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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Ten, Celia XIII

“Why?”
—Celia Flores


Friday night, 3 April 2009, AM

GM: Celia settles Emily and her mom back in at their hotel. Savoy leaves a young ‘blood doll’ named Ginger to watch over them, mainly to call in case anything happens.

Celia and Pete meet back with Savoy and Preston at the Evergreen. The French Quarter lord glibly inquires as to his grandchilde’s well-being before he and Preston lay out the facts of the matter. They are not certain if Donovan had Vidal’s permission to Embrace Celia, which puts her unlife in danger. They are not certain if Donovan is going to come looking for her, and if he does, whether he will seek to “correct” his mistake—that is, by killing her—or if he will seek to use Celia as a pawn towards some unknown end. As they are not certain of Donovan’s goals and motivations, this makes it difficult to guarantee Celia’s safety or leverage her existence against her sire. Therefor, “until the time is right,” Savoy believes it best that the truth of Celia Flores’ identity be concealed from the Camarilla at large. Aliases are common in Kindred society. Perhaps she has a name she’s attached to.

Celia: She volunteers the name Jade.

She asks if Donovan is even aware of her existence, or if the whole thing was a mistake. Then she poses the same question she asked Pete earlier, aware of its dangerous and reckless nature: if he’s aware of her, why not just ask?

GM: Preston repeats, in a voice that makes Celia think back to her father calling her stupid, that they do not know the answer to her first question.

Celia: She’s quiet for a moment, stewing.

GM: “You could ask him,” Pete finally answers her question. “It should also go without saying that’s one hell of a gamble. He might try to take off your head.”

“Or he might not. We don’t know.”

Savoy doesn’t seem opposed to the idea of Celia seeking him out and asking her sire, though, if she truly wishes to. “Your Requiem is yours, my dear, to spend as you will. All we can do is give you tips on how.”

Celia: “It’s not that the answer to the question doesn’t exist, Ms. Preston, it’s that you don’t have all the facts.”

She crosses one leg over the other. Looks between Preston and Pete.

“Because we do know. He had an opportunity to end me and he didn’t. Does Donovan strike you as the type of Kindred to make a mistake? Has he ever been anything less than deliberate?”

Her gaze shifts to her grandsire.

“Lord Savoy, if you’re amenable, I may have a solution that would put him in an awkward position while preserving our own, while putting the matter to rest.”

GM: Savoy gestures grandly for Celia to proceed.

Celia: “The harpy. She wants me. She started, the other night, and only stopped when her companion told her she couldn’t. Put it into her head that someone might get to me before she does. She’ll go to the prince to ask for permission. If he gives it, we know that Donovan did not have permission, and if he does not give permission, then we know that I’ve been spoken for.”

GM: “He may refuse her for other reasons,” states Preston. “He has granted exceptions to the general Embrace moratorium, but it is only expected to be broadly lifted upon Katrina’s fifth anniversary.”

“That’s true, Nat. But he also might say yes, and that would tell us quite a lot.” Savoy strokes his half-beard. “Veronica is a jealous creature. She’ll take the bait.”

He grins at Celia. “And we’ll all have to watch out for this one! Sharp minds and pretty faces are a dangerous combination.”

Celia: Celia smiles at her grandsire, pleased that he is pleased.

“There are two complications I foresee. The first is if he does say yes and she comes to find me already Embraced. The second is the deal she and I have. There’s a brief window of opportunity.”

GM: “If Donovan hasn’t been granted permission, she could publicly claim you as hers,” Pete muses. “If we wanted to hide you from him, making Celia Flores disappear would have to be a thorough job. Any friends and family who knew you were still around would be a security risk.”

Celia: Emily. Her mom.

There’s a new, predatory thing that’s curled inside her. It’s possessive and protective, hardens her eyes as she looks to the detective. Mine.

She chokes it down. Tells herself that isn’t what he meant, that they don’t have any answers, that no one is a liability. Yet.

“They’re contained until we find out,” she finally says in a carefully controlled voice. “Ginger has them. Lord Savoy, you mentioned your people found me. If you can tell me how and when, perhaps we will have a better idea of why events occurred as they did, and what his thought process was.”

GM: Preston also brings up that they and Veronica stand much to lose from Pete’s suggestion. Why would the harpy waste permission to create her own childe to cover for one that isn’t even hers? Pete responds that it’s all a matter of leverage. Even if it isn’t readily feasible, it is an option to consider.

GM: Savoy answers that he felt Celia’s Embrace through their shared blood ties. “The Blood always tells, my dear. Always.” He supposed that the emotions he sensed could have come from Camilla Doriocourt, Donovan’s other childe, but he had “a hunch” that they didn’t, given their “flavor and intensity.” He didn’t have the faintest clue who or where Celia was, so he turned to “sorcery for some answers,” with a nod towards Pete. He then dispatched his “fastest ghoul” to retrieve Celia, who dredged her up from the Gulf of Mexico and stuffed her into a body bag. This was only just before dawn.

Celia: Celia points out that if Veronica is given permission to Embrace her, they have bigger things to worry about. She’s met the woman multiple times. She’s confident that if Veronica gets what she wants, in this case Celia, she’ll be willing to play ball. Plus, she adds, it’ll give Veronica something over Donovan, which might also appeal to the woman, since he can’t call them out on their ruse without outing himself.

She asks Savoy if he’d mind explaining what he means by “flavor and intensity.” She’d like to match it up with her experience that evening.

GM: Preston states that Celia is the equivalent of one man’s child asking another man to claim her as his own. Veronica hasn’t gotten anything, so far as Celia. Pete says it’s true that she would be getting something over Donovan. That might be worth it.

Savoy felt a panoply of emotions. Pain. Ecstasy. Longing. Terror. All very unusual ones to feel from the impassive Hound Doriocourt.

Celia: “And from Donovan?”

GM: “Not a thing, my dear. But he’s always been a hard one to read.”

Celia: “I saw him,” she says, “for the first time when I was eight years old. Again at fourteen. And once more, prior to my Embrace, the night my father was arrested. I went back into the house alone. I thought he might be waiting. Was it him, Lord Savoy, who pressed the gun into my hand and told me there is only one way to keep a man like my father down, or was that an agent of yours? Perhaps that, too, will tell us what we need to know.”

GM: “Oh? That’s interesting. Killing your father certainly doesn’t appear to be in Donovan’s interests, but I never gave any of my agents such an order,” Savoy muses.

Celia: “Perhaps a third party, then.” Or proof that three times she was in his arms, and three times he did not take her out. Proof that he wants, or wanted, her.

Celia: After a moment, she moves on.

“My deal with Veronica ends shortly. Tomorrow evening is the third night. After that, I… believe I’m hers, is what she said.” She looks to the three of them in turn, finally settling on Savoy. “How complicated will things get, with us?”

GM: “Cui bono,” says Pete. “Who benefits.” Savoy tells him to look into the matter, though both Kindred frankly admit they don’t expect much to come of it when Pete lacks access to the ‘crime scene.’ Does Celia still have the gun?

The three Kindred ask some questions about the nature of Veronica’s “deal” with Celia.

“Ah, that little trick. A useful thing,” Savoy smiles. “I suppose she’ll have to rescind it!”

Celia: In fact, she does still have the gun. Sort of. It’s at her friend’s place, the one who met Pete at the House of Blues. She’s sure she can retrieve it, she tells them.

She tries not to beam at Savoy when he mentions making Veronica go back on her deal. That means he, at least, wants her. It’s a vain effort, though; she can’t help but smile prettily for him.

GM: Pete asks the address, frowns, then says it’s possible Donovan could have the apartment under surveillance and be expecting Celia or Emmett to return. Still, this is Savoy’s territory, not the prince’s. They can deal with any “snoops” and retrieve the gun.

“Could also use her as bait, if we feel like having a chat with Donovan,” Pete muses. “This is the most advantageous place to do it. Our home ground.”

Preston dispassionately observes that Veronica certainly wouldn’t rescind her hold over Celia for free, or even be inherently inclined to. Celia is costing them social capital. What is she bringing to the table to make such an expenditure worth it?

The French Quarter lord looks almost hurt. “Quite a bit, Nat. Just look at that smile!” he grins at Celia. “Who could ever say no to a face like that?”

“And that’s all before the hold she may give us over my prodigal childe, or her own so clearly demonstrated potential.” The French Quarter lord smiles confidently. “Whatever it takes with Veronica, my hunch is that we’ll all come out well ahead.”

Celia: Celia tells them, in no uncertain terms, that she is decidedly not afraid of serving as bait for Donovan. She also mentions, to Preston, that perhaps if they hold off on this footage of her father until they discover what Donovan’s plan is, they can use it to a better advantage.

“If he wanted me, and I was unsanctioned, then we simply offer to sit on that knowledge in exchange for Maxen, and we’ve got ourselves a political tool. And yes, there is the potential that Maxen becomes a double or triple agent, as we’ve said before, and if he ever ceases being useful to us then we destroy him. Since we did not work overly hard to obtain and groom him, there is no net loss. It gives Donovan the time he needs to obtain the appropriate permission for my Embrace, and when I’m officially introduced… well, we’ve an ear in two places, then. Or there’s a falling out and I defect. Like sire like childe.”

Of course, she adds, he could simply take her out and remove the threat, but they won’t know how likely that is until they find out his motivation.

GM: “You see, Nat?” Savoy chuckles. “Our ’investment’s’ paying for herself already!”

Celia: “Then who,” she asks with a smile, “are we contacting first?” It makes sense to her to go after the gun first, to see what Pete can learn, and only bring Veronica into the cover story if necessary after they find out about Donovan.

GM: Going after the gun, Pete raises, may also flush out Donovan if he has surveillance measures over the apartment. If they want to go that route, he thinks it’s best done after Veronica petitions Vidal for permission to Embrace, so that Celia can better know where she stands with her sire.

Celia: Celia understands the point Pete is making, and is happy to concede to someone who knows more about the political climate and ins and outs of Kindred society. But they do need an answer from Vidal sooner rather than later, or they risk Veronica just waiting until her deal is up with Celia and coming for her.

GM: Savoy drums his fingers in thought.

“Let’s invite Madam Alsten-Pirrie over now. Lay things out for her.”

“Sir?” invites Preston.

“If she goes to Maldonato and asks permission to Embrace Celia, she’s our dupe. If she’s in on this when she goes, she’s a co-conspirator.” He winks at Celia. “Jot this down in your notes, my dear. Kindred can forgive you for hurting them. But they can’t ever forgive you for making them look foolish, even if it’s just to themselves.”

“She could also divulge what she knows to the seneschal and be rewarded,” states Preston.

“I suppose she well could, Nat. We’ll just have to buy her loyalties first!” Savoy chuckles.

“Luckily, we’d already wanted to do that. We’ll just move up the timetable, now.”

Celia: “What do you offer a woman like Veronica to buy her loyalty?” Celia had done it with brushes and a bottle of perfume.

GM: “Kindred,” corrects Preston. “We are no longer women.”

Celia: “Kindred,” Celia repeats. “Thank you, Ms. Preston. I won’t make the mistake again.”

GM: “Madam Preston,” Savoy’s steward corrects again. At an inviting look from her boss, she continues, “‘Miss’ in its unmarried form is used to address female neonates due to its connotations of youth. ‘Ms.’ in its marital-neutral form is a modern construct and older Kindred may assume ‘miss’ in its unmarried form is being used instead. Many older Kindred also dislike ‘Ms.’ as a marital-neutral female honorific.”

Celia: “I should have picked up on that in regards to you calling her Madam Alsten-Pirrie,” Celia acknowledges. She dips her head in deference to Preston. “My apologies, Madam. Thank you for correcting me here, among friends, and not allowing me to look foolish in front of others. Would it be appropriate to call you steward, and he warden,” a nod toward Pete, “or have I gotten that wrong?”

