Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline III, Chapter IX

Questioning Kelford

“I don’t want to live forever.”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t want to either.”
Nicole Polk to Caroline Malveaux

Tuesday evening, 15 September 2015

GM: The next evening comes. Caroline awakens in red-crusted sheets, Jocelyn’s face staring across from hers.

“Morning.” She smiles. “Well, evening.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly. “You’re a mess.”

GM: “Yeah, but in your bed.”

Caroline: “It’s a mess too. You ruined my sheets.”

GM: Jocelyn smirks. “Yeah, I did. Gonna ruin a bunch more too.”

Caroline: “These were 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton.”

GM: “And now they’re history just like the Pyramids.”

Caroline: Caroline snatches up a fistful of Jocelyn’s skin, scooting closer to her, their perfect skin sliding across each other. She runs her tongue between the Toreador’s breasts, lapping up the dried blood there.

“Is that so?”

GM: Jocelyn laughs at the tickling sensation and pulls Caroline closer. “They felt great though, I’ll give them that.” Her face grows more serious. “You can feed from me like that one more time, but that’s it. Before the bond…”

Caroline: Caroline looks down for a moment, not meeting the other girl’s eye. “Becomes absolute.”

GM: “Yeah…”

Caroline: “And you’ve already used up your last one…”

GM: Jocelyn might nod.

Caroline: “That little sip in the moonlight.”

GM: “We can feed together, though. On kine. If they’re a ghoul, you can even feed them back, and keep going…”

Caroline: Caroline frowns at the thought of introducing any of her ghouls to this arrangement.

GM: “We could make a new ghoul,” Jocelyn offers. “Just for feeding.”

Caroline: Jocelyn is hers. Something special, and beautiful.

GM: The Toreador continues on, all but counting blood-crusted fingers, “We pay them for it, and hey, no risk of STDs like if they were an escort, right?” She grins again. “We could go ‘shopping’, later. Look around for that special someone to make ours.”

Caroline: “They could never live up to you.” She sighs and lays her head back on the blood-soaked pillow. “I guess it’s sort of like using protection.”

GM: The Toreador looks as if she could kiss Caroline there. She instead traces a finger along the Ventrue’s lips.

“Ha. Yeah. And that exists, too, if you didn’t know. We can still drink from each other, we just have to wait for the blood to cool.”

Caroline: She arches a crusty eyebrow. “Which the Church says is a sin, I should remind you.”

GM: “Pfft. We do God’s work being sinful.”

Caroline: “So when you say let it cool, what does that mean?”

GM: "Well, if you bite someone, and wait a couple seconds to lick up their blood, it won’t collar you. "

“Doesn’t feel as good as straight from the vein, but safer.”

She effects a sigh.

“Kinda like real condoms that way.”

Caroline: Wait to drink and you won’t be bound. Useful to know.

Caroline rolls over, half onto Jocelyn, and runs her half open mouth, her fangs, down the other girl’s bare skin. Not quite breaking the skin, just tracing a path.

GM: The Toreador murmurs something suggestive and clenches the sheets, lightly gasping as Caroline’s canines trace her flesh. The Ventrue was on top last night too.

Caroline: She breaks away after a moment, not giving in.

“Later. If it’s going to be our… last time like that, I want to make it something special.”

GM: Jocelyn looks at her longingly for a moment, but nods.

“You’re right. I’d say you should take me out to dinner or something first. With us I guess it’s ‘or something’.”

Caroline: “I have something in mind. Something… near to my heart. I think you’ll enjoy.”

She thinks back to Cécilia. The fear in her eyes. A good, God-fearing woman, stalked by some degenerate. She’ll see about that.

GM: Jocelyn smiles. “Surprise?”

“Yeah. Surprise me, with them on the bed, after we’ve had a nice long evening of other fun.” Her face brightens. “I know. On the night you catch your sire!”

Caroline: “Now who’s killing the mood?” Caroline asks as she stretches like a cat, body rubbing against Jocelyn’s.

GM: “Or, well, night after. However it works…” Jocelyn trails off though as she pulls her arms around Caroline’s head, pressing it to her breasts.

Caroline: “So much to do today. I was supposed to meet with a Krewe of Janus ghoul yesterday, Primogen Duquette, call Hound Wright… and I want to know where that other ghoul came from.”

The words are slightly muffled by the other Kindred’s flesh.

GM: “Well, he’s downstairs,” Jocelyn muses, running her hands through Caroline’s hair. “And going nowhere.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t fight it, lapping up more dried blood off the brunette, enjoying the comfort, the proximity.

GM: “What a mess,” Jocelyn murmurs. “Least we can shower off…”

Caroline: “Anything I need to know before I talk to the primogen or the Krewe of Janus about unrelated matters?”

GM: “Well, like that? If you mean last night….” The Toreador trails off. “That didn’t happen. We weren’t there. Eight-Nine-Six broke the Masquerade someplace, the prince is gonna execute them, and that’s all.”

Caroline: “So you’re the only one that’ll know about how I left them all in a dumpster where they belong?”

GM: “Us and Roxanne. No one else. Well, maybe the other Storyvilles. I dunno if they’ve been told.”

Caroline: “You’ll have to act impressed enough for everyone else,” Caroline pouts.

GM: “But no one outside the krewe,” she says seriously.

The look returns into a smile, though, at Caroline’s words. “I still can’t believe you torpored the whole krewe and their super ghoul.”

Caroline: She smiles. “And I can’t believe you managed to make it all go away.”

GM: Jocelyn’s smile initially dims a bit at that.

“It’s all gone. I just wish I could tell you more, but you’ll be able to learn. After you catch your sire.”

Caroline: “You’re not in trouble because of this, are you?”

GM: Jocelyn shakes her head. “No. Only price was that you join the Storyvilles.”

Then, more slowly, “But I could… well, I dunno about trouble. But I can’t default on this.”

Caroline: Caroline interlinks her fingers with Jocelyn’s.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

GM: She squeezes back. “I know.”

Caroline: A sigh. “I guess we should get started…”

GM: “Yes, in the shower. Don’t look so glum,” Jocelyn smirks back.

Caroline: She reverses her on-setting frown’s course and rolls out of bed.

“Well, come on then. I think you’ll enjoy this.”

GM: “Oh, nice!” Jocelyn remarks as she peeks into the bathroom. “I had an uncle who had one of these, but my family never did.”

Caroline: “Who were they?” Caroline asks as she turns the water on, giving it a moment to warm up as she digs another towel out of her linen closet.

GM: “My family? My mom was a banker, my dad was a lawyer. Still are as far as I know.”

Caroline: “Upper middle class, or yuppies?” Caroline asks, setting out a pair of black towels for the two.

GM: “Upper. Though if we were really yuppies, I’d say that anyway, wouldn’t I?”

Caroline: Caroline grins. “Trick question, all upper middle class are yuppies.”

GM: Jocelyn throws a towel at her. “Elitist. You’re such a blue blood.”

Caroline: Caroline tosses the towel onto a bench and slides into the hot water, luxuriating in the hot water across her cold skin. The drain runs red with the dried blood running off her.

GM: Jocelyn steps in after her, basking for a moment in the quadruple+ shower’s warmth. More red swirls across Caroline’s toes, mingling with the Ventrue’s own.

“Hey, that reminds me, you ever end up seeing your primogen?”

Caroline: “I talked to someone about it. They want me to meet with a ghoul first. Just haven’t had the time.”

GM: Jocelyn pauses for a moment at that, her posture going slacker. “Yeah, I… guess you don’t.”

She doesn’t need to say why.

Caroline: “Hey.”

She grabs the other Kindred by the chin and pulls her up to look at her.

“With those vagrants out of the picture I can actually focus on him.”

GM: Jocelyn stares up at the taller vampire. Water continues to spray from the showerheads. “We can.”

Caroline: We.

She’s never been so happy to not be alone.

Tuesday evening, 15 September 2015

GM: After a very long shower, the two Kindred head downstairs. Autumn is not present in the house. When texted, she repeats that Caroline told her to go home last night after the Ventrue herself returned. She gives no indication of remembering any of the events at Central City and asks if Caroline wants her to come over.

Caroline: It isn’t quite as good as warm blood from some victim following through her veins, but after the shower Caroline practically radiates heat, for a brief time mimicking the living.

She shoots Autumn another text.

Yes. Take your time. Pick up some food.

GM: Aimee has also been moved to an upstairs bedroom. The ghoul looks and smells the same (if not slightly worse) than she last did, and is still asleep. Caroline ascertains the mental compulsion after a short inspection. No normal person would sleep for an entire 24 hours.

She settles down with Jocelyn around her captive attacker.

“So. Let’s find out his story.”

Turner lies asleep in the adjacent bedroom. Her right hand and the left side of her head are wrapped in bandages, the former also in a splint. There appears to have been a limit to the generosity of Caroline’s benefactor. The ghoul is stable remains bedridden and catastrophically wounded. Still, she is stable, and has but to rest and recuperate… or sup from her domitor’s wrist.

Caroline: Caroline sets a pistol down beside her and looks to Jocelyn.

“Can you wake him up?”

GM: Jocelyn nods. “Either of us can. He’s been mindscrewed. Just say ‘wake up now’.”

Caroline: She nods, then wipes the smile from her face. “Wake up. Now.”

GM: The ghoul’s eyes snap open. They bore into Caroline’s.

“Untie me.”

The words press down upon Caroline’s will like leaden weights. But they simply aren’t the same iron that Father Malveaux and Pierpont McGinn commanded.

Caroline: Her eyes bore right back.

“Stop resisting.”

GM: The man’s expression briefly goes sluggish at the vague command.

Caroline: She drills her will into his mind, burrowing into it with seductively calm words.

“Obey all of my commands, answer all of my questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge, and make no attempt to resist me or free yourself.”

GM: The bound man regards her with a sleepily obedient look.

