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Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline V, Chapter II

Antoine Savoy

“‘If all the world’s a stage, the set pieces in ours are all blacks and grays. It’s so rare that one gets to don a white costume.”
René Baristheaut

Wednesday afternoon, 23 September 2015

GM: It’s the same fatal heart attack in reverse that it was last time. Caroline’s body is numb, as if every part of it but her brain is asleep. Then she feels blood shooting through her arteries (her heart does not beat), her paralyzed limbs tingling and growing flush.

There’s a loud banging sound against the wood. “Wake up, Caroline. Wake up.”

Caroline: The Ventrue recognizes the grogginess of another day awakening and stirs, her eyes snapping own with the wariness of a cornered predator.

GM: Her mother stares down at her. She doesn’t waste any time as she continues, “Get up. This place is compromised. Matt’s about to know you’ve trashed his house. Well, even more compromised.”

Caroline: “What?” She works her way warily to her feet. “What time is it?”

GM: “It’s 2 PM. Luke came by your house and saw what state it was in.”

Caroline: “Of course he did.” She bites her lip. “I guess it makes sense I’d get evicted on both ends.”

GM: Her mother’s arms are crossed as Caroline hauls herself out of the floor. Looking up, Claire’s face looks extremely irritated.

Caroline: “What?” Caroline asks stiffly. Defensively.

GM: “Do you remember what I said last night? To touch base with the rest of the family?”

Caroline: “Do you remember that we were talking until after 10 and most of them don’t keep my same hours and that midnight messages on a Tuesday don’t go over well?” her daughter responds.
“I’d planned to do it tonight.”

GM: “Messages at midnight don’t go over well? Well, as it turns out, what goes over even worse is displaying no reaction to news of your brother’s death for a whole of two days. Especially after I’ve already played the ‘misplaced phone’ excuse for you.”

Caroline: “I didn’t have a good answer,” Caroline replies. “‘Sorry I didn’t respond sooner, let’s meet in 20 hours and I won’t respond all day again because my schedule is too full without a job or school?’ seemed in poor taste.”

GM: Claire only shakes her head. “I already told the family I’d come by and given you the news. In any case, Roger is coming by to ‘check on things’, and he’s going to expect to see you here. As the narrative I spun last time had you lying in bed all day. Now, after Roger comes over, Matt is also probably coming by to see what the damage is to his house. What do you want to do?”

Caroline: Caroline could scream in frustration. “How bad is it downstairs?”

GM: “Better than yesterday, I suppose.”

Caroline: “I can’t exactly go down and greet them under the circumstances… and in some ways this may be better than the alternative.” She shakes her head. “The meeting with the sheriff did not go well last night.”

GM: Her mother waits.

Caroline: “I’ve been bought out of my lease in Riverbend and have until 4 AM tomorrow to leave. Any future visits will be treated with hostility.”

GM: “All right. So what do you want to do right now?”

Caroline: Caroline digs in the floor near where she rested and pulls out a small bag from which she produces her rental car keys. “Park it on the street. I wasn’t here when you got here. I don’t expect Roger is going to go searching the attic for me. We can try to manage fallout tonight. Something about how distressed I was over the news.” She looks at her mother. “Unless you have a better answer? ‘Hi Uncle Matt, sorry I can’t leave the hall or approach any windows.’”

GM: “This was entirely avoidable,” her mother scowls as she takes the keys. “What if Matt tries to call you? Missing and still not answering your phone?”

Caroline: “I’ll stay up. Or try to,” Caroline responds. “But tonight isn’t much better. I have meetings with the Albino and Savoy at 9 and 10.”

GM: “The family isn’t going to get off your back just because it isn’t convenient for your schedule,” her mother angrily repeats. “They’re extremely alarmed over you right now, Caroline. God only knows what stories are spreading that I’m not hearing. At this point, faking your death definitely seems for the best, given what a poor job you’ve done at maintaining your kind’s Masquerade.”

Caroline: The words hit her harder than a slap, and Caroline falls very silent.

GM: “And that doesn’t just affect you,” her mother continues. “You put the entire family at risk when you do that. Do you remember what happened last time, when Gabriel and Aimee looked too closely into your odd behavior?”

Caroline: She knows her mother is hurting. She knows that she’s trying to put on a brave face. Knows all that she has going on, the danger she’s facing and the horror of her daughter as one of the beings she’s sent most of her life hunting.

And despite that knowing, it doesn’t hurt any less when her mother throws her ‘failures’ in her face. She wants to lash out. Wants to throw hurtful words back. Wants to accuse her mother just as cruelly of not protecting her, not protecting Westley, and never even giving them a chance to protect themselves. She wants to scream that she didn’t ask for any of this, that none of it has been fair. That every night of her Requiem has been twisted and pulled upon by her sire and his servants to ruin it, to ruin her. That she’s been tortured, beaten, and mind-raped a dozen times over. That she’s been hunted and victimized. That every morning she struggles to find a reason to crawl back into the darkness instead of meeting the rising sun.

She wants to scream that none of it has gone her way, and that all of her plans have been ruined with a brutal disregard that could not have been more targeted to destroy them if it had been completely intentional. That she doesn’t set meetings or decide upon her freedoms. That it isn’t her fault. She wants to break down and weep. She wants someone to hold her like she was held, if only so rarely, as a child and tell her things are going to be all right. She wants to explain everything she’s endured and hear sympathy, not scorn. She wants to talk about what she still has to do and hear reassurance instead of threats. She wants to believe it will get better. She needs to believe it will get better. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

She shoves away her wants. She shoves away her needs. “I know,” she replies instead. “I know.”

GM: Silence lingers between the two. What the past few weeks have been like her mother, Caroline can approximate. What’s passed through her mother’s head then, and what passes through it now, the younger Malveaux cannot say.

“Do you? Because that doesn’t seem to have stopped you from putting their lives in danger yet again,” her mother finally answers. “Simply touching base with the family was all that I asked! I have enough going on in my life, including my existing responsibilities, setting your dead brother’s affairs in order, maintaining my own double life, and dealing with the fact that I blew my cover—for you—to also uphold the Masquerade in your place because you’re too damn careless or lazy! Grow up and stop throwing your problems onto other people!”

Caroline: If her mother’s first words hit like a slap, her followup cuts more readily than any knife. She grinds her teeth rather than let a reply escape.

GM: Her mother doesn’t quite sigh or glower. “What are you going to do tonight after you’ve talked with Matt?”

Caroline: Caroline holds back her response for a moment longer, biting down her anger and her pride. “Try to fit a meeting with members in the family in before the meeting with the Albino. Meet the Albino. Meet Savoy. Then try to find out where I’m going to sleep tomorrow.”

GM: “I still have a suite at the Monteleone, in the Quarter. I can’t imagine Savoy is in the habit of turning down favors younger leeches ask of him.”

