“Are you lost, little lamb?”
Tuesday evening, 1 September 2015
GM: “You should forget about everything for a while. Just have some fun,” Aimee had said.
The last two days have been rough. Law school has started back up. Nothing else has let up.
Caroline’s mother called her for the first time in months to berate her for how she’s “squandering the goodwill” she earned with the Whitneys and Devillers. Hasn’t she at least invited them to one of her father’s fundraisers? It’s all well and good if they think she’s a hero, but that means “absolutely nothing” if she’s not actually using it to advance their family’s interests. There’s so much she could be doing. Luke and her mother have been doing those things instead.
Christina Roberts, like any lawyer, only wants to stick to the letter of her agreement. She’s kept hounding Caroline over various ‘allowed’ things they can still do to mitigate Amelie’s sentence. The Devillers, who seem equally un-thrilled by that same sentence (they really wanted a felony on Amelie’s criminal record), consider the topic closed and are completely uninterested in revisiting it. They just want Yvonne to get better—and for Richard Gettis, who remains at large, to be brought in. Caroline may find some small comfort in how the media hurricane is mostly fixed on the murderous ex-detective.
Her publicity-hungry family doesn’t. Claire wanted Caroline to do a TV interview. She’s had to make do with having her daughter, together with Luke, speak to reporters from a number of media outlets. They acted sympathetic, but they hounded Caroline for as many gory details about the event as they could. Jackson Kibbe, the family’s designated media hitman, was especially relentless. He even asked if she “had any regrets” or “would’ve done anything differently.”
The Whitneys are doing terrible. Sarah remains stable in a medically induced coma, but it’s anyone’s guess how much is going to be left of the probably brain-damaged teenager’s mind when the doctors wake her up. The family’s affect towards Caroline has been a discomfiting combination of deeply mournful and profusely grateful. Lyman, when he isn’t fixatedly staring at his watch, has been talking out loud to his decade-dead daughter Rebecca. Carson may have said this was all Gettis’ fault, but that haunting question of whether Caroline could have done more still remains. Maybe Sarah would be okay if Caroline had worked her first. Yvonne was the less injured of the two.
Law school’s attendance requirements, meanwhile, mean Caroline can’t skip class and stay enrolled, even if she maintains good grades. Carson has offered to put in a word with her professors that she’s going through some rough times. Gabriel has dared ask the unthinkable question of whether she should take the semester off.
Amidst it all, her dad hasn’t called.
Aimee had observed Caroline seemed to be “sleeping really badly” before presenting her with a solution: Southern Decadence, the so-called gay Mardi Gras. But there is no Ash Wednesday following its revels for the multitude of penitents to pray, fast, and repent their sins. They will simply head home, perhaps poorer, certainly exhausted, some with stories to share, and some with secrets to keep forever.
For now, those stories are still being written. Alcohol flows like water past a breached levee. Women shriek with laughter as they flash their breasts. Beads fly from floats and galleries like plastic snowflakes. Rainbow flags fly everywhere. Throngs of bulging crotches, leering painted faces, garish feathers, exposed butt-cheeks, and tight leather go on forever. Caroline’s read a couple news articles about Decadence, and has heard about in passing from friends and acquaintances, but her family wouldn’t have even countenanced that she experience the festivities for herself. Uncle Orson has condemned the festival for “celebrating unwholesome lifestyles” and sponsored multiple initiatives over the years to shut it down. He might as well have tried to reinstate Prohibition for all the success he met. The city likes to party.
Caroline: It’s taken weeks, months of working on her by her best friend, though perhaps that wouldn’t have mattered after the shooting. Caroline’s resolve was already crumbling, already worn down, but that night brought down too many walls. Between it and the backlash from it, the pressure from the family, the arrangement with Roberts, the never-ending headache of juggling school, and work, and responsibilities to the family… it’s just too much. It never stops. She needs to get away. Away from who she is. From what she’s seen. Needs to block out the memory of blood weakly pumping out between her fingers and the nightmares where teenage girls are screaming, are dying, and she feels so helpless.
