“Not needing to lie to people, to be able to be who you used to be… it’s necessary.”
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM
Celia: Celia waits until the siblings are gone to change for her trip to Uptown. It’s an altogether inconvenient location, really, considering the distance between the two territories and the fact that the kook who runs the place owes a favor to Jade, not one of her many, many aliases. She does her face, rifles through her bookshelves for a gesture of goodwill (an inexpensive but older copy of Virgil’s Aeneid she’d picked up for one of her classes in undergrad at a used book store, recently rebound without any of the typical scrawling or highlighting or dog-eared pages that mark many students’ books) and tucks it into her purse with the still-damaged Lucy.
“Sorry it’s taking so long,” Celia says to the doll, “not many people can talk to dolls like Elyse does.” And Mom won’t even try.
GM: Lucy stares serenely back at her mother’s words.
Dolls are patient.
Celia: For a moment she debates how to get to the library. She could fly. It would be a quick trip in and out. Easier to sneak, isn’t it? But that involves cutting herself open to stuff things inside, spending the blood to shift, spending more to heal, spending more to rip it out, and then even more on the flight back. Her Beast is already annoyed that she’d done a good deed with the tattoo for Roderick—and some paranoid part of her wonders if he’s using it to kidnap his sister, but she tries to ignore that voice because Dani had said she wants to stay and he wouldn’t do that, would he?—and the blood that she banked is for Lebeaux. (Even though she wants it. She really wants it. She can just kill someone for Lebeaux, can’t she?)
Better to take a car. She calls for a Ryde with a pickup point down the block and a drop-off point near the library, conceals the Beast with a quick bit of shadow dancing, and relies on a mundane disguise to hide the rest of her: boring clothes and a lighter colored wig. Jade has black hair, so she finds a light brown one and tugs it into place. Another bit of shadow dancing turns her into any typical woman on the street. Nothing to see here.
She tells her driver to go through Mid-City rather than the Garden District or CBD. No reason to risk things more than she needs to. Even if she’s “discovered” in Mid-City she has the right to be there and isn’t an unwelcome sight like she might be elsewhere.
GM: The Ryde driver drops off Celia near the library.
It’s as she’s walking towards it that her purse strap abruptly snaps. Cat-quick, she snatches it up in her hands before Lucy can hit the ground. Her wig falls off.
Just then, a convertible with a ghoul and several other men and rounds the turn. He’s a skinhead built like a haystack and so covered in tattoos and metal studs and piercings that Celia almost thinks he’s full clothed. His friends don’t look much nicer.
Their eyes all settle on the attractive woman walking alone at night.
One of them whoops and hops out of the moving car to quickly approach her. The ghoul smirks and parks it at the curb. He and his other friends get out and file up to Celia.
“Lookin’ for a date, honey?” leers the ghoul.
Celia can see two tiny swastikas etched onto his front teeth.
Celia: What are the chances that the ghoul recognizes her through the makeup and shadow dancing? Even without a wig she shouldn’t look like herself, surely. Maybe they don’t know she’s a vampire. Maybe they’re just concerned that she lost her hair. She should have shaved her head, she reflects, she could have sold them on the idea of sickly cancer patient.
She squares up as they approach, eyes on the ghoul that leads this merry band of gentlemen.
“For a friend, actually.” A tilt of her head as she eyes him up and down, appraising. Not cute enough for someone like her to want to fuck, but maybe with a little bit of emotional play to make it believeable… A gentle wind blows the supernatural charm out of her, the sort of thing that captures attention and makes people a little more likely to listen to what she says.
“But if you’re offering,” she purrs, “how can I say no?”
GM: The unseen wave rolls out out. The mens’ eyes widen. They’re ugly men, by and large. Crude faces with cruder smiles, and even cruder beliefs worn over their bodies in ink and metal.
She thinks they were pretty likely to listen to those words anyway.
One man licks her face and squeezes her breast, so hard it feels like he’s trying to crush it. His breath smells rancid and foul.
“You guys can have her holes. I’m gonna fuck her tits. I’m gonna rub my dick all over her tits.”
“Aw, yeah,” says another with yellowed teeth. Her grabs her face and leans in close, running his tongue over her forehead. Strips of it are black and brown. His saliva smells like tobacco. “We’re gonna all cum on your face, you dirty whore. We’re gonna fuckin’ drown you in cum.”
“Fuck that,” says a third man with a jagged scar down his cheek. He slips his callused hands up her clothes. “I want to get her pregnant.”
“Your baby’s gonna have four dads, bitch,” leers the ghoul, watching with apparent amusement as his fellows molest her.
Celia: Well this backfired spectacularly.
For a moment she’s taken back in time, just another dumb teenager who asked for help and was put on her knees for it. Whore, they say, and she sees Paul’s face. Jamal’s face. She closes her eyes against the mental intrusion.
Easy to go along with it. To let them have their way with her. Easy to let another set of hands push her down, make her open her mouth, let them use her. She’ll limp away with her pride in tatters, but alive for all that.
Maybe she should.
Maybe Celia would.
But Celia died, and while Jade might have fucked one of them, might have let the ghoul put his tiny dick in her if it meant she got out of here without being punished, she’s not about to let these vermin touch her. Jade reaches out with the gift of her clan, smothering the lust inside these fellows. Maybe they thought they wanted to fuck, but their bodies say otherwise.
“I’m on my period,” she says by way of explanation for the sudden lack of interest, because plenty of normal “macho” men are squicked out by blood, and they seem the type.
Maybe they need another focus for their attention, too; maybe one of them has a juicy secret he’s been hiding, and his dick not working just makes him think about it and blurt it out.
GM: “You sick whore!” the third man exclaims in revulsion, withdrawing his hands like they’ve been coated in something foul. “You crazy, sick… you’re SICK!”
Dangerous and equally disgusted expressions flash across the other men’s faces before the second man blurts out,
“My nigger parole officer makes me suck his cock after he found I was using.”
Three sets of alternately incredulous and coldly furious eyes immediately whip towards him.
Celia: Jade plays along, mouth going slack at the confession.
GM: “Wh-no he doesn’t!” the man suddenly exclaims, his eyes wide. “He’s so stupid, he doesn’t have any fuckin’ idea!”
Celia: No wonder he wanted to cum on her face. She bets the parole officer makes him take it like that.
Maybe it occurs to the other men, too.
Write what you know and all that.
GM: The other three men are very, very quiet. The hands on Jade go slack.
Celia: Jade drops the spotlight on her, sliding back into obscurity. As soon as the opportunity presents itself she’ll slip away.
GM: “He do that to you?” asks the ghoul, his voice calm. “‘Drown you in cum?’”
“No. Why the fuck would I say that!?” His eyes are wide. “It was a j-”
“I didn’t think it was funny,” the first man says coldly.
“Me neither,” says the third. There’s a look in his eyes.
They throw Jade to the ground with all the regard for a used condom. Her hands scrap against the pavement.
“Get out of here, cunt,” spits the ghoul without looking at her.
All three men advance towards their fellow.
He holds up his hands. “Wai-”
Celia: That’s her cue. She backpedals out of the way, then takes off as quickly as her little legs can carry her after climbing to her feet.
GM: First there’s the sound of protests, cut off under the sounds of fists and feet connecting with flesh.
It’s only after she’s a block away that she starts to hear true screams.
Celia: She almost feels bad.
But he called her a whore, so he deserves what he gets.
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM
GM: The Milton H. Latter Memorial Library crouches on a low grassy hill in the Garden District, isolated from even the leisurely district’s comparative hustle and bustle. Wind sighs through the leaves of old Southern oaks whose branches grasp at the building’s roof like gnarled, jealous black fingers.
This late at night, the library is closed to the public. A locked door awaits Jade as she makes her way up the hill.
After several moments, there’s a low click from the other side.
Celia: Jade opens the door and slips inside once it unlocks, closing it behind her.
GM: She sees no one there. The library appears utterly deserted. Rows and rows of books stretch before her. There are no noisy children, crazy homeless people, or simple patrons quietly perusing the library’s books. The lights are out. The only sound comes from the low hum of ventilation ducts. Jade may as well be in a tomb.
Celia: But someone opened the door for her, and Jade doesn’t mind going to find the Malkavian she’s looking for. fQuiet footfalls announce her presence through the stacks.
GM: The Toreador does not encounter a living soul as she stalks past the rows of books. She arrives at a reading room. Parts of the building’s interior still resemble the mansion it used to be, replete with a fireplace, fancy drapes and rugs, and old-fashioned brass light fixtures.
For a moment she thinks she’s seen a ghost. The figure on the couch looks like a librarian straight out of the ‘50s or ‘60s, down to the rhine-stone glasses, pearl necklace and auburn hair done up in a prim bun. She wears a frumpy wool cardigan, plaid skirt, and opaque tights. She’s pallid enough to mistake for a restless shade, but Jade’s Beast growls otherwise.
She’s silently reading a book. She does not look up at Jade’s presence.
She does not turn the pages.
They turn on their own.
Celia: It’s certainly an unsettling atmosphere this late at night, and the strong evidence of spirits makes it even more so. If she hadn’t already believed in ghosts she’d be convinced with a trip to this library. The door, the pages—irrefutable evidence that the licks are not alone.
Jade approaches. No doubt Clairmont’s shades have told her that there’s company. She doesn’t clear her throat or otherwise draw attention to herself, though she pauses on the threshold to reach into her bag and pulls out the book.
GM: The air seems to grow thicker around Jade as she steps forward. Heavier. She feels like she is being watched. Like a shriveled, disapproving old librarian is glaring down the back of her neck and just waiting for her to transgress.
The librarian offers no response to Jade. She just keeps reading. Another page turns. It’s one of the last in the book.
Celia: The endings are the most important part. Jade knows how annoying it is to be interrupted while reading; she waits until Clairmont is ready for her. She doesn’t have anywhere to be until 4.
GM: Clairmont keeps reading.
Another page turns.
She keeps reading.
Celia: At least there’s no annoying clock that ticks with every passing second. No doubt the librarians frown on such interruptions.
GM: The book abruptly closes. Clairmont looks up.
“I love hoaw it ends,” she says in a thick Boston accent. “We heah about Myhna Minkawff all throughout the nawvel and only then do we finally get tuh meet hah. She’s everything we imagined and ev’n wawse. She and Ignatius cawmpletely desahve each othah.”
Celia: Jade glances at the title when Clairmont closes the book before she smiles, lifting her eyes to the lick.
GM: It’s Confederacy of Dunces.
Celia: “I haven’t had the pleasure of that one yet,” Jade says honestly, “but I’m always looking for new things to read.”
GM: “You should read it. It’s vahy good. It’s famous faw its realistic depiction of the yat dialect. Many locals and writahs think that it’s the best depiction theyah is in any wawk of fiction.”
“I also love how much Boethius comes up, the sixth centuhwy is such an undahexplahed time period in fiction, at least in Rome. Which I suppose the book in’t actually set in, but I still like the numbah of references theyah ah. Boethius’ book is a plot duhvice.”
Celia: “I’ll have to add it to my list,” Jade says, “thank you for the recommendation. Waste of a Requiem to not use our time to appreciate the works of others.”
GM: “I hav’n’t read the Cawnsolation of Philosawphy, but whenevah I re-read Cawnfederacy it makes me want tuh read that too. Ignatius thought it was so inspiring. He’s hahdly a role model, but I just want tuh see what Toole thought he saw in it.”
“Would youh like tuh check out Cawnfederacy? I did just finish it, and it’s not on any othah patron’s wait list.”
Celia: Another book she hasn’t read.
“I’d love to. I brought one for you as well. It’s a classic, so I imagine you may have read it, but I think it’s an illuminating look into the lives and beliefs of those who lived in Virgil’s day.” She holds the book aloft for Clairmont and her wraiths to get a look.
GM: Clairmont gets up, looks at the copy of Virgil’s book for several minutes, then plucks it from Jade’s hands with an apparently happy air.
“Oh yes, I’ve read it, of cawse I’ve read it, but I’ll add it to the library. You can’t evah have tooah many cawpies. That way different people can check out cawpies at once. And sometimes they like some cawpies more than othahs. We have sehvwal cawpies of Cawnfederacy, I like tuh altahnate between them whenevah I re-read it, youh can pick which one yuh want tuh check out.”
Celia: “Sometimes the translations are different,” Jade adds, “which can change the contextual meaning of certain phrases, and provide some interesting commentary on people at that time as well.”
GM: “That too, so much all depends on the edition,” Clairmont agrees. She makes her way to the library’s front desk and steps behind the computer.
“Do yuh have a library cahd, ma’am?”
Celia: “It might be expired,” Jade admits, “I usually have one of my girls pick something up for me.”
GM: “Okay, we can renew it if it is, it’s no trouble,” says the Malkavian.
Celia: Jade digs through her bag. She finds a card, but it has Celia’s name on it. Whoops.
“I have her card,” she offers.
GM: “Well yuh can’t use someone else’s cahd if she isn’t checking out the book,” Clairmont declares offendedly. “We’ll get yuh one. What’s youh full name and date of bihth, ma’am?”
