“This is OUR turf, lick!”
Monday night, 7 September 2015, PM
GM: Caroline leaves behind the miserable offices of Louis Fontaine, hails a cab and tells the driver to take her to the nearest rave or club. He’s a heterochromiac with one blue eye and one brown eye who speaks in a thick New Jersey accent and regales her along the way with recommended tour spots in the district. Beyond the yearly Jazz Festival and Voodoo Experience, there’s the Fair Grounds horse racing track, four historic cemeteries, and good food without the French Quarter crowds.
He drops her off at Rock-n-Bowl, a combination dance club, bowling alley, and restaurant where patrons can drink, dance, or bowl while listening to live music performed by the St. John’s Banshees, an all-girl Celtic punk band of moderate talent. Caroline mimics enjoying herself and sets her eye on one of the musicians, a singer and electric banjoist whose skin is a lattice-work of twisting vines, thorns, pentagrams, and Celtic tattoos. She waits until the show is over.
Barely a moment passes after Caroline follows her prey down the alley outside before two dark figures slam her against the building’s brick wall.
The Ventrue’s first assailant is a young, blonde-haired woman wearing a leather jacket, torn black shorts and fishnet gloves and leggings. Her snarling, enraged features are plastered with heavy black makeup and blood-red lipstick that mockingly dares someone like Caroline’s uncle to call her a ‘brazen strumpet.’
“This is OUR turf, lick!” she yells, pinning her arms on either side of the Ventrue’s head.
Caroline’s second assailant is a Hispanic woman with reed-like black hair, nail-like nose studs, and a no less incensed expression. She wears a half-buttoned man’s overshirt that exposes her lower belly and a tattoo of the Virgin Mary, topless and smirking as she bares her naked breasts. The woman waves a wicked-looking switchblade in Caroline’s face.
“Who the fuck said you could hunt here!?”
Caroline: Territory? Caroline starts to respond, starts to answer, to spin a tale out of this…
But it’s too much. Murder, undeath, near-execution, the horrors of her relative’s perverse faith, the looming threat of death over her head… the Beast has been gnawing at her like a rat on a rotted rope, and here in this alley the last thread snaps. It roars out in a flash of fangs at the tramp pinning her to the wall.
GM: The first woman, clearly only expecting token resistance if Caroline’s clothes are any indication, is taken entirely by surprise. The Ventrue feels the delicious sensation of flesh tearing under her teeth before she sends her adversary crashing to the ground, both vampires hissing and spitting.
Yet her rival’s Beast is no less savage. A shatteringly strong punch and sickening crunch sends the Ventrue reeling backwards, blood messily spurting from her nose. The ground slams up to meet her back. The rival vampire straddles Caroline’s stomach like a lover, her fangs sharp and hungry in the alleyway’s dim light as she lunges for her adversary’s throat.
Caroline: Martial training takes over and Caroline’s Beast surges with strength, smashing the woman’s incoming face into the alley’s brick floor. It splits her forehead like an overripe melon. She rolls the dazed vampire over, seizing control, mounting. It’s just like in the dojo, but this time she drops toward her opponent’s throat with her teeth rather than an elbow. This harlot threatened her?
GM: The entire scene happens too fast to process. For any human to process.
Caroline’s hands are clasped around the woman’s head, smashing it nose-first into the ground with a wet crunch.
Then Caroline’s hands are empty. The woman is no longer there. Only a breeze against Caroline’s skin marks her passing before she feels her adversary smash into her from behind, fangs sinking into her neck.
Then, just as suddenly, Caroline’s hands are spattered red. Her assailant’s skull is smashed over the ground like an antique vase toppled off its perch by a naughty child. The other vampire didn’t even have a chance to scream, so fast did it all happen. She lies still and doesn’t move.
“Hijo de puta!” swears her knife-wielding companion.
Caroline: The horror of it all strangles Caroline from within, but it is a muted horror, wrapped as she is in the fury of the Beast. Her body is not her own and the creature in control is no innocent. It knows better the language of violence than she. It speaks it as a native tongue. It turns to the knife-wielding woman.
GM: Caroline barely processes it. One second, the other woman is there, her face grimly set and her knife clutched in her hand. Another second later, and the woman is gone like a magician’s disappearing trick. The comatose form of Caroline’s felled adversary is similarly absent. No more than a messy red stain around the Ventrue’s knees marks her one-time presence.
Caroline: The Beast prowls for a moment longer inside her, staking its claim on this patch of earth, but as its foes vanish so too does its grip on Caroline. It withdraws, sated.
Horror rules Caroline now. She scampers away from the pool of blood, hands leaving blood trails on the alley’s walls and ground. If she could vomit she would. She takes cover behind a dumpster and ignores the rancid stretch. There is no escape from the savage brutality of this unlife. What a monster she is already.
GM: The sound had faded almost entirely into the background in the midst of Caroline’s life or death struggle, but the Ventrue can distantly hear the boom of music and sounds of traffic and conversation. Life goes on for the kine of New Orleans, irrespective of the Kindred’s shadow wars.
How many more such wars were fought in alleys just outside the bars and clubs she went to, ignorant of this darker world?
Caroline: It takes time, but it is that threat of time that forces Caroline to her feet. Self-pity and horror gives way to numbness, then intellectual nagging. She doesn’t have time to spend on the floor. She’s hungry. The Beast burns through her reserves like a wildfire through a hayfield. The work of hours gone in seconds.
GM: Her attacker’s blood drips off her arms in mute testament to that wildfire’s blaze. Her current state, that same bestial part of her notes with almost clinical detachment, is not conductive to attracting prey.