Carson keeps calling, keeps telling her they should talk. He wants to talk about the shooting, wants her to talk about it, but it’s the last thing Caroline wants. She doesn’t need to talk through her feelings. Doesn’t need to explain (again) how much it all scared her. She just needs to forget it, to get away from it, to stop getting reminded of it every day and night. She’s told him she’s fine. That she’s busy. That she’ll find time later. She’s lied.
It’s been years since she went out on a non-official event, just to have fun. Years since she broke the unwritten rules of the family. Maybe it’s what she needs—a break from her life. An opportunity to have no concerns, no worries, and no responsibilities. And if it isn’t… well, maybe the drinks will succeed where all else fails. They did last night. “You’ll stick close?” she asked Aimee.
That was hours ago, and now she’s half lost in the crowd, just another blonde at the city-wide party. She’s not a Malveaux here. Wouldn’t be wanted as a Malveaux. There’s no pressure. No expectations. New Orleans is a party and for once she can simply enjoy it.
Her drink is in a glowing cup—a gimmick off Bourbon Street. Spirits? Something off reality TV. She’s not really paying attention to the taste, just the effect. To the blur that takes the edge off, that lets the tension out between her shoulders. That lets her laugh out of its cage.
GM: Aimee nods. Caroline’s future chief of staff is attired for the occasion in a bright pink, circa 1860 Southern belle dress, complete with coiffed hair, wide-brimmed hat, and parasol to spin around. She’s ditched the hoop skirt, though, for something that’s still ruffled but only knee length. Like all festivals, Decadence can get pretty out of control. Sometimes it’s safer for a woman to have her legs free. Aimee carries an open red plastic cup of something alcoholic. Only in this city.
“I’ll keep my phone on. Just shoot me a text if we get separated.”
Caroline: Caroline is more conservative. Black dress, tailored but not overly tight, and sleeveless. The darkness seems to drink in her pale skin and hair. That hair is pinned up and neatly arranged. She looks out of place, insomuch as anything can look out of place in such a chaotic sea of humanity. Too perfect, too proper, too disciplined. She admits the clutch bag was a poor choice. She looks more like she’s going to the opera than out into the city-wide celebration of deviance.
She gives a haughty smile that’s skewed just a bit. She started drinking early, before they went out. How much? Not even Aimee is completely sure. Caroline is good at holding her liquor… to a point.
But she’s had a lot of cause to drink.
“Then lead on.”
GM: Aimee leads on.
Thursday at midnight is the big dick contest. Men scream, bellow, slap their rear ends, and strut their junk amidst roaring crowds and flashing blue lights. The crowd’s chosen winner, a beefy guy wearing a gold chain necklace, receives a gift basket from an outrageously attired drag queen who comments what a shame it is that public decency laws prevent the contestants from being inspected “up close and personal.” The drag queen still loudly volunteers to “inspect” the winner once the show’s over, much to the crowd’s laughter.
Caroline: In spite of herself, Caroline is in the swing of the party by the time the show rolls around, enjoying every absurdity of it. Every excess. She laughs hard and loud. She wants to laugh. Wants those traumatic memories of the shooting, all those ‘what ifs’, to briefly slip away, along with years of control. Not enough to leap into it, but certainly enough to laugh and observe. She floats through the shows, an observer, a part yet apart.
GM: The booze flows, and Caroline’s inhibitions with it. A few partygoers rib her for being dressed like she’s “going to the opera” or “attending a funeral,” but by and large, Decadence just seems to be an outrageously campy, over-the-top festival where everyone can have a “gay old time.” Caroline hears that pun at least a dozen times. Uncle Orson made the festival sound like it would despoil good Catholic girls and irrevocably ruin their lives.
Friday comes the float parade:
Caroline: Caroline has swapped out for more comfortable garb by by Friday. It sets her apart once more in its own way. White on her pale skin cuts through the crowd visually, but more people may suspect this is some statement rather than a faux pas. Innocence in a crowd of debauchery, perhaps? She doesn’t drink like an innocent as the party rolls through days.
