“Cursed are we who inherit the blood of Caine.”
Sunday night, 6 September 2015, PM
GM: The fifteen-minute car ride passes in silence. The black-robed vampire doesn’t so much as glance at Caroline.
Their destination is a skyscraper in the Central Business District. The 40-story building is one of the tallest structures in New Orleans, a soaring black and gray steel monolith that surveys the city beneath it like a grim sentinel. Fearsome gargoyles jut from crenelations, baring their claws and fangs to the night sky with muted howls.
Caroline: Caroline considers asking questions several times but thinks better of it. Her escort is angry enough already—she doesn’t need him further advocating against her when they get wherever they are going.
GM: Their car stops inside an underground parking garage. The other vampire gets out. Faceless, armed security personnel wordlessly escort the two Kindred to an elevator. Caroline’s companion swipes a key card and presses the button for the 35th floor.
Caroline: Finally she speaks. “I’m sorry, for what it is worth, that I violated your domain.”
GM: The other vampire regards Caroline in silence for several moments before answering, “It is worth very little, Caitiff.” His tone isn’t quite kind. Or quite cruel.
Caroline: “What does that mean? Is this the other half of his punishment?”
GM: “What ‘other half’?”
Caroline: “He didn’t… ‘Embrace’, you said? He didn’t do it out of mercy or fondness. He did it to hurt me. To teach me a lesson. We were talking, last night, and I said something that offended him…”
GM: “Caitiff are clanless… vampires,” Caroline’s nameless escort states, clearly substituting the word for another. “Bastards and orphans with no sires, no knowledge of our society’s ways and customs, and no futures.”
Caroline: Caroline swallows, reaching for some thread at the last. “Why were you at my uncle’s home? How did you find me?”
GM: “Your uncle’s home is my domain, Caitiff.”
Caroline: Caroline lapses into silence. “Am I going to die?”
GM: “Quite possibly,” the albino vampire rasps.
“Don’t even think of running. You won’t get far in here.”
Caroline: “It wouldn’t be fitting anyway. That’s no way to die.”
GM: “If one cannot live on one’s own terms, one can at least die on them,” the pallid man agrees.
Caroline: “The last choice.”
GM: The elevator dings as it reaches the 35th floor. The hallway is cold and empty, lined with rows of identical wooden doors. Cavernous windows overlook the CBD’s sprawling cityscape.
Caroline: Caroline proceeds as directed.
GM: Her nameless companion proceeds down several further halls with her before they encounter another soul.
He’s a hair below average height, clean-shaven, and has short, neatly combed black hair. He’s dressed in a black turtleneck shirt and navy slacks. Apart from the cavalry saber hanging from his hip, he looks as if he could be the host for a gallery opening or wine tasting event… were it not for his eyes. They are the sea-gray color of troubled skies and distant storm clouds, and seem to pierce through to Caroline’s very soul.
The rest of him looks like a man, but only in the way that latex knows how to pour into a mold. How to approximate the shape despite its foreign nature. There’s the too-cold, too-white skin like a porcelain doll’s. There’s the utter stillness, the statue-like way he never blinks, never smiles, never makes any of those little movements that normal people do. There’s how the very air around him feels colder. Caroline cannot hear a steady thump-thump from his chest, just like she couldn’t hear from her escort’s.
Caroline: Caroline keeps her mouth shut. She resists swallowing mostly because the action is not anatomically required. The man’s presence chills her despite the still-warm blood coursing through her veins.
She eyes the saber or a moment. It makes some sense, given how little impact bullets seemed to have, but dismemberment is still dismemberment. She files the detail away.
GM: The man’s piercing gaze rests on Caroline for a long moment before he speaks. His voice is cool and low.
“This one is unpresented.”
Caroline: Caroline waits for her escort to offer an explanation. She is not eager to dig herself into a hole with any of her kind.
There are worse hands she could have fallen into.
GM: “I bring her before the seneschal, sheriff, that he might decide her fate,” Caroline’s companion rasps.
The man’s colorless eyes seem to take in Caroline for another moment.
“Proceed, Father Malveaux.”
Caroline: Caroline turns her head ever so slightly at the name, towards the albino.
Well. That’s interesting.
It explains a fair bit.
Fitting that her fate is still being decided by her family.
GM: Caroline’s escort inclines his pale head to the other vampire, then leads her to a doorway at the end of the hall. He raps once.
“Enter,” bids a male voice from the other side.
The office has little in common with the rest of the skyscraper’s barren corporate decor. A silver lance set over a wooden crucifix-like support hangs from the top of the wall opposite the door. A fanged skull is fashioned into the top portion. The lance rests over a cross-shaped bed of smaller skulls, none of which possess similarly fanged canines.
The room’s wall paneling is a dark and somber brown wood interspersed with full bookshelves. A curved bonsai tree and tiny orange tree rest between several of them, along with intricately patterned blue, white, and gold Islamic and Greek vases.
Two paintings are visible between the shelves of books. Caroline recognizes one as David Chase’s The Moorish Warrior. The other one, technically not a painting, is a calligraphic wood carving interwoven with arabesque floral patterns. Traditional Islamic art does not depict the human form for fear of being idolatrous: abstract geometric patterns instead predominate. Caroline, fluent in Arabic, recognizes the characters: ‘La ghaliba illallah,’ or ‘Only God obtains victory,’ repeated twice.