Caroline: She turns on the charm next. Her smile is radiant. Her presence is dazzling. She’s his friend. He can tell her things. Tell her anything.

“Now tell me, who are you? What is your name, what names are you known by, and who is your dominator?”

GM: “Kelford Grant,” he answers placidly. “Had other names. No one remembers but him. You dominated me.”

Caroline: “Dominator,” she corrects.

GM: “You dominated me,” he repeats.

Caroline: She grinds her teeth. “Why did you attack me last night? Why were you following me?”

GM: “Uh, the term’s domitor. I know it sounds kinda the same…” Jocelyn offers.

“My domitor ordered me to,” the ghoul answers.

Caroline: She cracks a smile at Jocelyn.

“Who is your domitor?”

GM: “René Baristheaut.”

Caroline: The smile vanishes, and the lines at the corner of her mouth turn hard. “What were his actual orders with regard to me?”

GM: “Bring you back to the French Quarter. Torpid but not dead.”

Caroline: “Why?” The word comes out almost strangled.

GM: “I don’t know,” the ghoul answers placidly.

Caroline: “Why did he Embrace me?” Caroline’s composure starts to crack.

GM: That same blank look.

“I don’t know.”

Caroline: “Why did he come back to New Orleans?”

GM: “He said it was time.”

Caroline: “Time for what?”

GM: “I don’t know.”

Caroline: “How long have you been his servant? When did you become a ghoul?”

GM: “Since the Second Occupation. 1909.”

Caroline: Caroline looks at Jocelyn.

GM: The Toreador frowns. “I don’t know either. Wow, though. Pretty old for a ghoul.”

Caroline: “Cuba,” she replies to the comment. “In what capacities have you served René?”

GM: “As his right hand man,” the ghoul sleepily answers. “I’ve protected him during the day when he slept. Hunted for him. Killed his enemies. Advised him. Acted as his eyes, ears, and hands outside the French Quarter, since coming here.”

Caroline: “How many other ghouls does he have in his service?”

GM: “Four.”

Caroline: “Are they here in New Orleans?”

GM: “Yes.”

Caroline interrogates her captive for some length. He reveals the following information under questioning and repeated application of the Ventrue’s mental powers:

He gives the names of René’s other four ghouls. All of them are new, and only received the Blood around a week ago. He isn’t sure of all the exact dates. All of them are former soldiers and combat-trained.

Kelford himself, beyond his combat and stealth skills, is also a proficient wilderness survivalist. He’s no Kindred, but after 100 years on the Blood he’s no stranger to matters of subterfuge either.

He does not know the location of René’s haven. His domitor has trusted him with that information before, but did not this time. He could be captured and made to talk.

When Caroline questions him as to René’s banes, Kelford’s slack face clenches and goes red like a tomato. Caroline can feel a wall around the ghoul’s thoughts… someone else has erased that knowledge from his mind.

She slams her will against that wall and finds it all-too brittle. She pours on more of the charm. Kelford’s face looks simultaneously slack and ready implode. It’s a bizarre expression that Caroline barely notices over his hissed confession that her sire is repulsed by brandished crucifixes.

Caroline presses down. Digs deeper. There’s more, she’s sure of it. Sweat pours down Kelford’s face as his eyes roll back in his head. His mouth dumbly moves, but no sound escapes. Her sire’s will is too strong for Caroline to penetrate his secrets a second time.

Undaunted, she returns to more mundane questions.

Kelford reports that René may only feed on Roman Catholics who have lapsed in their faith.

René’s relationship with Antoine Savoy, to Kelford’s knowledge, has varied over the years. As one of the Guard de Ville in the early 20th century, René was opposed to the Lord of the French Quarter by dint of factional allegiance, to say nothing of his status as sheriff Bastien’s childe. He was also a mere neonate who never seriously harmed the Toreador elder’s interests, and it has been a hundred years. Antoine Savoy has agreed to shelter René in the French Quarter, despite his violation of the Traditions, in return for a price that René did not disclose to his ghoul.

The Setites have long whispered in René’s ear with their forked tongues, Kelford reports. Ever since his Embrace. They pursued him when Kelford believes they would have since given up on other marks. It was as if they sensed something in René. Kelford has traveled far and wide with his domitor, and the serpents have proven persistent nemeses to the pair.

René did not always resist their temptations. He did just often enough. Since Caroline’s Embrace, René has willingly sought out their company at Chakras, a club that is also their hounfor, and Kelford fears for his soul. He now seeks the serpents’ counsel and keeps their company.

Many of René’s old alliances have withered in the century he has been away from New Orleans, Kelford relays. He had previously been one of Vidal’s hounds, but his recent alliance with Savoy has burned all bridges with that faction. Still, a few may yet remain:

Marcel Guilbeau is his cousin by blood, for they both share the same grandsire, Lothar Constantine. Marcel is also of the Invictus, not the Sanctified. Still, Marcel is closely allied to Vidal, who has granted shelter to Baton Rouge’s former prince since his overthrow. René has sent covert communiques through several layers of messengers to court an alliance. To Kelford’s knowledge, he has yet to receive a definitive response.

Pierpont McGinn is another clanmate and member of the Invictus who owes no fealty to the Sanctified, though his covenant is allied to them. Pierpont McGinn is also in talks with Antoine Savoy and cares little for Caroline personally, of which René is aware. René approached the regent of Uptown with an offer to kidnap Caroline in return for favors of a to be determined nature. McGinn was amenable to the idea. They are still conducting negotiations regarding those favors and what means by which they may frame Caroline to be an intruder in McGinn’s domain a second time. They normally wouldn’t even bother framing a friendless and sireless fledgling like her, but the Guard de Ville is watching her actions closely, so they figure a pretext cannot hurt. The whole of the plot is still being hashed out.

Harlequin, when last he spoke with René, found the former hound “honest” as well as charming. While the harpy and regent of the Masquerade has little desire to aid a known violator of the Traditions, he is otherwise well-disposed towards René.

René has also crossed paths with Veronica Alsten-Pirrie, an Anarch newly cozy with Antoine Savoy. She liked him. She dislikes the prince for his role in what befell her childe. René believed the two of them could have a great deal in common.

René has spent time in the Dungeon, an S&M club of sinister reputation. He also courted offers of friendship with Reynaldo Gui and Rosa Bale, fellow Ventrue who stand opposed to Vidal. René has been unwilling to leave the French Quarter, but nor does he intend to remain idle during his time there.

René has comparatively few held and owed prestation debts in New Orleans, Kelford reports. He was only in the city for twenty-odd years before he left, and many of his then-peers have either met final death or departed the city themselves. He holds and is owed various debts by Kindred outside the city, the nearest of which is from Avoyelles Desormeaux, the prince of Lafayette. He and René helped defend her against a marauding Loup-Garoux.

In New Orleans, at least, René owes a debt to the Nosferatu for purchasing information on Caroline. He owes another debt to Rosa Bale for employing her own spy network to gather information on the Ventrue. Kelford would not be surprised if his domitor owed a debt to Antoine Savoy, but he is unaware of the terms under which Caroline’s sire is receiving shelter from the French Quarter Lord.

Indeed, one of René’s foremost concerns now that he is back in New Orleans has been to accumulate further prestation capital. Tying into this were his final “allies” Eight-Nine-Six, whose already present animosity towards Caroline made them attractive pawns. René was engaged in several schemes to maneuver the krewe under his thumb:

At René’s instruction, Kelford covertly followed Eight-Nine-Six. While Cherry Nines was alone, he mesmerized her into believing that approaching him for help against Caroline would be a good idea. The ghoul played the part of a powerful servant to an anonymous ancilla who wished to conceal his hand should the scheme go south (technically true), and “consented” to lend his help in capturing Caroline in return for a boon owed. René intended to double-cross Eight-Nine-Six afterwards and take Caroline for himself, though Kelford is unaware how his domitor had planned to do that.

Regardless, Eight-Nine-Six unwittingly pledged René a collective boon in return for Kelford’s help. René did not want to attack Caroline in Audubon Place if there was a simpler alternative, so he hired a private investigator named Tavell Franklin to track down Caroline’s mortal friends and associates. After learning Aimee’s identity, René and Kelford tracked down her mother and dominated the woman into inviting her daughter over. René dominated Aimee when she arrived at the house and was surprised to discover she was Caroline’s ghoul. After interrogating Aimee for everything she knew about Caroline, René ordered Kelford to set an ambush at Aimee’s house with Eight-Nine-Six. Caroline’s sire then turned her ghoul into a weapon, just in case the ambush didn’t work out.

Caroline spotted the ambush and all the better for her: although René returned to the French Quarter, Kelford was in the house alongside Eight-Nine-Six. The Anarch krewe was sorely unhappy not to torpor Caroline themselves, but grudgingly consented when Kelford told them that a successful hostage swap would still deliver Caroline into their hands. René was genuinely perplexed that it did not… Kelford extensively interrogated Aimee about her house’s layout, and assumed that someone careless enough to disclose her haven’s location to so many Kindred (over a dozen likely know where she sleeps) would not have a panic room she kept secret from her best friend.

Regardless, Eight-Nine-Six were beyond incensed after learning what happened to their haven (and Bliss), and weren’t willing to listen to Kelford anymore after he failed to deliver results with Aimee. The krewe was uncontrollable and going after Caroline one way or another, so René made the best of the situation and decided to use them as a distraction. He loaned Tavell to help them tail Caroline and even act as chauffeur. The investigator remained in communication with Kelford, and after Eight-Nine-Six had a bead on Caroline, Kelford swiftly drove to Central City.

He had not been expecting anything so Masquerade-endangering as a car crash and gunfight in the streets, but resolved to make the best of it. If Eight-Nine-Six took down Caroline, he could collect her and René would hold a significant boon over the krewe’s heads for his two ghouls finding the Ventrue and helping clean up the Masquerade breach. If Caroline took down Eight-Nine-Six, even better: Kelford could pick her off after she was worn down from the battle, and René could claim an even larger debt for his ghoul saving their Requiems.