Caroline: “I’m sure he isn’t, but even a visit with him is dangerous, much less asking favors.”

GM: Her mother shrugs. “I have somewhere else to be. Is there anything else I should know?”

Caroline: “The sheriff wants a direct line to you.”

GM: “Out of the question,” Claire responds.

Caroline: “So I told him. He threatened my execution if not arranged. When I objected further he threw me out.” Caroline doesn’t quite shrug,

GM: “I suppose I can see why he’d want a direct line, even beyond the usual reasons. I doubt he trusts you to so much as feed on victims unsupervised.”

Caroline: Again, the cruelty of her words bites at Caroline. Again the Ventrue bites back her tongue.

GM: “Do you think he was bluffing?”

Caroline: Caroline gives another not quite shrug. “I don’t know. He’s impossible to read. Probably not, but I don’t know if it’s his decision to make. It depends on how broadly ‘ceases to cooperate’ is interpreted. On the other hand, I can’t ask you to meet with him, even if it didn’t utterly compromise our position to do so.”

GM: Her mother thinks. “I will talk with him over the phone—your phone. And no, I won’t buy a disposable either, not when it means I’d still have to keep it near me. In return, I want my son’s body.”

Caroline: Caroline looks away. “I’ll pitch it.”

GM: “No physical meetings, Caroline,” Claire answers pointedly. “If he insists on that, then we’ll find out whether he was bluffing.”

Caroline: Caroline gives her best ‘bitch please’ look. “If you think I’d agree to that, you think even less of me than I ever thought.”

GM: “All right,” her mother says tiredly, rubbing her brow, “I have to go. I’ll call you later tonight.”

Caroline: “You have my itinerary,” Caroline replies.

GM: Claire takes her leave. Caroline crawls back into her hiding place. She feels so tired, and alone in the dark space, even uncomfortable as it is, it’s so hard not to fall back asleep. Eventually, though, her phone rings. The caller ID is her Uncle Matt’s.

Caroline answers in a groggy daze, half-registering the sounds of his voice asking what in God’s name happened to his house. Caroline makes out some further remarks that the first floor looks as if it’s been picked clean by jackals, while the second looks as if Katrina hit it.

She grogs something about not being able to handle the news of her brother’s death and going out drinking until she blacked out, not wanting to face the family. Matt says something about Caroline having gone ‘in’ drinking. He heard about that party she threw from her mother. The burning sun glares down from overhead. All the insulation in the world doesn’t feel like it’s enough as Caroline dimly registers her uncle saying he wants her out of his house. He gives her a move-out date that doesn’t matter, since it’s more than 24 hours away.

“The family is talking, Caroline. I’m beginning to see why,” are his last words as he hangs up.

Caroline: Caroline lays back on an uncomfortable bed of insulating fiberglass and wooden beams, feeling as hollow as the bones of the home in which she resides, like there is nothing left of her but this shell.

Wednesday night, 23 September 2015, PM

GM: At 9 PM, Caroline drives to Perdido House for confession with Father Malveaux. The albino priest receives her in the same bare room with its mounted lance and wooden confessional booth. Caroline begins with the ever-familiar words of “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” as her deathless relative waits to her an accounting of her transgressions. He also waits to hear how she performed the penance he assigned her last week.

Caroline: Caroline elaborates on how she has made contact with the Storyville Krewe and remains in contact with them, with the intention of joining retarded only by the events of the trial that occupied the city as a whole. She relates that she has not killed any further victims for concerns about concealing such a killing given all other events ongoing, but has repeatedly fed from those that repeat their sins and actively sought out several sinners, including those that have threatened good god-fearing folk, and that she will perform that penance when she is certain that doing so will not endanger the Masquerade: perhaps with the krewe so as to continue her education.

GM: Father Malveaux questions Caroline for some length about the kine she fed upon. He learns that by all indication, the college students in her informal herd found the experience actively pleasurable, and if anything are even less inclined to mend their ways than they were before. He does not appear happy.

The father’s displeasure seems to fade. He even appears pleased when Caroline talks about the torments she inflicted on Mouse in punishment for his stalking behavior.

That impression vanishes instantly when he hears of his younger clanmate’s crisis of conscience and how she splint and bandaged the young musician’s hands.

The dark confession booth is heavy with silence.

“You are a hare who would pantomime the countenance of a wolf,” Father Malveaux finally snarls, his rasping voice livid with disdain.

Caroline: “Would you have me lie to you, Father?” Caroline bites back. I doubt very many hares have left so many bodies behind, she thinks inwardly.

GM: Not only does the albino priest find her latest efforts “pathetic,” he is also irate that Caroline has failed to do as he instructed. If she believed the penance he assigned was impossible, she was to make her case during her prior confession when he initially assigned it—not when it was due. “Nor is it your prerogative to decide whether an assigned penance warrants completion,” he hisses.

Father Malveaux does not believe Caroline is taking her duties to the covenant at all seriously. He is especially wroth that this latest failure is occurring so soon after she was initiated into the Sanctified—which the older Ventrue clearly views as a mistake.

Prince Vidal himself anointed your brow, welcomed you into the church with open arms, and this is how you would repay him! For the honor he has shown you!” the albino veritably spits, his reddish eyes burning like coals.

Caroline: “No,” Caroline replies firmly.

GM: “And yet, it is how you have,” Father Malveaux rasps hatefully. “Still your sniveling tongue! Your penance for next week remains the same. Fail to do as I have instructed a third time, and I will recommend your excommunication to our prince. No longer shall our church offer succor to those who are false in their faith! No longer shall we suffer apostates and heretics to poison the body of Longinus!”

“‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?’”

Heavy silence descends upon the confession both.

“My patience with you is at its end, childe,” the albino priest finally rasps, his voice a low hiss.

“Mend your ways.”

Wednesday night, 24 September 2015, AM

GM: Caroline is treated to an all-out assault on her senses as she steps into the palatial Royal Street club. First, she hears laughter, then the sound of bawdy jazz carried through the place by means of a state-of-the-art sound system. The twin smells of smoke and alcohol are no less omnipresent, and the fine décor, done primarily in the style of France’s ancien regime, would leave any of her uncles feeling well at home. The sight that greets her is a large, loud room full of carousing men and women lounging around on seemingly priceless antiques while classical jazz plays in the background.

GM: A tall and extraordinarily handsome Creole man in a white tux rises with a grin and strides towards Caroline. “Miss Malveaux! Welcome to the Evergreen Plantation, my dear. How does the evening find you?”

Caroline: The Ventrue tries to keep the scene of her raving ancestor out of her mind. She tries not to think about his threats, about the many swords hanging above her neck. She smiles at the handsome ghoul. “Thank you, and well enough.”

It’s a mercy that her body will never show signs of aging. Signs of exhaustion. Signs of weakness. God knows she feels both, wrapped around her like a burial shroud and tied tightly.