GM: Following the float parade are the boys on parade: rows and rows of shirtless, pants-less men in tight thongs and garish feathers. Most of them are probably gay, but they’re no less incredible to oggle. More than a few whistle or make humorous catcalls about what a “choir girl” like her is doing at an event like this. All the while, the drinks continue to flow. New Orleans has very loose open container laws: so long as it isn’t made of glass, people can drink as much as they want in the streets.
Caroline: Caroline seems to enjoy the attention, or at least certainly wants to, her inhibitions loosened by the drink and day before. That longing for comfort is sliding towards carelessness.
GM: Saturday features the outdoor music concert and and the hot ass contest. More easily quantifiable than the big dick contest, dozens of participants drop their pants and submit to public paddlings to determine whose cheeks are the tightest and firmest. Men (and women) periodically grab Caroline’s ass and shout racy comments. People didn’t touch her like that earlier, but with each passing day the city seems to get more and more inebriated. A couple women in the crowd look upset, but their friends laugh off that “tons of guys here are gay anyway.”
Caroline: Caroline is conservative, but not a prude. She takes the gropings in stride as part of the writhing mass of humanity. Every pinch keeps her mind off the last few days. Besides, she asked for it a bit…
The dress is far tighter tighter than what she’s worn on previous outings and amply shows off her athletic figure… and that lays aside the infamy of the garb in the first place. It might be a poor choice for this evening, but then Caroline couldn’t have known it was going to be a day obsessed with posteriors… could she?
GM: Whether Caroline was ignorant or all-too aware of her chosen outfit’s likely effect, her ass smarts something fierce by the time she stumbles into bed. Aimee doesn’t dress as provocatively, but submits to the public paddling. She calls it quits after several slaps reduce her to a half-guffawing, half-shrieking drunken mess. She doesn’t press Caroline to join in, likely realizing that her friend is already stepping outside her comfort zone to wear an outfit like that on a day like this.
Saturday comes the walking parade.
The press of humanity is tighter than ever. The city feels drunker than ever. Caroline can smell the musk of sweaty, alcohol-saturated bodies. An endless sea of laughing mouths, bulging crotches, and exposed flesh surrounds her on all sides. The sun’s final rays stretch out from the horizon, covering the city in a haze of gold and red, illuminating the party-goers, marking the second to last day of celebrations. And then the light is gone, and only wan twilight remains. A chill creeps over Caroline, as though something other than the time of day has changed—and she notices Aimee is gone.
Caroline: It takes her a moment to realize that she’s alone, but at first it doesn’t seem to faze Caroline as she slides through the tightly packed crowd. She’s been drinking again—this week is a blur of liquor, color, and sweaty bodies—and her buzz distracts her from the concern that should be gnawing for several minutes. The party is winding down as much as it is nearing a climax, and only a very small part of her doesn’t want it to end. It’s been something to lose herself in. Still, as moments turn to minutes and beyond she begins to grow concerned. She reaches for the phone she’s tucked in the corner of her bra.
GM: Caroline shoots off a text. She waits. And waits. Something bumps against her. Her phone drops from her hand. “Watch where you’re going, slut!” leers a voice. Caroline turns to confront it, but sees no one. The crowd just keeps moving. She is alone among the throngs. Looking about, the other people present seem alien and distant, their cheers and shouts mangled into a language she has no recollection of, their masked faces twisted by the twilight into grotesquerie.
Caroline: She blinks, trying to clear her vision. It’s the heavy drinking. What time is it? She has no idea. How many drinks has she had? Ten? Twenty? She looks back down, fighting building dread. Her phone has of course vanished in the mass of feet. Stolen, smashed, or simply kicked away. Another glance at the masked faces convinces her not to look for it. She tries to push away instead, to break out of the crowd into a building. She suddenly feels sick.
GM: Rough hands grope at her breasts. Taunting fingers snap her bra straps against her skin. Laughter rings in her ears. She even feels a wet tongue slurp against her hair. Everyone around her seems to be laughing. The freaks and the deviants. Leashed collars, mohawks, muzzles, spikes. SS uniforms. Nipple clamps. Masks of devils and grinning skulls. Leaking blood. Stitched-shut lips. Every face that isn’t concealed wears a sneer or lecherous grin.
