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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Thirteen, Celia X

“You only have one brother. You’re stuck with him.”
—Celia Flores


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, PM

Celia: Celia reaches for her phone to call herself a ride for the trek back to the Quarter. They make idle small talk while she waits and set a future date to get back together. Jade slides into the back of the car when it pulls up, aura dampened and face obscured to make her look like just another casino patron.

Despite his insistence that she send “Celia” to retrieve the items, Jade brings her luggage with her. She promises to send the girl by another evening for his amusement—“maybe to celebrate the return of the painting. Maybe you can have us both that night.”

She tucks the luggage full of belongings into the trunk and texts Randy to meet at her haven. She can hunt for Pete and Edith later; right now the world is literally at her fingertips and she has no desire to waste it. A second text to Reggie confirms that she is stopping by. Randy will pick her up shortly to serve as wheels into Mid-City, where both brothers wait.

In the back of the Ryde, Celia taps a message to Alana.

Didn’t tell me you fucked Josua. Nice score. Can’t be that submissive when you’re filling in, though. ;)

She sends the text and scrolls through her contacts until she reaches Reynaldo’s name. Why hasn’t he reached out to her? Is he not interested anymore because she’d shown him what she can do? She pouts at her phone as if an answer will appear.

GM: Josua pouts Celia won’t be by tonight, but seems content with that assurance of later.

Randy texts back he’ll see her at her haven.

Reggie says says he’ll see her there.

Alana texts back, Thanks! It was really easy to be around him, but I’ll try not to be in other places xoxo

A message from Reynaldo is not immediately forthcoming.

Celia: Jade sighs at her screen. It’s not as if the lick is psychic, she reminds herself. She’ll just have to go to him. That doesn’t look desperate at all.

Oh well. At least she has a reason to seek him out.

She fires off a text to Dani.

You up? Wanna hang? Have some errands to run but free in a bit.

GM: The text back is immediate.

Love to! I’m at your mom’s house, do you wanna meet there or someplace else?

Celia: Maybe my place?

GM: Ok, be there in a bit :)

Celia: It’s a quick ride back to her haven after that, where hopefully Randy is already waiting. She takes a moment to unpack and change into something more suitable for an evening of running around doing who knows what: black, short, with mesh cutouts along the midriff and thigh. A pair of nude heels complete the look.

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“So,” she says to Randy, “what do you mean Mabel thinks Reggie is Evan?”

GM: “I heard her calling him Evan,” he says. “When they were fucking.”

“And he was, uh, calling her Mom. It was pretty weird.”

Celia: “Ah… yeah apparently Evan used to call her Mom. Had a thing for MILFs.”

Maybe Reggie can keep her and continue that relationship. Maybe all Mabel needs is a good, firm dicking every once in a while.

GM: “Also, damn, babe, do you look great!”

Celia: She smiles up at Randy.

“Thank you. We’re heading to the office for a bit.” She gathers what she needs so they can head out.

GM: Dani arrives around the same time. She’s dressed in a short-sleeved top, booties, and knee-length skirt.

“Hey!” she smiles as she hugs Celia.

Celia: Awkward. She’d said “in a bit,” she recalls, as in “after her errands,” as in “why is Dani at my house right now.” If only Celia had gone back to her other haven like she’d intended to all along instead of playing it safe and going to the “public” haven, “Celia’s” haven, which has already been exposed who knows how many times.

She really needs a change of address once everything settles down.

None of that makes it to her face. She’s not even stiff when Dani leans in for a hug. Just the smiling friend, hugging her back.

“Hey, glad you could make it. You were sleeping earlier when I stopped by.” A nod to Randy excuses him from the room. Celia pulls Dani’s finished mask from her bag. “Want to try it out?”

GM: Dani says hello to him too, and he says as much back, before he takes his leave.

Dani nods and takes it out. Her eyebrows raise as she runs her fingers over the material.

“Oh, wow. This is… incredibly realistic.”

“This doesn’t even look like a mask.”

Celia: “No,” Celia says as Dani takes the mask from her, “nor should you feel it. It’s made to blend into the skin once applied. A little bit of makeup will cover the seam so no one knows it’s not real. There’s a wig, too. Darker, like you asked.”

Celia helps her put it on and adjusts the fit. Once it’s in place she holds out a mirror.

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GM: “Jesus,” Dani murmurs, staring at her new reflection. “I really look like a completely different person.”

Celia: “You’ll need a name.”

GM: “Hmm,” Dani says thoughtfully.

“So Danielle means ‘God is my judge,’ for Daniel surviving a night in the den of lions. That honestly seems pretty appropriate already. But we obviously can’t stick with that.”

“Hm, Daria, after the king who ordered Daniel thrown into the den?”

“Although maybe starting with a ‘d’ is too similar.”

Celia: “If you’re going to use this as your vampire name you could do something wild.”

GM: “Oh, what do vampires usually do there?”

Celia: “Depends. Some have normal names: Roderick, Reynaldo, Roxanne. A little dated, maybe, but normal enough. Some change them completely: Sundown, Harlequin, Perseus.”

GM: Dani thinks. “Maybe Attica, for Atticus Finch? He was always Stephen’s and my favorite literary character, growing up.”

Her face downturns briefly at the mention of her brother.

“Or, ugh, I already went with something legal for my tattoo. I guess I’m not a real person outside my job.”

Celia: “Keep the mask on for a while. See how it makes you feel. See what type of person it makes you want to be. There’s a freedom in being someone that isn’t you; maybe you’ll discover more about your real self when you’re not busy being Dani.”

GM: She looks in the mirror and gives a sigh. “Okay. I guess we don’t have to decide now.”

Celia: “Speaking of your brother.”

GM: “I haven’t decided how much rent to charge him yet.”

Celia: “I don’t think that’s going to be an effective tactic.”

GM: “Yeah, I don’t care. He owes me.”

Celia: “For what?”

GM: “Uh, everything?”

“How about we start with being a giant ass, hitting you like your dad did, throwing me around, scaring me, Dad loving him more, being a giant ass, letting us all think he was dead, being the golden son when he was alive, and oh, getting to be the golden son when he’s dead too, Mr. Primogen’s Childe, and being a giant ass,” Dani flares.

“And oh, did I mention being a giant ass?”

“And oh, all that bullshit about moving to Houston, because I’m just going to pack up my life for his convenience.”

Celia: “All right. Well, first of all, you don’t pick your sire any more than you pick your parents. They pick you. There’s not always a lot of say in whether or not you want it. Second of all, your dad loving him more is not Stephen’s fault, nor his being the golden child. That’s something that parents thrust upon you. Third of all, he had to let you think he was dead. It’s literally the first rule of being a vampire: you don’t talk about being a vampire.”

Celia runs a hand through her hair. This is not how she wants to spend her night.

“It’s not something he did lightly. Trust me. He’s cried about it. So if you’re going to be mad at him, be mad at him for things that he did rather than things that were done to him.”

GM: Dani’s glare subsides. A little. “Okay, I’m mad at him for physically abusing both of us, being a giant ass, expecting me to just move to Houston because he said so and the completely arrogant entitled attitude that’s reflective of for Mr. Golden Child, and also being a giant ass.”

“He hit you!”

“Your mom says that wasn’t really him, but I don’t really trust her advice when it comes to forgiving men who hit women.”

Celia: Celia gives that a wry smile.

“Any other time I’d agree with you. She and I also spoke about it earlier this evening. It’s… I hate to say it’s different, because don’t all battered women say that, but it’s different. I can show you. Not now, this very minute. But tonight.”

GM: Dani raises her eyebrows. “She said a monster took over. And that one also did when she fed you blood.”

“We talked tonight too, after I woke up.”

Celia: “The Beast.”

“What did you talk about?”

GM: “Uh, my living situation. I’ll be honest, I really wanted us to be roommates, but she said that wouldn’t work out.”

“And that… she and Emily really didn’t want me to be alone right now.”

“So we thought I’d stay with them until things are more… I guess settled.”

She gives a low, humorless laugh. “I guess until I’m less bothered by how somebody raped me.”

“Can I also just say it’s incredibly fucked up and makes flaming mad that every woman in your house has been raped?”

Emily was too, a long time ago in foster care. She says she’s past it. She mentioned it to help comfort Diana shortly after she moved in. Let her know she wasn’t alone.

Celia: “What is it, one in five? We’ve always been exceptional in my family.” It’s one of those things she has to laugh about so she doesn’t get upset.

“I am meeting with Reggie in a few minutes, but after that I was going to speak to the guy who runs the club where it all happened. We don’t usually come out right on cameras, but it’s a place to start. The blood sample you gave me unfortunately can’t be used to track your sire.”

“I thought I could take you with me to meet him, if you want.”

“I can’t promise he’s going to be civil.”

GM: “Oh,” says Dani when Reggie comes up.

“Yeah, I’d kinda hoped to tag along for your errands. It gets boring sitting around in a house where everyone is asleep all night.”

“But think I’ll pass on Reggie.”

“I said this over text, but when he was harassing your mom and me… it got worse whenever Lucy was in the room.”

“Like, she was catnip to him. It was so fucking creepy.”

Celia: “I think he has a thing for moms.”

GM: “Moms with six-year-olds.”

Celia: “Moms in general. He’s said some weird things.”

“The Blood can, uh… it can twist people.”

Or maybe Reggie was just always weird.

GM: “I’d cut him out of your life, honestly.”

Celia: “Mm, he does good work for me otherwise. I’ll just keep you guys separated.”

GM: Dani doesn’t look happy, but holds her tongue.

“Okay, I’d like to be with you when you talk to the club guy.”

“I’m guessing in case he knows anything about who did this to me?”

Celia: “I’m going to bring Stephen by later, after we talk to club guy, so I can safely show you the Beast and you two can hammer out the details of your relationship before we see your dad on Friday.”

“And yeah.”

“His club, he’s bound to know something, or know someone who does.”

“Granted, we don’t always know everything that goes on in our territory, so it could be a shot in the dark.”

She doesn’t think so, though.

GM: “Can’t hurt, though.”

“I’m also not sure I want to see Stephen, or to have him come to dinner.”

Celia: “It would mean a lot to me if you talk to him. He’s important to me. You’re important to me. I feel like it’s my fault your meeting went poorly and that I didn’t adequately prepare you, and… I want you two to have each other. Being a lick is lonely.”

GM: Dani crosses her arms. “I don’t expect a lot. But since you asked, okay, sure.”

“I’ll talk to him.”

Celia: “Thanks, Dani.” Celia ignores the crossed arms and brings her in for a hug. “He’s trying.”

GM: Dani hugs her back. “Also, I brought you something.”

She pulls out a sealed thermos from her shoulder bag.

“I went… hunting, earlier tonight. In the place you said I could.”

Celia: “Oh? How’d that go?”

GM: “I’m still getting the hang of this, but I have been doing it for a week. There’s some extra blood in there for you.”

“I guess I sort of assumed vampires could just get more whenever they wanted, but your mom made it sound like that was actually a pretty big deal.”

Celia: Celia eyes the thermos.

“It can be, yeah. Overcrowding, social events on the best hunting nights of the week, nocturnal hours, hunters…” She takes the thermos to check the volume of blood Dani has just handed her.

“This is great. Thank you. Really.”

GM: She’d peg it at two pints.

“You’re welcome. And credit where it’s due, it was your mom’s idea. I was bouncing around thoughts with her and she suggested you’d appreciate more.”

“I just… I don’t want to be a burden.”

“You’ve done a lot for me. And you said you owed it to Stephen’s memory, that night we first talked, but that’s obviously somewhat moot now that he isn’t dead.”

Celia: “She was right. I do appreciate it. And you’re not a burden. You’re just getting your feet wet. We all need someone to look out for us when we join this new unlife. Sometimes people get a bad break and they fizzle out, or get picked up by the wrong sort of krewe, or run into overly zealous hunters. I don’t want to see that to happen to you. You deserve more than that. And this is… this is really thoughtful, to bring this to me. Saves me a bunch of time tonight. Thank you.”

GM: “You’re welcome,” Dani repeats. “Like I said. I just want to pull my weight.”

“What are hunters?”

Celia: “Vampire hunters?”

“Monster hunters. Humans and other things that track us down and kill us. Or rip us apart.”

GM: “Oh.”

Celia: “There’s been some uptick lately in the city.”

GM: “I guess that was also in Dracula.

“Are they as dangerous as they are there? They kill the count.”

Celia: “They can be. Some of them, the new ones, they’re not. Two of them picked me up recently and I was able to lie my ass off and get out because they just don’t know any better. They’re human, I’m a vampire, even if they’re physically stronger than me I have a variety of tools at my disposal to let me get away. The powers. The ability to temporarily make myself stronger or faster.”

The fact that she can lie her ass off.

“Some of them know more, if they’ve been around longer. Or they know what can hurt us. When I was with Stephen the other day we were attacked by three of them with stakes and lighter fluid.”

GM: “Oh my god! What happened?”

“Obviously you made it out…”

Celia: “He tried to shove me into a bolthole and let himself get taken like an idiot.

GM: “That is completely the sort of thing he would do,” Dani says flatly.

“What a dumbass.”

Celia: “Wanted me to be safe, but… you know, I’m not going to sit there and let them take him away from me.”

GM: “So what happened? You fought them off?”

“And you showed Stephen that having a vagina isn’t actually a disability?”

Celia: “Ha. You know, he’s never really made any sexist comments to me like that. But it is part of why he’s going to teach me how to fight, since I only managed one on my own.”

GM: “He doesn’t know how to fight. Being a vampire just made him super strong.”

“Didn’t have to work for it or anything.”

Celia: “He’s learned. A lot of us make sure we know how.”

“You should learn, to be honest. Reggie said you weren’t holding the knife properly.”

“Emily’s boyfriend is teaching my mom to fence. It’s not the same as like… a bar brawl or anything, but it might give you a foundation if you want to join them.”

“Same with throwing a punch. Watched someone break their hand because they did it wrong once. I’ve gotten this far without knowing more than basics, but too many close calls recently for me to want to stay ignorant.”

GM: Dani’s silent for a moment.

“I think I’d feel good knowing how to defend myself, yeah.”

“I just… I never thought this sort of thing would happen to me. It was always someone else, you know?”

