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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Six, Caroline III

“Once you know about the things in the shadows, once you open that door… you can’t ever close it. It changes you. For the worse.”
—Claire Malveaux


Thursday ?, 17 September 2015

GM: “Wake up, Caroline.”

Caroline: The Ventrue’s eyes snap open.

GM: It’s a heart attack in reverse. Her body is numb with pain, as if being pinpricked with a hundred needles. Instinct screams to flail, but her arms won’t move. Then she feels blood shooting through her arteries (her heart does not beat), her paralyzed limbs tingling and growing flush. She feels so sluggish, so awful still. Like being hungover with a splitting headache outside on a 100 degree day. The reaction doesn’t so much as pass her conscious mind. There’s a far more pressing one.

Fire.

Hungry, crackling, smoking flames, everywhere. The vampire’s Beast screams in instinctive, mindless panic.

Caroline: She loses herself behind the Beast’s will, it’s surging tide of need. For days she’s beaten it back, beaten it down, but the flames are too much. It recognizes the instinctive enemy she’s only seen in the narrowest of margins. Today, having long bided its time, the Beast takes its moment.

GM: The Man doesn’t stand a chance against its atavistic counterpart. As soon as it registers the flames, the Beast is in the driver’s seat. Caroline feels her sluggish body moving, racing as fast and as far away as it can—then skidding to a stop.

Flames. In front of her.

The Beast flees.

Flames. Behind her.

The Beast twists.

Flames. To the left. To the right.

Flames. Everywhere.

The Beast screams.

Flames. Surrounded. On all sides.

It whines and paces, wildly searching for an opening like the trapped animal it is. None. Encircled. Trapped.

Caroline: It contemplates a dive through the flames, a mad flight, or perhaps her human brain does, because the animal certainly cannot bring itself to such a thing.

GM: Time passes. The flames hiss, crackle, and burn. Her flesh does not.

Caroline: It’s Hell. She’s finally arrived in Hell. Panic does not abate. A human might reason or rationalize. It might establish control if not calm. For the Beast there can be no such rationalization. It’s caught in a trap it can’t escape and can do little but spin in fear, watching the kin to its great enemy snap and crackle all around it. The smoke would be choking if she were living, and in a way the blackness that would follow would be a mercy compared to the feeling of helpless terror that she can’t escape.

GM: The fire burns. More time passes. It could be an instant. It could be a thousand years. The Beast doesn’t think in units of time. Just burning and not burning.

And for it, too much is burning.

Still more time passes.

Caroline: Part of her is certain that this can’t be real. The flames. The sheer overwhelming terror of the Beast. It’s the worst nightmare of her life.

GM: But, as with all nightmares, the sleeper must eventually awaken. It’s no kinder an awakening than her initial one. There’s a splitting pain behind her skull, like the migraine to end all migraines. Her ears ring and her vision swims—but the red haze recedes.

She’s surrounded by fire—a perfect geometric ring that encloses and entraps her. The Beast rears again in instinctive panic.

Caroline: This time she’s ready, or as ready as she can be. The chain jerks tight around the Beast’s neck as she refuses to let it seize control again.

GM: Her inner monster whines and paces, pushed back but not banished. The Man processes its surroundings. Caroline is lying on her cot in the panic room. Someone has constructed a circle of twigs and chalk-like etchings around her. The ring of fire blazes no more than inch high—still far too high for her Beast.

The steel door is pushed all the way open. There’s an uneven hole drilled into the center, and the surrounding metal is warped and twisted. Her clothes are absent from the closet, and several strategically placed fans blow the smoke out of the room.

Four figures are seated on folding chairs throughout the cramped space. Two are male, two female, if the shapes of their bodies are any indication. They’re dressed in dark suits and wear featureless white masks. One of them isn’t masked. She’s notably dressed in a black pantsuit rather the skirts she usually prefers, and flats instead of heels.

It’s her mother.

Her face is a mask of the same pain Caroline last saw twisting it.

Caroline: It’s a new type of terror that seizes the Ventrue’s heart. Surrounded. Some kind of pagan rite. Her hiding place destroyed. Her mother having caught her in daysleep. Her mouth moves, but no words come out as she looks around, and for a moment her thoughts are no more different than the Beast’s. Fight or flee? Neither is attractive. Who knows what time it is or what waits outside the small room. Who knows what they’re capable of?

At last she garbles out a word. “Okay…” She’d be trembling if she could still tremble.

GM: Claire stares at her daughter. Her jaw is set, but the hurt in her eyes no less severe. She turns to one of the masked men. “Give me some time with her.”

“I wouldn’t advise that,” he answers.

“I’m not asking for your advice,” Claire flatly replies.

The man doesn’t shrug, but his voice sounds like he is. “It’s your decision.”

Caroline: Caroline looks between them, trying to understand the dynamic at play. Four people. Three masked. There’s fear in her eyes as she looks around, some like that of a cornered animal, but also that of a misbehaving child.

GM: The man produces a silver dollar from his pocket and holds it up, catching the fire’s glint. “The circumference of that circle is as close to this one’s as I can make it.”

Caroline: Caroline looks between them. She sits up in the bed.

GM: “I still don’t advise this,” he continues. “But we won’t be far.” The three masked figures rise from their seats and file out of the panic room.

Caroline: Caroline watches them go, then turns her gaze back to her mother. Even with them gone she feels vulnerable. Unmasked. Off-balance. The fire still burns oh so close, and the Beast thrashes on its chain at its very existence.

GM: Claire does not reply to them. Or even look at them. She just stares at her daughter.

Caroline: Caroline takes an unsteady breath of smoky air. “Mom, I…”

The words die. There’s no explanation she can offer. No story. No lies. This one moment of unvarnished truth sits between them.

Finally she says in a meek voice, “I’m sure you have questions.”

GM:How,” her mother manages raggedly. “How did this happen to you, Caroline?”

Caroline: There’s no room for lies. She doesn’t want to lie anyway.

“Decadence,” she murmurs quietly. Is that a quiver in her lip, or is that just where she keeps her arrows? “I… everything I told you was true, I just left out… well.”

GM: “You’re why Paxton’s missing,” her mother says hoarsely. “Why Orson stood up for you. Why that girl looked the way she did.”

Caroline: A mask of grief and shame. “Yes… he found me the next morning. I was hiding in a closet. I… I had no idea…” The defenses are weak.

GM: Her mother holds up a preemptive hand. “Caroline.”

Caroline: “Mom, I didn’t… I didn’t want this. I didn’t choose this.”

GM: Claire leans forward in her chair. The pain in her eyes is all the more fresh, but her voice is iron. “What happened to your brother?