Caroline: Malveauxes don’t panic. They don’t flee. But nor do they attend debauched festivals, hide from their responsibilities, and polish off bottles of Jeffersons every night for a week. Her father insisted on martial arts. Discipline, self-defense. She’s neither disciplined nor capable of self-defense right now. Not against anyone, much less a crowd. She tries to push away from the freaks, from this sudden horror show. Bile burns at the back of her throat, but she fights it down. Just get away. What was she doing here in the first place?
GM: Caroline fights against the crowd. Fights against the rising panic. She pushes and shoves, but it’s like trying to swim through molasses. Mocking laughter rings in her ears. Something wet and pungent-smelling drenches her face. The empty plastic cup hits the ground with a light plunk before being crushed by onrushing feet. Just as abruptly, she feels a metal chain loop snap her neck and pull tight, cutting off her air.
Too-strong arms yank her face to face with her attacker. He is a big man, and completely naked save for black leather boots, crisscrossing straps of the same material, and steel nipple rings. His face is hidden behind a black executioner’s hood. It’s spattered with red that she can only pray is paint. His manhood is almost mockingly concealed underneath a tight black latex sheath—tight enough she can see the individual veins bulging along his shaft. Pointed, hungry steel spikes jut from its length.
Caroline: Fight. Flight. Warring impulses come to a stop as she is stopped short. Panic takes over, her hands fighting at the chain. There’s something she should be doing, some move, some technique… Alone, sober, prepared she might have a chance against the bigger man. Drunk—no, hammered—and confused, it’s all she can do to fight for her life against the chain, rather than against the man.
GM: Black-gloved hands with what look like miniature knives built into each finger dextrously tug the chain around Caroline’s neck, yanking her through the press of bodies. She might wonder how this is even happening. Why no one is doing anything. Why no one is stopping this freak. Why the laughter in her ears rings even louder.
Something hard slams against her back. The chain burns her neck like fire. She chokes and hacks, lungs gasping for air. She can’t tell where she is. She’s had so much to drink. It’s getting dark, but even that shouldn’t be making block spots blossom across her vision.
Caroline: At last, but too late, she fights back. Blind and weak kicks and punches. She’s so slow, but everything else is slowing down too… she wants to scream. She would, if she had air.
GM: A deep, heavy voice pants in Caroline’s ear:
“I’m gonna fuck your eyes out.”
The man’s spike-tipped, latex-ensconced, bulging member looms too close to her field of vision.
Caroline: The words barely process. Her brain shuts down as darkness takes her. At least he had the decency to kill her first.
At least she won’t disappoint anyone again.
GM: Sight recedes. Pain recedes. Blackness embraces her.
A heavy, animal grunt.
A deep-throated, hair-raising screech. Almost more animal than human.
A hard thud.
The fire around her neck recedes. There’s great big choking gasps of air that hurt to take. Her head pounds and swims.
Caroline: She wants to vomit, but can barely breathe. Wants to run, but can’t move. Wants to think, but everything is fuzzy.
GM: “Poor little lost lamb.” She feels a hand against her shoulder.
Caroline: Her vision is starting to clear, and near-death has a remarkable sobering effect. Play weak, draw them closer. The beginnings of a plan, perhaps. Trauma comes later. For now, training is coming back. Rationality is asserting itself.
GM: Sight hazily swims back into focus. Her ‘rescuer’ is no angel. He’s quite the opposite.
He wears a blood-red vest, black leather pants, and knee-high boots of the same make. A red cape drapes from his shoulders. A horned half-mask of the same color conceals his upper face. His lips are quirked into a slight smirk.
The devil-costumed figure extends a hand to help her up.
Caroline: It takes her a moment to take her gaze off of him and examine her surroundings. She lets his hand hang for a moment while she does, but at last she takes it. At least he’s not trying to rape and murder her.
GM: Caroline registers after a moment that they are sandwiched between two buildings in a dark alleyway. The parade of costumed revelers and sounds of their merriment continue unabated mere feet away.
“This doesn’t look like your kind of party,” the costumed man remarks.
There’s another soft smirk.