GM: Savoy nods approvingly. “Manners will get you far in the Camarilla, my dear.”

“Kindred who hold city- and Camarilla-wide titles, such as prince or seneschal, are to always be addressed by their proper titles,” answers Preston. “With the exception of harpies, whose positions are not formally awarded. Kindred who hold titles exclusive to their clan, covenant, parish, or other social unit may be addressed or not addressed by these titles as appropriate. Standards for propriety vary significantly by the social unit in question. Mélissaire is better-suited to instruct you as to the particulars.”

Celia: She smiles politely. “I will ask and learn, then, so I do not embarrass myself further. I would hate to repay your hospitality by making a social blunder.” Her smile turns to her grandsire, and there is more warmth there than had been prior. “I look forward to flourishing under your hand.”

GM: Savoy raises Celia’s hand to his lips and kisses it tenderly.

“True beauty flourishes anywhere, my dear. But I’ll count it my privilege to see it flourish here.”


Friday night, 3 April 2009, AM

GM: Celia spends the next hour and change receiving further tutelage from Mélissaire before she’s summoned back up to the Evergreen’s rooftop garden. Savoy and Preston are discussing matters. Her grandsire remarks approvingly on her attire (Mélissaire called servants to get “something tasty” of Celia’s choosing to wear for Veronica) as Preston takes her leave: this meeting should “feel personal.”

Celia: Celia did her own makeup, of course: something to give life to her complexion, to make her look less like the walking corpse that she is. A little liner, a little mascara, a lot of blush. The outfit isn’t something that she would have worn in life, not in Daddy’s view, but now… now it feels natural. The dress is short, shows off her long, lean, toned legs. The way she tilts her head at Savoy is appraising, predatory, and all to pleased to be on the receiving end of his praise. She kisses his cheek (no smear left behind; she’s good) and sinks into a chair to wait.

Celia_Dress.jpg
GM: Celia looks better and worse in the mirror than she expected.

She’s so pale. She looks like a morbid china doll. She looks hard. She looks cruel. There’s a hungry, predatory cast to her features, and her eyes are glassily distant. She looks a little like Veronica. Maybe more than a little.

But mostly, she looks like Jade.

“Of course,” Savoy remarks idly as she seats herself, “a dress is just scraps of cloth, given shape and beauty by the woman who wears it.”

His fangs peek out just past his smile.

“And you do wear it, my dear. Death suits you.”

Celia: She’ll have to make it a point to ask Mélissaire if there are rules against attaching herself to her grandsire. His lap looks so empty.

“You’re too kind, Lord Savoy.” Her lashes brush against her cheeks when she looks down. The jade bracelet catches her eye, and she turns it over on her wrist. “I imagine your silver tongue gets you into trouble with your admirers.”

GM: The elder Toreador chuckles as brushes a stray hair from Celia’s face.

“The best admirers are always trouble, anyway.”

Trouble steps out the elevator.

Her nails are green tonight, matching her eyes, and she wears a longer ankle-length red dress. She seems to swim through the form-hugging, sequined garment as she walks, six-inch heels making her hips sensually sway.

When she sees Celia, her eyes flash, her fangs jut out, and she shakes with a too-familiar-looking fury as what can only be the same monster within Celia rages with her.

But she doesn’t tear apart the surroundings, this time.

She stands still.

She eyes the other Kindred in the chair. There is deference in his house.

Savoy smiles benignly and motions for Veronica to take a seat beside them. Mélissaire pulls out her chair.

“Madam Alsten-Pirrie,” he begins soothingly. “You’ve every right to be furious that Celia’s not yours. She was rightfully yours. Our interests in this matter are aligned.”

Veronica stares at Celia. There is something very, very dangerous smoldering—burning—within those emerald eyes.

Her head slowly tilts back towards the elder Toreador at his voice.

“How so, Lord Savoy,” she half-whispers, half-hisses.

Celia: Celia stares right back. There is longing in her eyes, an unspoken apology, a desire for something beyond what fate has handed her. Only after Veronica looks away does Celia turn to Savoy as well. She waits for him to speak first, as agreed, tongue flicking out to moisten her lips.

GM: “She’s been stolen from you, you see,” Savoy replies, “by my prodigal childe. I’d like to take him to task, for what he’s done. We could use your help.”

“Need it, actually.”

Celia: “Need you,” Celia speaks up. Her gaze has returned to Veronica. It’s unclear if she’s talking about herself or them.

“He took me,” Celia continues, voice soft, “when I wasn’t his to take. I didn’t want him. I wanted you. To be yours.” It’s even true: she’d thought about what it would be like to belong to the green-eyed goddess, to wake up in bed sandwiched between her and Pietro, to let them drink from her and drink in turn until they’d all had their fill. She’d wanted to be their toy, to trail after her in her impossibly tall heels, to seat herself on her lap and let the goddess touch and tease and treat her how she wanted.

She moves now. Her steps take her across the rooftop garden, hips swaying in her skintight dress. The thing inside of her purrs the closer she gets, and she recognizes it for what it is: Jade. It’s been in there all along, it’s what made her take action against Maxen and stare down Xola while he ate an unborn fetus. Jade wants Veronica, wants to be Veronica.

She pauses just before the Kindred’s chair. Her eyes flick down toward her lap, then back to her face, and she lifts a single brow a fraction of an inch, tilts her head minutely to one side.

GM: Veronica doesn’t say yes.

But she doesn’t say no.

She smells like Sycomore, up close: vetiver, sandalwood, aldehydes, tobacco, violet. But her lap doesn’t feel like it did last time. Celia the kine truly was just a toy to poke, prod, stick fingers into, and laugh as she made “happy noises” in response to sensations the dead women are equally dead to. There’s a tension, a coiled energy, not just to Veronica but Celia—Jade—too. This isn’t a mouse in a cat’s paws. It’s two big cats draped over each other, and neither is feeling entirely friendly.

Veronica’s eyes meet Savoy’s.

He nods.

Fangs pierce Celia’s neck.

Celia: It’s not the same.

It’s not the same, and Celia hates it. Prior, she had been a toy. Unwilling, perhaps, but something for the Kindred to bounce around and show off and slide her talons into. She may have even come to like it, for all that they would call her slave. That still-human Celia side of her wanted to curl up on Veronica’s lap, kiss her neck, sink into her embrace.

Now, though, she is no helpless, large-eyed doe. That purring thing inside of her wants to play, like she had seen Veronica and Pietro play, only with more claws and teeth and less fucking. It recognizes what Veronica is, but more than that it knows what she is: powerful, graceful, predator. Its purr becomes a growl when the two points of Veronica’s fangs sink into her skin, then slides contentedly back into a lazy, lustful sigh.

GM: Veronica doesn’t bite deep, but rips her fangs across Celia’s skin, leaving thick red trails. She flings Celia to the grass and falls on her, snapping, biting, ripping those claw-like nails along her skin. Celia feels her own Beast snarling in simultaneous arousal and defensiveness as her back hits the ground.

GM: “Let’s get the hot tub started for these two, Fabian. I have a feeling there won’t be many clothes left anyway!” Savoy amusedly calls.

“Right away, sir,” answers the tall and extraordinarily handsome Creole ghoul. His white tuxedo becomes a blur of motion as he rapidly gets the French marble jacuzzi ready. It’s soon bubbling invitingly.

Celia: She’s seen this before.

It’s the only thought that keeps her from curling her lips back and snarling at the woman in turn, that she has seen this before. Pietro was limp when she did it, happy to be her underling, and maybe Celia would have been too. But Jade is made of sterner things. Jade bites too, and her freshly polished nails dig into Veronica, but rather than push she pulls, yanking the Kindred closer to bite into her shoulder.

GM: Veronica snaps and rips at the skin, pulling off wholesale strips that she lets hang before sucking dry of the blood. She pins Celia down with one hand, pulls a breast out of her dress with her other one, rakes her nails across it, and presses it to the younger Toreador’s mouth.

Celia: There’s no contest. As soon as the blood is presented to her she quits her struggling and flicks her tongue across the flesh of her exposed breast, then eagerly begins to suckle. The red spills into her mouth and she moans, burying her head in Veronica’s chest.

GM: Veronica laps up the blood flowing from her neck, then slaps her across the face, hard enough to turn her head. She flips Celia over, shreds apart her clothes, shreds her skin, laps the flowing blood. She plunges her nails up both holes and laps at the blood flowing from there.

It… hurts.

Celia: She howls. Her nails shred the ground in front of her, fingertips digging into the grass and soil beneath it as her body is assaulted. Her lips curl back over her teeth and she snarls when Veronica violates her. Some obscene part of her mind thinks of a long ago conversation with a whore that said it hurts, and another thinks of cats and their barbs. That makes her the bitch, then. Even the tongue lapping at her torn flesh doesn’t fog the pain, and the sound that comes from her is inhuman. No longer pinned, she kicks out and scrambles away, only to fall back on the Kindred with fang and nail tearing apart her red dress to get to the ebony skin beneath.

GM: Celia can feel the surge of feral rage, too, as her Beast howls in her ears. It will break loose. It will not suffer such pain without consequence. The dress tears off easily under her still-preternatural strength.

Three nights.

Might as well use them to their fullest.


Friday night, 3 April 2009, AM

GM: Nothing is left of either Kindred’s clothes after their ‘lovemaking.’ The two look disconcertingly like Celia’s mother: blood, cuts, and abused flesh everywhere, but instead of black and purpling bruises there’s shredded skin and mangled fang marks. The two sit in the hot tub, Celia again on Veronica’s lap. Their blood turns the warm water and intoxicating pinkish shade with an aroma to match. It’s impossible not to stay aroused, even with their Beasts momentarily sated and glutted upon one another’s vitae.

Celia: This is the lap of luxury Celia had been looking for. Warm water gurgles around her body, taking the sting from her broken, torn flesh. It will mend. The scratches, the bruises, the hanging flesh: it will all mend.

She is content to curl on Veronica’s lap, lips at her neck, nipping and nuzzling while the Kindred touches her how she will. Her legs drape over either side of her partner’s, thighs spread, breasts bared, and there is no shame as she stretches luxuriously before settling once more. Half-lidded eyes look for her grandsire, though just as important to her now is the beauty beneath her.

GM: Savoy strips off his fine clothes and joins the pair in the hot tub. His pecs and abs aren’t especially developed, but he’s lean, taut, and wiry. Celia may not be sure exactly what she was expecting. It doesn’t look as if he led an especially pampered mortal life: his frame seems held together by gristle and grit, with tight, hungry-looking flesh marred by several nasty scars, burns, and whip lashes. He isn’t beautiful, next to Veronica. He’s short, standing only to eye with Celia when her heels are off, he’s scarred, and he doesn’t have anything close to a six-pack.

But confidence is everything. He plops down next to the pair, arm around Veronica’s shoulder, with a sense of easy presumption and casual aplomb that says: ‘I am just as beautiful as you both.’ He obviously is not. But he walks as though he is. His body language doesn’t try to overcompensate or actively sell them on the idea: he just seems to totally believe it himself, and that’s all that matters. It’s hard not to give him a second look, to search for the hidden beauty in his features that he so clearly takes pride in. His face is handsome enough. His beard gives him a rogueish look. His smile is infectious. His scars seems intriguing, even dashing, rather than ugly: perhaps it’s all in how one carries them. His skin looks hearty and hale, too, not at all like Celia’s china doll complexion. One might almost think he was still alive.

Celia: Confidence is everything. Power is intoxicating. Lord Savoy has it, and it comes off of him in droves. It is bewitching, the easy arrogance with which he carries himself, and Celia’s eyes roam his body to learn its story before he dips beneath the water. One day she will ask him the secret of his scars. One day she will have stories for each of them, know who it is who gave this man his history, and pay them back in kind.

