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Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline IV, Chapter I

Kelford's Flight

“We’ve got forever ahead of us. Eternity. And whatever else might be shitty, that’s… pretty great.”
Jocelyn Baker

Wednesday evening, 16 September 2015

GM: 7:40 PM, the clock’s hands read.

A low drizzle sounds outside Caroline’s window. Pulling back the curtains reveals overcast skies blotting out the moon and stars. The night engulfs Audubon Place’s expensive homes. It chokes their lit windows into quiescence with hungrily grasping shadows that are all-too at home in the thickly-foliaged gardens.

Caroline will never see the sun again, that much is true. But for the first time since her Embrace, the night that awaits beyond her home is truly hers.

Turner is still awake and relays Autumn’s request to be buzzed in. The other ghoul shows up with the items her domitor requested: Solaris, two Sunpads, handcuffs, and various other electronics to replace the ones stolen by Wright’s thugs. Turner adds that Kelford’s “probably pissed himself in that closet by now.” She doesn’t sound upset. She adds that he’s “probably hungry too. And thirsty.” She doesn’t sound upset at all.

There’s also a message on Caroline’s new phone. It’s from Neil:

Sarah is awake! Recovering well, if you haven’t heard. Family not yet taking visitors. We’re all hoping for the best.

There’s also a voice mail from Lyman Whitney to the same effect. The old man’s voice sounds hoarse, and like he’s been crying, but Caroline can hear his smile when he thanks her for saving his granddaughter. He says that he and Warren will have to take her out to dinner sometime. Later. Right now they’re spending all of their time with Sarah.

“We won’t forget what you did, Caroline,” Lyman says as he ends the call.

A second voice mail from Carson bears the same news. He tells her how well she did saving both girls and asks if she wants to come over for dinner sometime. He doesn’t say it, but they both know he’s not heard much from her lately.

Caroline: Caroline pauses and re-reads Neil’s message several times.

Recovering well.

She suppresses a cry of relief, but not the smile that spreads across her face. She didn’t get Sarah killed. As good as killed. The girl’s recovering. Maybe she’ll even have a normal life, time in therapy likely notwithstanding.

Caroline’s own misjudgment notwithstanding. Her smile dims at that, and vanishes altogether upon listening to Lyman’s and Carson’s voicemails. She should still have worked Sarah first. Spared the Whitneys god only knows how many sleepless nights of grief and agony. It’s Neil and TMC’s other doctors who saved the girl and stopped Caroline’s fuck-up from leaving the teenager a vegetable.

She texts back her thanks and relief at the good news to Neil. She leaves Lyman and Carson with similar voicemails—it’s only polite—but doesn’t commit to any dinner dates. She’s grateful they don’t pick up. Grateful she doesn’t have to listen to them heaping on even more undeserved praise and thanks.

She doesn’t have time tonight, anyway. Her new ‘life’ calls.

She plugs in the phone to begin syncing with her Sunbook Air upstairs and heads downstairs with Turner to check in on René’s creature. She lets the Beast out of its cage before they open the closet, directing it away from her ghoul and towards her captive.

She’s lovely. Wonderful. Everything is fine.

GM: The elder ghoul is still blindfolded and hogtied in the closet. Contrary to Turner’s prediction, he hasn’t pissed himself, though Caroline imagines that’s probably a tempting thought now. He grunts as the Ventrue’s supernal mien washes over him.

Caroline: “How are you feeling?” the Ventrue asks.

GM: The ghoul manages an almost-shrug that’s arrested by his bonds. “Been worse.”

Caroline: “I’m sure. Your domitor is in the hands of the prince. I imagine he’ll face execution before the week is out.”

GM: The ghoul says nothing.

Caroline: “I thought you should know.”

GM: No response.

Caroline: “I’m sorry. I imagine that isn’t easy to hear.”

GM: The ghoul’s face twitches several times against the preternatural force of Caroline’s presence, but he remains silent.

Caroline: “I don’t know what fate is in store for you. It’s possible, maybe even likely that the sheriff or his men will come to collect you. If not, I don’t intend on offering you up to them. Whatever fate you deserve after you tried to murder Turner, tried to shoot me in the head, and did god only knows how many other crimes, I don’t wish what they’re probably doing on anyone. Well…” She pauses. “Except him.”

GM: The ghoul still offers no response.

Turner grunts. “Doubt he believes you. Interrogators say stuff like that all the time to fuck with prisoners’ heads.”

Caroline: It’s a thought that hadn’t occurred to Caroline. “You’re probably right. It doesn’t really matter.”

She looks back to the bound ghoul. “I haven’t decided what to do with you, but you should know if it comes to that, it’ll be clean.”

GM: “Won’t beg you for a quick end, but I’ll thank you for one.” The ghoul’s teeth clench as the words spill out… some part of him is fighting against saying even that much.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “When was your last dose?” It’s a nod he can’t see, but the action is more subconscious anyway.

GM: “Doesn’t matter. Empty now.”

It’s hard to make out many of the ghoul’s features past his blindfold. But there are lines along his mouth and a gauntness to his cheeks that wasn’t there before. Even his closely-cropped hair looks grayer than it did yesterday.

Caroline: “If I give you a drop will you keep it until your fate is decided?”

GM: The man hesitates for a moment. But he’s been a ghoul far longer than he’s been a man.

“Y… yes…” he chokes out.

His voice doesn’t sound twenty years older. It sounds a hundred years older.

Caroline: She bites her wrist and lets a precious bit of vitae run down her arm into her cupped palm before pouring it into his mouth.

GM: The ghoul ravenously sucks it down. A long shudder goes through his body.

Caroline: “Don’t do anything foolish.”

GM: “Not… much I can,” he pants.

Caroline: “I’ll see to it you get some water, maybe a bedpan to relieve yourself. I do appreciate you not making a mess.”

GM: Silence answers Caroline’s statement.

Caroline: “Let me know if he passes, will you?”

GM: The ghoul’s age-lined jaw clenches.

Caroline: She frowns. “You’re welcome, by the way. It’s better than he treated me last night.”

GM: No response.

Caroline: She slams the closet door closed.

GM: “Could have Leaf Two wipe up his piss. Not like she’s good for anything else,” Turner suggests.

Caroline: “She’s out right now, I think. Autumn bled her last night.”

GM: “Can’t be useful for more than one thing at once, then,” the mercenary says in a not-surprised tone.

Caroline: “No,” Caroline agrees, “she can’t.”

GM: “Leaf One can mop up the piss.”

Caroline: “You two didn’t bond last night?”

GM: Turner shrugs. “Knew some stuff about vampires, give her that.”

Caroline: “Be careful with that word around others.”

GM: “Yeah, she yammered about that too.”

Caroline: “I get the feeling most of them regard it like a black man regards the word nigger.”

GM: “Sure then, Kindred it is. Sounds like some New Age hippie bullshit though.”

Caroline: “Makes them feel better.”

GM: “Leaf One’s hopeless with a gun. Tried to show her how to fire one and she went all California on me.”

Caroline: She chuckles. “Don’t hurt their feelings too badly. Remember they bruise like peaches if you breathe too hard.”

GM: “Thinks the military’s ‘imperialistic’ or some shit too. You said not to plug her, so I was pretty tempted to plug myself. Fucking college kids.”

Caroline: Caroline stifles a genuine laugh.

GM: “Shut up pretty fast though when I said I’d listen to her crap if she went through Parris Island.”

Caroline: “That would be… something.”

GM: “Yeah, would probably give the girls there something to tell jokes about for a while.”

Caroline: “I need to run some errands. Do some… things. Are you good here? Can you get him a pot to sit on and a glass of water? You don’t have to be nice.”

GM: Turner grunts. “I could. Blackwatch lets them shit and starve.”

Caroline: “Thanks, Amanda.” She lays a hand on the mercenary’s shoulder as she goes to check her new phone.

GM: Autumn has set up the basic features for Caroline already. The other ghoul has a very different perspective if asked about her conversation with Turner.