René will be disappointed that all the effort he invested into Eight-Nine-Six is now for naught. They were reckless, but their known enmity towards Caroline and lack of connections to him would have made them useful pawns. He has his eyes on other neonates in the French Quarter, however, and it is only a matter of time until he maneuvers more into his debt. That will be harder now without Kelford.

As to René’s sire Robert Bastien, Kelford was not there when it happened, but learned secondhand that Bastien was killed by hunters affiliated with a group called the Society of Leopold. Vidal was wroth over his sheriff’s final death and found Bastien’s killers guilty of blasphemy: lambs forgetting their place in the natural order by striking against God’s wolves. René, Donovan, Rocco Agnello, and two new members of the Guard de Ville—Pierpont McGinn and a Tremere named Jonathan North—tracked down and apprehended the surviving hunters. All were burned at the stake after watching the same fate befall their families. Children were granted cleaner deaths by beheading. René understood the necessity of such actions—there can be no mercy towards hunters, only bloody example—but Kelford remembers his domitor being sickened by the sight of six-year-olds crying for their mothers as their heads were lined up before the chopping block.

Kelford and René know everything about Caroline that Aimee knows: Kelford spent much of the day interrogating her, and duly relayed everything to his domitor. They also had a private investigator dig into Caroline’s background and associates, and paid the Nosferatu and Rosa Bale for information on her activities and movements as a Kindred.

René first ordered Kelford to start monitoring Caroline on September 7th, the night after she was Embraced. Initially, he confined himself to simply following her movements, but René has stepped up his instructions to active capture in the last few nights. He did not explain why to his ghoul.

Kelford can testify that his master is an expert swordsman and crack shot with a rifle. The two often sparred together to maintain their skills, and Kelford admits that René is his better (though not by a significant margin). The ghoul does believe that he is a better marksman than his domitor is.

René is well-spoken and well-studied in social graces, and prefers to seduce his prey as a means of hunting. He is not a scholar, but he learned his letters from private tutors, attended university, and is an educated man.

He was also, as Caroline already knows, a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps during the Spanish-American War. All in all, Caroline’s sire is able to talk, able to think, able to fight, and can comport himself in all the ways that a gentleman of good breeding for his birth’s era should be able.

Kelford relays his personal aptitude in Caine’s gifts to Caroline. The ghoul is preternaturally tough and fast, and can bend mens’ minds to his will.

Kelford also knows that his domitor is blindingly fast, and can ensnare mens’ hearts with a glance and bend their minds with a word. Childe largely takes after sire there. René possesses a lesser degree of mastery over the arts of being as strong and resilient as stone.

Kelford has rarely had occasion to fight Kindred separately from his domitor, though he is capable of doing so and has driven several neonates into torpor. His preferred MO is through an M200 Intervention’s night vision telescopic, but he can overcome them hand to hand if need be.

Having violated the Traditions, René is an enemy by default of the Hardline Sanctified, and by extension those covenants (the Invictus, Anarchs, and Tremere) allied with the prince. On a personal level, however, while René has had few opportunities to make enemies in New Orleans, he has inherited the enemies of those whom he courts as his allies.

Pierpont McGinn is a known rival of Accou Poincaré, and McGinn’s star has been on the rise in conjunction with the wane of Poincaré’s. Kelford knows that Accou is also a member of the Invictus, but is ignorant as to the reasons for their enmity.

Jocelyn adds that Accou is one of the two primogen for her clan, and is the second-eldest Toreador in the city after Pearl Chastain. He is also her eldest childe and handles many of the clan’s social and political affairs when she is too apathetic to do so.

Rosa Bale and the Setites are both rivals to a group of vampires called the Giovannini, who Caroline has not heard of before. Jocelyn explains that they are basically “the Mafia Kindred clan,” and besides being exclusively Italian, are also “necromancers and perverts.” Vidal does not look favorably upon them, and they are only (tacitly) openly accepted in the French Quarter. Savoy doesn’t seem to mind them as much. René, in any case, believed them unfriendly and instructed Kelford to avoid them.

Marcel Guilbeau is bitter enemies with Lawrence Meeks, the Nosferatu who usurped his throne as prince of Baton Rouge. Meeks desires him eliminated; the prince-in-exile is a very loose end that everyone imagines he wants to see tied closed. To this date, however, Vidal’s protection has shielded his younger clanmate from the Nosferatu’s reprisals.

Harlequin has no enemies that Kelford knows of. All Kindred acknowledge the dire importance of maintaining the Masquerade, which the Krewe of Janus is necessary for in a city as grossly overpopulated (relative to its size) as New Orleans.

Veronica Alsten-Pirrie has led a faction of Anarchs into the arms of Antoine Savoy as a result of Matheson’s alleged misdeeds, and stands opposed to Coco Duquette, who has not (yet) condemned the prince and adopted a “wait and see” approach to Matheson’s guilt. The trial is not even that many nights away, but neonate Anarchs (many of them Brujah) are not renowned for their patience. Or willingness to stomach elder tyranny and exploitation of the young. Jocelyn also knows that Veronica is a fellow Toreador and harpy. She has long been ensnared in a bitter three-way feud with her cousins-in-blood Marguerite Defallier and Katherine Beaumont.

Kelford is ignorant of any enemies Reynaldo Gui may have.

Rosa Bale and the Setites, in addition to being opposed to the Giovannini, are also foes to the followers of Baron Cimitière. Kelford knows that the Vodouisants who support the Baron compose the third major power bloc in New Orleans, together with the Bourbons and the Hardliners (the two factions of Sanctified, Jocelyn clarifies). Kelford knows they believe Savoy either insincere or unworthy of his own professed Vodoun faith, but little else.

Kelford did not track Caroline prior to her Embrace, and has no knowledge of his domitor doing so either.

Kelford also duly provides the phone number he used to stay in communication with his domitor.

René has spoken little of Caroline to Kelford. Merely that he violated the Traditions by Embracing without the prince’s consent, and that she must be “watched”, and as of several nights ago, “recovered.” René has been increasingly on edge and susceptible to his Beast’s rages in between episodes of bitterness and melancholy. His domitor’s blackest mood came after he had the Ravnos Yellow Sidra cast his fortune, which caused him to slay one of his ghouls in frenzy. Kelford knew better than to ask what it was.

Kelford (and René) are aware of the Storyville Krewe. Eight-Nine-Six reported that three of their number came to the hostage swap in Caroline’s company, despite having seemingly nothing to do with the negotiations. René had been ignorant of the neonates’ existence prior to that report, and has consequently had Kelford investigate the backgrounds of the entire krewe to determine their relationship to Caroline. Kelford is ignorant of the one that exists between Caroline and Jocelyn.

René has always been a melancholic individual, Kelford reports, for as long as the ghoul has known him. However, his domitor’s moods have grown far bleaker—and unpredictable—in the nights since Caroline’s Embrace. René appeared to take black amusement in the pair’s present circumstances. He mocked Kelford for his century of service and told him it has merely earned him a hotter spit to roast over once they both finally burn in Hell.

Kelford reports that René rarely bothers to explain his night-to-night activities when he has no need of his servant. The ghoul was evidently not needed on the night of Caroline’s Embrace and left to his own devices.

René rarely bothers sharing his feelings on other Kindred either. Kelford is his servant, not his friend. René was more inclined to do so in his younger nights, however. The ghoul does not believe that René particularly liked Donovan, for his domitor sarcastically remarked that “he has more stomach for beheading crying babes.” That was over a hundred years ago, however.

René did not share his reasons for departing New Orleans. He merely told Kelford that they were leaving, and the ghoul had little choice but to obediently follow.

René did not present himself to prince Vidal upon his return to New Orleans, but did so to seneschal Maldonato in his stead. René said he intended to stay for perhaps a week, and the seneschal granted René his leave. Jocelyn adds that it is fairly rare for a prince to refuse visiting Kindred permission to spend at least a few nights in their city, so long as they present themselves in a timely manner and don’t offend anyone when they do so.

Caroline endeavors to ask about Lou without mentioning him by name around Jocelyn. Kelford appears completely ignorant who she is talking about after she provides the private investigator’s description.

Caroline: At last, Caroline looks at her lover.

“Can you think of anything I missed?”

GM: Jocelyn thinks. “Honestly, you covered a lot. Could always put him to sleep until you think of something later?”

Caroline: “Based on your time with him, what would you expect his reaction to your capture to be, and what would you expect his next move to be in general?”

GM: “Still wants you captured. Use other ghouls. Promise more debts. Go after your mortal family and associates. It worked with your ghoul.”

Caroline: She nods to Jocelyn.

“Go to sleep,” she commands the ghoul, rising from beside him and making for the dining room.

GM: Kelford’s eyes droop.

Caroline: Caroline grinds her teeth at the sleeping figure.

All the pain that she’s gone through.

All the pain that Aimee and Turner have gone through.

She’s looking forward to some payback on the real architect.

Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, PM

Caroline: She sinks into a chair, conflict written across her face, then looks up at Jocelyn.

“I need to know who I can trust to turn him over to. He knows all about the Eight-Nine-Six brawl, and I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

GM: Jocelyn frowns. “Well… I guess you could give him to the sheriff. But I don’t think anyone would cry if you just drained him here. Oh, no, the real Eight-Nine-Six brawl, that’s right.”

The Toreador is silent for a moment. “I can take him to someone. But he’s not ever gonna come back.”

Caroline: “I need to be able to turn him over to someone with the prince. He’s the only evidence I have that I’m making progress. It might even get me an extension, and they might be able to pry more from him than I can.”

GM: Jocelyn shakes her head. “He knows about the real Eight-Nine-Six fight. If they can get more out of him than you did, they can probably get that out too. And no one gets to know how that went down but us. It didn’t happen.”

She looks conflicted. “I wish there were a way to still get you some brownie points… maybe tape a confession of his? Like, order him to recite everything your sire wouldn’t want him to tell people?”

