C: “Vampires don’t really love.”
E: “You love.”
C: “Maybe that’s why I keep getting things wrong and hurting everyone.”
Celia Flores to Emily Rosure
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
GM: Diana’s phone buzzes. She swipes and looks down at it. “It’s Emi. She’s seen our car and wants to talk.”
The two make their way back to her carriage house. She’s put ‘Abigail’ to sleep on her bed, wrapped up in her baby blanket.
“Right, someone want to finally tell me what the story is here?” she asks.
Celia’s mother rubs her head. Between the late hour and all that’s happened, she’s no doubt fuzzy on earlier details. “Celia… found a baby who was being abused by a vampire. I think. She wasn’t being cared for.”
“You think?” asks Emily, dubiously. “She looks healthy. Physically.”
Diana rubs her head again. “No. She was being abused. Horrifically abused. She’s a ghoul. She’s drinking vampire blood and it’s stopped her from aging. She’s… I don’t remember, years old.”
“Wait, what?!” exclaims Emily. “I thought that stuff was vampire heroin!”
“Yes. It is,” Celia’s mother answers, this time all-too knowingly. “This baby is a heroin addict. Her caretaker was giving her heroin.”
“Jesus… Christ!” Emily whispers, shushing her voice so as not to wake the child. “Well, okay. That’s incredibly fucked up, but good news is it’s easier to make a baby quit heroin than a grown-up.”
Celia’s mother looks at ‘Abigail’. Her heart has been put through a meatgrinder too many times tonight to look as if she might cry.
“No. She needs to keep taking it,” she answers heavily. “For now. Because she’ll age and die without it. She’ll grow up too fast and her body won’t be able to handle the stress.”
“So, she needs to be gradually weaned off, vice quitting cold turkey?” Emily asks dubiously, looking to Celia. “Okay, explain this to me. Someone drinks vampire blood and they stop aging. But it catches up if they quit?”
Celia: Celia nods at the question.
“Yes. A ghoul who drinks blood stops aging. When the blood is no longer in their system the years catch up with them. For someone like Mom, who has only been on it for a week, it’s not a problem. Even for someone like Alana. Seven years, not a big deal. But Abigail is older than Lucy. She’s been trapped like this for years. There are all sorts of physical and mental complications that would occur if she just quit.”
GM: “Jesus fucking Christ,” mutters Emily.
“So, okay. She can’t get dropped off with social services.”
“Does she have anyone else?” asks Diana. “Any family? Anyone who loves her?”
“Anyone who is capable of taking care of her the way she needs?”
Celia: “No. No one who won’t take her apart, keep her like this, or simply put her down.”
GM: “Okay. Then I will.”
“It’s… I can’t guarantee that I can even undo what was done to her. Or that she’ll ever be normal.”
GM: “Then we’ll do the best we can and trust in Jesus for the rest.”
“Some babies are born with problems. Some are born with terrible, life-altering problems.”
“Some don’t get to stay on this earth for very long.”
Celia’s mom looks at the sleeping child.
“All we can is care for them and show them love, one day at a time.”
“What else can we do?”
Celia: “What about Lucy? Seeing this child and not understanding who she is or why she’s so difficult?”
GM: “We’ll tell her the truth,” Diana says simply. “As much of the truth as we can. Abigail came from an abusive home. Her caretakers did harmful things to her. We don’t need to tell Lucy how drugs work until she’s older, but when she’s old enough we’ll explain that it was a chemical dependency.”
“And we won’t ever tell her that it was vampire blood.”
Celia: “She’ll need multiple surgeries. Bodily repairs. Blood. Alchemy. Sorcery.”
GM: “Okay,” says Celia’s mom. “Whatever she needs.”
“Whatever gets her off vampire heroin.”
Celia: “And if it’s not working?” Celia presses. “Are you going to be able to let her go if keeping her alive is doing her more harm than good?”
GM: “Celia, you are not saying you’d ever want to murder this child,” says her mom.
“Look at her.”
“She is alive.”
“She is right there.”
Celia: “One of my clients,” Celia says eventually, “has a son who is severely disabled. She confessed once to me that she’d like to put him in a home but that society will tell her she’s a terrible mother. He’s in his mid-twenties and still nonverbal, still looks five, still doesn’t use the bathroom on his own. She will spend the rest of her life taking care of him.”
“I’m not saying to murder a child. I’m saying that sometimes things aren’t realistic.”
“Are we the best chance of helping her? Yes, absolutely.”
“Does that mean it will work? I don’t know. I can’t promise that.”
GM: “I thought she was nuts,” Emily says helpfully. “He’s probably going to outlive her. He’ll need to go to a home at some point, unless another relative is willing to take over his care.”
“But okay. So we try our best to get Abigail off vampire blood. And if that works, and if she’s too much trouble to take care of, we can put her in a home. Is that realistic?”
Celia: “Provided she doesn’t become a threat to the Masquerade.”
“We don’t know what she’ll remember from her time. But if it all works out okay… yes.”
GM: “Okay. So what do we do?” asks Diana. “How do we get her off heroin?”
Celia: “Find a way to cut it.”
“Dilute its properties.”
GM: “So, just mix it with water?” says Celia’s mom. “Would that do it?”
“Wean her down, make it steadily less pure?”
Celia: “No. This is where the alchemy comes in. It’s the same thing I was looking into to make it less addictive for you.”
“It might not be possible for one or even both of those. But if it is, I’ll find a way.”
GM: “Morphine and methadone are also used to help wean addicted babies off drugs,” says Emily. “When their asshole mothers used while pregnant. But even the chemical dependency those babies have is different than… this.”
“Do you think those drugs could still help, to lessen the withdrawal symptoms?”
“I would think so, but I’ll admit to being completely out of my depth where this vampire stuff is concerned.”
Celia: “It’s worth a shot. I don’t think it will hurt. Should assist with the chemical dependency. The issue is all the rest of it. Letting her age. Teaching her. Rapid growth.”
GM: “So, if you dilute vampire heroin’s properties, that’ll fix her?” asks Emily. “I mean, it sounds like there are two issues, the… induced aging, and the actual chemical dependency. How does diluting the blood treat the first of those?”
Celia: “Mostly it’s just a theory that she’ll be able to age more slowly. As I said, I don’t know if it’s possible. This sort of thing just isn’t done. Even the worst of us don’t ghoul babies like this. There’s… a child ghoul who was allowed to age, I can see what they did there, but I imagine it will be different than what we’d need.”
GM: “What happens if your theory is wrong?” asks Emily. “Does that mean, no way to fix her, she’s stuck as a baby forever?”
Celia: “No. It just means we find another way. Let her age rapidly in short bursts.”
GM: “That sounds rough on the kid, but guess there’s no other choice.”
“Or anyone else who can give her a shot at a normal life.”
Celia: “No,” Celia agrees. “No one else. There are other night doctors, but not night doctors with loving families and mothers that have raised a brood of children and still have enough love and patience to go around. Other families, but none with three women who have spent the past seven years raising a child together to make sure that her needs are met, who are aware of the difficulties this one will face and what is and isn’t possible with the blood.”
Other licks, but none that are as eager or willing to experiment.
“The detective has offered to teach me the magic of his clan. It may be slow going, but I believe it will help. I will also make more of an effort to locate the alchemists to see what can be done in the meantime.”
“I’d ask that you not mention Abigail to him,” Celia finally says to the pair of them, “or to Dani, if you continue to associate with her.”