GM: “Splendid,” the ghoul beams in answer. He then motions away from the club’s well-heeled patrons. “Please, madam, right this way. Lord Savoy will see you at once.”

Caroline: The contrast from her meetings with the agents of her sire could not be more stark. Her sire, who she has only ever seen, and never truly met. Who cannot spare a moment for her, much less a meeting.

GM: The Creole man escorts Caroline to an old-fashioned gilded elevator with an elaborate iron pull gate. A preserved 1863 ‘greyback,’ or Confederate dollar bill, is framed and mounted just above the gate.

Caroline: There’s an irony to that bill that isn’t lost on her. Once worth its face value, then worth nothing, now worth far more than it ever was in its own time.

GM: The man steps inside with Caroline and presses the ‘up’ button. There’s the usual, brief sensation of the ground sinking beneath her feet, and then rising. Jazz drifts from the club. There is no ‘ding’ sound as the elevator reaches its stop—its burnished doors merely open to a rooftop, open-air garden that affords a spectacular view of the New Orleans skyline. Statues of fallen angels, some brooding by themselves, others locked in passionate embraces with their fellow elohim, are nestled among the garden’s trees, rose bushes, magnolias, and other fragrant-smelling flora. Blue-, orange-, and red-winged butterflies fly past gold cages containing chirping songbirds with exotic plumages displaying every color in the rainbow. A short ways off from them, a French marble jacuzzi patterned to resemble the ocean floor sits invitingly. Soft fluorescent blue lights cast hazy patterns over the bubbling water. In contrast to the garden of Philip Maldonato, which struck Caroline as an intensely personal, private affair, Savoy’s is literally open to the entire city. It drinks up the glittering urban lights and basks in them. A white iron table and matching set of eight chairs contently lounge at the center of the peristyle, where they seat two figures.

The first is Antoine Savoy. The lord of the French Quarter wears a burgundy silk sports coat, immaculate white undershirt, black slacks, and anaconda scale loafers, slightly dressed down from his attire at church, but worn with the same casual, playboy-esque sense of easy luxury. As he converses with the garden’s other Kindred, Caroline hears him burst into laughter and smack his knee—a rich, hearty and belly-deep sound.

The other figure is the blonde Caroline recalls from the trial, who spoke but little. She wears a black business skirtsuit, white blouse, and pointed-toe black stilettos. Her thick glasses frame a face that looks merely dryly amused.

Savoy smiles readily and rises from his chair as he hears Caroline’s approaching footsteps. “Ah, Miss Malveaux! You look as enchanting as you did at the trial, though I dare say your spell over me grows by the night.” His eyes don’t leave hers as he bends to kiss her hand.

“Welcome to the Evergreen,” he murmurs when he releases it. “Can the servants get you anything? A splash of the good wine, perhaps?”

The Creole ghoul, meanwhile, silently pulls out Caroline’s chair for her.

Caroline: The elder Kindred’s reaction is as unexpected to Caroline as the sound of his laughter, and it takes her a moment to recover her footing as he rises to greet her, kisses her hand, and otherwise treats her as though she is a human being—or at least Kindred—rather than a dog in the process of making a mess on his floor. She smiles and responds, “Lord Savoy, your reputation for hospitality does not do you justice, but you’ve already done too much. I’m more than content simply with the pleasure of your company.”

She almost miraculously finds that it isn’t even, for perhaps the first time among one of the Damned, a lie.

GM: “Miss Malveaux, the words ‘too’ and ‘much’ are still allowed in the Vieux Carré, but we have a special law here—you can’t ever use them next to one another,” Savoy grins, then snaps his fingers as he assumes his seat. “Fabian, three glasses of the good wine, if you please, so we can teach our guest how we enjoy ourselves in the Quarter!”

“Of course, my lord,” the ghoul beams as he bows and withdraws.

“If I may speak freely, sir,” the glasses-wearing vampire remarks, “I fail to see why you bother asking your guests when you will simply order the drinks irrespectively of their response.”

“That’s because, Nat, all the guests who say ‘no’ say it for the same reason as Miss Malveaux—and that reason simply isn’t allowed in the Vieux Carré. Not on my watch!” Savoy smiles towards Caroline. “Miss Malveaux, may I introduce my steward, Madam Natasha Preston. She runs at least half the affairs in my parish. Lord only knows where I’d be without her!”

“Miss Malveaux,” the glasses-wearing woman replies in acknowledgement as she looks up from a tablet computer.

Caroline: “A pleasure, Madam Preston,” Caroline replies. As much as she wants to stay calculating in all that they do—from value of the touch of the kiss, the likelihood that the tablet is recording the meeting for later examination—if not hidden cameras—it is difficult not to be thrown completely off her guard by the response, the banter, the simple ease of all of it. She finds her guard warily lowering.

She takes the offered seat when the lord of the French Quarter does. “The party must never stop, lest we all realize we’re dead?” Caroline asks of him. She fights to keep the smirk off her face. “Or is it religious fervor perhaps? Rejoicing in damnation and celebrating it?”

GM: Caroline’s has a red silk cushion on its back as well as its seat, and she finds her posture quite comfortable despite the chair’s metal construction. Savoy leans back into his own seat and grins.

“Whether it’s religious I say is between a Kindred and their faith of choice. But according to mine, Miss Malveaux, I must beg the contrary. The party only begins when we’re dead—and realize all the overindulgence in the world can’t kill us again!”

As if on cue, Fabian reappears with a gold tray and three clear crystal glasses. One of them smells flat and stale to Caroline, but the coppery tang wafting from the second and third is just right.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite lick her lips, but it feels as though it’s been so long since she enjoyed a drink… still, she gestures to the elder Kindred. “Please, Lord Savoy, show me the way.”

GM: “We start,” Savoy smiles as he lifts one of the fair-smelling glasses from Fabian’s tray, “with a toast. To what shall we drink, Miss Malveaux?”

Preston reaches for the stale-smelling glass.

Caroline: Caroline takes the final glass. Is there a bit of mischievousness in her eye?

“To the prince of course, Lord Savoy. I have sworn my loyalty to him.” She raises her glass. “To the prince.”

GM: “Oh ho,” Savoy laughs knowingly, “watch this one mind her elders, Nat!”

“Indeed, sir,” Preston replies.

Savoy raises his glass. “To Prince Augusto Vidal—may his reign endure for a thousand years.”

“To Prince Vidal,” Preston echoes.

The three glasses clink. The Kindred drain them. Warm, liquid bliss that provides seemingly the only respite to Caroline’s existence trickles down her throat. Savoy and Preston set their empty glasses back on Fabian’s waiting tray. The Toreador looks well-pleased, and not merely of the ‘wine.’

“Speaking of the prince, you’ve had a portentous Requiem, Miss Malveaux, being inducted into the Sanctified at his own hands,” Savoy remarks. “What plans do you have for the rest of it, if you’ll indulge my asking?”