Caroline: Caroline frowns and almost pleads, “There’s no one you would trust to bring this to?”

GM: “No, there IS… someone I can bring him to. We won’t ever see him again, but you’re not gonna get any credit or extensions. He’ll just be gone, and the sheriff won’t know.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “I could make that happen on my own, and he’s still… valuable right now.”

GM: “Okay, maybe just… keep him around, ask more questions when you think of them?”

Caroline: She nods. “Holding him is dangerous, though.”

GM: Jocelyn thinks. “Maybe lock him in a cage or something too?”

A text buzzes from Autumn.

outside audubon, buzz me in?

Caroline: Caroline nods, even as she pinches the bridge of her nose.

“Blindfold him at least, and figure out what the next step forward is in this mess. What I can tell Hound Wright… Autumn is going to be here in a minute or two as well.”

GM: “Yeah, I guess you’re gonna need some kind of cover story for last night.”

Caroline: “Partial truths are best lies.” She gestures back towards the living room. “He attacked me. You helped me.”

GM: Jocelyn looks around it. “Okay, in here?”

Caroline: “On the way back from the Elysium. That’s how my bodyguard got maimed as well.”

GM: “Good cover. I don’t think any Kindred are gonna ask too many questions, but just in case…”

Caroline: “Can you play with memories?”

GM: “No, just make people like me. Roxanne can do memories, though. So can Wyatt.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “Never mind then.”

She texts to buzz Autumn in.

GM: A few moments pass before the house’s front door opens and closes. Autumn walks in with several grocery bags.

“No charge on your account for these. Like I said, with stealth mode I can just load up bags and walk out of the store.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles at her ghoul. “Fringe benefits?”

GM: “Big benefits. Bigger savings.” Autumn smiles back. “Sounds kinda like the tagline for a commercial.”

Caroline: “It is out west. Albertson’s I think. In any case, Turner is upstairs, as is Aimee. Did you ever speak to your Krewe contact last night?”

GM: Autumn frowns. “Yeah, we both spoke to her, remember? I think you won some points with the Krewe taking care of that mystery vitae. And cooking the books so well, even if you still need to pay them for the blood.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head distractedly. “I’m sorry, last night was… busy. Remind me?” She lets just a touch of the Beast bleed through to mask the slip up.

GM: Autumn grows slightly wide-eyed as the vampire’s supernal presence hits her. “Well, in order…”

The ghoul reports that after Caroline and Turner were attacked and took their assailant hostage, Caroline stabilized the downed mercenary and returned home to deal with the Krewe of Janus. They sent a ghoul representative (not Maurice), who informed Caroline that Tulane Medical Center is the Krewe’s domain. By taking the nine bags of blood, Caroline stole from the Krewe, and would have endangered the Masquerade too if she hadn’t so carefully cooked the books. The representative was hostile and there to demand a boon owed as reparations for the trespass, along with an $8,100 reimbursement for the blood she stole.

Caroline was the soul of politesse and contrition. She paid the $8,100 and also returned the bag of unknown vitae she retrieved during her bank raid, stating that if TMC’s blood bank was their domain, then everything she had taken from it was theirs by right. The Krewe’s ghoul was surprised by the blood bag’s existence but grateful for the averted Masquerade breach. Whatever that blood was, it definitely wasn’t human. The Krewe was willing to waive the owed boon in return for the solid she did them there. She is also welcome to purchase further blood from them at the going rate of $900 per bag.

The ghoul even left Caroline a friendly word of advice… don’t anonymously pay the medical bills of any further patients with neck wounds and excessive blood loss. It stood out to her boss Dr. Grémillon. It can stand out to others too.

Caroline: She frowns at the lack of memory, but nods along, releasing Autumn from her sway after asking about “Trent.”

GM: “Oh, I thought Jocelyn took care of him. Must be nice knowing a friendly Kindred now.”

Jocelyn, for her part, scrolls around on her phone in the other room, not having looked up at the ghoul’s entrance.

Caroline: That persistent frown. “That’s right.”

She lets Autumn go. “I need you to look after Turner and Aimee tonight.”

GM: Autumn blinks as the spell partly ends.

“You’re right. That’s a great idea. In fact, I was thinking, maybe it’d be better if I moved in. Just so you can always have me around when something comes up.”

Caroline: “Let me think on that,” Caroline replies. “In any case, I have no idea when either last ate, and Aimee smells disgusting. Help her get cleaned up and changed after I wake her up.”

GM: Want lingers in the ghoul’s eyes, but she settles for nodding at Caroline’s answer.

“Sure. She’s probably okay to take a shower by now.”

Caroline: “You should go get a head start on food. We’ll talk before I leave.”

GM: “All right. I’ll… make her some eggs, I guess. Lot of Vitamin D.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a non-committal nod and moves over to resume her chat with Jocelyn.

“I think I’m going to call him.”

GM: The Toreador looks up. “I’d say to take a breath first. But, well. Are you hoping to…” She trails off. “Well, are you hoping to?”

Caroline: “I want to know why,” Caroline spits out.

GM: Jocelyn is silent for another moment. “I hope you find out.”

Caroline: “Whether now or later, I’ll find out.” She looks up at the Toreador. “Do you have plans tonight?”

GM: “Not really any that stand up to this.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “There’s something I’d like to check on first. A long shot.”

She bids Jocelyn follow her upstairs to where Aimee continues to reek.

A long shot, but maybe their only shot.

Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, PM

GM: Jocelyn follows Caroline up. The Toreador is wearing the same clothes as last night, but Caroline doesn’t notice any smell. It occurs to the could-have-been physician that as the Kindred are physiologically dead, she has ceased to produce any natural scents or odors. She might be able to pick up ones from her environments, but bathing every night is likely unnecessary for hygienic purposes.

Aimee looks as bad as she smells. Autumn wiped down the other ghoul’s face, but it’s still crisscrossed with fading cuts, and her right eye in particular is a reddened, swollen, cut-up mess.

Jocelyn frowns. “Uh, she looks pretty bad…”

Caroline: Caroline wakes Aimee without ceremony and immediately turns the Beast’s rampaging will upon her fragile mind, disinterested in whatever banter, whining, or complaints her once-friend has to offer in front of Jocelyn.

GM: Aimee is slow to awaken, but once she registers Caroline’s presence, the adrenaline fully kicks in as she recoils and screams something the Ventrue won’t listen to. The Beast presses down on her mind. Like a rollercoaster, Aimee goes from docile to panicking to docile once more.

Caroline: If she could flush with embarrassment at Aimee’s reaction, she probably would. Instead, she grinds her teeth.

“Tell me everything you remember about that last night of Decadence, from prior to when we were separated through when you thought to call my uncle the archbishop,” she demands.

GM: Aimee stares dumbly at the question and sleepily answers, “I didn’t do that.”

Caroline: “What do you mean you didn’t do it? Explain how you ended up in his custody.”

GM: Aimee drowsily explains that she got separated from Caroline on the last night of Decadence by… she doesn’t remember. The crowds were thick and she’d had a lot to drink. She tried calling Caroline a dozen times, but no one answered. So she called her brother Gabriel, figuring that was a long shot, but he might have more luck approaching the police (or calling another Malveaux in New Orleans to do so in his place) than she would, thanks to his family’s name.

The police were probably overworked dealing with the festival anyway. Maybe her family could send private investigators. Aimee didn’t know for sure that anything was wrong, but she had a bad feeling. Caroline had been drinking a lot and Decadence wasn’t her kind of crowd.

Gabriel brought in the family, all right. Whether he went directly to Orson, or the family member he contacted chose to do so, Caroline’s uncle got involved and was not happy. He dispatched his own private security to look for Caroline rather than bother with police, and rounded up Aimee to question her.

She was interrogated by a thin man with thinner hair and cold eyes who unnerved her. Aimee cooperated at first, thinking they were on the same side in wanting to make sure Caroline was safe. The man eventually granted her audience with Orson, who was coldly furious and had decided that Aimee was to blame for Caroline’s disappearance (they still hadn’t found her) and decision to attend Southern Decadence in the first place.

Orson threatened to send Caroline to the Ursuline Convent for life, as well as to make her stay truly miserable unless Aimee agreed to take up vows of her own. She accepted in hopes of sparing Caroline, as well as gambling that her friend would be able to talk Orson down and get her out of the (non-legally binding) agreement.

Caroline: Caroline digs a bit further into when they got separated, and any other events during Decadence that were suspicious or out of the norm.

GM: Aimee had a lot to drink. She doesn’t remember much. While that explanation sounds credible enough to a layman, digging deeper, the almost-physician finds that her ghoul’s hazy descriptions are consistent with someone suffering under the effects of rohypnol (flunitrazepam), also known as roofies or the forget-me-pill.

Caroline: It’s thin. Very thin. But it’s the first clue she has about what happened that night. She digs into that “bad feeling” as deeply as she can, through the fuzzy memories, fighting mind-altering chemicals with unholy power.

GM: Caroline digs through her ghoul’s mind, but can find no evidence that the source of her “bad feeling” was anything but mundane. Caroline had disappeared in the middle of a potentially dangerous festival, wasn’t answering her phone, and Aimee feared the worst.

Caroline: She finally lets the ghoul’s fragile mind go with parting commands.

“Listen to Autumn.”

“Don’t freak out.”

GM: Aimee gives a sleepy look at the first two vague and subjective commands.

But she seems pretty out of it anyways.

Jocelyn looks between the two. “My ghoul, Meg. She makes herself throw up all the time. She has anorexia, body image issues. It’s why she tried to kill herself, and now that she’s on the Blood, I guess she does it because she wants to look thin for me. It’s so gross. I’ve tried everything to break her out of the habit, and she still sticks fingers down her throat when she thinks I don’t know.”

She pauses. “I hate to say it, but your ghoul’s even sadder than Meg is.”