“Or Caroline,” Celia tacks on. “Mentioning her to them, I mean.”
GM: Emily smiles at Diana at Celia’s initial words.
“You’re sure you want to do this, Mom? You’d said earlier with Lucy that you’d had enough kids.”
“That’s what I’d thought,” says Diana. “Two nights ago I learned I’d lost a daughter. Tonight I learned how she died. Now this, that very same night? A baby showing up on our doorstep, with no one else to love her, no one else able to take care of her?” Celia’s mom looks back down at the sleeping child and lays a hand against her blanket. “I think this a sign.”
“I think this is what God wants.”
“And I think this is what Abigail would want.”
“What about money?” says Emily.
“We’re getting a settlement from Maxen, aren’t we? Honestly, Emi, I don’t need more money. We live comfortably. Lucy has money for college, a car, and a trust. I only really want Celia’s father to pay up because, well, that’s fair. The settlement can go towards Abigail. I couldn’t think of a better use for it.”
“And, yes. We’ll keep quiet about Abigail’s past around other vampires, if that’s in her best interests.”
“I can’t think of much reason it wouldn’t be.”
Celia: “It is.”
Celia runs a hand through her hair.
“I… will need to do some extra hunting or something to make sure she’s well fed, then, until this is all figured out.”
GM: “What if you give her the blood you’ve given me?”
Celia: “It’s fine,” Celia says after a moment. “Randy is dead. I don’t need to feed him anymore. The boys are missing, so if they don’t get a dose… I’ll have room for another. I don’t usually run this low. Being unable to see my clients has added stress to my unlife.”
GM: “Uh, tell me you don’t want to keep taking her blood anyway,” Emily says to their mom.
“I have been thinking about that,” says Diana.
Celia: “Before you quit,” Celia interjects, “I’d like to fix your leg.”
“You’ll need the blood to mend properly.”
GM: “Mend properly?”
Celia: “Well. Mend. I mean. It’s… I just want it as a safeguard in case anything goes wrong.”
“So there’s no downtime.”
GM: “Sorry, sweetie?”
“How is it a safeguard?”
Celia: “Complications happen in surgeries all the time. If anything were to go wrong, I’d want to make sure that it’s okay if I give you some.”
“I don’t imagine anything will go wrong. But I just… I’d feel better.”
“We can do it tomorrow.”
GM: “Right, I know that about surgeries. Just how would it make me okay?”
Celia: Celia tilts her head to one side.
“Mom, the blood has healing properties. I explained that, didn’t I?”
GM: “You might have. I don’t remember. There’s just been so much that’s happened.”
Celia: “Right. So. It lets you heal from things. That’s why when you gave too much you didn’t die.”
Perhaps she’d be more eloquent if she weren’t as weary as her mother.
GM: “Oh. Of course.”
“I remember now.”
“You’re up at 3 AM two nights after learning you lost a child, Mom,” Emily says quietly.
“I’m amazed you’re even this together.”
Celia: Celia nods in agreement.
“So… I think we could table this discussion, if you’d like, for when you’re more awake. But I have your bone. I can fix your leg as early as tomorrow. Or… I mean maybe tonight, even, if I hunt.”
“I thought Emily could help. If she wants. If that’s okay, Mom.”
Celia finally looks at the floor.
“Sorry,” she murmurs to it, “I shouldn’t be throwing so many things at you. You’re barely awake and… with everything.”
GM: “Help with… the surgery?” says Emily.
“I want… I want to show you what I can do. What I meant to show you last night. I want you to see.”
“If you’re in this you might as well be all the way in.”
GM: “I feel a little compelled to point out that neither of us has an actual medical license. Like, massage is one thing, but even after I graduate, it’ll still be three years before I’m allowed to perform unsupervised surgery.”
Celia: “I have a medical license,” Celia reminds her.
“So you wouldn’t be unsupervised.”
“I can do it on my own. I’ve done other things on my own way riskier than this. I only thought you might want to see.”
GM: “Celia, please understand I only just found out you had a medical degree. I didn’t know you had a license too. You have a license to perform major surgery on Mom’s leg?”
Celia: Celia lifts her shoulders in a shrug.
“It’s different, what I do. I wanted to show you. Celia Flores doesn’t have a degree or a license. But my teacher was very thorough. And I’ve done… a lot. On my own.”
“I don’t do surgery like you do.”
“I don’t need to cut.”
“I don’t need to use tools.”
GM: “You don’t… cut?”
“That sounds a little like massage without hands.”
Celia: Celia smiles.
“Watch,” she says, and then it happens: the change takes over. She doesn’t need to move, doesn’t need to touch her skin, doesn’t need to physically alter the muscles. Ordinarily it’s quick. This time, too, it’s quick. She goes from Celia Flores, makeup artist and dancer, to Jade Kalani, Toreador. She’s only Jade for a moment. Then she shifts again, and she strips from her clothing as her flesh warps and contorts to stand stark naked in front of them. Beneath her skin her muscles, ligaments, and tendons re-align. The transformation takes longer. She’s doing more than quick adjustments to her face. Her very build changes, the padding from buttocks and breasts moving to add mass to her biceps and quads. Everything is more defined. Brawler rather than dancer. And again, almost as soon as Ren’s face finalizes, she shifts once more. Her hair lightens and lengthens. Her skin changes from tan to porcelain. Her eyes shift from brown to blue. Same size, but there’s a youth to her that isn’t present in her other faces.
Leilani smiles at the pair of them.
“I do this,” she says, “but on people. I cut if I need to. But I can do without.”
GM: Changing her entire body takes longer. But Emily watches with boggled eyes throughout the minutes-long process.
“Oh my god,” she whispers.
“This… I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how many medical applications this could have.”
“If you can do it on people.”
Celia: “I can.”
GM: “What are the limits? Can you just… turn anything, into anything else?”
“Like, could you turn your feet into broccoli?”
Celia: Leilani giggles. She starts to shake her head. Then she pauses, drops onto the floor, and pulls her feet toward her. She doesn’t need to touch them to make it work, but she stares at the changes that take over. Her skin darkens to the green of the plant. Her flesh bubbles to form the tiny little florets on the end.
But it’s not a complete transformation. She shakes her head at the result, a foot-broccoli hybrid that no seven-year-old could ever be talked into eating no matter how much cheese it comes with.
“I can’t do bone,” she says, “and it’s still flesh. Touch it, see?”
GM: Emily dumbly touches it.
Celia: It’s definitely a foot.
“Wait,” Leila says.
The flesh hardens beneath Emily’s fingers.
As if someone had dried it out over years.
It becomes leathery, inflexible.
GM: “Okay, I could not ever be talked into eating this,” says Emily.
Celia: “Not even with cheeeeese?”
GM: Emily makes a face.
Celia: Leila lifts her foot to her mouth and gnaws on the hardened flesh with the flats of her teeth.
She makes a face.
“Gross,” she agrees.
It takes barely any time at all for her foot to become a foot again.
And for Leila to wave shyly at Diana before disappearing into the daughter she knows.
GM: Diana is leaning against Emily’s shoulder and looks like she’s half-nodded off.
Emily doesn’t look like she has the heart to wake her.
“Wow,” she repeats.
“Okay. I guess… if it’s safe, and you’ve done this sort of thing before… yeah, let’s fix Mom’s leg.”