Caroline: The blood is a problem. No cabbie would pick her up and prowling the streets is looking for trouble. There is one option. Once more, dear friends.
She makes her way back into the crowded bar, trying to hide amidst the muted lights, the dancing freaks, the blaring sounds. She makes for the bathrooms. She tries to wash off the worst blood from her hands with a smirk at anyone who stares.
GM: Caroline lucks out. The crowds are too thick, the music too loud, and the lights too dim for people to notice the blood all over her. The girl she runs into in the bathroom gives her a long look, then seems to decide she’d rather not ask.
Caroline: Wise of her.
Then she’s off once more into the crowd. Hunting. A monster, blood-stained but not blood-soaked. A shame, really, she liked this dress. The mind already works to bury trauma behind the mundane.
On the other hand, perhaps this is not the scene….
GM: Caroline loses herself among the dancing throngs once more. The St. John’s Banshees are back for their next set after the smoke break. The Ventrue sets her sights on someone lower than one of the musicians this time.
It isn’t long before she’s rubbing shoulders with a spiky-haired and bearded man wearing a plaid green kilt and shit-kicker boots. He looks at the washed-out bloodstains on Caroline’s dress, then grabs and kneads her ass so hard she’d think he’s trying to rip it off. He whispers about all the things he’s going to do to her.
Then she spots them. A broad-shouldered, grim-faced young African-American man wearing a black hoody and DG’s. A dusky-skinned woman in a black tank top, with hair the same color, and a long nasty scar across her right cheek. The Hispanic woman from earlier, with the nude tattoo of the Virgin Mary. They fan out through the crowd, consummate urban predators working in tandem.
Three pairs of hostile eyes alight upon the young Ventrue.
Caroline: Caroline mouths, but does not verbalize, a very unladylike curse. She’d hoped the other woman would be occupied with her companion or fearful of another confrontation. Her appearance with two more Kindred, though…
She doesn’t have to be a genius to know how long those odds are. Tired, hungry, and numb again versus three attackers, much less more experienced attackers, without the element of surprise from before… worse, having seen her nemesis in action, she has little confidence that she can simply run. Fear prickles across the back of her neck as she pulls her victim close.
Caroline leads her partner towards the center of the room, digging out her replacement phone to send a text to a friend as she goes. All she can do is await the hunters’ approach and hope the cavalry arrives before they drag her into a back alley. Will they start something immediately? Try to talk? She doesn’t have a frame of reference, nor does it truly matter. They’re coming.
The text is short as calls for help go:
9. Attacked by gangbangers. Hiding in club. Need an escort out. They are here with me, waiting. 3016 S Carrollton Ave.
GM: Caroline’s phone buzzes back after a moment.
On our way. Stick to crowds + lit areas. Don’t let them corner you alone.
Caroline: While she waits, she tries to ply the same influence on her ‘victim’ as she did on her uncle. If it comes down to it, she would prefer him to distract them rather than a bystander.
GM: Yet Sergeant Rizzaffi’s advice proves difficult to put into practice. Caroline’s burly would-be victim stares at her oddly as she turns her preternatural charm upon him, then abruptly seizes the young Ventrue and holds her fast, wrapping his thick arms around her in a great bear hug.
“OVER HERE! THE CUNT’S OVER HERE!” he roars above the crowd’s noise. He licks a lustful tongue along Caroline’s face and whispers,
“I’m gonna fuck your ass ’til it bleeds black…”
Caroline: Caroline screams for help in the crowd, thrashing against her attacker and generally causing a massive scene. Irish girl band. Surely someone will notice the girl being attacked. Her eyes scan the stage. Don’t get caught… first rule. The only rule she knows. See how much they want to make a scene here under prying eyes….
GM: Three rival Kindred, seeing their adversary so immobilized, immediately abandon their apparent earlier plan to slowly encircle and entrap her. Instead, they converge upon the pair like sharks cutting through water. Caroline screams and struggles.
Initially, she fears that no one will pay heed to her cries. That the noise may be too loud, the light too dim, the crowd too thick… or apathetic. Perhaps a normal girl’s cries would go unheeded.
But as Caroline shines an invisible spotlight upon herself, drawing on that same… whatever it was that turned her uncle completely around, hostile glares and calls of “hey, cut it out,” and “the fuck are you doing?” fall upon Caroline’s assailant. She feels his body stiffen against hers as the crowd’s will suddenly turns against him. The three Kindred trying to get to Caroline are now relentlessly shoving and pushing their way through a press of angry bodies.
Then Caroline feels a second, almost palpable invisible weight crash against hers, emanating from the Hispanic woman with the Virgin Mary tattoo. The girl loudly trash-talks Caroline, saying she’s a “fucking drama queen” and “pulls scenes like this every club she’s in, it’s just for attention!”
The crowd starts to throw her boos and looks of disgust. Someone spits on her. Someone else shouts they hope Caroline gets raped. No one stops the Ventrue’s assailants as they haul her outside. Some people even try to “help,” but the vampires snarl at them to get back, and no one is brave enough to contradict them. They let Caroline’s would-be victim continue to half-carry her, though.
They haul her back into the same alley where she beat that last vampire into a pulp.
“You pedazo de mierda,” the tattooed woman snarls, waving the same wicked switchblade as Caroline’s would-be victim shoves her against the brick wall. “You poach on our turf, same fucking club, twice in the same fucking night?! The balls on you.”
“So do we explode her head first,” growls the scarred woman in the tank top, “or work up to it with the rest of her?”
The black man in the hoodie simply cracks his knuckles.
Caroline: “Bad idea.”
GM: The tattooed woman rams her knife into Caroline’s belly in response. Her Beast roars in fury and tries to back free.