Caroline: “I didn’t want her for this,” Caroline replies defensively. “Father Malveaux demanded it.”

She doesn’t quite glare at Aimee.

GM: “I guess that explains it. Oh well, maybe she’ll come around after a while.”

The ghoul only stares dully ahead.

Caroline: Caroline looks back at her mutilated face and huffs, bringing her wrist to her mouth.


GM: Caroline hardly needs to back the command with her Beast. Aimee falls upon the Ventrue’s wrist like it’s the only bright spot in all her existence.

Caroline: A wrist that is withdrawn all too quickly. She’s not in the habit of rewarding bad behavior, but she wanted to clean up some of those wounds.

“Autumn will be up with some actual food in a bit.”

GM: Aimee all but cries as Caroline’s wrist withdraws. She licks her lips with slow deliberateness, then runs her fingers along them and licks her fingers.

“Okay,” she repeats numbly.

Caroline: “Don’t leave the house or cause trouble,” she orders disdainfully as she withdraws from the foul-smelling room.

GM: Aimee’s eyes glass over again.

Caroline: She can’t believe they used to be friends.

Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, PM

GM: Jocelyn rolls her own as she departs. “Ghouls, right?”

Caroline: “I guess. I don’t really know. Autumn is competent, and Turner… Turner really helped last night. Will she remember any of it?”

GM: “She’ll remember you got ambushed by your sire’s ghoul on the way home and took him down, though not after he took her down.”

Caroline: Caroline nods, both relieved and conflicted. “Okay. So… that was… interesting. Maybe just a coincidence but… that’s an awfully convenient coincidence,” she says, speaking to Aimee’s “interview.”

GM: “Her calling your family, you mean?”

Caroline: “Her getting drugged.”

GM: “Oh, she was? I thought she’d just had a lot to drink. Guess that’s not surprising at a big festival though.” Jocelyn frowns. “Or, like you say, suspicious-sounding.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “Rohypnol. Roofies.” She clarifies, “They made us look at the symptoms in detail during a sexual assault seminar, and again when I was pre-med. This one creepy doctor, Brown I think it was, actually suggested that we should ‘try some’ to ‘see what they felt like.’”

GM: Jocelyn looks slightly discomfited. “No kidding. Wonder if that’s all he wanted girls to see ‘how it felt.’”

Caroline: “Probably not,” Caroline agrees, then puts on a slightly forced smile. “But that’s part of the reason we exist, right?”

GM: “Sure is,” Jocelyn agrees. “That’s a good guy to feed on, sounds like.”

Caroline: “Anyway…”

She digs out a cellphone, toying with it. She bites her lower lip nervously.

“This is probably a bad idea.”

GM: “You’re safe here. He can’t do anything to you, and he already knows where you sleep.” The Toreador pauses. “Which I guess isn’t very comforting. But what’s the worst that can happen?”

Caroline: “You’re right.” A nervous smile. “All right. Ok.” She looks at the Toreador again for a moment and impulsively kisses her on the cheek. “For luck.”

GM: Jocelyn’s kisses her other cheek back. “For twice as much.”

Caroline: Pale, nimble fingers tap across a smartphone screen as Caroline plugs in the number Kelford gave her for René.

GM: The phone rings and rings. They’re the longest rings of Caroline’s life.

The sound finally ceases.

There is no answering machine’s prompt.

She remains as bereft of answers as before.

Caroline: Her nervous smile runs into a sad one.

“Well, I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s not there for me.”

She laughs lightly to cover it up, but the undercurrent if disappointment is hard to mask.

GM: “Well, I’m still sorry,” Jocelyn offers. “That ghoul did have a lot names, for Kindred who are his enemies. Or at least enemies of his friends. Maybe you could get in touch with some of them.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I need to see some others anyway. Should be a busy night.”

GM: “Well, hopefully not as much as last night was. You gonna give your actually useful ghoul a hit for that?”

Caroline: “I am. And as much later as I can spare. Going to need her on her feet to help against her contemporaries.”

Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, PM

GM: The two Kindred make their way to Turner’s room. The Blackwatch merc lies asleep in the best where they last left her. Her right hand and the left side of her head remain swaddled with bandages.

“She looks pretty bad,” Jocelyn frowns. “You want, I can drain some blood from your sire’s ghoul and feed it to her.”

Caroline: Caroline blinks, the idea having not occurred to her.

“I’d appreciate that. He doesn’t, well, work for me. Not my type.”

GM: “Yeah, Roxanne’s also a picky eater,” Jocelyn remarks half-jokingly. “Anyways, I’ll give you two a bit.”

The Toreador heads downstairs.

Caroline: “Thanks.”

Caroline watches her go and moves to Turner’s side, settling down beside her, lightly, before she wakes up the wounded mercenary.

“Good evening.”

The words feel flat and empty, but she isn’t sure what to say to the woman that nearly died protecting her.

GM: “Fuck,” Turner half-groans, half-grunts as Caroline jostles her awake.

Caroline: “Sorry,” Caroline murmurs softly. “You’ve been asleep the whole day, and most of last night as well.”

GM: The bandage-swaddled mercenary mutters a ragged obscenity.

“Yeah. On… my ass. Like I was for that fight.”

Her face starts to turn an angry red.

“Two of us, one of him. Still wasn’t good enough for you.”

Caroline: Caroline cringes at the mercenary’s twisted memories. Much of the fight is a blur of blood and steel, but she does remember Turner, draped in two Kindred, screaming, stabbing, and refusing to let go.

“He’s a hundred and thirty years old, had been tracking me for a week, and still ended up on the ground when it was all said and done. I’d say you did fine.”

GM: “I say he beat the shit out of me and you had to finish him yourself.” The scarred Marine’s cheeks are no less red. “Fuck this pity party. I quit. Hire a better merc.” Turner swallows angrily. “I can give you names. Do that much right.”

Caroline: Caroline sits through the mercenary’s rant. “Are you finished?”

GM: “Yeah. I am.”

She obviously doesn’t mean the same ‘finished’.

Caroline: “Good, because there are four more shooters where he came from and their boss, all of whom are going to be coming after me now harder than ever, since we took down his right hand. And I need you.”

GM: Turner clenches her teeth. “Earl Hager. Killed several guys on our earlier raid. Expensive to keep on staff, but everyone from the Mob to the street gangs want him. Bradley Abel. He was a Green Beret in Desert Storm. Looking for work. Christofer Steiner. Army Ranger in Afghanistan. Got a job, but could probably hire him away. Stephanie Hall. Not a vet, but was on SWAT. Mouth got her kicked off the force, but not her record.”

Caroline: “I’m not throwing you away,” Caroline all but growls.

GM: “Take you the time from your wrist to your mouth to make them like me.”

Caroline: “If I wanted to replace you, I’d have left you on the street.” A growing anger. “I trust you. I’m still here because you did your job. If you hadn’t, I’d be getting tortured right now in ways you can’t imagine. Not wallowing in self-pity.”

GM: Turner looks as if she’s about to growl a reply when Jocelyn re-enters the room.

“Heard the tail end, is she saying she wants to quit?”

Caroline: “She thinks she’s a failure.”

GM: “Next time just do this.” Jocelyn bites her wrist and extends the bleeding appendage in front of the wounded mercenary.

Turner stares for several moments before she falls on it. She doesn’t moan like Aimee did, but she still drinks. And drinks.

Jocelyn finally pulls away. The mercenary’s slate-gray eyes dully move between the Toreador and Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline watches those eyes move, waiting on her to speak again.

GM: Turner slowly licks her lips. “More.”

Caroline: Caroline is happy to oblige.

GM: The mercenary seizes her domitor’s wrist with equal vigor.

Caroline: When she finally draws it away she looks down at the Marine.

GM: Turner stares back up, licking her mouth again.

There’s want on her face. Still some anger. And even… shame. Though not much next to the want.

Caroline: She forces a smile across her face.

“Stay here tonight. Recover. Leaf should be up in a few minutes with some food.”

GM: Turner stares ahead for another moment. The mention of food seems to at once shake her out of one stupor and send her more deeply into another one.

“…all right,” the mercenary says slowly.

Caroline: A stare. “What?”

GM: “Room service from Leaf. Whatever.”

Caroline: “I need you back on your feet as soon as possible. We have work to do. People to kill.”

GM: The mercenary stares ahead for another moment, as if to pierce some fog. She grunts, then pushes herself out of bed. Someone’s changed her into a tee and pair of sweats.

“On them,” she manages with another grunt.

Caroline: Caroline offers her the pistol she carried up from downstairs.

“Then you’re the last line here tonight. Aimee is zoned out, but I don’t trust her and we’ve got our friend from last night downstairs.”

GM: “Trust him to make my day if he tries anything.”

Caroline: “There’s more than that. If anyone other than one of us,” she gestures to Jocelyn and back to herself, “shows up to take him or assaults the house, they can’t take him alive. You’re the only one with that order. If Autumn tries to lead anyone to come take him, empty the mag into his face.”

GM: Turner slowly makes her way out of the room, hands leaning against one of the walls.

“Knew that little bitch was a fuckin’ traitor. Can plug her now, you want.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns. “No, I trust her. Enough. What I mean is… it’s possible for us,” she gestures to Jocelyn, “to get inside someone’s head. Make them do things. That’s why she’s answering the door, and why she doesn’t know about your orders. If someone tries to use her… well. They’ll be in for a surprise.”

GM: “Won’t be surprised for long.”

Caroline: “Don’t push yourself too hard otherwise. We’ll get that hand fixed when I get back.”

GM: Turner just grunts and slowly makes her way to the staircase, within earshot of the front door, then pulls up a chair and sits down. She checks over the gun in a routine fashion.

“Where’s the gorilla?”

Caroline: “We’ll bring him up. Don’t take the blindfold off, whatever you do.”

GM: Turner nods stiffly. “I’ll lock him in a closet. Whatever’s in the way of him and more trouble. Break his fingers too if you don’t need those.”