She’d wanted him earlier. She’d thought his lap looked empty and now here he is, presented to her in all his glory. She does not ask for permission. The two are close enough that a quick shift of her hips as her astride them both, head tilted back and neck exposed as she rests upon two shoulders. She’d been shared before, and here she is again, offering herself.

GM: “See? Look how diplomatic this one is,” Savoy smiles, running a teasing finger along Celia’s throat. “Offering herself to us both so no one feels left out.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t join in for the fun earlier, Lord Savoy, if you wanted to feel included,” Veronica purrs. In contrast, the harpy is sculpted chocolate perfection, with long legs, ample hips, and full, round, perkish breasts that all but seem as if they could bounce. She turns Celia’s head away, pressing the younger Toreador’s face into her damp, blood-streaked hair.

“That was much too personal between you two to intrude on,” Savoy chuckles. He doesn’t pull Celia’s back back, but teasingly weaves several strands of Veronica’s bloody hair into the corners of his grandchillde’s mouth. “You just needed to fuck it out.”

“Yes,” answers Veronica with the faintest of growls. “You do just need to fuck it out, sometimes.”

“But what dirty language to hear from your mouth, my lord.”

“We all know the same language, my dear. It’s all in when and to whom we speak it.”

“This is where milord flatters me by saying I’m important enough to swear around, isn’t it?”

Celia’s grandsire only grins. “Would you deny it if I did say so, Madam Alsten-Pirrie?”

“No,” she purrs. “I wouldn’t.”

Celia: If Celia is disappointed that Lord Savoy did not take her up on the offer she does not show it. She tucks her face back against Veronica’s neck, using her tongue to clean away the blood the water did not steal. She is quiet, content; this is a conversation for the two of them to hash out the details. Savoy has more experience handling the harpy, and this next bit might be… tricky.

She uses the time to trail her fingers down Veronica’s body, admiring the sculpted perfection she finally has an opportunity to touch.

GM: Indeed, Celia feels as if some of the hardest work has been done already. Veronica certainly seems in a more amiable mood after a good fucking. The two get down to business.

Savoy tells the truth: Donovan Embraced her. They don’t know why. He doesn’t dwell overly long on the fact of Celia’s Embrace, next to the fact that the sheriff has fucked Veronica. He doesn’t directly propose how they should verify whether Donovan did so with Vidal’s say-so. He raises speculative questions, remarks “what a pickle” they’re in, and leads the harpy down such a conversational path that she can ‘think’ of the idea to ask Vidal for permission herself and claim it all as her own.

He slaps his knee and roars with belly-deep laughter. Oh, yes! Wouldn’t the irony be simply delicious if she stole back her own stolen childe? What a pickle Donovan would then be in! Poetic justice at its finest. Veronica sneers that “we’d certainly have him taking it up the rear.”

Assuming, of course, that he Embraced Celia without permission. But Savoy agrees it’s useful to know even if he did. Still helps them plan what to do next.

“Them.”

He flatters Veronica outrageously, too, plying her with compliments and adulation they both know are exactly that. But it’s all so much fun that neither of them wants it to stop. The harpy’s ego is enormous. She loves hearing how beautiful, witty, and powerful she is, even when she sneers that she’s being “obviously buttered up.” “The butter is there, my dear. Shouldn’t it be proferred for the worthy’s consumption?” Savoy smiles.

They arrive circuitously around the topic of what’s to become Celia. Savoy lets her bring them towards it, too. Having his grandchilde blood bound to Veronica obviously presents “complications.” He doesn’t elaborate what those are, which they both seem to grasp.

“Of course, my dear, you did claim her rightfully, and she did accept your deal willingly,” Savoy muses. “What if we help get you something else that’s rightfully yours in exchange?”

Both Toreador’s eyes meet.

They don’t say anything.

But hunger smolders in Veronica’s.

“When will it happen?”

Savoy strokes his half-beard. “Hmm. I’d expect by 2015. It’s a nice and even number, isn’t it, one decade after Katrina?”

Those emerald eyes continue to smolder.

“I suppose you’ve got yourself a deal, Lord Savoy.”

The lord of the French Quarter grins. Veronica extends a hand. They shake—and Celia feels her bargained powers wilt away to nothing, like a starved plant bereft of sun and water. She’s weak again. Frail again. Clumsy again, with concrete blocks for feet.

Robot dancer.

Maybe this is what her mom felt like after the ‘accident.’

Celia: She hadn’t realized what it would mean to have them taken away from her. Only a night in and she’d already gotten used to being strong, fast, sturdy, able to turn heads and get her way with a thought.

Now she is nothing. Sticks and bones and ugliness, all awkward angles, a frail doll. Her face falls. Tucked as it is against Veronica’s neck they cannot see it, the way her eyes close, the two short breaths she takes as if the air will do anything to calm her, to keep herself from crying out at the loss.

But breathing does nothing. She is dead. She’s left with a sense of loss so profound that she cannot put it into words, as if part of her is gone. She is a minnow in the pond with sharks again, no magic of her own.

No, that’s not right. Her actions brought her here. Not Veronica’s. Not Savoy’s. Hers. She has that going for her at least; how many of their kind did she run into and handle before her life was finally stolen? She has her wits, her clever tongue. That will be enough until she can get them back.

And she will get them back.


Friday night, 3 April 2009, AM

GM: Celia spends the rest of the night receiving further lessons on Kindred society from Mélissaire. Her sire’s herald and Fabian also set her up with plush living quarters in the Evergreen (what she’s learned is called a “haven”) until “something more permanent” can be arranged. They also provide her with several changes of clothes that range from modest to racy.

“You’ll be able to go out shopping, ma’am, once this whole business with your sire is cleared up,” Savoy’s herald declares airily. “That first shopping trip after the Embrace is always something special… lots of new Kindred find that it leaves them feeling, we might say, bolder.” There’s a mirthful smirk at those words.

Celia: “I’m looking forward to it,” Celia says with a smile of her own. The plan, she has learned, is to lay low until they hear back from Veronica, which leaves her with few options in regards to going out. Safer for all involved, really. Even so, she has people she wants to talk to, things she wants to do, and for all Mélissaire is delightful company and extraordinarily knowledgeable, she’s not the company that Celia wants.

She asks the ghoul if they’ve heard anything from Ginger, and if she’s allowed to bring someone over.

GM: “She hasn’t called,” answers Mélissaire. “But let’s give her a ring, why don’t we? I’m sure you’re worried for your mother.”

The ghoul gives a call. Asks.

“She’s awake now,” she answers. “And by all accounts, very eager to see you, despite the late hour. Would you like to do that, ma’am?”

The ghoul also asks who Celia wants to bring over. She says no to Emmett Delacroix, unfortunately. “I’m afraid he’s just too great a person of interest to the sheriff, ma’am. Once this has all died down will be a better time.”

Emily is actually, perhaps unsurprisingly, still konked out. She lost a lot of blood.

Celia: “Can we at least make sure he’s okay?”

She’d be happy to see her mom, if that’s available to her and if it’s allowed. Pete had mentioned something about security risks, though, so she’s a little wary of involving the woman further if she doesn’t need to.

GM: “Of course, ma’am. I’ll have someone check right next thing,” answers the ghoul. “And don’t fret about seeing your poor mother… right now she’s safely tucked away from everything, and doesn’t look as if she’ll be getting out of that bed anytime soon. The warden doesn’t see any problems in your seeing her, at least right now.”

Celia: “Then yes, I’d like to see her.”

GM: The ghoul drives Celia to the hotel. She’s a very good driver. Traffic seems to just flow around their car (they take something more subdued than “my usual favorites”), and she drives with one hand while making frequent eye contact with Celia in the back seat. Somehow, though, the Toreador doesn’t feel unsafe.

Celia: Celia admits to curiosity around the ghoul herself: how long has she been a ghoul, and how long has she been with Savoy? Does she enjoy it?

GM: “That would have been, hmm, 1859?” the sultry-faced woman muses, then chuckles faintly. “I’m afraid the dates blur together after a while. I’ve been with your grandsire, though, since 1895.”

“And oh, yes. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Besides the extra perks, it’s really not that different from how I’d have spent my mortal life. Placage was what it was.”

Celia: “But that’s… one hundred and fifty years. Are you older than him?”

GM: “Oh, no!” the ghoul chuckles. “Why, he’s been around since before this city was just mud and swamps… you have to be pretty old, to make it to where he has.”

Celia: “I probably shouldn’t ask you about him. I don’t want to look like I’m prying. Just curious, mostly, since I came from him via his childe, and I haven’t had a chance to speak to him about it.” She leaves it out there, though, lets her words hang.

GM: “They say curiosity kills the cat. But we’ve both always liked cats,” Mélissaire smiles. “But he doesn’t make a secret of where he’s from. He was a courtier at Versailles, in his breathing days. He’s related to the Bourbons, though he’ll never tell you himself—he likes to play coy about it. I think he might even be one of Louis XIV’s bastard sons, brothers, or uncles… those royals really got around.”

“In all the years I’ve known him, though, he’s never confirmed that—at least around me. Like I said, I think he just enjoys playing coy.”

Celia: “What do you even do for all that time?”

GM: “As a Kindred, ma’am?” She chuckles. “Oh, all sorts of things. The Requiem gives plenty of things to worry about, but boredom sure isn’t one of them.”

Celia: “Hmm.” Celia taps a finger against her thigh. New clothing, to replace what Veronica had shredded, but she’d dressed down for her trip to see her mother, and at Pete’s prior insistence had taken a extra scarf for herself for her trips outside. It’s tied neatly around her face now. “What about Donovan?”

GM: “His past? He’s a man of mystery, I’m afraid. Only Lord Savoy, Prince Vidal, and Seneschal Maldonato likely know for sure, just who he was, but they haven’t seemed talkative about the subject.”

Celia: “Did you deal with him much, when he was Embraced?”

GM: The ghoul nods. “I did, back then. He was very cold. Very hard to read, and I like to think I’m pretty good at pegging what makes men tick.”

“He just showed up at Lord Savoy’s court one night, no explanation beyond that he was your grandsire’s new childe. He never seemed unsure of himself or his footing. He seemed born for the Requiem.”

Celia: “Lord Savoy never talked much about him prior?”

GM: “No, not so much as once.”

“Elders like him have to play things close to the vest.”

Celia: “How long ago was that, do you know?”

GM: “Sheriff Donovan’s Embrace, you mean, ma’am?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “He showed up to Lord Savoy’s court in 1896, though I suppose it’s always possible he could have been Embraced earlier. He seemed very sure of his footing, like I said. Most neonates are usually at least a little uncertain.”

Celia: “Hm. Something to think on.” She smiles in the mirror at the ghoul. “What about you, though? What do you get up to when you’re not driving fledglings around, with all that time on your hands? Any plans for the big 150 this year?”

GM: Mélissaire actually laughs at Celia’s last question.

“I expect Lord Savoy may give me an extra treat or two, in celebration, but he has far more important things to think about—and to keep me busy with. No rest for the wicked,” the ghoul smirks.

“But when I’m not driving fledglings around, I’m usually driving myself around—Lord Savoy is generous enough to indulge my taste for cars.”

Celia: “I should have asked for a car instead of a pony,” Celia says, nodding. “That’s where I went wrong when I was eight. Smart woman, Mélissaire. Maybe you can show me your faves sometime.”

GM: “Eight’s a little young to drive a car, so I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself, ma’am,” the ghoul chuckles. “And yes, this drab little sedan is absolutely dreadful. But I’ll not argue with the warden about avoiding attention.”

Celia: “Remind me once we’re done being discrete. We’ll go out in something flashy. Very ostentatious and loud. For your birthday. Get into some trouble drag racing some locals, maybe.”