“Or rather, ‘you fix Mom’s leg.’”
“I mean, I’ll help however I can, and definitely want to watch.”
“Just not sure how much I can do.”
Celia: “An extra set of hands is always useful.”
GM: “Okay. I’m not a real doctor yet, but I’ll do what I can.”
Celia: “Flesh work like this I don’t need to cut. But bone deep it’ll be quicker. Extra pair of eyes making sure nothing goes wrong, someone to monitor the vitals… it’s painful. I was thinking about knocking her out for it.”
“Though I’d prefer a local anesthetic.”
GM: Emily nods. “Yeah. Absolutely. This isn’t the 1800s. Way better to put her under, if there aren’t any side effects that will interfere with the operation.”
“No idea there. I’m just at a total loss to explain how this even works or what might interfere with it.”
Celia: “There’s a lot I want to show you,” Celia admits. “A lot I think we can do together. I was looking into that company you applied for, Delta, and I think you could do some good work there.”
GM: “Huh?” says Emily.
Celia: “…the, uh, the Delta Medical…?”
“I got a call that you applied.”
GM: “Er, sorry?”
Celia: “I received a call that you applied to work at Delta Medical Systems Inc. In the CBD. The biotech research company? They were asking for a reference.”
GM: “Huh. I never applied there.”
“But I’ve heard they do that.”
“Preemptively look into people they’re thinking of making offers to.”
“Heard they can also be pretty aggressive with those offers.”
Celia: “Mmm,” Celia says noncommittally. “How’s your residency coming along, anyway?”
GM: “It’s not. I haven’t finished med school yet, remember?” Emily says dryly.
“That comes after I graduate.”
“But med school’s crazy. I don’t know if I mentioned this, one of Dr. Crawford’s friends got attacked at his job.”
GM: “Or, uh, was it an accident?”
“I’m sorry, I can barely think straight after everything lately.”
“Something happened to him and she brought it up again recently.”
Celia: “Huh. He okay?”
GM: “I don’t remember. Hope so.”
Celia: “Why would someone attack a doctor,” Celia muses.
GM: “There’s some fucked-up stories I could tell you there,” says Emily. “He’s also the parish coroner, though. Something Wilkinson. I guess people have even more reasons to get mad at him.”
Celia: “Oh. I think I heard about that. Was like… a body missing or someone died or something?”
GM: “Huh. That sounds bad.”
Celia: “Yeah. Haven’t heard much else about it. Coroner’s office is a good place to die, I guess.” A weak smile. “Hope Crawford is holding up all right.”
“You said you’re tight with her. Maybe she referred you to Delta?”
GM: Emily gives a faint smile. “She is. She’s tough.”
“But I’d be surprised there, she doesn’t like them.”
GM: “I think they’ve stolen some people from Tulane. They’re a private company and I hear they pay really, really well.”
Celia: “Is that what you want? To work there?”
GM: Emily considers that. “Hadn’t thought about it. I want to help people. And from what I hear they’re doing some pretty cutting-edge research.”
“Little surprised they’d be interested in me, honestly, given my focus.”
“I’m doing ER medicine. Not as much of a research angle.”
Celia: “What’s their research on?”
GM: “I’ve heard everything from painkillers to cancer treatment to artificial organs and anti-aging.”
Celia: “…huh. That sounds…” like something she could do. Like something the Blood could do. “…really cool,” she finishes.
GM: “Yeah. If I wanted to go into research, I’d want it to be something with practical applications.”
“I want to help people.”
Celia: “You don’t think those are practical?”
GM: “Oh, no, I absolutely do.”
Celia: “Sounds like someone over there has taken an interest in what you can or want to do if they’re already headhunting.”
GM: “Yeah. Like I said, I’m just surprised they’d be after me given my focus.”
“Doesn’t hurt to keep my career options open, though. Did you say they called you about a reference?”
Celia: “Yeah. Job reference.”
GM: “Well, if you want to tell them I’m awesome, I’d be obliged. I guess they went after you because we weren’t legally related.”
“Hey, I bet I could get Mom to give me an awesome reference too.”
Celia: “Ha. Probably.”
“And I’d be happy to.”
GM: “Man, this feels like a hilarious cheat being able to use family members as job references.”
Celia: “I mean, hey, I’m technically your boss too.”
GM: “That’s riiiight. There we go. ‘Previous employer’ too.”
Celia: Which reminds her that she’s still sitting on the floor naked. She rises, pulling on her borrowed clothing.
GM: Emily snickers.
“I mean, salon, we’ve seen each other naked anyway.”
Celia: “Mm, trying to seduce the detective, won’t work if he’s seen everything I’ve got.”
“Gotta leave some to the imagination, yeah?”
GM: “Ah, yeah, gotta build up to it. Tease is better than immediate reveal. Unless you work at a salon. Then you give your boss or employees a vajacial.”
Celia: “Spread ’em open and really get to know ’em.”
GM: “So we’ve seen each other naked, and we’ve seen Mom naked. Only thing missing is Mom seeing us naked. Feels like there’s some incomplete symmetry there.”
Celia: “Let’s wake her up and flash her.”
“Though technically she’s seen me naked. Kid and all.”
GM: “Yeah, but that doesn’t count. Different body.”
Emily glances to her side. Diana is full-on asleep.
“Help me put her down gently? I don’t want to wake her right now.”
Celia: “Of course.” Celia moves to assist where she can, helping to lay Diana out on the bed with her head on the pillow.
GM: The woman is out like a stone. Celia not only lays down her mother against the pillow, she tucks her in beneath the blankets and moves Abigail to a better position too.
“Wow, you got some deft move-sleeping-people skills,” says Emily.
Celia: “Most people are asleep when I’m up,” Celia says with a wink.
GM: “Yeah. Fuck. I’m going to be a zombie at school.”
Celia: “Was just about to ask.” Celia flashes a wry smile. “Do you want to crash? I can amuse myself.”
GM: “There’s a lot I wanna talk about, but yeah. Later. I need sleep.”
Celia: “Same. I’ll be around tomorrow earlier. Hopefully.”
GM: “We should do the surgery during the weekend, by the way.”
Celia: “Oh. Yeah, we can do that.”
GM: “Just so Mom has time to recover.”
“Or, more time.”
Celia: “Makes sense.”
“Can Robby do lessons at night?”
“For sword fighting.”
GM: “You wanna learn too?”
Celia: “Might as well.”
GM: “He said it’s better to learn hand-to-hand combat or how to shoot, and that swordighting is largely a hobby these days.”
“Because it’s hard to take a sword many places.”
Celia: “I guess. I don’t really know anyone to teach me how to fight better that I’m on good terms with right now. Hand-to-hand wise, I mean.”
“I also doubt I’d be carrying a sword anywhere.”
“Just meant like a weapon in general.”
“Blades are better against us.”
GM: “Oh, how’s that?”
Celia: “Blood. Healing properties. Bullet wounds just close back over. If you cut something off it takes time to re-attach it or regrow it.”
“Plus cutting the head off kills us and shooting us in the head doesn’t.”
GM: “No? There are guns that can pretty much blow up your entire head.”
Celia: “Okay,” Celia grants, “maybe those guns.”
“I’m not saying we don’t take damage from them, just that the blades do more.”
GM: “What do you mean by a weapon, anyway? Like, knives?”
Celia: “Yeah. Or a stake. Mostly stakes.”