Caroline: “I confess, Lord Savoy, I’ve been rather occupied with the matter of my sire, and then that exciting trial. At this point I don’t know that I’m certain where to start. A drink a night? Some place to lay my weary head during the day?” She doesn’t quite shrug, but the mild tilt of her head gives much the same feeling without the baseness of the gesture. “Might you have any suggestions, as such an esteemed elder to a coarse and course-less neonate?”

GM: “Well, Miss Malveaux, I’d say that depends on what you want out of the Requiem, first of all,” Savoy muses.

“Power,” Preston supplies.

“That is in her blood,” Savoy nods. “There’s also spiritual purpose. That’s in her covenant. But we are defined by so much more than those two things, and I have a feeling that our guest will only continue to prove herself full of surprises.”

Caroline: “You may be the only one, Lord Savoy. But then those that bet upon long odds often reap significant benefits. Penny stocks and young horses.”

GM: “When one has eternity, one may gamble on the long as well as short odds,” Preston states.

“Just ask Mr. Guilbeau,” Savoy winks. “So far as for advice for coarse neonates, I am afraid that I can offer none, for we are bereft of their company. In their stead I’ll just try to manage something insightful around this august gathering! I’ve found that it can pay to begin one’s Requiem where one’s mortal life left off, Miss Malveaux, both spiritually and materially. You were a court clerk before your Becoming if I’m not mistaken?”

Caroline: “Yes, Lord Savoy.” The praise is so practiced and easy, it reminds her of her father speaking to the donor class. She wants to call it fake, but more than that want she needs it to be genuine.

GM: “Legal expertise is something very useful in our life, especially as we grow older,” Savoy considers, tapping his finger. “Gone are the nights when an elder could rule over a lonely village from his chateau, backing his authority with chests of gold and the powers of the Blood. No, these nights, a Kindred can’t so much as buy a haven or fake their death without the legal system entering into things. Many elders take lawyers for their ghouls, but ghouls are what they are—their counsel will always be biased towards immediately pleasing their domitor and getting that next precious drink. They can’t always be told the full intricacies of how Kindred society works, either.”

Savoy drums his fingers along the table. “You know, there was another promising blue blood like you before Katrina. She was a lawyer too, but after the storm hit she fled to Houston and never came back—I suppose she didn’t want to uproot her unlife twice. There are still Kindred who remember what it was like to have unbiased legal counsel on-call—and are still suffering from that lack of advice.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “A market opportunity then?” Her gaze slips over to the accountant-like Kindred by his side.

GM: “There are always markets for the opportunistic,” Preston replies dispassionately.

Caroline: “Certainly something I can investigate, and if it proves promising, I’ll be certain to give credit where it is due, Lord Savoy. It’s much more promising than the alternative I’d considered as a corn dog stand vendor, selling meat on a stick.”

GM: “We’ll just leave that to Ignatius J. Reilly,” Savoy chuckles.

“There are further avenues to power than offering advice to one’s fellow Kindred, sir,” Preston notes.

“Indeed there are, Nat,” the French Quarter lord agrees. “There’s also claiming power among the mortal world. Most Kindred find a group of kine in their domain they want to influence—or another Kindred’s domain, if they can get permission—and start to work getting a personal hold on them. Then they work on getting a hold over institutions that will outlast any one kine’s life. In Miss Malveaux’s case, I imagine she’d want to establish her influence base among kine with connections to law. There any other pearls of wisdom you can think to dispense, Nat?”

“In the long term, it is of greater benefit to personally create new institutions from the ground up than it is to assume control over existing ones,” Preston answers, looking back up from her tablet. “Doing so provides more intimate knowledge of an institution’s affairs and eliminates the possibility of it already being claimed by other Kindred.”

“A valuable pearl, Nat. The last one I’d dispense, Miss Malveaux, is to not always rely on ghouls. Most neonates chomp at the chance to put as many kine as they can under the blood bond. But simple favors can leave a man just as predisposed to be helpful when it counts. The occasional nudge with a discipline, or blackmail material, can also be used when goodwill doesn’t go far enough. Having servants who age normally and don’t stand out to other Kindred can be beneficial, and less of a drain on the wine. You can always ghoul them later if you change your mind, after all.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. It’s all very much in keeping with her own plans, but having them reaffirmed by Savoy brings her a curious amount of satisfaction. He’s a flatterer, but such flattery has been so infrequent of late, and the ease of the conversation is so at odds with every other one she’s had of late. Even Maldonato, though he was gentle enough by Kindred standards, was a conversation so like walking across a minefield.

It’s not difficult to see why Savoy has won over others. While her sire conducts himself as a dark god, or at least the dark right hand of Him, a biblical figure of power, the Lord of the French Quarter demands a wholly different manner of respect: his very humbleness speaks more to his security in his strength than any heavy-handed beating handed out ever will.

GM: “But business is business, and pleasure is pleasure,” Savoy smiles. “And there are more pleasures than those of the blood! If you’ll indulge my curiosity a moment further, Miss Malveaux, I’d be intrigued to know: what are your interests beyond the Requiem?”

Caroline: “Are you asking what I did for fun, Lord Savoy, before my Embrace?”

GM: “Cutting to the heart of things, my dear?” Savoy chuckles. “In that same spirit, I suppose I am! Kindred or kine, someone’s pleasures say a great deal about them.”

Caroline: The Ventrue answers, “I suspect many of my interests, Lord Savoy, were little different than those of other rich twenty-somethings. I spent far more time drinking in the Vieux Carré than my family might of wanted, far more money in many shops than they wished, and far less time on my studies than they might have hoped. When I could be bothered I frequented social events in town… I suspect two of the four will have to be replaced for the next several decades.”

GM: “A life of sin and excess, then?” Savoy ribs. “Some of those pleasures may be easier to indulge than you may believe, Miss Malveaux. Enjoying the fine things in life comes all the easier after one is dead. Even pursuing an education… some Kindred still do, out of simple desire to better their minds. I’ve heard Seneschal Maldonato has picked up over a dozen degrees from the city’s universities over the years, and that Primogen Duquette isn’t far behind.” He then adds with a wink, “Other Kindred, of course, are simply relieved for school to be out forever!”

Caroline: “Sin perhaps, but my excesses didn’t start until I was Embraced to hear the tale.”

GM: “Congratulations,” Preston declares dryly.

Caroline: “Yes, it certainly seems to have worked out well for me, Madam Preston,” Caroline replies just as dryly. “But your counsel is well taken, Lord Savoy. Opportunity abounds? It is my hope that my Requiem shall not be as wasted as my life was. Certainly there can be far more to life—or death as the case may be—than shameless hedonism. And I shall endeavor to find it.”

