzying Ventrue twists and instinctively goes for the throat, gleefully shredding skin and lapping up stale-tasting blood. As she does, the staggering man releases one arm from around her torso, bringing up his fist to punch her in the throat. With a quickness few mortal combatants could manage, he grabs the Ventrue by her hair and hurls her across the hallway, smashing into the lockers. He turns and runs, even managing to scoop up the sniper rifle as his form blurs with motion.
The Beat doesn’t hesitate. Not for a second. Dead muscles scream past any human limit. Any mere ghoul’s limit.
A crash. A tear. More red. Maybe a shout.
When the red haze recedes, it’s just another body on the floor. Maybe one that hurt her, that roused her Beast’s ire.
But in the end, just another body.
Caroline: A body lighter another pound of flesh from when he stopped moving. She can taste the flesh in her mouth, the thin blood, and see the missing hunk from his throat from which blood continues to pump. She spits a hunk of skin at his face and collapses against the locker. Everything hurts, and she doesn’t want to look down. To see black and purple bruises from the wreck, or the bloody gashes in her shoulder, across her stomach, the back of her thigh. She looks like a corpse. She’s covered in blood. Her blood, his blood, Eight-Nine-Six’s blood, Turner’s blood, the other ghoul’s blood.
Caroline digs out her phone from inside her bra, smearing blood across the screen with shaking hands. “Are you still there,” she rasps out.
GM: “Caroline!?” yells Jocelyn. She sounds like she’s been yelling into the phone for a while now.
Caroline: “I’m alive. Or dead. Or whatever. He won’t be for much longer. I’m in the school.”
GM: “Okay, we’re—he’s the guy you were fighting?”
Caroline: Caroline flips her phone around and takes a picture, sending it on with one hand and a busy finger. “Some kind of super ghoul.”
Caroline: She also forwards it to Autumn. Who is this.
GM: Although Autumn was asleep when Caroline last saw her ghoul, a text pings back after a few moments.
Don’t know sorry. Should I come over?
Caroline: She texts an address.
Messy. Five bodies. Turner may also be dead by now
GM: Oh shit on my way
Caroline: “Everything hurts, Jocelyn.”
GM: “Where are you, in the school? I’ll be right over!”
Caroline: “Yeah. First floor. You can’t miss it.”
GM: “Okay. Just hang in. Roxanne’s also here, with a few of our ghouls, to help take care of things. What the fuck happened, Eight-Nine-Six tried to jump you?”
Caroline: “Rammed the car.” She smirks. “Took them down.” Another smirk. “But some third party started taking shots at me with a rifle.”
GM: “And that was the super ghoul? Wow though, you took down the whole krewe?”
Caroline: “They were… a joke compared to him.”
GM: “No renfield’s a match for licks.”
Caroline: “A joke compared to him,” she repeats.
GM: A pause. “Well, if you say so. We’ve loaded up Eight-Nine-Six’s bodies into the car. Jesus, what are we even gonna do with them…”
“Well, think about it later. Roxanne says there’ll be cops, even if they’re slower in a neighborhood like this…”
Caroline: “Is my driver still alive? And need to hit the blood with something. Bleach or gas. Either works.”
GM: “You mean… yeah, she had a pulse when we checked, but she was barely alive. Roxanne fed her some blood.”
Caroline: She’ll have to remember to thank the other Ventrue.
GM: “Look, there’s gonna be cops. Roxanne wants you around to help mindfuck them, and I can turn them into our friends with crowd control, but I dunno what we should even say to them. Gang violence? I mean, there’s wrecked cars, a ton of blood…”
Caroline: Caroline turns the phone around and sends the Toreador a ‘selfie’.
GM: “Oh Jesus! It’s that ghoul who did that?”
Caroline: “Yeah.” Caroline leans her head back against the metal locker, thinking.
“If you have bleach in the car hit the blood on the scene with it. Have Roxanne drive off with the bodies, and have one of your ghouls take my car. Also collect some of the spent bullet casings from Eight-Nine-Six’s ghoul in the van, then set the van on fire.”
GM: “Okay, but what about cops? I mean, who knows when they’re gonna be here, and the other people who saw…”
Caroline: “People in neighborhoods like this don’t look out their windows when shots are fired, but we can stay in the school until they show up and see if anyone comes forward. I already framed someone for the shootings yesterday with Eight-Nine-Six. If we sneak some bullet casings into evidence from that shooting with the casings here, the cops will tie them together in a bow around his neck.”