Celia: Jade gives it to her.
GM: Clairmont also asks for her address, phone number (work and home), postal code, gender, whether she lives in city limits, and similar such standard bureaucratic form information.
Celia: Jade gives her the information for Flawless. It’s the only place she takes mail with the name “Jade” anyway.
GM: Clairmont types it all in, tells Jade to wait a moment, then disappears into the back and comes back with a newly-laminated library card in the name of Jade Kalani.
“Sign heuh please, ma’am,” she says, indicating the blank space on the card. She provides a pen.
Celia: Jade signs her name.
GM: “Youh ah now a library patron, Miss Kalani,” Clairmont declares in a pleased tone. “Do youh have a book youh’d like tuh check out?”
Celia: “The one you recommended,” Jade says, “and the one you were just reading. Hopefully we can discuss them more in length during my next visit. I am also hoping to borrow a moment of your time, Miss Clairmont. Well, perhaps two moments.”
GM: Clairmont nods. “Okay. The cawpies will all be heah soon. Would she like tuh get a library card tooah?”
Celia: “If she doesn’t have one I’m sure she’ll appreciate the assistance.” Jade glances around. “For all the technological advances in our world, I think sometimes we forget how much information and knowledge lurks within the pages of institutes like these. I hit a snag on a recent research project when I came across an unfamiliar word and thought you might be able to direct me to an appropriate source.”
GM: Jade sees no one else.
“Of cawhse, Miss Kulani, I’d be happy tuh,” says the Malkavian. “But let’s get her a cahd first. Fahwst, last, and middle name?”
Celia: Jade blinks. She’d thought that Clairmont meant Alana or “Celia.” She looks down at her bag, then pulls out the doll.
“For Lucy, you mean?”
GM: Clairmont nods. “I presume you ah the parent oah guahdian.”
Celia: “I am.”
GM: “What awh her middle and last names?”
Celia: Jade hesitates. Then, “Diana. Flores.”
GM: Clairmont types into the computer. “So that’s Lucy Diahna Flawes?”
GM: Some more taps of the keyboard.
“Okay. How about…”
Date of birth.
Home phone number.
Work phone number isn’t needed.
Does she live inside city limits?
Celia: Jade provides the relevant information. Lucy lives with her, so most of it is the same as what she provided.
GM: “Ah you shoah that’s right? She doan look older than sixteen, seventeen?” asks Clairmont after the pre-1989 birth date Jade provides.
She looks at Lucy.
“Oah, of cawse. Silly me.”
“We’ll go with the final date, then.”
Her fingers tap over the keyboard.
Celia: Jade’s eyes sweep back and forth between the pair as they… talk.
“You see and hear her,” she says.
GM: Clairmont keeps typing into the computer.
“I need tuh enter her infawmation. Yuh can’t have a library cahd without all the infawmation.”
Celia: Jade just nods.
She lets the librarian do her thing, providing what details she can.
GM: Clairmont enters it all, then disappears into the back. She returns with a laminated card that Jade is asked to sign, despite the birth date being for 1988.
October 10th, 1988.
Jade does some mental math.
Exactly 40 weeks, or three trimesters, to the day, before Celia was born.
Celia: “The final date?” Jade echoes.
Her release from the house?
GM: “That’s right,” Clairmont agrees. “Please sign foah her, ma’am, as the parent oah guahdian.”
Celia: Jade does as asked, still trying to figure out what it all means.
Maybe if she hadn’t torped Elyse she could have just asked her.
GM: “Heeuh you ah, young lady, you ah now a library patron,” Clairmont smiles at Lucy as she extends the card.
“Yes. That’s very bad. I’m sahry.”
She looks at Jade. “Would you like to hold onto it foah her, ma’am?”
“Yes, we do.”
“Seeing as she doesn’t have big enough pawckets.”
Celia: “Of course,” Jade says, extending her hand for the card. She slips both of the new cards into her purse.
She can’t help but feel like she’s missing part of the conversation.
GM: “I doan think they know, or maybe they do know. I can’t ask them that, because, you know.”
“Do you want to check out any books foah her, ma’am?”
“What’s it like?”
Celia: “I’m sorry,” Jade says softly, “I fear I’m missing part of the conversation.”
GM: “Oh, I’m sahwy,” Clairmont apologizes. “Do you want tuh check out any books foah her, ma’am?”
“It must be very boring.”
Celia: “Is there anything in particular she’d like to read?” Her eyes rest on the doll.
GM: “I’m not shoah. She wants tuh read it and she doesn’t. It’s vahy strange!”
Celia: “Maybe we could get it in case she decides she does?”
GM: “Okay. Excuse me.”
Clairmont disappears and returns several minutes later with an armful of books, including Pride and Prejudice. It’s Diana’s favorite book. She sets them down on the desk.
Celia: Jade touches the tips of her fingers to the book, recalling all the times she has seen her mother with a copy of it in hand.
“Miss Clairmont, Lucy and I have had some difficulty communicating with each other recently. I know she has something to tell me, but not what. Is there any chance you can assist?”
GM: Clairmont nods. “Which one of yoah, Miss Kalani?”
“Would they like library cahds too?”
Celia: “With… me, I think.”
She looks around, as if expecting to see the others beside her.
GM: She and Clairmont appear alone in the library but for Lucy.
“Yes, yes, youh have a cahd, I’m asking if they’d like ones.”
Celia: “Ah, I meant that I think her words were for me. One of them has a card. The other… prefers being read to.”
GM: Clairmont nods agreeably. “Okay. But it nevuh hurts tuh have a cahd.”
“Okay. I’ll take youh word fah it.”
“That’s intahesting. Is thahe more in you? Youh seem more real.”
Celia: “Just the three, I think.”
GM: “It must hurt, though.”
Celia: “To have multiples? Not necessarily. They’re like… built-in friends.”
True enough for what the Malkavian means, she thinks. Jade—Celia—doesn’t actually have multiple personalities. Of course she doesn’t. She just has multiple identities, personas and masks she can slip into depending on what she needs and how a conversation flows. Jade, Celia, Leilani.
…and the others. Star. Violet. Lilly. Neveah. Heather now. All of whom have built in stories, friends, lovers, careers… just like Jade does. Just like Celia does. Leilani to a lesser extent; she is, perhaps, the least developed of them all, but that comes from being sheltered and coddled her entire life, and there are few enough situations in her Requiem where such a persona can flourish.
They’re just masks, aren’t they?
But what about Elyse’s words, Lucy’s announcement that she’s pregnant with more sisters? What about the dolls, Lotus and Blossom and Princess, what about the iris and the bleeding heart? What about the male form she’d taken to fuck herself? The nameless doll that might be part of her more than either one of them realize?
Masks, all of them. There’s nothing more to it than that. She’s in control. She picks who interacts with whom.
That’s all it is.
GM: Of course it is.
She’s in control.
She created them, didn’t she?
“Oh, I meant hah. But I had a friend who had multiples, too. They kept hah safe. She died in Kahtrina. That was sad. We doan stick around like they do.”
Celia: They keep Celia safe, too.
“The multiples stick around?”
GM: “It depends. Only if they’re born before yuh die.”
Celia: Part of her will be around forever, even if she’s dead. It’s an interesting thought.
GM: “Aftuh all, things can happen to them, like with Lucy.”
Celia: “Lucy was a multiple?”
GM: Clairmont nods. “Is a multiple.”
Celia: “And she was separated from her host.”
GM: “I doan think she likes it in there.”
Celia: “In the doll?”
GM: “Would youh like tuh be stuck in a doll?”
Celia: “No. I didn’t realize she was… stuck.”
“This is one of Lady Interpreter Benson’s creations,” Jade continues, “I thought she… was just that.”
GM: “Oh yes, I could tell,” nods Clairmont. “Elyse does vahy good wuhk.”
Celia: “Lucy was cleaved from her host and stuffed inside the doll?”
GM: “It’s more that she died, youh see.”
Celia: “She died,” Jade echoes.
GM: “We all die a little,” says Clairmont. “But sometimes we die more, youh know?”
Celia: “I’m sorry, I don’t follow. Can you explain?”
GM: “Well, youh look like youh died at least… oh, fouh times? Moah? I can’t really tell from here.”
Celia: “How could I die more than once, though..?”
GM: “That’s why youh should play it safe, get multiple cahds,” Clairmont nods.
“Do Lucy’s multiples have cahds? I’m not shoah how many she has.”
Celia: “I’m not certain. I didn’t realize there was more than Lucy.”
GM: “Of cawhse there are! People doan get born inside dolls.”
Celia: “I’m a little fuzzy on the details of how Lucy came to be.”
“Can you… help?”
GM: “Well, I’m bettah at death than birth, except when dying is how someone gets bahn.”
“Like heah, but not always.”
Celia: “Anything more than I know now would be of assistance.”
GM: “Youh get it bettah thane most of them do,” Clairmont nods, “but youh still have a way to go. Hawlequin can help youh theuh.”
“I doan really know about the multiples, except when they die. He knows more about the multiples when they doan’t die.”
Celia: “What about Lucy, in particular? If you can communicate with her and I am unable to right now? She gave me a message but hurt herself doing so, and I’d like to know what else she needs to tell me or how to fix it.”
GM: “Oh, well, she wants out.”
Celia: “A body, you mean?”
GM: “She really wants out.”
Celia: “I don’t know how to do that.”
GM: “That’s the point,” Clairmont nods.
“Elyse does vahy good work.”
Celia: “So you mean that Elyse trapped Lucy inside this doll when her host when to visit the Wedding Cake House. And there are multiple others inside the host, or inside Lucy, and they want out.”
GM: “I doan know without seeing the host, and they’d need tuh have died, anyway, or youh should see Hawlequin.”
Celia: “Okay.” Jade nods. “Thank you.”
GM: “Hawlequin knows about the multiples who haven’t died, like I said.”
“Lucy has died, so that’s how it is.”
“Also, she wants a Diahna tuh get her out.”
Celia: “Diana is afraid of her.”
GM: Clairmont shrugs.
Celia: “Is Diana the only one who can get her out?”
GM: “Well it’s a quesshun of can and a quesshun of how and a quesshun of what, and only Diahna ticks all three bawxes.”
“Which makes perfect sense.”
“Would you want uh strangah tuh take care of youah multiples? Or to do it youhself?”
“Are youh sure you doan want cahds for them all?”
Celia: “I think two out of three is enough for me, considering the last doesn’t read as much as she enjoys being read to. But there is something else you can assist with, if you don’t mind?”
GM: “Okay, what’s that?”
Celia: “It’s that research project I mentioned earlier. There’s just something I came across that I thought you might know, or might have heard of, that I haven’t.”
GM: “All right, what is it?”
GM: “I’d have tuh research that.”
Celia: Jade nods. “I couldn’t find much online, but I thought if anyone had the knowledge or the ability to find out more it’d be you. Do you keep archives of newspapers?”
GM: Clairmont nods in turn. “Yes, we have microfiche records.”
“I like those.”
Celia: “Do you mind if I browse? There was an incident a number of years ago I’d like to look into.”
GM: She nods again. “Youh have a library cahd, ma’am, go ahead.”
“We close at dawn.”
“Foah the aftuh-hours patrons.”
Celia: Jade beams at Clairmont.
“Thank you very much for your assistance.”
GM: She looks to the side. “Oh. Youh think?”
“Well yes, I am a librarian.”
“I just thought.”
Celia: Jade waits for a polite moment to excuse herself, making sure she doesn’t cut off Clairmont or one of her wraiths. She carries Lucy with her as she moves toward the microfiche records.
GM: “WAIT,” the Malkavian calls sharply.
Celia: Jade stops.
GM: Clairmont just stares ahead.
Celia: Jade waits quietly.
GM: “Youah fahgetting something,” she whispers.
Celia: The books? She takes a step toward them.
GM: “Which edition do yuh want?” Clairmont smiles.
Celia: “The second option, please.”
GM: “Thuh classic,” Janine says approvingly as she scans the book’s barcode and slides it over.
“Due back in two weeks.”
Celia: “I’ll make sure that it’s done.”
GM: She scans the next book too.
“Two weeks also, but youh can renew eithuh one online.”
“What about Pride and Prejuhdice foah Lucy?”
Celia: Jade nods, sliding the scanned books into her bag. She produces Lucy’s card for the third book.
GM: The third title is duly scanned as well.
“Also, they say I helped youh, so I doan owe youh,” Clairmont adds.
Celia: “I’ll strike the debt,” Jade says.
GM: Clairmont nods, looks at Lucy, then drops her voice.
“Also, Lucy says if youh’d let Jade have her way, she was going tuh leave youah. Fawhevuh. And nevuh come back.”
Celia: With Diana? Jade glances down at the doll.
“I’m glad it didn’t come to that. I let things get out of hand. It won’t happen again.”
GM: “Lucy’s glad tooah.”
Celia: “Thank you again, Miss Clairmont.”
GM: “Youah welcome.”
Celia: Books checked out and doll in tow, Jade bids the Malkavian a good evening and moves through the stacks to find the readers.