“Turner’s uninformed. I’ll thank her for her service any day, but she doesn’t actually know anything about US history or foreign policy. You tell her we’ve overthrown democratically elected governments and started illegal wars, she just shrugs and says she’ll listen if you’ve been through boot camp. That’s… not an argument.”

Caroline: “I’m fairly certain she does most of her arguing with her fists,” Caroline quips as she checks for messages and glances at the local news sites.

GM: Caroline’s media feed has the usual national news stories. Senate Republicans, her father among them, have attempted to stop the Iran nuclear deal by pushing through a resolution rejecting it. Senate Democrats have blocked it just as they did last week. Australia has also elected a new prime minister.

Locally, there was a shooting in New Orleans East involving police. Four people were shot and two were killed. There was another recent shooting at Central City. No police. Five people were shot and three were killed.

At Tulane University, inams attempted to give a presentation on the faith and traditions of Islam to the student body. Archbishop Orson Malveaux managed to have the event blocked.

A “Goat in the Road” fundraiser is being held at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, 514 Chartres St.. Food, games, theater and acrobatic performances highlight this event for the upcoming production of “Uncle Vayna: Quarter Life Crisis,” inspired by Anton Chekhov. Admission is $20 and at 7 PM, shortly before sunset.

On Friday, Downtown NOLA awards are being held at 11 AM, Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel, 739 Canal St. Downtown Development District honors projects and businesses. The state treasurer will keynote. Caroline’s family wants someone present. There is a group email to all of her local relatives asking who is available to attend.

Her brother Westley has also gone missing. There are numerous texts, emails, and missed calls from various family members, all asking if Caroline knows anything about where he is. It is apparent that the family is on edge and fearing the worst after Caroline’s own still-recent disappearance. Particularly when it’s Westley who’s gone AWOL.

The tones of the various messages grow increasingly annoyed by Caroline’s lack of timely response.

Caroline: She stares darkly at those messages before sending a text back to her mother.

Talked briefly last night. Said he was in the Quarter.

GM: Caroline’s phone rings. The caller ID is ‘Claire.’ Caroline still calls her ‘Mom’, but that’s in person.

Caroline: She curses under her breath and slides the accept key.

GM: Her mother’s voice sounds in her ear. It’s calm enough, but there’s a note of restrained urgency to it. “Caroline, what took you so long? When and where did you last see Westley?”

Caroline: Well Mom, I went and got myself killed. She bites back the response and a dozen other equally caustic ones.

“He called me at nine? Maybe ten. Said he was down in the Quarter. Wanted me to join him down there. I declined.”

GM: “Did he say what club he was at?” Claire asks. “Or anything at all else that you can remember?”

Caroline: “It’s the Quarter, Mom, the entire place is a playground to him. You know he’s not inclined to stay in one place for long.”

GM: Her mother sighs. “Damn it.”

Caroline: “What did he actually do?” she asks.

GM: “He missed one of his appointments with Dr. McMillian. Attending those is one of the conditions if he wants to keep his trust fund. I thought at first he’d been… enjoying the playground, like you say. He’s now been missing for two days. He’s not been at his apartment or any of his usual haunts. No response trying his phone.”

Caroline: “I stopped by and talked to him a few days ago, nothing seemed that out of the ordinary… I mean, he was drinking pretty heavily, but that’s normal.”

GM: Caroline’s mother gives a long-suffering sigh.

Caroline: “Are you in town?”

GM: “Yes, I arrived just this afternoon. Where were you all day, Caroline?”

Caroline: “Dropped my phone last night. Screen shattered. Wasn’t able to pick up a new one and get it set up until a few minutes ago.”

GM: “Westley doesn’t miss his appointments. I have a very bad feeling about this.”

Caroline: “Let me reach out to some friends at the hospital, with the police, and elsewhere. See if anyone’s seen anything. Where are you staying?”

GM: “The Hotel Monteleone. Why don’t I meet you at the lobby there in a few hours, after you’ve had time to get in touch with your friends. Will 10 or 11 PM be long enough?”

Caroline: Caroline winces. The trouble with family that has both taste and money.

“I’ll call you when I have something. May take me a while to run this down off the books with people,” she demurs.

GM: “Very well. I’ll be in town until whatever’s happened with your brother is sorted out.”

Caroline: “All right, Mom, I’ll talk to you later.” A momentary pause. “I love you.”

GM: “I love you too, Caroline. You do know that,” her mother answers. There’s a shorter pause on her end than there usually is.

Caroline: “I do. I’ll call.” She kills the line.

GM: When Caroline glances down, she sees that her new phone has a new text from Jocelyn.

hey things work out w/ the sewer rats?

Caroline: It’s over. He’s in the prince’s hands, Caroline texts back.

GM: Her phone starts ringing again. Jocelyn.

Caroline: No sigh this time as she slides the accept bar.

GM: “Holy shit, you torped your sire?”

Caroline: A faint smile. “Arranged it. It’s complicated, and I’d rather see you. Meet me in an hour?”

GM: “Yeah, for sure. Your haven?”

Caroline: “I actually need to run out and grab a bite.” She gives a street in Riverbend. “Call me when you’re close and I’ll come meet you?”

GM: “Sounds good. Congrats over your sire.”

Caroline: “I’ll see you soon.”

GM: “Bet on it.” Jocelyn ends the call.

Caroline: Caroline catches a ride from Autumn down to one of her typical stomping grounds. She takes the opportunity to make a couple of phone calls and asks several of her more usefully placed people if they’ve seen anything: hospital, morgue, or arrest line. It’s mostly going through the motions, but it makes her feel better.

GM: Caroline’s contacts have little to report. Jessica White doesn’t see Westley’s name in any (recent) arrest records. Dr. Crawford hasn’t treated him at the ER. Emily Rosure doesn’t find his name in any of TMC’s records. Maybe Westley will turn up later.

Caroline: She doubts it.

GM: Autumn chauffeurs her domitor through Riverbend. Tulane University and the nearby student bars remain off-limits. Now that René’s capture no longer looms over Caroline’s shoulders, her hunting selection feels remarkably limited.

Caroline: It’s better than nothing for now, but she’ll be happy to potentially expand her options. An entire college of victims right around the corner is so tempting.

GM: Caroline ends up returning to Cooter Brown’s. Four hundred beers remain on tap and seventeen TVs continue to blare football games down at the oyster-chowing working-class patrons, who are animatedly discussing the Saints’ new league record for most passing touchdowns. The Ventrue cannot find any college students, and after driving to several further dive bars, she takes what flat and tofu-like blood she can get from the four or five men she lures into Autumn’s car over the course of the evening. The coeds might be scarce tonight, but it’s all-too easy for an attractive, well-dressed young woman to find lustful men who give suggestive whistles, crude catcalls, or pantomime licking a pussy when she passes by them.

Caroline: The experience is miserable, akin to drinking the run-off swill that collects behind a busy bar, complete with filth and dishwater. Their flat blood eventually quiets Caroline’s rumbling hunger, at least to an extent. She can’t get lucky enough to find a fresh young victim every night, even if she’s found some well-deserving ones.

GM: Autumn remarks that “at least these assholes deserve it” and drives her domitor back to Audubon Place when they’re done. Jocelyn’s white Toyota Yaris is waiting at the corner of an adjacent street.

Caroline: Caroline stops at the gate to add Autumn to the access list, then lets the ghoul go for the night, promising that she’ll call if she needs something. “Go spend some time with your family.”

GM: The ghoul seems to find spending time with her family a step down from spending it with Caroline, if the look in her eyes is any indication, but she does as her domitor bids.

Caroline: Caroline makes her way over to Jocelyn’s car, sliding into the passenger seat of the squat little economy vehicle and slipping the seat back all the way to accommodate her long legs.

GM: Jocelyn stares at Caroline full stop as she gets in. “Seriously, I need to hear that again. You staked your sire?”

Caroline: “Well, technically one of my ghouls did.” There’s a hint of mischievousness in Caroline’s answer, but something else is buried underneath: bitterness.