GM: “Okay, that sounds good… but there’s so much that could go wrong. We should call the sheriff. Our krewe’s in good, and we’ll all take confession, after we do our parts to help clean up.”
Caroline: “Just need to make sure that when they find that body in the car it’s charcoal, not obviously with its throat ripped out.” She sighs. “But yes, this needs to go to him. They were trespassing in his parish anyway before they jumped me.”
GM: Caroline hears footsteps down the hallway. It’s Jocelyn. Compared to her, the Toreador looks positively pristine, dressed in a simple tank top and pair of jeans. She makes her way up to Caroline and bares her neck.
“Drink from me.”
Caroline: Relief spreads across Caroline’s face as she sees Jocelyn, and her offer is so tempting that Caroline all but lunges forward for a moment, off the ground, before she forces herself to stop.
“I don’t know when I’ll be able to stop…”
GM: Jocelyn stands to her tiptoes to take Caroline’s head and presses it against her pale neck.
Caroline: It’s too tempting, that sweet comfort, and bloody tears roll down her face as she sinks her fangs into the beautiful Toreador, taking long, deep, slow pulls from the sweet font of bliss.
GM: Jocelyn shudders as Caroline’s fangs pierce her neck. Only just a bit more than Caroline herself does. That sweet Kindred nectar, richer than any mere kine’s, rolls across her tongue like red velvet. She loses herself in the bliss of the moment. It’s all she can finally do to pull away, her Beast cajoling in her ears for more.
Jocelyn stares with an open mouth for a moment, her formerly clean clothes smeared with Caroline’s blood.
Caroline: The worst of her wounds slither shut before Jocelyn’s eyes, as Caroline wipes her own, the tear tracks barely distinguishable amid all the other ichor sprayed across her.
GM: Jocelyn dazedly stares at the Ventrue, her mouth still hanging agape.
“You’re so strong,” she whispers. “So beautiful…”
Caroline: Caroline can’t resist. She pounces on her, pushing her against the blood splattered, graffitied, lockers, and pressing her lips to the other Kindred’s. When she breaks away, pulls away, after a moment, she looks into the Toreador’s eyes.
“You’re the best thing in my life. Better than I deserve.”
GM: A mortal might breathe hard. Jocelyn gasps as Caroline slams her into the kiss, but it’s only a second later that her tongue is snaking against the Ventrue’s, lapping up the blood still fresh over Caroline’s lips.
Jocelyn almost looks as if she’s going to go for more when Caroline pulls away, but she doesn’t. There’s something in her eye.
“I’m gonna fix this, Caroline. I’m gonna make this all go away.”
Her jaw sets.
“All of it.”
Caroline: “We will.” One hand presses on, almost clings to Jocelyn’s shoulder, but reality is already pushing back.
“Can you spare a bit, a few drops, to keep him from bleeding out?”
GM: Jocelyn digs out her phone.
She says something.
Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, AM
GM: Caroline is back in her house. She’s full. Her Beast’s hungry whines are sated. She’s clean and dressed in a black gown and pair of heels similar to her last one.
Jocelyn sits across from her in the living room. Her expression is… curious. Simultaneously thrilled and somber.
Caroline: She can only blink in confusion for a moment, joy, satisfaction, and all her concerns blending together with disorientation.
The word comes out with a smile, that turns into a bit of a frown.
“How did we get here?” She looks around. “The last thing I remember we were at that school…”
GM: “You’ll get to remember when you’ve joined the Storyville Krewe,” Jocelyn answers.
Her face turns serious. “But you have to now. The mess with Eight-Nine-Six is gone. Whole thing. The Guard de Ville’s cleaning it up, but they don’t know we were involved.”
Caroline: “How is that possible?”
GM: Jocelyn pauses.
“I can’t tell you. But you have to join the Storyvilles now, and you can’t talk about this to ANYONE but us.”
Caroline: “Jocelyn, you’re scaring me a little bit.” Caroline bites her lower lip. “Of course I want to join you, but…”
She looks down. Her flesh, perfect and whole. Her clothing not in tatters. All of her problems so far away.
GM: Jocelyn reaches out and touches her hand.