A Victorian oak desk with Green Man and floral relief carvings sits directly beneath the lance. Its contents consist of a lamp, desk phone, several trays of papers, and an old-fashioned globe with bronze and tan rather than blue coloration. There is no computer.
The sole figure seated behind the desk is a slender and exceedingly tall vampire who looks around a head taller than most men. His skin is dusky and smooth, with only a hint of wrinkles from age round his deep-set almond eyes. He wears a double-breasted navy business suit with a black tie and white handkerchief in the front pocket. A silver pocketwatch on an attached chain and cufflinks of the same material offer several further concessions to the past. A gold signet ring set with a sapphire and traced with Arabic script rests upon one of his long, slender fingers.
A man regards Caroline from behind the desk. He is a tall fellow, perhaps several inches over six feet, with smooth dusky skin and a mere hint of age’s wrinkles around his deep-set almond eyes. He is garbed in an exquisite hand-tailored, muted gray three-piece suit, dress shirt, and pale blue necktie. A matching handkerchief rests in his breast pocket. Silver cufflinks and an old-fashioned pocketwatch’s chain offer two concessions to the past. A gold signet ring set with a sapphire and traced with Arabic script rests upon one of his long, slender fingers.
Caroline: Caroline takes it all in, trying to put together pieces of the puzzle. The puzzle of how she’s going to get out of this alive. She tries to keep her eyes downcast from the dark-skinned man. Submissive.
GM: The man takes in Caroline’s presence. “This Kindred is unfamiliar to me, father.”
“She is unpresented, seneschal.”
Malveaux briefly explains the situation with Caroline. The other vampire, whom Malveaux alternately refers to as “Your Grace” and “Seneschal Maldonato,” eventually dismisses Carloine’s apparent relative from the office. The albino vampire offers a deep inclination of his head and closes the door behind him.
Caroline: And just like that she’s alone with a complete stranger again. She nervously awaits his questions or comments.
GM: “Tell me, fledgling, when was the last occasion you took confession?” Maldonato inquires.
Caroline: An odd sort of question.
“Last Sunday. At St. Patrick’s.”
GM: “Then it has been nearly a week since you unburdened your soul. You have doubtlessly committed a bevy of sins you would have previously considered unthinkable. If you wish to take confession now, I will do so in your regular confessor’s place.”
Caroline: “My last confession? Has my fate been decided then?”
GM: Maldonato steeples his long fingers. “Your fate will depend upon a number of factors, Miss Malveaux, your own actions not least among them.”
Caroline: She nods. “Give me an opportunity and I will prove my worth. I recognize that my ‘Embrace’ must have been a serious transgression. I simply ask an opportunity to make it right.”
It sounds more like a plea.
GM: “You will be afforded that opportunity should your lineage be of verifiable descent from one of the Thirteen.”
Caroline: “What does that mean? Thirteen clans?”
GM: “Very good, Miss Malveaux,” Maldonato states. “If your sire’s many-times grandsire can be identified as one of our race’s thirteen progenitors, you shall have the opportunity to atone for your unsanctioned Embrace. If you are clanless and possess no clear ancestry, you shall be put to death.”
Caroline: “Then how does one prove their ancestry? And… how does one atone?”
GM: “A ritual prayer by one of our priests will suffice. You might think of it as akin to a forensic test.”
Caroline: “May I ask when?”
GM: “Soon,” the seneschal answers simply.
“Atonement, I am afraid, shall not be so simple a process. You will be required to locate your sire and tender him to Prince Vidal’s justice. Embracing without the prince’s permission is a serious offense.”
GM: “You are fortunate to know his name. Many childer abandoned by their sires do not.”
Caroline: “Is it a common thing, may I ask?”
GM: “More common than it should be, and more common than it was during the nights of my own Embrace. It is a burden upon our kind’s society and needlessly cruel to the newly-turned childe.”
Caroline: “Was that the 15th century?”
GM: “Very good, Miss Malveaux,” Maldonato repeats.
Caroline: “And… presumably you are one of the older.”
GM: “I am not the eldest of our kind, nor am I the eldest to reside in New Orleans, but I am older than a great many.”
Caroline: She nods. “Presumably I will be kept here until your ‘testing’ is ready?”
GM: “That is correct, Miss Malveaux. Until then, you may avail me of any questions you desire answered.”
Caroline: She is quiet for a long moment.
Then, finally, “What are we?”
GM: Another moment passes before Maldonato answers Caroline’s question. It is not so long as hers, but he does not seem to consider the question trifling one.
“Mortals call us vampires. Our name for one another is Kindred. We are descended from Caine, Adam’s firstborn son from the Book of Genesis. God punished the Third Mortal for his brother’s murder by cursing him to endlessly repeat that primeval sin. We thirst eternally for the blood of the living. Just as Caine was cursed to wander the Land of Nod, so too are we cursed to wander the earth under eternal night. The sun’s rays burn our flesh. We eat only ashes and drink only blood. We sire and bear no children. We are doomed to watch all that we love crumble to dust as we persist through the centuries, eternal and unchanging. Though many young Kindred heady with the prospect of eternal life believe their condition a gift, make no mistake, fledgling. Cursed are we who inherit the blood of Caine.”
Caroline: “Then we are beyond God’s grace and mercy?”
GM: Maldonato merely inclines his head.
“There is purpose to our damnation, as revealed by God unto Longinus the Dark Prophet, first among our kind to serve His will. But there is not mercy.”