Celia: “We never do. This is the kind of thing that you see in movies or read about in books or hear about in the news. It’s never us. Until it is.”

GM: “Stephen said I’d always be weak. Because I’m duskborn.”

“Thin-blooded.”

Celia: “Yes and no. Your physiology is different. The girl we’re going to see tomorrow might be able to answer more of your questions; she’s had a thin-blood companion for… well, a long time. Oldest one I know of. That’s the problem, you know, not much is known about them. They—you—are new.”

“So I’m hoping she knows more.”

“You all seem to be different. Like. Take the average Toreador, right, we’re going to be mostly the same with few exceptions. But thin-bloods? I’ve seen some without fangs, or one fang. I’ve heard some have a Beast. I’ve heard some burn in the sun.”

GM: “I don’t know what to say there,” admits Dani. “But I guess, either way… if a vampire like Stephen attacks me, is there anything I can even do?”

Celia: “Stake him.”

GM: “But he’s so much stronger. Faster. He threw me around like I was nothing.”

Celia: “You fed recently, yeah? Have blood in you?”

GM: “Yeah, I do.”

Celia: Celia waves a hand at her couch.

“Throw it.”

GM: “…throw the couch?”

Celia: “Yeah, just see if you can throw it.”

“Or lift it.”

“Just as like, a baseline. To see what you can do.”

“Or, fuck, if you want I can make Stephen bring some weights with him tonight so we can get some accurate measurements.”

“And maybe go somewhere that we won’t destroy my stuff.” Celia casts a critical eye around the space.

GM: Dani grabs the couch around its bottom corners and tries to lift it up.

She gets about as far as any average breather before she has to let go. Its legs hit the floor with a clunk.

“He’s right,” she says dully. “I’m a fake vampire.”

Celia: “Nah.” Celia moves over to the couch and repeats Dani’s process; she doesn’t get it any higher than the other girl.

“We’re not all strong.”

GM: “You said you were good at other stuff, though.”

Celia: “Sure, but that was true when I was alive, too.”

“So, go inside your body for a minute, right? Focus on the blood in your veins. See if you can like… send it to the parts of your body you want to enhance. Picture giant, bulging muscles if you need to. And see if you can get the couch any higher.”

GM: Dani closes her eyes. She seems to try.

She tries to lift the couch.

She gets it no higher.

Celia: “Maybe you need lick blood. You’ve been able to use the powers before when you fed from me.”

GM: She looks at the couch for a moment, then sighs.

“I don’t mean to have a pity party. I want to be able to defend myself, it’s just… I just want us to be honest, so we’re not wasting time. I don’t want to overestimate myself and get into a situation I can’t handle. Will it actually make a difference?”

Celia: “Learning to fight? It’s better than not knowing.”

“But you’ll be at a disadvantage against someone like Stephen who can move as quickly as he does.”

“Then again, so am I.”

GM: “Right. That’s just what I’m wondering. If all real vampires can beat me anyway, and I can hit humans with that… charm, is there a point?”

Celia: “Sometimes you won’t be able to charm them. Sometimes it fails, or they resist it, or you just can’t touch their minds that way. Never only have one plan.”

GM: “Okay. I guess that makes sense.”

Celia: “We’ll test some theories tonight. Let me deal with Reggie real quick and get that out of the way, and then you and I can go talk to club guy, and then we can experiment.”

GM: “Okay. I can go back to your mom’s if you need time with him.”

Celia: “Meeting him in Mid-City. You can chill here if you want, or if you’d rather be at my mom’s I can call you when I’m done. You should just be able to peel the mask off yourself, Dicentra said.”

GM: “Oh! Speaking of, look at this.” Dani turns around. “You’ll have to pull my top to see, but it’s on my shoulder.”

Celia: Celia does just that, lifting Dani’s shirt out of the way so she can see the mark on her back. She lets out a low whistle.

“Lady Justice? I love it.”

GM: “Dicentra said it had to be symbolically fitting, because the tattoo would help me hide. I said that only by hiding could I receive justice, because existing vampire institutions don’t protect my life and liberty.”

“You should have seen the tattoo she gave your mom, too. It was a ballerina surrounded by flowers, with a tutu made out of petals.”

“I really liked her.”

Celia: “That sounds amazing. I’m glad that she was able to make it work for the two of you. She’s… she’s pretty great, yeah.”

It’s the second time this evening she’s had to talk about herself as if she were someone else, and at this point it’s not even mildly disorienting.

Is that a bad sign?

“Have you been practicing with it?”

GM: It can’t be any worse than having sex with herself.

Her doppelgänger. Not herself.

Right?

“I have, yeah, I went to school today with it ‘turned on.’ Nothing happened, but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?”

Celia: The sex with herself was pretty hot, though. She can see why so many other people want to do it.

“That is the point. Usually it’s only other licks you’re going to try to fool. We can practice tonight.”

GM: “I really liked Dicentra. Pete said hugging was a no, but she was okay with it.”

“She said she’d been a mentor to you.”

Celia: “She has been. Makeup isn’t really a skill that vampires consider art, so there were some snide comments from other Toreador, but she’s been cool about it because she sculpts bodies and it’s kind of similar. She pushed me to do more of a med spa than just skincare and makeup.”

GM: “I set up an appointment at Flawless, by the way, I’m not sure if I already mentioned.”

Celia: “You did, yeah. I’m looking forward to it.”

GM: “Me too! Your mom said I shouldn’t pick anything, just lie back and let you do whatever.”

Celia: “Ha. It’s worked for her for years.”

GM: “Your receptionist was also really nice, she said she was a distant cousin of yours?”

Celia: “Natalie? Yeah. She’s great. Sometimes college kids and be flakes but she’s really on the ball.”

“Plus her dance schedule is crazy and I know what that’s like and we’re flexible with it.”

GM: “She mentioned she did dance, yeah, and that being able to get massages for her muscles was really a godsend. Your mom said she wished Flawless was open back when she danced, too.”

Celia: “Speaking of my mom. Your brother doesn’t know about her. Is it okay if we keep that between us?”

GM: “You mean that she knows about all this?”

Celia: “Yeah, that she knows and that she’s been given blood.”

GM: “Okay, I can keep that secret.”

Celia: “I might tell him eventually, I’m just… trying to be careful with how many people know. I don’t think he’d ever hurt her, but if he let it slip to the wrong person…” Celia trails off. “Our sires don’t get along.”

GM: Dani presses her lips. “I have a lot of bad things to stay about Stephen, but he isn’t a blabbermouth.”

“I wanted to tell Emily, by the way. What I was, and about all of this, because she’s your sister and she’s been so nice to me.”

“But your mom was really insistent I shouldn’t do that.”

Celia: “It’s less that he’s a blabbermouth and more just in case his sire can read minds, because I think she can also erase memories. Reading another lick’s mind is a really advanced talent, and one most of us can’t do, but I’d still rather not take chances with my mom.”

“And my mom was right about not telling Emily.”

“I’ve thought about it too, but it’s not worth what it would do to her.”

GM: “That’s basically what she said too.”

“Keeping secrets isn’t new in my family. I know there’s lots of ways for people to spill things when they don’t mean to, and that when there’s such a pervasive level of secrecy about something, there’s probably a valid reason behind it. I’m still just trying to understand what the specific reason is and how this all works.”

Celia: “Mostly it’s just like… we’re all assholes and will stab each other in the back for the slightest advantage.”

“So why give them the knife.”

GM: “I’d like to meet more vampires, so I can understand. But it sounds like we’re going to do that tonight, so, looking forward to it.”

Celia: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” is all Celia says to that.


Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM

GM: LegalWings is open 24/7, even if the place is less staffed at this hour of the night. Jade walks in to find Reggie making out with Bette Malone behind the reception desk.

“Mmm, I’d just love it if your kid could see…” he purrs.

Celia: “Doubt it,” Jade drawls as she steps inside, “pretty sure Ricky beat up her last guy.”

GM: “Exactly,” says Reggie, taking his girl’s arrival in apparent stride. “I’d like to see him try. Then we’d do it in front of him.”

Bette’s a good-looking Italian-American woman in her middle years with dark eyes who still sports long dark brown hair. She still wears it well, unlike many women her age.

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“I’m sorry about that. Can we help you?” she asks, some red tinging her cheeks.

Celia: “I was here for him,” Jade says with a nod to Reggie, “but his brother will do if he’s otherwise occupied.” Jade winks at the pair of them and makes herself scarce, disappearing down the hall to Rusty’s office.

GM: She finds the oldest of the three brothers behind his computer.

“Yes?” he asks as she comes in.

Celia: The sight is a familiar one. Jade seats herself across the desk, one leg crossed over the other.

“Any luck with the phones?” Neither one of them waste time with pleasantries.

GM: “Yes. I’m in. What do you want to know?”

Celia: “Lee. I want to find Lee, or whatever his real name is. A living contact, someone I can pick up.”

GM: “There wasn’t anything on those phones for a Lee.”

Celia: “You said it could help find him.”

GM: “Could,” repeats Rusty.

Celia: Jade sighs at him.

“I need a living person to bring in so I can find out who they are and how they found me.”

“So anyone else they’ve had contact with. Anyone they’ve worked with. Anywhere they’ve been for extended periods of time.”

GM: “There wasn’t very much on these phones. I think they were expecting the phones might fall into other people’s hands.”

“There are calls made out to each other, as well as a single phone number.”

Rusty repeats it. It’s the same one Pete gave.

Celia:Nothing else?”

GM: Rusty also gives her a search on one of them for an address in Mid-City.

It’s the exact same information Pete gave her after getting into them.

Celia: And Pete had only needed to wiggle his fingers to do it.

GM: “It’s 2016. People are getting smarter about privacy and security. They know how much information their phones can carry.”

Celia: “Is it too much to hope for stupid adversaries?”

GM: “Hope is for idiots.”

“As is carrying a smartphone everywhere.”

“Lots of celebrities are using dumphones like these again too.”

Celia: Maybe she should start doing the same. The smartphone is convenient, but even if she keeps everything separate it’s still a risk. Multiple phones only sounds good in theory; it doesn’t prevent them from tracking her through it or whatever else a tech wiz can do.

“So nothing new there. Back to square one.”

“The plants from last night?”

GM: “All quiet there. Might be something later.”

Celia: All quiet.

The words fill her with trepidation. Were she human she imagines that a cold sweat would trickle down her back. How could it be all quiet? Had she trusted the wrong brothers with the task she normally leaves to Rusty? He’s her stealth expert, her breaking and entering guru, the one she’d had trained in advanced forms of shadow dancing that go beyond even her own capabilities. Despite his lack of interpersonal skills he’s the one that she trusts to get shit done when she needs situations monitored from afar.

And now he’s telling her that it’s quiet, and she can’t help but think that maybe she trusted the wrong brothers with the task. Maybe she should have sent Rusty in later, after they’d gotten a measure of their adversary. Demon, she has been thinking; she bugged the home of a demon. If it’s a demon. Maybe it’s a very hungry ghost. Or a disembodied lick. Or a gaggle of licks playing tricks on her.

She’d been hoping for something, anything, to tell her who it is that decided to hire a thin-blood to bug her spa or, maybe more importantly, what the thing inside the house is.

Now, sitting across from Rusty with nothing to go on, there’s a flutter of something like nerves that starts in her core and travels outwards. Butterflies, she thinks, and she wishes they would go away. She doesn’t have time to be nervous. She has shit to do, goals to accomplish, snakes to throw under the bus so she can be lucky all night every night—

Lucky.

She can be lucky. She is lucky. She’d tasted the luck, the gold, the electricity that had traveled through his veins, and she reaches for it now. It’s inside of her. You are what you eat and all that, and she’d stolen it from Gunner and from Josua and that means that it’s hers. Hers to do with as she wishes. Hers to command the fates and the stars and the universe and whatever the fuck else is out there to do what she wants, when she wants, because she’s Celia Fucking Flores and she is a god-damned goddess and she will not be stymied by poorly placed bugs.

She reaches for the butterflies inside of her stomach, the ones that flutter nervously this way and that as if she is some helpless doe, and she twists them. She has always been a physical creature, master of adapting to the situation at hand, able to mold and sculpt people and things to her will; her body will not betray her in this.

Celia brings them into the garden at her core. They touch the petals of the flowers, the bridge she has so recently constructed under her sire’s watchful gaze, the spinning disks of color that make her who she is. She bathes them in the light inside of her, drenches them in liquid luck, and tells them what she wants. They twist, sharpen, change before her very eyes: little bits of her will and intention woven into the fiber of what they are.

She smiles at the sight.

And then she sets them free.

Pic.jpg
GM: Just like that, Rusty frowns and picks up a small device that Celia knows is the bug receiver. Voices emanate from it.

“I’m… hungry…”

“Tough shit.”

The voice is worn. Leathery. Pitiless. Female.

“You wait. Or you get nothing.”

“Back to eating humans.”

There’s a low, booming sound something hard rolling around inside an oven.

Then an even lower screeking sound, followed by a whoosh of preheating gas. Dull, heavy clangs sound at quieter volume, as though from more distant points.

“Bad idea,” says the female voice.

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…” goes a recorded-sounding child’s voice.

There’s an abrupt slam. Dozen of slams A low, warbling, shuddering roar splits the child’s song. It sounds truly pained.

CUNT I’LL EAT YOU I’LL EAT YOU CUNT I’LL EAT YOU CUNT I’LL EAT YOU CUNT EAT YOU CUNT EAT YOU…!”

“Yeah,” says the first voice.

“Bet you would.”

“But I’ve got that while I’m here, and we both know you can’t leave the house.”

The voices abruptly die.

Rusty frowns and checks the receiver.

“Damn. Lost reception.”

“But lucky you stopping by right now, I guess.”

Celia: “Lucky me,” Jade repeats. The bugs need fixed, then. She flashes Rusty a smile. “See what else you can find for me about the hunters.” She won’t tell him how; he’s better at the tech and tracking than she is and she’d be wasting her breath. He’ll know what to do.

The rest of her plans can wait.

In fact, everything else can wait. Everything else can be put on hold for this: finding the bitch before she flees the scene. Maybe it’s not the cunt that sent the thin-blood after her, maybe it’s just a friend of the cunt, or maybe it’s just the Oven Monster’s owner, but she’ll be damned if she lets the bitch get away and goes back to square one with this and the issue with the hunters.