GM: Jocelyn leans forward and places a pale hand over Caroline’s. “What’s wrong?”

Caroline: She grinds her teeth. “They used me. Threw me…” She shakes her head as she trails off.

GM: “It’s over now,” Jocelyn states, the look on her face seemingly preempting any need to elaborate. “And the Storyvilles…” She seems to think for a moment, then declares, “no one who messes with us gets away with it. You’ll get to find out everything, now that your sire’s gone…”

Caroline: “He took my brother,” she seethes. “I tried to report it as an infringement on Father Malveaux’s domain. So the sheriff dropped me in the Quarter. Right in René’s lap.”

GM: “Oh, wait… your brother? Did you…?”

A look at Caroline’s face tells the full story.

Caroline: “They tortured him. The Dungeon.”

GM: Jocelyn seemingly knows better than to hug an on-edge vampire, so she squeezes Caroline’s hand instead.

“I’m so sorry.”

Caroline: “I don’t know what happened to him. Family is in an uproar, all in town.”

GM: “Maybe Father Malveaux knows?” Jocelyn thinks. “You could go to him.”

Caroline: “He tried to kill me when I was driving René in for delivery. Some kind of religious magic. Murdered one of my ghouls when we pulled in. Just out of spite and rage.” Her hand squeezes tightly on Jocelyn’s.

GM: “Oh, geez. That’s…”

What their existence is.

Caroline: “It’s over. But it isn’t. I… they mesmerized me. I’m sorry. I kept all the details out I could, about you, but a scarred ghoul, I think Donovan called him Capitán Gautliterrez, knows I was there with Eight-Nine-Six.” There’s shame on her face.

GM: “I’ll talk to… about it, Caroline. It won’t be a problem,” Jocelyn assures her. “It’s all over now. You’re safe.”

Caroline: “I’m so angry, Jocelyn. All the time. Except when I’m around you.”

GM: The Toreador squeezes her hand again. “I know. I guess… a lot of us are.”

Caroline: “They didn’t seem angry at me over the Eight-Nine-Six reveal. At least they didn’t punish me for it. I just don’t want you to get in trouble or…. well. You know.”

GM: “It’ll all get taken care of. You’re in with us, things are gonna be a lot easier now.”

Caroline: “Just having someone I can talk to.”

GM: Another squeeze. “I’m really lucky to have you too, you know. You’re so strong.”

Caroline: “I’ve been nothing but trouble so far. But I’ll fix that.”

GM: “No matter what gets hurled at you, what happens… you just keep going. I don’t know how you do it.”

Caroline: “I’m going somewhere, Jocelyn. And you’re coming with me. I won’t be a burden forever.”

GM: “You’re not a burden,” Jocelyn repeats. “You took down Eight-Nine-Six. Kelford. Your sire. The rest of the krewe’s… they’ll think I’m kidding when I tell them this.”

Caroline: “Didn’t find Evan for you.”

GM: Jocelyn’s face falls for a moment, but then sets more firmly. “Yet.”

Caroline: “Yet,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “You must feel awful about your brother right now, but if you still wanna celebrate finally nabbing your sire…”

Caroline: “I can’t tonight. I have to make some stops, see if I can find out what they did to my brother. If he’s still alive… tomorrow though.” There’s a hint of happiness amid the morbid topic. “I have someone in mind. Apparently he thought it would be fun to stalk my future sister-in-law. And he’s just the right flavor.”

GM: “A stalker sounds good. Be pretty ironic for him to be the one who gets hunted.”

Caroline: “I thought you might appreciate it.”

There’s a little voice in the back of her mind that cries out over the insanity of the entire proposal, but that voice has grown more quiet with time and is not even a whisper now.

This is what she is. It’s what God wants. It’s what she deserves. It’s what she has left. All that she has left.

GM: “Doubt he will, but that’s the point,” Jocelyn grins.

Caroline: “I had something I wanted to run past you, as a sanity check. The family is in town tearing things apart. Staying in the Quarter…”

GM: The Toreador frowns, but waits for Caroline to go on.

Caroline: “How bad of an idea is it to try and clear a visit to calm their nerves on my end? I’ve only heard Savoy’s name mentioned… and never in a positive context.”

GM: “Savoy’s horrible,” Jocelyn declares. “He wants to be prince, and if it weren’t for him, Vidal would’ve crushed the Baron and the city would be a lot better off.”

Caroline: “I gathered. He made my own life much more difficult, that said…”

GM: “Can’t you just meet your family outside the Quarter?”

Caroline: “My father is the junior senator. He isn’t as fond of house calls. Besides, the house isn’t exactly set to receive… I mean, I probably could, with some effort.”

GM: “Oh really? I didn’t move to Louisiana that long ago, I don’t know who the senators are.”

Jocelyn looks like she could sigh as she thinks some more.

“The Quarter’s Savoy’s territory. And he isn’t like Donovan or McGinn. He pretty much always lets Kindred in who wanna do something there. But… just having anything to do with him, that’s bad.”

Caroline: “Is that a ‘call first’ and he’ll let you do whatever or a ‘he doesn’t care as long as you aren’t poaching’ kind of thing?”

GM: “The first. That’s why it’s so bad, because you’d have to go and talk with him. Or his skank herald, I guess.”

Caroline: The Ventrue heiress nods. “Bad idea. Got it.” She bites her lip. “I’ll find another way.”

GM: “If there’s an Elysium Primo nearby, you could sneak in,” Jocelyn suggests. “I mean, you don’t need Savoy’s permission to go to those, and there’s a million Elysia in the Quarter. He can’t follow licks everywhere.”

Caroline: Caroline remembers the snap of the whip in the air and searing agony that went on for days, shivering. “Something to keep in mind for the future.”

GM: “Okay, well, that aside. How’d you finally take down your sire?”

Caroline: “When Donovan dumped me in his lap, just before he dominated me, I was able to open a call to a ghoul. We’d already located his haven, so when they realized what was happening they gathered a few others and set a trap when he showed up with me. Set him on fire. Frenzied him… shotguns and swords.”

GM: “Wow. You’re kidding. You and one ghoul?”

Caroline: She shakes her head. “Three.”

GM: “Still. Wow. I don’t think I’d ever be able to take down my sire, even with some renfields for help…”

Caroline: “Hopefully you’ll never have to. He was… terrifying. Almost unstoppable.”

GM: “How old was he?”

Caroline: “Embraced near the end of the 19th century? Somewhere between 120-130?”

GM: Jocelyn lightly punches Caroline’s arm. “What was it you said? ‘I don’t want to be a burden’?”

Caroline: “I just meant I want to do something to help you. This has all been so selfish. What do you want, Jocelyn? Out of this existence, I mean?”

GM: Jocelyn looks somewhat taken aback by the question. “Well, honestly, I’m… still learning the ropes to all this. I was only Embraced a couple years ago.”

Caroline: “Still, you have to have some idea of where of which direction you want to go, even if you don’t know exactly where you’ll end up.”

GM: “Well, sure. I mean…” Jocelyn leans back in her seat, thinking. “I guess there’s a couple big things. I wanna find Evan, first. The Storyvilles haven’t been the same without him.”

Caroline: Caroline nods, reclining against the cloth seat as she listens to the Toreador.

GM: “I want us, the krewe that is, to do well. Score some wins against the Baron, and maybe Savoy. Get some better turf to hunt around. Maybe some more renfields, so life—well, unlife’s—easier.”

Caroline: Another nod. “Is Meg your only one right now?”

GM: “Yeah. I had another one, but… he got killed by the Baron’s licks. I don’t want that to happen again.”

Caroline: “How’d that happen?” she asks.

GM: “The Storyvilles and I went hunting and, well, making trouble in the Ninth Ward one time. We ran into Xola.” The Toreador’s voice is quiet when she finally speaks again. “I didn’t see all of what happened to David, but…”

Caroline: “Xola,” Caroline repeats. “I’ll remember the name.”