Caroline: That thought seems to drag upon the heiress for a long moment, her vestige growing introspective and heavy. At long last she lets out a sigh.
“Are we everywhere? Presumably New Orleans is not the seat of all Kindred might. How do we keep a secret like this?”
GM: Caroline’s sigh feels almost like an anomaly in this room. Maldonato’s face isn’t so waxen as Malveaux’s or the sword-bearing vampire’s, but she hasn’t once seen him scratch his nose, snort, or make any of those other little signs that he’s alive besides blink.
“Kindred exist across the globe. We primarily congregate in cities. Predators lair where prey is closest and where we may better conceal our existences among the press of humanity. Many Kindred lack the necessary patience and subtlety to feed in rural areas while keeping their true natures hidden.”
“Some cities bear host to larger populations of the Damned than New Orleans. Other cities bear host to smaller populations. There is no ‘seat’ of Kindred might any more than there is a seat of human might.”
Caroline: “A feudal system then, subdivided further by clans and castes.”
GM: “You will learn the full particulars should your Blood belong to a verifiable clan. As to your second question, we maintain our race’s secrecy through any and all means available to us. Bribery, intimidation, and murder are among the least of the sins that safeguard our Masquerade. The powers granted by our Blood also do much to ensure our secrecy from mortal eyes.”
“Any Kindred careless enough to reveal our existence are put to death. Our laws are harsh and harsh by necessity. If the kine knew of our existence, they would rise up and destroy us.”
“Yet for all our vigilance, our Masquerade remains imperfect. The existence of our race is too great a secret to keep wholly secret.”
Caroline: “So some humans know.”
GM: “Many of them choose to hunt our kind. For all their frailties as mortals, they are still dangerous, and have slain many Kindred.”
Caroline: Caroline thinks back. “Swords. Fire, presumably. Sunlight.”
GM: “Those, and whatever curse is inherent to one’s Blood.”
Caroline: “Garlic? Silver? Crucifixes? Mirrors? Holy water?”
GM: “Myths and superstitions, to the majority of us. Some individual Kindred are cursed with vulnerability to such apotropaics, but they are no more universal to our race than individual allergies and genetic disorders are universal among the kine.”
Caroline: “Sunlight, though. And even being awake during the day. It’s not natural. Presumably Kindred keep bodyguards for that reason?”
GM: “Personal protection is a common duty for the kine we tempt into our service.” The seneschal glances at his silver pocketwatch. “I am afraid there are many demands upon my time, Miss Malveaux, and that many of your inquiries could be answered by other Kindred. I will permit you three further questions.”
Caroline: Caroline pauses at that with a somewhat bashful expression. “My apologies.”
After a moment she asks, “How in the past have newly-made Kindred overcome their vastly more experienced creators in order to gain standing? I was able to… influence people, but others I’ve seen seemed able to completely control them. It suggests a gulf in abilities that I assume grows with time.”
GM: “All things grow or stagnate with time. If you are concerned as to how you might overcome your sire, Miss Malveaux, I am afraid the odds are not in your favor.”
The elder Kindred pauses briefly. His expression does not change, but Caroline can see some measure of pity in his deep brown eyes.
“I am sorry. But others will show you few kindnesses in the Requiem.”
Caroline: “I will find a way. How does one claim a domain, know the domains of others, and enforce their rights?”
GM: Maldonato smiles thinly. “Those are three distinct questions, Miss Malveaux. But let it not be said I am without charity for a sireless fledgling.”
“One is granted domain by our prince or an existing domain’s lord, subject to our prince’s approval. The lord may grant domain in return for services rendered, because they believe the domain will prosper under the vassal’s stewardship, or for any other reason they see fit.”
“Under typical circumstances, a sire informs their childe what domains exist and whom they belong to, as part of the fledgling’s broader education in our society’s ways and customs. Once the childe is released, it is their own responsibility to keep abreast of any changes among the city’s territorial boundaries.”
“Domains are recognized by the prince under the Second Tradition. Though he frowns upon Kindred who would violate the sanctity of another’s domain, it remains the responsibility of individual Kindred to defend their territory against interlopers.”
Caroline: “My apologies. Legal questioning. My last is… more straightforward. Assuming I survive your testing… what can I do in order to gain your favor—insomuch as a ‘sireless fledgling’ may?”
GM: “Why do you wish to gain my favor, Miss Malveaux?” the seneschal inquires.
Caroline: “I have no sire to teach me what your society presumes it should. I have no clan affiliation and no firm ties to this world. I am already an outcast under threat of death.” She shrugs. “And you are the second to a prince who has not been accepting visitors in some time—presumably one of the more powerful beings in city, and the one who made the initial decision that I should not be killed on sight… which I presume was within your authority.”
“I am already in your debt, and would rather you see some use in me in the future. I don’t presume to trade in favors, merely to prove my potential value. Either I can do what you ask—as an independent actor with no potential blowback upon you—or I cannot. Either way my position is no weaker. Nor is your own.”
GM: Maldonato regards Caroline thoughtfully. “You are well to seek my favor under your present circumstances, Miss Malveaux. Faithfully observe the Traditions, make the execution of my duties no more onerous than they presently are, and you will have done more than many fledglings are able to under your same circumstances. These actions in and of themselves will not win my favor, but they will avoid my disfavor.”
Caroline: Caroline nods, unwilling to push the issue on him. That’s why they call it gambling. “As you say.”