Two quick steps take her to the window; she shoves it open. Her form blurs, twists, and the nightjar takes to the sky.

A little over two miles miles to the house if she’s constrained to roads and sidewalks, but birds don’t need to follow the rules of man. Her wings flap, lifting her higher into the air, riding the thermals to find the perfect cruising altitude and a tailwind to propel her forward. Maybe her luck is spent, but her determination sure as hell isn’t; she’ll run herself ragged if she needs to in order to arrive at the monster’s house with the woman still inside. A glimpse of the bitch, that’s all she needs, and then she’ll know where to go from there.

She can already picture it: dropping out of the sky onto an unsuspecting asshole. Stealing whatever it is that bound the monster to her. Feeding it to him, and what good friends they’d be after that.

She sucks in her aura as she flies, just another nocturnal bird against the dark sky.

She’s not going fast enough. The realization hits her as she flies; she’s caught up in the fantasy of digging her claws into the cunt that sent the half-breed after her. Inside of her the Beast roars with its approval; it all but salivates at the thought of what waits for it. Jade wrestles with it for control for a brief instant before finally giving in and letting it take the reins.

They’re in this together.

The Beast doesn’t just fly; it soars. It burns through the blood in her body, taking what it needs from the girl to fuel its furious flight across the city. It streaks through the sky, no more than a blur to those who happen to look up, instinctively taking the shortest route to the house that has been seared into the girl’s brain. The desire to rip and tear and shred overpowers everything else; her muscles would scream if they could. Instead it will be someone else screaming; all she has to do is find out who.

GM: The nightjar hurtles through the sky.

19.26 miles per hour.

Two miles.

Just over six minutes to get there.

Six minutes, for a normal nightjar.

One whose tiny wings and muscles aren’t dead and tireless.

One not blessed with the preternatural grace and speed of Arikel’s childer.

The unremarkable-looking bird is nothing like the Toreador who wears its shape. No one would notice it even if they could see it, and no one can see it. It’s too fast. It’s a gust of wind; a brief disturbance in the air. Cityscape soars past its binocular avian vision.

Just like that, the nightjar is there, at the Rampart Street address. It lands upon the roof. A woman strides out the back door.

She’s small of frame, around Jade’s height, maybe a little shorter. Caucasian. She looks in maybe her late 50s, with short gray hair and a lined, unattractive face. She’s dressed in a plain gray jumpsuit and sturdy, practical shoes. Women like her are invisible.

The only thing that stands out are her slate-gray eyes.

The eyes are hard and pitiless and ringed with dark circles. They’re the eyes of a human who just walked out of a monster’s lair, and they are utterly unafraid. Cautious, perhaps. But unafraid. There’s awareness of that fact, and even an arrogant, sneering disdain that covers the rest of the face, and speaks to the lone woman’s confidence. But more than anything else, the eyes speak to a soul-deep callousness. They’re eyes jaded to horror. Jaded to seeing it. Perhaps jaded to inflicting it.

The vampire doesn’t smell a drop of vitae on her.

The woman produces a tiny vial on a cord around her neck. She uncorks it and lets a drop of something red spill onto her finger. It looks like blood, smells like blood, but there’s something… off about the scent. The woman traces the blood over her forehead in a half-circular pattern, adds a line beneath it, and abruptly vanishes.

The nightjar is left seemingly alone.

Celia: Even in this form, the nightjar knows that her nose does not deceive her when she sniffs the air following the abrupt departure, searching for signs of the woman’s passing. She’s gone. Vanished. Not merely turned invisible, but actually gone—as if she had been teleported elsewhere.

Mage? Demon handler? She knows very well that licks are not the only things that go bump in the night. What sort of being can control a… demon? Poltergeist? She doesn’t know. Nor does she have any idea what it wants with her or why it had hired someone to bug her office.

Or if it was this thing at all.

She’d learned quite a bit for all that it didn’t truly answer her questions, though. Things to dissect later, when she does not have other pressing needs to attend to.

The nightjar flaps its wings, flitting through the night to find a safer place to exchange one form for another. She has hunting to do.


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, PM

Celia: Celia takes her time getting ready for the hunt. It’s a delicate thing, this hunt. The right time but the wrong night, and if she were only hunting for herself it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But she isn’t hunting for herself, or rather she isn’t only hunting for herself. She’s hunting for the blood that she owes Lebeaux and the juice she’d promised Flannagan she’d bring to their meeting tomorrow.

And she’s hungry. So very, very hungry. She’s tired of being hungry.

She recalls, though, the thermos of blood that Dani had conveniently dropped off for her prior to her trip to Mid-City (she hadn’t wanted to see Reggie but is waiting for Celia to get back so they can run those other errands she’d mentioned, so she needs to make this quick), and after locking herself in the appropriate room in her spa—where else would she get ready?—she sniffs at the contents to make sure it’s an appropriate temperature. Her Beast howls its approval; the thermos had done its job well. She quaffs the blood, draining the steel container dry. She licks at the rim, licks at the lid, licks to make sure that it is entirely emptied and that not a single drop of blood remains. Then she tucks it back into her purse.

Maybe she’ll have Dani fill it again. Payment for services rendered.

Then she’s off again, face and makeup and hair done up to make her look like any other thrill-seeking young adult.

The thing about New Orleans is even though it’s a weekday there are enough tourists around that don’t need to be at work the next morning that the clubs are still poppin’. Not as busy as they’d be on a weekend, of course, but still busy enough for a lick to get her fix.

She finds it dancing on the floor of her chosen club, the Cat’s Meow, one of those lurid blue drinks in hand that seems to glow under the light from above. Celia’s smile is full of promises. A wink here, a touch there, and she has them eating out of the palm of her hand. They find a private locale and Celia sinks in.

GM: Wednesdays are a slow night for clubbing, but it’s never a slow night when you’re Celia Flores. Most guys are ignorant who she is, but their girlfriends all know. Celia lures a 20something yuppie tourist couple into a sweaty bathroom stall liaison. She rides the boy’s cock even as she eats out his girlfriend. She remembers the way Josua sank his fangs into her pubic mound and does that here. She feels her Beast’s hungry growls subside into a low murmur. She excuses herself for a moment, bleeding some of the vitae into Dani’s thermos, and returns to pleasure the boy with her mouth. It’s so easy to steal his blood together with his seed: the former is long since swallowed by the time she spits out the latter.

The boy complains about it.

Celia: Well she can’t have that. That poor kine, unsatisfied because Celia Flores hadn’t swallowed for him. She makes it up to him by taking him back into her mouth and giving him that red kiss, drinking more deeply from him than she had. She’d only taken a little nip before, just a taste to sate her Beast—she’d taken her fill earlier from his girlfriend—but now she gives him the same treatment until he’s weak in the knees and light in the head, excess going right into that thermos.

When he cums—and he does, she sees to it that he does—she swallows what she wants and then giggles and kisses his girlfriend, sharing the white stuff with her. Snowballing, they call it.

GM: Celia drinks deep. Oh so deep. The man sinks to the ground as she blows him, heedless of his girlfriend’s exclamations about how “oh my god, this is a public bathroom! You’ll have to sterilize those pants!”

He does things with his hands and mouth, at first. Pleasures her breasts while his girlfriend pleasures Celia’s loins with her fingers. As the vampire takes more, he eventually stops and just lays his hands on the floor, like a 19-year-old virgin Celia not sure what she’s supposed to do with them. His eyes close.

That brings him out of his funk for a bit, though, to see two kissing girls sharing his cum. Celia is so meticulous to share it all. The very fatigued-looking gives a very bleary smile and tries to stand up, perhaps hoping for round three. He awkwardly staggers forward, futilely tries to catch his fall against the stall’s obscenity-painted flat wall, and crashes flat on his face.

“Shit!” exclaims his girlfriend, rushing to his side. He moans under her touch.

“Oh my god, he’s pale. I think he’s really sick…”

“Those… hot dogs…” he groans.

“I told you those were sketchy! That guy had a handmade sign!” she berates.

Celia: They give her the excuse she needs; she’d been going to blame the alcohol, the sex, the sketchy bathroom. Maybe make up a lie about someone spiking drinks recently. No doubt that’ll end up online, though, and the place will take a ding, and it’ll make subsequent hunts harder.

This is perfect.

“Oh no,” Celia groans, “don’t tell me you mean the guy with the cart down the block?” A random guess, but vague enough that it might work. “You’ll want to take him back to your house. Hotel? Let him sleep it off, he might be down for a bit. My sister was knocked out for, like, three days after that.” Celia makes a face.

GM: “Fucking street vendors,” mutters the girl. “It wasn’t even a cart, it was a table with a sign taped to it. Just so sketchy.”

She tries to help up her guy. “C’mon, let’s get you out…”

She struggles under his weight as he lets her all but carry him.

“I don’t feel good…” he moans.

“Yes, I could tell.”

Celia: Celia hovers awkwardly, doing that vague thing with her hands that makes it look like she wants to help but isn’t sure how. She supports him where she can.

“Sorry,” she murmurs to the girl, “this probably didn’t help, you just seemed so excited about it and…” she trails off helplessly.

GM: “Just—ugh, there’s nowhere to sit in these stupid clubs! The bartender’d give us crap!” the girl huffs as she struggles under her barely shuffling boyfriend’s weight.

Celia: “Where are you staying? How far?”

GM: “At a hotel, it’s too far to walk, especially like this. I’d use my hands to hail a Ryde if he wasn’t about to friggin’ fall over!”

Celia: “Come on,” Celia says, “I’ve got him. Call for that Ryde and we’ll get him into the car.”

It’s a small thing, but maybe it makes up for what she’s done to them.

Maybe.


Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM

Celia: ‘Good deed’ done for the evening, Celia gives Dani a call on her way to the Evergreen.

GM: It’s answered on the second ring.

“Hey,” she smiles.

Celia: “Hey Dani, wanted to see if you’re still up to go out. I know you have school early. I’m making a quick stop then can pick you up.”

“Or we can meet up first, if you’d rather?”

GM: “Is the quick stop anything you could use me around for?”

Celia: “Not really. Just dropping something off.”

GM: “Okay, maybe after then. There anything I should bring along?”

Celia: “Mm, wear something cute. We’re meeting some of my friends. I’d love for you to show off your new tattoo, actually.”

It’s about as subtle as she can make it while still telling her what she needs: it’s time to test the mask. They’d talked about testing it and now’s the time.

GM: “Oh, good idea. You think I should make the tattoo the center of the outfit, and not wear anything that’d distract?”

Actually wear something cute, or are they just testing the tattoo?

Celia: “Probably,” Celia readily agrees, “they’re pretty discerning and kind of snobby sometimes.”

They’re that kind of lick.

GM: “Okay, sounds good. I’ll see you in a bit.”

Celia: “See you soon!” Celia hangs up and heads into the Evergreen to ask after Lebeaux.

GM: Late Wednesday night at the Evergreen isn’t so busy as the weekends. Celia finds Mélissaire in the midst of arranging some trysts between clients and girls. The warden isn’t currently in, but they expect him back “around 4 AM.”

Celia: Celia pencils herself into his schedule at that time.

Celia: There’s something she needs to talk to Mel about, but Dani is waiting on her. She’ll come by later for that. She waves goodbye to the ghoul and heads out to meet the girl.

GM: She finds Dani dressed in the same outfit she last saw the girl in, a blue top and darker skirt. Her tattoo isn’t visible.

“I can change if this isn’t right for where we’re going.”

“Also, are your calls being monitored?”

Celia: “Not specifically, but my salon was bugged and hunters are known to do this sort of thing. Phones are easy to bug. You don’t want to say anything sensitive about any of this.”

“Anything sensitive, you say in person.”

“Not even hunters, just anything.”

“Did you think of a new name for your mask?”

GM: “Okay. That makes sense. I know the basics of wiretapping and all that.”

“I guess Van Helsing got high-tech.”

“And I guess I don’t have much imagination, because the best I came up with was Hannah.”

Celia: “You also might not want to mention Stephen by name via phone.”

“Since he’s… dead.”

GM: “Good point. That didn’t occur to me when I was mad.”

Celia: “All good. And Hannah is fine, if that’s what you want. You can always change it.”

GM: “I just picked it because it sounded forgettable.”

“Ordinary American name.”

Celia: “It is forgettable. And that makes it good.” Celia smiles at her. “So we can use the mask and pass you off as my ghoul if you’d like, since I wouldn’t bring a breather into this club. We’ll see if the Duskborn thing fools the guy we’re going to meet.”

Celia: “And if not, then we reassess in the future and change the mask.”

GM: “Okay, sounds good,” Dani smiles back.

Celia: “You remember how to act the part?”

GM: “Basically your employee. Subservient.”

Celia: “We’ll say you’re new if you slip up.”

GM: “Your mom said that licks can be really cruel to renfields. That they can see them as slaves.”

“Hit them and humiliate them.”

Celia: “And worse than that, yeah. I’ve seen some shit.”

GM: “She also said some are better.”

“Or rather, she said you said.”

Celia: “Some of them are better. Your brother is one of them.”

“And… well, me, I hope.”

GM: “Alana seemed… pretty okay.”

“What’s Stephen like?”

Celia: “One is a lawyer. She brings home work for him that he does and she gets the credit. He bills her but she looks good.”

“…I’m not sure about the rest.”

“But… I mean, out of all the licks I know, he’s the most… good.”

“I heard that he’s pushing for better ghoul rights.”

“Things like that.”

GM: “Maybe he’s actually a jerk if that’s all you know,” Dani hmphs.

Celia: “We’re very private people. He doesn’t know about all of mine.”

GM: “Why make people ghouls?”

“I mean, I get it, your mom explained they live forever.”

Celia: “They get powers from us. Stronger, faster. Live forever. They manage our affairs during the day.”

GM: “Sure, but there’s… side effects.”

“Some people might rather not be ghouls, so why not just tell them the truth?”

Celia: “People like your brother give them that option.”

“Some people don’t.”

GM: Dani looks surprised. “What’s he do if they say no?”

Celia: “Has his sire wipe their memories.”

GM: “Oh. That actually wasn’t what I meant. Why not have people serve a ghoul’s role without actually being a ghoul?”

“Like, why not just tell your mom the truth without giving her blood.”