GM: “Perhaps it has,” Savoy says thoughtfully to Caroline’s initial remark. “Some feel our condition to be a curse. Some revel in it. But few will deny it changes us. Some Kindred who led lives of restraint are driven to excess after the Embrace, and feel as if they’ve been liberated—finally able to lead the existences they always wanted. Others decide they prefer a less materialistic Requiem, but are grateful to have sampled the experiences they missed when they were alive. They find that lets them make a go of their unlives with a ‘clear conscience.’ Nat, what would you say to that?”

“My preoccupation with not having experienced coitus while living distracted me from more important matters,” Preston answers flatly. “The Embrace removed that distraction. Such was among one of its least benefits. I will not otherwise attempt to speak for others.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t stare at the admission, but she revises upward her initial count on Preston’s age. “You’re suggesting there’s some value in my experiences thus far since my Embrace, Lord Savoy? I don’t know that I could argue that.”

GM: “Inherent value in your Requiem’s experiences,” Savoy nods. “That is how I’d put it, Miss Malveaux. But yours perhaps more than most.”

Caroline: “Mistakes out of the way early?”

GM: “Very early. In all of two weeks! Many of your clan go years before releasing their childer.”

Caroline: “I’m told most are also dignified enough to claim their childer,” Caroline replies evenly.

She snaps her jaw shut in an instant after the words escape it, aghast that she’s said as much to Savoy.

GM: “Yes, your sire,” Savoy merely responds thoughtfully, drumming his fingers. “Now that we’re away from prying ears, perhaps it’s time we talked about him.”

Caroline: “I’m afraid he left me no inheritance to pay off his debt to you, Lord Savoy. No secret instructions to convey a last message.”

GM: “Oh, I’m hardly surprised that he didn’t, Miss Malveaux.” The Toreador doesn’t sound bothered. “But I am surprised, and pleasantly so, at how well you’ve comported yourself in the lion’s den—here with your late sire’s known patron and ally!”

Caroline: “Why should it be the lion’s den, Lord Savoy? You have only ever in our meetings been hospitable and magnanimous.”

GM: “It costs Lord Savoy nothing to present such an appearance. You are unaware of the full nature of his relationship with René Baristheaut, who meant you ill and dealt with Setites. You have given Lord Savoy two causes for umbrage between your snub of his prior invitation and the several nights spent poaching in his parish,” Preston lists without inflection.

Caroline: Not quite a scowl slips across Caroline’s face. More… irritation, like she might feel at a child observing she was wearing the same dress as someone else at a party. An observation that is accurate but also utterly obvious, but does nothing for either party but call greater attention to an ugly truth.

“Am I then to fear his wrath?” Caroline asks, only turning her gaze from Lord Savoy as she speaks, bringing it to rest on Preston. “Lord Savoy is both one of the most well-respected and powerful elders in the city, and if he seeks redresses for those wrongs, or any others associated with René Baristheaut as they pertain to myself, then he need only name them, be it to myself or to the many others that would leap to the defense of his honor.”

She turns her gaze back to the Lord of the French Quarter. “Am I to let fear guide me? Let it take the wheel and steer clear of him? Certainly it’s driven me before, and hiding behind that fear like a child has a certain appeal… if you wish to be treated as a child.”

“Whatever you may wish, Lord Savoy, those wishes can hardly be denied by meekly pretending they do not exist. I would rather meet whatever this meeting may bring with my eyes open. If you wish a pledge debt for my wrongs to you and your domain, you have it. If you wish to harm me, I can hardly stop you.”

Her gaze slips back to Preston. “I find it more productive to concern myself with what I may control.” She spreads her arms with a minor flourish and mildly inclines her head, giving a mock bow or presentation, as though to an audience. “Are you the lion then, Lord Savoy? You would not be the first to take a bite out of me.” There’s a hint of a smile on her face at the words. “Forgive me for the presumption of the question.”

GM: A smile slowly spreads over Savoy’s face at Caroline’s words. It lights all the way up to his green-brown eyes.

“Aren’t you something, Miss Malveaux. Aren’t you something,” he declares slowly. Almost reverently.

The Toreador brings his hands together once in a motion faintly reminiscent of applause, then sets them down on the table as he looks ahead at Caroline. The smile doesn’t entirely fade, but his features grow more serious. Even solemn.

“No, tonight I would play the role of the dove. I would like to apologize for my role in what Mr. Baristheaut did to you, my dear—and, in what I hope is some measure of compensation, shed some light on the circumstances of your Embrace.”

Caroline: Caroline’s own expression hardens. “You owe me nothing, Lord Savoy,” she says firmly, before her features and tone soften. “But if you wished to illuminate for me in those matters, then I would have cause only to tell any that asked that the Lord of the French Quarter was never at any fault in my Embrace, and instead sought only to offer closure and grace as such a distinguished elder to a sireless neonate with many more questions than she will ever have answers.”

GM: “Oh, net’s not lavish me with too much praise, Miss Malveaux. After all, doing that is in my own best interests!” Savoy winks knowingly. “I believe that it’s much more profitable to make friends than enemies. I also believe that you’re very much an ally worth cultivating—both right now, and even more so in the nights to come.”

Caroline: If Caroline could still blush she might. “I’ll not gainsay you, Lord Savoy.”

GM: “As for Mr. Baristheaut,” Savoy continues, “he’s passed from ashes to ashes and dust to dust. What obligations I had to him—and what political worth he had as an ally—were made null and void by his final death. Nor was he entirely honest during our dealings together, and I think that’s as good a point as any for me to begin.”

Savoy slowly drums several fingers against the table. “My first dealings with Mr. Baristheaut were just after I’d woken up from my long nap, when he was still but a fledgling himself. He was a charming enough conversationalist, though there was a certain melancholy to him, just under the surface. I’m not sure he ever truly made peace with his Embrace. Many Kindred don’t.”

Caroline: Caroline settles in to hear the elder’s tale.

GM: “Upon his release, he was made a hound under his sire Robert Bastien, the city’s previous sheriff. Mr. Baristheaut and I didn’t have too much to do with one another beyond a few conversations in Elysium, which his sire disapproved of—I suppose he wasn’t wrong that I can be a bad influence.” Savoy grins at the statement. “Mr. Baristheaut served as a hound until 1915, when his sire met final death at the hands of hunters. Some of this you may already know, if you were able to interrogate his ghoul Kelford.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “Their families were executed for it, and very shortly thereafter Mr. Baristheaut departed the city.”

GM: “Yes, some thought that Mr. Baristheaut didn’t have the stomach to take over his sire’s position. Thus it passed to my childe instead.” Savoy smiles with paternal pride.

Caroline: “Sheriff Donovan.” Caroline cannot begin to see where the resemblance begins.

GM: “Oh yes, have you not heard the gossip yet? It’s been one of the best-known ‘open secrets’ floating around Elysium for some time.”

Caroline: “He certainly seems to have flourished in the role,” Caroline offers mildly.

GM: “He’s brought much recognition to our bloodline,” Savoy nods in satisfaction. “In any case, Nat, where was I?”