GM: “Yeah, pretty sure Robby’s never used one of those.”
“I mean, I can ask if he knows, but my hunch is you won’t find much there outside of vampire hunter circles.”
Celia: “Yeah. I’d rather you not, to be honest. Wasn’t going to ask him about stakes, just thought the skill might translate.”
“But it’s no big.”
“Go get some sleep.”
GM: “Well, I can ask there too, about how well skill translates. I’m not a weapons nerd like he is.”
Celia: “If you can do it without tipping him off, sure. Otherwise I’m sure I can find a ghoul or another lick to practice with.”
Benji certainly hadn’t minded rolling around on the floor with her.
GM: “Oh. Last thing. You’re gonna get Mom to quit the vampire heroin, right?”
“Because I don’t know why she said ‘thinking about it’ instead of ‘yes, I am quitting.’”
Celia: “That’s… complicated,” Celia says slowly, “and a discussion that should include her. If she wants to quit, I’m happy to help her. If she wants to stay like this, I’ll make it work. I don’t want her to get hurt because of me. And I don’t want the fact that she knows about this to get any of us into trouble if the wrong person finds out that she knows and isn’t blooded.”
“Same with you, to be honest.”
“Taking a risk here.”
“Which, uh, doesn’t feel great.”
GM: Emily rubs her shoulder. “Well, it feels pretty great to know the full and real you.”
“I felt like we were talking less for a while.”
Celia: “We were,” Celia acknowledges. “Hard to share.”
GM: “And lot of stuff not to share.”
“That thing you did with your body was beyond amazing.”
Celia: Celia smiles.
“Yeah. Not a lot of us can do that. The flesh work. It’s pretty cool. I guess I kind of thought… if you knew, you know, and wanted to learn… but you can’t do it as a mortal, is the only thing.”
GM: “I’d love to do it. I really, really, really would. I can’t even imagine all of the applications, especially now at 3 AM. But being a heroin addict is a big ‘no thanks’.”
“I’ve known addicts.”
“Saw a lot of drug abuse in foster care. Also the service industry.”
Celia: “I know. I… yeah. I know.”
“Maybe we can be research partners.”
GM: “And I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m strong, but one adult I talked to when I was young, I forget who, said ‘no matter how strong you think you are, heroin is stronger than you’.”
“One of the better ‘stay off drugs’ warnings I heard.”
Celia: “There are other ways,” Celia points out.
GM: “You mean… becoming a vampire?”
Celia: “I… yes?”
GM: “How is it, all things told?”
“Net positive, net minus?”
Celia: “Mixed bag. I can do cool things. I like the idea of being able to do what I can do, and like I said, not a lot of people can. I’ve learned so much more stepping into this than I ever imagined was possible as a breather. I mean, I can turn into a cat. And a bird. I can fly. Literally fly through the air. I can tattoo people and give them powers. I don’t age. I live forever. The prince of the city is from like the 1200s. Can you imagine that? All that history, all that knowledge, everything you can learn. I’ve been to other worlds. Fairies are real. I’ve met them. So are werewolves. And other less awesome things.”
“But it’s… you know, I drink blood to survive. There are a lot of rules. Like. A lot. If I get caught in the wrong area of town I can get into trouble. People suck. Like not haha-suck-your-blood type suck, but in a ’we’re the popular kids and we don’t like you because you looked at us sideways’ suck. You can’t really trust anyone. You can’t eat. Or have sex. You have to lie to everyone you care about. Hunters are real and they’ve gotten their hands on me twice. I’ve been staked and tortured three times this weekend. There’s a monster inside of me that wants to fight, fuck, and feed. And that’s it. That’s all. Get off on the wrong foot and you’re pretty boned. Even people you thought liked you will tear you down if they’ve got an opportunity.”
“Everyone’s a liar.”
GM: Emily stares for a bit at some of those statements.
“That does sound like a pretty mixed bag,” she finally says.
Celia: “And all of the older licks will push you around and expect you to take it, but only so far, and if you show too much teeth they’ll hurt you more and if you show no spine you’ll be a doormat forever so it’s a constantly balancing act.”
GM: “The 1200s, though? Geez, that’s amazing.”
Celia: “And I was objectively spoiled and I still… like it can all just be taken away, you know?”
GM: “Hm, like how, there?”
Celia: “Like what if my grandsire becomes prince and then he sires a bunch of childer and he doesn’t like me anymore and then I’m just kind of hanging out doing not much of anything.”
“Oh. Like. My domain. He gave it to me. He can take it back. Tell me I can’t feed on Bourbon. I’d have to go to like Rampart or something and there’s never enough blood to go around there.”
GM: “That sounds a little insecure. Mom didn’t love you less when she had Lucy.”
Celia: “Vampires don’t really love,” Celia says quietly.
GM: “You love.”
Celia: “Maybe that’s why I keep getting things wrong and hurting everyone.”
GM: “I don’t think loving people is getting anything wrong.”
Celia: “No? What about when that love makes me do hurtful things to other people to please someone? Or makes me do terrible things to protect someone I love, which just makes it worse?”
GM: “I haven’t known you to do anything like that.”
“But I will say lots of people are willing to do terrible things to protect the people they love.”
“If someone were trying to hurt Lucy, Mom would blow their brains out, no question.”
Celia: “Yeah, but what if it was like… someone kidnapped Lucy and told her to hurt some random person, or someone she cares for. What if someone took Lucy and said ‘break Emily’s spirit or I’ll break your daughter.’”
GM: “I don’t think Mom would take that lying down.”
“Not the new her.”
Celia: “No. But it’s more subtle than that. They’ll make you do things and then make you think it was your idea.”
“Or just pull strings.”
“So you never find out.”
“And then you wonder how much is you and how much is them and how much is the Beast and what if at heart you’re just an ugly person.”
“And you try to blame everyone else.”
“Even though it’s your fault.”
GM: “Are you speaking from experience, there?”
GM: “That sounds pretty fucked. Also sounds like someone else was manipulating you.”
Celia: “I’d like to believe that. That it wasn’t my fault. But I ruined a perfectly decent person.” Celia lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “I lied and cheated and manipulated and didn’t trust, and that’s… that’s on me. It’s just fresh right now, I guess. Still getting over it.”
GM: “Is there any way you could make up for it?”
“To un-ruin them?”
Celia: “To what end? He hates me. He’ll never un-hate me.”
GM: “Doing the right thing.”
Celia: “And if the right thing gets me killed for acting against someone’s plans?”
GM: “Killed how? Can you do anything about that?”
“Just puts everyone I know in danger. You, Mom, Goose.”
GM: “How would it do that?”
Celia: “When we die,” Celia says, “we don’t generally use our mortal names. Some of us do, I guess, but most of us change them. Isabel went by Roxanne. Stephen goes by Roderick. I changed my face in addition to my name. But there are people who know who I am. The real me. Celia. They know about you. They know about Lucy. They know about Mom.”
“Mom has been used against me before. Thrown off the roof, remember? So… more of that. Or executed. Or bonded to someone else. Or just abused. And that’s tame. You, Mom, Lucy—you’re all kine. Cattle. You have no rights in our world. None. So long as we don’t draw undue attention from the mortal world we can pretty much do whatever to people like you and no one cares.”
“So if you piss off the wrong person and they know who you are, why wouldn’t they go after your family.”
GM: “Okay,” says Emily slowly. “So you think if messed up this manipulator’s plans by un-ruining a decent person, he’d go after us?”