Caroline: “We’ll keep those for now. At the end of all of this, though, you’re welcome to take your revenge.”

GM: The mercenary only stares hungrily.

Caroline: “Don’t shoot Leaf. You might even pick her brain. She knows a lot that might be of interest to you about this world.”

GM: Turner grunts. “Might as well get something out of her before you have me, I guess.”

Caroline: Caroline, with help as needed, fits a blindfold over her sire’s ghoul, strips him of his gear, and manages his hog-tied form upstairs.

GM: Caroline finds the man already stripped of his gear, and also impossibly heavy to move by herself. Jocelyn tells her to have her ghouls do it, but Autumn is about as strong as a kitten and Turner can only use one hand. In the end, it takes all four ghouls and Kindred an exhaustively slow joint effort to haul Kelford, who must be kept sedated, up the stairs.

Autumn collapses panting once Kelford is up, insisting they take a break. Turner looks her over flatly.

“You don’t have a tail growing above your ass, do you?”

Autumn just gives a half-hearted glare as she gulps down a few breaths.

“Cuz that’s the only way I can think of you’d be an even bigger pussy.”

“You’re one to talk about thinking. You wait until sixteen to drop out of high school, or was that too high a number to count up to?”

Caroline: “Cut it the fuck out,” Caroline hisses at them.

“I need you.” She looks between them. “Both of you.”

GM: The two ghouls grudgingly relent at their domitor’s request.

Jocelyn doesn’t roll her eyes, but is probably thinking it.

Caroline: “You have knowledge,” she admonishes Autumn. “You have skills,” she admonishes Turner. “Teach each other something meaningful before I get back.”

She doesn’t quite slam the door as she heads out, but she’s clearly disgusted with the two.

GM: “Right,” says Jocelyn, “fun as being around you is, your renfields don’t rate nearly so high. I’m gonna get laid.” She adds, “That means hunting. You need me, I’m a text away.”

Caroline: Caroline holds tight to the Toreador’s hand.

“Thank you, Jocelyn. For everything. Especially for last night, at the theater… after. Last question. What did Eight-Nine-Six get picked up for, officially?”

GM: Jocelyn looks up at Caroline and squeezes back. “I’d say it was nothing, but it wasn’t. You’re… well. A lot more. And to spoil the mood, breaking the Masquerade. I mean, you saw what happened there. Central City might be a shit neighborhood, but it was still a giant gunfight in the streets. Cops still showed up. With the sheriff on-scene to clean it up, someone had to take the blame.”

Caroline: “I’ll make it up to you when we get through all of this,” Caroline replies to Jocelyn’s mood spoiling comment.

“Right, but what’s the story? Who’d they shoot it out with officially?”

GM: “I’m… actually not sure. Just that it wasn’t us. Our…” Jocelyn trails off again for a moment, then finally states, “Said it’d give us better plausible deniability, if we aren’t familiar with the story. I mean, why would we be? We weren’t there.” She adds, “But I also got told it’d look natural if we asked about it and looked into things. Because, you know, we weren’t exactly pals with Eight-Nine-Six to begin with.”

Caroline: “How could you be? Savages.”

GM: “Kaintucks.”

Caroline: “That tattoo.” She shakes her head. “Good riddance.”

GM: Jocelyn frowns. “Yeah. That was pretty tasteless. Screw them though, they’re history.”

Caroline: A nod. “I’ll see you later.” Caroline smiles and lets go of Jocelyn’s hand.

GM: “One last thing… you learned a lot from your sire’s ghoul. You might see if you could trade any of that info to the Nosferatu.”

Caroline: “That…” Caroline smiles, “Is a great idea. I’ll call you and let you know what I come up with.”

GM: Jocelyn smiles back and stands up to her tiptoes, not kissing Caroline so much as tracing a fang across her skin. “Call me.”

Caroline: Caroline watches her go, running her tongue across her fangs.

She’s still smiling.

Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline makes her way over to the black Suburban parked on the street.

GM: Her newest employee, already arranged several days ago, is waiting for her on the driver’s side.

Nicole Polk, ex-Secret Service, clocks in several inches below Caroline’s height and shares her blonde hair, pulled back in a ponytail. In contrast to Turner’s empty, sometimes hungry stares, her gaze is more professional and removed, though there’s a trace of tiredness or resignation behind it. She’s dressed in a simple black pantsuit, the standard uniform of bodyguards everywhere.

Seeing Caroline approach, she gets out of the SUV to open the passenger door for her employer and nods, “Ma’am.”

Caroline: “Ms. Polk.” Caroline greets the woman. She frowns a bit at the more understated gear, but a glance into the back seat reveals a heavy black bulletproof vest with Blackwatch velcro across the front in white block letters, a large plastic case with a distinct logo stamped into the plastic.

“I’m looking forward to working with you.”

GM: Polk nods. “Likewise, ma’am. Where are we headed?”

Caroline: Caroline slides into the passenger seat and provides an address to a residential neighborhood, watching the bodyguard plug the address into the dash mounted GPS and waiting for them to get underway before continuing, “Your profile makes a convincing case for your aptitude, Ms. Polk. Secret Service. They haven’t been amateurs when I’ve met them.”

GM: “We aren’t paid to be, ma’am. We’ve got the same physical requirements you’ll find in most law enforcement and military organizations, and we’re all college-educated too.”

The Blackwatch merc’s jaw tightens a bit at that last statement, but she keeps her eyes on the road as the Suburban pulls out of Audubon.

Caroline: “Good. You’ll need all of that.” She frowns. “I’m sure you’ve stood plenty of boring assignments. I don’t expect this to be one for you.”

GM: “I do my job right, ma’am, it’ll still be boring and uneventful for you.”

Caroline: “We could hope, but I don’t expect that either.” She bites her lip. “It’s complicated. And not ‘stalker’ ex-boyfriend complicated.”

GM: The former Service agent’s eyes briefly cut back to her employer but remain centered on the road. “You’ve hired me to handle it, I’ll handle it.”

Caroline: A hint of a smile. “Then consider this a briefing. At least four shooters retained as part of a grab team. Former military all. I’ll get you bios on them when I get them, but they’re going to shoot first and ask questions never.”

GM: Polk nods slowly at that. “The more I know the better I’ll be able to protect you, ma’am.”

Caroline: “Last night they took a shot. My last bodyguard is recovering from two bullet wounds.”

GM: The former Service agent nods again in acknowledgment. “You have any idea what they want you for?”

Caroline: “To an extent.” The frown creeps its way across her face again. “I confess, I’ve tried to explain this three times now, and every time it’s been awkward.” She pauses. “Are you a believer, Ms. Polk?”

GM: There’s the slightest twitch to Polk’s finger, but the mercenary’s voice is steady and even heavy as she replies, “I sure am, ma’am.”

Caroline: “That makes this easier, I think. Have you ever seen anything that you couldn’t explain, or that you could only explain with that faith?”

GM: “Sure. The sun rising over the sky every day, on a planet with just the right conditions to be hospitable to intelligent life. Us being here, having this conversation.”

Caroline: A creeping smile. “That’s too easy an answer. I’m talking about something your rational mind says is impossible.”

GM: Polk frowns. “I’ve had too much to drink a few times. Seen a few odd things.”

Caroline: “Only while drinking?”

GM: The merc’s frown doesn’t disappear. “Yeah. Only when drinking.”

Caroline: “And have you been drinking tonight?”

GM: “Not a drop, ma’am. I’m on assignment for you,” Polk answers seriously.

Caroline: There’s a flash of teeth.

“You will be before it’s over.”

Tuesday night, 15 September 2015, PM

GM: Caroline has Polk drop her off outside the address of the apartment she visited several nights ago. Charlotte Greenfield and Zachary Bellamy, she learns from brief conversation with the couple, are Tulane grad students in a polyamorous relationship who respectively identify as pansexual and polysexual. They hadn’t expected to see Caroline again, but next to a Tuesday night of chaste studying and bill-paying they aren’t saying no to a surprise booty call.

The pair’s blood is hot and excitable. They appear to regularly bathe, unlike one of Caroline’s other more recent meals. They even like bondage, and Lotte digs a pair of padded handcuffs to restrain her to the bed. The Beast enjoys seeing its prey bound and helpless.

It’s still as savory as a drive-thru Glee Meal next to Jocelyn.

Caroline tries to spice things up further. After the spent, sweating trio is lying motionless in bed, basking in the afterglow, she mischievously suggests calling a friend of theirs for round two.

Lotte laughs how she “can’t believe this is just happening, and on a school night!” The irresistible force of the Ventrue’s Beast makes it happen. In short order, Zack’s called over another friend of theirs, a genderfluid wo/man named Adrian who’s currently identifying as female. She has small enough breasts and short enough hair that Caroline could see her passing as male once she’s stripped and joined the couple in their bed. New sweat stains the sheets with old, and new blood fills the Ventrue’s gullet with old.

The experience still isn’t Jocelyn.

But it’s closer than the last one.

Caroline: When she takes her leave, tireless, its with a hint of a smile and a fresh flush to her skin, a warmth not her own. She makes her way back to Ms. Polk.

GM: The former Secret Service agent gets out of the car to open the door for Caroline, then asks her where to once they’re both in.

Caroline: She checks her phone for a response from Haley. She frowns as she realizes that she forgot to send a message amid the bickering ghouls. She fires off one inquiring as to Coco’s potential availability for a brief audience.

GM: The herald texts back that Coco has no openings in her schedule tonight or tomorrow tonight. She will be at Blaze the night after tomorrow at 10 PM.

Caroline: She growls in frustration and sits back in thought for a moment, contemplating and enjoying the silence of the vehicle with the consummate professional.

GM: Polk does not break that silence and continues to cruise the neighborhood. Dwelling on the periphery of Tulane’s campus, it’s largely residential, with the odd store and casual dining establishment mixed in. When Caroline wishes to, their route is hers to re-divert.