“I know you must be scared. But NO ONE is going to hurt you. Do anything to you. Sheriff, Janus, no one. You’re home free. This whole thing never happened.”
There’s fear written across Caroline’s face. But not for herself.
“What did you do? What did this cost you?”
GM: Jocelyn offers a comforting smile back. “Nothing. I’m not kidding. You just have to join the Storyvilles now, and you were gonna do that anyway. That’s IT.”
The Toreador’s face is positively radiant.
“I know this must be confusing, even scary, but it’ll all make sense and you’ll remember everything once you’ve joined us.”
Caroline: “Is the rest of the krewe on board with that? Is everyone else, given my… provisional status?”
GM: Jocelyn nods. “They’re all on board. You’ll get to formally join once you’ve been released and joined the Sanctified. That’s after your sire, I know…” Jocelyn tries to put on a cheerful face. “But Eight-Nine-Six isn’t going to be a problem anymore. They’re taking the fall for all of this.”
Caroline: “Can you at least tell me what happened to them? Or to that ghoul?”
GM: “They’re going to get executed at the trial. Right now I guess they must be waiting staked in Perdido House. The ghoul’s…”
Jocelyn glances towards the motionless man lying face-down on the floor. His clothes are still a mess, but all of his wounds are healed. He is securely hog-tied with several pairs of handcuffs.
Caroline: “What time is it? How long has it been since…”
GM: “A couple hours.”
Caroline: Tears well in Caroline’s eyes again.
“I don’t understand… I… thank you, Jocelyn.”
GM: Jocelyn leans forward and pulls the Ventrue into an embrace. Her Beast instinctively growls at the physical contact, at the source of proximate vitae.
“You’re safe,” she whispers. “That’s all that matters. Everything’s fixed.”
Caroline: Caroline wants to believe that. This seems like a dream come true. But doubt claws at the back of her mind, and even in Jocelyn’s arms she can’t ignore it. On the other hand, she can’t change it now either. She simply nods into the Toreador, enjoying her smell. Remembering her taste, and feeling for what feels like the first time in forever, loved.
GM: Jocelyn pulls back after a moment, smiling.
“Your ghoul’s all right, too. She’d lost her ear, was gonna lose her right hand, but she’s okay. She’s upstairs sleeping.”
Caroline: “I’m going to make this up to you later. In so many ways.”
GM: The Toreador grins and eyes Caroline’s neck. “No, you’re gonna make it up right now.”
She rises and takes Caroline’s hand. “Still a few hours to dawn, and we have a real bed…”
Caroline: She stares at the Toreador’s eyes, her lovely eyes, but glances down at the ghoul.
“What about him? What’s his story?”
GM: Jocelyn hmphs as Caroline breaks the mood.
“I don’t know. But he’s not going anywhere. He’s been mindscrewed too.”
That grin returns. “So you have no excuse not to fuck my brains out.”
Caroline: Caroline smirks at Jocelyn’s mini-pout, and she rises to embrace her with startling speed.
“Whatever you want.”
GM: Jocelyn laughs, and playfully shoves Caroline off, instead grabbing her hand and pulling her upstairs towards the bedroom.
“Oh, I want a lot…”
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Pete Feedback Repost
Oh boy. Its been a busy few days, weeks, however long it’s been since I last did meaningful feedback for Caroline. Picking up from Aimee’s abduction and carrying through last night, she’s had quite the rollercoaster ride dealing with the 896 and fallout from her first fight with them in that back alley.
Got a huge ‘mean girls’ vibe off her [Becky Lynne] every time she showed up. Would have been easier to play nice, but I just didn’t see it happening with Caroline. That “bless your heart” bullshit is annoying, and came off to her as fake, patronizing, and trashy. I’d actually sort of love to see this develop into a low intensity bit of rivalry in the long term, but we’ll have to see where it goes. Hopefully Caroline didn’t just fuck herself here?
[…]As for the Torrie herself, that was an interesting little Dominate trick she pulled on Caroline, and I’ll be very much interested to see what the results of that are. You’ve done a good job baiting the hook on that one, with regard to the mystery of how she pulled off fully juicing like 3 people, cleaning up the mess, framing the 896, getting Caroline out of hot water, and so forth. It’s got Caroline so very concerned for her dear Paramour and what it cost her, but it’s got Pete so very curious as to what the dynamic was that allowed that, because it had to be someone with some significant influence and personal power to pull it off, and the demand that she join the Sanctified is… well, an intriguing mystery. Maldy? Vidal? Caine!? There aren’t that many people on the Vidal side of the sanctified that have the authority or power to do what just happened, and fewer I can think that might keep Donovan in the dark about it all. Patron / Mentor Maldonato for the win? Either way, at some level Caroline is just grateful it happened.