Caroline: “I didn’t attack him or anything, Mom. I… it’s complicated. I don’t know for sure.” The words come tumbling out. “I tried to find a way to rescue him, but they all just…” Her jaw snaps closed. “How much do you actually know about all of this?”

GM: Claire rises from her seat, walks several paces closer to the burning circle, and stoops down to look Caroline square in the eye.

“What. Has happened. To your brother.”

Caroline: “He took him. To the Dungeon. I don’t know beyond that,” she confesses.

GM:Who took him, Caroline? When? How do you know this?”

Caroline: “You don’t understand,” she all but sobs.

GM: “Caroline,” her mother repeats slowly. “Understand this.”

“He’s my fucking son.”

Caroline: “René Baristheaut,” she spits pathetically. “The bastard who made me this way. He was trying to force me into the French Quarter so he could… I don’t even know. I don’t understand any of it, Mom.”

GM: Her mother’s face, still at even eye level, stares into hers. “Start from the beginning. Take your time.” There’s the briefest of pauses. “We have a great deal of it.”

Caroline: “What time is it?” Caroline asks quietly.

GM: “Day.”

Caroline: A grimace. “There are people coming over tonight. It would be better if you weren’t here when they arrive.”

GM: Her mother gets up and resumes her seat on the folding chair, crossing her legs. “Start from the beginning, Caroline. Of all of this.”

Caroline: Caroline’s eyes dart to the flames around her. “Can you at least put out the fire?”

GM: “No,” her mother answers.

Caroline: Caroline folds up on the uncomfortable cot, drawing her knees up to her chin. It’s as far away from the fire as she can get.

“Decadence,” she begins. “Aimee is drugged. I’m drunk—maybe drugged as well—and dragged into an alley by attackers.” She bites her lower lip. “Someone else shows up just before they murder me. He was charming, he was terrifying. He was monstrous. I never even knew his name before I saw his teeth. I ‘woke up’ in the park. Alone.”

She tells of her first moments, terrified, hurt, and so thirsty. Of hiding in the hotel. Of Paxton finding her and dragging her into the sunlight. The frenzy, the gunshots, his blood on her tongue. His blood everywhere else too, alongside her own. Of her trip to visit her uncle at his demand. The discovery that she could influence him, and her subsequent meeting with Father Malveaux. Her imprisonment, near-execution, and brief stay of it. The illicitness of her ‘Embrace.’ Attempts to find her sire and learn more, Aimee and Gabriel’s involvement and the former’s forced ghouling. Aimee’s abduction by Eight-Nine-Six and efforts to get her back. Whips biting into her flesh. Knives tearing long furrows in it. Bullets. Machetes. Finally the phone call demanding she exchange herself, and her ill-advised attempt to draw in Kindred authorities. “By the time they dropped me off it was too late. I don’t know what deal was struck, or what happened, but he was waiting.”

She tells, in heart-wrenching detail, of René’s description of Westley’s torments. Of his cries for her and for Claire. Of her own utter helplessness. “He’s in the prince’s hands now,” she spits. “But I don’t know what happened to Westley, and if I go back…” She clenches her teeth. Her emotions are a rollercoaster through the tale, and when she comes to its climax she’s all but a wreck, having relived the dismantling of her life and her own monstrousness for the second time in as many days.

“I’ve just been trying to stay one step ahead of it all, one skip ahead of my doom, swing ahead of the sword, one trick ahead of disaster…”

GM: Claire is not a passive listener and has many, many questions throughout Caroline’s tale. Why the sheriff did this. Why the hound did that. Where she was, when such-and-such happened.

Caroline: Caroline tries to answer as best she can, but the motives of the sheriff, the hounds, and most other players are in truth opaque to her.

GM: The sheriff’s and the Hounds’ motives are only a small sample of the many questions Claire has to ask. Times. Locations. Histories. Motives. Personalities. She does her best to naturally work them into other inquiries, of which there are many, but in the end it doesn’t escape Caroline… her mother seems to know less about the All-Night Society’s workings than she does. No doubt Caroline is furnishing her with a great deal of intelligence.

But despite the extent of her questioning, that clearly isn’t the first thing on Claire’s mind. Her mother remains mostly impassive when the tale begins. That doesn’t last as it drags on. Her expression vacillates between disbelief, horror, rage, and, most tellingly… tears.

There’s nothing loud or dramatic about them. There are just several times throughout Caroline’s recitation that Claire’s pained expression finally breaks and she’s forced to dab at her eyes with a tissue.

Caroline: Caroline fights her own tears when she relates her brother’s fate, wiping them away with red-stained hands.

“I couldn’t tell you… I couldn’t bring you into all of this.”

GM: Claire doesn’t reply, save for a long stare that speaks a thousand words. She finally looks away from Caroline, pulls out her phone, and taps a message while wiping away a few more tears.

Caroline: “You need to be careful with this, Mom,” Caroline murmurs.

GM: A few moments pass. One of the masked, suited men from earlier strides into the room.

Claire rises from her seat. “I’ll be back soon, Caroline,” she says hoarsely.

Caroline: “Don’t leave here, Mom,” Caroline all but begs. “Please… it’s so hard to control it with the fire…”

GM: “You won’t be a problem. I’m not leaving the house.” Claire steps out of the panic room.

Caroline is left alone with the masked man. He sits down. He doesn’t say anything.

Caroline: Caroline similarly says nothing. She hugs her legs and does her best not to look at the flames. To ignore the smell. To ignore the creeping exhaustion kept away only by the peril. In that moment one can almost pretend that she’s simply a terrified and imprisoned girl rather than an inhuman monster. The struggle against the influence of the flames is oh so obvious, but she retains control for now.

GM: The masked figure watches Caroline closely, but otherwise does not speak. Time passes. Claire finally returns.

Caroline: The time wears on Caroline quite clearly. Her face is lined with concentration as she clings to control.

GM: It’s worn on her mother, too, if the senior Malveaux’s face is any indication. There’s no longer any anger. Any tears. She just looks numb. She stares at the masked man. He wordlessly leaves the room. Claire sits down on one of the chairs.

Caroline: Caroline can’t look down at her mother’s face. She stares at the ceiling. Anything to avoid the flames.

GM: “Westley is dead,” her mother says in a small voice.

Caroline: Caroline shakes as tears run down her strained face. “I’m sorry, Mom.” She clings to herself all the more tightly.

GM: Claire places a hand against her temple and closes her eyes.

Caroline: “I’m so sorry.”

GM: The circle’s flames continue to hungrily crackle and lick against Caroline’s frayed sanity. Her mother does not reply, but simply sits in place with her eyes closed, her hand unmoving from her forehead.