GM: She locates them after a brief search.
Celia: She wants more information about the oven monster and what originally happened. The thing that made the news, with the guy and his girlfriend-slash-common-law-wife who he cooked and killed and ate, maybe in that order. Anything she can find, no matter how outlandish. She starts with the main newspapers and branches out from there, looking for opinion pieces, occult pieces, and anything else that even mentions it.
GM: Common law marriage, Celia discovers as a related piece of research, does not exist in Louisiana. The state stopped legally recognizing such marriages in 2001, as part of a broader national trend away from common law unions.
Celia: Good thing, too, or she and Randy might be technically (sort of?) married, and that would be an awkward explanation.
GM: Awkward in practice, too. He’d own half of her property.
Celia: If she owns him, though, what does that math work out to?
GM: She discovers a fair bit about the couple after reading through old newspapers.
Celia: Celia pages through the relevant articles, putting together a mental picture of the couple. Mental illness. Addiction. Chasing a high. Things she understands, even if not personally—though Mel had implied all licks are addicts, Celia isn’t entirely sure she believes it. Can you really be addicted to your food source when it’s the only thing you can have?
She pushes the thought aside, irrelevant as it is.
Rampart. She hadn’t been concerned about the location at the time, but it’s right across the street from that park where all of those licks were Embraced a number of years ago. And a VooDoo place nearby.
A few of the words and phrases give her pause: hacksaw, lack of remorse, sinful vices, death taking hold and changing someone’s journey… and there, “defeated by his own demons.” Defeated by someone’s demons, alright.
Unfortunately for them, their romance could never play out the way they hoped it would. Betrayal, deceit, lies, cheating, mental illness, drugs and alcohol… were all a cocktail for a disastrous and murderous romance.
Celia swallows the lump that forms in her throat. She’s not them. It doesn’t mean anything. All sorts of couples hit rough patches. He’s not going to…
She doesn’t want to dwell.
With Clairmont’s permission, Jade prints or makes copies of the articles she’d found to take with her and puts them into her bag with the rest of the books.
She has a handful of leads to pursue, in any case. Woke is sitting pretty in prison. No mention of Rodriguez’s sentence (only that she was convicted), but that should be easy enough to find. None of them paint a clear picture; she feels like she’s looking at a puzzle full of missing pieces. But she’ll tug what strings she can to find out more about this thing and its handler.
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM
GM: At 4 AM, she’s back at Pete’s office in the Evergreen. She knocks and comes in to find the detective changing out of a torn and bloodstained shirt into a fresh one.
Celia: She doesn’t mean to let her gaze linger, but it does. She’d be lying to herself if she said she’d never thought about it. Even the faint whiff of blood is enough to lengthen her fangs; she keeps her lips closed until the bloody shirt is disposed of. No need to give the detective the wrong idea.
Not really the wrong idea when there’s some kernel of truth in there somewhere.
GM: Pete’s shirtless frame isn’t as buff Roderick’s, who looks to Celia like he spent a lot of time at the bench press before Coco Embraced him, carefully sculpting his body to the point he wanted it to stay at forever. Pete has muscle, but he’s more wiry. Harder-seeming, in a way. More gristle and grit than sculpted excellence.
“A night,” he says as he takes his seat.
Celia: Maybe he’ll let her touch him up next time she… touches him down? Unfixes his face? Whatever he wants to call it where she makes him older and uglier. The thought of Roderick absurdly makes her think of her sire and how buff he is by comparison (or at least what she’s seen of him, one whole forearm), but she tries not to let her thoughts wander down that path.
Celia closes the door and takes the seat across from him. She fishes through her purse for the thermos.
“Maybe this’ll make it better?”
GM: She tries, but they still do, until Pete opens the thermos. He doesn’t need to take a whiff.
He looks at it, then up to her.
“Celia, I overreacted last night,” he says with a sigh.
Celia: “Why do you say?”
GM: “Because I thought I was in love with your mom.”
“I’ve only spoken to her, what, once, twice, seven years ago.”
Celia: Denial, she thinks, but she simply nods.
GM: “I was in love with the idea of her.”
Celia: Her lips twist.
GM: “A cop’s work isn’t honest work in this city. Everyone is on the take. I can count on one hand the number of cops I’ve known who aren’t on the take.”
“I’m on the take, just to maintain my cover.”
“And that’s just the baseline. The normal joes clocking in to work every day, not thinking about it beyond that.”
“The real pieces of work. The Ricky Moutons. The Rich Gettises. The things they do and get away with. I’ve known cops who shoved pregnant women down flights of stairs. Who shook down old ladies for their social security checks. Who sold drugs on the streets. Who rape and steal and terrify and murder because they can get away with it, with near impunity. Thugs, animals, with badges.”
“Brass doesn’t care.”
“If you live in a posh place in the Garden District and an escort overdoses in your bedroom, or you just decide it would be fun to strangle her and not let go until the light goes out in her eyes, the right thing to do is call the cops.”
“Because they’ll sweep it up.”
“They know who butters their bread.”
Celia: Is he trying to convince her that he isn’t a good person because other people in the same occupation aren’t good people? That, what, her mom is a breath of fresh air because she’s pure an innocent and good, and it’s that ideal woman that he wants so he can take a break from the rest of the horrible world?
She’s quiet while he talks. She knows all about being in love with the idea of someone.
“But you’re not that person.”
GM: “I try not to be. But this isn’t about me and that.”
“We put on a uniform hoping to protect and serve, to make a difference in our communities. I did, at least.”
“I knew it wouldn’t be a bed of roses, when I signed up. I knew enough of how the world worked.”
“I still wanted to be the good guy. There are so few times, you get to just be the good guy.”
“Then your family called 911. And I got to be the good guy. I got to help a sweet mother and daughter get out from under their almost comically evil ex-husband and father.”
Celia: Sweet. That girl doesn’t exist. Not anymore. Maybe not even then.
And they hadn’t called 911. They’d called one of those “real pieces of work” because her grandmother had told her to call him, not the cops, someone who would actually do something.
She doesn’t interrupt.
GM: “How much I actually helped is debatable, but I got to be the good guy who did gentlemanly things like pick up a gaggle of kids in his car.”
“And that’s it.”
“The girl became a vampire and I didn’t see or speak to her mother again.”
Celia: “That’s not really it. You called me when you hadn’t heard from her the next night. You… explained everything to me when I got in over my head. You went to the hospital with me to get her, to move her. You took me to the doctor to fix her.”
He’d ponied up a fair amount of cash for it, too.
GM: “We can amend that to ’didn’t speak to her mother again.’ The point being, Celia, I was fixated on who I got to be to her. I loved who I got to be, for that brief moment. But past that, we’re practically strangers to each other.”
“She’s your mother and your ghoul. Do whatever you think is right with her. It’s not my business.”
Celia: She doesn’t know what he wants from her. He’s lying to her. Lying to himself, too, if he really thinks that it’s all that is. He’s been carrying a torch for her for years. And sure, maybe it’s unrequited, maybe it’s doomed, maybe she’s wrong and it is just the idea of being a hero and who he gets to be around Diana that he’s in love with… but isn’t that what love is? Being who you are inside, letting the other person bring out the best version of you? Isn’t that why she loves Roderick, because, like she’d explained to her mom, she can still be Celia around him? And why, in a less rose-tinted version of unlife, she loves her sire? Because she can be Jade around him?
…is she Jade? Or is she Celia? She can’t be both.
Is Jade just who she thinks her sire and Veronica want her to be, and Celia is… who she wants to be?
Maybe she doesn’t know who she wants to be.
Maybe she is a—
She stops that thought before it finishes.
She doesn’t argue the point with him. She doesn’t tell him he’s wrong. It brings up too many questions about herself, and if she’s not ready to deal with those demons then she doubts that he’s ready to deal with his.
“I don’t want her to be my ghoul,” she finally says. “I just want her to be my mom.”
GM: A bald man could tell her what she is.
Paul could tell her what she is.
Roderick is happy to tell her what she is, even if his answer probably isn’t the same as theirs.
Could her sire tell her too?
Savoy can. Her mom can. Dani can. Maybe Pete can.
Isn’t that the problem, that everyone all has such different visions for the Jade or Celia they want their Jade or Celia to be?
“It’s a little late for that,” says Pete.
Celia: If all of them know, then somewhere inside of her she knows too.
“It’s not,” she says to Pete.
“I might have found a solution.”
Celia: “I mean, the problem is the Masquerade, right? If someone finds out she knows, they’ll put her down, use it against me, whatever the case may be. But… what if they don’t?”
“What if no one ever finds out?”
GM: “Then that’s that. If she can keep a secret.”
Celia: “It’s more than that. There’s a… there’s a ritual.”
“No one would even look at her then.”
GM: “‘Ritual’ can have an infinitude of possible effects. That doesn’t narrow things down.”
Celia: “She’d be lucky. Lucky enough that anyone who wanted to investigate her would be sidetracked. Lucky enough that if someone were to fire a gun at her it’d misfire, or ricochet off a conveniently placed thing and hit them instead. Lucky enough that she wouldn’t suffer the effects of withdrawal when I stop giving her blood.”
GM: Pete frowns. “What’s powering it?”
Celia: “I don’t know if there’s a name for what they are. But there are people out there that are—” how had Marcel put it?—‘“blessed with good fortune.’ And I found one. Earlier tonight. And if I help someone with a big favor, he said he’d do the ritual for me and transfer the luck to a person of my choice."
GM: The Tremere’s frown deepens. “I’ve not heard of something like this.”
Celia: Neither had she. But there’s a lot she hasn’t heard of.
“I saw it in action, Pete. This guy walked out in front of cars and they all missed him. People tripped when they tried to punch him. He got out of handcuffs that had him tied to a bed. The bullet thing? I watched that happen.”
GM: “I believe you. There’s a lot of strange stuff out there.” His frown doesn’t abate. “I’m just wondering if that’s all it is.”
Celia: “He said they were human. Just lucky. Blessed by stars or fates or gods or something.”
GM: “All power has an origin. And side effects.”
Celia: She’s seen those side effects in play.
“It’s worth trying, isn’t it? I can always re-ghoul her if things go sideways.”
GM: Pete chews his lip.
“I think it’s an avenue worth looking into. But I’d advise looking it into before you go ahead with it.”
Celia: “Bit of a time crunch. He said the luck is going to start running out in about a week. And I have to figure out the favor before then.”
GM: “Who’s ‘he?’”
Celia: “Marcel Guilbeau.”
GM: Pete grunts. “Guy who runs a business where luck is king. Suppose it makes sense he’d know.”
“One concept that’s fairly universal in occult traditions is sympathy. Like draws like. It’s why you make voodoo dolls with somebody’s hair.”
“Do you consider your mother an already lucky person?”
Celia: Does she? She’s never really thought about it.
“I don’t think she’s unlucky,” she says at length. “I think some not so good things have happened to her but she’s managed to persevere. I think it’s lucky that I’m her daughter, that I… that I died for her. That Lucy has turned out like she is. That she found a good lawyer when she needed one. That she’s happy and healthy, besides the leg. That she’s lucky the same daughter can find the tools to fix said leg, or when your friend gets back into town learn to do it myself.”
The more she thinks about it, the more it seems likely that Diana is maybe a little bit lucky.
“Lucky that you were the cop to show up. That you helped. That you knew a doctor to fix her.”
GM: Pete grunts. “Could do worse, it sounds. But like I said. I’d advise looking further into this before you go ahead with anything.”
Celia: “I planned on it. I still just also have to get the favor out of the way.” A hopeful glance.
“I’m not going to let him do it to her without further research. Just, you know, time crunch.”
GM: “All right. Was there anything else tonight?”
Celia: Not even a nibble? Damnit, Pete.
GM: He waits expectantly.
Celia: “There’s a few things,” she hedges. “If you have a minute.”
GM: “Spit it out, Celia.”
Celia: So she does.
“Do you know anything about demons?”
GM: “More than your average Camarilla lick, I expect, but I’m not an expert.”
Celia: “But your sire is,” she presses.
“Krystin said maybe he is,” she amends.
GM: “It’s not an area he’s a specialist in either. But I expect my sire does know more about demons than me.”
Celia: And he’s less murder-y than Pete’s grandsire.
“Oh. Is there an expert in the city? Or could you… introduce me? For a favor, or whatever he needs? Or you.”
GM: “I could introduce you. The Sanctified are usually the experts when it comes to demons. There are some Tremere who make a more dedicated study of demonology, but it’s a black art.”
Celia: She’ll just ask her sire than, shall she?
“I thought this would be a more accessible route.”
GM: “Could be. Depends what you want to know.”
“I think I met one.”
Celia: Celia pulls the library papers out of her bag.