GM: “I think this is a conversation we should have with Mom, but I don’t like the idea of you doing bad things because you think it’ll keep us safer.”
“And I do like the idea of you fucking up some manipulative asshole’s plans by doing what sounds like the right thing.”
Celia: Maybe she should take Emily to a party or two to show her what the licks are really like.
“We need code words or something,” she says after a minute. “The three of us. Phrases. To know we’re us and that someone didn’t steal my face or something.”
GM: “Okay. How’s, off the top of my head, ‘xangdoodlemorph’.”
Celia: “I was thinking something a bit more sophisticated…”
“This is me, being all cool with the idea someone might ‘steal your face’.”
Celia: “Like a reference we can make in our opening lines and a response to the reference. Or like certain phrasing meaning different things on the phone or via text or something. Like… when I started at Tulane, Mom told me that if I ever needed her but wasn’t in a position to say so, to make a reference to dance rehearsal. Like ‘rehearsal is running late’ or something. And she’d know that I’m in trouble but can’t outright say it. Like when we were kids if we called because we didn’t want to sleep over or play anymore with our friends it was similar.”
GM: “Okay, how’s maybe a spa thing?”
“Since we’d plausibly talk about that anyway.”
Celia: “That could work.”
“We can iron out the details with Mom,” she adds. “I just don’t want either of you to ever be approached by someone who you think is me but isn’t.”
“Or, you know, if one of us is actually in trouble and can’t say.”
GM: “How will we know if someone is… impersonating you? Are there physical tells, or just them feeling wrong?”
Celia: “Depends on how they do it.”
“Hence the codes.”
GM: “Makes sense. Just wondering what to look for.”
“This sounds pretty paranoid.”
“I guess so.”
She lets the silence linger. This is why she’s losing everyone. Because she always expects the worst and doesn’t trust anyone.
“You should go to bed,” she finally says.
“I’ll wait for the detective. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
GM: ""You’re right. I’ve said I would how many times now?" Emily asks wryly.
“Oh, call McGehee, okay? So they can find a sub. Mom shouldn’t go in.”
Celia: “Sure thing.”
GM: Emily hugs her. “All right. Night. Love you.”
Celia: “Love you too, Emi.”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
GM: About another hour passes before Celia gets a text from Pete saying he’s at the door.
Celia: She uses the time to make the call to McGehee for her mother. She leaves a polite voicemail that Diana and Lucy are both under the weather and won’t be in tomorrow (or rather later today), and leaves a note in her mother’s room to the same effect so that she doesn’t panic upon waking.
Celia checks the peep hole before she opens the door for him.
GM: It looks like him.
Celia: That doesn’t mean much.
Celia opens the door to let him in.
GM: He walks in and looks around.
Celia: Celia closes the door behind him.
“So,” she echoes.
GM: “So, what’s the emergency?”
Celia: “Lucy overheard some things,” Celia says. “Sensitive lick things. Mom and I were hoping you could… erase it.”
GM: “What’d she hear?”
Celia: Celia gives him a brief overview. She keeps Emily’s name out of it. Abigail’s too. She mentions that she and Diana had been having a discussion and Lucy snuck up on them while they thought they were alone. It was tense. There was some chaos.
GM: “Okay,” says Pete. “I can erase this. Need a cover story if it scared or stressed her.”
Celia: “Would a sick pet work?”
GM: “You tell me. How upset has she been?”
Celia: “Very,” Celia admits.
GM: “How upset would a sick pet make her?”
Celia: “Depends on how sick. Could be maybe it got out and something happened to it. Mom was gonna have him stay with her friend a few days to ‘recover.’”
GM: “You tell me. How sick would be consistent with her emotional state?”
Celia: “It’d need to be pretty sick,” Celia says. “There was some vomiting. And a fire. A lot of crying.”
GM: Pete glances at the spot where a couch is missing.
Celia: “Need to order a new one.”
GM: “How did a couch catch on fire? I imagine your mother knows better than to have any open flames around you.”
Celia: Celia just kind of shrugs.
“Bit of a blur. I felt the heat and ran. Smoke alarm was going off. Got pretty crazy.” Celia nods toward a patch of carpet that also needs replaced.
“Maxen was here,” she adds. “Not at the time, but earlier. Lucy wanted to know why she couldn’t see him. Told her he’s not a particularly nice guy. Could… work it in, maybe, if you think it’ll help.”
GM: “Felt the heat from where?” Pete glances around. “I don’t see an apparent fire source.”
“Your mother doesn’t strike me as a smoker, either.”
“Place doesn’t smell like cigarettes anyway.”
“Much less with a kid in the house.”
Celia: Celia pauses. She’s aware of how stiff and awkward this whole thing is going between them. Aware of how high her guard is. Because of him, maybe. Or his sire. Or her grandsire.
She crosses her arms, then uncrosses them, and finally squares her shoulders.
“Your sire turned me in for infernalism,” she says bluntly, “and my grandsire thinks I’m a traitor. Where does that leave us?”
GM: “Ha. Ha ha ha,” Pete says flatly.
“You visit the interrogation room and you still don’t get it, Celia.”
“If Lord Savoy thought you were a traitor, you wouldn’t be standing here.”
“You’d be dead.”
Celia: Celia bites back a handful of retorts. She finally smiles.
GM: “You definitely fucked up, though, making a lick disappear whose death your grandsire ordered. What the fuck was he supposed to think?”
Celia: “That I tied up the loose end.”
GM: Pete looks at her incredulously.
Celia: Celia crosses her arms again.
“What,” she snaps, “I let Durant walk all over me? Continue to abuse and humiliate me? Let him torture me indefinitely because I fucked a few people? Nightly stakings and getting my arm taken off with a saw sounds great, Pete, and so does being beaten and put into a microwave when I piss him off, but I guess I just draw the line at being forced to sign over all my assets.”
GM: “No one gives a shit about your problems, Celia,” Pete snaps.
“Why the fuck are you still defending yourself after you wound up in the interrogation room? Do you think Lord Savoy was wrong and overreacting? Or that you did something boneheaded?”
Celia: He’s not the enemy.
That’s what she has to tell herself to keep the claws in. To keep her fangs in her mouth. To prevent herself from snarling in his face like she wants to do.
He’s not the enemy.
“Of course it was boneheaded,” she finally says.
GM: “Roderick was ordered to take care of Gui. That was the plan. He and his friends would go to Flawless. Gui would die there. You,” Pete jabs, “messed up the plan. Lord Savoy doesn’t like his plans not going according to plan. And when he heard that his plan had not gone according to plan, and that Gui was missing and Roderick was kidnapped to boot, all without an explanation, you think he should have just assumed Celia was taking care of it? Despite not actually knowing where Gui and Roderick were? Oh, and knowing Celia had feelings for Gui to boot?”
Celia: “Well maybe,” she snaps back, “they should have told me they were going to show up at my spa and murder someone.”
GM: “You weren’t trustworthy.”
Celia: Celia’s laugh lacks humor.
“What am I now?”
GM: “That’s partly up to me. So you tell me. How’d you fuck up?”
“Because I’d sure like to be able to say ‘Celia learned her lesson and isn’t going to pull this dumb shit again’ over ‘Celia is a spoiled childe who’s mad at the world and thinks her grandsire is making a big fuss over nothing.’”