Celia: “If anyone finds out what she knows she’s a risk to the whole secrecy thing. The Traditions.”

GM: “Sure, you’re following the law so the two of you won’t get punished for not following it, but I mean why do the Traditions mandate that. The Masquerade is obviously imperfect anyways if there are hunters. Why not just let ‘friendly’ humans know the truth? Why do they have to be ghouls?”

Celia: “It’s just against the rules. Someone who finds out will use it against you. Blackmail. I don’t think you understand the, uh, whole severity of it. The people in charge made the rules and we have to follow them because they have all the power. It’s like that with humans, too, and laws they make.”

There’s a brief pause.

“Honestly, your brother might be the best person to talk to about it.”

“He seemed to be better at explaining everything than I was.”

GM: “Okay, sure, but that’s not what I asked. I meant why are the rules this way. Why do they prohibit telling humans about vampires without also turning them into ghouls. Because the whole premise of the Masquerade seems faulty when there are vampire hunters. There are humans who find out anyway.”

Celia: “It was that way. A long time ago there was a city that was open about what they are, and vampires and humans lived and worked in harmony. And the Brujah say it was a really amazing place and things went well. But there was some beef between the Ventrue and the Brujah during the, um, Punic Wars. So the Ventrue started the Camarilla and said it was bad what the Brujah were doing, so they created the Traditions. It’s… literally just another way for them to control everything and say that they’re right since they think they that they should be in charge of everything.”

“Like, that’s how all governments are. They say what they want and create things to be that way and everyone goes along with it and if you don’t you’re punished. And there’s not really anyone you can go to to complain about it. Don’t like it? Leave the city. But it’s the same everywhere.”

GM: “So there isn’t an actual practical reason for it. It’s the same bullshit that says duskborn are ‘less than.’” Dani looks angry.

“I don’t think your mom wants to be a ghoul. But it’s that or you both get executed.”

“All the Camarilla seems like it does is make people miserable.”

Celia: Celia sighs.

“I’m working on another avenue for her. Did she tell you that? That she doesn’t want to be?”

“And… yeah. The world pretty much sucks. There are some cool perks, but otherwise it can be awful and lonely and isolating and demoralizing and all sorts of depressing. I didn’t have a choice, just like my mom didn’t have a choice. She… might have died, Dani, there was a lot of blood.” There’s a haunted look in her eyes as she lifts them from the ground to take in the girl before her. “We’re monsters. Worse than what they write about in fiction. It’s not some romantic tale about vigilante justice or eternal love or whatever the books make it out to be. We hunt and kill and prey on people. And when you do that long enough you turn into things like them, the people who are in charge. You stop caring. You get callous and cold and awful.”

“But, honestly, you’d need to ask someone better versed in history than me about it because I don’t think I’m doing a good job explaining things, and it’s all very one sided what I tell you right now because it’s what I heard from Roderick.”

GM: Dani listens to Celia’s explanation with that same unsmiling look.

“Well, who can I ask? You’re the only lick I know. You and my brother.”

“And Pete, but I don’t know if that counts.”

“I agree, though, that it’s important to know the history of all this, and how things got to be this way.”

Celia: “Your brother is a good source,” Celia says again.

“But we’re going to meet a Ventrue, I could talk to him about it if you want.”

GM: Dani nods. “Yes, please!”

Celia: “History just wasn’t… it’s not my sire’s thing, you know?”

“So I don’t know all of it.”

GM: “Well, that makes us all. And no, your mom didn’t tell me she didn’t want to be a ghoul, it’s just my read.”

Celia: “I don’t want her to be one any more than she wants to be one.”

“I’d also like you to speak with him tonight.”

“Your brother.”

“If your dad is coming over on Friday, and he’s going to be there, I’d like you two to work things out so there’s no drama at dinner.”

GM: “I figured you didn’t. That’s why it’s so fucked.”

Celia: “It’s a relief that she knows.” There’s a small smile on her face. “She… said she still loves me, even like this, and that’s… you know?”

GM: “Yeah.” Dani smiles. “I’m happy you both still have that. You deserve it.”

Celia: Does she? After all she’s done?

Celia doesn’t voice the thought. She’s glad one of them still thinks kind words about her.

GM: “And I’ll talk with my brother, like I said. I’m just not expecting a lot.”

“Wish I had a sibling more like yours.”

Celia: “Who, Emily?”

GM: “Yeah.”

Celia: “She makes up for the one I have that I don’t get along with.”

“For what it’s worth, Dani, he means well. He’s just… you know.”

GM: “Why are you changing your mind about him?”

Celia: “What do you mean?”

GM: “You weren’t pushing me to make up earlier.”

Celia: Celia sighs. She runs a hand down her face.

“I fucked up, Dani. The way I introduced you. I should have prepped you better, I shouldn’t have said some of the things I did, I should have… been better about it. I’m sorry. It’s my fault.”

GM: “You didn’t do anything. Stephen’s responsible for his own behavior.”

Celia: “I could have done it better,” Celia says quietly. “And now you two are fighting and it’s… it’s my fault.”

GM: “It’s his fault.”

Celia: “Will you at least talk to him and let me try to fix it?”

“So I can just… feel better about it?”

GM: “Yes, I said I’d do that.”

“I’m just not expecting anything to come of it.”

“Since he’s an ass.”

Celia: “Well, come on then, we can at least do something you’ll enjoy.”


Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM

GM: The Twilight Club is located on the upper floor of a set of shops next to the Beach on Bourbon. Entrance to the club is obtained via a flight of stairs in the middle of the building that leads up into a hollowed alcove. At the top of the stairs is a solid white door that opens into the club. Because the club is not advertised and has no signs to attract attention, Jade knows almost no mortals try to go there, and those who do are told it is a private room.

The club’s interior is furnished in an elegant style resembling a gentleman’s club from the 1920s. Dark brown carpeting covers the floor from wall to large. Oak-stained bookcases reaching from floor to ceiling line two of the walls. The wall facing facing the street has two large French windows that open onto a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. Jazz music wafts into it from the street and from nearby buildings. Piper would probably love the place.

The club is divided into two sections to accommodate the stairwell. One side serves as a game area, featuring a pool table surrounded by several barstools and with a light hanging overhead. The other side has a wide TV (currently turned off) set beside several lounge tables and chairs. The center of the room has large, plush leather couch with cherry-wood end tables on either side and a glass-topped coffee table before it. The table has current copies of various magazines and newspapers from Forbes to The Wall Street Journal. Two wingbacked chairs with tan upholstery sit on opposite sides facing the couch, along with several more end tables.

Several Kindred are at the club tonight. Gui is there, playing a game of cribbage with Sterling (“The Man With the Silver Smile”) while several ghouls watch. Eris D. and Emerson Newhouse Hearst play a game of pool.

“Laura Melton” is also present, smiling as she watches the cribbage and pools.

“…so, boom, just like that, he blew the head clean off,” says Hearst over a tap-clunk from the pool stick.

“Ooh, I’m still gonna get some fourth opinions from the voices, but… I think I believe you,” smiles Eris.

“‘Cuz I’m handsome?” smirks Hearst.

Eris giggles. “Okay, because of that too.”

“Also, if he was really exaggerating, he’d have said he did it,” Laura Melton smiles up at the biker.

Hearst inclines his head in gracious acknowledgement.

Gui, meanwhile, motions for a pause to the cribbage game as he gets up to greet Jade.

“Miss Kalani, always a pleasure. More beauty is never an unwelcome sight at my door.”

He doesn’t spare Hannah a glance.

Celia: Celia (Jade) tells Dani (Hannah) on the way that there’s a chance she’s going to be completely ignored by the Kindred in the hall. A lot of them don’t even notice the ghouls that serve; they’re all but invisible to the licks of the city. But she also mentions, because she has a penchant for over-complicating everything with “what if?” scenarios, that they might pay attention to her as a new face with Jade, and suggests that they play into the “temporary ghoul who caught my interest” stereotype that is true of almost all Toreador. She remembers that Dani had an interest in writing when they’d met all those years ago (something about the school paper?) and suggests she try something along those lines.

“Maybe poetry. Or tongue-twisters. Or riddles!” She gives her a few that stuck with her from months ago, though she doesn’t mention the when or why of how she came across them, and only shrugs if Hannah asks.

She leads the way up the stairs, eyes sweeping across the room to take in the various licks and ghouls—where’s that white one that runs around with Sterling?—though her attention is captured almost immediately by Melton (convenient) and Gui.

“Mister Gui.” Jade purrs his name as he steps closer, a smile curling the corners of her lips and lighting up her eyes. She rises to the tips of her toes to air kiss both cheeks when he stops before her. “You certainly know how to make a lick feel both welcome and desired.”

GM: Dani thinks those are good riddles. She’ll try those if anyone pays attention to her.

The albino actually isn’t here tonight.

Gui kisses her cheeks back.

“Easy to do both when it’s a desirable lick. What can I do for you this evening?”

Celia: One of these nights she’ll stop in just to say hello and play a game of pool with the licks at the table. Maybe when she doesn’t have her boyfriend’s sister in tow.

“I’m hoping to steal a moment of your time, if you don’t mind stepping away from your game.”

GM: “All right. Miss Melton, maybe you and Sterling would care to start a separate game.”

Both Kindred indicate they’d be happy to.

Gui takes Jade outside to the to the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. Hannah is still ignored.

Celia: Jade lets Hannah decide what she wants to do, whether that’s remain behind to watch the licks with the other ghouls or follow her out to the balcony.

Celia: Once outside she leans a hip against the balcony, looking out over the streets below.

“There was an incident a few nights ago at one of your clubs,” she says after a moment. “I’d hoped that you could help shed some light on it.”

GM: Hannah follows them.

“Go on,” says Gui.

Celia: “A girl was Embraced. I’d like to find out by who. You don’t happen to have cameras in your club, do you?”

GM: “Sure. Cameras won’t catch any licks, though.”

Celia: “They’ll catch this one.”

GM: “Oh?”

Celia: She gives him a look. There’s only one sort of lick caught on cameras.

GM: He shakes his head in disgust.

“Don’t know what it is to you, but I’m not going to have licks making abortions at my club.”

Celia: “Hence my desire to find the thing.”

GM: “I’ll take care of them. I trust you’ve already taken care of the bastard?”

Celia: Jade gives him a playful smile.

“Remember that thing I showed you? I need more parts. They’re so… versatile.”

GM: “Yes, I do. You’re a lick of many talents.”

Celia: He has no idea.

“That’s why it interests me,” she says with a shrug, “and why I’d like to find him and take him off your hands.”

GM: “Assuming it’s a he.”

Celia: “He, she, they’re both destined for death. Does it matter?”

GM: He stares down over the busy street’s throngs of partygoers. Bourbon Street is never quiet, at least at night.

“I suppose not. I’ll let you know if my people find anything on the cameras.”

Celia: “Thanks, Reynaldo.” She smiles up at him.

GM: “My pleasure, lush.”

Celia: “You’ll let me know if not so I can pursue other avenues, won’t you?” She doesn’t quite bat her lashes—it’s not that obvious—but her eyes widen as she looks up at him with slightly parted lips and they flutter becomingly.

GM: Gui looks at her with some amusement.

“That’s a lot of trouble for the sire of an ashed abortion.”

“There are corpses in the Red Room if you’re short on parts.”

Celia: “Corpses can’t regrow,” Jade pouts.

GM: “I didn’t know abortions could do that.”

Celia: “They’re full of surprises.”

GM: “I suppose they are.” He glances back in the club. “Ah, seems Hearst’s left. We’d better help keep the game going.”

Celia: “Pool?” Jade arches a brow but follows him in.

GM: The pair are interrupted when the club’s door slams open. Camilla Doriocourt and Alexander Wright stride in, accompanied by several ghouls.

Doriocourt stares coldly at Sterling.

“You. With us.”

Celia: Jade hangs back with Hannah, watching the events unfold. She wonders what Sterling had done that Wright and Doriocourt have been sent to retrieve him.

GM: “Me?” asks Sterling in an amusedly quizzical tone. He points to his head with both hands as if to make fully sure. “‘With you’ in what sense, Hound Doriocourt? Because I ca-”

Whatever witty line he had gets cut off as Wright blurs forward and rams a stake into the Malkavian’s chest. He topples over backwards.

Celia: She makes no move to intervene. Not her fight. She barely knows the gambler.

GM: Laura Melton and Eris D. look as if they’ve both reached a similar conclusion.

Gui seems to read the room and consider the odds. Two of the hounds and their ghoul backup against him and any of the renfields that are his. Three noncombatant licks who’d probably rather save their skins.

Celia: She’s less interested in her own skin than the “ghoul” she’d brought with her. It’s a quick swipe of a blade to separate her head from her shoulders. Jade makes a motion at her behind her back to stay there; they’d been on their way in from the balcony, but Hannah hadn’t yet crossed the threshold. Jade plants a hip against the door and crosses her arms, a casual pose that lets her body block the girl from coming in.

“What’d he do?” she drawls as the Malkavian falls.

GM: The hounds ignore Jade completely as their ghouls hoist up the staked Kindred.

Celia: Cunts.

GM: “We’re happy to assist the prince’s justice,” smiles Gui. “Do you need help moving him to your car?”

“No,” responds Doriocourt.

Wright doesn’t say anything. Without further ado, the hounds and their ghouls troop out of the club with Sterling’s paralyzed corpse.

Celia: Jade really hates that bitch.

GM: “A visit from the prince’s jackbooted thugs. That’s always fun,” says Melton after they’re gone.

Celia: “They sure know how to ruin the mood.”

Emerson certainly had a timely exit.

GM: “Why did that happen?” Hannah asks Jade. Her eyes don’t fully rest on the Toreador’s, though, as if hoping some of the other Kindred will explain.

Gui glances at the ‘ghoul.’ It’s not an inviting glance.

“Let’s show them they can’t,” he smiles, as if she hadn’t said anything.

Celia: Jade’s lips twist. She doesn’t offer an explanation to the other licks for her overly curious ghoul.

“What do you have in mind?”

GM: “I’ve got a bottle of vitae from a rather succulent vessel saved here. It’ll go to whoever beats me at poker. And if I win, the loser has to bleed herself.”

“I’d rather watch,” smiles Melton.

“I’ll be the moral support.”

Hannah doesn’t look happy to be ignored, but says nothing further.