GM: “I didn’t really know David that well, but…” her face seems to war. “He didn’t deserve that. My sire was letting me borrow him, too, and she got angry.”

Caroline: “Not to pry, but… why not take on a couple more? If you’re looking for comfort and security, that seems like an easy place to start.”

GM: “Well, finding people to be ghouls is easy, but… finding the right ones is harder.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a light laugh. “Picky?”

GM: “I’ve had two, including David, before Meg. But they… didn’t last. It seems like all I do is get them killed.” Jocelyn’s gaze is tired.

Caroline: “I don’t think it’s you,” Caroline replies. “Admittedly,” she begins, “I’ve only been part of this world for nine days, but no one seems to care about ghouls. Not really. They abuse them, attack them, hurt them. Treat them like trash and throw them away just the same.”

GM: “Yeah. Everyone says they’re basically slaves. I mean, other licks can do whatever they want to yours, unless you stop them. And then there’s the Beast.”

“My first one, Lizzy, I… I warned her to get away, this one time I was hungry, but she wouldn’t. And I just… lost control. I made sure she’d done some bad things before I gave her my juice, but…” Jocelyn trails off. “We still talked about stuff. Caught a few movies. Even braided our hair together. I thought she could also… maybe be my friend.”

The Toreador shakes her head. “I’m sorry, though. That’s old news, and you with your brother…”

Caroline: “Doesn’t sound that old.” Caroline looks at Jocelyn. “And it doesn’t sound like you’ve had much of an opportunity to talk about it.”

GM: “My sire said that’ll happen and to not get attached.”

Caroline: “I think they’re wrong. To treat ghouls the way they do. Not the accidents, but the intentional cruelty. The intentional humiliation and casual murder.”

GM: “But she’s right,” Jocelyn says glumly. “I mean, it did happen.”

Caroline: “I don’t even mean morally or ethically. I just think it’s bad practice.”

GM: “I guess. Not much we can really do about it, beyond how we treat ours.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I didn’t mean trying to lead a revolution of values or some such, I just mean that having servants afraid of you, believing they are expendable, or unwilling to take initiative means you aren’t getting very much out of them. And I think the way that many of them treat their ghouls sets them up to be…”

GM: “Believe me, they’ll do anything for you with the bond. And when it gets down to it… they’re junkies, too. Those things, together, can make them really clingy. Meg’s tried to sleep in my bed with me.”

Caroline: Caroline’s face squeezes in distaste as the anecdote washes away her previous thought. “That’s too much.”

GM: “Sorry,” Jocelyn offers, though she looks somewhat wry at the thought of anything being TMI for their kind. “But, yeah. They’re in love with you. I’m not saying it’s right to be cruel to them, but they’d still love you anyway.”

Caroline: Caroline tries to picture Autumn, Aimee, or Turner in bed with her.

“Are they?” she asks, almost rhetorically.

GM: “Sure. That’s what the collar does. It makes you head over heels in love.”

Caroline: Caroline presumes that’s another name for the blood bond.

“Did you never do anything your partner didn’t want when you were in love?” she asks. “Anything you thought was for their own good?”

GM: “The collar isn’t like normal love, though. That can change. The bond never does.”

Caroline: “Do you only ever love one person?” Caroline asks. “And again, always do what someone you love wants?”

GM: “Well, again, the collar really isn’t like normal love. I’ve heard of it making moms abandon their kids for their domitors.” Jocelyn shrugs. “But I’ll admit I’m not an expert on it. Longest renfield I’ve had is Meg, and only a few years with her.”

Caroline: A shrug. “You know better than me.”

GM: “Well, I guess that makes us both non-experts then.” Jocelyn glances about the car. “Hey, you wanna head back to your haven or drive somewhere? We could still be a while.”

Caroline: “Either or,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Okay, let’s head up then.” Jocelyn starts the car and drives up to Audubon Place’s gated perimeter. Johnson waves the pair through. The Toreador pulls up outside Caroline’s house, gets out, and closes the door. She remarks as she walks up the front steps, “Like I was saying though, I guess I’d like to get some ghouls who can really take care of themselves. Meg doesn’t get into trouble because, well, she’s clingy. Even for a renfield. And other things.”

Caroline: “Other things?” Caroline unlocks the door smoothly.

GM: “I think she’s sad enough already most other licks just don’t see anything else to do to her.”

Caroline: “That’s terrible.” Caroline shakes her head as she heads inside. “Turner’s here, as is Aimee, but I think Aimee might still be out.”

GM: “Still? You should feed her some juice if she’s really sick,” Jocelyn remarks as she steps into the house.

Caroline: “I have been, on and off. Yesterday was… rough.”

GM: “Could introduce her to Meg. I’m sure they’d hit off.”

Caroline: “What could go wrong?” Caroline asks ironically.

GM: Jocelyn plops down on a couch. A mortal host might offer to get drinks or snacks at this point.
“Let me count the ways, but actually, let me not. That’s enough about ghouls though. If I had a casquette girl I’d probably never even have to think about them again.”

Caroline: “A what?” Caroline asks. “Never mind, you can explain it later. You said nothing else about ghouls.”

GM: Jocelyn shrugs. “Eh, you might as well hear it from me. It’s a neat story.”

The Toreador relays how the casket girls, or filles à la casquette, are something of a local… well, not legend, but historic mementos. The girls in question were brought from France to serve as wives for early Louisiana colonists and named for the small chests, known as casquettes, in which they carried their clothes. They were conspicuous by reason of their virtue, for women were normally supplied to colonists by raking the streets of Paris for prostitutes and undesirables. The casquette girls, however, were recruited from church charitable institutions, usually orphanages and convents, and practically guaranteed to be virgins. Though it later became a matter of pride in Louisiana to show descent from them, more sinister rumors claim the casket girls were literal casket-bearers and transported vampires from Paris to the New World.

Such rumors are true—at least in part. The filles à la casquette were seen as innocuous and morally upright, and consequently were not targets for suspicion by hunters and vampiric rivals. This made the young girls ideal ghouls to safeguard their domitors during the perilous journey across the Atlantic. Over the years, the surviving filles à la casquette have come to be regarded as living symbols of New Orleans’ history and have changed hands many times. Indeed, it is considered a mark of prestige to own a casquette girl—especially for younger Kindred. This grants the long-lived ghouls a peculiar immunity to the Jyhad, for the city’s elders consider them ‘cultural artifacts’ and do not wish to see them harmed. This protectiveness is not born out of mere sentimentality, for the casquette girls have served many important Kindred and know much of the city’s history and political workings… as well as their former masters’ minds. While it would certainly be convenient for those elders to simply slay the too-knowledgeable ghouls, doing so would be cause for major scandal. Instead, the elders consider it a game to compete for possession of them. They semi-regularly challenge one another to games of chess, bridge, riddles, proxy-fought duels, and countless other contests of chance and skill whose victory prize is ownership of a casquette girl. Each of the centuries-old ghouls has consequently changed domitors dozens of times.

It is also not unheard of for enterprising younger Kindred to possess one of the filles à la casquette. They usually lose the ghouls after a few years, for the elders regularly play for them and are not bested easily. Still, probability dictates that even those puissant Cainites must eventually lose. It’s happened before and will inevitably happen again. Cunning neonates and ancillae have also challenged them to contests that played to their own strengths and the elders’ weaknesses, though such challenges are not made lightly—the loser has to forfeit something, whether they have a casquette girl already or not. But to most Kindred, young or old, that risk is worth it.

Caroline: “And I thought Kelford was old.”

GM: “I guess there’s always a bigger fish,” Jocelyn remarks when the ‘tale’ is done. “The Hussar’s supposed to be pretty old too.”

Caroline: “He felt like it. Will like iron.” She smirks. “Also ugly enough.”

GM: “Oh, you saw him?”

Caroline: “He had to be the one who interrogated me. Can’t be too many old ghouls in that kind of garb.”

GM: Jocelyn looks like she might clear her throat. “Guess not. Well, enough about ghouls already.”