Caroline: It’s an image she can’t bear. Caroline buries her head in her knees, blocking it out.

GM: Blackness engulfs Caroline’s sight. The flame continues to hiss and smoke. The room’s fans spin. She concentrates on the noise. If she doesn’t, she can all but see her Beast furiously pacing. The Beast her mother saw. How long did the frenzy last before she regained control? How long did Claire watch the hissing, spitting thing in her daughter’s skin thrash and whine from its fiery cage?

Caroline: A matter she’s less concerned about than she is concerned over letting it happen again.

GM: More time passes. The Beast whines in her ear, alone in the dark with naught but the fans—and flames—to distract from its inescapable presence.

Caroline: She looks up.

GM: Her mother has set down her hand. She’s staring at Caroline with a hollow expression.

Caroline: “Mom,” she squeaks out between clenched teeth.

GM: Claire looks at her.

Caroline: “You need to go.” There’s a distance in Caroline’s eyes. “I can’t hold it back forever, not with the fire.” Her face is stained red with dried tears. “I don’t want to hurt you too.”

GM: “We’ve taken more precautions than fire, Caroline,” her mother says in a near-monotone. “I’m in no danger from you.”

Caroline: There’s no hiding the pain that the flames are causing her. “Please, Mom.”

GM: “The circle won’t perform its function without fire, Caroline,” her mother explains in that same unwavering voice. “It must incorporate a substance the creature finds anathema.”

Caroline: “And what is that function, Mom?”

GM: “Allowing us to talk in peace.”

Caroline: The hurt on her face is so very obvious. Tears leak again from the corners of her eyes.

GM: The empty look on her mother’s face does not change. “I will grieve for your brother. I will grieve for your brother later.”

Caroline: “I couldn’t hurt you, Mom.”

GM: Claire seems to stare more fully at her daughter. “What do you want, Caroline? Out of your existence.”

Caroline: “Out of this existence, you mean.” The hurt is still here. And bitterness.

GM: “Your existence,” her mother repeats. “It isn’t like mine.”

Caroline: I don’t know. The thought is dismissed as soon as it passes her mind. It’s an obvious lie she can’t even tell herself. She bites her lip.

“I don’t want to die,” she admits. “I don’t want to go to Hell. I want to survive. I want… to see if I can find something worthwhile in this existence. I want the power to protect the family from this ever happening again. I want to be strong. I just… I want to live.”

GM: Her mother stares at her for another moment. “It’s not living.”

Caroline: “Or… whatever this is. I’m scared, Mom. Scared of what’s waiting. I don’t know what I can find in this existence, but I know what the alternative is.”

GM: Claire silent again for a while at Caroline’s next words.

“I don’t know what happens to your kind after they die, Caroline. I don’t know anyone who really does.”

Caroline: Your kind.

“You know, Mom. We all do,” Caroline replies quietly.

GM: “No, we don’t. Not for sure.”

Caroline: “I can tell you, Mom. The way this thing inside me reacts to fire. The way it twists and screams when you light a match. We burn. It’s burned before. And it’ll burn again. It’s only a matter of time.”

GM: Her mother stares ahead again. “There are some things you haven’t told me.”

Caroline: Caroline nods pathetically, her head on her knees. She’s all but squirming now.

GM: Claire still looks more numb than anything else. “No games. We had enough last night.”

Caroline: “What do you want to know, Mom?” Caroline asked tiredly. “Do you want to hear about people I’ve hurt? Would it make it easier to do what you’re thinking about already?”

GM: “No. But I want to hear it.”

Caroline: “Paxton and Trenton,” she murmurs before looking up.

GM: The second name only gets a blank look.

Caroline: “Those are the two humans I’ve killed. Paxton… I kept trying to save him. To help him. The blood has healing properties. I don’t fully understand it, but I kept trying to get his wounds to close.” There’s sadness in her eyes. “He wouldn’t listen. Wouldn’t wait. Wouldn’t stop.”

“I came back the last time and he was nearly dead. He maimed himself trying to get away while I was gone, and he gave me a choice: let him go or let him die. I didn’t even understand what I was doing to him with the blood. What he was going through.”

GM: “I saw you twist Roger’s mind,” her mother states.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I learned that after Gabriel’s visit. In those first couple days I was so… I had no idea what I was doing. But Aimee… she can’t keep her mouth shut. She’ll blab, and they’ll come and punish me. And they’ll kill her. So I made Roger drop her off somewhere else.”

GM: Her mother stirs at that. “Where?”

Caroline: “With… a friend. She picked her up on a street corner. I don’t know exactly where she took her. It’s something we’re supposed to discuss tonight.”

GM: “Is your friend one of you?”

Caroline: A shallow nod.

GM: “Do you have her phone number?”

Caroline: There’s something else on Caroline’s face now: suspicion. “Why?”

GM: “So I can send… Aimee to a place that can actually help her. Not a rehab clinic. And not one of you.”

Caroline: “They’ll kill her if I let that happen, Mom. And they’ll probably kill someone else close to me just to teach me a lesson as well. What I’ve told you tonight is enough for them to kill you.”

GM: “They won’t,” her mother states. “She’s going to leave New Orleans. She won’t be coming back.”

Caroline: “And they’re going to figure out eventually that I did it…” She bites her lip. “I don’t even know what you are. A witch?”

GM: Claire just looks at her daughter. “Caroline, how did she really scar her face?”

Caroline: “My ‘sire’ tried to weaponize her. Implanted a bunch of dormant commands. When I tried to remove them she tried to set me on fire.” She bites her lip. “It took control. It… I beat her through a glass table before I got control.”

GM: “I see. Does she want to stay your ghoul?”

Caroline:I don’t want her to stay my ghoul!” Caroline almost shrieks. “But I didn’t make that choice.”

GM: “Then it sounds as if you’re both of like mind. Now tell me your friend’s phone number.”

Caroline: “No.”

GM: Her mother’s once-distant eyes harden. “This isn’t a negotiation, Caroline.”

Caroline: “Let me explain to you what happens when she vanishes, Mom, because you seem a little out of your depth. One of the very many people with me under observation takes notice. They demand that I explain what happened to her. I tell them. They torture me. They probably wipe your memories of this conversation. Maybe they kill you.”

GM: Claire looks at her daughter for another moment. “You know so much about your kind, Caroline, and so little. Here’s what you would tell one of them, if you were asked to explain. You killed her. By ‘accident’ after losing control. You disposed of the body.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head in frustration. “You don’t get it, Mom. They don’t ask. They demand. They reach into my mind and rip out what they want.”