Celia: For long moments Celia is quiet. If she were Diana she could burn a hole through the floor with the intensity of her gaze. But she’s not. She’s not Diana or Jade or Leila. She’s not Roderick’s girlfriend or her grandsire’s favorite or Pete’s friend.
Celia finally looks up. The rage is gone from her face. The stubbornness is gone from her jaw, from the set of her shoulders, from her eyes. She uncrosses her arms and she’s just Celia again. Alone. Afraid. Waiting for judgement.
“No,” she says quietly. “He isn’t overreacting. I fucked up. I got angry and stupid and put my personal problems ahead of his goals. No explanation excuses what I did or risked. I shouldn’t have let my personal shit get in the way of what he asked of me. All of this would have been avoided. He was right to bring me in.”
GM: Pete grunts.
Celia: Celia chews on her lip.
“I don’t suppose an apology is going to smooth things over. Or that asking to explain myself to you will win me any favors or do anything but waste your time.”
GM: “Right on both counts.”
“We don’t care why you did it.”
“Don’t do it again.”
Celia: “Can I talk to you?” she asks. “As a friend rather than as the warden.”
GM: “I don’t know,” says Pete. “Can you? I’ve come here at your request to do you favors, and I’m hearing stories about fires that don’t add up.”
“Fire and demons go together like peanut butter and jelly. I wonder if I should take a closer look through magic or ESP.”
“Maybe you have figured out how to summon a demon, despite my sire wisely not telling you, and called one up in here.”
Pete glances down at the floor. “This rug could cover up a lot of physical evidence.”
Celia: “I didn’t summon a demon. I wouldn’t have summoned a demon. I just… I didn’t want someone else to get in trouble.”
“Because I think my mom did it.”
GM: Pete glowers at Celia.
“Asking about soul eaters. Spinning bullshit about North looking through your head for soul eaters. Asking about demons. Asking how to summon demons. Paying four boons to my sire. You think I’m stupid? You think he’s stupid? You think we can’t tell you’re up to something? You don’t cough up that much prestation to satisfy idle curiosity.”
“I don’t think you’re an infernalist, but only by dint of ignorance. I think you could become one, though, if someone were dumb enough to tell you how. I think you’re naive and emotionally volatile enough to summon a demon, convinced you were doing it for a good reason or being selfless or whatever bullshit ignorant excuse before the whole thing blew up in tragedy.”
Celia: “I didn’t summon a demon,” Celia says hotly. “And I wasn’t going to. I wanted to know how they came from Hell to here.”
GM: “So that’s why you only asked him twice how to summon one, and only coughed up four boons.”
“He was completely right to turn you in.”
“I’d have turned you in, if you were anyone else.”
Celia: “Pete,” Celia says quietly, desperately, “I’m not going to summon a demon. I’m not an infernalist. I’m not going to become one. I was stupid to ask, I know that, but it’s not malicious intent.”
GM: Pete bends down, pulls up the rug, and presses his palm to the floor.
Celia: “Can you let me explain please?”
GM: “Floor tells me everything,” the detective grunts after a moment.
“Congratulations, this is the second Tremere in a week you made wonder if you’re an infernalist.”
Celia: It’s not the first time that Celia finds herself at a loss. Not even the first time tonight. She doesn’t know what to say. How to fix this situation that she created by inviting Pete over.
“I’m not an infernalist,” she says again. “I didn’t summon a demon. I was going to talk to you about it, but I guess you saw.”
GM: “What was it I said after our chat about soul eaters? ‘No one cares about satisfying your curiosity, and you are going to attract the wrong kind of attention if you bring these things up with other licks.’”
“Gosh, it looks as if Pete turned out to be completely right.”
Celia: Gosh, who knew, people are smarter than Celia.
Gosh, who knew, Celia is disposable.
Gosh, who knew, Celia is useless now that she’s gotten Roderick over to her grandsire’s side.
Gosh, who knew, Caroline was right when she told Jade that she could demand her head if she threw in with Savoy.
Like Roderick had with Gui.
Life is cheap.
He’d told her.
And hers is useless now.
Or had it always been?
She picks at that old scab until it bleeds. Stupid. Useless. Whore.
I want to be better.
But she’s a stupid. Useless. Whore.
There is no better. This is her existence. This is her. Her way of being. Stupid. Useless. Whore. If she can’t fuck it she can’t pull one over on it because she’s too stupid to think of a way to solve problems that doesn’t involve spreading her legs, which makes her useless as anything except a bed warmer.
Except licks don’t even like sex. Not that way. Which makes her doubly useless.
She’d laugh, but she’s barely holding on as it is.
At her side her fingers curl. Her nails dig into her palm until the voices in her head begin to retreat.
“Yes,” she says. “You were right. I should have listened.”
What else is there to say?
GM: Jade wouldn’t have these thoughts.
Jade is confident and bold and vicious, and all the things a lick needs to be to survive and thrive.
Pete grunts again.
“You going to leave these things alone?”
Celia: Jade isn’t in control. Celia is.
“Yes,” she says again. “I’m… I’m sorry, Pete. I won’t dig into them again. If you tell me to leave something alone, I will. If Lord Savoy tells me to make sure something is done, I’ll do it. No more stupid mistakes.”
“No more personal problems getting in the way.”
GM: “Good. I’m not teaching you magic.”
“I do you more than enough favors as it is.”
Celia: One by one the pillars she has come to rely on continue to fall.
“I understand,” she says quietly.
The rest of her questions die in her throat.
GM: “Now, speaking of favors. Lucy. Where is she?”
Celia: Celia leads him down the hall to Lucy’s room. Quietly, she opens the door.
GM: She finds the girl asleep in her bed. The bunny nightlight once again fails to keep out the monsters.
But there are worse monsters that could enter her room.
“When are the memories she needs removed?” Pete asks quietly.
Celia: Perhaps the unbroken line of salt they’d stepped over keeps out the worst of them. Celia doesn’t ask if that advice from his sire is accurate.
“Last night and tonight.”
GM: “That salt will raise questions from her and Emily.”
Celia: “Will it keep her safe?”
GM: “From some things, and only through this door.”
“You and I obviously have no difficulty stepping over it.”
Celia: “Mom had a vision that Maxen took her,” Celia says quietly, “so I thought if the possession thing was real it might stop him from getting in.”
GM: “Only through the door. Won’t do anything for the windows if they’re not covered.”
“And won’t do anything for her or your sister’s questions.”
Celia: “I’ll find another way to keep her safe.”
GM: “Might as well clean it up now. It’s useless if someone steps on or disturbs it.”
Celia: Celia disappears to find a broom and dustpan. She’s back with both a moment later.
“Are there wards,” she asks in a low voice as she bends to clean the salt, “that would protect from those things?”
GM: “Sure. All a question of how long they last, how big an area they cover, and how obtrusive they are.”
Celia: “Can I… pay you for one? For this house?”
GM: “Your sisters would notice a ward that covered this entire house.”
Celia: “Oh. I don’t know why I thought they’d be undetectable to breathers.” A pause. The salt line breaks as she sweeps it with the hand brush she’d found, on her knees in the doorway.
“What about just a room?”
GM: “They’re not subtle. Unless you have something to cover them with, they’re obviously occult-looking runes and symbols.”
“They’re drawn in blood, too.”
Celia: So much for her “white paint on white walls” idea.
“What if you put something like wallpaper over it? They still work?”