“Do you remember the thing that bugged my spa? So I followed it and it led here,” she points at the photo from the newspaper of the condemned house, “and this thing inside tried to eat me but I got out and I think we’re kind of friends now and I saw this lady come out tonight when I went back and she did this weird magic vanish-y trick with this, like, tainted blood that made her teleport out of the area. Not like vanish, like actually teleport, and she didn’t smell like vitae or anything but she did magic so I went to the library and it says right here that the guy wasn’t in his right mind, but that he was cooking his girlfriend but they didn’t find anything in his stomach so he didn’t eat her but this thing inside the house I think is what ate her, like he was feeding it maybe, and then you see right here how there’s this lack of remorse and empty feeling and hacksaw and I… met with someone who was like that but had an exorcism and said it was a demon.”
GM: Pete blinks for a moment to process that all.
“…all right, so what’s your interest in that? You think this possible demon bugged your spa?”
Celia: “Sort of? Also I was wondering if what this other person said is true?”
“Because I don’t know why a demon would bug my spa.”
GM: “I’d be at a loss to say why either. So you think the woman bugged your spa?”
Celia: “I have no idea who she is, though.”
“Or why they’d target me.”
GM: “What’d she look like?”
Celia: “I thought maybe it’d be like… hunters. Or Setites. Or honestly I thought it was Duke since it was kind of a botch job but it wasn’t, so…”
Celia describes the woman.
GM: “Hm. Can’t say I recognize. If you obtained an object she’s touched, I could get a look at her face. Having that would give some leads to run down.”
Celia: She could poke around the house. Maybe.
Or the bug.
GM: “Alternatively, bug the place in case she comes back.”
“Review the security around your spa, too.”
Celia: “I will.”
“I’d still like to learn more about them. This is pressing, of course, but so is the other person’s claim.”
GM: “Then as I said. I can introduce you to my sire, or I’d ask a priest like your Benson pal.”
Celia: Celia doesn’t think it’s going to be that easy with Benson, but she nods anyway.
GM: “Is that a yes or a no to him?”
Celia: “Yes, please.”
GM: “All right. I’ll ask.”
Celia: “Thank you. Any word on that stake?”
“I hit a wall with how I was looking into it. Fake name. Hate the idea of the hunters running around unchecked, though.”
GM: “On any given night there are who even knows how many hunters doing just that.”
Celia: “Then I hate the idea of hunters who went after my boyfriend unchecked.”
“And would like to find out who and what and why.”
“Since you said they seem… off.”
GM: “Hunter with the stake hasn’t said anything I want to make any moves over yet. Off or not, spying on hunters tends to be a lot like drug stings. Lot of waiting.”
Celia: “I s’pose I’ll learn to be patient, then.”
“Let me know, yeah? I’d like to assist.”
GM: “I will.”
Celia: “Thanks,” she says, tucking her papers back into her bag.
“Hey Pete,” she ventures after a moment, “do you need anything from me? You’ve been really helpful lately with everything and I just… you know?”
GM: “Yeah. I’ll let you know there, too, once there’s something.”
Celia: She nods. She’d told him the other night—anything.
“I’ll get out of your hair then.” She can figure out the rest of it on her own, she’s sure.
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM
GM: Roderick and Dani meet Celia back at her haven.
If he’s plotting to kidnap her, it looks like he’s planning to do that later.
Celia: All those terrible thoughts for nothing.
“How was your night?” she asks the pair.
GM: “It was good,” smiles Roderick, squeezing his sister’s shoulder. “We stopped off at Waffle House, then walked if off at City Park.”
“Stephen said we didn’t actually need to, because he’s pretty sure I can’t get fat,” says Dani. “I said we’d beat him up if I do.”
“There aren’t a lot of healthy places open 24/7,” says Roderick.
“He ate so much food,” says Dani. “A Texas cheesesteak melt, bacon, egg breakfast, triple chocolate pie…”
“Hey, it was all coming back out.”
Celia: “Might as well make it worth the purge.” The thought of eating makes her nauseous.
GM: “City Park was nice,” says Dani. “Isn’t really anyone else there this late. We just walked for a while, and… caught up. Or started to.”
“I’ve been gone for a lot of years,” says Roderick, giving his sister another squeeze.
“I’d never have wished the Embrace on her, or anyone, but… it’s just such a weight off. To have someone else who knows me as Stephen. Who I can be honest around.”
Celia: That’s what she was afraid of.
“I’m happy for you two. Glad you were able to work things out.”
“Not needing to lie to people, to be able to be who you used to be…” She curls against Roderick’s side. “It’s necessary.”
GM: “Me too,” says Dani, closing her eyes a moment to lean against her brother’s other side. “Just to have someone else who I can be open with, who doesn’t mind I’m duskborn…”
Roderick smiles and gives both women’s shoulders a squeeze.
“You were right, too, that he knows a lot,” says Dani. “But we tried not to talk too much about Kindred stuff, tonight.”
Celia: She doesn’t like this sharing thing.
“I told you he’s a good source. Better than me, I bet, with the history.” She tries for a wry smile but it ends up closer to a grimace.
Her eyes find any other spot in the room to rest on. She should be happy for them.
GM: Roderick rubs her back.
“Luck of Embrace, there. So much of what you can learn comes down to who you know. It’s not like we publish history books.”
“I’m glad she has us both, though. It sounds like she’s learned a lot of valuable things from you already.”
Celia: Lucky him. With his perfect sire. And his perfect Requiem. And his perfect job as the perfect scribe.
“Glad I could help.”
GM: “She mentioned the experiments you did to explore the limits of her powers. Good thinking with those.”
“He said he had some ideas too,” says Dani. “But like I said. We tried to limit tonight to personal stuff.”
Celia: She’s glad that while she was being molested by skinheads they were able to enjoy a stroll in the park. And chocolate pie.
“We should probably compare notes, see what we can find out.”
GM: Roderick nods. “I’ll consult what sources I can, too. We’ll find out everything we can. I want Dani to be the most knowledgeable duskborn in the city.”
“Speaking of more personal things, though…” says Dani, looking between the other two. “I just want to say, if you guys want to get married… go for it. I’d love to be your sister too, Celia.”
“I can’t imagine a better match. For either of you.”
Celia: Her lips form a smile.
Inside, though, she thinks how wrong the girl is.
She’ll ruin Roderick. And Dani. And everyone else who gets too close.
“Thanks,” she says, ignoring the pang. “He promised a super extravagant, romantic proposal.” She nudges him with her elbow. Finds another smile.
“I’m sure Mom will be thrilled.”
GM: Roderick smiles at the two.
“I’ll make it good. Enough to make up for the spoiled surprise.”
“And thanks, Dani. It means a lot to have your blessing.”
Celia: “Still probably a small ceremony,” she says with an effected sigh.
GM: “I’d rather have a small one, anyways,” says Roderick. “Big weddings are such a hassle. And I think you wind up inviting a bunch of people who honestly aren’t that meaningful in your life.”
Celia: “I know. Just…” She trails off. “It doesn’t matter, anyway.”
GM: “I want ours to be something intimate. With the people we love, not just co-workers and casual friends and distant relatives we haven’t seen in forever.”
His face falls a bit.
“I just wish Dad could come and know it’s me.”
Celia: He could.
Two ghouled parents.
Celia glances at Dani.
GM: Dani meets her gaze, then says,
“We could tell him the truth…”
Roderick just shakes his head.
“But would that be so bad?” she asks. “Stephen, it’d… it’d heal such a big hole in his heart, knowing you’re still alive…”
“That’s the temptation every lick faces,” Roderick answers heavily. “But if I tell Dad, why shouldn’t Celia tell Emily and her mom?”
“But they don’t think she’s dead,” says Dani.
Celia: “Emily would be a terrible renfield, anyway.”
GM: Roderick shakes his head. “I think making any family member into a renfield is a terrible idea.”
“You don’t have to make him a ghoul,” says Dani. “You could just tell him the truth.”
Roderick shakes his head again. “That’s almost as bad an idea.”
Celia: “What if no one found out..?”
GM: Roderick looks between them. “Dad’s a crusader. If we told him about this… he wouldn’t leave it alone.”
“It’s not in our family’s nature.”
“He wouldn’t just sit on the sidelines.”
“He’d take whatever action he thought was right.”
“And he’s a powerful, connected man. A Masquerade breach like that… you can’t just clean it up with a one-time boon to a kook or blue blood.”
Celia: Like putting down his son if he found out that he’s an undead abomination?
Is that what she saw in the vision? What she heard—the pounding of a gavel? Is it a court?
GM: “Emily’s just a med student. Celia’s mom is just a dance teacher. If either of them came forward, people would try to commit them, and that would be that. Dad could do god knows what in his position.”
Celia: “You think he would? Turn on you? Expose it? Expose us?”
GM: “I don’t think he’d turn on us,” says Roderick. “All I know is that leaving things alone isn’t in his nature.”
“And that once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting him back in.”
Celia: “It was a nice thought, though.”
GM: Dani sighs.
“Well, Lucy will be an adorable flower girl, at least.”
Celia: “She will,” Celia agrees. “And we can invite him even if he doesn’t know it’s you, Rod.”
GM: He gives a sad smile. “True enough. I just wish… I just wish I could make him whole, and that it’s not just his dead son’s ex he’s seeing get married. Thinking the whole time if this could have been me walking down the aisle.”
Celia: If he even shows. He thinks Celia cheated on his son. Why come to the wedding?
GM: “I’m not sure he’ll even want to come, honestly. Especially if he’s gotten less social, like you’ve said,” he says to Dani.
Dani frowns. “Well, maybe if the dinner goes well, we can swing it.”
Celia: “He thinks I cheated on you,” Celia says bluntly.
“I doubt he’ll be happy to see me or accept an invitation.”
GM: “We can fix that,” says Dani.
“We can tell him… enough of the truth, without lying. We can say you were basically forced to break up. That you were under a ton of pressure, and you believed this was the best thing for Stephen.”
Celia: “I was planning on talking to him privately, before the dinner. If he’ll listen.”
GM: “What would you tell him?” asks Roderick.
Celia: “A version of the truth. That I was raped. That you and I had a pregnancy scare and you told me you weren’t ready to be a dad. That my conception was because of rape, and I wouldn’t do that to a child, but I wouldn’t force you into something you didn’t want. That I… told you I cheated on you so you wouldn’t stick around, so I didn’t ruin your life.”
GM: “With the idea you were raped by… your dad, and that’s how Lucy came to be?” says Roderick.
“I don’t think he needs to hear that much detail,” says Dani.
“He shouldn’t, it’s just important to have a guiding narrative in mind.”
Celia: “I was just going to leave the guy blank. It’s not as if there’s—”
Well, that doesn’t matter.
GM: “Okay. So Lucy was a product of rape. We had a pregnancy scare. I wasn’t ready to be a dad. All of this happened at a terrible time. You told me you cheated, to push me away. All of that is actually true,” considers Roderick.
“Okay. I think that’ll work. It means… a lot to me, that we aren’t actually lying to him, just not telling the full truth. It’s the closest thing we can be to honest.”
“That’s really smart, Celia.”
Celia: The words are almost foreign to her.
“Thanks,” she says after a minute.
GM: He smiles and rubs her back.
“We should get back to my place, if we’re still going to have time for your lesson.”
“He’s going to teach me, too,” smiles Dani. “But he said we’re at different levels, so different lessons would be best for now.”
Celia: “Makes sense. Maybe you can learn with Logan. Apparently Emily’s boyfriend handed him his ass earlier.”
“Did I tell you that he already likes you more than Randy because you know how to fight?”
GM: “You mentioned him. HEMA guy, right?” says Roderick. “I’m not surprised. I doubt Logan had any training with swords.”
Celia: “He was a real brat about it.”
GM: “If you’ve not had training, prepare to get handed your ass. If I were still a breather, I might lose to Emily’s boyfriend. I’ve probably spent less time handling swords than he has.”
Celia: “It was more the attitude that I find amusing.”
GM: “Still, it’s flattering. Call me old-fashioned, but guys should know how to defend their women.”
“Oh my god, so sexist,” Dani says exaggeratedly.
Celia: Like her sire pulling her from the Dollhouse?
…does that make her his woman?
She tunes out the siblings, lost in the thought.
“He’ll be real upset when I hand him his ass,” she tacks on belatedly.
GM: “I’d like us to get to that point, actually,” Roderick answers seriously. “I’d feel more confident in your safety knowing you can go toe to toe with me.”
Dani’s smile dips a bit.
Maybe Celia could do that, some night.
Celia: “Hey,” she says to Dani, “there’s more to vampires than being a meathead like your brother. We’re taking another step tomorrow night, okay? You’ll get there. We’ll figure it out.”
They always do.
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, AM
GM: Back at Roderick’s new haven, Luna’s owner gives her lots of pets and belly rubs before Celia’s ready to come back. As he reminds her.
“We should get into a routine. The more times we practice, the harder the routine will be to break.”
They spend some time sparring. Roderick says she’s coming along well. “Maybe tomorrow night we can mix things up, and have you teach me those claws.”
“We should have you practice with those out too, come to think, if they’re your favored means of fighting.”
Celia: “You said they might make you lose it. That they’d actually hurt. How are you going to wake me if we both slip into the red?”
GM: “I’ve been thinking about that. I could get some arm guards.”
“Or could you dull them?”