“Are you lost, little lamb?”
Caroline: Her breathing is still ragged, her voice weak. “I… yes. Thank… thank you.”
GM: The man brushes a stray hair from Caroline’s face with a crimson-gloved hand.
“Why, you’re welcome.”
Caroline: She shakes her head. “I don’t know what happened. One minute…” Her shaking head stops as his hands touch her.
GM: “Mmm. One of the late-night crowd. I’m surprised you ran into him this early,” the man remarks.
“But then, parties in this city are rather like angler fish. Dangling their glowing lures of fun and booze. Then snapping the partygoers right up. Poor lost little lambs. You know that there are more missing persons reports filed in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence than any other time of year?”
Caroline: She looks at him questioningly and nods. “Makes sense. Parties attract all kinds, people lower their guards. Lots of easy vic… tims.”
The trauma still hasn’t really set in. She remains wary and alert.
GM: “The parties had their little lambs, their fleece as white as snow. And everywhere the lambs went, the monsters were sure to go.”
Caroline: Caroline swallows uncomfortably, that dread returning. “You’ve been watching me.”
GM: The devil-masked man chuckles. “Oh, I’m sorry. That really isn’t the best thing to say to a woman in your position, I suppose.”
He glances over his shoulder.
Caroline: A chill.
It’s as much statement as question. A challenge, maybe?
GM: Another soft chuckle. “A morsel nearly gobbled up by the angler fish, my dear. In any case. I’d advise getting off the streets. The party’s only going to get wilder from here.”
Caroline: “I was trying, when he grabbed me. Speaking of… where did he, they, go?”
GM: The man shrugs. “Where do wolves go when lambs leave the pasture? Somewhere, out there, where he’ll wait for his next chance to strike.”
Caroline: She swallows. “Against me?”
GM: Another shrug. “Maybe. Some wolves like to finish their meals. Others will take whatever falls into their jaws.”
Caroline: “And what are you? Some kind of sheep dog?” It’s an analogy she’s heard many times before.
GM: The man throws back his head and laughs. His diabolical mask glints with dull light from a distant street lamp.
“A sheep dog. Well, why not.”
Caroline: Bizarre, freak, weirdo. Some damaged soul, maybe. He could be former military, hiding from some trauma? Thoughts begin to organize themselves in her mind.
Still, if he’s dangerous, he doesn’t seem dangerous towards her. No more dangerous than whatever else might be lurking out there.
“Would you be willing to walk me home then, Mr. Sheep Dog?”
GM: A smile touches the corners of the devil’s mask. Caroline starts to pick up details as her mind comes together. He’s lean. Slightly taller than average for a man. Around the same height as her in tall shoes. Not exceptionally muscled. No excess body fat though. Lean and languid.
“I’d be honored, Miss Lamb.”
Caroline: Her mind fits those pieces into a matrix. Special forces, maybe. He fits the build. She moves out towards the street with him.
“Do you have a real name, Mr. Sheep Dog?”
GM: “You can call me René. I can keep calling you Lamb, unless there’s another name you’d prefer.” He extends a lean arm for her to take, if she desires.
Caroline: She takes the arm. “Caroline.” Her voice is still weak.
GM: “Caroline.” René smiles as she links her limb through his. “The original meaning is ‘song of happiness’, isn’t it?”
Caroline: She nods. “And René is ‘reborn.’ You’re an educated man, René. Mostly people don’t immediately go that direction.”
In spite of the casual talk, her hand has the slightest tremor against his arm.
GM: Another chuckle sounds as René leads them away. “Not to sound boastful, but I hope that I’ve helped your song to be… preserved, to bring happiness to a great many. Reborn, in its own way.”
Caroline: “Reborn is one way to put it… he’d have killed me, left my body in the alley. You saved my life.” The tremor in her hand is more noticeable as she talks about it.
GM: The pair emerge from the alleyway. The city isn’t just sloshed at this point. It’s having an orgy—and committing rape.
Revelers who’ve had too much to drink, or perhaps too much else, openly wretch onto the ground. Masked, sweaty couples fornicate against walls behind the flimsiest pretensions of cover.