GM: “They’re not going to trouble themselves over a missing ghoul, but that’s besides the point. There are several ways I can discover your friend’s phone number without your cooperation. I would prefer that you told me. I don’t know what kind of future you see for Aimee as an abused and blood-addicted slave, next to a life away from New Orleans.”

Caroline: “I don’t know, but I know that I care about seeing that future much less than I care about your future. But even if I were to give you her number, you’d just be involving yourself with another one of my kind for no reason.”

GM: Claire tiredly shakes her head. “I’ve already said this isn’t a negotiation, Caroline. Are you going to tell me the phone number, or am I going to find out on my own?”

Caroline: “Don’t do this,” Caroline all but begs.

GM: Claire taps something into her phone and sits back.

Caroline: “Please, Mom.”

GM: The woman in the mask reappears after a few moments.

Claire holds up a second Solaris. “There’s probably information on this. Can you get into it?”

The woman nods. “With a little while.”

Claire hands her the device. “We have time.”

The masked figure takes the phone and leaves.

Caroline: Caroline hugs her legs all the tighter. Being a captive in her own home, interrogated by her mother, has worn her nerves to exposed and bloody ends even before the wrestling with the Beast inside her and it’s hatred of confinement and flame.

GM: Claire looks back to her daughter. “Who was Trenton?”

Caroline: She only glares.

GM: Her mother leans back in her seat. The 57-year-old woman has always looked good for her age. Now she simply looks old and weary.

Time passes.

Caroline: “Some stupid kid,” Caroline spits out at last. “Looking to get lucky on Tinder. I was… God, everything hurt. They’d whipped me until all the skin on my back was gone and left me like that.”

GM: “So he came over and you lost control.”

Caroline: “Not immediately, but once I started… I don’t even remember it. One second he was asking for a drink, the next minute his body was bone dry. It’s not usually like that. I’ve gotten better. One of my ghouls… she can tell when I’m on edge. Won’t just let me… well.” She looks away.

GM: Her mother doesn’t say anything to that. She just looks tired.

Caroline: She falls silent. “Just do it if you’re going to.”

GM: “Kill you, you mean,” Claire says hollowly.

Caroline: “It’s what you’re trying work up the will to do, isn’t it? Why you want to hear about all the terrible things I’ve done? It’s my fault, if it makes it easier. If I… Wes died because of me. Aimee’s life is wrecked. Two other people are dead. Good intentions don’t exactly mean anything.”

She hugs herself tighter. “But I am sorry. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

GM: “You can help Aimee’s still, Caroline,” her mother says hoarsely.

Caroline: “By letting you raid the house of one of the only Kindred that hasn’t hurt me?”

GM: “No. I’d thought to simply send a message from your phone that she should return Aimee here.” Claire takes a steadying breath. “Once it was night.”

Caroline: Caroline snorts at the comment. “Then why not just ask me to call or text? You’re as awful a liar as I am.”

GM: Caroline’s mother falls silent again.

Finally she manages, “Because I don’t… know what’s going to happen next, Caroline.”

Caroline: Caroline stares at her through red-rimmed eyes. “Can you just be honest, Mom?”

GM: “Honest? You think I’ve ever been through something even remotely like this, Caroline? That no matter how many times I went through this scene in my head, it comes even close to the reality?” Claire’s voice breaks near the end.

Caroline:I don’t know, Mom,” Caroline replies bitterly. “Apparently there’s a great many things I don’t know about you.”

GM: “Everyone keeps secrets, no matter how well we think we know them,” her mother answers tiredly.

Caroline: “You’re a witch. Your entire sorority is. Is that why you wanted me to join?”

GM: “No. I pulled strings to make sure you wouldn’t get in.” Her voice wavers again. “I never wanted any of this for you. For your brother.”

Caroline: “It proved much safer for us not to realize the monsters in our midst.” She looks back down. “I’m sorry. That was… petty.”

GM: Her mother’s expression hardens, then softens. But only a little. “This isn’t something you can just know about and continue living a mundane life, Caroline. Once you know about the things in the shadows, once you open that door… you can’t ever close it. It changes you. For the worse.”

Caroline: Caroline can only stare at her mother’s declaration, a living example.

GM: “All I ever wanted was to spare our family from this. I’m going to spend the rest of my life wondering where I went wrong. What I could have done.”

Caroline: “Because you didn’t predict a psychopath choosing to turn your daughter into a monster and murder your son?” Caroline asks rhetorically.

GM: Claire gives another vacant stare.

Caroline: “Nothing you could have told me would have saved me from René once he set his sights on me, Mom. Whatever else you do, don’t blame yourself.”

GM: “I shouldn’t have had you stay in New Orleans. Had any of you. Our family has too much history here.” Her eyes close for a moment. “This an entire city has too much history.”

Caroline: “You didn’t have a choice. Orson was going to have his way, and unless I miss my mark, there’s someone pulling his strings. The whole family is owned, in Kindred terms.”

GM: “Of course someone is. You’ve met him. That monstrous albino.”

Caroline: Caroline sets her jaw in a grim line. “For good or ill.”

GM:Nothing about that fiend’s attentions on us has been good, Caroline,” her mother declares bleakly.

Caroline: “You’re wrong. He’s dangerous. Monstrous, even. Cruel and vicious… but there are worse out there. You don’t even see just how easy it is for Kindred to manipulate people, to ruin their lives. As long as he’s there… as long as he has the favor of the prince…. only a madman would touch the family. When he found out about Wesley’s abduction…” She bites her lip. “It was bad.”

GM: Her mother offers that same vacant stare.

Caroline: “Sometimes it’s better the monster you know, than the one you don’t.”

GM: “Maybe he’s one you don’t know as well as you believe, Caroline. You and Westley are dead at this René’s hands. The albino’s are far from bloodless. How do you think your grandfather died at the ‘old’ age of 65?”

Caroline: “I never said he was bloodless,” Caroline replies quietly. “Only that it could be worse.” She remembers McGinn.

GM: The masked woman returns with Caroline’s phone, hands it to Claire and leaves. Her mother spends several minutes trawling through the device. “You didn’t mention a Jocelyn.”

Caroline: Caroline’s poker face, under the circumstances, is very poor.

GM: “I presume she’s one of the ones you found less awful.”

Caroline: “Some of us are just trying to make our way,” Caroline agrees noncommittally.

GM: Her mother glances back down at the phone. “These texts have a very familiar tone.”

Caroline: Is there a hint of shame there? Caroline says nothing, but refuses to meet her mother’s eye.