Celia: She can’t help but think of the pair she gave her sire. They’d stop her claws. A knife. A sword. They were built for it.
“I can try.”
She hasn’t had much of a reason for dull claws. But she’s adept at shifting the rest of herself as needed, why not those?
GM: “Sounds good,” he smiles as they make their way to bed. He pulls off his sweats, then ‘helps’ Celia remove hers, and is true to his word about fucking her silly before dawn comes.
Celia: It’s the perfect time to strike.
He’ll never know. All she has to do is use the trick her alleged sire taught her, pull the cloud over his eyes, spill a little blood. Break the hold his sire has over him. It’ll pull him right into her arms. It’ll prevent any nonsense about Dani getting between them; she’ll be his rock, not the little thin-blood bitch.
All she has to do is slip the collar around his throat.
It’s afterward, while she lies pressed against his side, her boyfriend decidedly not fully bound to her, that she says what’s on her mind.
“You called me smart tonight.”
GM: “You are smart,” he smiles, his arms contently wrapped around her.
“It runs in the family. Your grandma’s a respected legal mind.”
“Your mom attended college with a family and career to balance.”
“Even your dad, much as I hate to admit it, isn’t an idiot.”
Celia: He’s not her dad, though. The words stick in her throat.
GM: “A scumbag rapist wifebeating child abuser, but not an idiot.”
“I’m sure the ways he belittled you aren’t possible to just get over, though. I’m sorry.”
“But he is wrong. Objectively wrong. You are smart.”
Celia: “Not as smart as you, though.” A higher pitch at the final word turns it into half a question.
GM: Her lover shakes his head.
“There are countless metrics by which to quantity intelligence. Even IQ scores are just an average of a panoply of separate, distinct tests. People tend to forget that part. A high IQ score is well and good if you get a consistently high score across all tests, but most people score higher on some tests and lower on others. Most people are good at different things.”
“Saying ’you’re smarter’ is like saying ’you’re more knowledgeable’. It’s an almost meaningless statement by itself. Smarter at what? More knowledgeable about what? I’m more knowledgeable than you about law, but you know more than I do about medical science. I don’t have a degree in that field like you do.”
Celia: The words are a balm to years-old wounds.
Why had she thought he’d just say yes? Why had she thought he’d take an opportunity to kick her while she’s vulnerable?
Because she expects it from everyone else.
But he’s not everyone else. He’s Stephen and she’s Celia and they love each other and even though the rest of the world sucks, theirs doesn’t have to. They can build a(n un)life together and be happy, and no one can take that away from them.
GM: Perhaps not.
But Celia’s last thought before daysleep takes her is of her sire’s face.
Thursday evening, 17 March 2016
GM: Celia rises the next night. Roderick greets her with a kiss, dresses with her, and says he’s going hunting and taking care of some legal work before he sees Dani again, “To teach her more about Kindred society.” After that, he’s got “lick business to attend to.” He asks if Celia wants to meet back up several hours before dawn, so they have time to do something together.
“We could watch a movie, but I’d like us to go on a proper date sometime,” he mentions. “Let’s think of ideas while we’re off doing our things.”
Alana greets Celia at Flawless to go over her schedule.
First, she has some actual clients to see tonight.
She’s also scheduled a bloc of time alone for her stomach addition.
Dani is coming by shortly before 10 to accompany Celia to Edith’s. She’s scheduled to come by Flawless on Saturday unless Celia wants to do another time.
Celia’s mother has come by with what Alana says she’s termed “good news.” Since tonight isn’t her weekly session, she’s currently being massaged by one of the girls.
Lastly, Peter Lebeaux has sent word on dates his sire can met Celia. The soonest is at the Tremere chantry on Friday night (technically Saturday morning), at 2 AM, but he is available afterwards until dawn.
“But you mentioned you’re seeing Lucia then, mistress, so how long do you think it’ll take and when do you want to pencil Bornemann in for? Lebeaux’s ghoul said he still needs a time, not a drop-in.” Dawn is around 6:45.
The ghoul also has a last matter to bring up.
“It’s been so long since we got to sleep together, mistress… I mean in bed, not just sex. I like being there, next to you, when you wake up. When can we do that again?” Alana asks longingly.
Celia: What do vampires do on dates? Anything non-food related, she supposes, though that doesn’t seem to be as much an issue for Roderick as it is most of them. She says she’ll let him know and is already thinking of ideas when they kiss goodbye—dancing, music venues, late night sky-diving…
She doesn’t ask about his lick business. Or tell him that she’s got plenty of her own tonight. Or that she’s already got a date with someone later.
If she had a stomach, maybe it would twist itself in knots. The scheduled addition is, perhaps, all too timely.
Celia changes for her clients while Alana lists her notes, the pair of them alone in her office. She doesn’t quite believe that Diana’s “good news” is going to be good for her, but she’ll give the woman the benefit of the doubt for now.
Pete sure managed to get in to see his sire quickly. Expedited the meeting for her, did he? She’ll have to find an appropriate way to thank him. Unfortunately it clashes with Lucia. And she can’t help but recall the fortune teller’s words, that the Giovannini will hurt her to give her the answers she needs. It’s an avenue she’ll take… but not if Clairmont’s claim that Harlequin can help pans out instead.
She hates that she’s already in debt to the masked harpy and not the other way around.
“Reschedule Lucia.” Twenty-four hours is enough notice for most people. “If she cannot see me in a relatively timely manner, tell her I didn’t want to be late but that I can be there at 4 AM rather than 3. Put Bornemann in for 2.” Demon talk can’t take longer than two hours, can it?
“Get me a meeting with Harlequin. Sooner rather than later, but don’t promise anything.” She could wait until she seems him tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday to approach him herself, but she’d rather get it on the books than risk getting distracted.
“You know things have been tumultuous lately, ’Lana,” Celia finally says, addressing her last concern. She cups the ghoul’s cheek with her hand, thumb tracing across her lower lip. Her own follow after, gentle kisses pressed against the ghoul’s mouth, then jaw, then throat. Celia lifts her onto the desk, stepping between her legs. She wishes again for a cock. Wishes that it didn’t take so long to put one on herself. Wishes she had time to turn Alana into Celia and herself into someone else and show the girl…
Show her that she misses her, too. Her gentle touch. The noises she makes. The way her lashes flutter and her toes curl and how red her skin gets when she accepts her swats for whatever indiscretion the two of them deem appropriate.
“Tomorrow night,” she promises, nipping at Alana’s neck with the flats of her teeth. “Then we have all of Saturday evening before court to spend together.”
Her eyes slide to the clock. Is there time to fuck before her clients arrive?
GM: Celia hears the Tremere are all supposed to live together in the chantry, so that’s probably no surprise Pete saw him.
“All right, mistress,” Alana says to both meetings. “Do you want to change the meeting with Poincaré, too, to fit in this one?”
The ghoul shivers under her mistress’ touch, color quickly rising to her cheeks as she hungrily returns Celia’s kisses. “Yes, mistress… tomorrow…” Cock or not, she still pulls down Celia’s pants, twists around on the desk so her face is underneath her domitor’s charms, and starts hungrily eating her out.
Celia is not sure they have time for a very long fuck, between the multiple clients, whatever her mom is here for, and Edith’s meeting at 10.
Celia: They make it a quick fuck, then.
When it’s done and they’re both satisfied, Celia shakes her head at the question of Poincaré as she touches up her makeup in the mirror and fixes the hair that had come unbound during their tryst.
“Reschedule Lucia to another night,” she finally sighs, “or I’ll have to wait another week to see my grandsire. He’s a busy lick. Tell Bornemann 4 AM.”
GM: “All right, mistress, I’ll do that,” says Alana.
She sinks to her knees on the floor, like she’s giving Celia a blowjob, and buries her face against her domitor’s crotch as her tongue flecks out.
Celia: “We just got off,” Celia says with a laugh, pulling away from the ghoul. “Later, pet. It’s time for clients, now.”
GM: Alana nuzzles her head against Celia’s leg.
“We could have time, mistress, if you tell your silly mother to bother you tomorrow.”
Celia: “We’ll have time tomorrow as well.”
“I don’t doubt you’re going to surprise me with all sorts of fun things at our sleepover.”
GM: The ghoul smiles at and plants several worshipful kisses upon Celia’s foot, even if her eyes look faintly disappointed to be denied now.
Celia: They just had sex.
Celia runs a hand through Alana’s hair and takes her leave. The girl needs to get used to being disappointed. She had.
Thursday evening, 17 March 2016
Celia: The clients come and go, each of their needs seen to by Celia’s well-practiced hands. Charity Flynn mumbles about her husband’s treatment of their estranged daughter while Celia uses the fine edge of a scalpel to scrape off the top layer of her skin, taking the dead cells and fine, fuzzy hairs along with it. She keeps her eyes covered with a gel pad that will reduce the appearance of fine lines when she bleeds her, taking a single hit from the woman under the guise of “trying a new technique.” As the woman melts beneath her touch—that sanguine kiss is so dependable—Celia says that maybe she’d like to book a massage next time to help keep some of the stress from her body.
“Just set it up with Piper or Louise at the desk,” Celia smiles at the woman on her way out the door. Inside her chest her Beast purrs at the hapless kine and their doe-eyed adoration of the girl who keeps them young and beautiful. She doubts Preston has it so easy with meals delivered right to her, paying her for the service.
Lisa Greer is next. Star had given a gift card to Stan, who had apparently given it to Lisa, and her first trip in had turned her into a firm believer of Flawless’ place at the top of the spa world. Celia takes more from her than she had from Charity, excess blood poured into a container for later, and tells herself that it’s better for the woman to have less energy to worry about her missing “daughter.”
She’s such a helper.
GM: Charity gives a low gasp on the table as a blush tinges her cheeks red. She tells Celia that was “incredible” and is all-too happy to book another massage appointment.
“With you, of course,” she adds.
Celia: Of course. None of the others can do what she does.
GM: Stan’s wife Lisa is more subdued. She’s a small, slim woman with dark hair and sad eyes who admits she doesn’t do her art anymore, when Celia asks about her life.
“Some artists play into that tortured artist angle, and say it’s what inspires their work, but that… isn’t me. My art comes from a place of happiness.”
She’s quiet, when Celia takes from her. She closes her eyes and loses herself in the sensation.
And she talks, like they all do.
“I tried to do the right thing with her. I raised her as my own. I loved her as my own. But after she got older, around high school… she just never wanted to be as close to me.” Her voice quavers slightly. “I wonder if there’s something I could have done.”
Celia: Celia listens patiently as Lisa speaks, and only when she starts to blame herself does she cut in. She knows—knows—that the Summer thing has more to do with supernatural forces than just being raised by another family. But she doesn’t say it. She speaks instead of a girl she knew who was raised by her mother and the man she referred to as her dad, how even though the dad raised her as his own she felt as if she never belonged, how even now, as an adult, she’s waiting for him to finally say “you’re not my daughter.”
“It’s like this trump card they hold over you,” Celia says patiently, “and even if you’d never use it, even if my friend thought her dad would never use it, it’s always there in the back of the mind. Unwanted. Unaccepted. I have another friend, adopted at birth, who never got over the fact that his parents gave him up. His family is amazing. He loves them. But there’s always that pang of ‘why wasn’t I good enough?’ and it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with _them.”_
For all the drama that came with Maxen, for as awful as he is and was, sometimes she still wishes he were her real dad, and that they did have a better relationship growing up, and that her life hadn’t been something out of a horror novel.
GM: “Her birth mother… I’ve never been completely sure what to call her,” admits a paler and woozy-looking Lisa, “sees Summer, saw her, pretty often. They were close. But she has other children, who she’s raised with her husband. They met later. I wonder if Summer thought something about herself wasn’t good enough.”
“I just wish… I just wish she’d come home… we’re all so worried…”
Celia: She’s working on it.
“She will. When she’s ready.”
GM: The pale woman starts to softly cry.
Celia could taste it in her blood.
The sour, heavy flavor.
So different from her usual candy-sweet and lust-filled vessels.
There’s depth to it. The sour isn’t bad at all. It tastes sincere. Real.
It’s not a fleeting, momentary sadness. It’s a parent’s all-consuming grief.
Let it not be said Summer’s stepmother doesn’t really love her.
Blood doesn’t lie.
Celia: Celia offers what comfort she can. It’s not enough; it never is. She can hardly say she knows Stan. She can’t offer that she’s looking into it, that she has two of her boys following every lead they have to find her.
She lets the sour note sit on her tongue. Will this be what her mother tastes like when she finds out what happened to Isabel? When she gets the letter that her estranged daughter perished in a far away country without any chance of reconciliation? What about if she tells her the real truth—that Isabel was another monster and had her heart torn out by her sister?
She didn’t do enough for her own family. But maybe she can patch up this one.
When the blood has vanished Celia reaches out with her gifts, murmuring that Summer will find her way home, that she’s out there somewhere thinking about her, that everything is going to be okay. She lets the words work their magic, easing the woman’s pain. She can do that much for her tonight.
Still, the taste of grief lingers.
GM: It’s a sobering question. Roderick thought she should give her family the closure.