Some of the screams sound pleasurable, or at least wantful. Others are raw and pained. Some people don’t make any sounds at all. Their eyes are dead, or they just look too out of it to even comprehend what is happening to them, but they are nevertheless the subject of multiple partners’ hungry affections. The smell of sweat, piss, and booze is thick in Caroline’s nostrils. Revelers drunkenly stagger through the streets, spilling drink as often as they swig it, as if they might share the liquid sin with the earth itself. As if they might cause the very city to join in their revelry, swallow them up, and never let the party end.
Caroline: Caroline looks away, horrified. Her uncle was right, this is a blight on the city at best. An affront to God. She focuses on René, trying to ignore what is going on around them.
“I had no idea…”
GM: “Don’t blame it on the gays,” René remarks idly.
A shirtless young man screams as three masked revelers smash a glass bottle over his head, laughing, and drag him by his feet into an alleyway.
“Mardi Gras sees at least as much excess.”
Caroline: “As this?”
GM: “As this,” her companion echoes. “If not more. It gets more attendees, after all.”
Caroline: “But this is… violent. Bloody. Deviant… It’s horrifying.”
GM: The sound of a woman’s retching assaults Caroline’s ears. The stink of vomit wafts up her nostrils.
“Oh, this is just what they can get away with in public,” René continues. “You should see the private parties. Sin is refined into an art form.”
Caroline: The smell is too much. Caroline pauses, doubling over. She dives for the side of the street and vomits into a gutter.
GM: René waits silently. Caroline can see two unconscious figures lying face-down in their own waste not far from her, spilled cups by their sides. Two teenage boys in skull masks pass by, laugh, drop their flies, and begin urinating on the unconscious pair.
Caroline: The sight brings on another bout of vomiting. She dry heaves until she has nothing left. She looks away from the scene when she stands and moves back towards René.
“I… how does this go on?”
GM: Caroline can see a woman huddled by a bar’s entrance. She’s crying, black mascara tears running down her cheeks, and clutching her stomach. A glaring, muscled bouncer rams his foot into her back and literally kicks her to the curb. She’s barely smashed face-first into ground when a giggling masked reveler snatches her purse and takes off running. Whether the theft is motivated out of greed, drunken amusement, or some other incomprehensible reason, Caroline cannot say. Dozens more scenes of equal cruelty and Dionysian excess repeat themselves around her. The city drinks up their misery like a bourbon-tossing alcoholic promised a night of free drinks.
René shrugs. “How does the world go on?”
Caroline: “I don’t know,” Caroline asks, assaulted by all this horror.
GM: “Maybe I should call you Rapunzel instead.”
Caroline: “You’ve freed me from my cage?”
GM: “Perhaps shown you the world at the foot of your high tower. The drink and the atmosphere makes these people less mindful of the consequences of their actions, but it doesn’t change who they are. Not really.”
Caroline: She wants to deny it, but can’t.
GM: “It just lets their true selves out.”
Caroline: “A tower I appreciate much more.”
GM: “I’ve heard the Catholic Church, among other groups, has been trying to get Decadence banned, but that’s simply cutting off one of the hydra’s heads. People are what they are.” René gestures about them. “And this is what they are.”
Caroline: “You’re quite a student of human nature.”
GM: “Humans are fascinating creatures. Their emotions are so… real.”
Caroline: “You’re not quite what I expected out of a man that ran off a dozen others.”
GM: René chuckles. “One other. The remainder were still enjoying themselves, but only through watching. Sloth often wins out over the other six sins.”
Caroline: “One then. Still, it’s a brave man to step in. If there’s something I can do to repay you…”
GM: René raises an intrigued eyebrow at the suggestion. “And how would you propose to repay me, Caroline?”
Caroline: “My family is powerful, if it’s money, or some favor…”
GM: “I don’t have much use for money, to be quite honest. As the song goes, it can’t buy you love.”
Caroline: The tremor. “What is it you want then?”