Her would-be victim and the other vampires all laugh.
Caroline: “So that’s it,” Caroline growls out, clamping the monster down.
GM: “Only bad idea here was yours to poach from Eight-Nine-Six, lick.”
Caroline: “I thought five was the magic number,” she grits out in pain. A grimace. “Might have been four. Did you tell them?”
GM: The black man runs a calloused hand along Caroline’s lips, tracing the edge of her mouth. “You like those, girl?” She feels a slight pressure against one of her fangs.
He grips one between his fingers. “Don’t take long for fangs to grow back. Maybe we hammer some nails into your gums. Fix ‘em in. Wonder how that’d feel to mend during sunup?”
“If she lasts ’til sunup,” says the scarred woman.
The tattooed woman squints at Caroline suspiciously. “Tell what?”
Caroline: “About how a fledgling ran you off like a dog without laying a hand on you.” She looks at the black man seriously. “I can see why she came back. Found her courage. Shame you have to carry it for two. Go ahead, though, show me how tough you are with your friends. Just make sure they know you’ll turn tail and run. Just know that even when I respect the Eight-Nine-Six, I’ll never respect you.”
GM: The tattooed woman furiously rams her knife into Caroline’s kidneys twice again. She viciously twists the blade and smiles as the Ventrue’s Beast tries once again to slip its bonds. Caroline’s would-be victim grunts as he holds her fast, but he laughs hard at the flowing blood, and she can feel a bulge in his kilt pressing against her ass.
“Maybe make this guy a renfield,” smirks the scarred woman.
The black man, though, barks a laugh as he turns his gaze towards his tattooed woman. “Shit, Mil, that wasn’t how you told it.”
’Mil’s’ eyes briefly flick away from Caroline. “Bliss’ head was in practically chunks. I wasn’t taking chances.”
A laugh from the scarred woman. “Yeah, bet she’ll be real glad if she wakes up.”
Caroline: “You had the knife then, too. Just had to go find a pair of balls, I guess.”
It hurts to talk. It hurts to stand. She has no weapon. She has no allies.
She has to drive the words in. Just keep them talking…. getting stabbed is better than getting her head caved in.
GM: The black man barks another laugh, his attention now firmly on Mil. “Yeah, I bet she gonna be real glad. She’s not here now, though.”
The scarred woman crosses her arms. “Yeah. We can take our time.”
The tattooed woman flatly regards her compatriots. “Say what you mean, Nines.”
“You an’ her,” the black man nods.
“You fuckin’ serious?”
Caroline: Caroline sways in the grip of her attackers, watching.
GM: “You bet. Like Nines say. We got time.”
Caroline: “She won’t,” Caroline sways, carved up.
GM: Mil spits on Caroline’s face. Several red droplets trickle down her nose, pattering over the ground. “The hell she says. I’ll tear off her tits and make her fuckin’ eat ’em.”
The black man grins savagely as he tugs the knife out of Mil’s fingers. “Guess we jus’ gonna see.”
Caroline: “Handicapping this one?” she asks, swaying.
GM: “Brose, let her go,” the scarred woman orders. Caroline’s burly captor finally releases her. He and the other two Kindred fan out into a wider circle around Caroline and her tattooed adversary.
Caroline: “Do me a favor,” Caroline asks of the black man, gesturing towards her bag.
GM: He stares at her.
Caroline: “If she gets the better of a half-dead fledgling, there is a black phone with one number. Call the hound so he can clean up the mess. Save you the trouble.”
GM: “Oh, that’s real considerate of you there,” sneers the scarred woman.
Caroline: “It’s called class. Have some.”
GM: Mil snarls and lunges at the Ventrue in a barely visible blur. Caroline’s nose crunches in loudly, spurting blood. The other vampire reappears a short distance away, fists balled, fangs bared.
Caroline: Wounded and exhausted from one fight already, Caroline puts up the best fight she can against the more experienced opponent.
GM: Mile scores a second hit as Caroline stumbles. This one splits her lip open. The other Kindred’s follow-up punch goes wide as the Ventrue shoots out its path with her own blur of speed.
Caroline: She goes low, trying to duck under the blow and drive through to her opponent’s stomach.
She can feel her vitae running dry as her body tries to keep up with the punishment. Blackness creeps over the edges of her vision.
GM: Caroline’s first kidney shot sends Mil stumbling backwards, struggling to maintaining her footing. The Ventrue’s follow-up feint to her right flank has the tattooed Kindred lunging to defend against it, leaving her wide open to the throat punch that sends her gagging. She crashes backwards into one of the alley’s graffiti-littered dumpsters with a loud thump.
In the distance, Caroline can hear police sirens beginning to wail.
The scarred woman curses under her breath. “Fuck. Get off your ass an’ take her out, Mil.”
Caroline: Caroline’s Beast presses against her fleshy cage. Release it and it will make short work of this upstart threatening its host.
But Caroline can’t do that. Even if she could rouse it, she cannot silence it, and she’s made a bed for herself with the police coming already. She just needs to hold out a little longer…
She aches, though, in mind, body, and spirit. Bone-deep weariness. Fighting is exhausting. Being threatened is exhausting. Sleep brings no rest.
GM: The Ventrue’s adversary snarls with wordless anger, then streaks towards Caroline in another barely perceptible blur. Two jolts of pain shoot through her gut. If she were mortal, she might gag, but she feels no nausea. Only a low, pounding rage like an awful migraine as the Beast strains against the increasingly weak bars of its cage.
Caroline: More vitae burns away as she tries to hold her tenuous grip on consciousness. Just a little longer… she can’t win, but maybe she won’t lose. Her attacks are not half-hearted, but they are guarded and clearly measured.