Lisa sniffs and apologizes for “losing it.”
She says she’ll be sure to book another appointment.
They all do, after her kiss.
Celia: Celia smiles gently at her and tells her it’s not a problem. Emotional releases are all part of the service.
She really is such a helper.
Thursday evening, 17 March 2016
GM: It’s after Lisa departs that Celia sees her third mother for the evening.
“Hi, sweetie! It’s so good to see you!” Diana exclaims, pulling her daughter in for a hug. She looks great. There’s color in her cheeks and a spring in her step, despite Celia feeding on her yesterday. Blonde-haired and smiling widely and warm of skin, she seems the very opposite of the drained, dark-haired, mournful Lisa.
Celia: That’s a good sign.
That’s a very good sign.
Celia had been worried that she’d be down and out for a short while, but this is… perfect, really.
“You seem chipper,” Celia says with some amusement as she returns her mother’s hug. “How was your day?”
GM: “I’m always chipper to see my baby,” Diana smiles back. “And my day was very good, thanks for askin’! Look at these new shoes Emi got me! Aren’t they cute?”
“They have arch support! They’re very comfy to walk in!”
Celia: “Those are adorable, Mama.”
“They kind of look like ballet flats.”
GM: “Emi’s got great taste,” her mom smiles. “And they are ballet flats! Just really walkable ones. You know I usually wear heels to work, but Emi thought I should cut back, on account of my leg and all, so she got me these.”
Celia: “Smart thinking,” Celia says with a nod, “I bet it’ll help with that. Less of an adjustment that the rest of your body needs to compensate for.”
GM: “Yes, she’s always told me how unhealthy those shoes are—and in fairness, they are, extra weight on your toes and so many other reasons—but I think that whole thing with my meds and the surgery your dad was offering made her want to get me to stop.”
“She got me another pair too, in silver to go with these pink ones.”
Celia: “Always worth having good things in multiple colors,” Celia says with a laugh, thinking of her own closet.
GM: “It sure is. But before I ask about your day, or I suppose night, sweetie, I told Alana I had some good news. And I do—I feel really good!” her mom smiles. “I felt a lil’ woozy, after yesterday, but a-ok the next morning after a good snooze. It definitely helped me sleep.”
“So,” she says meaningfully, “if you’d like more… I think I can feed you.”
Celia: “You feel fine?” Celia asks. “You’re sure? No linger anything? No dizziness, no fatigue, no… nothing?”
GM: “Positive,” Diana nods. “I had those symptoms, after you left, but like I said… a-okay the next morning. I had no problems keepin’ up at work.”
“I did have to do some teaching from my stool, on account of the leg, but that’s nothin’ new.”
Celia: That certainly is good news. If she can add her mother to a feeding routine—
No. She shouldn’t think of her like that. She’s not a juicebag.
Even if she is.
“I just ate,” Celia admits, “but I could take some and save it for later, or stop by later…?”
That might put it too close to waking up for school, though. Maybe it’s better to do it now.
GM: “I think it’d be best if you do it before I go to sleep, but I can stay up a bit longer, if you need me to,” her mom nods.
“We could make this a nightly thing. Or you could just take more from me a couple times per week.”
Celia: “You’re okay with that? I’m literally taking from you.”
GM: “I nursed you when you were a baby, didn’t I? You took from me then too.”
Celia: “Fair point,” Celia acknowledges with a small smile. “I can save some for later, then. Let me find something to put it in.”
She doesn’t want to mix it with the rest of the blood. Who knows how that will affect the taste. But salons are full of bottles and containers, and Celia is back a moment later with one in hand.
GM: “Just tell me how you want to do this,” her mom nods.
Celia: Celia would rather keep her mother’s blood for herself than share it with others. She bleeds herself into the container for later, licks the wound closed, and tucks it away. She tries to make it quick; the expression on her mother’s face is no doubt one of desire for the blood.
“Neck?” Celia asks when it’s done.
GM: Diana watches the whole time.
She doesn’t say anything. Just watches.
“Yes, please,” she answers, clearing her throat.
“Or the wrist, whatever you’d like, sweetie.”
Celia: Celia goes for the neck. She doesn’t kiss her way down like she does for most vessels, like she’d just done with her mother. She brings her in, as if for a hug, and simply tilts her head to the side to sink her fangs into the woman’s neck.
GM: Her mother’s blood is everything that it was last time. And the time before that.
Warm. Tender. Filling. Full of life and love and gladness. Gladness at feeding her baby. There’s a sensation of release, of joy at being able to feed her baby, like she’d always wanted to with those meals Celia threw out or threw up or stirred around on her plate.
Lisa might be miserable, and her and Charity both unknowing, but Diana tastes all-too glad to surrender her vitae.
It’s not love for another daughter. For a stranger. It’s love just for Celia.
Celia: It’s not fair, really, how other blood will never compare to this. Even with the rest of the headaches that her mother has brought to her unlife, Celia will never regret this part of it, the taste of this love on her tongue. She drinks from the woman who so freely offers herself for her family.
She doesn’t take much. She doesn’t want to strain her mother despite her words that she bounced back relatively quickly. They’ll call this a test run, see if last night was a fluke or if she truly can give blood this often.
The thing inside of her likes that thought.
She licks the wounds in her neck closed and pulls back, flicking her tongue against her lips to swallow down the rest of it.
“Thank you,” she says sincerely.
GM: Diana closes her eyes as color rises to her cheeks. Her breath comes heavier as she loses herself in the sensation, and her eyes shine when she opens them.
“Thank you,” her mom says, touching her shoulder.
“Say, sweetie… I had an idea…”
“If you wanted, you could feed some more from me… and then let me drink from you… so we’d both get to enjoy it, for as long as we want and as much as want, but no one loses any more blood…”
Celia: She knew there had to be a catch.
“We can try it,” Celia says after a moment, “when I find a way to make it less addictive.”
GM: Her mother looks at her longingly for a moment. She opens her mouth. Starts to say something.
Then she looks down at her feet, in her new ballet flats.
Celia: “Mom,” Celia sighs, “the blood has power over people. It turns you into someone you’re not.”
GM: Red starts to color her cheeks again.
“I… I know, sweetie, I’m sorry…”
Celia: “I think it’s a smart idea. I know of another lick who did that with one of theirs, too. I’m just worried it’s going to… turn into a hold over you, and I’d like to preserve our relationship so it’s not all about blood and feeding.”
GM: Her mom looks up and nods emphatically, her expression sobering. “You’re… you’re right, baby. We agreed, only as much as you think I need, bare minimum… I just… I still think about it…”
Celia: “Also…” Celia clears her throat, almost uncomfortably.
Deliberately. It’s not like she actually needs to.
“Being fed from kind of makes most people, um, get in the mood.”
GM: “Oh. Mood, as in…?”
Celia: “What you’re describing is basically vampire sex.”
GM: Diana goes completely silent.
Her face looks mortified.
Celia: “It doesn’t need to be,” Celia quickly continues, “feeding from you, feeding you, that’s not sexual, but it’s very… intimate?”
GM: “Oh.” Her mother gives a not-quite exhalation of relief, though the discomfort doesn’t entirely vanish from her face. “It’s… it’s like breastfeeding, then? Everyone makes a fuss about how sexual that is, but it’s really not, at all.”
Celia: “Kind of? It’s also, like, what Roderick and I do when we have sex, and… I’ll be honest, Mom, a lot of people in my clan in particular are pretty sexual, and I—”
“Can I ask you something?”
GM: That particular comparison doesn’t look like it assuages her mother’s discomfort.
But she nods. “Yes, of course.”
Celia: “Can you tell me what that’s like? Breastfeeding? I’ll never… you know…” A vague gesture at her flat stomach.
GM: Her mother gives an almost relieved laugh.
“Oh my goodness, where to start…”
“Well, I guess you are askin’ an expert. I’ve nursed more babies than this hand has fingers,” she smiles, holding one of them up in emphasis.
“So, like a lot of things, it really can vary. By the mom’s body and her relationship with the baby and how she’s feelin’ at a given moment.”
“In fact, the first time I breastfed you,” she smiles as she emphasizes the word, “it was actually a bit painful.”
“Wasn’t you, though! That was all me. I was young and dumb and had no idea what I was doin’,” she chuckles.
Celia: “Don’t some babies kind of chew?”
GM: “Yes, they can. You didn’t do that, you just had an improper latch. That can be from lip ties, tongue ties, too shallow a latch, and so on. That last is what you had. You want your nipple to hit the roof of the baby’s mouth and I wasn’t goin’ that far in.”
“Mind, it can be worse. There was one mama I knew who cried when she fed her baby, and described it as toe-curlingly painful. With actual blood in the milk! I’m sure glad I wasn’t her.”
Celia: None of that sounds particularly wonderful.
“But when it’s done right, it’s… nice?”
GM: Her mom nods emphatically. “It’s like massage, sweetie. You can do it wrong. Very wrong. But you can also do it right. Very right. And like massage, I think more experiences are good than bad.”
She pauses for a moment, then smiles.
“I’d say the best breastfeeding experience I had was with Lucy. Because, you know, lot of babies under my belt at that point. And brand new life with you and Emily. Fresh start.”
“If I were to describe what that was like…”
“So, physically, if you do it right, it’s a gentle tugging sensation. Warm and tingling. And there’s relief, too, because your breasts are full! That milk has weight, so it’s a little like, well, usin’ the loo!”
“But that’s just one component of it, the physical part. Emotionally, it’s…” Her mother’s face gets a fond look. “Oh, Celia. There’s nothing else like it. Cradling this new life in your arms, nourishing it… you just look down at your baby, this little miracle from God…. it’s just… you feel so close. I cried a lot of times, with Lucy. There’d been so much darkness in our lives. But looking down at her, something just so innocent… feeding her, helping her grow… answering hate with love… I saw God in that, when I looked in her eyes. I saw God.”
Her mother gives a sniffle, but smiles too.
Celia: Celia nods, though she doesn’t think she’ll ever understand. Not really. She glances down at the stomach that will never hold another life inside of it, the breasts that will never feed a child. Maybe a childe, if she were ever to do a sort of kinky thing like that, but not… not a normal kid. That life was ripped away from her.
“Sorry if asking is… weird.”
GM: “Oh, it’s not weird, sweetie! At all. It’s perfectly natural, I’m happy to tell you about it.”
She gives a rueful smile. “I’m just sorry if the way I described it sounds a lil’ cheesy. Some of it is the oxytocin.”
Celia: “It doesn’t sound cheesy,” Celia says, shaking her head. “It’s what I wanted to know. What I… I mean I’ll never…” she trails off helplessly, wringing her hands. It doesn’t matter. “Was it like that with me, too, once you got the hang of it? Even though my conception…?”
“I’m going to see someone later who has a child. A ghoul child. I just wondered if that’s what she gets from it, but it seems funny to ask her instead of you.”
GM: Celia’s mother smiles again and cups her cheek.
“Oh, sweetie. Once I got the hang of it… your conception was the furthest thing from my mind, next to the bundle of life in my arms.”
“I felt so close to you.”
“I felt like the luckiest mama in the world.”
“I felt amazing. I couldn’t believe I was getting to enjoy this.”
“I wasn’t looking for God as hard, back then. But I saw Him in your eyes too.”
“I would stroke your hair, and I would rock you, and I would think… who is Celia Flores goin’ to be. Who is this amazing lil’ baby goin’ to grow up to be.”
Celia: She’s glad that her mother hadn’t hated or resented her for her birth. That she was able to find peace instead of more strife. The woman has had enough of that. Had enough by that point, too.
“I bet you never guessed vampire,” Celia says with a small smile.
GM: “It wasn’t my first guess,” her mother laughs. “But I’m very happy, with who that lil’ baby has grown up to be.”
“And, you know, even if you don’t get to experience that… that’s okay. The world’s a big place. We don’t get to experience it all. But God shows us all joys and marvels. You’ve known love from a lot of people, shown them love… including one who calls you Mommy.” Her mother smiles. “That bit counts more than the breastfeeding, in the end. There’s plenty mamas who love their babies with formula. Breastfeeding is just one of many, many, many ways to love somebody.”
Celia: “I’m happy that you know, Mom. I know we got off to a rough start with it. I’m sorry. I hope I can make it up to you, that you think this is all worth it.”
GM: “I do, sweetie. I want to stay in your life. I want to be part of your life. If this is how we do it, then okay, this is how we do it.”
Celia: “I’d like to try the blood sharing thing with you,” she says after a moment, “if you still want it.”
GM: “I’m not sure, actually,” her mom says thoughtfully. “It’s… addictive, like you say…”
Celia: “It’s more than that. It makes me… the center of your world, basically, if you drink right from the vein.”
GM: Her mom just smiles at her.
“You’re already the center of my world.”
Celia: “In a supernatural way,” Celia clarifies. “Like if I told you to abandon Lucy and attend me, you might.”
“It’s one of the only ways our kind says they can feel love anymore.”
GM: Her mother looks horrified.