GM: “Beyond that basic responsibility,” the seneschal continues, “I look favorably upon any Kindred who accepts the gospel of Longinus into their heart and serves as a contributive member of the Lancea et Sanctum.”
Caroline: Longinus again. She files the names away.
GM: “Yet the Sanctified have many faithful and contributive members. I look with greatest favor upon Kindred who possess personal attributes I hold highest in my esteem. These attributes cannot be bequeathed, so I shall not enumerate them. I have little love for dissimulators who adopt false manners to please me.”
Caroline: She bites her lip, swallowing any desire to interrupt. This is a very powerful man. Better to listen.
GM: “I know little of you, Miss Malveaux. I know little of your character, your ideals, your experiences, and those other qualities that make you whom you are. Whomever you are. Time alone shall reveal your soul to me and whether you live by the Man or the Beast.”
Caroline: Another nod. “I understand. Thank you for your time. And for the opportunity.”
GM: Maldonato regards Caroline in thoughtful silence for another few moments.
“A further article of advice, Miss Malveaux. You have yet to address me by my name or title. Contemporary mortals hold that a person’s name is the fondest sound they may hear, while it is frequently a breach of etiquette not to address an individual by their proper title. That advice applies equally to your dealings with Kindred or kine.”
Caroline: “I beg your pardon, it seemed more rude to use it improperly. Seneschal is not a title I am familiar with, and it was not made clear to me by what honorific I should address you.”
GM: “There is no shame in ignorance, only in refusal to rectify it.”
Maldonato picks up his desk phone and dials a number. “Mr. Narváez.”
A young-looking African-American man wearing a black suit, navy blue tie, and slim rectangular glasses appears. Caroline hears a heartbeat thumping in his chest, pumping blood through his veins.
“Your Grace,” the man states, bowing low.
“Please escort Miss Malveaux to the sentencing chamber and inform Sheriff Donovan as to her relevant circumstances,” Maldonato instructs. “If she is not found to be clanless, I leave it to his discretion which hound will monitor her.”
“Very good, sir,” the man states.
Maldonato removes a piece of fine stationary paper from his desk, draws a fountain pen, and spends several minutes writing. He places the paper inside an envelope, produces a jar of pre-melted wax, and spoons a small amount over the letter. He then presses his gold, sapphire-set ring over the wax, affixing it with an archaic seal, and passes the envelope to the man. “You are aware of whom to deliver this to.”
“I remain so, sir,” the man replies, tucking it into his jacket’s interior pocket. “She also wishes me to convey her sentiments that phone conversations would be a more expedient means of communication.”
“Her sentiments are noted,” Maldonato replies, then turns to address Caroline. “Good evening to you, Miss Malveaux, and despair not. Though God has damned you, He has not forsaken you. Should your lineage belong to one of the Thirteen, the Sanctified shall see to your soul, and you may know purpose and faith in our service.”
Caroline: Caroline has only a moment to chew on the meaning of his words last words, even as she puzzles around the message he passed along to his subordinate. Why do it in front of her? A test? Certainly not purely to make a point as to his title, though that was nearly done. Rather than linger she offers her own graceful bow.
“Thank you, seneschal, for everything. If I do not see you again, then you at least lit a candle on my path into darkness. In this life or the next, I am in your debt.”
She allows herself to be led forth by the man, Mr. Narváez. She thought humans weren’t supposed to know? Questions and thoughts swirl in her mind, but for now she bites them down, while also trying to suffocate the growing fear and dread. It is one thing to play at good breeding, to play at confidence, to play at honor.
But however much she might wish it, no amount of preparation has prepared her to face her own mortality again, for the fourth time in half as many nights. Only rational thoughts keep her obeying every command, following every step, towards what may be her approaching doom.
Sunday night, 6 September 2015, PM
GM: Mr. Narváez leads Caroline to the elevator at the end of the hall. He swipes a keycard and punches the button to an underground floor. One long and silent elevator ride later, and Caroline steps out with her escort into a bare and unadorned concrete chamber the size of a ballroom. Three chopping blocks sit on a raised stage. An honest-to-god gallows post stands adjacent to the stage, along with an iron maiden and several other wicked-looking metal instruments whose precise use is unclear to Caroline, but whose function is unmistakable.
A woman talking to two other men in dark suits surveys the fledgling Kindred and her escort from the stage. She is a cold, haughty beauty, with high cheekbones, porcelain features, and lustrous brown hair. She wears a white trench coat, black leather gloves, and felt hat. Caroline instinctively senses that she is Kindred.
Narváez bows. “Hound Doriocourt. The third prisoner.”
Caroline: Caroline resists swallowing mostly because the action is not anatomically required. All the same, the woman puts a chill in her despite the warm blood filling her to the brim.
GM: Without warning, the woman plunges a stake into Caroline’s heart. She topples over. Narváez catches her. She can’t move a muscle, not even her eyes. She’s utterly paralyzed.
“Put her with the others,” the woman says as she descends the stage, striding towards the elevator.
The two men carry Caroline across the stage to a heavy steel door, which one of them unlocks with a key card. It ponderously swings open to reveal a bare concrete corridor lined with rows of identical steel doors. The men unlock the nearest one. It’s a spartan, cell-like room bereft of a bed, stool, or even light fixtures. The men unceremoniously dump Caroline onto the floor. The door clangs shut, though Caroline can still see. The darkness should be oppressive.