“What’s your dream car, Mel? Can I call you Mel?”

GM: “I’ve had customers call me worse things,” the ghoul smirks. “Mel is just fine, ma’am.”

“My dream car is just like the one you’ve described—ostentatious and loud, and since I can’t decide between red and pink, maybe hot pink. But the main thing I’d want it to be is custom-built, from the tires up. One of a kind. It’d be a mystery to everyone but me and the mechanic, how to handle it. Everyone dreams about Ferraris, but men with real money like to brag about classic, only-five-exist-in-the-world cars. A wholly unique car would be my dream car.”

“And that’s very kind of you to invite me, ma’am, but I am just a half-blood. You have much better things to do with your time than spend it around your inferiors like that.”

“Young Kindred usually take a little while, to come to terms with that. But we are less than you, and we are here to serve you.”

Celia: “It’s probably hard,” Celia says after a moment, “to be the one to welcome the new Kindred into the fold, teach them the ropes, endure their affection… and then lose it when they start to think the same thing, when their attention is caught by other ideas and distractions.” Shiny new toys. Like the pony she had gotten when she was eight and summarily forgotten about. “But if you don’t mind, please call me Celia when we’re together like this. Ma’am makes me feel old.” She wrinkles her nose.

GM: “Hmm, that’s tricky, as Lord Savoy has instructed me to teach you how things are, ma’am,” says the ghoul. “I’m afraid that’s something you’ll have to get accustomed to… every ghoul will call you ma’am.” She smiles. “But cheer up. You might get older, but you’ll look just as young. Forever.”

Celia: “Best we didn’t disappoint Lord Savoy, then.” There’s no trace of irony in her voice. “Any tips to remaining on his good side?”

GM: “From what I hear, ma’am, you’ve been doing a stellar job at that already,” Mélissaire smiles. “Be fun. Be witty. Be a delight to be around. And be useful, too. There’s always a place for a smart and ambitious neonate at the lord of the French Quarter’s side.”

Celia: “With your instructions, how could I fail?”

GM: “That’s just the idea, ma’am,” Mélissaire replies with twinkling eyes as she pulls into the hotel’s lot.

“But for what it’s worth, so far as your sire… Lord Savoy never told me to give him any lessons on Kindred society. Not a one. Seems he had it all down pat by the time he was introduced.”

Celia: “Thank you, Mélissaire.” Celia smiles at the ghoul.

GM: “I live to be of service, ma’am,” Mélissaire smiles back.


Friday night, 3 April 2009, AM

Celia: Celia’s mom end up in a suite at the Hotel Provincial.

Hotel.jpg
Hotel.jpg
Two king beds, a kitchen, a couch. What more can her mom ask for, right? Her health, maybe, but Celia dismisses that thought. She can’t. She hates seeing her mother in pain, struggling to breathe, but she can’t fix her. Not yet.

Not until Maxen is dealt with.

GM: They make their way to Celia’s mom’s room. The ghoul knocks. A redheaded woman comes out and bows her head deferentially. She doesn’t say anything at Mélissaire’s look. The two wait outside while Celia goes in.

The room has a large bed, IV drip, ventilator, and some medical equipment. Celia’s mom still looks terrible. Her face remains the same black, blue, and purple mass of bruises as earlier, and her eyes still look almost too swollen to see through. There aren’t any bandages around her foot, though.

When she sees Celia, her eyes widen like she’s seen a new dawn. She immediately starts struggling to climb out of bed.

Celia: “No, no, Momma, stay there.” Celia crosses the room to her mother, gently pushing her back down onto the bed. She seats herself beside her, brushes her hair from her face. It’s the same scene as six years ago.

“I’m sorry, Momma. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there for you.” She hates to see her like this.

GM: Celia’s mom tries to wrap her arms around her daughter. Tears squeeze from her eyes as she hugs Celia tight.

“O… C… elia… I thou… I thou… you migh… be… dea…”

She weeps as she holds her daughter close. She holds Celia like she never wants to let go again.

“O… my ba… by… oh my ba… by… oh, thank God…”

Celia: She doesn’t laugh. She can’t. Her mother’s words are true. There’s a fuzzy, painful feeling at the corners of her eyes, as if she wants to cry as well. But tears don’t come. She wraps her mother up in her arms and holds her tight, careful not to jostle her.

“No, Momma. I wouldn’t let him win like that. I love you too much to let him separate us.”

GM: But the tears do come. Celia can feel them trickling down her face.

They leave red, coppery-smelling stains on the sheets.

Celia: That’s new. Celia keeps her mother’s face pressed against her chest to hide the red liquid leaking from her eyes.

“Are you comfortable? Are you okay? We had to hide you so Maxen… so he doesn’t come back.”

GM: Celia’s mom tries to hug her at eye level at first, and run her hands along her daughter’s back. But she doesn’t resist, when Celia lowers her down. She softly cries into the vampire’s chest.

“I’m… m… sorry… I’m so… sorry…”

Celia: “Why are you sorry? You didn’t do anything.”

“Hush, Momma. None of this is your fault. None of it.”

GM: “Ohh… Celi… so glad… you’re… safe…. okay…” she croaks.

“I was… so… scared… what he’d… done… if he’d… you…”

Celia: “He didn’t get a chance. I’m safe. It’s going to be okay.”

“I have to call your doctor though, okay? Just one minute, Momma. I’ll stay right here with you.” She pulls the new phone out of her pocket and calls Pete.

GM: Celia’s mom sniffs more apologies into her chest. The phone picks up after a couple rings. “Yes?”

Celia: “Hey, it’s me. Sorry to bother you. I, um. I need advice. About my mom. I’m here with her. She looks… I mean… is there enough? With the other? Can we fix this?”

GM: “There’s plenty,” Pete repeats. “But from what I hear, this isn’t your mom’s first time in the hospital.” He pauses for a moment, then says, “Better you don’t go down that road. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.”

Celia: “You think just the one time would be… bad?”

GM: “How would you explain it?”

“There is no explaining it.”

Celia: “I know.” She’s quiet a moment. “Thanks. That’s why I called you. I figured you wouldn’t steer me wrong.”

GM: “Do what any human would do.”

With that farewell, Pete hangs up.

Celia: A human would fix it and say fuck the consequences, Celia thinks. Or at least she would have. She puts the phone back in her pocket and rubs her hand along her mother’s back.

“How’re you feeling? Can I get you anything?”

GM: Celia’s mom doesn’t try to raise her arms. She runs her hands along her daughter’s waist.

“I’m so… so glad… you’re… okay… sweetie… you’re o… kay…”

“I prayed… I prayed…”

Celia: She doesn’t know what to do. There really is no way to explain a sudden healing. Pete’s right. If she does it once she’s going to have to keep doing it, and then where does that leave her? With a mother that’s a ghoul. A mother that’s less than, inferior. All her life she’s been told she’s less than, first by her mother and then by her husband; Celia won’t be the one to give her a lifetime of that, a lifetime of servitude.

She’s grateful for the chat that she and Mélissaire had on the way here, that the ghoul laid things out for her. Without that she might have ignored Pete’s advice and done it anyway.

Now, though, she just holds her mother close. She won’t have her forever, she knows, so she won’t squander the time she does get.


Friday night, 3 April 2009, AM

Celia: Celia thanks Mélissaire for her very candid chat on the status of ghouls within Kindred society. She says that she was thinking of doing it to fix her mom, but that she isn’t sure her mother would be able to handle being seen as “inferior” when she’s been hearing it all her life, and Celia doesn’t want to be the one to make that decision for her.

GM: “That sounds to me like she might be able to handle it entirely too well,” Mélissaire remarks. “But you’re very welcome, ma’am.”

Celia: Celia tucks that away for further consideration.

Once she’s back in the car she dials Stephen’s number from memory.

GM: More than a few rings go up at the late hour before the phone is finally answered.

“Hi, this is Stephen,” her boyfriend greets the new phone’s number in a sleepy-sounding voice.

Celia: What do you say to your mortal boyfriend after you die? She should have thought this out.

“Stephen. Hi. It’s Celia.”

GM: “Celia! Oh my god!” Stephen exclaims, instantly fully awake.

“Where are you!?”

Celia: “I’m… safe. In hiding. I had to get a new number. A new phone.” She takes a breath she doesn’t need. “Mom told me… you were at the hospital. With her.”

GM: “Yes, I was. Celia, what happened?”

“I’ve been trying to find you!”

Celia: “I had to disappear. Until everything settles down. I finally got ahold of a phone to call you.”

GM: “Where are you?”

Celia: Celia looks at Mélissaire. She raises an eyebrow, points at her phone.

GM: The ghoul shakes her head.

Celia: Her face falls.

“I can’t tell you. I’m sorry. I’m safe. That’s all I can say. And… I need you to be safe, too. In case he comes after you. Is there somewhere you can go? A hotel? My grandmother’s house? I heard what you did. With the kids. That was really good of you.”

GM: “I’m not scared of your dad, Celia. He’s small potatoes next to the Mafia. But what’s going on? What happened, with your mom and dad?”

“With you?”

Celia: She tells him. She tells him how she made the decision to leave her mom’s place to take care of Emily, how her dad came back and kidnapped her mom once they were gone. The things he did to her. She doesn’t mention the toes, or the vampires, or her own fucked up sense of justice she bestowed. Nor does she mention her death at Donovan’s hands. Just that she went in and got her mom out. She implies she had a weapon, but not what it was.

She turns it back around on him, though.

“You disappeared last night. From the dorm. I thought your stalker finally got to you, and you were really out of it. Are you okay?”

GM: Stephen listens raptly the entire time, sometimes interjecting with questions, but mostly waiting until Celia is finished. She’s perhaps chosen well to forestall him, though, when she hears his frown.

“I… I’m a little out of it. Just came down with something. From stress, maybe.”

“But, Celia, look. Why don’t you come to my dad’s house?”

“It’s secure. I’ll stay there with you.”

“Your dad would have to be insane to try anything on us there.”

Celia: “Your dad’s house?” Celia echoes, looking again at Mélissaire.

GM: “And even if he is, there’s private security and my family has guns.”

Mélissaire shakes her head again.

“You’ll be safe there,” Stephen repeats.

Celia: “I… I can’t tonight. I know that isn’t what you want to hear, I’m sorry. I want to be with you right now. I really do. It’s more than just my dad, Stephen. There’s a whole… thing, a whole thing with…” She looks out the window. She can’t tell him. She hates that she can’t tell him. This is the end of their relationship, she knows it, deep in her gut. She can’t keep up appearances. She loves him now, sure, but she just spent time with Veronica, she just fucked Em, she would have given herself to Donovan if he’d just asked. She did give herself to Donovan, only he didn’t take her, not the way she wanted him to. That’s not love. That’s her looking for whatever affection she can find. He’s too good for her.

“I can’t,” she says again.

GM: “Celia, are you hiding in a hotel somewhere? Your dad can hire an investigator, or do the legwork himself, if he really wanted to. Follow the paper trail.”

“But what thing? What are you talking about?”

Celia: “It’s not a hotel. I’m not in the city right now. I had to leave. I’ll be back, just not… not right now.”

GM: “What’s going on?” her boyfriend repeats. There’s an edge of fear to his voice. “Your dad will be in jail soon, at this rate. You don’t need to run. My family can keep you safe.”

“Or your grandma, if you’d feel safer with her. She also has guns if your dad is lunatic enough to try something on a judge.”

Celia: “As soon as he’s in jail, Stephen. As soon as he’s dealt with. I’ll tell you everything, okay? I’ve been—I can’t tell you over the phone. But there’s a reason for everything, I promise. Please, Stephen, please trust me.”