GM: Caroline can make out her mother reading through more of the phone’s messages. “And you’ve missed class. Unsurprisingly.”

Caroline: There’s frustration rather than shame at that comment.

GM: Her mother finally sets down the phone. “I can’t put this off any longer.” She stares at her daughter, still trapped in the ring of crackling fire.

Caroline: Curled up on the uncomfortable cot in the tiny room, her face tear-stained, Caroline hardly looks the part of the monster she is.

GM: Save for the red color those tears are stained.

Caroline: The red stains stand out all-too clearly against her oh-so pale flesh.

GM: “What do you want us to do, Caroline?”

Caroline: “Who is us, Mom?”

GM: “You. Me. I’ve seen you for what you are. You’ve seen me for what I am.”

Caroline: “I don’t know, Mom,” Caroline answers. “Last night was the first night I wasn’t under a death sentence. The first night I was… free. Or as close to it. I don’t even know how I could pretend to put my life back together… but I’d like to find out. He may have killed me, but I don’t have to be gone. At least, not to you. And you could have someone at least that understands something of this double live you’ve hidden.”

GM: A panoply of emotions war across her mother’s face.

Caroline: “Or… I don’t know. I can destroy myself in the eyes of the family some how. Get excommunicated. Or I could die.”

GM: “You would need to do that in any event, Caroline. People would notice you weren’t aging.”

Caroline: “Eventually,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “What life do you see for yourself in only five, ten years? Afterwards?”

Caroline: “Safe,” she murmurs. “Secure. Established. Independent. I have some thoughts, Mom, but it’ll take time to get off the ground. And money.”

GM: “What would you do with that life, Caroline?” her mother asks. “How would you spend… eternity?”

Caroline: “I’d try to find some happiness. Some answers. Maybe eventually some power. Maybe one day I could even contend with the albino. I don’t really know, Mom.”

GM: “Maybe you should put some thought into that. You are talking about the rest of your life.”

The oh-so-motherly remark is almost laughably at odds with the pair’s circumstances. Almost.

Caroline: “Jocelyn has been helping me get my bearings,” Caroline admits. “I wouldn’t be… well, unliving without her help.”

GM: “What is it you think we should do, Caroline? Simply walk away from this and wait for you to figure out your own answers?”

Caroline: “You seem to know a lot more about it than I do. Why don’t you tell me,” Caroline replies.

GM: “My son is dead. So is my daughter, and she’s still talking to me. I’m as unprepared for this as you are.”

Caroline: “I need space with the family. Cover,” Caroline murmurs. “And I think that for everything else, you’re willing to help me eke out something from… this.”

GM: Her mother’s face wavers. “You’ve killed.”

Caroline: “Yes,” Caroline admits, starkly. “And I’ve hurt. And I’ve….” She shakes her head. “This thing inside me is a monster, but with help… with planning. It doesn’t have to hurt someone. You could make that a lot easier.”

GM: “That part of you doesn’t care about me. Only blood.”

Caroline: “It’s… last night, Mom. Every single time you hugged me it wanted out. Right now, at every second I sit trapped here, with the fire and the sun in the sky, it wants out. When it’s starving, it wants out. It’s not just about blood. It’s like an animal. And usually… usually… I can keep control of it.”

GM: “I watched you thrash and howl on the floor for god knows how long, Caroline. It could and would get out of your control again. Would kill again.”

Caroline: “You threw me in a ring of fire with no exit, Mom. There are ways to limit its control. Ways to keep it from having too much influence… and… when it’s getting too strong… mitigate the impact. I’m not alone anymore. I’m not on a deadline. I can do better. I will do better. All of that gets harder though if I’m running from the family.”

“And I need to be able to talk to someone. Someone outside of this madhouse—and I don’t just mean the house itself. I’ve gone entire nights without talking to anyone that wasn’t a ghoul or a Kindred. It’s…” She shakes her head. “Not healthy. It’s too easy to start to look at people as tools, or rivals, or enemies.”

GM: Claire stares down at her entrapped daughter. Another panoply of emotions wars over her face, but her eyes are distant and in the past.

“You were always closer to your father. When you were a toddler, you wanted him to tuck you in and read you stories. You preferred his favorite one, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and wouldn’t do with anything else.”

Caroline: It’s a faint memory, barely remembered, like a story she’s been told before and remembers rather than the actual event.

“Does he know anything about you and your… extracurricular activities?”

GM: “No,” her mother answers.

Caroline: “For thirty years?” Caroline asks, almost disbelieving.

GM: “I’d carried the knowledge for ten years even before then.”

Caroline: “How? How’d you get your start? Do you just wake up one morning and decide to be a witch?”

GM: “I saw things, at Cornell. College campuses are ideal feeding grounds for your kind. Students are young, stupid, and newly independent. Easy prey.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite laugh. “You say that…”

GM: “It’s the same at Tulane. So many of you feed on the students. Even your elders are attracted to universities, if more for the institutions themselves than the student body.”

Caroline: Caroline says nothing. “So why not dabble in witchcraft?”

GM: “That’s an even more ignorant term than vampires, Caroline.”

Caroline: “So what would you prefer?” Caroline asks.

GM: Her mother is silent for several moments before she answers, “Magician is a broad and neutral enough name in Western circles.”

Caroline: Caroline gives her a flat look. “No offense, Mom, but magician makes you sound like you do childrens’ birthday parties.”

GM: “There is power in names. Exercise care in the ones you use,” her mother answers guardedly.

Caroline: Caroline’s expression doesn’t change, but she offers no further comment on the name. “Will you help me?” she asks, still pitifully huddled against the tiny wall of flames around her.

GM: Claire stares down at the trapped vampire. Her face doesn’t look torn any longer. Just weary. She closes her eyes for a moment and then states, “There are conditions.”

Caroline: Caroline nods slightly and waits to hear them.

GM: “Your ghoul Aimee is leaving New Orleans, and you won’t attempt to obstruct me.”

Caroline: Caroline waits to hear the rest.

GM: Her mother seems to be waiting for her reaction to that first one.

Caroline: “Can you actually help her?”

GM: “It would be hard, at this point, for anyone to help her less. But yes, I can.”

Caroline: The Ventrue grinds her teeth. She doesn’t know everything she risked to save Aimee, everything she has gone through, all the trouble she’s caused. All she sees is Aimee’s fear and pain. Because Aimee is the victim here. Not Caroline, who will never see the sun again—at least not more than once.

“Let me arrange it, though.”

GM: “If you mean removing her from Jocelyn, that’s likely a prudent idea anyway. I’ll handle things from there.”

Caroline: “And I don’t ever want to see her again.”