GM: “As long as it doesn’t disturb the integrity of the designs and disrupt their flow of energies. Paint and wallpaper is usually a no.”
Celia: “Don’t suppose they could be hidden and uncovered as needed. Like a panic button. Dormant until they’re exposed.”
GM: “They can run out of juice and be inactive that way. But if they’ve been ruined via physical disturbance, they need to be re-done and re-empowered.”
“An untrained person can’t ruin a ward and then fix it themselves. The whole thing needs to be re-done by a thaumaturge.”
Celia: Celia looks up at him. She opens her mouth, as if to ask if he’ll reconsider teaching her, but shuts it again without saying a word and returns to cleaning the salt.
GM: Pete waits until she’s done.
“If you’re wanting to protect your sister’s room against demons, I’d need to draw an uninterrupted line throughout it, and you’d need to find a way to make sure she wouldn’t ever notice or disturb that line. You would pay for the ward’s cost in juice and pay that cost again every year and a night to reinforce it.”
Celia: Celia rises, dustpan full of salt in her hand. She stares down at the white crystals that keep evil at bay.
“Am I overreacting?” she finally asks, looking back to him. “Maxen mentioned a demon, Mom mentioned a vision, now I’m four boons deep to your sire and being called an infernalist and…” She trails off.
“I want to keep her out of all this. Safe and happy. I’ll pay.”
GM: Pete shrugs. “Your father’s untrustworthy and ‘vision from my mom’ sounds thin.”
Celia: “The other part of it came true.”
GM: “That being?”
Celia: “The falling.”
GM: Celia gets a blank look.
Celia: She’d told him about it already.
GM: The detective’s expression doesn’t change.
Celia: Trust. Right? That’s what she learned tonight?
“The roof,” she reminds him. “She freaked out after a dance lesson and started sobbing and clinging to me and said she had the worst feeling, like something terrible was going to happen. The first part of it was that she was falling. And she did. When she was thrown. The second part was that Maxen came to take Lucy away, that she was screaming and begging him not to but she couldn’t get to Lucy.”
GM: “Ah, that’s right,” Pete seemingly recollects. “Interesting. I’d be inclined to dismiss that if it hadn’t come partly true.”
Celia: “I thought if he was lying about the exorcism I could figure out how to defeat him,” Celia says a little lamely. “If he’s not human anymore. Your sire said they’re good at lying, and he said pretty much everything I wanted to hear, so…” She trails off.
GM: “I will say that wards aren’t guaranteed to keep out anything, won’t keep out anything the ward doesn’t specifically include—like, for instance, licks and scumbag ordinary breathers—and won’t alert you if anything happens. I’d invest in a quality home alarm system linked to your phone.”
Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment. “What about keeping sound in? Or preventing eavesdropping, rather. Lucy likes to sneak around and while there are other places that I can talk to my mom, it’d be convenient if we didn’t have to get in the car and drive every time we needed to discuss something.”
“So this doesn’t happen again with her.”
GM: “So don’t drive. Talking about lick things in a small house with two breathers is unwise.”
“How you got into this mess, isn’t it?”
Celia: “Yeah. Alarm system then. Guess it makes sense to use normal things instead of hoping magic fixes it all.”
GM: “If you have the juice to spare, and can guarantee your sister won’t see and disrupt the wards, those won’t hurt. They also may not help, and I’d not be inclined to trust anything out of your father’s mouth.”
Celia: “How much juice?”
GM: “Anywhere from around half to a full human body’s worth, renewed every year.”
Celia: “I can get it.”
“Probably not tonight, but I can get it.”
“What else?” she asks. “What else do you want for it, so I don’t keep asking you for favors?”
GM: “You paid an arm and a leg to my sire for a service that cost him nothing. I’m sure he’ll think of something.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“I’m asking you, Pete. I’ve been…” She pauses, running a hand through her hair. “Selfish. And stupid. And needy. And I keep asking you things, and you’ve never really asked for anything back. I do your face, and I did the work on Tantal, and I’m not saying let’s nickel and dime each other, but I don’t want this to be a one way thing. I fucked up recently. I’d like to start fixing it. I don’t want to be a spoiled mooching childe.”
GM: “Don’t forget the bullshit spinning over everything from soul eaters to couch fires,” says Pete. “That’s part of why no magic.”
Celia: Celia looks back down at the salt she’d gathered from the floor as if expecting to find the answers to her unlife’s problems written across its surface.
Perhaps blessedly, it stays blank and still.
“You’re right,” she says. “I had a chat with my mom earlier. About lying. And not trusting people. It doesn’t really matter why I did it, just that I did. Like you said earlier about Lord Savoy. We don’t judge others by their intentions, just their actions.” She glances back toward the Tremere. “An apology probably isn’t worth anything to you, but I am sorry. For trying to lie to you. For digging into things you told me to leave alone. And for causing headaches. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, I… guess I just… wanted to be useful to you. And to him. And to stop disappointing you.”
Because she doesn’t have a dad and she never had much of a sire and he’s the closest thing she’s got to either and every time he effects a sigh or grunts at her she feels that much smaller. But she doesn’t say that. She keeps it inside where it can’t hurt.
GM: Technically, she’s had a dad.
Just not a very good one.
Her sire loves her, though, in a way Maxen never did. He does. She just needs to be worthy of it. Worthy of him.
“There any other lies and headaches I should know about while I’m here?” he asks.
Celia: Celia disappears another moment to dispose of the dustpan and broom. She tells herself she’s not running from the question, just giving herself time to decide if he means personal headaches or faction-wide headaches.
She decides to tell him both.
“I was picked up by the Guard on Saturday and questioned at Perdido House,” she says when she gets back. “I cut a deal to avoid execution. I haven’t fulfilled the terms yet. I suppose that’s a personal headache. One of my ghouls is dead and two are missing, which is another personal headache. There was a spy at Elysium on Sunday and I’ve been unable to locate him, partially due to lack of manpower with the missing ghouls.”
“Um. Mostly personal headaches, I guess. Family stuff.”
GM: Pete has closed the door to Lucy’s room by the time she’s back. He walks out to the living room with her.
“I was going to ask about that. Not much reason they’d normally let a captive Bourbon go.”
“What was the deal, who was the spy, and does this family stuff break any Traditions or cause Lord Savoy any headaches?”
Celia: “I told you about the thing with Guilbeau, the luck charm? I have to, ah, get it to them. But I have to raise Marie first for him to do the spell, and the Setite I thought I was making headway with is… well I’m not. So Draco is asking for me, otherwise I might just go to Camille, since, ah, I imagine kidnapping one of the snakes to interrogate is a no-go. Guard took my blood, I’m not really sure what the penalty is for not paying up.”
Celia pauses. She makes a gesture toward a chair if he wants to sit. She perches on the edge of the couch.
“Spy is a hunter, I believe. I have his ID and wallet, but the face he was wearing wasn’t his. Belonged to a friend of mine in another city. Found out recently he and some of his krewe were killed by hunters. I grabbed him after Elysium but Agnello was there and… yeah.”
“The, uh, family stuff…”
Celia trails off. Trust. Right? That’s what this is about? Show that she can be responsible by admitting she’d messed up? Or does messing up in the first place prove she’s not responsible?
“It… breaks a Tradition,” she says quietly.
GM: Pete sits down.
He gives a dark look at her first news.
“Don’t get tangled up with snakes. That’s a patently terrible idea.”