GM: “He’s…” Stephen seems to fumble for words, then says, “how are you even going to know he’s in jail, anyway, if you’re not in the city and it’s not in the news?”

Celia: “I have someone who can tell me. That’s literally all I can say. Do you think I like doing this to you? Do you think I like being vague and not being able to tell you? I hate it. I hate that I can’t just be with you, that I can’t let you put your arms around me and keep me safe because that’s all I want right now, I just want to be near you and I can’t and I’m sorry, okay, I’m really, really sorry that this has to be like it is, but please, please, know that I’m thinking about you, that I love you, that as soon as everything is over I will come to you, okay?”

GM: “I…” Stephen sighs. “I guess there’s nothing I can do about it either way, is there?”

“I hope you’re making the right decision, Celia.”

Celia: “I’m sorry,” she says again.

There isn’t a choice, but she doesn’t tell him that.

GM: “I really hope you are. I want to put my arms around you too, so you can feel safe and we can watch Batman movies and bang in public and just do normal college things, without this giant shadow of your dad just looming over everything. He’s finished after this, Celia. Okay? You’re going to come back and he’s going to prison.”

“I love you too. Call me again today, okay?”

Celia: “Tomorrow night,” she promises, and some part of her that wasn’t already dead dies inside at his words, because she knows it will never be the same. She knows she won’t be able to love him like he deserves, and they won’t be able to watch Batman movies, and she can’t bang him in public and do normal college things because she’s already dead. She’s dead. And she was stolen from him, from Veronica, from her mom, from her family. She was stolen from her life and she hates him for it, she hates him, he didn’t have to do this, all he had to do was keep her dad from being a piece of shit and he killed her instead, he didn’t even stick around, she could have burned in the water and he wouldn’t have cared because he’s a giant piece of shit and she hates him, she hates him, she hates him, she just wants her fucking life back.


Friday night, 3 April 2009, PM

GM: The next night, Mélissaire says that Ginger says that Emily wants to see her. She’s specifically threatened to “tell your mom” if Celia doesn’t see her.

“We have people who can disabuse her of that idea, if you’d like,” the ghoul airily remarks.

Celia: “She say what she wanted?”

GM: “The blood doll only said she wanted to speak with you.”

Celia: “No. This needs to happen. I’ll talk to her.”

GM: A short drive later, they’re there at the hotel again. Emily’s still in bed. She looks terrible too, just in a different way than Celia’s mom. Her tan complexion isn’t much more colorful than a sheet.

“How could you do that,” she croaks.

Celia: “If you brought me here to yell at me,” Celia remarks, “don’t bother. You’re not very fierce in a bed.”

GM: “How could you do that,” she just repeats.

“She’s. She’s your mom.”

Celia: “Your scholarship is safe. I took care of it. I wasn’t choosing my money over my mother. I was choosing your future comfort over her. I was choosing you. Again. Which is what got me into this mess, because instead of staying with her the night she was kidnapped, I went to help you. And I’d never want to make you feel bad for it, so you don’t get to make me feel bad for this.”

GM: Emily just stares at that for a moment.

Then she starts crying.

Celia: Celia stares down at her, the words she’d been about to spit dying on her lips. She sinks onto the bed with her friend and former roommate, pulling the girl close.

“It’s okay. I fixed it. I fixed her. I’ll fix this.”

GM: Emily cries into Celia’s shoulder. “Why… why would you do that… why would you pick me…”

Celia: “Because you’re my friend,” Celia says to her, rubbing her back. “Because I care about you. Because I love you, Emmy. Because you’re my family too. I told you that. I told you. I would do whatever it took to get you through this. I didn’t think it would end up the way it did. And I hate that my mom got hurt. But you needed me, too, and I’m not going to throw my hands up and walk away when you need me.”

GM: Emily leans against Celia for a while. “I… I’m sorry. I didn’t wanna hurt her. That’s, that’s the last thing I’d have wanted…”

Celia: “It’s not your fault, Emmy. It’s not your fault at all.”

GM: “What… what’d you mean, anyway, my future comfort?”

Celia: “I wanted us to get a place together. And to be able to take care of you, so you don’t have to work as much, so you can focus on school and becoming a doctor.”

“My daddy is good for one thing, Emily, and that’s his money. I’ve been saving for months.”

GM: “Oh.” Emily’s quiet a while. “Well… I guess no loss, anyway. I was, I’d still like, to move in with you and your mom. She probably needs help, with the kids and everything…”

Celia: “Probably.”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with Maxen.”

“Stephen had my grandmother take the kids.”

GM: “I know. I was there, with Stephen. He said your dad’s finished, after this.”

“That domestic violence makes it basically impossible, to keep custody.”

“My… birth mom got into a DUI with me and that was it for us.”

Celia: “She was driving with you in the car?” She sounds incredulous. “What the fuck is wrong with people?”

GM: Emily just gives a hapless shrug against Celia’s shoulder.

“Wasn’t the first time. Didn’t mean to bring her up. Just that… some stuff is pretty much an auto-lose. So far as custody.”

Celia: “They buried it last time. But I think, with what we have now, he’s finished.”

GM: “And, the lawsuits. Stephen talked with me about those. How much money you and your mom could squeeze out of your dad, and the insurance company.”

Celia: “And she’ll be better off for it. Able to actually live again. You didn’t see it before, Em, when she was… living in squalor. It was bad.”

“She’s going to be happy, finally. They all are. No more living in fear.”

GM: “I’m glad. She, you, all deserve it.”

Celia: “So do you.”

GM: “I’m… thinking of dropping out.”

Celia: “What? Why?”

GM: “It’s just… it’s just been so hard.” Emily looks away. “There was that exam, I’ve missed even more class, I still feel like… crap, I’m in trouble at work, missing shifts, and just…”

Celia: “What would you do instead?”

GM: “Just… find another job, maybe. Save up…”

Celia: “For what? Like, what’s the end goal?”

“What’s your vision? If I had a magic wand and could wave it, what would you want in five years?”

GM: “Med school,” Emily says immediately. “I’d be in med school, becoming a doctor.”

Celia: “Then you don’t get to drop out.”

GM: “But it’s just… it’s like climbing a greased slide.”

“Maybe I should just take a while off, save up money, until things are… better.”

Celia: “Yeah. You’re right. It’s hard. It sucks. And it’s what you want.”

“So you don’t get to give up. There’s never going to be a good time in your life. To do this. To do anything. Nothing is ever going to properly align. The stars don’t do that. Fuck the stars. You want this? Then do it. Go for it. Work for it. And I will be there, every step of the way, and we will get you through it.”

“And if I have to push your ass up that greased slide then I will.”

“One semester. One semester where I cover your living expenses and you don’t work and you focus on school. And if you still want to drop, fine.”

GM: Emily’s face furrows. “How are you gonna do that, if you spent all your money…?”

Celia: “It’s a bit of a selling your soul to the devil bargain.”

She smiles, to show she isn’t serious.

GM: It seems to take a minute to kick in, like an internet page trying to load on a shitty connection.

“Oh,” Emily says with a somewhat weak-feeling smile. “You had me worried.”

“How, though? I don’t… want you to hit up your mom for money, to cover me…”

Celia: “I’m not. Don’t worry about it. I’ve got you covered.”

“Promise me, though. You’ll give it your all. No… frivolous whatever. No trying to work five jobs at a time.”

GM: “How?” Emily repeats. “That doesn’t make sense. You picked… me over your mom, because money, but then you were able to pay for her and now you’re saying you can pay for me. Where’s this money coming from?”

Celia: “I have good credit,” Celia tells her. “Just good credit.”

GM: “Good credit doesn’t cover that much,” Emily says dubiously. “Look… I want to believe you, that sounds wonderful. But it wasn’t on the table, what, yesterday? When your mom’s toes were on the line. What’s changed?”

Celia: “I didn’t have access to it yesterday. Just… trust me, okay?”

GM: “I’m scared to do that,” says Emily slowly. “I’m scared you’re going to make some other horrible decision and pick me over something else that you shouldn’t. I don’t want you to do that. I don’t want your mom to lose her feet, just because of me.”

Celia: “My mom isn’t going to lose her feet over you. I promise. It’s not so scary as that.”

GM: “Your brothers and sisters, your mom, Stephen, whatever. I don’t want anyone to get hurt for me so you can do this, okay? I’d rather just drop out and save up, than do that.”

Celia: “No one is going to get hurt.”

“I have a… okay, can I tell you something? You can’t tell anyone.”

GM: Emily nods. “I won’t. Promise.”

Celia: “Maxen’s dad isn’t really his dad. And I’ve been in contact with my grandfather. And he’s… he likes me.”

GM: Emily’s eyebrows raise. “Oh, wow. Your biological grandpa, you mean?”

Celia: “I guess so.”

“I was surprised, too.”

“But we met, and it went well, and he said if there’s anything he could do for me…”

“And this is something he can do for me.”

GM: “That’s… a lot of money, for me not to have to work.”

Celia: “It’s living expenses. You’d be living with me. It’s an extra meal or two.” Celia shrugs.

“It’s already happening, and now you’re just coming with me. And I have to let him know, but if you want the opportunity, then it’s yours.”

GM: Emily thinks. “Don’t we want to live with your family, though? Your mom’s probably going to really need the help, especially with her recovery. You don’t just bounce back from something like this. It can take months.”

She pauses.

“Oh. And there was…”

Celia: “What?” Celia prompts.

GM: “She had an STD test. The redhead, Ginger, said that she took one, and that she’s clean.”

Celia: “Oh thank God,” Celia breathes. “I thought you were going to tell me something terrible.”

GM: Emily gives a faint smile. “Can be good news too, right?”

Celia: “I’ll take all the good news you can give me. How’re you feeling, by the way?”

GM: “Like… crap still, to be honest.”

“Ginger’s been bringing me a lot of Vitamin D foods. Eggs.”

Celia: “That’s good of her. We’ll get you something for school, too. A note or… something.”

GM: “But, okay. If you’re up front with your grandpa, that he’s basically paying for me to concentrate on school…” Emily pauses. She looks less than entirely happy with the idea, but finally says, “I’m okay with that.”

Celia: “He’ll love you.”

GM: “I hope so. I don’t wanna be a mooch.”

Celia: “He’ll probably put you to work around the house a little,” Celia admits. “But not in a weird way. Not like you’re doing now.”

GM: “I’m okay with that,” Emily quickly says. “That’s why I want to help out, with your mom. I don’t want to be a burden.”

“I want to earn my keep. Whatever he wants.”

Celia: “I’ll talk to him, give him a heads up. You sit tight and get your strength back for now, okay? You look like a ghost, Emmy.” Celia laughs, kissing her cheek. “And keep Momma company. A day or two, then we’ll get everything settled.”

GM: Emily gives a rueful look at the ghost remark, but nods at Celia’s request. “I have been. We’ve been able to talk. She’s been out of it, a lot, but we’ve talked.”

He brow furrows again.

“She also said you were going to cos school, and that college was just to keep your dad from being upset?”

Celia: “Uhhhh… well. Yes. I’m almost done with it. Graduating soon. I guess with my dad out of the picture I don’t need to keep up the ruse.”

“For esthetics. Skincare. Makeup. Waxing. That kind of stuff.”

GM: “It… hurts a little you didn’t tell me, to be honest. I’d have been totally behind you.”

Celia: “Honestly, Em, I didn’t tell anyone. Couldn’t risk it getting back to my father. It had nothing to do with you. Mom spilled the beans to Stephen, too. We had a fight over it.” She sighs, pressing her fingers to the bridge of her nose. “Said something about meeting my psycho dad and I couldn’t even tell him about Cos school, and I just… all my life, you know, my dad just told me I’d never be good enough, and then I met Stephen and he’s on his way to law school, and I can barely stutter out that I’m a dance major…”

It feels nice to pretend to be a normal teenager again, even if it is a lie.