Celia: They have time for a game. Jade fires off a quick text to Roderick about meeting up later and gives an approximate time for the three of them to get together. Then she takes Sterling’s abandoned seat.

“I hope this spot isn’t unlucky.” A glance at Melton, a lift of her brows. “I’ve got a seat for you if you want to be my moral support.” She pats her lap and winks.


Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM

GM: Melton is happy to “support” Jade during her hand, but she ends up breaking even when Eris D. wins the poker game and claims Gui’s bottle of vitae. Shep Jennings comes in with Marcio de la Cruz at the tail end, and it’s like Sterling wasn’t staked and abducted on the premises at all.

Hannah doesn’t look especially happy as they drive away.

“They treated me like I was invisible.”

Celia: “Yes,” Jade agrees. She’s not terribly upset about not winning; at least she hadn’t lost. And Melton hadn’t seemed too put out with what happened in the shower, or at least hadn’t brought it up, and Jade had left it alone. No one else’s business, really. She’d alluded to getting together later and left it at that.

“They would treat you worse if they knew what you are.”

“Being invisible can be useful.”

“They say things around you. Think you’re not listening.”

GM: “I guess. This was… honestly pretty disappointing.”

“I thought I’d at least get to talk to other vampires.”

“And the ghouls didn’t seem like they wanted to talk either.”

“I’m happy I have you and your mom, but I just wanted to get to know some other… blooded people.”

Celia: “I’m sorry,” Jade says to her. “I know how much you want to be part of the group. This is what I mean, though, everyone is…. kind of an asshole”

GM: “Just was really disappointing.”

“Are all get-togethers like this? Are there ones I can actually talk to other vampires at?”

Celia: “As a ghoul or thin-blood?”

GM: “Either.”

“And I like ‘duskborn’ more than ‘thin-blood.’”

Celia: ‘Thin-blood’ is better than ‘abortion,’ but Jade doesn’t point it out.

“I’m going to talk to someone who knows more about the duskborn tomorrow. She’ll have a better idea. Alana might have a good idea for ghoul get-togethers, too. They’re usually not very, um, front and center at lick events.”

GM: “Can I come to that? I’d like to hear whatever she has to say too.”

Celia: “Yes.” A pause, then, “She’s kind of weird.”

GM: “Well, so’s all of this.”

Celia: “She’s weird by lick standards.”

GM: “I’ll take it if she at least talks to me. I’ll ask Alana about ghoul get-togethers, too.”

“Maybe I should try to meet other duskborn, though. They don’t have any reason to treat me badly.”

Celia: “You’re pampered by another lick,” Jade points out, “they could be jealous.”

“I’d leave that out of any chatting you do.”

GM: “I won’t say anything, then. Do they have a place they tend to meet up?”

Celia: “I see a lot of them around Jackson Square, but… I’d look for someone more like Strickland. She seems to have a better handle on things.”

GM: “Strickland?”

Celia: “Pat. Patricia. She’s duskborn like you. Was one of the only survivors of the massacre I told you about. She fights pretty hard for equality.”

GM: “She sounds like the first person I want to talk with, then.”

“Where can I find her?”

Celia: Aside from her lover’s house?

“Not sure. The girl tomorrow might know.”

GM: “Okay. All the more reason to see her, then.”

“I hope Gui can find something on those cameras.”

Celia: “Me too. Otherwise I’m sure I’ll need to trade him a favor to get access to the club and do some digging.”

“And possibly tell him that I have more of a personal interest in it than I let on.” She sighs.

GM: “I’ll make it up to you, if you have to. Just tell me how.”

“I don’t want to be a burden.”

Celia: “The blood you brought me earlier? That was really thoughtful. And helpful. Kept me from losing my cool when I had to pick up more.”

GM: “Okay. I can do that again.”

Celia: “I’ll let you know if I think of anything else. But it saves a lot of time, too. I appreciated it.”

GM: “I’m glad.”

Celia: “Ready to see your brother?”

GM: “I suppose as I’ll ever be.”


Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM

Celia: Celia takes Dani back to her place, the one where they’d met up earlier this evening. She’d offered Roderick the use of Randy to drive if he needs to do his incognito thing; no one will think it weird if Randy is coming to meet her.

“I suppose I could clean up a bit,” Celia says wryly, eyeing the destroyed chair from last time she’d brought Roderick over. “I still need to order furniture for my other place. Want to help me pick some stuff out?” She pulls out a phone.

GM: Dani is happy to and spends a while picking out pieces with Celia. Eventually, there’s a knock at the door.

Celia: “You ready?” she asks the girl.

GM: “I’m not scared of him. Just mad.”

Celia: Celia squeezes her hand. “It’s gonna be okay.”

She moves to open the door.

GM: Roderick walks in. “Dani, Celia. Hey,” he says, giving Celia’s hand a squeeze but not a full hug, seemingly so as not to block out Dani from his sight.

“Hey,” his sister responds curtly.

“So, there’s going to be a dinner with dad-”

“Yes, I know,” she interrupts.

“Right. I’d just like to clear the air, so things aren’t tense at it.”

“Okay. Go clear the air,” says Dani.

Celia: Celia takes a seat, gesturing for Roderick to do the same.

GM: Roderick gratefully takes the opening.

Dani stands for a moment, then sits on a separate chair, crossing her arms.

“I’m sorry I scared you the last time I was here,” he starts.

“I’m not scared of you.”

He doesn’t argue the point. “I’m sorry I lost my temper and physically manhandled you.”

“Great,” says Dani.

Roderick’s silent for a moment at the aloof response, then continues, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me to be. I know how hard all of this has been for you, and-”

“I don’t think you know at all, actually,” says Dani, arms still crossed.

“Since when haven’t you been the golden child who wins at everything.”

Celia: The girl has a point. Roderick has been exceptionally lucky with his Requiem.

GM: “Believe me, Dani, I know what it’s like now for not everything to go my way-”

“Oh, yeah right,” his sister scoffs.

Celia: “What happened?” Celia asks him, concern in her voice.

GM: “It’s nothing new,” he answers. “You’ve just… you’ve shared a lot with me recently, Celia. You know my Requiem isn’t a bed of roses, and that I have problems too.”

“Oh, I feel so bad for you!” Dani exclaims, rolling her eyes. “Poor Stephen, not everything going his way! Too much tarnish on the silver platter?”

“The Requiem isn’t easy for anyone, Dani-”

“Oh, sure! Way fucking easier for you than me, looks like!”

“Hey,” she continues, “if yours is so bad, wanna trade? You wanna be an ‘abortion?’”

Celia: “Rod, why don’t you—” she cuts off, wincing at Dani’s slur.

GM: Roderick winces. “I’m sorry you heard that term.”

“You’re sorry, that’s useful.”

“I hope it can be. I came here to apolog-”

“Great, you’ve apologized. Good for you. Did your good deed. Your sister’s being totally unreasonable if she’s still mad.”

Celia: “Dani,” Celia says softly, “you only have one brother. You’re stuck with him. Maybe just… give him a chance to explain some of what’s going on with him?”

GM: “Oh so it’s about him. His problems. His apologies. Him getting to cross that off his do list, ‘said sorry to my abortion sister.’”

Celia: “That’s not what this is about.”

“And if it were, you know I’d boot him out of here.”

GM: “She would,” says Roderick. “This is about you.”

Dani just waits expectantly.

Celia: “He’s starting off with an apology because you deserve an apology for what happened, not to lighten his conscience.”

“Rod, why don’t you… tell her a little bit. About stuff recently?”

“Or do you want to see that he wasn’t making up the thing about the Beast, Dani?”

GM: “Yeah, let’s see that. I don’t care what he’s been up to,” says Dani.

“Because, oh my god, does this whole ‘Beast’ thing sound just like Celia’s dad.”

“’It’s not really me that’s beating my wife and kids!’”

Celia: “Do you want to, ah, hold me down, or do you think you can catch me when it gets out?”

GM: “I can catch you,” says Roderick.

“Because you’ll always win against a girl,” says Dani.

Celia: “He’s stronger and faster than me.”

“His clan makes it more pronounced.”

GM: She doesn’t argue the point further.

Celia: “You can… um, you want to just punch me, or…?”

That definitely sells the idea he’s not abusive.

GM:Oh my god,” says Dani.

Celia: “There are only a few ways to bring it out. Violence is one of them.”

GM: “Yes, heaven fucking forbid you should lose it if someone hits you!”

“Especially a guy who says he loves you.”

“I’m sure that isn’t a sore spot at all.”

“Maybe we should bring it out another way,” says Roderick.

Celia: “I just ate,” Celia sighs.

GM: “Okay. We could try fire, but that might set me off too.”

Celia: “No fire.”

GM: “Maybe Dani could hurt you.”

Celia: “You’ll catch me before I get to her?”

GM: “Yep.”

Celia: “You swear?

GM: “I swear. I won’t let you hurt her.”

“How noble,” says Dani.

Celia: “There’s probably a knife in the kitchen, if you want to stab me, Dani. Or could punch my nose, I guess. Quick jab, break it.”

GM: Dani takes that in slowly. “You want me to break your nose?”

“It’s fine,” says Roderick. “We heal easily.”

Celia: Celia just nods.

She rises, readying herself to get hit in the face.

“Pretend I’m him,” she suggests.

GM: “I don’t want to hurt you…”

Celia: “It won’t.”

“I mean, it will. But not lasting.”

GM: “…I’m not sure I can break a nose with my hand, either. It’d have to be the knife…”

Celia: “Nose bones are pretty easy to break.”

“But you can grab a knife if you want.”

GM: “They look that way in the movies, but movies get a lot of stuff wrong.”

Celia: Celia’s nose has been broken enough times that she’s pretty sure they’re more delicate than all that, but she just smiles.

She moves into the kitchen to find the blade, offering the large butcher’s knife to Dani.

“It will hurt for a minute,” she says, “but no lasting damage.”

“And I think it’s important you see this.”

“Because the Beast is very real. And it comes out enough that you should be aware of it. In our society, you’re held responsible for what it does, even though it’s not you. But with your brother and I… it’s different when you’re in love, Dani. I can’t blame him for what he does to me when he’s like that, because it’s so, so hard to control.”

GM: Dani looks dubious as she accepts the knife, but says, “Well, all right. Do you have anywhere you want me to… stab you?”

Celia: “Side has worked before.”

“Or back, so I’m facing your brother.”

GM: “Okay. Do you do you want to take your dress off so I don’t ruin it?”

Celia: “Good thinking.”

GM: “Your belly might be best,” says Roderick. “So she can see the change on your face.”

Celia: Fortunately, Celia’s never minded nudity. She lets Roderick unzip the back of it for her, thoughts traveling to another lick who had helped her out of a dress only recently, and steps out of the material. She’s left in her lacy black bra and panties and looks not the least bit uncomfortable as she stands in front of Dani, waiting for the girl to plunge the knife into her stomach.

“Ready.”

GM: Dani looks a little bashful at Celia’s near-nude state, but doesn’t look away. She lifts up the knife. She looks at Celia’s belly, then back to the knife.

She lifts it higher.

She looks back at Celia’s stomach.

Her grip around the knife tightens.

Her face scrunches.

Finally, she lowers it.

“I… I can’t,” murmurs the twice-bound duskborn.

Celia: Well, here goes nothing.

“You’re a fucking abortion and I was embarrassed to be seen with you,” Jade snarls at her.

GM: Dani glares angrily. Her knuckles around the knife tighten.

But that’s all they do.

Celia: “You can’t even stab someone?”

“Christ, waste of space. She’s all yours, Rod. I’m done wasting my time on this pathetic half breed.”

GM: Dani’s eyes brim with anger.

She tries to lift the knife again.

But she cannot bring herself to strike her regnant.

Roderick frowns.

Celia: “Do it,” she tells Roderick. “Show her.”

GM: “You could stab yourself. Pain is pain. Beast doesn’t care who it’s from.”

Celia: “Great, thanks for making me look like a bitch for no reason.”

GM: “It was a good idea,” he says.

Celia: “No it wasn’t. Now she thinks that’s what I think of her.”

“It was stupid. It’s all just fucking stupid.”

Like me, goes unsaid.

GM: Dani’s silent throughout the two’s initial exchange.

“I know it’s not,” she finally says, slowly. “You just…”

She looks at the knife, then lowers her head.

“I’m so pathetic. I can’t even stab someone.”

Celia: Celia doesn’t let the thought linger. She seizes the knife from Dani and plunges it into her own thigh.

GM: “That’s n-” Roderick starts.

Pain stabs through her. It’s more than enough, on top of the humiliation. The anger. The stupidity. The Beast roars to break free.

Celia: She doesn’t even try to hold it back. She lets it out.

All the pain, all the anger, all the everything she has ever felt because of him. Because he had to go and get Embraced like a fucking putz because he couldn’t handle that a girl broke up with him. The jealousy that he’d gotten a better sire, one who pays attention to him. The times he’d implied she’s less intelligent than him. The times he’d turned her down for sex. The bragging she’d done on his behalf at Elysium to keep him from getting his ass kicked by Garcia in a duel so he could save face, and she gets none of the credit for waking his ass up before he got jumped and died. The way he’d fucking cried over rapist, scumbag assholes that would have torn him apart.

And that time—those times, multiple, with an S—that he’d taken it out on her. His fists. Her face.

The Beast hates him. Because of him she’s stuck with this pathetic halfbreed. Because of him she can’t enjoy the sex she has with other people. He told Coco about her. Her whole family is in danger and it’s

because

of

him.

A snarl rips from her throat. The Beast doesn’t care what the girl wants, or maybe they’re just in agreement here, because she launches herself at him with no regard to her own safety or anything even resembling emotions.

She just wants to rip his fucking head off.

GM: But she’s used to not getting the things she wants.

The rage explodes through her an inferno. When the red flames clear, Roderick’s got her pinned to the ground in a double wrist lock. He doesn’t even look particularly strained from holding her down and waiting for the frenzy to run its course.

Say what one will about her lover, maybe she was wrong about the “get his ass kicked in a duel” part.

Almost absurdly, the scene makes her think of her sire. How this is what he’d do if she attacked him, and he didn’t simply destroy her. Hold her down like a disobedient child. Perhaps he’d even spank her, like Roderick has said he’s not into, for being such a bad girl. It’s so hard not to think about him, even here.