GM: “ON THE GROUND, NOW!”
The building’s door slams open as a squad of NOPD officers bursts through. They barely give the black and Hispanic gangbangers a chance to drop before opening fire. Mil jerks backwards as bullets riddle her chest, but to the cops’ amazement, she does not fall. One officer viciously clouts her over the head with his baton. Another cop smashes his across her hip, but the vampire spins and kicks him in the throat, sending him to the ground in a gagging heap. Her follow-up punch topples the first baton-wielding cop like a bowling pin.
“Don’t kill cops, you idiot!” snarls the scarred woman, but Mil has already lost herself to her Beast and lunges at the Crescent City’s finest in a blur of slashing knifework.
Caroline: The rapid snaps of gunfire reaches a fever pitch, all concerns of the optics of so-called ‘excessive force’ vanishing as the vampires pull knives. Caroline knows well how ineffective a bullet is against her kind, but more than a dozen can slow down anyone. The sound is deafening, the flashes of light in the dark alley blinding. The entire scene is an assault on the senses, especially the enhanced senses of a Kindred…
No doubt Black Lives Matter will have a field day with this.
GM: Caroline doubts they will be the only organization to as a policeman goes down in a gurgling heap, a switchblade buried in his lungs. Radioed cries of, “10-999! Repeat, 10-999!” swiftly arouse the other officers’ rage. The Kindred gangbangers don’t want to fight cops. Maybe they could take them, probably they could take them, but no one is dumb enough to massacre a squad of cops in public view. They try to pull away Mil, but she’s buried in furious officers and in the throes of her Beast. The male Kindred swears, and when it’s his blood that sprays across the pavement his Beast breaks free and tries to rip apart the nearest and most potent threat, heedless of the surrounding cops. Mil takes him down, and then the police happily take her down. The scarred woman tries to get away, but just her against a full squad is ugly odds. She still drops several officers singlehandedly before their numbers overwhelm her.
All told, about half a dozen broken, bleeding, and unconscious cops are lying on the ground alongside Caroline’s four attackers. They lie in seemingly unconscious heaps, wrists secured behind their backs in disposable plastic handcuffs. Caroline’s mortal would-be victim has over a dozen bullet holes in his chest. One cop kicks the body and laughs. “Don’t worry, just a fag in a skirt.”
She has to wonder how much worse the NOPD would have fared if the vampires’ Beasts hadn’t made them turn on each other.
Caroline: Caroline finds a wall to lean against as the boys in blue do their duty. She looks like shit. She feels like death. This whole expedition has turned into a clusterfuck. She looks appalled at the fallen officers, more deaths on her conscience. She wonders what she’s now supposed to do with three Kindred in police custody. She’s faded into the background amidst the fire and fury, a spark lost amid the flames.
GM: Blaring ambulances arrive. Paramedics led a towering Choctaw man someone calls Malechi strap the fallen officers onto stretchers and load them in. They’ll save as many as they can, but it sounds as if the NOPD will hold at least one funeral.
Caroline: She digs out the phone the hound gave her and punches in a short message.
Is there a protocol for Kindred in police custody?
GM: His answering text is not long in coming.
What the fuck did you just do?
Caroline: Three of them thought it was a good idea to attack the NOPD. Saw the whole thing.
GM: I bet you did. Call me somewhere they can’t hear.
Caroline: Caroline gives a little laugh that turns into a groan of pain. Let him chew on that for a minute. These animals think that they are the masters of the universe. She’s going to prove them wrong. Very wrong. She’s a Malveaux, and New Orleans is within her universe. It’s her birthright, in this life as the last.
She sends another text to her friend. Leave me out of it.
She tries to slip away. The NOPD would probably rather not have to deal with an outside witness. Anonymous tip. Ever popular. They’ll write the reports on this one. Another notice in Marco’s gun belt, perhaps another rung in his career ladder. Marco Rizzaffi, hero in line of fire.
GM: Sergeant Rizzaffi still corners Caroline anyway. He’s a large, burly man with receding brown hair and a thick mustache. He’s also bleeding. Caroline could smell it on him a mile away, though his blood smells like piss too, not like the jock’s did.
“Caroline, you all right? How the hell did you get tangled up in this?”
Caroline: “Oh, Marco, I…” she affects a sob and covers her face with her hand. Covers her nose from his blood, too. “Please, I need, I need to get away. Don’t let anyone see me. Don’t let my name get in the papers. My family will…”
She plays up the ‘traumatized survivor’ angle. She doesn’t want to deal with any more of this mess. She just wants to go home and forget it all.
Unsaid is that he should want her to do that too, if he wants to maintain the cozy relationship he has with her family.
GM: And like it does in so much else, the Malveaux name wins out.
“All right,” he says. “Let’s get you out of here. C’mon. I’ll be in touch later.” Marco shepherds her away from the scene, favoring one of his legs, with several cops shielding her from view, then turns back to deal the mass of paramedics, newly-arrived officers, injured cops, and gawking witnesses.
Caroline: She smiles as she slips away and dials the number for the hound. No doubt this is going to come down on her eventually, but for now there is satisfaction. Four Kindred on their knees before her. Not a bad night in that regard…
GM: “You gonna tell me everythin’ that jus’ went down, A t’ Z, an’ how you wound up smack dab in the middle,” Wright states with preamble.
Caroline: Caroline spins a fair tale of two Kindred attacking her. After maiming one, the other returned with two more. They dragged her out of the club in full view of dozens of people and tried to extract a measure of vengeance.
“The police don’t take kindly to white women being dragged out of clubs in full view by gangbangers,” she concludes.