Caroline: Twelve years of private school. Four years of undergrad. Three years of law school. The lesson that remains with her is still one of the first taught to her by her father.
There’s still pride. For whatever that’s worth.
She’d give a bitter laugh, but the sound dies in her throat. There’s instinctive terror at her paralysis. Indignant fury at her helplessness. A sneer, if she could manage that. As if she’d run. Her body might be frozen, her instincts screaming, but pride remains.
Stakes to the heart, though. She’ll remember that.
She watches them slam the door and waits for the sounds of footsteps. She settles in to wait, lying still as death.
‘Others.’ That’s… interesting. Lawlessness run amuck? Creations such as her cannot possibly be such a common occurrence. Or is this a general court? How long have prisoners waited here?
There is no telling, but suddenly she is very thankful for the blood of three men running through her veins. She remembers well the hunger that first night.
GM: It’s hard for Caroline to tell how much time passes in her bare surroundings.
But on it passes.
Caroline: Bother. How many plans will be reworked because of this? How many problems has it created for her already? Better to think of the future than the alternative.
That she has none.
GM: Caroline has no idea how much time passes. It could be thirty minutes. It could be six hours. Then without warning, the door slams open. The same grim-faced men yank Caroline up and haul her back out to the stage. Jeers and catcalls immediately assault the young vampire’s ears. Some members of the gathered crowd belows hide their natures under respectable suits and conservative dresses. Some wear ordinary street clothes. Some revel in their sinful natures, adorning their forever-young and nubile bodies in the most head-turning extremities of dark couture: dresses made of knives, jackets constructed of barbed wire, and shining black PVC garments that cater to the wildest fetishes.
Caroline can instinctively sense they are her kind.
The men who’ve carried her outside wrench the stake from her chest. She can move again.
Caroline: Caroline does her best to stifle the unneeded, but instinctual gasp as the stake comes out and she can breathe again. She listens to the crowd. It’s cute that human nature still remains. She knows how to deal with it.
She rises gracefully to her feet and keeps her back straight. At least she’s well-dressed. It won’t stop them. The fools that claim that ignoring taunting will cause it to stop are fools indeed, but she will give them no fodder, no true satisfaction. Live or die, she is not entertainment.
GM: Several further Kindred have joined Caroline and the shadow-faced vampire who received her earlier. The stormy-eyed man who Caroline’s relative addressed as “sheriff” is another familiar face. He stands at the forefront of the stag. His expression reveals as much as a brick wall.
A young-looking African-American man stands to the sheriff’s right. He’s tall, broad-shouldered, and powerfully muscled. His features could be handsome if he was smiling. He’s not. He wears a black jacket, cargo pants, baseball cap, and heavy work boots. Gold glints from his watch, rang, and lance necklace.
Caroline: Caroline can only await their pleasure. She even gives a slight bit of a bow to them.
GM: Two further Kindred prisoners stand behind the three. The first prisoner is a bewildered-looking young man with messy brown hair, a stubbly quarter-beard, and torn white shirt. The second prisoner is attired in a gigantic poofy pink wig, lurid makeup, sequined yellow dress, and strappy heels high enough to border on stilts. Caroline recognizes her—him—after a moment as the drag queen who offered who offered to “inspect” the winner of the big dick contest several days ago. It feels like a lifetime ago. For both of them. All trace of mirth is gone from his features.
Caroline: “Busy night,” she murmurs to herself. Part of her resents being stood next to this pathetic bunch. “I wonder if this is how Marie Antoinette felt.”
GM: With the crowd and prisoners so assembled, the sheriff coolly announces that this court is hereby being called to order. He turns to the shadow-faced woman, who leads the gathered Kindred through a liturgical prayer in Latin. Silence descends as the vampires bow their heads. Caroline’s classical education pays off when she understands the dead language’s references to Longinus and his piercing of Christ’s side with his lance. The woman concludes her benediction in English with,
“You shall honor the Dark Father and give thanks for the perfection of his sinfulness and the miracle of his transformation. Say to the Lord: My God, all praise is due to You for the miracle of transformation that You bestowed upon the centurion. Blessed are we who know the truth of divinity in the world because of the blood of the Christ that gave the centurion sight and life! May we ever walk in his ways and follow his example, by Your power and will. Amen.”
Caroline: A macabre prayer that answers many of her questions at least. Sinfulness as a path to the will of God? The very thought is abhorrent to her, repulsive. And yet… who is to say? A whole new world has opened before her. When she survives this night she will be very interested in researching the history of such beliefs, and of what she is.
Curious though that the man with the cross did not lead the prayer. It would be fitting for a good Catholic queen to die at the hands of heretics by means of a guillotine.
GM: The sheriff motions to the first prisoner, the scraggly-bearded young man, who the guards roughly shove to his knees before the chopping block. The woman approaches him with a wicked-looking silver knife. He flinches as she cuts his cheek, draining his blood into an ornate silver chalice proffered by one of the guards. The woman closes her eyes, clasps her hands, and intones a further series prayers in Latin that Caroline understands as beseeching the angel Amoniel and the “Dark Apostle” Julius Marius. A maroon glow suffuses the chalice. When the woman turns it over, watery mud spills over the concrete floor.
“Clanless,” is all she says.