GM: “She won’t come back to New Orleans.”

Caroline: Caroline nods again, that sad little dip of her head into her knees.

GM: “Next, you don’t ever use your powers on our family, or its employees, without consulting me.”

Caroline: Caroline starts to object, then stops herself and instead replies, “Think through the repercussions of that request before you ask for it. All of them. Like if Gabriel decides to drive down and surprise me with a visit, catching me in some compromised position.”

GM: “That’s something you can notify me about, Caroline. I’m never without my phone.”

Caroline: “Or if someone else in the family asks Roger to spy on me. I’m sure that they’ll be sure to standby while I call you.”

GM: “Texts are also acceptable.”

Caroline: “You think that Gabriel would stop to let me explain and text you if he caught me with my teeth in someone?” Caroline asks skeptically.

GM: “That’s a very slippery slope to start on, Caroline, once you justify using your powers on friends and family.”

Caroline: “I know what you’re getting at, Mom, but that’s the kind of overly broad and controlling demand I’d expect from Orson, not you.”

GM: “By my count it’s the opposite of imposing my control. But unlike your uncle, if you have an alternative to propose, I am willing to listen.”

Caroline: “I’ll clear any uses of them through you, proactively if possible and retroactively otherwise,” Caroline replies. “To be renegotiated at any time if you think I’m abusing that flexibility.”

GM: Her mother nods after a moment. “Acceptable.”

“Next. You will, for your own safety, have nothing to do with the Kappas.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “They’re in with the Baron here, aren’t they?”

GM: “If they think you are attempting to interfere in their affairs, Caroline, they will kill you.”

Caroline: “How involved are Kappas in Kappa affairs after they graduate?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Why do you ask?”

Caroline: “I was looking at them for a friend.” She quickly amends, “A living friend. He was worried about his girlfriend, how she seemed exhausted, was out late nights.”

GM: Claire just shakes her head. “That’s not something you should involve yourself in. You can tell him you weren’t able to find anything conclusive.”

Caroline: “Is she a danger to him?” Caroline asks. “Or me by proxy?”

GM: “To him, no. And if they’re serious about one another, the relationship will survive. To you, yes, if you attempt to investigate her.”

Caroline: “And what about to me, given my proximity to him? Are they active vampire hunters?”

GM: “If you have no contact with them, between that and my own influence, you will be in no danger.”

Caroline: “You didn’t answer my question,” Caroline observes quietly.

GM: “What difference should it make to you what they are if you stay out of their way?”

Caroline: “Because I can’t exactly avoid Tulane,” Caroline replies. “And I’d rather not get caught in their crosshairs on accident. If that’s what they’re doing.”

GM: “I won’t confirm or deny anything about the group to a non-member,” her mother replies. “I won’t lie to you, Caroline, but there are things I can’t talk about.”

Caroline: “You should tell them to be very careful, Mom. In New Orleans. I’ve heard stories about what the prince does… has done… to hunters. And not just the hunters. The entire families. Wives. Children. Parents.”

GM: “There are numerous groups hunters active at Tulane, in any case. You should be careful too when you feed.”

Caroline: “Numerous?” Caroline replies, almost disbelievingly.

GM: “You should be careful, Caroline,” her mother repeats.

Caroline: “What else?” she asks.

GM: “You keep me informed about developments in the local Camarilla’s political situation, as well as your own activities relating to such.”

Caroline: “So that you can in turn sell to the Kappas that there’s a reason not to turn me into a pile of ashes.”

GM: “They won’t turn you into ash if you don’t pry into their affairs. But the fact remains that, as one of the… Kindred, you are closer to them than I can ever be.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “How deep does your knowledge go? Do you know about the trial? The Anarch split?”

GM: “I’m not prepared to disclose the extent of my knowledge, Caroline. Merely that you are in a more immediately proximate position to gather intelligence information than I am.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns. “Did they tell you to marry Dad?”

GM: Claire frowns. “What? My lord, no. I chose to marry your father.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns. “Your whole sisterhood has a weird Illuminati feel to it. Didn’t seem that out of the question.”

GM: “They certainly weren’t displeased, any more than your grandparents on my side weren’t.”

Caroline: She says nothing else on the matter. “What else.”

GM: “You inform me when you injure enough to hospitalize, or kill, anyone in the course of your feedings.”

Caroline: “You’re my parole officer.”

GM: “No. I want to know that you aren’t a monster.”

Caroline: “Yeah, Mom, that’s half the idea behind a parole officer,” Caroline murmurs.

GM:I want to know that my daughter isn’t a monster,” Claire repeats, her voice strained.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t have the heart to tell her that it’s far too late for that. She just nods.

GM: “You also won’t speak of my… awareness, or anything else that we’ve discussed here, to anyone without my express consent. Including Jocelyn.”

Caroline: “They’d kill you,” Caroline replies bluntly.

GM: “Yes, they would.”

Caroline: “I can’t promise that they won’t force me to talk,” Caroline says. “But I wouldn’t willingly tell anyone about this.”

GM: “That’s a risk we both will have to accept.” Her mother trails off, looking down at Caroline. “There may also be some terms you’d like to ask of me.”

Caroline: “Mom… I’m not interested in making demands of you.” Caroline says softly. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re not the monster.”

GM: “We’ve all done wrongs, Caroline,” her mother answers in an equally low voice. “We’ve all been monsters to some degree.”

Caroline: “I just want cover with the family,” Caroline replies. “Enough to keep them from digging too deeply for a while.”

GM: “That’s reasonable,” her mother replies back.

Caroline: She bites her lip. “And maybe with Tulane, if you have any influence. My plans fell through last night after you left… certain places I can’t go.”

GM: Claire frowns. “That I left?”

Caroline: “After you left. I’d… it doesn’t matter. The point is what I’d planned on doing to get the school to back off isn’t going to work, and the family isn’t exactly going to ignore it if I drop out or get expelled.”

GM: “Ah. Yes. I can try talking to your professors, but I had thought you’d only want to take a semester or two off.” Claire thinks. “You could simply take night classes, come next semester. You wouldn’t be able to take the bar exam for another six months. I don’t know if that means anything to you now.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “Could you sell that?”

GM: “You taking the rest of the semester off, to the family?”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I’d think that Dad would flip his lid, and Orson even more so.”

GM: “It’s one semester. You were raped and your brother is now dead.” Claire’s voice is hollow. “They shouldn’t find that unreasonable.”

Caroline: Caroline’s brow lifts, as if to say ’wouldn’t they?’ but she says nothing else.

GM: “If you can reach another arrangement with your instructors, you’re free to. Talking to your father and Orson is the best I can do.”