GM: “You poached in their turf?” Wright scoffs, though much to Caroline’s relief he doesn’t pursue the detail of the timely text. “Yeah, fuck you, girl. Hope they beat your ass hard. Feed in Storyville next time you’re hungry.”
Caroline: “First I’d heard of either, you didn’t seem interested in answering questions earlier.” She doesn’t offer the implied, What the fuck did you think was going to happen?
“What do you want me to do about the idiots?”
GM: “Biggest idiot here is you, girl. Ask a goddman ghoul if you want somebody to explain shit. We don’t give a fuck if you know the Trads or not when you break ’em.”
Caroline: “What’s a ghoul?” she asks.
GM: “You’ll know ’em when you see ’em.”
Caroline: She thinks. “The humans who know. Who are aware of the Kindred.”
GM: “Give this girl a gold star.”
Caroline: Caroline bites down the flurry of questions that raises, confident she’ll receive no answers. She awaits any further comment. “Point me towards Storyville, at least?”
GM: “Between Poydras Street an’ Canal Street, the CBD. You do not feed anywhere else without permission. Got it?”
Caroline knows the best nightclubs are either closer to the Mississippi or in the French Quarter. The area Wright has given her isn’t exactly bad feeding, per se, but it could be a hell of a lot better too.
Caroline: “How does one get permission, short of smashing four Kindreds’ skulls like rotting pumpkins?”
GM: “Fuck you, girl. Now why don’t you tell me how your dumbfuck self’s gonna stop four licks you’re oh-so-fuckin’ proud to have landed in jail from greetin’ sunrises in their cells?”
“Since you’re such a dumbfuck, by the way, I’ll spell it in dumbfuckese. If that happen, we kill you.”
Caroline: “Clear, but it’s not physically possible to pay their bails. They won’t even come up for a pre-trial until morning at the earliest, and any magistrate that handed out bail in the case would get strung up. More likely they’ll be held at least 48 hours for an initial fact-finding before they even get charged.”
GM: “Lucky you then the De Villes will handle shit. And by ‘lucky you,’ I mean ‘luckier them.’ ‘Cause it’s still gonna be your ass in the fire for makin’ us clean up your giant clusterfuck.”
Caroline: “I’m responsible for a group of degenerates attacking the police, who they rather clearly heard coming?”
GM: “You are fuckin’ responsible, girl. Responsible for poaching and setting off this clusterfuck.”
Caroline: Caroline’s legal mind turns the wheels. “Then let’s be clear. Presumably Kindred law is built upon Roman law?”
GM: “It’s built on Caine’s law and whatever-the-fuck-the-prince-say-it-is law.”
Caroline: “And what law allows them to seek remedy without damages?”
GM: “Fuck, girl. Is arguin’ all you do?”
Caroline: Caroline allows their present subject, four Kindred beaten into submission or killed, to answer that question.
“I doubt even the prince has the leverage to break them out procedurally, but I’ve seen your resources, so let me offer an alternative in mitigation. I can feed you their route from here, all you need is the assets to stop the van. It’ll make this uglier on the whole, but if they never make it to the jail the danger is to the street thugs rather than the Masquerade.”
GM: Caroline hears some indistinct chatter in the background.
Caroline: “SWAT isn’t on scene. All your men would have to do is overcome perhaps four or five beat cops. My guess is two in the escort, three in the van.”
GM: “How ‘bout it. Sheriff was also thinkin’ of stoppin’ them on their way there. Ok, girl, you feed us that route.”
Caroline: “Sure, but I wanted it noted that this clusterfuck isn’t on my head. You have me on trespass, but they actively endangered the Masquerade through their recklessness, and frankly I see no evidence that they wouldn’t do it again. I made a mistake, but it’s a misdemeanor at most. They knew exactly what they were doing when they charged the police.”
GM: Wright gives a hard laugh. “We got you on whatever the fuck we say we got you. You wanna get off lighter, you’ll help us fix your mess instead of runnin’ your mouth.”
“Don’t you worry your lil’ head ’bout Eight-Nine-Six. They also gonna get what they due.”
Caroline: “Then of course I defer to you.” She watches the scene from a ways off, out of the crowd. “Bus just pulled up.”
GM: “We on our way.”
Monday night, 7 September 2015, PM
GM: A blue and white police van and its escort speed down South Carrollton Avenue, sirens madly wailing. The ambulance with the fallen cops is not far ahead. Caroline can’t make out the unconscious features of Eight-Nine-Six’s members past the tinted windows.
Caroline: Caroline picks out a new victim among those mulling about, identifying a woman that looks just a little too young for the crowd. A little too inexperienced. She spins a story, aided by her crowing confidence in her preternatural charm. She adds just the right mixture of concern and need to her voice as she plays up how she’s a friend caught up in the mess.
GM: The woman, a black-haired, pug-nosed fellow college student at Tulane who gives her name as Brittney, quickly bonds with Caroline over their shared alma mater. She mentions she’s attending the A.B. Freeman School of Business and proves only too happy to give her new best friend a lift. She even lets the Ventrue take the wheel of her yellow minicooper. It isn’t the fastest car, but Caroline isn’t trying to outrace her quarry, just keep them in her sights.
Caroline: The overly friendly woman only irritates Caroline as she babbles on during the drive.
A hard right here.
“Of course HE doesn’t think he did anything wrong.”
Engine screaming as Caroline races to avoid a turning light.
“I mean, she is just a skank, I don’t see why he hangs around her anyway.”
The girl’s whining about her ‘sort of ex-boyfriend’ is like nails on a chalkboard as Caroline focuses and tries to feed directions at the same time.