“Mr. Baristheaut’s departure, sir.”

“Ah yes, thank you. I didn’t hear from him for years and years. I did hear of him, occasionally—he’d been spotted in this city or that, and had apparently taken to the nomad’s Requiem. Not an easy Requiem.”

Caroline: “So he expressed, though not in so many words.”

GM: “He never returned to New Orleans during all of that time, which I found somewhat curious—he’d been spotted nearby a number of times over the years. The earliest date was Little Rock in 1923, and the latest was Houston in 2005. Perhaps important, perhaps not. But then, one night, he decided to return. Nat, when was the date Mr. Baristheaut presented himself to me?”

“August 31st, sir,” Preston replies, glancing down at her tablet. “The same date he presented himself to Seneschal Maldonato. Your agents have traced his earliest activities in New Orleans to August 30th, at least several hours before dawn.”

Caroline: Caroline listens as the Lord of the French Quarter fills in missing pieces.

GM: “Thank you, Nat,” Savoy replies before turning back to Caroline. “Mr. Baristheaut presented himself to me in this very garden. He’d matured greatly over the years, and was as charming and well-spoken a guest as any I could have received. He told me that he was in the city to enjoy Southern Decadence, and asked for my permission to make his temporary haven in the French Quarter. He intended to leave on September 7th, the night after the festivities were over, and assured me that he had no interest in politics.”

Caroline: “In hindsight, a lie,” Caroline comments.

GM: “Yes. We also had a feeling that he wasn’t being entirely forthcoming with us, didn’t we, Nat?”

“We did, sir. His stated reason for returning to New Orleans, in addition to attending Southern Decadence, was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his sire’s final death. Perhaps the numeric significance of the occasion had changed his prior feelings towards his home and bloodline, for he had evidenced no special sentiment towards either in over a century.”

“It was something to go on,” Savoy picks up, “but not a great deal. I granted him permission to reside in my parish. I asked a few eyes and ears to monitor his movements and dealings with other Kindred. It turned out Mr. Baristheaut was telling the truth about enjoying the Quarter’s pleasures, at least. He made a few trips to the Dungeon—it’s a BDSM club of some notoriety. Nothing of particular note seemed to happen there. As far as I heard, he simply wanted to sample the club’s pleasures too.”

“On August 6th, Mr. Baristheaut approached my herald Mélissaire and requested a meeting at my soonest convenience over a matter of some urgency. We met the next night, and did he have quite a tale for Nat and me. He’d encountered a comely young woman being victimized by one of the festival’s… I suppose we might say harder revelers. He felt compelled to play the role of the white knight and rescue the fair maiden in distress. Nat, what were his exact words there?”

“‘If all the world’s a stage, the set pieces in ours are all blacks and grays. It’s so rare that one gets to don a white costume,’” Preston quotes without inflection.

Caroline: Caroline grinds her teeth.

GM: “Mr. Baristheaut rescued the young lady and drove off her assailant,” Savoy continues. “She asked him to escort her home, and again in his words, ‘it would hardly have done to remove the costume before the scene was played through.’”

“The two of them talked on the way back. He said appeared sheltered and oblivious as to the true nature of our world. He said he found it charming at first, but when she told him he was a decent man and that his sins could be forgiven… it ‘exposed the fantasy for the sad farce it was to me’, to borrow his words again. He decided to show her the true face of evil, and brought her to the city’s worst abattoir of sin that he knew of… the Dungeon. He said that a fury seized him, such as he’d not known in years. He did things to her. Things that it’s perhaps a blessing you don’t seem to remember.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression shifts. Much of the narrative to this point matches, but this does not. At least, not that she recalls. Just pieces. Flashes of horror…

GM: “He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he came to, and looked down at what he described to me as ‘little more than a dumb, bleeding husk.’ He was overcome with disgust—at the world, at her, and most of all, at himself. He believed she was gone and there was nothing else he could do for her. He told one of the club’s ghouls to dispose of the corpse.”

“Of course, as we all know, that corpse got back up. That was the last René saw of you. He had no idea he’d given you the Embrace—he conjectured to me that it must have been an accident. Some stray blood slipping down your mouth in a moment of passion. Damnation is regrettably all-too easy to inflict in the heat of the moment.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression is all the more grim as the tale continues. The tale of her Embrace, little more than one as a victim of a deranged and damaged Kindred made a victim over again by his carelessness.

GM: “You came to in Louis Armstrong Park, which isn’t part of my parish. René didn’t know what had become of you, but he fell into a dark mood and requested my permission to stay in the French Quarter for several further nights. I granted it.”

“From what Lord Savoy’s agents have reported, Mr. Baristheaut threw himself into an orgy of further sins in the Vieux Carré’s pleasure dens,” Preston dispassionately notes. “This was concurrently with those same agents spotting your poaching in the Quarter, Miss Malveaux.”

“I’d intended to have my people approach you,” Savoy continues, “as doing a little homework indicated you were a stranger in town… but only as Kindred. Your family name wasn’t so unfamiliar, suggesting you were a new Embrace. Prince Vidal’s people got to you first, however, and not long after that, your existence became public knowledge to the All-Night Society… and to Mr. Baristheaut.”

Caroline: She remembers the near-brush with the sheriff’s sword before the onlookers.

GM: “He was stunned when he came to me, and insisted he’d had no idea you were Embraced. He could have skipped town, but he wanted to find out what happened that night. I agreed to grant him shelter, in return for a debt of some size. Part of its terms included investigating the circumstances of your Embrace. He made a few interesting discoveries. Such as that the ghoul he’d entrusted with disposing of your body had gone missing.”

Caroline: "That is interesting. "

GM: “Yes, I’d thought so. But so is the connection to a certain kine, Emmett Delacroix. What do we have on him, Nat?”

Preston looks down at her tablet. “A grifter from the Quarter. He had an altercation with one of NOPD’s detectives, who sold him to one of the Dungeon’s employees. Mr. Baristheaut encountered Delacroix during his own stay at the Dungeon.”

Caroline: “Unfortunate for him.”

GM: “Yes, I’m to understand he lost his legs,” Savoy agrees. “But it’s a better fate than many there.”

Caroline: “That’s… unfortunate.” For the others. Like Westley.

GM: Preston continues, “Mr. Baristheaut believed that Delacroix crossed paths with Miss Malveaux, for he took the blame for a number of crimes in which she was involved. Evidence was found planted in his apartment in the Quarter. I presume by your servants, in a further act of trespass into Lord Savoy’s parish.”

Caroline: “We crossed paths some years ago,” Caroline agrees vaguely.

GM: “Your manners are atrocious. Apologize to Lord Savoy at once for your intrusion.”

Caroline: “And incriminate myself?” Caroline asks, with a hint of playfulness. Still, her gaze returns to the Lord of the French Quarter. “I apologize of course for every offense I have given you, Lord Savoy, in ignorance and by will.”