The young man’s initial reaction is blank non-comprehension. His expression swiftly becomes one of naked terror, however, as he hears the crowd’s incensed roaring. “Please, please, I don’t-”
He’s cut off as the sheriff’s cavalry saber sheers through his neck, cleaving through flesh and bone. His head does not bounce off the floor like Caroline expects: instead, he seemingly ages a thousand years in an instant. Gray, tattered bits of skin flake off the man’s skull like dandruff even as his bones crumble into ash. A pile of dusty clothes are the only evidence left to mark his existence.
A few voices from the crowd jeer and laugh. Some look at him with pity. Still others simply watch without comment. “Cleaner than he’d have got from Meadows,” remarks one voice.
Caroline: A name she records well, even as she watches, stuffing down horror at the scene. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. A bit more literal than most. She’d always hoped for a nice traditional burial.
Decapitation, though. Good to know.
GM: The sheriff impassively motions and two of the guards grab the drag queen. The sight of his fellow prisoner’s death is evidently too much. He madly shrieks and howls, straining against his fetters and snapping at the men who approach with hungry white fangs. The black vampire smashes a booted foot into the prisoner’s kneecap with an audible crack, sending him crashing to the ground in an unceremonious heap. They roughly pull him before the chopping block even as the female Kindred slashes his cheek, spilling blood into the chalice. She performs the same rite in the same dead tongue. When she upturns the chalice, the same watery mud pours out. The sheriff’s blade sheers through another bared neck, and Caroline watches another man age a thousand years in an instant. His wig and nail extensions lie in a haphazard pile around his ashes.
Then, finally, the sheriff turns his chill gaze towards Caroline. The animal instinct within her writhes and thrashes, screaming at her to get away.
Caroline: She clamps down on it, striding forth, not awaiting the nudge from the guards. Pride. If there had been any doubt before how she would meet her end, the drag queen’s pathetic showing put an end to it.
GM: Caroline’s display of composure at least earns her fewer jeers. The guards kneel her before the chopping block. She feels a hot prick as Doriocourt’s knife cuts her cheek, draining her blood into the chalice. For the third time, she clasps her hands in prayer and calls out in an ancient tongue to Amoniel.
Caroline: Caroline’s gaze almost dares the crowd to say something. A flash of a thought regarding confession runs through her, the promise of the seneschal that she could take confession before her execution if needed. Ah, well. To ask now would be to render meaningless all pride so far. Invite comments as to her cowardice.
She winces as the woman carves on her face, but says nothing.
GM: Doriocourt upturns the chalice. This time, however, the blood that pours out is red and rich as only human life can be. Her voice echoes throughout the concrete chamber as she pronounces, “You are Caroline Malveaux, childe of René Baristheaut, childe of Robert Bastien, childe of Lothar Constantine, childe of Dominic de Valois-Burgundy, childe of Gaius Pedius Marcellus, childe of Alexander, childe of Ventrue.”
Caroline: Instead of a sigh, a smile. Her eyes fall on the sheriff and his sword. “Thank you,” she replies smoothly to the woman.
GM: The sheriff does not raise his saber from Caroline’s neck. Doriocourt’s gaze remains fixed on the stormy-eyed man. He turns his gaze upon the crowd and coolly pronounces that as “this fledgling” was Embraced in violation of the Third Tradition, “her Requiem is forfeit until she tenders us her sire’s in its place. Know that Prince Vidal is as merciful as he is wise.”
Caroline: Caroline waits. The light kiss of the steel on her neck cannot dull her satisfaction.
I’ll have you yet, René.
GM: After warning the gathered Kindred to heed well the prince’s laws, the sheriff raises his saber and declares this court adjourned. The crowd of vampires begins to file out. The guards haul Caroline to her feet.
Caroline: She looks from one to the other, then back to the remaining Kindred. “My thanks for your time.”
GM: “You will locate your sire,” the sheriff states without preamble. “You will bring him to us, staked, to be punished in accordance with our laws. You will do this, or your Requiem is forfeit. You will not run, or your Requiem is forfeit. Until such time as your sire is tendered to our justice, you will remain unreleased.” He seizes Caroline’s wrist, turns it over, and slashes it with a knife offered by one of the guards. Blood dribbles into the chalice, now held out by Doriocourt.
“This vitae will ensure your good behavior. You will not give us cause to use it.”
Caroline: She lets out a hiss of surprise at the knife’s bite. “What does that mean? Unreleased?”
She watches the blood flow… reluctantly. She recalls too well how hard it was to take it from another.
GM: “Hound Wright, you will monitor her activities and receive her reports on her progress,” is the sheriff’s only answer.
“Babysit the fledgling. Sho’nuff,” says Wright.
The sheriff’s gaze turns towards Caroline’s relative. “Father Malveaux. She requires confession.”
Caroline: She turns to follow his gaze, having not even noticed him among the rest.
GM: “Her soul will be seen to, sheriff,” the albino vampire rasps.
Without further word or glance, the sheriff and Doriocourt depart the chamber, the latter carrying the chalice of Caroline’s blood, followed by the two guards.
Wright looks Caroline over. “A’ight, girl, you gonna call me every night with an update on how things are goin’.” He gives the fledgling Ventrue a phone number. “I want to see you in person, you’ll drive here to Perdido. We clear?”
Caroline: “Yes. Sir.” The last word has only a tiny break, as if she is uncertain about the word and adds it for respect’s sake.
GM: “Good. You an’ me gonna get along jus’ fine then.”
Caroline: “I have questions about this. About all of this.” One hand sweeps the room. “Is there any I might ask them of?”