She is just so petty.
GM: With her burner cell on speaker mode, she feeds Wright with a steady uptake on the police’s route, which actually proves quite direct. The blaring blue and white cop cars speed down South Carollton Avenue, the yellow cooper racing in their wake. Cityscape blurs by. Two Asian and fried chicken places, with grimy-faced bums desperately fishing through the trash bins for food. A Supreme Burger. A post office, closed. A Firestone Auto. A lonely thrift store with cracked glass windows cracked. A gas station. The campus of Xavier University, a black Catholic college located in the heart of Mid-City. Caroline’s minicooper drives under the Pontchartrain Underpass, cars distantly thumping overhead on the expressway. The still-wailing police vehicles take a sharp right at Tulane Avenue and speed past the yellow arches of O’Tolley’s.
Or at least, try to.
A loud roar and burst of thick smoke obscures the police vehicles’ sight. Gunshots sound as sirens, headlights, and traffic lights shatter. Brittney screams. The mortals can’t see him past the dark and the smoke, but Caroline partly can. The hooded black figure appears out of nowhere, flying towards the police van’s windshield like a fired cannonball. He crashes through the window feet-first in a hail of glass, grabs the driver’s head, and smashes it against the car’s bulkhead. The van squeals to a stop.
Cops spill out of the cruisers, coughing in the smoke, their radioed calls for backup abruptly cut off under the crack of baseball bats wielded by hazy, black-garbed figures—including the Kindred one, though he was in the police van only a second ago. He empties several rounds from a gun into the vehicle’s back door, wrenches it open, and hauls out the comatose forms of Eight-Nine-Six together with his fellows. Caroline can just make it out when he growls, “Fuckin’ idiots.”
The black figures fan out, the vampires slung over their shoulders in firemens’ carries, then disappear into the smoke. When it disperses, only the yellow arches of O’Tolley’s remain. People past the fast food restaurant’s windows are variously ducking for cover and screaming into their phones. A few are bold enough to stare past the windows.
“We headin’ back to Perdido House,” Wright’s voice sounds over Caroline’s cell. “You’re comin’ too.”
The Ventrue’s luckless co-passenger has taken refuge on car floor, head ducked well below the window, hands clamped over her ears. Her screams have trailed off to low sobs as she rocks back and forth.
Caroline: The attack is shocking when it comes, a brutal example of Kindred against kine in a serious fight. The police never had a chance. Still, Caroline is pleasantly surprised that the vampires thought to use bats instead of bullets. She’d half-expected another pile of dead cops on her conscience.
Caroline looks down at her traveling companion, at her pulsing throat, the reckless pounding of a heart driven by the surge of adrenaline. She loses sight of the war waged outside in favor of the girl. Her Beast prowls in its cage, knowing a victim when it sees one. The rise and fall of her chest, her too-dilated pupils, the sheer stink of fear.
Caroline throws the car into reverse, spinning the wheel to spin it away from the attack, then slams it back into drive to pull away. “It’s okay, we’re clear,” she comforts Brittney as she directs the tiny car towards the city center.
GM: The drive to Perdido House takes some eight minutes. The massive skyscraper looms as large and dark above the surrounding cityscape as ever. Gargoyles snarl down at visitors no less fearsomely. Driving into the underground parking garage resembles nothing so much as descending into the belly of the beast, past an iron-grilled jaw and checkpointed teeth. Armed, grim-faced, and black-uniformed security guards see Caroline past.
Brittney, who’s long since stopped talking about her ex-boyfriend, looks at her “friend” with some alarm as she parks the cooper. “What… what are we doing here? We should be calling the cops, or going back to campus, or, or…”
Caroline: Caroline frowns sympathetically. “Maybe you’re right. You should be getting home. Still… I wouldn’t talk about what we saw. Anyone crazy enough to go after the cops isn’t anyone you want to even know you exist.”
She parks the car and crawls out of the cramped driver’s seat, going around to the girl’s side. “It’ll be okay, though. Just keep your head down, right? They didn’t seem interested.” She draws the other girl out of the car. “Hand tough, all right?” She draws Brittney into a comforting hug… it’s all to easy with the girl beguiled. The faint nip. It’s becoming sickeningly routine to suck the life out of other people.
The Beast, still close to the surface, presses against her control, but she fights it. It scares her, demanding she lose herself in its embrace, and let it lose itself in the girl’s. She does neither and wraps herself in self-control. She may be a monster, but she isn’t that kind of monster.
Still, the blood flows for all too short a time before she breaks away. The girl is let go with another reassuring pat on the back. Caroline watches the tiny car swoop out of the garage, Brittney little the wiser.
GM: The girl moans under Caroline’s embrace. It’s not with the same lustful ardor as her previous victims. It’s a desperate, frightened needfulness, one of an overburdened soul seeking comfort. Caroline provides it and more. By the time she’s done, Brittney’s face is flushed red, her breath coming in throaty gasps. She seems to only half-notice the hand she’s slipped down her pants, then dazedly mumbles something about seeing Caroline later. She quickly scurries back to her car as if caught doing something she should be ashamed of, then drives off.
Caroline: If Caroline could still flush with shame, she might well. These are her interactions with people now. Sucking life out of them. Manipulating them. Hurting them. When was the last time she had a normal conversation?
Still, she pushes it aside. There is no time for self-pity. She’s Daniel in the lion’s den once more. But can she emerge unscathed again? A tall order for a damned being, to hope God will hold them blameless.
She grimly heads for the elevators. Stalling will only make matters worse.