GM: Preston merely stares at Caroline for a moment. “It’s true, sir. Another count of trespass into your parish.”

Caroline: Caroline’s temper flares. “Do me the kindness please of staying out of my head.”

GM: “Do Lord Savoy the kindness please of not lying to his face,” Preston retorts flatly. Her eyes glint. “Sir, we should make an example of her. After this many offenses against you, she no doubt believes she can commit further ones with impunity.”

Caroline: “I offered no lie,” Caroline retorts.

GM: “No. You merely attempted to steer Lord Savoy towards a false conclusion that would result in him taking different action than he would otherwise be inclined, and so escape the consequences of your own actions.” Preston’s eyes are as flat the lenses of her glasses. “Pathetic. Sir, I recommend the Ordeal of Apollo.”

Savoy merely smiles and makes a ‘settle down’ motion with his hand towards both Kindred.

“We’ll worry about the smaller things later, you two. For now, that’s useful to confirm the Delacroix connection. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, him and Miss Malveaux encountering Mr. Baristheaut in the Dungeon, and Miss Malveaux then happening to cross paths with Delacroix again. Mr. Baristheaut didn’t seem to think so either. Nat, what were the dates when Delacroix was framed, and Mr. Baristheaut changed his tactics from investigating Miss Malveaux to abducting her?”

Preston looks back down at her tablet.

“Delacroix was arrested for the murder of Miguel Rodriguez on September 13th. Mr. Baristheaut activated one of Miss Malveaux’s ghouls as his dominated agent later that night.”

“Very interesting, Nat. I wonder what Delacroix would have been able to tell of Mr. Baristheaut from his own time in the Dungeon.”

“We shall likely never know, sir, or at least not without some degree of effort. Delacroix has been placed on death row in Louisiana State Penitentiary.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns. “We were in the Dungeon at the same time?”

GM: “The extant evidence would indicate so,” Preston replies neutrally.

Caroline: Caroline frowns, a vaguely horrified expression settling across her face.

GM: “Delacroix could be a useful witness,” Savoy ponders. “Mr. Baristheaut had left the scene, the other witness vanished, and Miss Malveaux herself is fortunate not to remember personally.”

Caroline: A witness she framed and put so far out of reach. The irony is not lost on her.

GM: “Getting access to Delacroix wouldn’t be convenient, but it’s not off the table. Death row inmates are allowed visitors, if I’m correct. The real inconvenience is driving up there to see him. How far a drive is it, Nat?”

“135 miles and slightly over two hours, sir,” Preston replies with another glance down at her tablet.

Caroline: “And making him talk,” Caroline agrees. “Assuming his own mind is in any state. I suspect it might be easier to have additional charges or matters trumped up with regard to his conduct, requiring additional trial here…. and moving him here to county jail for that purpose.”

GM: “That legal mind!” Savoy exclaims approvingly. “That sounds like a fine idea, Miss Malveaux, if you want to question him. I’m sure there are a hundred and one different charges someone could slap a grifter like Delacroix with.”

Caroline: “Something to consider, certainly, Lord Savoy, though even there gaining access is not easy.”

GM: “Inconvenient but not impossible,” Preston dissents.

“Fortunately for us all,” Savoy smiles, “there are leads besides Delacroix. For instance, Louis Armstrong Park… we know you wound up there, Miss Malveaux, so someone had to have brought you—either physically, or maybe by mental commands. On a crowded night like Decadence, I’m sure there were at least a few witnesses who saw when you turned up in the park and could tell us more. There could even be physical evidence left over at the scene. Louis Armstrong falls under the Baron’s territory, so I haven’t investigated too closely yet.” The Toreador taps his fingers thoughtfully. “It’s a curious place for you to have initially turned up.”

“There is also the Dungeon itself, Lord Savoy,” Preston supplies. “There were likely witnesses who saw Miss Malveaux when she entered, and perhaps also when she left. Notwithstanding the missing ghoul.”

Caroline: “The Dungeon, Lord Savoy,” Caroline comments more thoughtfully. “How welcoming are they to visitors? Kindred, that is.”

GM: “Oh, they’re always welcoming to visitors, Miss Malveaux. Kindred or otherwise. But they do like to play.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a skeptical glance.

GM: “Some Kindred are happy to play too,” Savoy continues. “Even the ones who don’t usually come around. Their revels are… well, experiencing them is the only way to do them justice,” the Toreador winks. “Kindred who don’t want to join the fun, though, may find things more difficult.”

“It also depends how deep into the club you want to go. There are multiple levels, or ‘circles’ as they like to call them. The party gets wilder and the Masquerade falls away a bit more with each one. I can offer a guarantee of your safety and status as untouchable in all but the lowest circle, but I would have to ask a boon in return for that service—the club’s ownership won’t agree to it unless I call in favors of my own.”

Caroline: “That is a very generous offer, Lord Savoy…” Caroline seems to consider. “Might I ask a further question related to the Dungeon while I consider it?”

GM: Savoy motions grandly for her to proceed.

Caroline: “Might you know what the Dungeon typically does with the corpses left behind by their work? Such as, for instance, that of my brother Westley Malveaux?”

GM: Savoy drums his fingers slowly. The smile fades from his face. “Truth be told, Miss Malveaux… most of the bodies that go into the Dungeon don’t seem to ever come back out.”

“There are some exceptions,” Preston continues. “Dismembered parts have occasionally been found scattered throughout the city, often in the homes of those related to the victims. There are also occasional survivors. Delacroix was reportedly found in a dumpster bin outside of his apartment complex, missing both of his legs.”

Savoy’s expression softens. “I’m sorry, Miss Malveaux. I wish I had better news about your brother. Now, it’s possible, if not likely, that his body is still in the Dungeon… but it’s not going to be in any state for others to see. Looking on it would only bring your family more pain.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression neither softens nor falls. “I had no intention of parading it before my mortal family, Lord Savoy, but I would rather his remains not end up in a gutter or ditch. It seems likely that regardless, the answer to that question—and perhaps others—lies in the Dungeon. Might I ask your permission to enter your domain for the purpose of making contact with them in the future?”

GM: Savoy waves his hand. “Granted, Miss Malveaux. You should also know we do things more casually in the Vieux Carré. Unless a Kindred wants to stay overday or take care of particularly significant business,-”

“Such as framing Delacroix,” Preston interjects,

“-I don’t require that they present themselves,” Savoy finishes. “I believe my parish and my own standing benefits when Kindred find it more convenient to do business here.”

Caroline: Where there are plenty of prying eyes? Caroline asks herself, though not with malice. Yes, she can see why Savoy is popular, why he is winning the soul of the city. Her sire’s magnificent darkness has a certain calling, but if his agents are even half as brutal and cruel to others as many have been to her, she can imagine he wins few friends among her own generation.