“You okay?” Roderick asks.

He slowly eases off of her, stands, and offers a hand up.

Celia: It’s not fair. Why does he get to just hold her down like she’s nothing? Why does he get to be strong and smart and capable and have a good sire and get everything he ever fucking wants? She hates him, she hates him, she hates him. It’s all she can think about while she’s thrashing beneath him, snarling and bucking and raging at how much she hates him.

Even when she snaps back it takes a moment for her to come into her own. Beneath him. Like he wants her to be? Is Dani right about him, that he’s just the golden child(e) and she’ll always be less than? She doesn’t know.

But she does think of her sire. How easily he’d pin her down. How he’d promised to punish her if he caught her again in his territory. How he’d knelt before her to offer his vein, pressing his wrist against her fangs, the cold taste of him in her throat.

Another snarl rips through her. Not from anger this time, but from desire. Even back in her own body with her own mind she bucks, thrashes, grinding up against him with whatever part of her can reach.

Then he’s gone. Off of her. Offering a hand. And, once more, she’s left unsatisfied, and she looks…

Ridiculous.

GM: Roderick doesn’t remark on it. Like it’s all part of the frenzy. His hand remains out.

Dani’s standing nearby. But not too nearby.

She doesn’t look like she doesn’t believe in frenzies anymore.

“Jesus…” she murmurs.

Celia: Celia doesn’t quite meet her gaze. She reaches blindly for her dress.

GM: She doesn’t feel it nearby.

“Sorry. Didn’t want to risk you shredding it,” says Roderick. He hands it over.

“What you saw can happen to all of us,” he tells his sister. “It just hits my clan worse.”

“Worse?” Dani asks.

“Yeah. A lot more things can set us off. And it doesn’t help how strong we tend to be.”

Celia: “More frequently.”

Celia pulls on the dress. She’s still looking anywhere else.

GM: Roderick kneels down and rests a hand on her shoulder.

“You sure you’re okay?”

Celia: How can she explain the shame? The lingering emotions that she doesn’t want to voice?

She takes a moment to smooth her dress down over her stomach and hips and pulls the knife from her thigh. A wince accompanies the motion, then she lifts a hand to touch Roderick’s fingers.

“Yeah. Just… yeah.”

GM: She finds the knife already gone, perhaps yanked out during their scuffle, or perhaps already removed by Roderick.

He wraps an arm around her so she can lean against his shoulder.

“Sorry. Letting the Beast out never feels good.”

Celia: Celia leans into him, pressing her face against his chest. She’s quiet for a long moment, nodding her head in agreement. Finally, she looks up at Dani.

“It sucks. Every time it comes out, it ruins things. You’ve seen… you know what it did. What happened because of it.” Her mom, she means. “And you’ve seen it on him. And you’ve seen it from me now. It’s awful.

GM: Roderick hugs her close, wrapping both his arms around her and running a hand down her hair as she processes.

Dani is sitting down on the floor too by the time Celia looks up. She remains at a safe distance from the two.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t… I didn’t realize.”

“Your… ghoul,” she substitutes, “even told me how scary it was, when you were thirsty.”

“I didn’t believe. I’m sorry.”

Celia: “It’s that old saying,” Celia says with a shake of her head. She makes no motion to move away from Roderick. “Seeing is believing. Hard to take something seriously without witnessing it. You saw that earlier tonight, too.”

GM: “I don’t hit her when I’m myself, Dani,” Roderick says. His voice is soft as he holds Celia. “I’m not her dad. I love her. I’d never do that to her.”

“But the thing inside both of us, inside of every nightborn Kindred, is as bad as her dad.”

“Worse than her dad, by some metrics.”

Celia: “There’s no reasoning with it. It overcomes you and you get lost in it, and there’s not… it’s not you anymore. I wanted to kill him.”

GM: Dani looks between them.

“So what do you… do about it?”

“Am I ever going to ‘frenzy’ like that?”

Roderick shakes his head. “I’m not an expert on duskborn physiology, but no. They don’t seem to have Beasts like we do.”

“That’s… one of the advantages they have over nightborn Kindred.”

“You can spend time around Dad without ever worrying about losing control.”

Celia: “That’s why I’m not afraid of letting you near my family.”

GM: “That’s why… that’s why I cut myself out of your lives.” His voice gets a little choked.

“It was terrible to do. I know.”

Celia: “And why Roderick couldn’t be. Why he…” She trails off as he echoes her thoughts.

GM: “But I couldn’t… I couldn’t risk a scene like this happening, around you.”

“Around Dad.”

“I couldn’t keep putting your lives in danger.”

“And I did lose it around you both. You don’t remember, thanks to Coco, but… that was that. I knew I couldn’t… couldn’t stay.”

Dani is quiet for a while.

Celia: Celia is quiet while he talks. She keeps him close to her, their roles switching as soon as the words leave his mouth. Her hand rubs up and down his back, her touch light and gentle.

GM: “I’m sorry,” Roderick repeats. “I know how much leaving hurt you both. I miss Dad. I miss… I miss him so much, Dani, you know how close we were.” His voice starts to break again. “But I, I couldn’t just keep… putting your lives in danger, just so I’d get… get to keep a family…”

He buries his face against Celia’s head. She can smell the faint coppery tang leaking from his eyes.

Celia: It’s hard to ignore the voice that whispers her sire wouldn’t cry over kine. That he would never feel the need to explain himself to a thin-blood.

It’s an effort to shove the thought away. To keep him close to her, crying as he is.

“It’s a risk,” she says to Dani, holding her brother close, “every time I see my family. I take precautions when I can, but it’s… it’s hard. It’s so hard. To go from what he was, what anyone was, to… to this. Knowing there’s a thing inside of you that only wants to fight and kill and feed.”

And fuck.

That most of all. Even now the scent of blood sharpens the fangs in her mouth.

GM: Dani inches forward and lays a tentative hand on Roderick’s shoulder.

He pulls his head up from Celia as he feels it, then removes one arm from her to slip around his sister.

“I just… I just want to help you, Dani. I’m sorry this happened to you. I want to make it easier, however I can.”

Her face wavers as her eyes cut to Celia’s.

Celia: Celia meets her gaze. She reaches out, bringing the girl’s hand into her own. The rest of her stays curled against Roderick. He’s not her sire, but he’s warm and available and loves her, and maybe if she believes in it hard enough it’ll be… well, it’s something.

“We met with the guy who runs the Quarter. He’s fine with you staying. There’s not going to be an active hunt on you or anything. No raids or purges or massacres. I also… he knows who I am. My real identity. Who you are to me. You’re not a political prisoner or anything, like Rod—Stephen thought.” Celia doesn’t quite purse her lips, but they twitch as if she might.

Celia: “I have territory here. It’s—sorry, Rod, but it’s true—the best feeding in the city. You won’t be hungry. Ever. I don’t have any other tenants, so there’s plenty to share.”

GM: Dani takes her hand. Celia can feel her lover’s body instantly tense.

“Dani,” he says slowly, “there’s something you need to understand about licks.”

“A lot of us are very bad people.”

“Even without the Beast.”

“And the older we get, the worse we tend to get.”

“We hurt people. We kill people. For our own selfish benefit.”

“A lot of Kindred society ultimately comes down to fighting other Kindred, for social dominance and control of resources.”

“Think of the Camarilla as a giant crime family. Or perhaps more accurately, like the Commission.”

Celia: Celia sighs, but doesn’t otherwise interrupt.

GM: “There are maybe five different ‘families’ in the city here. All competing for resources—blood, money, territory, social influence.”

Dani looks at Celia when she sighs, but nods along at her brother’s words. “Okay…”

“Some of them, and this is my personal opinion, are better than others. I think the one I work with is the best option.”

“Most licks work with a ‘family’ they think is the lesser evil, or which can best serve their personal interests, or both.”

“But you can’t really opt out.”

“The Kindred who Celia is talking about, Antoine Savoy, runs one of the bigger families that controls the French Quarter.”

“He got where he is by being ‘nicer’ to young licks and duskborn than his two biggest competitors.”

“That’s also relative when I say ‘nicer.’ He still treats duskborn like garbage. He just doesn’t engage in active genocide like the biggest family does.”

“Celia explained this,” nods Dani. “The Sanctified, led by Vidal. The prince.”

“Yes, that’s them,” says her brother.

Celia: “Your brother has met him one whole time. I’ve been dealing with him for years. He’s repeating what he has heard other licks—who don’t like him, by the way—say.”

GM: Roderick frowns. “I’ve seen and listened to him countless times in Elysium, Celia. I’ve also seen him when the Cabildo has met with him.”

“But all of that is moot, because I don’t need to know him personally to know how he runs his ‘family.’ Do you need to have met Lucky Luciano to know how he ran the Genovese?”

“Of course not,” says Dani. “If you met him in person he’d have spun things and lied about it.”

“You’d only need to meet him if you were working with law enforcement to bring him down. And you’d want to try to independently verify everything he said.”

“Exactly,” Roderick nods.

“Savoy is basically a mob boss, Dani.”

“An almost literal one, in fact. He works with the mortal Mafia.”

Celia: “So does Vidal.”

GM: “One of his subordinates does. But that’s still why I don’t work for Vidal. He obviously has nothing against the Mafia.”

Celia: “No, just your sire, who—”

Celia cuts off abruptly.

GM: He looks at Celia sharply, then back Dani. “I work for the Anarchs. Who my sire leads. They have what you could call a nonaggression agreement with Vidal, rather than Savoy, because they consider him the lesser evil. He murders duskborn just for being duskborn. He’s not a good person by any stretch.”

“Savoy isn’t a good person either. They’re both mob bosses. Both are totally committed to expanding their power at whatever the cost in human suffering.”

“And Savoy wants to use you to get to me.”

Celia: “There’s a separate sect of Anarchs that jumped from his sire’s side to Savoy’s a few months back,” Celia cuts in.

GM: Dani looks between them.

“There are,” Roderick says. “They’re led by a lick who murders and humiliates people for fun.”

“I consider them a greater evil than the faction of Anarchs I’ve remained with.”

Celia: “That’s my sire you’re talking about,” Celia says sharply.

GM: “It is. Do you deny she does that?”

Celia: “Do you deny yours sold out dozens of duskborn to curry favor with the prince?”

GM: “She didn’t sell them out. She couldn’t have stopped it. That massacre was happening with or without her.”

Celia: “Uh huh.”

“She didn’t give him the location and make herself scarce to save face.”

GM: Dani looks between them.

“If there’s one thing you should take away from this, Dani, it’s that there are no true good guys,” Roderick says heavily.

Celia: “Savoy literally told you he doesn’t want to use her to get to you. If you want to take your chances with her outside the Quarter, fine. See how well she fares against the raids. See if your sire cares that it’s your sister who she’s selling out.”

GM: “You actually fucking believe that?” Roderick exclaims. “Celia, he doesn’t care about Dani. She means nothing to him. Just like I mean nothing to him. All he cares about is how he can manipulate us to advance his position.”

Celia: “And how is he going to do that when he told you to get her out if that’s what you wanted?”

GM: “Butter me up, for starters. He has a plan to lure me to his side, and Dani is one piece of it. I know how elders work, Celia. I get to see them with their hair down.”

Celia: Yeah, he’s so important with his special scribe duties that lets him find out all sorts of things and see how awful the rest of them are.

Celia huffs, but keeps the “pet” comment to herself.

GM: “That’s why I wanted to get you out of the city, Dani,” Roderick says. “I’m not going to make you, if you don’t want to. But I don’t believe you are safe here in the city, with a mob boss who knows who you are to me, and who will seek to use you against me. I think it’s just as unsafe for you to stay here in the Quarter as it was for me to stay in your and Dad’s lives. If I don’t play ball the way Savoy wants, it’s entirely possible he’ll conclude his current tactic isn’t working, and switch to a much nastier one.”

Dani looks back to Celia, the question in her eyes.

Celia: “It’s possible that Savoy wanted, past tense, to use you against him. And if I hadn’t come to Roderick about it, he might have succeeded. But I did.

Celia makes an aborted motion to reach for his hand. She halts halfway, fingers curling into a fist. She looks away.

“I know you think I’m st—… ignorant. You’ve said as much.” Multiple times. She blinks away something that might turn red if she let it manifest. “I’m not, not here. Killing her is just going to turn you against him. It’ll probably turn your sire against him. And it’s going to turn me against him.”

Celia looks up at Dani. She doesn’t want to hear whatever it is Roderick will say about that. Something like, “why would he care if a neonate is mad at him? What are you going to do, Celia, you dumb whore?”

“He’s known who I am for my entire Requiem. He helped me move my family into the Quarter, when things were bad with my dad. He knows who they are. What they mean to me. I spent… I spent everything I had on a night doctor to fix my mom after my dad took her toes off. I had nothing. He put me up, paid for Emily, helped me open my business without scoffing at the idea of a vampire playing with makeup. He…” she looks down at her hands, uncurling her fingers. “I messed up once. Early. He wanted me to do something, and I messed it up, and it was… it was bad. Something he’d been working on for years that I just blew up. I was weeks old. He didn’t have any reason to be nice about it. But he was.”

GM: “I don’t think less of you intellectually, Celia,” Roderick says gently. “I just think he’s manipulating you. That’s a thing crime bosses do. They tell their people not to cause trouble around a certain neighborhood, and to do nice things instead to win the residents’ loyalty. But all of it is with a payoff in mind.”

“And Savoy’s actions do have a practical payoff. They’ve made you loyal, and they’ve gotten you in his camp. You’re a useful asset. But if you stopped being useful, he’d drop you like a hot potato.”

“And if there’s ever something he really wants to do, that he knows you won’t like, your opinion isn’t going to stop him. He’ll just do it behind your back. And even if you find out, what’s a neonate like you actually going to do?”

Celia: She can’t tell him the truth about it. That she’s his blood. That if she were anyone else, sure, she’d get it. But she’s not anyone else. She’s his grandchilde.

“There’s plenty I could do,” is all she says to that. “You don’t spend seven years in someone’s court without learning a thing or two about how they operate.”

GM: “Then you should be scared,” says Roderick. “Because if he thinks it serves his interests to do something you might not like, and if he thinks you could find out, he might just kill you too. He’s an elder, Celia, and you’re not his childe. You’re not his Blood. That’s all they care about.”