GM: The unsmiling, short-haired man who meets her stands roughly half a head over most other men, with shoulders about as wide as the nearest door and slabs of muscle barely contained by his dark suit. His nose looks like it might have been broken a time or two and never set right. His eyes sit deep in his skull, giving him a perpetual angry look.
He doesn’t say anything. Just swipes a card, punches a button. Gets out with her at another floor, goes into another elevator, repeats. He leads her down a corridor into a spartan office room with gray walls and steel furniture. There is no art or décor. Just the absolute essentials of a desk, phone, computer, and neatly-organized stacks of papers.
All the members of Eight-Nine-Six, sans Bliss, lie in an unceremonious heap on the floor. Their wrists, elbows, and ankles are bound in steel cuffs. Wright silently glares over the comatose gang. Donovan occupies the seat behind the desk. He’s engaged in low conversation with one of three individuals—ghouls?—who Caroline has not seen before.
The first is a young, curly-haired blonde woman who looks around Caroline’s age. She wears a simple flannel shirt and pair of jeans. Although she looks like she’s dressed up a bit for her present surroundings with some light makeup, she looks like a college student or waitress who’s just gotten off her shift.
In comparison to the second figure, she’s a queen. He is, quite simply, revolting. An angry cloud of flies nosily buzzes around his person, occasionally landing on his thin scalp or crawling under his clothes. He doesn’t even seem to register the insects’ presences. His half-bald head is shaped like an overlarge lump. Stringy gray hair clings desperately to his middle scalp: a final ragtag band of soldiers fighting a lost war against baldness. His eyes are dark and sunken, and several round, yellowed teeth jut out from his overbiting jaw. His clean gray trench coat and heavy cologne do little to improve his overall appearance.
The third man’s face is a horribly burned dark mass of scars. He is half-bald, with his remaining black hair neatly combed back from his scalp. His thick mustache and short beard are only partially successful in hiding the teeth visible through his right cheek. His eyes are dark and hooded. Yet where the second figure is hunched and stooped, the third presumed ghoul stands tall and proud in spite of his deformities. He wears a crisply pressed dark gray jacket with matching slacks and a black tie. It reminds Caroline of a military dress uniform. Medals gleam from his chest, and his black leather shoes are polished so meticulously that Caroline can see her reflection in them. A gold cavalry saber hangs from his hip. The young Ventrue can overhear the tail end of his conversation with Donovan as she enters the room.
“…His Majesty leaves the sentencing of these lawbreakers to your judgment, sheriff,” the ghoul declares as he strides out. His blackened lips pull into a faint sneer as his gaze surveys the torpid, shackled forms of Eight-Nine-Six.
Donovan does not respond to the ghoul. He raises his wrist to his mouth. There’s a flash of fang, and then he trickles vitae down Mil’s throat. The vampire’s eyes snap upon.
Upon seeing Caroline, she snarls and bares her fangs, thrashing against her steel fetters in impotent rage. The large ghoul who escorted Caroline in stomps his foot over her face. There’s a grisly crunch as her nose shatters. Wright rolls his eyes. The ugly man sneers. The young woman watches without comment.
The sheriff’s stormy eyes flicker between Caroline and the newly-conscious member of Eight-Nine-Six. A single hissed word escapes his lips:
Caroline: Caroline cuts off any attempt by the gangbanger to get her own story in edgewise. “I unintentionally entered their territory. Rather than tell me what I had done, they attacked me. When I forced them to flee, they returned seeking to avenge their pride in numbers and dragged me out of the club in front of dozens of witnesses.”
“Someone called the police. When they arrived to investigate reports of an affluent white woman dragged out of a club by a gang, rather than flee, they chose to attack the police. To predictable results. They placed their pride ahead of the first rule. The one even I knew. Don’t. Get. Caught. There’s no report of me at the scene—I saw to it. The murder of a police officer and subsequent necessary rescue of them, however, is going to raise plenty of eyebrows.”
GM: “BULLSHIT!” snarls the other neonate, straining against her bonds.
Caroline: “You didn’t drag me out of the club? Didn’t attack the police?”
GM: “I’ll tell you what really happened, we found this cunt poaching on OUR turf. Well, we warned her, not that it was our fuckin’ job or anything, and then guess what? The bitch FRENZIES, bashes in Bliss’ head, and damn near ashes her.”
Caroline: “By ‘warned’ do you mean ‘pulled a knife two on one in another back alley?’ Next time a polite, ‘this is our turf’ might work better, and be less humiliating for you.”
GM: Mil barks a laugh. “Fuck you, bitch. Get this through your head: IT’S NOT OUR FUCKIN’ JOB TO WARN YOU! You poach on our turf, we’ll fuck you up. Not that that seems to have bothered you, ‘cuz you were STILL FUCKIN’ THERE even after we warned you off!” The fettered neonate turns back to Donovan.
“Guess she has a thing for cranberry juice. Well, she then tried to use another of our breathers as a donor, so we hauled her outside to teach her a lesson. Then the fuzz suddenly just HAPPENED to show up right when we were about to. They couldn’t have worked for you if they were jumping to HER tune, and we weren’t gonna take shit from no goddamn juicebags on OUR turf, and here we now are.”
Mil jabs an arm in the direction of the two remaining ghouls. “Opal and Duquette won’t stand for this shit and you know it!”
Caroline: Caroline offers no response, letting the vampire’s last words damn her.
GM: The sheriff’s features have all the expressiveness of a brick wall as his gaze cuts to the two ghouls.
“Mr. Chassagnac. Ms. Haley. These crimes occurred within your domitors’ regencies. Have they any words to offer before I render judgment?”