“A very generous position, Lord Savoy. And one that I’m certain many appreciate… myself included.”

GM: “That’s precisely what I want everyone saying,” Savoy winks. “But I can’t rightly pretend I’m unique in that regard, Miss Malveaux. There are other regents in the city who share my feelings on the Fifth Tradition.”

“Now, a few other details so far as Mr. Baristheaut… as you’ve no doubt learned by now, he had dealings with Setites. They aren’t a topic I recommend you bring up in Elysium, but it’s possible that investigating their activities could turn up more on Mr. Baristheaut’s.”

Caroline: “If they didn’t take offense to such snooping, of course?” Caroline asks.

GM: “All Kindred take offense to ‘snooping,’” Preston states flatly.

Caroline: “Some more violently than others,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Not if they’re asked nicely, Nat,” Savoy smiles.

Caroline: “Lord Savoy, one could almost take that as an invitation.” Caroline fights the smile that creeps across her face.

GM: “Anywhere in the Quarter with a door has an invitation, my dear,” the Toreador answers playfully, but his face soon sobers. “But I’d be careful asking serpents. Most Kindred, it’s true, you don’t stand anything to lose by asking nicely. The Setites aren’t among them.”

Caroline: “Of course, Lord Savoy,” Caroline agrees more seriously. “They seemed quite potent in their aggression in our brief encounter.”

GM: “The serpents are not known for being warriors, but tempters,” Preston corrects.

Caroline: Caroline plasters a polite smile across her face. “As you say, Madam Preston.”

GM: “One last thing I should perhaps add, Miss Malveaux. Nat and I believe that Mr. Baristheaut was attempting to play all three sides against one another, at least to some degree: mine, Sheriff Donovan’s, and the Serpents’.” Savoy chuckles. “It doesn’t seem to have worked out for him. But for that reason, you might well be able to glean some insight into his activities from Sanctified outside my parish too.”

Caroline: “Such as your illustrious childe, Lord Savoy?”

GM: “He’s indeed one potential avenue, Miss Malveaux.”

“Do we have any further advice to dispense Miss Malveaux in this area, sir?” Preston inquires.

“I don’t believe so, Nat, unless there are any further questions she has,” Savoy answers with a glance between Caroline and his steward.

“Then may I recommend, sir,” Preston continues, “that we sentence Miss Malveaux to two draughts of your vitae in punishment for her prior counts of poaching in your domain.”

Caroline: Caroline again turns her attention from Savoy to his steward. Her stare could melt steel.

GM: Preston stares back, her face as warm and expressive as a sheet of that same metal.

“Is there some objection you would raise, Miss Malveaux? Do you believe you should be allowed to feed in Lord Savoy’s territory with impunity?” she asks pointedly.

Caroline: “Lord Savoy is fully able to set whatever penalty he may wish within his domain,” Caroline replies, “including draughts of his vitae, and I would not presume to tell him how to conduct his affairs. I would offer to you, Madam Preston, that the optics on your suggestion seem especially poor, regardless of how just they might be.”

GM: “Ladies, please. This garden is a place of gentle manners and good feelings. To see two beauties turning against one another within it is as awful as watching two master artists stoop to fisticuffs in the Louvre,” Savoy chides with a smile as Preston looks about to retort with something even more severe. He leans back in his seat, seemingly addressing both her and Caroline.

“I value your advice, Nat, on punishments for infractions as well as other topics. It’s why you run half the affairs in my parish. In this instance, we happen to disagree. Always have. While a sip from the domain holder’s veins has always struck me as a fair and even poetic punishment for poaching, I don’t believe it’s conductive to our long-term interests when enforced among abandoned fledglings who honestly don’t know any better. Indeed, when my people are able to approach those fledglings and explain the basics of Kindred existence—including laws on poaching—I find they make some of the most loyal allies I could ask for.”

Savoy chuckles. “A few bled vessels is a more than fair price for that kind of asset. Besides. It’s not as if I can’t afford it.” The Toreador lazily stretches an arm towards the garden’s wrought-iron balcony, and the teeming throngs of kine who fill the streets below.

“There was also Miss Malveaux’s framing of Delacroix, sir,” Preston continues. “Hardly a trivial matter, given the other matters of greater than trivial import it was connected to. Miss Malveaux was no doubt aware of the Traditions by the time of her latest intrusion. There was also her deliberate snubbing of your invitation—which she has yet to offer any apology for.”

“You are right about the Delacroix affair, Nat,” Savoy muses. “But tell you what, Miss Malveaux, seeing as you’re here now and no one was hurt… why don’t you keep me apprised of your investigations into Mr. Baristheaut, and we’ll call it even?”

Caroline: Caroline taps her lip with one pale finger. “In the interest of repaying what has been your great generosity so far, Lord Savoy, I would disclose that as heavily as the activities of my sire and the events surrounding my Embrace weigh upon my mind, there are many other matters that may consume more of my energies for the foreseeable future.”

“And also, that making so blanket a promise of disclosure seems… untenable. I would propose instead, again in the interest of honesty and forthrightness, that I will disclose secrets I might uncover such as to balance the scales of the disruption of your domain and disrespect to your person as we might mutually agree upon over time—or failing the ability to do so within one year, would offer you up to a boon by way of making up the difference.”

GM: “That sounds more than fair, Miss Malveaux,” Savoy beams. “Information of a similar nature, or a boon if that doesn’t turn out to be tenable within the year—but I’ll also add the caveat that information on Mr. Baristheaut’s activities will still do just fine, if you decide to pursue those. Our sires never do stop weighing upon our minds.”

“Do you possess a secure phone number, Miss Malveaux?” Preston inquires.

Caroline: Caroline smiles. “One of many pressing concerns, Madam Preston,” she replies. “I have a number that an unsecured message might be left with to establish contact, but in the immediate future it would be wiser to conduct such interactions in person.”

GM: Savoy chuckles. “I’m afraid that I normally insist on all my interactions being conducted in person, Miss Malveaux. Beyond being less vulnerable to eavesdropping, I must confess that phones just don’t agree with me, unless time really is of the essence. They seem so… impersonal.” The Toreador then laughs and waves his hand. “But pay no mind to me. I’m like every modern Kindred’s great-grandfather, I recognize that much.”

“When you next wish to schedule a private meeting with Lord Savoy,” Preston continues, “inform your ghoul Rabinowitz when you are available, send her to Antoine’s,-”

“‘My’ restaurant,” Savoy interjects with an amused smile.

“-and instruct her to order the crispy onion strips, while holding the sauce, from the Hermes bar menu. One of our agents will approach her.”

Savoy and mostly Preston answer any related questions Caroline poses, and also provide a phone number for her to call when and if she should obtain a secure line of her own. Savoy rises from his seat to kiss Caroline’s hand again as she moves to leave.

“I’d normally wish you good luck in the nights to come, Miss Malveaux. But I have a feeling you may forge your own!”


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