Caroline: A hint of smile. “What’s your favorite color?” Caroline asks innocently.

GM: “Same one as every lick’s,” Jocelyn smirks. “Red.”

Caroline: “I’m actually partial to black. Though crimson has a certain appeal.”

GM: “Okay, in seriousness, probably a toss-up between blue and green. So cyan.”

Caroline: “Eye-catching.” Caroline is dressed in black again this evening. The form-fitting ensemble is cinched tight around her waist.

GM: Jocelyn, in comparison, is more casually dressed in a denim skirt and green tank top. “You picked a popular color for your favorite.”

Caroline: “I’m sure it’s all the rage among our kind. But it’s hard to wrong with the classics.”

GM: “Classic’s a pretty popular look for us too. That outfit would fit right in at Elysium.”

Caroline: “We should go shopping. Not tonight, but one night get up early.”

GM: “Oh, that’s perfect,” Jocelyn agrees. “It’s not like we can go out to dinner, but shopping, yeah. How about same evening we deal with your stalker?”

Caroline: “Tomorrow night? I think it would be a nice distraction.”

GM: “It’s a date.”

Caroline: “Did your sire ever tell you why she Embraced you?”

GM: Jocelyn seems to ponder that. “Mostly, I think. It took her a bit to explain, but the short version was that she thought I had the right ‘spiritual temperament’ for the Sanctified, and that together with my art.”

Caroline: Caroline arches an eyebrow. “You’re an artist? What medium?”

GM: “Well, yeah. Toreador, remember?” Jocelyn ribs.

Caroline: “The nuances of clan interests wasn’t something I received a lot of tutelage in, remember?” Caroline fires back, similarly amused.

GM: “Well, in seriousness, not all of us are ‘real’ artists. Some of us are critics, patrons, or just Embraced for being beautiful. But those torries are poseurs.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly. “Clan cliques. You still haven’t told me what you do.”

GM: “I do photography and digital image manipulation. I’ve been doing the first since I was a little kid. It’s rough in New Orleans, though. The guilds here are… really conservative. If it wasn’t around in the 1800s, it’s not real art to them.”

Caroline: “What kind of manipulation?” Caroline asks. “Mostly cleaning up, or more major changes to create entirely new images?”

GM: “I got my start just taking peoples’ pictures, and I still do that, but once I started playing around on Photoshop and saw how much more stuff I could do, I didn’t look back. My parents actually thought I should go into CGI design, but I like there being a ‘tether to reality’, I guess, in my work. Taking something that’s ordinary and transforming it into something more. Something mine. I read a quote somewhere that said peoples’ most creative works actually derive from other peoples’.”

“Anyways, I make bigger adjustments to some of my pieces than others, so some of them are all new like you say. But I do minor touch-ups and adjustments to pretty much every picture I take. Which is pretty hilarious for the torries who go on about computers having no place in art, because they wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference in those pieces until you pointed it out to them.”

Caroline: “Age probably. I imagine the city’s torrie elders barely know what a photo is, much less the details of manipulation.”

GM: “Which is bullshit, honestly, art’s been changing and evolving throughout its whole history. If not every piece created by an artist. It’s stupid to set the cut-off date for ‘acceptable’ art at when you happened to take a dirt nap.”

Caroline: “People always fear what they don’t understand. Especially if it diminishes their own relevance.”

GM: “True. Guess you can add ‘catch the guilds up with the last hundred years of art’ to the list of things I want. And probably won’t get.”

Caroline: “Goals.” Caroline shrugs. “They’re what we have left. That and time. And those goals happen with time, but only if you have them, and work towards them. If you never set them…” She shrugs. “It’s why some families sit in poverty for generations and others rise to the top.”

GM: “I guess. Though I don’t really see any way to change their minds even with time, do you?”

Caroline: Caroline taps a finger to her lips in thought for a moment. “Replace them. Build your own bloc over time. Gain leverage that forces them to acknowledge you. Have your work circulated publicly under a patsy, perhaps a ghoul, for public acclaim. Alternatively, enjoy your art for what it is.”

GM: Jocelyn nods. “That last one’s definitely easiest. I’ve uploaded my stuff online to a few places, and it’s nice to read the comments. So it’s not like I’m completely starving for recognition or anything, even if I have to keep things pretty low-key.”

Caroline: “Internet’s a good medium,” Caroline agrees. “Especially if all you’re looking for is a bit of self-affirmation, and not their affirmation. I have trouble imagining any of them over twenty or thirty years old being especially capable online. Hell, my father’s chief of staff can barely work his way around a text message.”

GM: Jocelyn laughs. “Oh god no. I think barely any of them are online, and I don’t think any are on Fangbook or the special Kindred sites.”

Caroline: “Is that a real thing?”

GM: Jocelyn nods. “That’s not the ‘real’ name for it, but once it caught on it stuck like blood to hair.”

Caroline: “Not that you’d know anything about that.”

GM: Jocelyn just sticks out her tongue. “It’s where I’ve been able to upload all of my work, too… there’s some stuff that could stretch the Masquerade, so it can’t go on breather sites.”

Caroline: “Stretch in what way? I’d think art would be one medium that was transcendent.”

GM: “Well, I took pictures of Lizzy. After I… killed her.”

“I know, I know,” Jocelyn says defensively, “that sounds creepy morbid. I just… didn’t want to forget her, and pictures last forever.”

Caroline: “No, it makes sense,” Caroline replies softly. “We all deal with things in our own way. It makes a lot of sense that you’d go to art. It’s… it’s sweet, really. And it’s not like I can talk. I’m still trying to put Aimee’s face back together after… well.”

GM: “Yeah, it looked like you went apeshit on her pretty bad. If it makes you feel better, I’ve… done it before too. I never mean to, but sometimes it just… happens.”

Caroline: “She tried to set me on fire. I mean… she was dominated, but…”

GM: “Geez. Well, she’s lucky to still be alive.”

Caroline: “We’re back on the topic of ghouls,” Caroline observes sourly. “But… while we’re here, I’m trying to figure out what to do with Kelford.”

GM: “Oh. Well, uh, that’s actually been decided for us. I’m supposed to take him away.”

Caroline: “The mystery man in the sky?” Caroline asks.

GM: Jocelyn just nods. “But not for much longer, to you. This Saturday, we’re going to… meet. That’s when you’ll get to join the Storyvilles, too.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “Any idea what the plan is with him?”

GM: “You mean for Kelford? No idea, sorry. I could ask if you want him back.”

Caroline: Another bite of her lower lip. “Maybe. He’s the only link I have to my sire, tenuous as it is. And after he’s executed, Kelford could be…. potent. If they do want to execute Kelford though, can you ask—and I understand if you can’t—that they make it clean at least?”

GM: Jocelyn nods. “Sure, I’ll ask.”

Caroline: “In the short term though, it’s probably safer for them to have him. I don’t have the manpower to keep a watch on him until the 20th, not since… well. Yesterday.”

GM: Jocelyn nods. “He won’t be going anywhere. I have a sedative, too, to konk him out with for the trip over.”

Caroline: “Looks like you thought of everything.”

GM: “Would like to take the credit, but not my idea.”

Caroline: “Always take credit,” Caroline advises.

GM: “Good advice, though I’ll pass with… mystery-sky-man. Speaking of, I’m also supposed to pass on that you’ll join the Storyvilles this Saturday. I’ll pick you up sometime after 11.”

Caroline: “You know where to find me,” Caroline smiles. “Why Storyville, as an aside?”

GM: “You mean the name?”

Caroline: She nods. “Not exactly a stellar part of the city’s history.”

GM: “Yeah, it was the old red light district. There was also a sign that used to hang around there which said ‘Beware Pickpockets and Loose Women.’ Back then it was just Gwen and me, and well, we both thought it was fitting. Because that’s what we are, sort of, loose women who take things from people.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a short laugh. She looks away, looks back at Jocelyn, and laughs again.

GM: “Okay, it’s funny, but that funny?” Jocelyn can’t help but grin a bit at the reaction, though.