GM: “Your dad’s full of shit,” Emily says flatly. “You’re pushing me not to drop out, Stephen says you pushed your mom into fighting for child custody and the lawsuits… that’s insane you’d ever think you’re not good enough, when all I’ve seen you do is push people to be better.”

“And dance majors can be amazing people anyway, your mom is one.”

Celia: There is it again, the feeling she has that she might start crying again. She doesn’t deserve these people in her life.

“Thanks, Em. I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that he’s a piece of shit and full of shit.”

GM: “Pieces of shit can’t be full of anything except more shit.”

Celia: “You’re right,” Celia says, laughing.

GM: “But I’m glad he got you to go to Tulane, at least, or we wouldn’t have met.”

Celia: “Me too, Emmy. Me too.”


Monday night, 6 April 2009, PM

GM: Celia spends the next several nights between the Evergreen and the hotel. Mélissaire is able to procure a (fake) doctor’s note at Celia’s request with little issue.

“Although really, ma’am, if you just want your friend to do well in school… there are many ways to arrange that.”

Most of Celia’s nights are spent receiving further lessons from Mélissaire. Monsters have many, many rules they play by. Perhaps it helps them feel less like monsters.

Or just gives them extra ways to be.

Maybe both.

Savoy considers the amount of money for Celia’s friend to be a trivial request when she brings it up. Of course he’ll pay for Emily’s living expenses. He also advises that she move Emily and her family to the French Quarter. “They’ll be safer here, my dear. In case your father or Donovan ever comes after them.”

Celia: Celia is blown away by his generosity. She promises that she will make sure his investment is repaid in full, and she thanks him for both that and the advice to move to the French Quarter. She passes that along to her mother.

She also inquires as to what Mélissaire means in helping Emily do well in school.

GM: Savoy chuckles at Celia’s reaction. “Money is easy for us to come by, my dear. We’ll need to get you some more in your pockets!”

Mélissaire amusedly explains that Kindred powers can be exercised to simply make Emily’s professors give her higher grades. It really is quite trivial to push someone through the higher education system as a Kindred.

Celia’s mom, who’s still having difficulty talking, weakly says she’d prefer to live in the Garden District. It’s so pretty there, with all those old houses and gardens, and right by McGehee. She’d love to live in the Garden District again. But housing doesn’t appear to be an immediate topic on her mind. She wants to see her other kids. Emily said they were at her mom’s…?

There is also some bad news, Pete reports. Without the immediate threat of scandal, Maxen seems to have gone to his “friend in the shadows” for help with his family. He has regained custody of Celia’s brothers and sisters.

“I’m afraid your grandmother didn’t have a chance, once Kindred got involved,” he says grimly.

Celia: “When are we going to hear about Donovan?” That’s what prevented them from leaking the information about Maxen.

GM: “Tomorrow night. That’s when Madam Alsten-Pirrie has a meeting with the seneschal.”

Celia: “If it’s bad news, take him down. Just. Destroy him.”

GM: “I feel bad for your brothers and sisters. They’ve been bouncing between homes like ping-pong balls.”

Celia: “What do you think, then? That we should have leaked this earlier?” She wishes they had. Then this part would be over with. Her family would be settled.

GM: “I think it’s better to have waited. So much rides on what answer the seneschal gives.”

Celia: She’s grateful for that answer.

GM: The next night, she gets another one. Veronica delivers it at the Evergreen’s rooftop garden next to Savoy and Preston.

Her emerald eyes flash.

“He said yes,” she purrs.

“I should plan to release her in August. When the general Embrace moratorium is lifted.”

Celia: “That’s five months,” Celia points out. “What… what do I do until then?” She looks around at each of them. “Does Celia Flores have to die? Withdraw from school? When do we move against Donovan?”

For all that she had been looking for this answer, she hadn’t actually considered it would come back this way.

GM: “Donovan may move to kill her regardless,” Preston raises. “He dropped her into the Gulf of Mexico. Her presumed disappearance must eventually have an explanation.”

Celia: Celia isn’t quite sure what to say. There are too many questions, not enough answers. Finally, she asks, “do we confront him, then? I serve as bait, as discussed, and we go from there? Or… what’s the play?”

GM: “Tell us, my dear,” Savoy says invitingly. “Donovan is your sire, and this information is fairly politically damaging. What do you most want from him?”

Celia: “You know more about him than I do, Lord Savoy. You have a firmer handle on how his mind works, what he might have gained by this illicit Embrace… and also what he stands to lose.”

“Because I guess,” Celia says at length, “our question boils down to this: does he know what he did to me, or am I an accident? If the latter, is it of greater political gain to let him know now, or is he the kind of Kindred to best be surprised? The question then comes up, do we want Maxen as our own pawn, or do we want to destroy him now and just take him away from Donovan?”

She finally looks to her grandsire.

“What would best serve you, Lord Savoy? You have been playing this game much longer than I.”

GM: The French Quarter lord drums his fingers. “What do you think, Madam Alsten-Pirrie? The slow knife, or the quick one?”

The harpy’s green eyes smolder. “I want quick.”

“But slow will bite deepest.”

The three deliberate pros and cons back and forth. Saving this for a “more opportune moment” may be of greater benefit in the long term. Politics, like everything, is timing. But if they save this, and still don’t know how much Donovan plans for or knows about Celia, they are effectively ceding what happens to her mortal identity to him. He’ll likely have questions (to put it mildly) if she shows her face again.

If they want to sit on this, Celia will need to change her name and face by the time she enters Kindred society. There are ways doing both. But would she wish to?

The alternative is for them to confront the sheriff now and attempt to place him under thumb with blackmail.

Celia: Would Celia die, she asks, or just go away?

GM: Preston repeats that is effectively up to the sheriff, and whether or not he believes Celia is currently dead.

If he does, he will likely attempt to fabricate a story for her disappearance. There are ways, though, they could potentially influence whether he makes Celia die or go away.

Celia: What about Maxen, she wants to know. Are they going to move on this now?

GM: “We can move on him now or later. We can ruin him or try to suborn him. All independently of what becomes of the lovely Celia Flores,” says Savoy.

GM: “My only interest is ending his usefulness to Donovan. But he’s your father, my dear. He’s hurt you and your living family very badly. How would you like us to proceed?”

Celia: “Destroy him.”

“End his usefulness. Then, when Donovan has thrown him out with the trash, I’ll end him.”

Celia: “There are two of him,” she adds after a moment. “I saw them, the night I was Embraced. Two Maxens.”

GM: Veronica’s look of approval at Celia’s initial words is all-too evident.

“So end them both,” she sneers.

Celia: Her smile shows teeth.

“Fun for each of us.”

GM: “I don’t care about your kine daddy. Kill him twice yourself and have fun with it. Lilith knows I’d like to have done that to some people.”

Celia: “More for me, then.”

GM: “Curious,” remarks Preston. “Value may be found in ascertaining why, in fact, there are ‘two Maxens’ before seeking to end them.”

Celia: “Of course, Madam Preston. I’ll find out.”

Celia: Celia finally looks back to her grandsire.

“You asked, Lord Savoy, what I want with him. Answers. That’s what I want. I want to know why he did this. What he hoped to gain from Embracing me when he immediately abandoned me. But a fledgling’s curiosity isn’t worth tipping our hand, is it? So unless you’d prefer a meeting with your childe now, Celia Flores can disappear.”

GM: Savoy strokes his half-beard.

“It’s mainly your safety that concerns me, my dear. If Donovan knows that we know about your Embrace, what’s he going to do? He’s not in any realistic position to silence us, so the most he can do is silence you and hope that will be enough. We could take proof of your existence—a vitae sample, a video recording, a tape with our voices on it—that clearly shows you’ve been Embraced. We could have it ready for some friends to covertly pass along to the prince at our leisure. He’d be in trouble with the prince whether he destroys you or not. Proof of your existence can remain safely under lock and key, beyond his reach.”

“So, we might tip our hand.” The French Quarter lord smiles. “Sometimes that truly doesn’t matter. A fledgling’s curiosity may not be be worth a great deal to me—but a grandchilde’s more than is.”

He stares at Celia somberly and rests his hand upon hers.

“If you want answers from your sire, my dear, we will help you get them.”

Celia: “It’s… silly, I think, to cling to my kine family. To be angry that he let my father destroy them. To want vengeance for my mother’s suffering. And yet that is what calls to me. I think, in time, these instincts will die. Soon I won’t care about my mother, my father, my siblings. But always I’ll wonder: why? Why did he pick me, why did he Embrace me? Was it a whim? A hope that I’d perish in the Gulf, burnt by the sun? A vague plan to come back for me, only you got to me first?”

Her hand shifts, fingers closing around his.

“I just want to know, Lord Savoy. I am yours, I feel that in my heart, but I just… want to know.”

GM: “Your heart aches, Celia,” Savoy says softly, patting the top of her hand with his other one.

“But if you’ve entrusted it to my keeping, we’ll just have soothe it.”


Tuesday night, 7 April 2009, AM

Celia: They said that she couldn’t see Em. That if she used his house she’d need to make sure the mortal was well in hand, out of the way. He hadn’t been back since that night, since the night she had woken him up by sitting on his lap, naked, and promised more of it in the future. He’d told her, after she explained the deal she’d made to him without using the word “fang” or “vampire,” that she could come back to him. That he would keep her human, keep her sane, keep her from losing her mind. Some part of her will always treasure that memory, his offer. And some part of her will know that he did not have a choice, that he was caught up in the same feelings of ecstasy and bliss that had ensnared her when Veronica and Pietro had offered the same thing.

It is different now, to be here without him. The house looks the same as last time she was here. Her leggings are discarded in one corner. She is sure that Em has not been back. Better for him this way, to heed her warning to lay low. Better that he not get caught up in any of this. Better that he is safe. He has paid the price already for knowing her, though perhaps he does not realize it.

They had prepared well. Taken the samples that Savoy said they needed, taken recordings, gotten proof that she exists. Proof that will take down Donovan if he moves against her. Even so, she wishes for the speed, the strength, the durability that she had before. She wishes that Veronica had seen fit to bestow it upon her again.

I’m fast, she’d told the detective that night.

Not fast enough.

She hadn’t been. Not then, and certainly not now. Now she feels more breakable than ever, for all that she is immortal. Mélissaire had told her exactly what would kill her, and despite the fact that Savoy’s agents are two seconds away, she knows that Donovan can end her and be gone in the time it takes them to show.

She came into the house alone, in view of every agent that Savoy and Donovan and whoever else had watching the place. She’d been concealed from head to toe, all the better to hide her identity, and only once inside the living room does she pull the extras from her body. She is left in a dress that can only be described as “wispy.” Somewhere between blush and gray chiffon, it fits her through the waist and billows out around her with every step and stray puff of air. It, along with her makeup, makes her look young. Alive. Innocent, if such a word could ever describe the Beast that lurks inside of her. Heels give her extra height, but for all the care that she took with her outfit she still feels naked. Exposed.

Dress.jpg
She stands in the center of the room and waits.

GM: Celia stands in Em’s living room for a while. Her feet don’t get sore. The heels change her gait, but there’s no discomfort or impetus to sit down or shift her weight from foot to foot. Just another inconvenience of not being a walking corpse that’s gone, like eating and sleeping and shitting.

She stands.

She waits.

Celia: She is patient. She can wait. All the time in the world, Savoy said.

GM: She waits.

She waits.

She waits.

Then, sensation around her waist. Emptiness beneath her feet. Air rushing past her. Then solid ground, again. She’s gone from Em’s apartment. She’s on the roof of a skyscraper, hundreds and hundreds of feet up. Distant sounds of traffic echo from below. Wind blows through her hair and rustles the hem of her flimsy dress. It’s cool out, this high up, at this hour of night, but there are no goosebumps along her skin. The kine below look like no more than ants, little bright dots inching about their lighted, tunnel-like streets. She feels a world apart from it all.