Caroline: “No, I just… do you really think they won’t find it unreasonable? Orson was the same person that demanded I go to Tulane instead of any of my other choices because I fell over on him when I was 12.”

GM: “Because you danced with Adam when he said not to, actually.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression makes clear she doesn’t seem to regard that as making him any more reasonable.

GM: Her mother gives a weary shrug. “It’s the best I can do, Caroline.”

Caroline: “No, I…” She stops and finally nods. Silence reigns. “I’m sorry, Mom. For all of this. For dying. For getting Wes killed… for…” She squeezes her knees. “I only get one shot at this. If I give them an excuse, if something goes wrong with the family, you’ll be burying your daughter.”

GM: Once more, Claire’s age looks all-too apparent on her features. She does not reply, but gets up and departs the panic room.

Caroline: Caroline closes her eyes as she’s left alone with the fire again. Her rational mind screams that it’s tiny. That it can’t hurt her, but blocking it out is the better tactic with the Beast: it’s never much listened to reason. Part of even her rational mind wants to scream at it all. At the never-ending complications. Her mother, this witch. The Kappas. Her secrets laid bare, again.

But another part of her, perhaps that little bit that still has a shred of humanity almost basks in it. Secrets laid bare. The reality of what she’s done. It was too easy for the rest of her to ignore it when it was hidden in the dark. Perhaps that’s why the Beast is so furious in its struggles: the human is much stronger out in the light.

GM: The monster inside Caroline pleads, snarls, and whines. She concentrates on the droning of the fans. On her moral victories, such as they are. With her eyes clamped shut, she doesn’t even notice the loud ffsssht-hssss sound until she’s hit by something wet and freezingly cold.

Caroline: The cold takes away a breath she doesn’t need, and she bolts upright, eyes snapping open.

GM: Her mother is holding a fire extinguisher. The ring of fire is snuffed out, leaving a circle of scorched, faintly smoking twigs and smeared chalk in its place. The fans continue to whir.

Caroline: Caroline bows her head in relief. “Thank you.” Her hands still clutch tightly to her upper arms, but for the first time since she awake, her face is not contorted by the struggle to maintain any semblance of calm and control. She very intentionally makes no move to get off the cot still.

GM: Her mother sets the extinguisher down by the door, then sits back down. She rubs her forehead and closes her eyes again. “There are other chairs, Caroline.”

Caroline: She nods, takes another moment to collect herself, then stretches out her long legs as she stands. She moves to a chair opposite her mother.

“Thank you,” she says again. “You have no idea what it was like… how difficult it is to keep control like that….”

GM: Claire slowly massages her temple again. “You’re right. I don’t.”

Caroline: She starts to speak again, but falls quiet, realizing how little her mother wants to hear it. Caroline can’t blame her: she doesn’t think she’d want to hear her child talk about their monstrous condition.

GM: Claire still doesn’t speak, or even open her eyes. Not for the first time during their conversation, her mother simply looks tired.

Caroline: A part of her wants to go embrace her, to tell her that things will be all right, but the number of levels on which that is a terrible idea defy comprehension. Instead she simply waits, giving her time and simply enjoying the absence of the Beast’s screams, and the fragile tranquility of the moment.

It may be a fake peace. But it’s a peace. Sometimes that’s enough.

GM: “I’ll see if I can get the funeral held at night,” her mother slowly says at last.

Caroline: It’s uncanny how her mother read her mind on the topic.

“If not… I’d at least like to see him. To say goodbye,” Caroline answers softly.

GM: “He’ll be interred at St. Louis. Along with the rest of the family.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t know where to begin to make that right. Suspects that she can’t. She remains silent, wrapped in her thoughts, in the last time she saw Westley. Things he tried to tell her.

GM: “He was far from perfect. But none of them would even give him a chance to be something else,” her mother declares.

Caroline: “He knew it,” Caroline murmurs quietly. “Knew how flawed he was.”

GM: “He did.”

Caroline: “How did you get word… on what happened?” Caroline’s voice has just the slightest hint of hope. “I mean, are they completely sure it’s him?”

GM: “Yes,” is all Claire answers.

Caroline: That hope dies like someone flipped a switch, and Caroline lapses into silence. She doesn’t know what to say. How she could possibly comfort her mother—or if she even could.

GM: Her mother says nothing further. She simply sits in the chair with her eyes closed, withdrawn into her own world. Caroline feels tired too, as if she’s pulled an all-nighter, but so much deeper than that. She doesn’t even want to find a bed to crawl into. The chair is more than enough.

Caroline: After what seemed like the hours long struggle against the Beast and the emotionally wrenching conversation with her mother, Caroline can’t seem to fight that exhaustion. The blood slows to a crawl within her and she feels her eyes slipping closed. Without the threat of the fire even the Beast is sliding towards silence…


Thursday evening, 17 September 2015

GM: Caroline remembers drifting off to sleep. Only a second later, she’s no longer sleeping. The groggy transition between slumber and wakefulness is as absent as it’s been for the past two weeks. One moment she’s out, the next she’s up.

She’s still seated on the folding chair. There’s also a blanket draped over her. Needlessly. It’s not as if her body produces heat to warm it.

Her mother is gone. So are the fans and evidence of the circle inscribed over the floor. The panic room’s door is closed, though it’s poor protection now with a hole drilled through its center. Caroline can make out her racks of now-hanging clothes just past it.

Caroline: She bites her lip at the blanket, fighting the emotions it brings up. Love. Care. Affection. Concern. She takes a moment before rising. The entire thing almost feels like it was a dream, but the drilled steel door gives lie to that fantasy. She looks around for her phone.

GM: It’s been left on one of the other chairs.

Caroline: She runs a hand through smoke-smelling hair—an odor that for all the fans she can’t escape. She needs a shower. Needs to change her clothes. Needs to call Jocelyn about Aimee. Her plans for the night, which began so promisingly, have already started to unravel behind a day of fire. She finally stands and gathers up the phone, heading out of the now all-too useless and confining space. She checks messages as she fights her way through clothing and into the house proper.

GM: There’s a phone message from a Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale secretary, essentially stating that they would be glad to look into matters for Caroline and have a few things they’d like to hash out over the phone, at her convenience.

There’s another message too, a paper note left on top of her phone. It simply reads, Your bodyguard saw too much. Fix her memories.

Caroline: “Of course she did.” She enters into the home proper and sets out in search of anyone else present in it.

GM: She finds Turner lying in a motionless heap on her bed.

Caroline: Caroline stops to check the mercenary for new injuries with an eerie sense of déjà vu.