Caroline: “I’m sorry, I guess I’d expected some great theological background based in opposition to the sinful ways of Storyville, and a warning to those who would follow in their path, blah blah blah.” She laughs again. “But you just liked a street sign about loose women.”

GM: “It’s a funny sign!” Jocelyn protests, still grinning.

Caroline: “Any idea where the sign went?”

GM: “There’s a bunch of replicas of it. That’s the one me and Gwen saw. No idea what happened to the original.”

Caroline: “Shame, it’d be a great thing to hang over the clubhouse door.”

GM: Jocelyn laughs. “That’d be great. Don’t think Roxanne would be so hot though. She thought the same thing you did, so far as the name. Must be a blue blood thing. ‘Warning against sinfulness’ is the reason she gives if anyone asks.”

Caroline: “So, earlier, when you said terrorize the Ninth Ward, what exactly do you mean by that?”

GM: “Well, we go in, and we hunt on the gangs and voodoo cultists who might work for the Baron. Even if they don’t, lots of them are sinners.”

Caroline: “Sounds dangerous.”

GM: “They’re just breathers. Kine.”

Caroline: “Not the kine.” The word still feels awkward in her mouth. “That I’d be worried about.”

GM: “The Ninth Ward’s pretty far from Tremé. And it’s part of the barrens. Anyone can be there who wants.”

Caroline: Caroline gives an acknowledging “hmmm” to that.

GM: “You’ll do just fine, after how you did against Eight-Nine-Six,” Jocelyn assures her.

Caroline: “What do the others in the group like?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Like, to hunt? Or something else?”

Caroline: “Just in general. I don’t really know anything about them, beyond that Roxanne and Evan are a thing, Gwen and Wyatt are a thing, and that Gwen was a Quiverfull.”

GM: “Oh no, they’re not a thing, she just brought him into the krewe.”

Caroline: “Ah, sorry, I just assumed when you said they hit it off… I guess it’s different for us.” She smiles nervously. “Well, obviously it is, I guess.”

GM: Jocelyn reaches over to pat her hand. “Let’s see, where to start. Roxanne’s our brains, and I think her dad was a state senator or something. Her sire’s one of the anointed, and she wants to become one too. She’s an abecedarian under him.”

Caroline: There’s a blank look on Caroline’s face.

GM: “An altar girl.”

Caroline: There’s a light of recognition behind her eyes now. “I’m going to have to relearn everything I know about church and faith.”

GM: “Yeah, there’s a lot that’s the same, but a lot that’s different too. Like women being able to serve as priests, because we aren’t really women anymore.”

Caroline: The weight of that statement hits Caroline, and she goes silent.

GM: Jocelyn nods. “That’s why pretty much any priest’d say it’s okay for us to be lezzing out too.”

Caroline: “I’d wondered, but I didn’t want to think about it too much.”

GM: “Oh no, there’s nothing wrong with it.” Jocelyn pauses. “Well, more wrong. I mean, we are going to hell.”

Caroline: Hell. The word turns her stomach, or whatever the Kindred equivalent is, but Caroline shoves it away and puts on a smile.

“There’s plenty right with it. But you were talking about the others?”

GM: “Right, well, Gwen you’ve also met. Quiverfull from a pretty weird family, like I said. She’s also a painter, and like you, I don’t think she ever really had a sire.”

Caroline: “She’s a torrie as well?”

GM: “Yep. Her, me, and Evan.”

Caroline: “And what’s Wyatt?”

GM: “He’s a kook. Not a kaintuck, but the only one of us who isn’t a creole.”

Caroline: “A kook?”

GM: “Okay, now that part I do remember explaining to you earlier,” Jocelyn ribs. “But a Malkavian.”

Caroline: “Maybe I just wanted to hear the sound of your voice.”

GM: She laughs. “Nice turnaround.”

Caroline: “I’ve been known to turn a phrase.”

GM: “So far as Wyatt, anyways, he’s a reformed almost-serial killer.”

Caroline: “Almost-serial killer? As in he only killed one person, or he nearly killed a number of people?”

GM: Jocelyn smirks. “Okay, technically neither, I just like introducing him that way. But he kidnapped a girl when he was alive, wanted to go through with it, and didn’t. Until his sire showed up to Embrace him.”

Caroline: Caroline shivers. “Sounds like a charmer.”

GM: “We all get Embraced for a reason,” Jocelyn states seriously.

Caroline: “Any idea what that reason was for everyone else?”

GM: Jocelyn shakes her head. “I know Roxanne’s sire, and I know she was a proper Embrace, but not why she got turned. Gwen doesn’t talk a lot about how she got Embraced, back in Houston. I think it was pretty rough on her. And with Evan, it just… never seemed to come up. Honestly, if he weren’t Kindred, you’d think he was the sort of ‘boy next door’ every mom wants their daughter to date.”

Caroline: “Kind, gentle, always dumped in favor of the jock?”

GM: Jocelyn smirks, then seems to think a bit. “Kind and gentle aren’t the first words I’d use, actually. I mean, he’s nice, but not really a pushover ‘oh I understand if you pick the jock’ type. He’s got this sort of quiet confidence that’s really attractive to a lot of girls. But he’s not really in your face about it. I mean, he was happy to let Roxanne take the reins with the Storyvilles and be our leader.”

Caroline: “Sounds like he was pretty likable.”

GM:Is likable,” Jocelyn insists with a somewhat strained-looking expression.

Caroline: “I didn’t mean… sorry. I’m just thinking on it.”

GM: “Well, shoot. We haven’t been able to come up with anything in the weeks he’s been gone.”

Caroline: Caroline snakes her own hand out to take the Toreador’s, even as she bites her lower lip and wrestles with the thought of what Roxanne must be going through.

GM: Jocelyn manages a limp squeeze back and looks up at her. “You’re smart. There’s got to be something we’ve missed, that you could think of.”

Caroline: “I’ll look at it. Once I’m officially in. Maybe a different perspective will help.” She bites her lip. “And unlike a hu-kine, he doesn’t need to eat and drink to survive. A couple of weeks isn’t as damning as it might otherwise be.”

GM: “There’s a lot worse reasons we can go missing than breathers, though.” Jocelyn pauses. “Sorry. I’m glad you’ll be able to help. Really glad.”

Caroline: “If you want to get a head start on it, put together something tonight. A bio on him. Places he frequented, friends or enemies he had, last place he was seen. That kind of thing. There’s obviously some things you won’t be able to tell me until I join the krewe, but it’ll give me a head start that night, or the night after, when I get to look at it.”

GM: Jocelyn nods readily. “Whatever helps.”

Caroline: “On the note of that day… I was told I would be inducted into the Sanctified on the 20th. Any idea what that’ll involve? Things I need to know ahead of time?”

GM: Jocelyn sits back and lets out a needless breath. “Well, you—they, I guess—picked a hell of a day, I mean, night, to join the Sanctified. That’s when the trials are being held. For Matheson, Smith, and Hurst.”

Caroline: “He mentioned it would happen concurrently. What are they on trial for anyway? It seems like justice has been pretty… well, swift.”

GM: “Yeah, it’s really weird. I’ve never heard of there being trials before. I asked my sire, though. She says the prince still decides what happens, but he lets other Kindred testify and present evidence before he makes his decision. She said that it, her words, ‘has more in common with the judgments of Solomon and Hammurabi than modern trials by jury.’”

Caroline: “I guess that makes sense. What did they do anyway? Or are they accused of, I guess.”

GM: “Well, Matheson is the one everyone’s talking about. They say he’s a headhunter. That means he drinks the blood of other licks,” Jocelyn explains preemptively. “But not, well, consensual like it is for you and me. He hunts them the way we hunt kine. He was supposed to have been living in this spooky plantation and been luring neonates over since… well, forever ago.”

Caroline: “Then dominating them into not remembering anything about it? Or killing them?”

GM: “Yeah, he did a bunch of do-overs, if it’s true. There’s supposed to be a bunch of survivors. What happened was George Smith was recruiting a bunch of licks to go live in Matheson’s haven for him.”