Celia: But she is.

GM: “He’s fooled you like he has everyone else.”

Dani looks between them. The two’s words tug at her. Celia’s message of hope and comfort and belonging. Her brother’s practical, fact-based cautions. That term over and over, “mob boss,” that means so much to the Garrisons.

Both of their words pull at her.

But in the end, so does the bond.

“I want to stay in the Quarter,” she finally says. “With Celia.”

Roderick effects a sigh.

“All right. It’s your decision.”

“You’re an adult. And your own Kindred.”

Celia: “I’m not going to let anything happen to her, Roderick. Just like you wouldn’t let anything happen to me. We’re going to be sisters soon, aren’t we? You’re not alone in this.”

“I’ve already made arrangements for her. She has a new identity. We have a cover. And…” she looks around. “I can ditch this place anyway, get something closer to the border for you two.”

GM: “Well, that’d be something,” says Roderick. “And maybe I can take you out of the Quarter sometimes, too. It’s not safe for me to come here all the time.”

“I got a tattoo,” says Dani. “That lets me appear mortal. And another face.”

“Mask?” asks Roderick.

“Yeah.”

“Okay, that could work. That’s safe.”

Celia: “I passed her off as a ghoul earlier. In front of a fair number of licks. No one noticed anything. And it’s not like I’m going to tell Savoy about her new face.”

GM: “Let’s keep it that way. Only we three need to know.”

Celia: “Well… I mean, Dicentra knows. I thought maybe we’d have her make another for Dani the duskborn versus Dani the ghoul, since her other face has been seen as Jade’s ghoul. But I don’t want to get too complicated. Thought I’d talk to you about it.”

“There’s also…”

“We, um, so I took her out as my renfield tonight, and two of the hounds showed up. I, uh, was a little panicked they’d come for her, so I thought about paying Dicentra for a… for a mark. Just in case she’s ever picked up like that.”

GM: “That’s the tattoo?” Roderick asks.

“Yeah,” Dani nods.

“All right,” says Roderick. “So, you have two faces. Celia’s ghoul, who Dicentra definitely knows about, and some other licks casually saw.”

“And you have Dani, who’s mortal to most people but a known duskborn to Savoy, Preston, and anyone else they’ve told.”

“Plus, maybe, your sire.”

Dani gets a still look at that.

Roderick touches her shoulder. “We’ll find them.”

She nods.

“I think it would be safe to have a third mortal face who only we know about,” says Roderick. “Dicentra’s an unknown quantity. Who knows who she works for. You should probably just use mundane wigs and makeup for that.”

“Celia can do that, makeup wizard that she is,” he smiles.

“Okay,” says Dani. “Though what would we use that face for?”

“I’m not sure yet. Just useful to have the option,” her brother answers.

“Anytime you don’t want to take a chance on other licks.”

Celia: “I have someone looking into her sire,” Celia tells Roderick. Then, by way of explanation, “not my turf. If it doesn’t pan out I’ll get more personally involved. Just didn’t want to step on toes if I could avoid it.”

He’d seemed surprised to hear about the thin-blood in his club for all that Savoy and Preston had implied he was watching her.

“More identities is never a bad idea,” she says to Dani. “Too many people know about Celia and Jade.” A sigh. Roderick’s sire is the only one that really concerns her. She looks at him, as if to convey that same thought.

“But I meant the… mark of the city, you know, the duskborn thing.”

GM: “Seems fair to try the easiest way first,” he nods.

“But that also isn’t a bad idea as far as the brand. The main question is whether she could still hide it. Because it’s better to get mistaken for a ghoul than even a branded duskborn.”

Celia: “As long as it’s in a hide-able place. Watch band. Upper arm.”

GM: “I want to talk to other duskborn,” says Dani.

Celia: Celia nods at Dani.

“We’re working on that, too,” she says to Roderick.

GM: “There are ones in Mid-City I could introduce you to,” he says. “Just not as Dani.”

“I thought the prince massacred them…?” she asks.

“He picks them up where he can,” says Roderick. “Sends the hounds through on sweeps. But there are some. They just don’t advertise it.”

“Still. If people think you’re Jade’s ghoul with your earlier face, another disguise wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“I just don’t like Celia owing Dicentra so many favors.”

“I can’t even volunteer any of them, because I don’t want Dicentra knowing we’re related.”

Celia: Well there goes that plan.

Celia shrugs.

“We can settle up later if you feel the need to make it up to me.”

GM: “Cute,” he smiles. “I can’t make it up to you in ways that count with other licks, though.”

Dani rolls her eyes. “Get a room, you two.”

Celia: “Mm, yes please.”

GM: Roderick chuckles at that and gives her a squeeze.

Celia: Maybe they’ll skip sparring tonight, get right to the other sort of manhandling.

GM: “Later. I can bring you back to my haven for the day.”

“Oh my god, are you seriously talking about banging in front of me?” says Dani.

Celia: Celia wiggles her brows at Dani.

GM: “Blugh! I don’t want to hear about my brother’s sex life, thanks!”

Roderick chuckles some more.

Celia: “If he’s technically dead does it even count as being related anymore?” Not that she would ever bang a relative.

GM: Just spank one bare-bottom.

And ask to be spanked back.

But she was copying another relative, there. For that first part.

“Oh my god, of course it does!” says Dani.

Celia: Well, she’d also fucked her cousin, so there’s that. But she tries not to think about it too hard.

GM: “I’m actually glad it still squicks you out,” says Roderick. “Some licks can get into some… pretty deviant stuff.”

Celia: Celia abruptly realizes why the idea of sex in general might make Dani uncomfortable. She busies herself with her cuticles.

“We don’t have to talk about it.”

GM: “Yes, I’d prefer that,” Dani agrees.

“Okay. Dani, maybe you’d like to spend some time together tonight,” says Roderick. “I cleared my schedule.”

“Oh, doing…?”

“Just catching up. We could get some food. Take a walk someplace.”

“You can eat food?”

He shakes his head. “I have to throw it up. But I can enjoy it. Most licks think that’s pretty gross.”

“I don’t think it is. I mean, I still eat,” says Dani.

“But, okay. That sounds good. Getting some food.”

“Great,” Roderick smiles. “Maybe… hmm. I’d rather not be seen around the Quarter. Or either of us be seen together.”

“God,” sighs Dani. “Is it really like this all the time?”

“We can’t just get some beignets or whatever without worrying about being seen?”

Celia: “Pretty much,” Celia says. “Roderick and I don’t go out on normal dates, either. Can’t be seen together.” Her shoulders lift in a shrug, as if it doesn’t bother her, but her tone betrays the truth.

GM: “What a fucking miserable way to live,” says Dani.

“We’ll order in,” says Roderick.

Celia: “I can scram if you want to stay here,” Celia offers. “Less chance getting picked up on your way out.”

GM: “I’d really like to stretch my legs or just get a change of scenery,” says Dani. “You know, after all that’s happened here?”

Celia: Celia nods.

“Sure thing. Understandable.”

GM: “Can we really not go anywhere or do anything?”

“Maybe with another mask,” thinks Roderick, “but that also means Celia-”

“This is miserable,” says Dani.

“We really can’t just drive to a park or whatever?”

“Or just fucking drive a while?”

“We can,” says Roderick. “But there are risks.”

“I almost don’t care at this point,” says Dani. “This doesn’t sound like any way to live.”

“Okay. Maybe… Celia, could you disguise her?” Roderick asks. “Mundane makeup, wig, change of clothes? You can use your tattoo, and I can take you someplace.”

Celia: “Do you have your mask on you?” Celia asks Roderick.

GM: “I do,” he says. “Doesn’t hide that I’m a lick, but can’t hurt to combine with that.”

Celia: “I might have something that can help. Hold on, let me find it.”

Celia rises to her feet and moves into the other room.

Celia: It’s a quick search to find what she’s looking for: a piece of cardstock and a black marker. A few quick strokes in the general shape of a cloak (for “hiding something”) and she caps the marker, tucking the cardstock into one of her many purses. She brings the purse out with her, rifling through it to find the cardstock she’d just drawn on (as if she hadn’t just planted it).

“She’s been working on this new thing,” Celia tells Roderick, “like a temporary tattoo, for emergency situations. Or something like this.” She smiles at him.

“Where do you want it?”

GM: “If you paid her for that, I don’t know we should use it on this,” says Roderick. “It’s enough to have Dani use her tattoo and get a mundane disguise.”

Celia: “It’s an experimental thing, she wanted me to test it.”

GM: “All right. Anywhere’s okay with me.”

Celia: She has Roderick remove his shirt so she can put the temporary tattoo on his side, hidden beneath his clothing.

And now the tricky part: doing the thing without letting him know she’s doing the thing. Her claws come out—she can hardly say that she has tattoo equipment laying around—and she dips the tip of them into her already bleeding thigh. No need to make a new cut when this will do. The claws pick up the blood, tracing the black lines she’d drawn on the cardstock. She presses it against his side, warns him she’s going to make the cut, and does so. It’s quite unlike getting a tattoo: the tips of her nails drag rather than dig, marking him with a scar that looks like the cloak she’d drawn. She murmurs as she works, the words whispered over and over beneath her breath, barely loud enough for him to hear.

“Tatuajes oculto.”

When she’s done she sits back on her heels, pulling the cardstock away. It’s crude work, nothing like what Dicentra had done for his sister, but it should serve his purpose for this evening.

GM: “Wow, you got buff,” Dani remarks when Roderick takes his shirt off.

“Yeah. I made sure to work out a lot before my Embrace,” he answers.

Both siblings watch with interest as Celia administers the quick tattoo.

“Huh,” says Roderick. “That’s very convenient. How long will it last?”

Celia: “Temporary. The rest of the night.” A wry smile. “You’d hardly want that on you forever.”

GM: “Ha. Very true.” He pulls his shirt back on, then kisses her cheek. “Thanks, Celia.”

Celia: “Rude,” she huffs, but there’s no heat to it.

GM: “Do we have what you need here to disguise Dani, or is that at the spa?”

Celia: “You think I don’t keep makeup literally everywhere?”

GM: He laughs. “Clearly I wasn’t thinking.”

Celia: Her laughter follows her out of the room. She’s back again with kit in hand, tells Roderick to pick something cute out of her closet for his sister, and gets to work turning Dani into someone else.

Celia: Celia doesn’t need to resort to fleshcrafting when she’s as skilled as she is with a makeup brush. There’s a lot that can be done with mundane powders, liquids, and colors: contour can change the entire face shape, foundation can be mixed to make someone lighter or darker, various hues can be used to completely hide features or accent others. Celia does it all, and she does it well. Where Dani is angular she makes her round. Where Dani has blemishes or rough patches she smooths it out.

But it’s the eyes that steal the show. Her flat, almost boring blues are brought to life with the golds and browns and other neutrals that Celia piles on around them, lashes lengthened with mascara, eyes lined in black liquid. She doesn’t wing it—this face is too soft for that look—but she fills in the little gaps between her lashes to create one long, unbroken line. A pop of color on her lips—matte, something that will last through whatever food they decide to eat—finishes it off.

They chat while Celia works, a more easy-going conversation than it would have been prior, and she’s happy that the siblings finally have something nice to talk about. She twists Dani’s hair into a complicated updo and sets it with a spray.

At some point she mentions that she’s probably going to ditch this haven, and asks Dani if she still wants a place together. Part time. Celia barely sleeps in the same place more than one night in a row, these few evenings with Roderick notwithstanding.

GM: Dani nods eagerly that she would love a place together. She can spend nights Celia’s not there at Diana’s place. And possibly a few anyway. She doesn’t want to stay with Celia’s family forever, just until she’s on her feet.

Roderick comes back with the clothes while Celia works. Contrary to “cute,” he seems to have picked something designed to be forgettable, simple jeans and tee and sweatshirt, though in colors Dani doesn’t usually go for.

Brother and sister are very impressed with the results of Celia’s work when she’s finished and shows it off in the mirror. Like everyone always is. “I have to give you credit,” says Roderick. “I really wasn’t sure how much you’d be able to change with just makeup. This is really good.”

“Spoken like a true guy,” says Dani dryly. “Makeup can do a lot. My facial shape looks different.”

Roderick nods. “I still think it’d be best to change her hair with a wig. You don’t have one around, do you?”

Celia: She probably does. Mundane wigs work for plenty of on-the-go disguises. She excuses herself to find one, returning with a long, dark wig that compliments Dani’s coloring.

“You can change in my room if you want,” Celia says to Dani after she puts the wig in place. They’re relatively similar sizes.

And it’ll give her a moment alone with Roderick.

GM: “If you have any glasses, that’d be even better, though I fee safe enough with the wig and makeup,” says Roderick.

“I’ll try to avoid smudging the makeup,” says Dani as she takes the clothes and wigs. “Should’ve changed first, in hindsight.”

She heads off, in any case.

Celia: Celia watches her go, shaking her head at the comment. She should have suggested it.

Her attention shifts to Roderick, brows lifting slightly. She takes a step toward him, then another, and finally presses herself against him, looking up at him from underneath her lashes.

GM: He smiles and runs his hands along her hips, leaning in close to breathe in her scent.

“I’ll still fuck you silly before sunup.”

Celia: “That a promise, Mr. Durant?”

GM: His hands move lower down to appreciatively squeeze her rump.

“A promise whose fulfillment is eagerly anticipated, Miss Flores.”

Celia: “You’re insatiable,” Celia murmurs, leaning in to press a kiss against his lips. She keeps it brief, aware of his sister’s presence in the next room. “You’re not doing anything dumb tonight with her, are you?”

GM: “Only because you’re irresistible,” he smiles. “And no. Just catch up over the past too many years over some food.”

Celia: “I’m glad you worked it out.” Or rather that Celia worked it out.

GM: “I am too. Thanks for your help with that.” He gives her a squeeze. “With everything.”

“It means so much to have someone in my unlife who’s not just working another angle.”

“Who actually just cares.”

Celia: She ignores the pang. She does care. Of course she cares.

She buries it, lifting herself to the tips of her toes to press another kiss against his lips. Dani be damned, she wants to ignore how ugly the world is for a minute. She wants to forget about the time she betrayed him, wants to forget that they’re on opposite sides of this war, that she’s working to undermine his sire, that her sire… something. Her sire something. That’s as far as she gets before she loses herself in the feeling of his lips on hers.