GM: Wright shrugs. “Whoever got time t’ play twenty questions, I guess.”
Caroline: A charming smile. “Presumably not a hound, then? I don’t wish to impose upon your obligations.”
GM: “Got that right. What your sire’s s’posed t’ do.”
Caroline: “One question then perhaps, or at least one more?”
GM: Wright gives a curt jerk of his head. “Sorry, princess. Got a lil’ lesson I can teach you instead, though.”
Caroline: She’s seen that look before. She has little doubt that this is going to hurt.
GM: Caroline’s expectation proves all too true as the hound’s balled fist, hard as a set of brass knuckles, smashes into her belly. She crashes against the wall like she was hit by a car. It hurts.
“Learn t’ block. Your sire hits faster.”
Caroline: The punch drives the air from her lungs—air they didn’t really need, but which she can’t resist. She doubles over in pain, blackness creeping along the edge of her vision.
GM: Wright tosses her a phone, says, “Burner,” and strides out of the room.
Caroline: “Thank you,” she calls as she catches it. Her newfound resiliency burns against the blow, edges away some of the pain.
GM: Father Malveaux looks Caroline over. “Come, fledgling. You must take confession.”
Caroline: That stings worse than the blow. Still under the thumb of the family priest.
“Of course.” The words taste like ash, but she falls in behind him.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Monday night, 7 September 2015, AM
GM: The two Kindred make their way to the elevator at the end of the room. Father Malveaux swipes his card again and presses another button. After a short ride, the doors open into a bare office hallway. A short walk, and the two Kindred are in a small, plain room with a skull-patterned lance mounted on one of the walls, much like the one in Maldonato’s office. A confession booth sits in the room’s corner.
Father Malveaux opens the door and steps into the priest’s side. Caroline knows all the words by heart: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been this long since my last confession, and I accuse myself of the following sins:
Caroline: The scene is oddly relaxing for Caroline, in spite of his blood ties and her own discomfort. There is consistency faith, and her heart is truly burdened. Murder. That most stark of sins. She goes to her knees for a long moment, minutes ticking by as she reviews her actions. Finally she rises and enters the booth. She makes the sign of the cross. “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
GM: “In the name of the Dark Prophet,” a rasping voice corrects. “Christ’s salvation is not for us.”
Caroline: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I am a being forsaken by God, and it has been at least six day since my last confession. I did my penance, and these are my sins.”
She begins most starkly with murder, of which she is guilty of at least one. Failure to honor her mother and father. Theft of blood. Failure to pray daily. Trying to control things (an old sin). Refusing to bend to God’s will. The list goes on and on, a seemingly unending array of perceived slights to God, some body, most of thought.
Finally, “I am sorry for these sins, and the sins of my whole life.”
GM: Father Malveaux patiently listens to Caroline’s lengthy confession. When she is finished, he replies, “My child, what of this man you have murdered? Do the kine know of this death?”
Caroline: “No, Father, not unless more time has passed than I believed and he has been discovered. One of many matters I must see to.”
GM: “Then there is yet time for you to avoid committing blasphemy against the Dark Prophet, my child. You must erase all evidence of his death, such that the kine do not know our race was responsible.”
Caroline: The kine. Such a disrespectful way of describing people living their lives.
She says nothing. “I will do so.”
GM: “As to the direct matter of his death. Your penance will be to put the fear of God into other kine who have sinned, using this man’s death as an example. Show them the consequences for straying from Christ’s path. ‘For we are his messengers to Kindred and men. We are the wolves of Heaven, and in our presence, only the faithful do not tremble. We are holy lightning, and when we strike, only the faithful do not burn. Where we walk, evil is destroyed.’”
Caroline: “I…” Caroline has no response. “Stage him, you mean.”
GM: “Such is our holy mandate, my child,” Caroline’s relative answers seriously. “We are monsters, and through our damned state we may serve as examples to the kine. Examples of the consequences for straying from Christ’s path.”
“‘We know that as the Damned we are preordained to sin, both venal and mortal. How blessed are we, then, that our mortality is guaranteed through our Damnation! For we are not only doomed to die, but are dead already. We have died and we will die and our death shall be everlasting. Let hymns of praise be sung to God and His almighty Damnation!’”
Caroline: The words would turn her stomach, if she still ate. As is, she can only stare through the screen in mute horror.
This is worse than heresy. It’s perversion on a staggering level.
GM: “You murdered that man,” Caroline’s relative whispers quietly. “You ended his life. Do not deny what you are.”
Caroline: The words hit like hammer blows across the back of her head.
GM: “Would God suffer such monsters to exist without purpose? Even in our damnation, we yet have a place in His divine plan.”
Caroline: Caroline just wants to curl up in a ball. Murderer. Monster. The entire thing is monstrous. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She wants her priest. Wants it to be all right. Wants forgiveness, not the gospel of the damned.
But it will not be there. Part of her knows it. Words already spoken. She can never confess what she is or what she’s done. She cannot make it right. She knows she’ll go out again the next evening in search of blood. She knows she’ll find another victim. She knows there is no release save death… and for all the horror of what she is, she is not ready to surrender to that fate.
The truth of this damned priest is that she was already damned. She was more in love with her future than her god. And she still is.
GM: The blasphemous priest leans closer. His rasping voice burns with the fervor of conviction.
“You are damned and you shall burn in Hell for what you are. You monstrous, foul, perverse, twisted thing. Your existence is an affront against all that is decent and holy.”