“I’m not sure exactly what happened, but Smith, Matheson, and Hurst all wound up in this hick town outside New Orleans, then someone exploded a bomb and killed a bunch of people. The FBI got involved, and the prince is really pissed and gonna execute someone for it.”

“I dunno, I guess the trial’s gonna sort out what happened with Smith and Hurst. It’s Matheson that everyone’s talking about. See, he’d been exiled by the prince forever ago, it turned out, and Vidal never said why.”

Caroline: “So it looks like the prince knew what was going on.”

GM: “And Savoy came forward, right when the bomb went off, and after Smith recruited those neonates, and said that Matheson’s been feeding on them. Been feeding on everyone who came out to his plantation. One of those licks’ sires, who’s a harpy too, backed him up. I’m not really sure what to believe. I guess it makes sense why he’d get exiled, but it is Savoy talking. The prince says the trial’s going to decide if he’s guilty or not.”

Caroline: “I’m a distraction then. Or a diversion at least. Either that or they’re using the trail as a diversion. Well. I guess both makes some sense.”

GM: “How do you think there?”

Caroline: “If it’s happening concurrently then presumably either it’ll attract attention from curious parties, or certain parties will be more invested in the trial than in bothering to deal with a fledgling’s induction. More than that though, there’s also good imaging there no matter what, especially among neonates.”

GM: “Oh, that’d make sense. Like a PR stunt. It might also just be convenient. It’s on Sunday, which is when Midnight Mass gets held. That’s when things like Kindred getting ordained or joining the covenant happen.” Jocelyn pauses. “Or getting executed. I hear there’s supposed to be a few of those too…”

Caroline: “You’d know more about that than I would. The other direction you could look at it as is as a bit of sleight of hand, the same way the government likes to push things people might object to through the legislature when everyone is distracted by some breaking news.”

“Plane crash? Dad’s getting on a plane back to DC that night for some late night votes. Terrorist bombing? Late night vote. Even more mundane things like disclosing documents with Freedom of Information requests.”

GM: Jocelyn thinks. “Huh, you could be right. I mean, I don’t think anyone’s gonna raise much fuss over you joining the Sanctified, but the prince could use the trial and you joining to push other stuff through…”

Caroline: “No matter how you look at it, it’s good imaging and messaging.” Caroline shrugs. “But then I guess you’d expect a prince to be shrewd if he rules over a bunch of our kind.”

GM: “Not a job I’d want.”

Caroline: “Guess that means I still won’t get to see him though, if he’s presiding over a trial. I’ve mostly dealt with the seneschal. He seems… just. Contemplative.”

GM: “What do you mean there?”

Caroline: “About what, the prince or the seneschal?”

GM: “The seneschal. I mean, Vidal doesn’t really talk to anybody these days, so you’re not alone there. My sire says he didn’t used to be like that.”

Caroline: “Must get old. But with regard to the seneschal, they brought me to him when they first, I guess, caught me. Which sounds weird to say because I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. He seemed different than some of the other older Kindred I’ve talked to. More reserved, but also…. not weak, but maybe gentle? At least not intentionally cruel. I got the same feel when I talked to him at an Elysium briefly.”

“I liked him. At least as much as I could, given the awkward circumstances.”

GM: “How was that, ‘cause you hadn’t caught your sire yet?”

Caroline: “Well, yeah. And the fact that I was a condemned criminal under pain of death by his order, stayed only by the opportunity to catch him. And not knowing exactly what to say or do. He was literally the fourth Kindred I met, after my sire, Father Malveaux, and the sheriff—who I didn’t actually speak to. It was the day after René Embraced me.”

GM: “Must’ve been pretty intimidating. All those Kindred way older than you.”

Caroline: “It was awful.” Caroline goes quiet and still for a moment as she relives those moments, before continuing, her voice distant.

“Not knowing what was going on. Getting locked in a cell for what seemed like days, wondering if they were going to just leave me there until I starved—I had no idea how often I had to feed. Then getting hauled out in front of a jeering crowd. Watching a bunch of other Kindred get executed in front of me, not knowing if they were going to spare me until just before the blade fell.”

She slips off her heels and slides her legs under her. “At that point I’d already maimed one person. Killed another. I knew I was going to hell when I died.”

“I still didn’t really know what had happened. What I was. Am,” she corrects.

GM: Jocelyn slowly takes in Caroline’s summary of events. “Wow. That must’ve been so awful, with no sire.”

Caroline: “All I could think though was that if I was going to die, I wasn’t going to do it shaking in fear or trying to run. That I was going to have some dignity. I think that’s the only thing that got me through it. That kept me from frenzing when they started executing people in front of me.”

GM: “That must’ve been scary. Especially if you didn’t know if you were Caitiff?”

Caroline: “I didn’t even know… you should have seen the first poor girl that I ran into when I woke up starving. I half-ripped her throat out. Came to covered in her blood with her unconscious. The next morning a family investigator found me when I was sleeping in a closet. We fought. He shot me in the head.” She shakes her head remembering. “I still need to find out if he had a family.”

GM: Jocelyn stares for a while longer. “What the hell made your sire do that?”

Caroline: “I wish I knew why he Embraced me. Why he just left me there. I tried to ask him, after he dominated me last night. He took me upstairs to taunt me. I kept asking him why he did it. Why he chose me. He just kept taunting me. Bringing up my brother and how he screamed my name when they tortured him. How I was a murderer and a monster.”

She stares straight ahead, deadness in her eyes. “I begged him to tell me. He just said he’d whisper it in my ear as I was dying, when he beheaded me.”

GM: Jocelyn lays her hand down on Caroline’s. She doesn’t hug her. The Beast doesn’t like that. “You didn’t do anything. It’s his fault. All of it.”

Caroline: “There had to be a reason.” There’s a desperation in Caroline’s voice. “Some plot or plan.” Her lip quivers. “I thought for a minute I saw it, caught a glimpse of it. We were getting up to leave and a bunch of Setites came to the door, delivered Donovan…. or at least what looked like Donovan, staked. But… that doesn’t make any sense. Probably a fake memory or something, because Donovan was there after they staked him and… well, you know the rest of that story.”

GM: Jocelyn gives Caroline’s hand another squeeze. “I wish I could give you answers. But your Requiem’s yours now. You can do whatever you want with it. Unlike your sire, he’s probably gonna get ashed at… well, the trial.”

Caroline: Her free hand wipes away the beginnings of tears. “It’s stupid. You’re right. It doesn’t really matter. Not like I’m the first Kindred with a deadbeat daddy. Or even one that just didn’t see fit to explain themselves.”

GM: Jocelyn stares at those red signs of grief trickling down Caroline’s face. There’s concern, sympathy, and shared pain etched on her own, but for that first second, there isn’t.

Just hunger.

Caroline: It takes Caroline a moment to compose herself, and when she looks up that hunger is gone.

“I should get to work. I could spend all night here talking to you, but if I don’t get something to my mortal family things are going to fall apart in a hurry. I don’t suppose you know of a good way to get a message to Father Malveaux short of a visit to him?”

GM: “Sorry. Visiting Perdido House is the only way I know.”

Caroline: “Ugh. Worse than my grandmother. At least I can get someone to hold up the phone on speaker for her.” She laughs a little, trying to set aside her emotions. The Ventrue’s face is no longer tear-streaked, though her eyes remain red-rimmed.

GM: The Toreador looks up at her and traces a hand along the contours of Caroline’s face that aren’t stained red. “I’ve said it before, but you’re so strong. Still thinking about your family, stuff with Father Malveaux, after all that’s happened… I don’t know that dealing with it is gonna get any easier, but stuff usually does with time. And you’ve got a lot of that now.”

Caroline: “It’s easier with you. Having someone I can talk to about it. Just getting it off my chest, you know?” She looks up at Jocelyn. “I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t met you, Jocelyn, but I’d be a mess, wherever it was.”