GM: “I might even be doing you a disfavor, come to think. How would your family feel knowing you were out here amidst all… this?” René gestures towards the distance. Caroline can see a masked man—masked in a black’s executioner’s hood—brutalizing some victim a wall. For a moment, she fears it’s her assailant, only to notice another man garbed in the same executioner’s hood laughingly kicking a motionless body. After a moment, she spots a third hood. Evil seems as common and unremarkable as weeds.
Caroline: “Not well. But they don’t need to know.”
GM: “Show me someone without secrets and I’ll show you a liar.”
Caroline: She nods in agreement. “But you’ll keep mine, won’t you?”
GM: “I don’t even know your last name, Caroline. How could I give it away?”
GM: Her rescuer’s eyebrows raise under his diabolic mask. “Ah. Malveaux. An old family. Your… uncle, if I’m not missing my guess, is the archbishop.”
Caroline: She nods. “You’re Catholic then?”
GM: A low chuckle. “I suppose one could say.”
Caroline: Lapsed. It happens. “I thought you should know, since you saved my life.”
GM: “Tell me, Caroline Malveaux, daughter of the church, do you believe that people are inherently evil?”
Caroline: “Sinful, but not evil.”
GM: “Well, I think they are. I think we live in a hideous, twisted world so bogged down by the weight of our sins, the only reason God hasn’t cleansed it with a second Great Flood is that he’s given up on the potential of intelligent life to be anything but evil,” René declares blithely.
“If he isn’t evil himself. Maybe all creation is simply a joke he’s telling for his own twisted amusement.”
Caroline: If she’d been sober the talk might have shocked Caroline. As it is…
“I can see why you would think that, if this is what you see.”
GM: “Isn’t this what I see?” Her rescuer’s voice is suddenly sharp. “Do you see something different, pray tell? Are there diamonds I am overlooking among the rough?”
Caroline: “Free will, the capacity for good and evil, is implicit in God’s promise to us. You yourself are the surest example I could provide. Would an evil man rush to the defense of someone he didn’t know? Risk his life?”
GM: René chuckles darkly. “Maybe I took no risk. Maybe I wasn’t saving you. I could have just bee absconding with this little lost lamb for myself.”
Caroline: “You could have done that in the alley.”
GM: “Maybe the alley wasn’t the opportune time.” René’s devil-mask glows like hellfire under the Quarter’s jeering lights. He smirks as he strokes Caroline’s cheek and whispers, “I can show you evil, Caroline Malveaux.”
Caroline: “Just because you’ve done evil does not mean you are evil.”
GM: “I can show you evil that makes these… festivities seem like a children’s tea party.”
Caroline: “I’m sure you saw it overseas.”
PTSD? Seems likely. Haunted by the wars, perhaps. Not uncommon. She’s seen enough haunted eyes on hardened men. Her father is a Republican senator, after all.
GM: “I can show such evil to you less than five minutes from here,” René continues. His blue eyes are cold, hungry, and… longing. So very longing.
“You see, I do not possess free will like you do. I have forever forfeited that, along with what was left of my soul.” His tone is deadly serious.
“I don’t have a soul, Caroline,” he exclaims, his eyes widening as his voice rises in pitch. “I can remember when I did, but remembering isn’t the same as having.”
Caroline: A chill runs through her.
“There’s always room for all of God’s children, there is always forgiveness. No matter what you’ve done.”
Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to give him her name…
GM: René’s fist sharply cuffs Caroline across the jaw. Her heads snaps back from the impact as she tastes blood in her mouth. Black pinpricks blossom across her vision.
“It’s not what I’ve done, you stupid bitch,” he hisses.
“It’s what I am.”
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GM: Caroline’s surroundings blur into focus. She’s lying on a green field, the grass damp against her back. Weeping willows’ boughs droop over her comatose form. The multicolored lights of the French Quarter blurrily swim and shimmer in the distance. She can make out sounds of revelry. New Orleans never stops partying. That’s just who she is. The sounds are distant, though; Caroline might not be in the Quarter. The late summer night is warm, and she feels a breeze flow over her from the north. It should cool her, but she does not feel any perspiration.
Caroline: She tries to rise.
GM: Caroline shakily ambles to her feet. The light from the street lamps seems distant and hollow, and her clothes feel cold and rough against her skin. A grassy expanse of trees intersected by a snaking river unfolds before her.