I’m also excited to see how the rest of the Storyvilles respond to their recruit / prospect. I suspect it won’t be as well as Joceyln, and perhaps even scornfully given their little puppy love fest, but maybe Caroline’s just been missing her people all along and just needed to get in with the happy go lucky sanctified? Whatever the case, really fun direction to have gone, really happy with this as a whole, and excited to see where it goes. Now for the inevitable “Jocelyn betrays Caroline to her DOOM” or “Jocelyn gets killed!” to throw Caroline deep into the horror pit again.
Man, I feel so bad for standing Coco up last night. Just throwing that out there. Maybe super-ghoul will provide an excuse, but I really hope she doesn’t end up hating Caroline because Caroline got her idiot Anarchs killed.
Man, the plot arc of these guys was quite unfortunate for them, and it’s easy to see how once they got started on that runaway train there were only two possible outcomes (utter defeat or utter victory). The nature of that street based thought process, pride, and respect being what it is meant they literally could not back down when Caroline kept getting the better of them. Like the opposite of a learning creature, every time she won it just meant they were going to come back harder, right up until they won, were physically prevented from getting involved by someone else, or they ended up dumpstered. I felt like, from the word go, they were played pretty in keeping with how they should have been given what I know of them (e.g. street level, low class, thuggish). From a PC perspective, taking Aimee set her off, but the real killer was their ranting about how they were going to call in that boon when Bliss woke up. As soon as that happened, both as a player and from Caroline’s perspective, they started a timer towards a firm crushing under her heel, as she literally could not allow Bliss to wake up.
It’s both a blessing and a curse that the details of her fight with them won’t ever become public knowledge. I get the feeling that it’s the sort of thing that would both ruin her relations with a lot of people, while also increasing her standing with a great deal more. As it stands, right now, she’d rather be underestimated, and rather not make new enemies. I get the feeling that her reputation from her first few victories over them is probably enough to keep anyone else from picking a fight without doing their homework, but suspect that had she actually been the name attached to their utter beat down, another Anarch gang would have probably tried to step in establish their own Bone Fidus by knocking her down a peg: not a problem she needed right now.
As it stands, their pending execution should have some pretty big repercussions on the Anarch scene, both in terms of relations with Vidal’s faction, and in terms of internal power dynamics, as I’m sure their loss creates some kind of vacuum. I’ll be interested to see how it all plays out in the long term.
The whole thing is also a cautionary tale in the dangers of outright physical combat between Kindred, both towards the Masquerade, towards each other, and towards themselves. Once you start putting your credibility on the line directly, you escalate things—and the undersold side of the 896 story here is that had they not continued to pursue Caroline, had they simply lived and let live, they likely would have faced reprisals or attacks from other gangs and groups that regarded them as weak because of their repeated defeats.
With them off the board however, the path is pretty clear towards her sire, which has been a long delayed and hotly anticipated direction to go.
Little sad this plot got dropped, because I’d been expecting something like this from either him or her sire for a while. Bad timing I guess, and Caroline had other (emotional) concerns at the time. Also spent most of the night mind fucked. It was one of many things she was going to touch on at the Elysium to get a feel for, see what the results of her request to Wright were, then feel out. Damn 896 ruin everything. No sympathy for them now! I’ll be interested to see if he reaches out again, or if Caroline gets the go ahead to reach out to him on some level.
Super ghoul’s attack was a really, really, really nasty surprise on the back end of that combat with the 896. The timing for him was brilliant, what with depleted Vitae, Willpower, and no firearm armed mercenary that might have given him more trouble than Caroline in many ways, but damn. I’d thought when he first showed up that he might be a Janus ghoul keeping tabs, but not getting involved unless this got uglier / too public. Had some tunnel vision going on. If he’s really an unrelated third party ghoul, that’s a sharply vicious gift to drop in Caroline’s lap. Not sure if I hope he is or isn’t who I think he is, and if he is, that’s cruel, using my own creation against me like that.