GM: Roderick returns the kiss with vigor, before sweeping her legs out from beneath her and hoisting her into the air, arm underneath her knees, as his lips continue to explore hers. That continues for a too-brief moment before Dani walks in and he sets Celia down.

“Get a room already,” his sister huffs.

Celia: “We are in a room,” she shoots back, not bothering to stop what she’s doing.

GM: “Later,” Roderick repeats, amused, as he disengages from Celia’s lips. “We’ll have plenty of time.”

Celia: Celia heaves a sigh.

“Be safe tonight,” she says as he sets her down. “Both of you.”

GM: “You too,” Roderick says, giving her a chaste kiss on the cheek. “I love you.”

Celia: “I love you too. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

She hopes she will, anyway. The he hasn’t just used her to disguise Dani and himself to get out of the city, that all of the work she has put into cultivating Dani as an almost pawn will be for nothing, that she won’t go back to Savoy and have to say, “so about those siblings…” and be dropped like the hot potato Roderick mentioned.

But he wouldn’t do that, would he? She can trust him, can’t she? He loves her. And they’re both twice-bonded to her. Even if Roderick gets her out of the city of course Dani will come back. Celia had dangled all the answers in front of her: her sire, the thin-bloods, a place together. She’d peppered their conversations with enough to tempt the girl into coming back, has done far more for her than her brother can despite their shared blood (and how much does that count for now anyway, with his sister what she is?). It’s why she hadn’t pushed harder about his sire being a bitch, because she can’t risk alienating the both of them now when everything is coming together. Push too hard and he’ll see it for the obvious ploy it is when the truth of Carolla comes out.

It’s enough. Even if the thought of Roderick having someone else to lean on chips away at her own hold over him.

She’ll just have to do something about that, won’t she?


Previous, by Character: Story Thirteen, Celia IX
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Comments

Dani

Cute dress. Forgot she was in that. Prob going to have to alter some later descriptions to account for it since I don’t think she changed between seeing the boys / hunting / and then stabbing herself. Whoops, Dani saw her hella naked.

“I guess I sort of assumed vampires could just get more whenever they wanted, but your mom made it sound like that was actually a pretty big deal.”

Oh look, spanking Diana to teach her about the cost of blood was effective after all. Glad I remembered that thermos for later, anyway. Having a “minion” is pretty chill. I’m excited to explore this part of being an esquire.

Kind of cool being able to figure out what’s going on with thin bloods and their physiology and powers. I’m like 98% sure that Dani can only use abilities when she has lick blood in her, which is obviously a problem since it’s not like Celia can just tap open a vein every night and they’ll go through a lot of blood if she tries, but y’know.

Dani got on my nerves a little bit here with her “why bother if I’m always going to be a pathetic half vampire.” Like okay, sure, I get it, you’re not a real vampire, but jesus dude if Celia is saying “learn to fight” and “always have a plan B” then why wouldn’t you just do that? “I can charm them.” Not really. “I won’t be able to fight a real vampire.” Maybe not, but it will at least let you avoid being steamrolled. Like damn. Never just have ONE way to deal with things.

Celia: The sex with herself was pretty hot, though. She can see why so many other people want to do it. Celia is so conceited.

Then Dani’s like “Stephen isn’t a blabbermouth” and I’m over here like “lol he told his sire about my secret identity, fuck you yes he is.”

Reggie

Reggie and his mom fetish is so creepy. He’s legitimately just going to be the worst sort of rapist vampire. Definitely thought about joining in and feeding from Malone while they fucked, though. Was gonna do it on the way out but got caught up with other things.

Rusty/Oven Monster

Kind of annoyed that there’s still nothing with the phones / Lee. Thought Rusty would be able to do more. No idea where to take the search for him now since nothing else has panned out, and I’d really like to find him. Zero breadcrumbs to follow except to wait for that bugged stake, which Celia doesn’t even have.

Enjoyed this description with the Luck. Not sure if I should have spent the Luck there or if I should have spent it elsewhere, but it felt pretty pressing at the time. Also kind of feels like I hit a wall here though. Was expecting to recognize the person, or be able to follow them somewhere else, but the fact that she disappeared into thin air is, uh… problematic. Boosted that roll to 8S, which I thought would be enough for an exceptional success, but feels like it wasn’t. Unless the blood thing and watching her vanish was the exceptional thing? I dunno. I was / am eager to look into things but when there isn’t a lot of proactive stuff to do besides “ask vague questions about demons,” etc, then it feels like there isn’t much forward momentum. Also can’t think of anyone who wants to look into Jade like that since it’s apparently not a vampire or a ghoul. Unless this wasn’t the person who bugged the spa and it’s a happy little accident. Too many questions, not enough answers, frustrating when I’m trying to do like 50 things at once and don’t have clear roads to follow.

Hunting

Was going to have her follow the couple back to their hotel so she could come back later and kill them, but then I didn’t. :)

Dani/Twilight Club

Kind of repetitive to have to drill into Dani’s head the whole secrecy thing about phones / tech / not telling random people. Like, I tried to have Celia explain it, but literally it’s done because it benefits the people in charge, and that’s how pretty much every organization does things. “Does this benefit me? Cool.” It benefited the Ventrue. It benefits the Sanctified. You marginalize everyone else who doesn’t fall in line and you get to keep power and WHY DOESN’T SHE GET THAT? It’s literally what every single fucking culture does. Jesus christ I’m tired of explaining it over and over again.

Kind of weird that Gui doesn’t know what she’s talking about if Savoy had him watching Dani. Feel like I should have rolled Empathy here but I wasn’t really thinking about it in the moment.

God, I hate Camilla. Would have liked to be able to interact with them more but honestly I didn’t want them to pay too much attention to Jade / Hannah and discover that she’s a thin-blood. Cool that the disguise worked, though. If it can fool the hounds then I imagine “Dani as ghoul” can fool a lot of people. I imagine this is Sterling’s “write out.” Feel bad for not doing anything to help Gui, but… y’know. Dani. Also former PC, seems like a moot point.

Seems both logical and kind of weird that the hounds can go anywhere. Thought there’d be more protection in the Quarter, or less of them going in there and dragging people out.

Doesn’t seem like Melton holds a grudge, so that’s nice.

Dani/Roderick

Frenzy scene feels pretty forced, to be honest.

Also kind of annoying to play at work between clients and end up saying the same thing Roderick or Dani says, but there’s not much of a way around that. Same thing would happen even if I was home if I look away from my screen for too long, so w/e.

Roderick certainly painted a rosy picture of the Anarch stuff here. Would have liked to get into it more. I don’t remember why I didn’t.

“We can settle up later if you feel the need to make it up to me.”

GM: “Cute,” he smiles. “I can’t make it up to you in ways that count with other licks, though.”

Dani rolls her eyes. “Get a room, you two.”

This was actually not what I had intended, but I guess it makes sense that you / Rod / Dani assume Celia means sex. I meant he could just owe her a Debt or do her a different sort of minor favor if he doesn’t want to put her out. Celia isn’t going to accept “have sex with me” as a Debt, sorry.

I thought the temporary tattoo thing was REALLY COOL AND NO ONE ELSE COMMENTED ON IT OR APPRECIATED IT SO FUCK ALL OF YOU BASICALLY. Roderick doesn’t even ask how she knows it or what it is like what the fuck???? Why is it that when I have cool lies prepared and want to talk about a thing NO ONE BRINGS IT UP?

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Story Thirteen, Celia X
 

Calder: Celia X
We had a long play pause after the dress got mentioned
Tweaked a couple descrips to reflect it too
Probably is not a surprise there with Diana
Hitting people usually makes an impression on them

Emily: Let the lesson sink in.

Calder: Maxen agrees
Just a few more paddlings and Celia might’ve said she was stupid too

Emily: Nah.
She only says she’s stupid to manipulate Roderick.

Calder: (Vampire) minion-wise, you could have more than Dani
With Domain 2
And even more beyond Vassals 2, if you were willing to eat the hunting penalty

Emily: Probably not with the new rules as they are.
Finding a vessel versus how much you slake. Not worth.

Calder: new rules leave you better-fed most of the time, but with number of successes counting instead of a binary pass/fail, penalties have a guaranteed rather than potential impact
Ahahaha, I forgot that line
Celia: The sex with herself was pretty hot, though. She can see why so many other people want to do it.
She is very vain
Reggie going to make a lot of moms very happy as a vampire
As far as Rusty, you did roll a botch earlier

Emily: Yeah but like
Then she did new things
That doesn’t count for anything?

Calder: Potentially

Emily: I mean it apparently didn’t here
And having only one roll or one avenue to do something feels more video game than RPG logic

Calder: Most challenges do have multiple avenues
What they net you, like anything, usually depends on tactics and rolls
Here, like Rusty said, the hunters apparently knew phones could be dangerous and didn’t keep much on them
The info you discovered there might have been new, but you’d already another tech-knowledgeable guy (Lebeaux) take a look at them. Sometimes revisiting the same avenue with a different person will yield new information and sometimes it won’t

Emily: Then I’m kind of at a loss with what else to do since the name is fake.
And Lebeaux has the stake.
And I don’t know any other hunters.
And no one knows what the fuck a glinko is.

Calder: What are some potential ways you could get more ideas?
Clairmont also said she might be able to know there with some research

Emily: Which could take weeks.
In the meantime they’re after Roderick.
And a bunch of other people.

Calder: Who knows how long it might take?
If you’re stuck for what to do though, what are some potential ways (IC or OOC) you could get some new ideas on what to do?

Emily: Ask Pete. Hint. Talk to a mentor.

Calder: Those all sound like possible ways

Emily: I don’t have any WP and Pete doesn’t wanna be my friend tho

Calder: Mentor still on the table, the log will pay WP, and he probably will if you ask nicely

Emily: @Pete HALP WHATDO

Calder: Luck-wise, you did get an ex success outcome with some things Celia wouldn’t have seen on a normal roll
That’s kind of Celia to have let the couple live
no doubt they appreciated
Thin-bloods smell like ghouls. At a casual glance vampires have no built-in way to tell they’re thin-bloods
And the hounds seemed there for Sterling
All on top of being one “ghoul” in a room with multiple ghouls/Kindred
So probably not a big surprise Dani’s disguise worked
She’d be pretty boned if it hadn’t under those circumstances

Emily: celia is a genius
Also
I wanted to say “Dicentra is a genius” during this log but IT NEVER CAME UP THANKS

Calder: You should tell me when you have some of those “lines I really wanna say” in mind so I can set the stage

Emily: ok

Calder: Sterling was indeed receiving his writeout as an ex-PC
You could have saved him here, but he’d have exited stage under some other circumstance

Emily: Wasn’t a big deal to me tbh

Calder: Ex-PCs of departed players don’t tug many heartstrings
Probably going to make him someone else’s childe too, so Harlequin is a more available option for any Malk PCs

Emily: makes sense

Calder: As for the hounds’ authority, Vidal is the city’s reigning prince, and they can go largely where they please in his name

Emily: I guess I thought the quarter was safer?

Calder: By many metrics it is
If Savoy wanted to stop Wright and Doriocourt, could well be he has the resources to pull that off

Emily: Ah

Calder: Whether that’s worth the social cost of doing so is another question
It’s a fairly direct challenge to Vidal’s authority
Well, not entirely
Something like trying to torpor or kill the hounds certainly would be
And might well spark open war, depending on the circumstances

Emily: What if they just never found the bodies

Calder: But if Savoy’s agents waylaid the hounds so Sterling could escape, or he hid Sterling somewhere in the Quarter, that would be a fairly typical example of the sort of conflict that goes on in the city’s climate
Could also be that too
Savoy will probably be one of the first suspects if the hounds get killed, but might be he can frame or stage it
Or disappear them without Vidal ever finding out why they’re gone
It’s a pretty aggressive move with high risks, but also high rewards
So it could happen
And Savoy obviously has lots of ways to foil their objectives in the Quarter without killing them
So when the sheriff + hounds show up there, they tend to show up in force, and to keep a very wary eye
This isn’t their home ground they’re playing in

Emily: Do you think Donnie would be mad if Celia killed his other childe

Calder: Try it and find out

Emily: ok

Calder: The sheriff and hounds have more access than most of Vidal’s people, too
If Vidal decides someone hiding in the Quarter has broken the Traditions, he can send the sheriff to go retrieve them (and who Savoy may or may not prevent from doing so)
But a low-level Sanctified neonate like Roxanne who wanders into the Quarter on her own is just that, on her own

Emily: Do you think that he’d send someone to collect her or do it himself

Calder: Savoy’s turf and Vidal far less invested in what happens to her
Who?

Emily: my boi don

Calder: I suppose you’ll just have to see after you kill his childe

Emily: ok
She’ll keep her face as a mask

Calder: Also, not all areas of the Quarter created equal
The Twilight Club is Gui’s club
It’s not the Evergreen
The hounds probably more reluctant to make “arrests” there

Emily: Donnie gonna stroll on in during a sex party one night
Bet
make an arrest
Doooo it
Drag them out nakedly
ya feel

Calder: Such fantasies Celia has
As far as Melton, you wore a different face when Savoy questioned her

Emily: and she screamed so well in the shower

Calder: I thought the frenzy scene was pretty good
Because they were trying to force it

Emily: I hated it.

Calder: And it wasn’t working
Stab a vampire and their Beast may break loose. Ain’t nothing forced about that
Favors-wise, much like with her Mentors, largely superfluous for Celia to track Debts with Roderick
Since he’s usually willing to do her favors without any expectation of specific repayment beyond that she’ll do the same for him
For instance, the time she didn’t want to go hunting, asked for some blood, and he said “Okay” and opened up his wrist

Emily: I was mostly kidding

Calder: I thought you were serious

Emily: I mean if he wanted to actually help with the Debt

Calder: Celia could always bring that up with him
Lies-wise, both siblings trust Celia, are 2x bound to her, and were probably relieved just to have a believable-sounding solution to their problem in the aftermath of a fairly emotional scene
NPCs ain’t always hyper-suspicious
Though as before, if you have a really good lie/line you want to use IC, feel free to give an OOC shout-out so I can set the stage

Story Thirteen, Celia X
Calder_R Calder_R

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