Caroline: She pulls up Wright’s number and hits send.

GM: The phone rings several times. Finally it picks up.

“You breakin’ my heart, girl. I thought you was gonna call me reg from now on.”

Caroline: “Ah, but you told me you wouldn’t be available yesterday,” she replies.

GM: “In person.”

Caroline: “My mistake then. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to bother you if you were occupied.”

GM: The hound grunts. “A’ight. Guess I wasn’t clear.”

Caroline: She bites her lip. “It won’t happen again.”

She hesitates for a moment. “Any word on Vieux Carré?”

GM: “Let’s start with why you’re callin’ me every night first.”

Caroline: She bites her lip. “His banes include a weakness to crosses. He has four ghouls still in his service, down from six last night.”

GM: “Well, ain’t someone been learnin’ a few things. Where you find that out?”

Caroline: “I caught once of his spies following me, and he made a run at me with two ghouls last night.”

GM: Wright questions Caroline more thoroughly as to the particulars of how the ghouls were caught and slain, as well as the information that Kelford revealed under interrogation. Eventually, he gives a grunt of what sounds like approval.

“Well, ain’t somebody gotten off her ass. That a lot you dug up ‘bout your old man. I’m gonna ask Donovan t’ give you a time extension.”

Caroline: She bites her lip so hard it almost breaks the skin, almost speechless.

“Thank you,” she chokes out.

GM: “We’ll see if he do, so don’t go tearin’ over me jus’ yet. So far as Vieux Carré, I guess here we can cue the waterworks, ‘cuz he said yes. He also givin’ you his writ of passage, that say you on sheriff’s business to apprehend a Tradition breaker, so Savoy an’ nobody else in the Quarter won’t throw no shit.”

Caroline: “You’re not… you’re not just toying with me.”

GM: “Yeah, I am. You’re actually gonna get fuckin’ executed tomorrow. So write up a will, I guess, an’ if it breaks the Masquerade we’ll execute you twice as painful.”

Caroline: Her breath catches audibly.

GM: “Oh, now that, that’s toyin’ with you.”

Caroline: She shakes her head, a motion he can’t see, as she lets out that breath. “Does the writ cover anyone else with me?”

GM: “Ghouls, whatever.”

Caroline: “Thank you.”

GM: Wright grunts and hangs up.

Caroline: “Do I need to pick it up, or…?” she says into the empty line.

Wednesday night, 16 September 2015, AM

GM: Polk, meanwhile, continues to drive.

Caroline: Caroline finally hangs up, a grin on her face. “I’m sure I sound like a crazy person. You’re thinking, what did I get myself into?”

GM: “I’m not paid to ask questions, ma’am,” the mercenary replies measuredly.

Caroline’s heard the same words from another ghoul.

Caroline: A sigh and a leisurely stretch in the roomy interior. There are some benefits to losing her car. Mind, not many. “Former Secret Service. As in quit, or more likely terminated given the culture and the high demand for former agents. No reason for you to jump in bed with Blackwatch if you had a door somewhere else.”

“Open availability. Days or nights, and weekends. Suggests limited family. But you’re also in the five star category. So you’re good. You’re very good at your job. Which means… adrenaline junkie or married to work.”

“I guess it doesn’t really matter at the end of the night, or at least wouldn’t matter to most. It matters to me though, because I can actually give you what you want… if I’m right. And it would make my conscience a lot cleaner.”

GM: Polk’s fingers tighten around the steering wheel. Her jaw tightens too, but her tone is still measured as she replies without looking away from the road, “What’s it that you want to give me, ma’am?”

Caroline: “You won’t believe me.”

GM: “Then with respect, ma’am, why bring it up?”

Caroline: “Because I don’t have to ask for you to believe. I can show you.”

GM: Polk’s jaw tightens. “Ma’am. Have you considered going to the police?”

Caroline: A smile. “Pull over.”

GM: The mercenary’s expression does not relax, but she does as instructed, pulling the Suburban up by the edge of a grocery store’s parking lot.

Caroline: She looks over, meets the mercenaries eyes. “Do me a favor.” The Beast surges out. “Draw your firearm.”

GM: The mercenary’s eyes glass over as she draws the weapon.

Caroline: “Hand it to me.”

GM: She turns it over and hands the grip to Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline releases her grip on the woman’s mind. “Still think that would be a good idea?” She turns the weapon over in her hands.

GM: Polk blinks. “When did you…”

Caroline: “The world, Ms. Polk, is much stranger than you know.”

GM: The mercenary’s eyes travel between Caroline’s full hand and her own empty one. Her voice is tight like piano wire, and her posture no less tense as she demands, “When did I give you that. Ma’am.”

Caroline: “Just now. I simply asked you for it.” She ejects the magazine and passes it to the mercenary. “One in the chamber, right?”

GM: Polk’s hand snaps around the gun like a steel trap. Her face remains mostly straight, but there’s a rising snarl to her voice as she demands, “What. Is going on.”

Caroline: The barrel is still pointed at Caroline, and she casually jams a finger against it.

GM: Even fast as she is, Caroline is too slow for the Secret Service agent. Polk yanks it away from her hands with reflexes that the Ventrue knows would be only enhanced on the Blood. “What the hell are you doing,” she growls. “I’ve signed up to be your bodyguard. Nothing else. You make everything make sense to me, now, or I walk. Ma’am.

Caroline: “It’s easier in my experience with a demonstration, but sure.” She settles back again. “The world is stranger than you know, Ms. Polk. Those things you see when you’re drinking, those memories when you must not have been thinking clearly. They’re not as crazy as you think.”

GM: “As crazy as you shooting yourself,” the merc repeats flatly.

Caroline: “As crazy as you handing someone you thought was unstable your loaded firearm and not being able to remember even doing it? There’s a mystery here, Ms. Polk, that I can shed some light on. And I do need a bodyguard, because there are people that are trying to do some things you couldn’t imagine to me, but they need to understand what they’re up against. And that would require… well. Reading you in. And once that happens, well, you’re in.”

“So this is your choice.” She snorts a little in laughter. “Take the blue pill, this was another boring night. I’ll find someone else. Take the red pill… well. We can go down the rabbit hole, and you join a world that most people will never know even exists. But there’s no going back.”

“Metaphorical pills that is, of course. I’m not trying to drug you.”

GM: The former Secret Service agent listens to Caroline’s ‘offer’ in silence, her eyes still suspicious and her posture still rigid. Eventually it relaxes, and so does Polk’s professionalism as she forthrightly states, “Ma’am, you’re crazy.”

She stares for a moment, then continues, “I don’t know half of what I’ve listened to, but I don’t want to listen to any more. I can provide recommendations if you still want to find another bodyguard.”

Caroline: Caroline meets that stare. “Well, I do understand. You’re probably making the right choice. This life isn’t for everyone.” And just as suddenly out surges the Beast again, pressing down on the unbelieving woman’s so fragile (in comparison) mind.

GM: Polk’s face and posture go slack.

Caroline: “Forget this conversation,” she commands. After a moment she frowns, “Forget my last call.”

It’s so tiring sometimes, having to deal with normal people.

She leans away. “Tell me a secret.”

GM: “Someone paid me to shoot and kill a civilian while I was with the Secret Service and I don’t know why I took the money,” Polk recites in the same tone as someone asked what brand of drain cleaner they prefer.

Caroline: Caroline flinches like she’s just been slapped, her eyes digging into Polk’s.

“Tell me more.”

GM: “I got rid of the money and didn’t fight it when they fired me. I drank a lot.”

Caroline: “Who paid you?”

GM: “Man in a suit with a funny mouth.”

Caroline: “A funny mouth?”

GM: “His mouth was really small.”

Caroline: “Who was the civilian?”

GM: “Thomas Ferrell.”

Caroline: Caroline thinks on that name for a moment. Then she presses her will against Polk’s.

“Do you regret it?”

GM: “Yes,” the mercenary answers in the same bland tone.

Caroline: “Should you suffer?”

GM: “Yes,” she repeats.

Caroline: A contemplative nod.

“What do you want?”

GM: “Find out why I did it. Find out who the man was. Stop drinking. Get a man. Join the Marshals or FBI.”

Caroline: “What do you need?”

GM: “Don’t know.”

Caroline: “That’s okay. I do.”

GM: The woman just numbly stares.

Caroline: Caroline brings her wrist to her mouth, making a pair of tiny holes in her skin.

“Drink from me,” she orders, extending her wrist.

GM: Polk robotically lifts Caroline’s wrist to her mouth and imbibes.

Caroline: Caroline watches her drink, feels the still warm vitae leave her body, and at last orders, “That’s enough.”

GM: The mercenary placidly lets go. She doesn’t wipe any of the red dribbling down her chin.

Caroline: She disarms the docile woman and looks at her, nods, then releases her power over her.

GM: Polk blinks in a now too-familiar confusion.

Caroline: Caroline simply waits for her questions.

GM: Polk frowns sharply. “Ma’am. How did we get parked here?”

She looks at the gun in her hand, and the expression only deepens.

Then she sniffs. Licks the red from her lips.

“What’s going on?”

Caroline: “You tell me,” Caroline asks.

GM: “Ma’am, when did I give you my gun?”

Caroline: “A few moments ago,” Caroline replies casually, unconcerned.

GM:Why did I give you my gun, ma’am?” Polk half-asks, half-demands.

Caroline: “Why don’t you know?” Caroline counters.

GM: The mercenary’s face is starting to show frustration. “Ma’am, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.”

Caroline: “Have you been drinking?” Caroline asks, hearkening back to their conversation earlier in the evening.

GM: Polk frowns deeply. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to work for you, ma’am. I can provide referrals for other Blackwatch employees,” she states for the unwittingly second time.

Caroline: “Hold that thought.” Caroline instructs her, moving her free hand. The discharge of the firearm in the confined space of the car is deafening and the smell of gunpowder fills the air. A single piece of brass shoots out of the side of the weapon to the right, bouncing off the window and falling in the woman’s lap.