Their combat showed just how dangerous a skilled ghoul can be to a Kindred, but also the other side of it. Frenzy took a lot of options off the table (Dominate, Presence, run, firearm) but also provided some benefits he didn’t have, in particular ignoring wound penalties, which he couldn’t do. She also packed a lot more Vitae than he did on a regular basis, and was able to respond. Mind you, he did a good job of wearing her down pretty viciously with those rifle shots, forcing her to spend Vitae to avoid getting outright torpered (is this your way of taunting me for not putting that extra point in Stamina :-P). As it was, things came down to the wire.
I do hate stealth-based PCs / NPCs. There’s such a binary aspect to them, and so much power built into it inherently, which drives me insane. Hate them going back to Mercucio’s damn stealth-based avatar and, more recently, the assassins that seemed to come bubbling out of the wood work of Kain’s game. I do appreciate that we went with Celerity letting her respond even when he got the jump on her, which I think is a fair / decent trade off to the fact that he was able to, time and again, get the complete drop on her and leave her unable to offensively respond. I could definitely see an argument going the other way with Celerity not letting you react to things you weren’t already aware of. As a whole, it seems like your tendency as a GM/Storyteller is to go with options that let players take advantage of their resources, which is a pleasant change from having to jump through hoops to justify things.
Super ghoul as a prisoner does present some interesting options for Caroline now though, and I have some suspicions as to ways that his introduction can be leveraged to her advantage. I’ll be curious to see his origins. If he’s Janus he’s going back to them in a dozen different trash bags, though that’s starting to look a little unlikely. It’d be interesting, if he is who I think he is, if he was responsible for the Storyvilles’ woes… that would tie up a lot of things in a neat bow for Caroline.
As the title says. As helpful as they were (especially avoiding wound penalties at the end), I’m a little sad that Caroline didn’t get to talk some trash to the 896, and wasn’t able to try some other methods on super ghoul. Seems like Caroline’s been frenzying a lot lately. Poison I guess? That’s like 6-7 frenzies in two days, going back to poor Trent. I honestly hadn’t expected them to come up as often as they have. Had the feeling that frenzies were the sort of thing that I’d be avoiding like the plague, or trying to manage, and now Caroline is increasingly ruled by her beast.
Calder Feedback Repost
There you go, beating my 1 Experience feedback record.
[…]I’ll add there have have been elders who specifically wanted PCs to join covenants they themselves weren’t members of. Ancilla-Coco had neonate-Jacob join the Sanctified because a rogue Tremere would’ve been more trouble than the (then-) young and unestablished Anarchs were willing to take on.
Speaking of Coco, you didn’t stand her up because you didn’t commit to anything with her. You were hoping to catch her while she was at Elysium anyway, Coco is more accessible than most elders, but even she doesn’t schedule private meetings with non-Anarch neonates on short-term notice. Still, she’d no doubt appreciate the sentiment.
That’s a sound analysis of what you knew of their tactics and motivations (more details obviously having come to light since Kelford’s interrogation). A sad truth is, despite being immortal, most vampires don’t live to become elders.
It’s true you missed the RSVP date (thanks to Eight-Nine-Six—and, now you know, Rene). You also have the letter’s phone number, so if you still want to get in touch with Savoy, there is that potential means.
Janus ghoul was a good guess, and their removers/other mortals who fight the undead likely would’ve used similar tactics. Kelford was able to go toe-to-toe with Caroline in a brawl (I wasn’t sure who was going to win), but he did much better sniping from a distance where she couldn’t effectively respond and was already tired from fighting Eight-Nine-Six. Even when he “missed,” she was still spending resources that made her weaker in their final showdown.
That is too bad she couldn’t trash talk them, as PC taunts are usually quite amusing. As I recommended to Em, if you can’t say something IC, you can always mention thinking it/describe it in a roundabout way IC (“If she were lucid, Caroline would shout he sucks monkey dick!”) or share it in the OOC room.
Frenzying is a huge drawback to being Kindred, and even vampires who care nothing for mortal life can grow exhausted by their constant struggles with the Beast. It ultimately never goes away. Sunlight is a more iconic weakness, but frenzy is honestly a lot more relevant in games. Only time we’ve seen PCs take sunlight damage was during George’s trip back from Matheson’s (and only other time they were worried about it was during Caroline’s stay with McGinn).