“That’s not love…”
“Love isn’t… love isn’t zero-sum, baby. The more you give… the more you have to give. Having Lucy didn’t make me love you and your brothers and sisters less. It made me love you more.”
Celia: “That’s part of why I’m afraid of giving you more. If it’s not appropriately cooled, you’ll sacrifice everything for me.”
“It’s why we make ghouls. Or part of it. They’re bound.”
GM: “But… but I drank from you once,” her mother says, worry suddenly creasing her face.
Celia: “There’s three steps.”
GM: “So it takes until the third, to kick in…?”
Celia: “To kick in fully.”
GM: “Oh. I have… I have been thinking of you more, I guess.”
“But I think of you plenty anyways.”
Celia: “This is an all the time thing. Like an obsession. Like… you know how Alana gets about me?”
GM: She nods. “If more drinks would make me abandon Lucy, then that settles it. I can’t have any more.” Celia’s mom shakes her head. “Un-cooled, at least.”
Celia: “I’m trying to figure out a way to break it. But I’m trying to figure out a lot of stuff, honestly, and this is one of those things not a lot of people share. It’s a pretty common punishment with licks to make you drink from them.”
GM: “Thank you for sharing that, sweetie. I’m very glad I know.”
“There’s also…” Her mom pauses, then finally says, “Celia, I took advantage of Dani.”
GM: “I asked her to feed me.”
“And she did.”
“She… fed you.”
“How, uh, how was it?”
GM: “Because she trusted me, and was so grateful for everything, but… she tasted bad.” Diana looks back down at her new shoes. “Serves me right, I guess…”
Celia: Celia reaches a hand out to her mom. She should be angry. But she mostly just feels… bad.
“It’s okay. This is hard on you right now. It’s new. You don’t understand it all yet, and I was angry and didn’t explain everything. Dani is a thin-blood, though. Her blood won’t nourish you like mine will. Or at least… I don’t think it will. I guess we didn’t try that…”
GM: “Does it get any easier, Celia?” her mom asks plaintively, looking back up at her daughter. “The wanting? I thought about it all day, how I was going to ask you if we could feed each other…”
Celia: “I don’t think so,” she says with a sigh.
Celia: “You learn to… do things with it, I guess.”
“There’s a ghoul who said we’re all addicts, but she finds ways to channel it into positive stuff instead. She offered to take you around and teach you things—she’s been at it a while, was turning 150 when I met her first—but she implied punishment, so…”
GM: “Oh. You mean like with J… when you were Jade,” her mom says slowly.
Celia: “I’d tell her not to. But I don’t want her to find out who you are. We could test the mask. She could show you around?”
GM: “But, would she still hurt me,” her mom says in the same slow tone.
Celia: “Not if I told her not to. I think.”
“She’s not my ghoul, but she’s still a ghoul, and they usually kind of have to listen…”
GM: “Maybe we just shouldn’t chance it. You can tell me whatever I need to know.”
“Dani’s very eager to meet other vampires and ghouls and what have you, but I’ll be honest, sweetie, I’m not.”
“All of this, to me, is just… it’s a part of you, to learn more about.”
“So I want to.”
“But I don’t want to make it my own life, you know?”
Celia: “I think that’s wise.”
GM: “I have a family, I have a career, I’m not chompin’ at the bit to make a stand for duskborn equality or whatever else have you.”
“Even if I do agree there’s no reason they should be treated worse.”
“We’re just at different places in life. Dani’s still young and figuring hers out.”
“I’ve already got my life figured out.” Her mom smiles and touches her again. “Which, goes without sayin’, you are a very big part of.”
Celia: “It’s okay,” Celia tells her mom, “I understand. I’m kind of relieved,” she admits, “because it’s hard to balance who I am around you and who I am around other licks, and I’m already doing a poor job of it with Dani, and Alana keeps bugging me to go to lick events and it’s like she doesn’t realize that maybe they might hurt her while they’re in the moment, and it’s just… you know. A lot.”
“Like I’m being pulled in a bunch of different directions.”
“I keep trying to explain things to Dani about duskborn and I took her out last night and she got ignored and was kind of mad about it but like I warned her and it’s better she be ignored than slaughtered.”
GM: “I’d definitely take the former over the latter,” her mom says with a weak chuckle. “But I’m sorry, sweetie. It does sound like things are hard for you. Is there any way I can help?”
“With Dani or Alana or… anything or anyone else in your life? I want to make things easier for you.”
Celia: Is there?
“I… maybe?” Celia hedges. She taps her fingers against her leg, considering the issues before her. “I feel like I have a lot going on, and I think most of it I have to do myself because it’s meeting with people… and I know some of what I have going on you don’t want to be involved in, so I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, and there’s a fair amount of just general being around vampire stuff, but you mentioned you don’t really want to do that…”
She trails off. Research, maybe? Hunters?
“Have you heard the word glinko before?”
GM: Her mom thinks. “Ah, don’t think so, sweetie.”
“What’s the context?”
Celia: “Roderick and I almost got picked up by some hunters a few nights ago, and I had a friend do a ritual to find out how they found him, and that word came up. But I’m not familiar with it and apparently no one else has heard of it either.”
GM: “Oh. Well, I could ask some of my co-workers at McGehee, see if it’s anything. Benefit to workin’ at a good school, lots of educated people,” she smiles.
Celia: “Maybe not. I wouldn’t ask anyone who doesn’t know about all this. It’s kind of sensitive, and I don’t want to clue anyone in on anything.”
GM: “I’d leave out the vampire bits, of course.”
Celia: “Right, I just… kind of feel like it’s a hunter thing, and you’d be painting a target on your back.”
“I thought about asking your mom, actually…”
GM: “I don’t think she’d know any more about hunters than my co-workers.”
“But, okay, I won’t bring it up around them.”
“I could try and research it on my own…?”
Celia: “I have a strong suspicion your mom is, or at least was, a hunter.”
GM: Diana frowns. “Er, why is that, sweetie?”
Celia: “Things she’s said over time. Interactions we’ve had. That sort of thing.”
“I thought, uh, maybe you might have been one too.”
“When you were younger. And that’s why you weren’t surprised about me.”
GM: “This is my first vampire rodeo, far as I know,” her mom says with a chuckle.
“I never really got that, ah, I suppose ‘impression’ from your grandmother. She certainly never told me she was a vampire hunter. But I guess you’re the expert.”
Celia: “I could be wrong. It’s not like I’ve ever asked.”
GM: “Why don’t you do that, then?”
Celia: “Ask your mom if she hunts people like me?”
GM: “Well, I mean… how else could you find out for sure?”
Celia: “Not sure there’s a casual way to bring it up. And I don’t have the ability to erase memories.”
Bring her to the spa.
Question her there.
“Isn’t her birthday coming up?”
GM: “I suppose it is,” Diana grants.
She doesn’t send cards.
Celia: Maybe Celia will. With a gift card.
GM: “Well. Anyway. I could look into this ‘glinko’ thing on my own. McGehee has a good library.”
Celia: “Thanks. I’ll let you know if there’s anything else.” She brings her in for another hug. “You’re really the best mom anyone could ask for, you know that?”
GM: Her mom gives her a happy squeeze back. “Thanks, sweetie. And you’re really the best daughter anyone could ask for, so tit for tat!”
Celia: “Do you still want to try the blood thing…?”
GM: There’s longing in her eyes, for a moment.
But her mother just shakes her head.
“Also, I am more than happy to do, ah, ‘vampire stuff’ for you if it’d make your life easier, sweetie! I’m not goin’ to base my life around it, but if I can help yours, I want to! You said there might be something there?”
Celia: “Nothing super pressing. You’d have to know the right people, and Alana mostly handles it for me. I’d like to show you off at a clan or guild function or party, but Dicentra said you vetoed the idea of using a different material in your leg, and I don’t want to strain it.”
Celia shakes her head.
“Honestly, aside from the stuff I know you won’t talk to me about, you’re… mostly doing great. Helping with my cover. Feeding me. Keeping my secrets. It’s all good.”
“Unless you happen to be a whiz at breaking and entering and aren’t afraid of demons.”
GM: “Oh. Well, if it’s important to you, we could go ahead with some other material for my leg. I just figured if it was getting fixed anyway, there was no rush…” Diana’s face gets a hopeful look as she briefly massages her bad leg.
Celia: “We can wait.”
“There’s another guy in the city who might be able to help, but he’s… kind of scary.”
GM: “Okay. We can wait, and look into other avenues if this one doesn’t pan out. I’ll need time to practice, anyway, to get back in shape.”
“And afraid I’m not any good when it comes to breaking and entering, but if it’s for you I could try to face down a demon,” her mom chuckles.
“But things I won’t talk about, sweetie? Like what?”
Celia: “Just the… doll stuff. Lucy.” Celia shrugs, looking away for a moment.
GM: Her mom doesn’t say anything for a while.
When Celia looks back, Diana is looking away too.
Down at her new shoes.
“Why do you want me to, sweetie,” she says quietly.
Celia: “Because Lucy… talks to me. Because I’m about to trade some favors to find out the truth, and this would keep me from that. Because I think something weird happened to you the night you met Ron, and I… I saw a fortune teller, and none of it made sense, and it was a very bleak future for… for me. And you.”
GM: Her mother still doesn’t look up from the floor.
“What,” she says after another pause. “What do you want to know.”
Celia: “Was Lucy part of you?”
GM: “I. I don’t understand.”
Celia: “Like you know how I have Celia and Jade?”
GM: A nod.
Celia: “So… was she part of you?”
“Like a… multiple?”
Or did Elyse just cut out the “bad” parts?
…and stuff them inside a doll?
GM: Diana still doesn’t look up from the floor. She’s closed her eyes. Her voice is a croak when she talks again.
“Do you… do you have. Paper.”
Celia: Celia moves around her desk, pulling out a pen and pad of paper.
GM: They’re sitting down on chairs by the desk.
Celia: She hands them over, reclaiming her seat next to her mom.
GM: Diana takes a low, shuddering breath.
Her hand is shaking as she removes the pen’s cap.
Celia: Celia puts a hand on her mother’s shoulder, as if to remind her that she’s here.
Moral support and all that.
GM: She jots down one word in trembling, messy handwriting.
Celia: “She… cut her out of you?”
GM: Diana’s hand doesn’t move.
Then she just underlines the word.
Celia: “How many?”
GM: Her mother writes a question mark.
Celia: “Are there others? Other multiples?”
Celia: “Is… she my… mom? Is she why?”
GM: Diana taps the question mark.
Celia: “With Ron.”
“Is she why you got together with Ron?”
GM: There’s a long pause.
Celia’s mother opens her mouth and taps the pen. She starts to nod. Then finally just shakes her head.
Celia: “I don’t understand.”
GM: Diana just shakes her head again.
Celia: “So it wasn’t her.”
“It was something else?”
GM: Another head shake.
Celia: “Then what?”
GM: Her mother taps the question mark.
Celia: “Everything I know from what she does to girls is that she turns them into chaste, demure women. They don’t drink. She doesn’t like sex, so she takes the enjoyment of it from others. But she let you out early at your mother’s behest. Said that you only needed a few minor tweaks, but were otherwise fine. And the last night you were there… that’s when I was conceived. You shouldn’t have wanted to have sex with him. But you did. You were drinking. And had sex. And people like me can make you do that.”
GM: Celia’s mother closes her eyes again and breathes heavily before she scratches out,
I don’t know. Only know about
There’s a pause as she holds the pen in the air. Her hand shakes before she finally just writes,
Celia: “Okay,” Celia says with a nod. “How long as she part of you?”
GM: Another pause.
Celia: “And she’s been gone since the doll’s creation?”
Celia: “Who else knows?”
GM: Diana lifts up the pen, but her hand starts to tremble again. She squeezes her eyes shut, then finally just jots down, underlined once,
“She’s in the doll. Lucy. There’s a lick who can talk to spirits. I saw her last night. She can talk to Lucy.”
“You can too, can’t you?”
GM: Diana covers her face with her hands.
But she nods. Once.
Celia: “You don’t want her back.”
GM: Celia’s mother opens her mouth. She stares at the paper. A tear runs down her face.
Celia: “It’s okay to say no.”
GM: She finally scrawls down,
“She stole Lucy from you, you mean?”
GM: In capital letters,
Celia’s mom looks at the word, then taps ‘stole’ and hangs her head.
Celia: “Stole… you?”
It would be so much easier if Diana just used her words.
GM: Diana nods again.
Celia: “Stole you from what?”
GM: Her mother underlines ME.
Celia: “Stole you from you.”
GM: Diana nods.
Celia: She’s quiet for a moment. Finally she nods.
“Okay. We don’t have to do that, then. Thanks for being honest with me about it.”
GM: After a moment,
Celia: “Put you back together.”
GM: Her mom’s mouth falls open. She looks at Celia for a while, then gets out in a faltering voice,
Celia: “I don’t know. She just said it was possible. But if you don’t want to then we won’t.”
GM: Diana stares at Celia for a while with wide, almost disbelieving eyes, then shakes her head.
“I… I do…”
Celia: “But you said she stole you.”
GM: Her mother closes her eyes and nods.