Celia: “I don’t know how else to break the curse.”
GM: “Then get the charm another way. Don’t get involved with snakes. It will not end well.”
Celia: Celia twists her hands on her lap.
“Durant is involved with them. That’s… I mean that’s part of why I panicked last night and things went off the rails, because there were at least two. And Camille… knows. That I’m Dicentra.”
GM: “Durant is foolish.” He glowers at her next admission. “So you both have that in common.”
Celia: “I assumed Lord Savoy set him up with them. Is that not the case?”
“He found another night doctor rather quickly, is all.”
GM: “That’s not your concern,” says Pete.
Celia: “I wasn’t trying to pry. I just…”
She considers her words.
“When I was at Perdido,” she says finally, “I thought maybe it would have been better if I’d not made the deal and let them kill me. Grandsire got Durant, and the Guard would look like it was executing licks for rumors. I reached out to him. With the blood thing. And I thought maybe he knew I was going to die and took other courses of action for Durant.”
GM: Pete grunts.
“As far as this hunter. He’s probably noticed his wallet’s missing and long gone by now, if he has a lick of sense.”
Celia: She doesn’t point out that Pete hadn’t denied it.
GM: Pete doesn’t point out that he hadn’t confirmed it either.
“Wonder if it was a plant or he was just dumb.”
Celia: “I hit him with star mode a few times.”
GM: Pete shrugs. “Look into it or not, as you prefer. If this happened at Elysium, it’s not Lord Savoy’s problem.”
“But as far as something that is. Let’s hear about this broken Tradition.”
Celia: Every instinct inside of her screams at her to lie.
She’s already fucked up. What will they do to her for this? What will Pete do? Turn her in? Put her back in the interrogation room and ask how she ended up so stupid? Execute Emily to teach her a lesson about keeping secrets? Give her to Durant and his new friends to turn into a plaything, force her into another slutty outfit with heels that don’t fit so she can serve as vessel at some party?
A thousand and one excuses, explanations, and fibs come to mind. She could spin any of them. She could spin all of them. She could fall all over herself explaining why things happened the way they did and how it’s not her fault and that she’s really not a fuckup, really, she can prove it, just give her a chance, another chance, a third or fourth or fifth or however many she’s on now, she won’t do the same dumb things again, really, she won’t, she swears it—
The tips of her nails dig into the remnants of the fabric on the couch.
“The first,” she finally says. “Mom doesn’t think she wants to be a ghoul anymore. And… Emily knows.”
This is why they don’t keep families.
GM: Pete takes that in.
He doesn’t ask how.
He doesn’t ask why.
He just asks:
“How long, now?”
Celia: “Last night.”
GM: “Okay,” says Pete.
“Your mother can only quit if she’s okay dying or becoming a lick. Which also entails dying. That’s three options.”
“Emily can have a long stare into my eyes, have a drink of your blood, become a lick, or die. Four options.”
“So. What’s it gonna be for them?”
Celia: The unsaid option is that Celia can take her family and run. Flee the city. Flee the state. Change all of their identities, uproot their lives, start over somewhere else.
And look constantly over their shoulders for knives in the dark.
“I can’t Embrace either one without breaking more Traditions,” Celia points out, voice hollow. “Mom will stay a ghoul. And… I guess Emily will too.”
GM: If they’d even be willing to.
“Oh, you certainly wouldn’t Embrace either one,” says Pete. “Lord Savoy would pick their sires. And whether they were to receive the Embrace at all. Though, granted, he rarely says no to more licks in the Quarter.”
“And yes. Either of them would be Quarter rats.”
Celia: “They deserve better than that. Better than… this.” She gestures vaguely.
“Are you going to tell him,” she asks.
“I will, if he directly asks me. I’m not going to lie to him. But I doubt he spends much time thinking about your breather family.”
Celia: “I thought I had a handle on all of this,” Celia says numbly. “Years without any incidents. And then in the span of two weeks…” She runs one fist into the other and flexes her fingers, making explosion noises with her mouth.
She wants comfort. She wants him to tell her it’s okay. That she’s not a fuckup. That she’s not stupid. That her grandsire doesn’t think she’s be better suited to just playing with makeup and leaving all the heavy thinking to the licks like Durant with college degrees from real schools. She wants her boyfriend back. She wants Pete to pat her on the head and call her champ and go back to sitting in his office teasing him about dating her mom. She wants her ghouls. She wants to feel like she matters.
She stares across the living room at him but doesn’t say any of it. He’s not going to give her what she wants. No one is. Not anymore.
“Thanks,” is all she says.
GM: “Was it years?” says Pete. “Car crashes don’t happen in seconds. The vehicle has to build up speed first. But everything is fine until the collision.”
He rises from his seat.
“Let’s fix your younger sister’s memories.”
Celia: “Is your intent to make me feel like a colossal fuckup that will never be able to do anything right,” she asks, “because I’d love to be able to put this behind me and move forward and make something better of myself in my grandsire’s service.”
GM: Pete turns an angry glare on her.
“This kind of Masquerade breach can get licks executed in Vidal’s territory.”
“I just said I wasn’t even going to tell your grandsire.”
“Oh, and after giving you home security advice—by the way, get something with a motion sensor, but cameras are good too for the psychological value—and showing up on request to fix your sister’s memories. And volunteering to ward her room. At no cost beyond the blood it costs me. After catching you spinning more bullshit.”
“You’re going to complain I’m making you feel bad?”
Celia: “That’s not—” Celia cuts herself off. How had this gone so far off the rails? When had she decided that every time she opened her mouth she’d say something dumber than before and alienate everyone instead of just most people?
The monster inside of her gnashes its teeth at the demand. But the girl—and she’s the girl now, there’s no denying that—knows she’s wrong. That she has been wrong this whole time. And if it were anyone but Pete she wouldn’t back down, not in her own home.
But it is Pete.
And she is wrong.
Celia dips her head, eyes on the floor. Excuses and explanations come to mind. The desire to make him see how bad she has it, how dark this hole is that she’s in, how she didn’t mean to. But that’s all they are. Stories. Excuses. Ways to foist off the blame onto someone else rather than take responsibility for herself.
Is she a lick or not?
Is she Savoy’s grandchilde or not?
Is she worthy of the blood or is she not?
Celia looks up. The anger and righteousness in her eyes has been swept away, the chaotic storm calmed. She is Celia Flores, childe of Donovan, grandchilde of Lord Antoine Savoy, and she will not embarrass her bloodline further.
She will not give Warden Lebeaux a reason to write her off as a waste.
“Pete,” she says quietly, “I’m sorry. You are absolutely right, and I am wrong. I apologize for lashing out at you. I was angry and afraid and let that rule my tongue when you have been nothing but lenient and merciful with me. Thank you for your help. For tonight and for everything else you’ve done. You’ve always been willing to assist and I am grateful that I have you. I’m sorry for my behavior tonight. For the past few weeks. Please allow me to make amends for the disrespect in whichever way you deem necessary. I promise that this will not happen again. I will not be a source of trouble for you or Lord Savoy.”
GM: “That’s what we hope,” says Pete, seemingly placated.
“As far as amends, you can start right now. Go talk to your sister. The older one. Tell her the way things are going to be.”
“Well, do more than tell, I suppose.”
“If it goes badly, I’ll be on hand for Plan B.”
Celia: “Yes, sir. Thank you.”