Caroline: She was just on Bourbon Street, or somewhere in the Quarter. Walking with René when he… hit her. Hard.
The images come forth, but she pushes them away. He must have left her here. She’s been in the city for years, and visited all her life. She looks around and starts to walk. She’ll certainly see a landmark somewhere.
GM: She soon spots a suited man with a trombone. She recognizes that statue even before reading the plaque underneath. She is in Louis Armstrong Park, just a short ways away from the French Quarter.
Her ears perk. People are approaching. Two of them. She can tell by their slurred mumbles and by the way their footsteps fall that they are drunk.
Caroline: She slides towards a shadow.
GM: Caroline is still groggy from whatever happened to her, and moves too slowly. The footsteps catch up. The two people, one man and one woman, are obviously college students. Neither of them looks older than 21, and both are clearly drunk, leaning on each other for support and as they stumble through the dark. The man clutches a whiskey bottle with a few swallows left in it, and the woman’s shirt is partially unbuttoned. The partygoers look at Caroline and begin giggling as only inebriated people having fun can. Their jugular veins throb in the lamplight, their chests heaving up and down as they breathe. She feels the warmth of their bodies, and it only reminds her of how cold the night feels.
That’s when the hunger blazes to life in her chest like a roaring bonfire. Her teeth feel so large in her mouth, and oh so sharp. Caroline doesn’t know what it is about the pair. She doesn’t know what happened to her. But she knows one thing:
She is a predator, and these people are her prey.
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Pete Feedback Repost
This session felt a lot faster, likely because you had a better idea of what to prep on through the week for Caroline, and likely because there were only two players on the board. The amount of prep that went into the week was obvious given the piles of art and descriptions of various events with SD (though I’m not certain I want those pictures in my browser history).
I hadn’t expected her to make it that far into the week without getting turned, but the way in which that entire series of scenes went was really cool, and I thought provided a good opportunity show Caroline as both a social manipulator, someone that was deeply unhappy whatever she might claim, and someone deeply unfamiliar with the really darker side of the WoD. The Rapunzel commentary was particularly fitting – especially since you could argue she was aware of terrible things happening (like most people) but couldn’t really see them from her ivory towers. I tried to play up in particular how inhibited she was in the attack scenes, and how her own assumptions combined with the trauma of the attack and her impaired state worked with René. She very intentionally (especially with René) fell back into trying to act like some was dealing with someone in a normal interaction, and paid for it.
I loved the way in which that René relationship was handled as a whole though. Having him as both hero and villain for her is utterly fitting. Savior and destroyer, gentleman and bastard. She’s got reason both to love and hate, and both of those reasons will likely evolve in time as well. Should make further interactions with him (especially in terms of eventually selling him out / hunting him down) very interesting in terms of personal dynamic for Caroline.
Overall I had a lot of fun, even if I did stay up way too late. Thank you, incidentally, for running late.
Calder Feedback Repost
Since Decadence was a pivotal event to Caroline’s Embrace, it got played out in full, unlike those other ones. Caroline the PC’s relatively sheltered life meshed well with Pete the player being a newcomer to the WoD there. As I mentioned during the session, the (Classic) World of Darkness is not our world, despite superficial resemblances to it. Crime rates are higher, corruption is rifer, people are meaner, life is cheaper, and it’s all seen through a Gothic-Punk lens. So Southern Decadence was painted as a way darker event than it actually is. The New World of Darkness has shied away from that attitude, and simply presents itself as our world with the supernatural thrown in.
I’m pleased to hear that René was such a success. Many of the PCs in this game (and the last one I GM’d) have had relatively amicable relationships with their sires, but there was a piece of advice I read a while ago that said it’s better to represent the sire as a terrifying, awful figure. Vampirism is a Biblical curse and the sire is responsible for damning their childe’s soul to hell, however noble their motives in granting the Embrace might be. In René’s case, not particularly. Then again, if Caroline hadn’t been “saved” and turned, she’d be an eyeless body in an alleyway. I can also see future interactions between them being pretty interesting.