1_Shell_Square.jpg
They feel a world apart from it all.

He’s standing across from her.

Him.

Donovan_Large.jpg
He isn’t tall. But he’s dark. So dark. His black clothes and black hair seem to blend seamlessly into the night air, leaving his bone-pale hands and face floating in the gloom like a ghost. There is no makeup to disguise his pallor, to paint any semblance of life over this corpse. Celia stands out from the darkness in her pale garment, but he is one with it.

Beauty and beast?

No. They are both monsters. Her predatory senses see into the gloom, this time, can trace the outline of his form. Neither of them have a heartbeat audible to her so-sensitive ears. That new part of her, that dark and snarling impulse to do nothing but fuck and kill, appraises him silently, sizing up the rival predator. She feels it unsheath the too-long, too-sharp canines in her mouth.

No. She merely hides her monstrosity. He does not.

She is beautiful. A beautiful beast.

He is a beast, but beautiful too, in his own way. Veronica is an ebon sculpted goddess, oozing sensuality. Savoy a smiling rake, all casually debonair confidence. She supposes he is like his sire, in that he is handsome, enough. But no one would ever call him handsome. Not if they had stared into his eyes, for what they saw would make them flinch away as their skin crawled, and yet… perhaps they would desire him, too, as she does. Power is the greatest aphrodisiac. And he is power. He is the dark man, at once terrible and captivating, yet distant and unreachable, who might pluck her from a place she had thought herself safe and deposit her here, naked and vulnerable to the night’s tender mercies, without a flicker ever crossing his icy visage. She heard her father once say that the more power a man has, the less he need speak or gesture. His actions say all there is to say.

Perhaps he is like her father. Perhaps he makes her want his approval, even when he treats her like shit. Because he treated her like shit. Left her to die in the Gulf of Mexico. Because he is good enough to. Because she isn’t good enough for him not to.

But maybe she could be. Maybe, just maybe. If she pleases him. If she reaches him. If she touches that stone he has for a heart. She has, hasn’t she, on some level?

She is his childe.

He is her sire.

Surely that means something.

Something.

Celia’s sire says nothing. He only stares with those dead and stormy eyes she knows better than to gaze too deeply into.

Celia: She should have known.

Safety is nothing but an illusion. He snatches it away as easily as he snatches everything else. As casually as the cat takes the head off of the mouse caught in its trap. Only he does not need a trap. He is the trap, the bait, the cat. The idea of him, this dark god, whose face she has seen since childhood, whose voice haunts her dreams, whose whisper sends shivers down her spine. He is the bait, and she is caught, pinned, as helplessly as any fly in a web.

This time there is no heartbeat to give her away. It does not skip, it does not pitter-patter against her ribcage, it does not leap to see him. Her breathing does not catch. What does a dead girl need with such human frivolities?

For a long moment she is silent. She wonders if he plans to drop her from here, too. If her body will be mangled beyond all repair when it hits the ground.

If she leaps, will he catch her?

The thought is too dangerous to dwell on.

Her dress dances in the wind, graceful as any ballerina. She does not shiver. She does not notice. His eyes are on him, locked, unwavering. She has seen inside of him and refused to turn away.

Surely that means something.

His name, at last, leaves her lips. An echo of last time. A whisper, a question, a promise.

“Donovan.”

GM: Her sire stares back at her, his storm-tossed eyes so close, so intent.

There is only silence.

Silence why he did this.

Silence why he has taken her here.

Silence so like her father’s, when he was in one of his “moods.”

Silence but for the whisper of the wind.

Celia: Does he even know her name?

Does he know what he did to her? What he took from her? The life she’d had before all of this, stolen? Even before he’d dropped her, before he’d murdered her, he had stolen her life. Kept her in the house with a monster. Told her that everything was okay, that she was imagining it, told her to give Daddy a kiss.

She’s not imagining this. She’s not imagining him. She’s not imagining what she saw in his head. She hadn’t breathed a word of it to anyone, that nightmare she witnessed, hadn’t tried to turn it against him to gain the upper hand. It’s theirs. His and hers. Theirs alone.

Doesn’t that mean anything to him?

It means everything to her.

Even now, wavering and tremulous, she wants to go to him. Wants the darkness to wrap her up, swallow her down. If she holds out her hand, will he take it?

“Why?” she finally asks, voice just a breath of air.

GM: He doesn’t answer.

Then he’s gone.

So is the ground beneath her feet. Strong arms encircle her thighs and the small of her back, holding her aloft. Her heeled feet dangle in the air as his mouth meets hers. It’s ice cold, yet insatiable and relentless, like swallowing a collapsing glacier.

Celia: Oh.

A thousand thoughts and one hurtle through her mind in the time that it takes her to feet to leave the ground. They halt as soon as his lips touch hers. Her mouth parts, her arms encircle him, her fingers curl around his shoulder and the back of his neck. There’s just him. All-encompassing. All-consuming.

His. She’s his. She has always been his.

please don’t let go.

GM: He lets go.

The ground slams against her back. Then he’s on top of her. His frigid hands are hard, relentless, and mercilessly strong as they squeeze, no, crush her breasts, but perhaps she wants to be crushed. To be utterly within another’s power, and know that he could crush her, drop her, at any time.

His mouth descends along her neck before his canines stab into her skin like ice picks. Nothing else matters.

The bliss comes over her like an orgasm in her neck, with all the sudden relief of a blast of winter air hours in the sauna. She feels like she’s soaring again, hurtling through the sky with him at a million miles an hour. On top of the world. Above the world. She feels her blood sing as it flows down his mouth. She is a part of him, in a way more intimate than any kine’s act of lovemaking. He has taken her life into himself. He has taken her into himself. He must care for her. Love her.

Nothing else matters.

Not even how much it feels like her father’s goodnight kiss in 2003.

Celia: The fall is shorter this time. There is no body of water waiting for her. Just cold steel. Colder hands. Frigid fangs sinking into her neck. Panic spirals through her. He could kill her. Kill her for real this time, not like before. There would be no coming back from this.

He could.

He won’t.

He can’t.

He could.

He’s stronger. Faster.

He knows it. She knows it.

Is that what he wants?

What does he want?

Me. Her. Us. We.

Please.

they deserve each other.

Red tears leak out of the corners of her eyes. She doesn’t want to die. She just wants him. She wants him, and she wants him to want her—

She’d be his, though.

Forever.

That’s all she has time for before the bliss hits, the euphoria, the mind-numbing fog that takes her away from the rooftop and his hands and his lips at her neck. She makes a sound in the back of her throat, something like a mewl or a whimper or maybe even a moan, and her thighs rub together to assuage the ache before her knees bend, parting to either side of his waist.

His.

Forever.


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Emily Feedback Repost

Savoy Chat

I think the conversation about what to do with Celia and her dad ended up a little more convoluted than it needed to be, which, as I touched on in the prior log, was just an incident of me not quite being sure where she stood and how vocal she could be about what she wanted. Now I know to push for what I want, especially with Savoy, as he’s rather receptive for an elder. Perhaps it wouldn’t work for something that doesn’t concern her family, but I suppose the more I play with him the more I’ll know.

I know there were also some comments about Celia being more assertive. I guess my plan, out of character, was to make the leap between 2009 and 2016 where she settled more fully into the Jade persona, but I see the wisdom in doing so here and now with Savoy’s people. I still don’t even know if Celia actually has a personality of her own, or if she’s just constantly channeling another mask: Diana’s daughter, Emily’s friend, Savoy’s grandchilde, Veronica’s newly durable toy. None of those are really her, are they? I think she’s spent so long lying to other people that she started lying to herself and, if you told me to pick a personality trait for her, I wouldn’t know what to say. That’s more evident in the next log when she becomes (or tries to become) as aloof as Donovan, as well, but I’ll comment on that when we get there.

I edited the post for Celia snapping back at Preston like ten times before I sent it. I think the original was something like “it’s not that the answer doesn’t exist, it’s that you’ve failed to find it.” That felt a little too bitchy for someone who is apparently important to Savoy, though, so I toyed with the wording.

Also, when Celia asked what Savoy felt during her Embrace, and Savoy answered, I thought he meant he felt those things from Donovan and from Celia both, and I was like “oh damn tell me the longing was from Donovan though.” Ha.

“Kindred can forgive you for hurting them. But they can’t ever forgive you for making them look foolish, even if it’s just to themselves.” Solid logic. I’ve found it out firsthand in game. Oh you beat up Celia? No big. Oh you humiliated her? Yeah we’ve got beef.

Also appreciated Preston’s little title / pronoun lesson for Celia. Sometimes as I typed in subsequent scenes I had to stop myself from referring to people as man/ woman, even in Celia’s thoughts. Funny how they avoid that but still say he/she just fine. I guess that’s just a quirk of the setting. Seems like Kindred might benefit from their own pronouns, but not gonna lie it also sounds like a big freaking hassle.

I don’t think I realized how frequently Savoy touched her until the reread. He’s very hands on. I like it. Celia ended up in the right place. That’s probably why she’s so hands on, too. I mean, she would have been anyway, but now it makes sense that she picked up on it being okay from him I think. Everyone’s so cold and formal and she’s bouncing around like “yay hugs! Let me sit on your lap! Whee!” Cat definitely makes sense for her. And Mel even said they like cats, so that’s nice. :)

The Gun

I still don’t know what happened with the gun, or who the guy was who was in the house. Did Pete ever tell Celia what he found out? She would have had access to it when she went to Em’s house. Either of those times. If it wasn’t Donovan and it wasn’t Savoy’s people then I can only assume it was one of the Baron’s, but of course just because Savoy didn’t admit it doesn’t mean it wasn’t him, and there’s nothing stopping Vidal from sending someone after Donovan’s pawn if he has reason to suspect the sheriff isn’t as loyal as he claims. So that’s still a big question for me, who was it.

Veronica

I recall there being some mixed views on me marking Corruption for the failed social roll to appease Veronica in the ooc chat when it happened. I don’t know if it’s because I’m quick to mark Corruption or if it’s because the others thought that the scene would be fine without it. Maybe it would have been. I doubt Celia and Veronica would have a mentor/ee relationship if not. I could be wrong. Maybe it was a waste of Corruption. I guess it doesn’t matter.

I know that prior to my joining the game Veronica had already defected to Savoy’s camp, so I guess I can’t claim credit for Celia for this. I think the 2015 thing was the trial with Matheson, right? Bringing him in for his crimes. Or was there more that I don’t know about? I also hadn’t realized how close together Celia & Amaryllis’ Embraces are. Was Celia first? I don’t know anything about my blood siblings. Either one of them.

I thiiiink for a moment, when Veronica threw her to the ground and “attacked,” my brain froze. I was like “uh oh, definitely misread the situation.” Had to remind myself, like Celia reminded herself, that this is just what they do now. Savoy didn’t seem worried, either, so that helped. Alas, my plans to draw him into a threesome were foiled. I’ll try again.

Misc. Stuff

When do you pull the posts for the logs? I see an error in mine with some repeated words that I thought I edited out relatively quickly. I’ll fix it, nothing major, I’m just curious.

Whatever did happen to that pony? Does it still live in Audubon, or did Maxen sell it?

Mel alludes to what I think about Donovan, which is that he isn’t as young as he’s made out to be. Introduced in 1896, same year (or a year after) Savoy wakes from torpor, doesn’t need any lessons on Kindred society, etc. Why would Vidal grant him permission to Embrace? Maybe I should ask him. Seems like the best plan.