Celia: “Then why would you want her back?”
GM: Diana looks at Celia imploringly, then presses a hand over her heart.
She presses the hand to her heart again.
Celia: There’s a word that comes to mind. She tries not to think it. It’s not true. She just doesn’t have all the pieces yet.
“Lost… what, Mom? I’m trying so hard to understand, but I don’t. You lost yourself? In like a fugue state?”
GM: Diana shakes her head again. She opens her mouth several times as if to spit something out, then touches her heart again.
“Who… I was…”
There’s that same, imploring look, but even more desperate. Celia’s mother looks like a prisoner behind bars begging for a key.
Celia: “They killed that part of you. You lost it. Into Lucy. You want it back. Right? That’s what you mean?”
GM: Celia’s mother touches a hand to her throat, as if trying to talk, then just nods rapidly.
Celia: “Okay. We can do that. I can do that. We’ll find a way. I have some people to talk to, and we’ll do it.”
“The lady I spoke to last night said you could set her free, so you have some sort of key to this.”
GM: Diana looks at her uncertainly.
Celia: “I don’t know,” she admits, “I’m not an expert. I just found this out last night.”
GM: Her mother looks down at the paper, then just nods again.
Celia: “We’ll figure it out. We’ll get you back together again, okay?”
GM: Another nod.
Celia: “So. I mentioned the lady last night. She gave me the name of someone else, who I have Alana setting up a meeting with. But there’s also… I mentioned the fortune teller. The vision. She said there’s a clan of people who could help, but that it would… hurt.”
GM: “O… kay,” her mother mouths. “That sounds… good, sweetie.”
“Let me, know if…”
She gestures vaguely.
Then rubs her leg.
Celia: “Of course, Mama.” Celia takes a knee beside her mother’s chair, gently moving her hands out of the way so she can perform the massage movements instead. “How else can I help you right now?”
GM: “That’s good, sweetie… thanks…” Diana murmurs, closing her eyes as her daughter goes through the massage’s familiar motions. Celia’s mother looks tired. Tired and paler from their recent words, and the blood loss too.
“Maybe… pick up Emi or Dani, to give me a lift back home…? I don’t really feel tip top, and when my leg acts up, I worry about the breaks…”
Celia saw her pink Beetle parked by Flawless.
“Oh, wait… Dani is comin’ by… just to drive me home then, before you see that duskborn lady.”
Celia: “I can drop you. I’ll have Dani follow in your car.”
GM: “Okay. Do we need to scram, if that’s soon…?”
It’s not. Celia scheduled time for her stomach operation.
Celia: “Oh. No. I thought it was later than it is. I can drop you now and just have someone pick me up and bring me back, no big.”
GM: “Oh. Okay, sweetie.” Her mom smiles. “I should go to bed soon… school day tomorrow, plus dinner with Stephen’s family.”
Celia: “Come on, then, I’ll help you out.”
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, PM
GM: It’s a short drive in her mom’s Beetle back to Diana’s house. Lucy is in bed at this hour, but Emily pops out of her room (where she was studying) to share hugs and say hi. Dani remarks Celia’s come by early, but says she can give her a lift back to Flawless in her own car. Diana bids the girls all goodnight and makes her way to Lucy’s room.
Celia: Celia hadn’t expected Dani to be there this early. After exchanging pleasantries with Emily and seeing her mother to bed, she says as much to Dani when they get back in the car.
“You’re early too. How’d it go with Rod?”
GM: “Oh, I haven’t seen him yet. He’s still doing work stuff,” says Dani as they get in her car.
“And was hunting earlier.”
Celia: “Oh. I thought he’d be done by now.”
GM: “He texted when we’d be able to hang.”
GM: “Well, hunting takes about an hour, he said, and being a lawyer is a busy job.”
“He also told me about the ‘Rod’ name.”
“It’s really weird how he’s changed his name.”
Celia: “Most of us do. Keeps our families safe.”
“If he’d been Stephen Garrison his dad would be a target, you’d be a target.”
“Anyone who’s mad at him.”
“Or his sire.”
GM: “He explained. And it makes sense. Just weird to know he’s been going by this whole other name.”
“He said no one calls him Stephen anymore. Hasn’t in years.”
Celia: “No,” she agrees. “I did once on a date, years ago. Asked what he’d prefer. He said a clean break is best.”
GM: “It’s still hard for me to get accustomed to.”
“He said I could call him what I liked.”
Celia: “You’ll get it eventually. Not a big deal as long as you don’t slip up in front of someone else.”
“I have some work to do real quick when we get back to the spa, but then we can get going.”
GM: “Oh, I’ve got my laptop with me. It’s no rush, I can do schoolwork until you’re ready.”
Celia: “Thanks, Dani. Appreciate the help with my mom and all.”
GM: “It’s no problem. She and Emi have just been so nice to me.”
Celia: “I’d hope so. World hasn’t ruined her yet.”
She can only hope it stays that way.
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, PM
Celia: Perhaps, she reflects as she closes herself in her work space and locks both sets of doors behind her, she should have listened to the fortune teller.
“You won’t like the answers.”
No, she supposes she doesn’t. She doesn’t like them at all. Her mom is a multiple. The “real” Diana is not the sweet, loving woman that she has known all her life, but apparently some sort of hellion that goes out late at night, steals cars, and carries guns around. Full of rage and who knows what else. That chat she’d had with Roderick, about how of course her mom would always love her? About how Elyse couldn’t completely change personalities? All of that goes out the window.
Her mom is a multiple.
Two personalities inside one body. Like Celia and Jade. Or Leilani. Or Violet. Or Lilly. Or Star. Or any of the others that clamor for control. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? She’s still in control. She still retains her memories. She doesn’t lose herself to a fugue state, doesn’t act against her very real core tenets and betray herself.
If Jade is willing to hurt Diana, is Lucy willing to hurt Celia?
She doesn’t want her mom to be a multiple. She thought it was settled. That everything was going to be fine. That it would be smooth sailing from here on out: help Marcel, transfer the luck, Mom is happy and healthy and still willing to feed her, they continue to have a great relationship until she dies a very natural death.
More shit she has to deal with.
And all of it is Diana’s fault. Continuing to make problems. As if dying for her wasn’t enough. As if losing a friend and ally over her wasn’t enough. As if her very existence doesn’t absolutely weaken her when people who know her know where to target.
She should have left it alone.
She should have fucking left it alone.
But she kept picking and picking and picking because she’s so
Even Roderick thinks so. Roderick, with his non-answer last night. Roderick, with his perfect fucking life and perfect Embrace and perfect sire and perfect Requiem and perfect fucking sister that he gets to have because she smoothed it over, because she made it better, because she fucked up her own plans by making sure that he wouldn’t lose everything, and now everyone thinks she’s a giant fucking fuckup.
And maybe she is.
The claws slide out. Long, sharp, deadly. Like the thing that takes over her mind. She doesn’t fight it. She lets it go, watching from behind its eyes as it tears through the steel room looking for something warm to destroy. Watches until she disappears into the red haze and loses sight of what happens while she’s gone.
Like a fugue state.
She’s on the floor when she comes back to herself, clothing shredded, face red with the blood that leaks from her eyes as hysterical laughter gurgles up from her gut. Laugh crying. Cry laughing. Whatever it is she’s doing it, shoulders shaking with the effort. Lack of air eventually causes the noise to fall silent, but on she goes, face contorted into a mockery of joy.
It’s all just so hilarious.
Her body eventually moves. She unlocks the door and steps back into the private suite of rooms reserved for Jade, though the lick has not yet arrived. Someone else pulls the body from beneath the table where she keeps it in temporary cold storage. Someone else makes a mental note to contact Ramon for the work he’d offered. Someone else runs through a tally of what sort of information they’re willing to trade, since a debt to the Nosferatu is not something that Jade or Celia or this other person want.
Claws slice into the blonde’s body, though “body” implies “whole” and this thing is decidedly not whole. It looks almost like that girl who’d fallen into the tiger pit all those years ago when they’d found her the next morning, bits and pieces already harvested by Celia or Jade or Dicentra or whoever else had gotten to her (someone else recalls that Alana had done the hair to turn it into a wig that Joy wore and that Dani now has, and Celia wonders if Louise would be interested in styling wigs and if that’s something they could start selling more of, as Jade had primarily used them for her own disguises and extensions for the girls, but it would give her something to do in the meantime while Celia figures out the licensing issue like the helper that she is).
The claws slice from sternum to groin. It takes a bit of effort to crack the ribs, but there are tools for that, and soon the pieces of bone sit in a bag to be ground up for more bonemeal (Celia recalls that she had forgotten to give the last bag to her mother for her garden and is glad that the growing season hasn’t quite started yet, and also wonders if maybe her grandsire’s rooftop gardens could use some, or maybe Dahlia Rose…?). The claws disappear once the body lays open on the table, and hands gently sift through the dead organs to find the stomach. Upper abdomen. Left side.
The human body is truly a fascinating thing. Food and air enter the same cavity but are filtered out by various parts. Food travels down to the esophagus to the lower esophageal sphincter, which contracts and expands to let things in. There the stomach secrets acids and enzymes to break down all the food that enters it (Celia had looked it up once to find that stomach acid falls between a 1 and 2 on the pH scale. Battery acid, pH 1, can dissolve metal and bone: that’s why people who throw up all the time ruin their teeth. Jade had experimented with ways to utilize it effectively when she’d found out). The stomach itself is lined with muscle fiber that churns to help digest things, and another sphincter releases the dissolved contents into the intestines to make its way down to the anal cavity.
This undead body has no need for most of that, though. A scalpel separates the top of the esophagus from the throat just below the trachea, where the upper esophageal sphincter sits. Another cut separates the stomach from the intestines and the contents are deposited into a bowl to be sifted through later. This long after death there’s little food to be found, but just because the human died doesn’t mean the bacteria inside did. They keep churning. Then to the sink, to rinse the stomach, and finally a pinch of fingers seals the pyloric sphincter shut. There’s no need to have a hole in the bottom that leaks food into the rest of the body.
Those same fingers go to work on the undead body, pulling apart skin and muscle to fit the esophagus into the throat (some part of Jade or maybe Celia or even Dicentra wonders where the blood goes when they drink it since it certainly doesn’t sit in their stomachs), and the lick stands in front of a mirror while it moves more muscle and flesh aside to nestle the stolen stomach into its body, moving various things around inside to make sure that the stomach is supported and won’t go bouncing around erratically if the body finds itself in a hectic situation. A test jump confirms that everything is locked into place, and quick fingers move skin, muscle, and sinew into their rightful areas once more.
The girl staring at herself in the mirror doesn’t look like she had surgery, let alone put a dead stomach inside of hers. Her body is perfect. Pristine.
GM: Lucy watches the whole time.
She doesn’t say anything.
She doesn’t judge.
She doesn’t shrink in fear.
Dolls don’t talk. Dolls don’t do any of those things. She just watches Celia/Jade/Someone Else patiently, hands folded across the lap of her baby blue dress.
Perhaps she knows something of the tortured thoughts playing out in her mother’s head. (Heads?) Perhaps she knows nothing. Perhaps she would say much, if she could. Perhaps she would say nothing.
She just watches. She just waits. Patiently.
Dolls watch. Dolls wait. Dolls look pretty. It’s what they do.
Maxen would have preferred dolls to daughters, perhaps.
Celia: Maybe they don’t talk, but Celia/Jade/Someone Else (there really can’t be Someone Else, can there? And when had that become capitalized in her thoughts?) can talk enough for two, three, maybe even five people.
“I didn’t know,” she says to Lucy when it’s all over, washing her hands and face in the sink to get rid of the blood. “I said I’d help you. Fix you. Your voice. You’re in there somewhere, right?” She dries her hands and reaches for the doll, careful not to get her wet.
“…she’d still love me, right? You would too? You both? You saved me, you told me to run, you…”
That’s love, right? Saving someone? She doesn’t have to force her blood down her mother’s throat to make her love her, right?
Even the thought makes her recoil.
Has to be Celia asking these things, doesn’t it? Jade doesn’t care.
She stares at the doll cradled in her arms, half-tucked against her naked body, wide eyes imploring. An answer, a sign, anything.
GM: The doll doesn’t move away from Celia’s recently-wet hands. Dolls don’t move. Dolls aren’t scared to get wet, even if their owners and parents are.
Lucy doesn’t say yes. Lucy doesn’t say no. She just stares back at Celia with wide, expressive glass eyes.
Celia: Celia finally sighs down at the doll. Maybe she’s crazy for expecting an answer.
Maybe it runs in the family.
Maybe Elyse is her best path forward and she should suck it up and find a dancer to break with her. Maybe she can put some of Celia inside a doll, too.
“I’d offer to take you with me to Edith’s, but if her kids break you I’m going to be really mad.”
GM: Lucy serenely accepts this explanation too.
Dolls accept all things serenely.
Except when they talk.
Why are crazy people the only people who can talk to them?
Is she insane to expect an answer, or not insane enough?
Celia: Lucy used to talk to her. Sort of.
Does that make it better or worse?