Caroline: Long silence. “Yes.”
She wants to cry. Why can’t she cry?
“I pity the devil.”
GM: “You are the devil.”
Caroline: “And still.”
GM: “You will find no pity here, child. Only assurance that even in your damned state, you may yet serve the cause of Grace.”
Caroline: Damn you, René.
Cold coils wrap around her heart. And in truth, what else can she do?
Her voice sounds hollow, like a used shell casing. “As you say, Father.” The word tastes like ash. “Stage him as a warning to wickedness.”
GM: “As you say, my child,” the blasphemous priest nods through the grill. “Through his death, he will inspire others to virtue.”
Caroline: She waits for him to continue.
GM: “As for your other sins. The individual you stole blood from. Were they guilty of sins of their own?”
Caroline: The slight beginnings of a smile. “Individuals. Yes, many. Rapists, harlots, predators…”
GM: “Have they learned from this experience, my child?” Caroline’s relative inquires. “Do they realize they have suffered because of their sins?”
Caroline: That poor girl, Lauren. Young and dumb. The thugs in the bathroom. His victim. Have they learned?
“You may lead a horse, father,” Caroline replies. “Learning, however, is a matter of will.”
GM: “Have you led them to water, my child? Merely feeding from them is not an instructive experience. They must realize it was a consequence of their wanton behavior.”
Caroline: “It came upon them in the depths of their wantonness,” Caroline replies.
GM: “Good. Seek them out again, my child. If they have not renounced their former ways, prey upon them until they seek repentance or the consequences of their wantonness consume them entirely.”
Caroline: She frowns. “Kill them, you mean. Murder again.”
GM: “If they cannot learn from their sins, others may learn from their deaths.”
Caroline: “Three I could not find again. Another I might.”
GM: The priest’s voice has an edge. “You will find them and prey upon them again, my child. That is your penance for your sin.”
Caroline: “Or be damned?”
GM: If Caroline’s relative were mortal, she might have heard a sharp intake of breath. But he is not, and she does not. There is only silence.
Caroline: She realizes her breach. “Forgive me, Father, I spoke out of turn.”
GM: “There are two varieties of Kindred, my child,” the priest rasps after a pause. “There are Kindred who have the spiritual fortitude to follow God’s plan and find purpose even in their damnation.”
Caroline: “This has happened so swiftly. Last night I stood in the grace of God. Tonight you tell me to murder in His name. I pray, Father, you give me time, that I might begin to see my way down this path.”
GM: “There are Kindred who repudiate that purpose,” the priest continues heedlessly of Caroline’s entreaty, “who see their Requiems as naught but an eternity to indulge their Beast’s urges. The first principle of Longinus calls: ‘surrender to God, not the Beast.’ To do otherwise is blasphemy. You do not wish to be punished for blasphemy by our prince, my child.”
Caroline: She falls silent at his first word.
GM: “You are mistaken if you believe that your damnation means you cannot suffer further.”
Caroline: “Forgive me,” she asks again. “I shall seek them, if they live. Tell me though, Father, into which task shall I immerse myself? The search for my sire, or for the tortured mortals?”
GM: “There is no forgiveness in this sacrament, my child,” Caroline’s relative reminds her softly. “Yet even then, your Requiem is not without purpose. You shall pursue both tasks.”
Caroline: “Can you tell me, Father… how long?”
GM: “How long for what, my child?”
Caroline: “How long I have.”
GM: “If you truly care for the state of your soul, you will see it swiftly done. If you have not repented by our next confession together, I will be displeased.”
Caroline: “I typically take confession once a week,” she offers.
GM: “Then you have one week, if circumstance does not bring you to take confession sooner.”
Caroline: “Yes, Father.”
GM: “As for failing to honor your mother and father. That is well. You must divorce yourself from their lives. ‘Thou shalt not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing such shall renounce thy claims of Blood.’”
Caroline: “And that requires divorce?”
GM: “There are few graver threats to our Masquerade than attempting to dwell among mortals. We are of one kind and they another.”
Caroline: “Is that why I’d never met you?”
GM: “Such would have endangered our entire race.”
Caroline: “And yet bonds of fellowship are not completely severed. Your domain among your mortal family.”
GM: “I have measures in place to ensure my anonymity, my child, as you could well attest.”
Caroline: “Of course, Father.”
She waits for any other penance he might lay upon her.
GM: “As for your remaining sins, which are not so serious. Do five Hail Monachuses every dawnbreak for the next week. He was the first of our kind to accept our holy mission from Longinus the Dark Prophet and his name may suffice in place of the Virgin Mary’s.”
Caroline: “Yes, Father.”
GM: “You have many sins to wash away, my child, and much to do in the coming nights. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Propheta Tenebris, ego te absolvo. You may go.”
Caroline: “Thanks be to God. Amen.” She rises from the confessional.
Monday night, 7 September 2015, AM
Caroline: The room doesn’t stink yet. The ice is doing its job. Still, it’s jarring to look on Paxton’s corpse. As it should be. She’s exhausted. Mentally drained. The murder weighs upon her. The fight with her uncle. The twisted faith. She just wants to sleep, wants the dawn to wash it away.
GM: Sleep comes to Caroline easily. She doesn’t even notice it. She huddles up in the closet, wrapped in blankets, and tries to make herself comfortable on the floor. When she rolls over to look at her burner phone’s time, it says it’s eight hours later.
Caroline: Time to get to work.