Diana/Emily

I think I made the right call by not ghouling Diana. I know you joke about Celia not wanting her around, but the truth is that I think she’d just be miserable as a ghoul, and the dynamic would be… weird, I dunno. Celia just wants her mom to be happy. Finally.

I only vaguely recall this scene with Emily, but it got me all emotional at work. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s hard. It sucks. And it’s what you want.”

“So you don’t get to give up. There’s never going to be a good time in your life. To do this. To do anything. Nothing is ever going to properly align. The stars don’t do that. Fuck the stars. You want this? Then do it. Go for it. Work for it. And I will be there, every step of the way, and we will get you through it.”

I know Celia is a monster. She’s not a good person. She literally murdered someone for her hair. But like, damn, when she cares about someone she really cares about someone. She’ll do whatever she can for them.

I still regret the timeline. I think if Celia had leaked the tapes earlier Donovan wouldn’t have had a chance to do anything with them. Grandmother could have kept them. But it would have also probably been a very, very different conversation on the roof with Donovan.

Donovan

And then we get to that scene with Donovan.

First off, good writing all the way around in my opinion. Yours really set the mood, and I think I did a stellar job playing out Celia’s desire for her sire. She’s mad at him for killing her, mad at him for turning Maxen into a monster, wants to destroy him… and as soon as she sees him all of that goes out the window. She just wants him. Wants him to want her. It’s sad, really, how much she wants him. Very angsty. I kind of (just kidding I love it) very much enjoy writing about it. The longing. Gives me good feels.

I think I forgot that he kissed her here. I knew they’d “fucked” but I had forgotten that he’d started it off by kissing her. You can’t see it but I’ve got hearts in my eyes. I am pretty obsessed with him. She is, too.

I see you added a part about her father’s kiss in 2003. Was this after I told you I don’t think it was him in the house last night, or did you plan on dropping that in there all along?

Again, another incident of “Oh shit this guy is going to kill me.” I was banking on the fact that he wouldn’t — why bring her to the roof and kiss her if he was going to — but it was still in the back of my head, and obviously on Celia’s mind as well. She’s considering the implications of what would happen if he drained her: she’d be with him forever. It’s… super fucked up, honestly, but that’s kind of where she’s at with him. I remember being warned ooc that anything she thinks he will probably know, and I was like “oh shit she said mean things about him recently,” but it turned out okay.

I could honestly probably go on about this scene for a lot longer, but I think I’ve said to you before things I already thought about it. I think every scene with Donovan is pretty much my favorite.

I also think that’s a really inspired choice to cut it off when you did. Great ending to that chapter.

Story Ten, Celia XIII
 

Calder Feedback Repost

Calder: I think the convo with Savoy meandered a bit too
But we finally got there
As far as Veronica, how you dealt with her in that convo had very lasting consequences
You weren’t her childe
Someone else stole you
Convo could well have ended with her permanently pissed off and wanting to kill you
But Celia won her over
I don’t remember what the DC was or what your roll was
But I’d say given how much you like Veronica it was probably a good Corruption use

Emily: This is why I always trust my gut.

Calder: Generally a good thing to do
I think it was good to work towards the Jade persona here in the log
Savoy is relatively sympathetic for an elder, but you still want to find your feet around them ASAP
That’s interesting how you say she’s constantly channeling different personalities

Emily: You don’t agree?

Calder: The transformations to Savoy’s granchilde, Donnie’s childe, and Veronica’s toy are pretty obvious
Oh, I do
How would you say the Emily’s friend and Diana’s daughter masks are distinct?
Distinct from who she “really” is, that is

Emily: More subdued around her mom, family dinner notwithstanding. Less likely to be crude
Oh

Calder: I feel like she’s pretty assertive around her mom
Though the crude part for sure

Emily: By subdued I mean less loud
“Loud”
idk if I can explain that
Like not in volume, just personality.
Idk.

Calder: Hm, I can see that
She doesn’t do crazy or wild stuff
She’s more adventurous with Emily

Emily: More blunt, too

Calder: I’d be curious to see who the “real” her is. Like you say, she’s different around everyone
I mean, that’s true for us all to an extent
But it’s especially pronounced with her

Emily: I think the real Celia might be the Celia she is with Pete. >>

Calder: I think it’s a consequence of her upbringing

Emily: She’s not pretending for him

Calder: Dad had a very specific vision of who she needed to be
So she acted the part

Emily: Exactly

Calder: But she knew that wasn’t who she was

Emily: Survival instinct

Calder: Mom though was both really damaged and a polar opposite, and Celia might’ve had “whiplash” putting on a different face there
Pete might know the real her because he’s been the only person to see her doing something she was really ashamed of and wanted to hide, then regretted
With her mom’s toes/Emily’s tuition
He’s also seen her as a mortal, as a ghoul, and as a vampire

Emily: Yeah

Calder: Was there for some pretty defining moments in her life
He’s seen what choices she made when the chips were really down
Some of which he approved of, and some he didn’t

Emily: Hasn’t given her a reason not to trust him, and he’s never pulled his punches

Calder: Including coming to the spa but not wanting to be prettied up
That feels like an allegory

Emily: That’s why she wants him to date Diana. So she can call him dad and have a father who is proud of her.
:^)

Calder: Awww

Emily: I might be serious.

Calder: I could well see it
The dad who raised her was obviously garbage for a while
The dad who’s her bio-dad raped her mom
Donovan is problematic
Savoy isn’t dad, he’s grandpa, and hasn’t been really intimate with her (in the non-sexual sense) like Pete has
Agreed you were wise not to snap back at Preston

Emily: I really wanted to

Calder: Savoy might be grandpa, but she was still a brand new fledgling, and Preston Savoy’s established right hand
But foot to start off with
Trial with Matheson was
Allegations against him/his feeding on Ryllie happened in
Ryllie hasn’t been Embraced yet at this point in the logs

Emily: So what did he promise her then?

Calder: Good question

Emily: Ah

Calder: Mysteries like those are for players to discover

Emily: Yeah I just didn’t know if I missed something

Calder: Or not, as they’d prefer
Maybe you did
And maybe you didn’t
Guy who handed her the gun is another such mystery
Celia could ask Pete about it if she’s curious

Emily: Why didn’t he just tell her :<

Calder: Could be he doesn’t know. But if he does, why tell her if she doesn’t ask?
Presumably not that important if she doesn’t
NPCs generally won’t go out of their way to unveil things unless it directly benefits them to
So always better for PCs to be proactive

Emily: Well I had other things to talk to him about anyway
That I keep forgetting to bring up

Calder: Jot them down in your Aspirations
Good note-taking place

Emily: I’ve got a channel in another server for notes. There were just bigger questions at stake when they spoke.

Calder: Oh, that’s cool
I know Pete keeps notes too
Pronoun-wise, vampires are old-fashioned
S/he or it are the only real options
And it is demeaning
So they stick with what they used in life
Even if they aren’t really men or women anymore
Though their gender identities still remain a big part of them

Emily: Then why get offended if you call them man or woman

Calder: You have to get pretty old indeed before that ceases to matter, most of the time
Because they aren’t men and women in the most fundamental sense
They’re dead. They can’t reproduce

Emily: So

Calder: Is a corpse a man or a woman?
It used to be one
But it’s not anymore

Emily: I can’t reproduce and I’m still a woman

Calder: Yeah, and many Kindred elders would severely judge that
Their attitudes are shaped by times long gone by

Emily: A corpse still has DNA
genetics
XY or XX chromosomes, etc

Calder: Many elders predate the field of genetics

Emily: Ah, yes, saying something doesn’t exist means that you are right.

Calder: I think you’re looking at Kindred cultural norms through a modern and logic-seeking lens. To them, they aren’t men or women because they’re blood-drinking corpses who reproduce via Embrace and to whom sex characteristics no longer have any real meaning. They generally don’t like to be called men and women because there’s another word for what they are (vampires/Kindred). Alternate pronouns to he/she/it weren’t really used in language at the times of their Embraces, so they simply kept using the ones they did when they were alive, and they’re too set in their ways at this point to want to change

Emily: Eh. I’ll allow it.

Calder: Because it’s the way things have always been
Celia should interact with more elders. Savoy is pretty good at appearing modern and in touch, but plenty aren’t

Emily: But they’re scary
Also she hasn’t had reason to.

Calder: GM: “The emancipation of the negro has served but to worsen the fortunes of both races,” Matheson agrees.

Caroline: That comment is far from unexpected. “The statistics agree, especially over the last sixty years.”

GM: “I have some use for able-bodied negroes on my land. Has this one been claimed by another Kindred?”

Caroline: “Not that I know of, Gerousiastis Matheson, but I do not know how useful he might be. He’s weak, small, and very dim.”
NavyToday at : PM
He gets the ax too!

Calder: Fun fact, many elders (and especially Sanctified) are pretty anti-LGBT despite being okay with same-sex Kindred relationships
Because they’re dead, and aren’t men or women anymore
But the kine are still alive

Emily: I think they’re all just hypocrites tbh

Calder: Of course they are
Which edited error of yours did you see?
It varies when I pull the logs
Sometimes I’m quick, sometimes I wait
I haven’t for instance pulled the hunter scene logs yet

Emily: “She waits for him to speak” came up twice in the same paragraph
Savoy / Veronica scene

Calder: Fixed

Emily: I was gonna do it. Eventually.
When I turn my computer on.
Maybe.
Thanks friend.

Calder: I did feel like Celia froze up too when Veronica got aggressive
She didn’t bite back
But simply took it
Still, as you say, she was new to this
Hadn’t really picked up that’s normal vampire sex
Or at least normal with Veronica

Emily: I thought she was mad and trying to kill me for a minute

Calder: That’s a spot-on mood too
Celia isn’t totally sure what happened to the pony. She largely lost interest in it
Her siblings haven’t talked to her about it

Emily: Poor Sugar Cube

Calder: Waste of time to make -year-olds happy, right?
Or however old she was

Emily:
And yes
Don’t buy them ponies

Calder: Vidal might well not have granted Savoy permission to Embrace
There are plenty of illegals in the Quarter
Though they’re generally inferior in station to the legitimate Embraces
Savoy doesn’t boast “hahaha, illegal Embraces happen in my territory,” but it definitely happens

Emily: Wouldn’t Vidal have put Donovan down if he was Embraced without permission

Calder: Lucky him he defected to Vidal’s side so soon, isn’t it?

Emily: Hmm

Calder: Assuming Donovan never left the Quarter, though, likely only so much Vidal could do
He doesn’t rule there

Emily: Don’t let him hear you say that.

Calder: Definitely not. That’s the quiet part you aren’t supposed to say out loud
And if he really wants to, Vidal can send his enforcers there
The question is whether it’s worth it
Diana would be the best ghoul ever
Already used to abusive relationships
I did love what Celia did for Emily
She is a monster, but she can still care for people
That’s how vamps stay human
Underwood might’ve helped with the tapes, but like you say, very different Donnie convo
I loved that too
You were right, awesome writing all-around
I liked your choice of outfit for Celia to play into that
The wide-eyed and innocent childe

Emily: I will not tell you how long I spend looking for clothes for certain scenes.
Suffice to say it is a lot.

Calder: Pete does a lot of clothes-shopping too for Caroline
It definitely shows and makes the logs better

Emily: And it’s fun. :D

Calder: Indeed. You can tell a lot about a character by their clothes
How Savoy wears sports coats and leisure suits without ties
How Veronica likes your clear heels with tarantulas in them
How Diana never wears pants
Clothes say a lot about people

Calder: Glad you like where I cut the log
I dithered over that for a while
I didn’t like any of the earlier scenes as finales
Then I went, “Oh what about splitting the Donnie one”

Emily: Yeah it’s a good choice
dramatic but not cliffhanger

Story Ten, Celia XIII
Calder_R Calder_R

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