GM: “Wouldn’t have made any messes with me either,” Jocelyn counters with a smirk. “We’ve got forever ahead of us. Eternity. And whatever else might be shitty, that’s… pretty great.”

“And hey, there’s plenty that isn’t shitty. Like that shopping trip and stalker for our special night.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles, an expression at odds with the rest of her face. “Tomorrow. For now… back to work.”

GM: “Right, back to work… what’s it you’re doing besides stuff with Father Malveaux and your family?”

Caroline: “I need to meet with Primogen Duquette. She has a boon on me, and I’d rather stay on her good side for now. See if I can’t straighten out my school attendance before I fail all my classes and it creates a problem with my family. Talk to the Nossies and see if the info we got still holds any value, especially with the people that were dealing with René on the side behind everyone’s back.”

GM: Jocelyn takes that in. “Well, if you stay on Coco’s good side, she’s in the center of the whole mess with Matheson. Or at least pretty close to it.”

Caroline: “Oh? How so?”

GM: “The Anarchs are going crazy over it. Coco says they should wait until the trial to make up their minds whether Matheson’s a headhunter. But Veronica, she’s that harpy I mentioned, says Matheson’s guilty, that the prince covered up for him, and the Anarchs should all take up with Savoy.”

Caroline: “Of course, why not jump to conclusions before the trial? I bet that they’re the same people that before their Embrace watched that hag Nancy Grace.”

GM: “Veronica’s childe is one of the licks Smith recruited. But you’re right, they’re idiots for not waiting until the prince has a chance to straighten everything out.”

Caroline: “Well, I’ll let you know if she spills any juicy gossip.”

GM: “Sounds like you’ve got a busy night ahead, anyways. Let’s go take care of Kelford.”

Caroline: “Yeah… about everything else. Look… I understand that I’m not going to be able to keep all of this going forever.” She gestures broadly to the house. “I just want to get some things straightened out and have an opportunity to do things on my terms. Move some money around, lay some foundations. If I just go missing or die right now, with my brother still unaccounted for, it’ll destroy my mom. And… it’s not exactly easy to vanish in my family. I went missing for less than ten hours and they had god knows how many investigators combing the city last time.”

GM: Jocelyn looks a bit relieved. “Okay. Just… take my advice, don’t be obvious about it. Staying in touch with your mortal family is a sin. A real sin, one even we aren’t supposed to do.”

Caroline: “Because of the Masquerade?”

GM: “Yeah, the Masquerade, but it’s more than that. We’re wolves. We’re not supposed to pretend we’re sheep… we’re ignoring God if we do that, saying we’re not really damned.”

Caroline: “How does that work with Father Malveaux claiming his entire mortal family as his domain?”

GM: “Well, he probably doesn’t live with or try to pretend he’s one of them. I mean, I can’t imagine he showed up for any family picnics when you were a kid.”

Caroline: Caroline chews on that.

GM: “And if they’re his domain… you probably shouldn’t have too much to do with them anyways. Older Kindred don’t like to share.”

Caroline: “He already laid out the rules.”

GM: “Okay. Just looking out for you.”

Caroline: “On the other hand… it’s complicated. I can’t just up and vanish, and no matter what it’s going to be a headache. Even the other night, at the Elysium, I ran into one of them, much less the many, many people that know them. It’s a mess to sort out, and it’s going to make a Masquerade problem if it’s done clumsily. For now I have to play the part.”

GM: “Sounds like a big headache. I dunno if there’s anything I can do to help, but if there is… well, just lemme know.”

Caroline: “I have your number. You have mine. Actually though…” She pulls out her phone. “Let me give you Autumn’s as well, so you or Meg can reach me through her if you need to, or if my phone gets smashed again.”

GM: “Good idea. Here’s Meg’s, though it’ll probably only be an emergency if you call that.” The two swap the numbers.

Caroline: They proceed upstairs to Kelford.

GM: They find Turner lying in a bloody, beaten, and motionless heap on the floor. Handcuff-link-shaped strangle marks line her throat. A tipped-over, clearly once-full bedpan lies a short ways off from the insensate Blackwatch merc. René’s ghoul is nowhere in sight.

“Ah, shit,” Jocelyn remarks.

Caroline: Caroline’s response is less controlled. She lets the Beast’s presence run wild around her, and her eyes sweep the room for any sign of the wayward elder ghoul.

GM: The Ventrue finds no evidence of such.

Caroline: She lets out a growl of frustration and approaches her fallen ghoul.

GM: Turner does not stir at her domitor’s presence.

Caroline: She bites into her wrist and presses it to the unconscious ghoul’s mouth.

GM: Turner’s eyes snap open. Her good hand reflexively jabs towards Caroline’s sternum, only stopping as she recognizes her domitor’s face.

Caroline: There’s anger and frustration written across Caroline’s face, but it’s not directed towards the mercenary.

“He’s gone,” she growls.

GM: “Yeah,” the Blackwatch merc growls back. Anger and shame war in her eyes. “Came at me when I helped him off the shitter.”

Caroline: “I should have been here,” Caroline growls.

GM: “Still time to catch up with him,” Turner snarls. “Can’t have gone far. Not in this neighborhood.”

Caroline: “And cause a shootout in Audubon Place?”

GM: “You could mindfuck him. Then we could really fuck him.”

Caroline: Caroline glances at Jocelyn, seeing if she has anything to offer.

GM: Jocelyn gives a helpless shrug. “I can call, uh, mystery-sky-man to see if they can… send someone. But that could take some time.”

Caroline: “No.” Caroline’s scowl is unabated. “It’s my mistake, I’ll clean it up.” She glances around “What did he get from you?” she asks Turner.

GM: “My Belgian.”

Caroline: “Is that all?” Caroline shows teeth.

GM: Turner grits her own. “All I’ve made out.”

Caroline: “You want to come?” she asks Jocelyn.

GM: “Don’t think he’d like to chance another fight with you,” the Blackwatch grunts. Still pissed, but more appraisingly. “He looked pretty bad.”

Jocelyn nods. “Yeah, of course. I’ve tasted his blood, so he’ll be easier to find.”

Caroline: Those teeth again. “So have I.” She heads up to her bedroom to gather up an umbrella that is familiar—or should be—to Jocelyn. “Let’s go.”

GM: Turner wants to come. She’s clearly ashamed over failing to prevent Caroline’s prisoner from escaping, as well as pissed off and looking forward to a rematch. She grudgingly remains behind at her domitor’s behest.

Jocelyn and Caroline climb into the former’s car and cruise the neighborhood. Rows of multi-stored, million+ dollar homes slowly roll past the windows. For all Caroline’s familiarity with the neighborhood and Kelford’s likely difficulty in escaping past Blackwatch’s sentries, however, the two Kindred are eventually forced to admit that their quarry has eluded them.

“Well, we gave it a good shot, I guess. I can call mystery-sky-man now if you don’t have any other ideas,” Jocelyn finally concedes.

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “You should probably let him know. I’ll put in a call to some people at the local hospitals I know—with all the wounds he has he’s got to be hurting. And without access to more blood… I’m sorry. I fucked this up.”

GM: “It’s not your fault. He’s the one who tried to run away. And sky-man will get him back.”

Caroline: “I should have just let him suffer.”

GM: “He’s a ghoul. He was just gonna do whatever was better for his domitor.”

Caroline: Caroline grudgingly nods. “Yeah.”

GM: “I’d be glad if you let me piss if I was your prisoner. And, well, still a breather.”

Caroline: “Yeah.” The Ventrue’s tone is still grudging. “You’ve got a phone call to make. I’ve got some trips to make. Thanks for coming out.”

GM: “No problem. You’re worth it.” Jocelyn traces her canines over Caroline’s cheek in an almost-kiss.

Caroline: Caroline lets out a hiss of pleasure. She jerks away as her canines visibly extend.

GM: “Tomorrow,” Jocelyn states emphatically.

Caroline: “You have no idea.” She spends the remainder of the short ride back trying not to stare at the Toreador.


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