More importantly however, is the bullet that flies out of the muzzle of the weapon and flies into the Ventrue’s hand, which closes around it. She extends that hand towards Polk and drops the still hot round into Polk’s own hand, offering up her own hand, palm up for inspection. “If I have your attention now I’d like to dispense with the formalities and get right down to the part where I offer you an opportunity to find the answers to all your questions, starting with why you took the money.”

“Or would you prefer to run away and offer a referral?”

GM: Shouts of alarm sound from the grocery store’s parking lot. Caroline can make out several cries of, “Oh my god!” and “Was that a gun!?”

Polk only half-seems to register them, staring in disbelief at the sight.

Caroline: “Not that I’d advise that. I’d give you less than a year to live on your own, all things being equal.” She looks at the other woman and, seeing her disbelief, snaps her fingers. “Ms. Polk?”

GM: “We need to get away from here,” the bodyguard snaps, twisting the car’s keys.

Caroline: Caroline gives her an address.

GM: Polk pulls the Suburban out of the crowded parking lot. A middle-aged woman with a full shopping cart of groceries, half-crouched under it for cover, stares bewilderedly after the departing car.

Caroline: Caroline meanwhile digs out her phone and quickly makes Siri pull up the number to the grocery store, where she reports some ‘damn kids’ playing with firecrackers in their parking lot and nearly hitting her car with one.

GM: Caroline retrieves the store’s number and asks to speak with the manager. He thanks Caroline for letting him about the situation (evidently not having heard yet from the shopper outside), promises to call the police, and adds that he hopes the incident won’t deter her from shopping at Whole Foods Market.

Caroline: She hangs up and turns back to regard Polk. “So?”

GM: “How the hell do you know about the money I took?” the former Secret Service agent snaps, eyes still on the road as she drives (though doesn’t speed) away from the Whole Foods.

Caroline: “Not how did you catch a bullet?” Caroline tilts her head. “It’s amazing what people will tell you, if you know how to ask.” Another tilt of her head. “Or did you expect answers for free?”

GM: A chocolates store passes by the tinted windows. Polk grits her teeth. A vein bulges in her forehead, and her breath also sounds heavier.

“Ma’am. With respect, cut the fucking games and make…” the mercenary seems to search for words, then finally simply settles on, “this make sense. How the hell did you do both those things, and why are you showing me?”

Caroline: “It’s as I’ve said, Ms. Polk. I need someone with your skills, and come to find out, you need someone with mine. There’s a larger game at work in the world than you know. You’ve already been a pawn in it once.” She smiles bitterly. “The money was really a nice touch. I asked you earlier if you’d ever seen anything you couldn’t explain. Now you have. In effect, I’m pitching you your existing job… with some perks. Like getting to see behind the curtain, where lie people that can shrug off bullets, know things they shouldn’t, and even make you do things.”

“Take it, and you’ll get the answers you want so desperately, a future beyond security guard for hire, and… well. Other things.” A smile.

GM: Polk says nothing at first, staring ahead at the road. Riverbend’s well-to-do sprawl of homes and shops gives way to lower-class Broadmoor’s rougher streets. The mercenary’s set jaw does not relax, but her tone is merely as hard rather than heavy as piano wire when she finally states,

“All right. I agree.”

Caroline: “Excellent,” Caroline quips. Then, as she watches the woman’s body language she sighs. “Relax, Ms. Polk. I’m not out to get you or trick you. Go ahead and ask one of the questions that you must be holding in. We have a little ways yet to go.”

GM: “Why is there blood on my lips,” Polk half-states, half-asks.

Caroline: “It’s not actually blood. It’s called vitae, and among other things it should make you faster and tougher. More resilient. I needed and need you capable of fighting off people that can, for instance, catch bullets.”

GM: Polk’s jaw tightens further. “Why don’t I remember you giving me anything?”

Caroline: “I didn’t want you to. If you refused the gifts would fade in time, and you’d be little the wiser for it.”

GM: “What the hell are you talking about ‘you didn’t want me to’? Why don’t I remember losing my gun either?”

Caroline: “It’s similar, if less subtle and refined, to what led you to shoot that poor man in the head for the money,” Caroline replies, arching an eyebrow. “Some of us that get into the mind of another and make them do things. In my case it’s simple orders like ‘hand me your gun’ and ‘drink this.’ Someone more gifted however could give you a more complicated demand, such as ‘take this money to shoot this person at this time’. I find that kind of thing to be quite immoral, but others, well, don’t agree.”

GM: Polk takes some time to process that. Caroline can see a hundred more questions brimming behind the bodyguard’s eyes, but finally she settles for, “What ARE you?”

Caroline: Caroline sighs and looks down, almost shamefully. After a moment, “Damned. Monsters that go bump in the night. The stuff out of children’s stories. Or Hollywood. Stoker got most of it wrong, but he did get the blood right. I can’t really give you a good answer on that, yet, because I don’t have one. My circumstances are unusual. We’re people though, or we were at least.”

GM: “Vampires,” Polk states with a flat voice that wants to be disbelieving. It’s mostly just incredulous.

Caroline: “In common vernacular, though that word provokes a very negative reaction among most. They prefer the term Kindred.”

GM: “So you drink peoples’ blood. And you’ve turned me into one of you.” That same half-flat, half-incredulous tone.

Caroline: “Oh God no.” Caroline looks actively horrified at the thought, and for the first time seems actively off-balance in the conversation. “I… what… no.” She shakes her head. “I simply evened the scales a little bit between us. You’re still human, alive. You get to eat, drink, sleep. You have a future. You’ll just also be capable of some things you might have called impossible yesterday.”

GM: Polk seems to chew that over, particularly Caroline’s reaction. “What happened to me—with the civilian and the money? Why?”

Caroline: “One of my kind,” she almost spits out the words, “wanted him killed, but in a way that wasn’t easily tracked back to them. You made a useful patsy. Older, more experienced, more powerful Kindred can do more than simply order you around. They can actively put triggers into someone’s head, plant ideas, even rewrite memories.” She shrugs. “The money was an explanation for you, and for anyone else that found out.”

“You’ll discover that there’s one rule above all others for Kindred. They call it the Masquerade: you don’t expose yourself, or do anything that might expose Kindred, to mortals. If I had to guess, I’d say that if you’d stayed in DC you’d already be dead. One less loose end. And if you went digging into this on your own, they’d probably discover that one day you ate your gun out of guilt. Maybe left a touching suicide note.”

GM: “Why?” the former Secret Service agent asks. “So they could drink his blood? There’s got to be more… efficient ways.”

Caroline: “Because he was someone else’s pawn.” She looks over at Polk. “I feel like I should be smoking while I explain this.”

GM: “I could care less about the secondhand at this point. Ma’am.”

Caroline: Caroline chuckles darkly. " This… it’s just like the real world, Ms. Polk. It’s all about power. More so. Imagine if you had eternity to look towards, near-effortless command of mortals, and few physical desires, much less needs? It’s social influence, political power, money, and most importantly, social capital among each other. There are those among my kind that are hundreds of years old. Maybe older. I don’t really know. And most of them have little better to do than play the game against each other."

GM: “And they also kill ordinary people by drinking their blood.”

Caroline: “Sometimes. Some more than others.” She looks very much ashamed on this point. “It’s very much a matter of preference and control. As long as you aren’t drawing attention to yourself most don’t care. Some revel in their debauchery. In their power over life and death. They kill without conscience or concern. Others try to do better. It’s neater. Others still manage to subsist on donated blood, but that’s difficult if you aren’t rich, powerful, or influential. The going rate on blood out of a fridge, for a year, just enough to survive, is something more than half a million dollars if you’re lucky. If you’re not… much more.”

“There’s a middle ground.”

GM: “Are there any of you who try to do good? If you have all that power and… forever?”

Caroline: “What do you mean by, ‘do good’?”

GM: “For something, anything, constructive. Instead of ruining peoples’ lives.”

Caroline: “I don’t really know.” The haunted look lingers on Caroline’s face. “It’s complicated. Yes, and no. There’s entire groups, blocs, that try to make something good out of this. Try to target those who deserve it. Some try to protect those they care about, shield them from this world. Consider though, without going into detail, how this world must be set up. Consider if a CEO or politician never had to retire. Never had to step aside, and only grew more personally and politically powerful every night. How much power they would have relative to those coming in later. And then think on how many people would be corrupted absolutely by the kind of power I’m talking about.”

“I don’t want to hurt people, Ms. Polk. I just don’t want to die.”

GM: The frown on Polk’s thought-lined face remains in place. “So why do you need me?”

Caroline: “The person who did this to me. Who turned me into, this.” She spits out the last word. “And others of my own kind. We’re not invincible. I’m not invincible. I was also given a deadline to turn over the person that did this to me, to face justice, or they come cut off my head. Probably very publicly. Well, publicly among monsters like me. I’m sure it’ll be a social function.”

GM: “So you want my help. Against… another one of you.”

Caroline: “Eventually, if you’re willing. For now I want you do exactly what I hired you in the first place, to help protect me from his servants. Mortals, like you. They made a run at me last night. Nearly killed my last bodyguard. Very nearly did the same to me. In return, you get to see behind the curtain. You get to learn what’s going on, and maybe, in time, find out more about what happened back in DC. Oh, and you get to never grow old.”

GM: Polk’s face hardly looks relaxed throughout Caroline’s explanation, but at the mention of her halted aging, the bodyguard’s jaw sets again. “What?”

Caroline: “As long as you work for me, you won’t age another day unless you want to. Fringe benefit. One of the men that attacked me last night had been running around since the turn of the century. The last century.”

GM: “I sure do, ma’am. I don’t want to live forever,” Polk states, her frown only slightly abating at the ‘unless you want to’ clause.

Caroline: Caroline looks her over.

“Yeah. I wouldn’t want to either.”


False_Epiphany False_Epiphany