GM: Turner appears no more injured than she was previously, but the Blackwatch merc is nonresponsive to Caroline’s examination. The almost-doctor’s best estimate is that she was drugged.

Caroline: ‘No more injured’ of course being relative to the still-extensive wounds the mercenary picked up from her battles over the last few days. Caroline leaves Turner to sleep off the aftereffects rather than try to overcome an unknown drugs’s effects, then texts Jocelyn. She tells her lover to come over whenever she’s ready and to bring Aimee.

News of her brother, the day’s events as a whole, and Turner’s condition has robbed her of what little good mood she night have otherwise woken with, but she refuses to mope about it after all that Jocelyn has done for her.

She texts her mother that there’s little she can do with Turner after the fact, but that she’ll ensure that the mercenary does nothing rash.

She texts Autumn to figure out what she’s doing.

GM: miss her already lol? Jocelyn asks, but replies in the affirmative. She’s looking forward to hunting that stalker in a few hours.

No response arrives from her mother.

Autumn replies, catching up on school mostly. you want me to come over?

Caroline: Not right now. Headed out soon. I’ll call you later. How’s your family? Caroline replies back to Autumn with a hint of something that might in another life have been called a smile.

She heads upstairs and turns on the water, letting the on demand heater take it’s required moment to get up to speed as she peels out of her smoke smelling clothing.

Not quite as much as you, she sends back to Jocelyn.

GM: haha nice answer

Autumn’s reply pings back after Jocelyn’s. they’re good thanks. how’s yours if that isn’t too heavy?

Caroline: Westley’s dead. Can’t handle it tonight. Going out.

Do me a favor though tonight, before the end of the night, and poke around online and see if you can’t find anything about what the official story is.

She sets the phone down and crawls under the hot water, washing away the smoky residue from her body and enjoying, for a moment, the illusion of warmth, of body heat.

GM: Bliss under the multiple shower heads is hers, at least a moment. Her skin even feels warm to the touch, at least for a moment, but it doesn’t turn red like it normally would under hot enough water, nor does the skin at the end of her fingers wrinkle. Still, the shower feels mostly the same, even if its effects don’t look the same. When Caroline gets out and wraps a towel around her chest, there’s a text back from Autumn.

Oh shit, I’m so sorry. I’ll see what I can dig up. If there’s anything else…

Caroline: Knew it was coming. Thanks Autumn. Caroline towels off and changes into something nicer for the evening before heading back down to check on Turner again.

GM: She finds the ghoul still unconscious on the bed. There’s also another text from Jocelyn, saying she’s coming over. Their evening of shopping—and hunting—awaits.

Caroline: Caroline writes out a note for Turner in bold sharpie explaining that everything is fine and that Turner should text her when she awakes. She leaves it beside the ghoul alongside a glass of water and some pain killers, closing the door behind her to block off the ghoul.

She does the same with the drilled out deadbolt on the guest bedroom closet door.

GM: It’s a little while longer before Jocelyn texts that she’s outside Audubon, and that she could use Caroline’s help carrying Aimee inside the house. Bodies are heavy.

shes not dead just unconscious, the Toreador adds.

Caroline: Caroline buzzes the Toreador in and heads out front to help her out

GM: Jocelyn’s car pulls up by Caroline’s house after a little while. Her lover greets her as she exits the vehicle. “Hey you. Ready for our big night?”

Caroline: “Oh yes. I need this.” Despite her frustration, despite everything else going on, being around Jocelyn can’t help but push back her bad mood. “I even went and got permission to go after this one stalker I’ve had my eye on at his dorm.”

GM: Jocelyn’s eyes glint. “He’s not even gonna know what hit him. C’mon, let’s take care of your ghoul.” She clicks her keyfob. Aimee is inside the trunk, gagged, unconscious, and trussed up like a chicken.

Caroline: Satisfaction and sympathy war at the sight. Aimee. This bitch that has caused her so much trouble. Aimee, her friend that she promised everything would be all right. She shoves both aside with another glance at Jocelyn, letting the bond pull at her.

“Oh, so you’re good with ropes?” Caroline asks. “I’ll have to remember that.”

GM: “Someone wants to get tied up, huh?” Jocelyn smirks as she picks up Aimee by the legs. “Meg helped too, though. She actually isn’t bad with them either.”

Caroline: “What you’re saying is that your ghoul is bulimic and suicidal and still manages to be more useful than she is?”

GM: “Honestly, pretty much. I mean, I do give Meg crap, but I wouldn’t keep her around if she was just a headache.” Jocelyn frowns. “Your ghoul, though… she freaked out at first, then I glamored her and she was okay. Mostly. But when I said she’d need to ride in the trunk on the way back to your place, since she looked so beat up, she just… freaked out. Giving her roofies and tying her up like this was the only way to keep her calm.”

“I… really don’t think she wants to be a ghoul. Have you thought about maybe trading her to Marguerite Defallier?”

Caroline: “I’m sorry she was a headache. I wish I could pretend that this was a result of her getting mind-fucked by my sire’s ghoul, or getting tortured by Eight-Nine-Six, or… well. Anything else. But really, even the first night she got the blood she tried to put a gun in her mouth because she thought her life was already over. Who’s Defallier though?”

GM: “She’s one of my clan, and a harpy. She’s also a groom for the Invictus. That means she buys, sells, and raises herds for other licks.”

Caroline: “How does that work, with the Masquerade?” Caroline asks. “I mean, I have a couple of kine that I’ve gone back to a couple times, but I’d think if you were handing people off and stuff you’d have to give them some idea that there was something weird going on…” She doesn’t quite groan as they get Aimee inside and throw her on the sofa, but she does smirk. “One more advantage to Meg, she’s lighter.”

GM: “I’ve never had to carry Meg off like this either,” Jocelyn adds as Aimee lands on the cushions with a thump. “I actually haven’t done business with Defallier, so I dunno how she does it. But it’s probably safe for the Masquerade. I mean, she is a harpy and pretty old.”

Caroline: “I’m sure she’s on the up and up,” Caroline agrees. “Just not sure I understand it all.”

GM: “Well, I don’t either, sorry. I’m pretty new to this too,” Jocelyn remarks as she sits down.

Caroline: “So you say,” Caroline answers to Jocelyn’s remark on age.

GM: “But like I said, you don’t wanna deal with Aimee anymore, you could just trade her in.”

Caroline: “I’m considering it,” she admits.

GM: “I hear Defallier’s pretty gentle too, as far as grooms ago.”

Caroline: “Tonight isn’t about her though, and we only have so much time before things start to close. You ready?”

GM: “Shop for clothes and hunt down a creep? Born ready.”


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