A fly crawls out of the old man’s nostril, joining the buzzing cloud. “Primogen Opal is appalled by the behavior of this abactor and supports harsh penalties for her infringement upon the domain of Eight-Nine-Six and her own domain by proxy. She believes the abactor’s involvement of the NOPD in a Kindred dispute is deserving of its own, separate punishment. She is uninclined to overlook Eight-Nine-Six’s disregard for the Masquerade. She is confident that Prince Vidal’s trust in your judgment will prove well-placed, sheriff.”
The younger woman nods her head at her fellow ghoul’s words. “The disregard these neonates have shown for the First and Second Traditions cannot go unanswered. Primogen Duquette supports a penalty leveled in boons over physical punishments. She believes it more beneficial to put such childer to work for the good of the parish.”
Caroline: Caroline is silent for the moment while they speak. Interrupting the sheriff is unlikely to end well, and it would not do to poison any goodwill her efforts to ‘save’ the gang have earned her.
GM: There’s another flash of fang from Donovan. He bleeds a trickle of vitae into each bound member of Eight-Nine-Six. They wake up. His stormy gaze sweeps across all four neonates as he states without context or preamble,
“For your crimes, you are sentenced to one draught of my blood, one draught of Primogen Duquette’s blood, and one draught of Primogen Opal’s blood. You are stripped of all present grants of domain in Mid-City.”
They don’t say anything. Mil looks as if she wants to shout “BULLSHIT!” again. The others, even more confused and disoriented, look even more outraged. But something in the sheriff’s eyes seems to make any objections die in their throats.
His gaze then settles upon Caroline like a heavy snowfall.
“What else do you wish to tell me, fledgling?”
Caroline: Caroline has cause to thank her vampiric nature—the sheriff’s gaze would normally be enough to make her skin crawl. The choice is fairly straightforward. This is not a man she wishes to cross.
“Only that when I reached out to an associate for a ride, before they attacked me, I never anticipated that they would be so reckless as to actually attack the police, and I apologize for the trouble that it caused to you and others.”
GM: “Oh fuckin’ boy,” says Wright.
Donovan only replies, “For the crime of poaching on what is now Primogen Duquette’s sole domain. Your sentence is a boon. Owed to her. To compensate Bliss Jackson for her loss of domain, who has committed no crime. You owe two further boons.”
There’s another flash of fang as the sheriff raises his wrist to his mouth. This is the fourth time he has cut himself within as many minutes, but no scar mars his pale flesh. He extends his wrist to Caroline.
“For the crime,” Donovan quietly hisses, his expression not changing in the slightest, “of lying to my face.”
Caroline: “Lying to your face?” Give Caroline credit, the girl does not flinch. “Do you mean failing to disclose that it was my associates they carved up, or failing to disclose that without my immediate contact of to your subordinate and actions thereafter that you might now be burning down a police precinct?”
GM: The large ghoul suddenly smashes his balled fist into Caroline’s face. She feels her nose crunch apart with a messy red spurt as the force of the blow knocks her off her feet, sending her crashing to the floor in an ungainly pile. Wright rolls his eyes. The ugly ghoul sneers. The female ghoul watches without comment. Eight-Nine-Six’s members watch with savage pleasure.
“My verdict,” the sheriff coolly enunciates, “is not subject to dispute.”
His wrist remains extended.
Caroline: Caroline struggles to keep the hate out of her eyes. This is justice? She’s familiar enough to know that the mortal system of laws is imperfect, that wealth and power and influence often mean more than righteousness… but even then, it is coached in procedure. It is predictable. Systematic. This isn’t a farce. It’s a mockery. An abomination. A bloated corpse in a judge’s wig presiding over a court of laughing jesters. This is arbitrary, abusive, egotistical. It’s nauseating. It’s being used against her.
Perhaps that is the worst part of it for her. Maybe she could excuse such a system if it worked for her. But not this. She is unaccustomed to being so without power.
Harsh lessons about this world. Harsh lessons about the other side of the table. And yet… these are pretenders at the table. Brutal, arbitrary, uncivilized, but almost pathetically so. Do they not realize how weak this makes them look? She almost voices the thought. They are worse than a petty dictator in his full-blown banana republic. The peace of the gun. Violence in every act.
Well… she’ll show them true power in time. If she can survive long enough. For now she must survive, and take the time they are giving her to flourish. She’s a Malveaux and they always win in the end. These monsters just don’t know it yet.
She eyes the sword at the sheriff’s hip. One day. Not today, but one day he’ll pay for this and all other humiliations. Of that she is quite certain. For now, she rises to her feet and accepts his wrist. Whatever horrors it holds are but pleasant dreams compared to the thoughts she has for him. Bottoms up.
GM: The blood washes down Caroline’s throat like liquid ice. Cool and strong, far headier than any mortal’s. The experience is far from horrific. It’s downright pleasant. She feels her contempt for the Kindred in front of her wavering… dealing with violent thugs like Eight-Nine-Six, there’s got to be no choice but to be tough. Force is the only language these brutes understand. He’s just doing his job. He’s handsome, too… thoughts of vengeance make Caroline’s head ache when she focuses too much on them.
Caroline: So that’s the game. Caroline wants to vomit as the thought of what just happened rolls through her. She turns her thoughts away from the sheriff with an effort of will, reciting silently a list of civil torts she had to memorize. Anything to get away from the raging contradiction in her damned soul. She wants to hurt him. Intellectually, she wants to rip out his guts for what he’s done to her, all the more for screwing with her feelings.
But the thought of harming him is aversive, too, and actively painful to consider. It reminds her of her first crush when he cheated on her. It reminds her of that twist of love and hate, affection and aversion, twisted into an implacable knot. Love and hate, that hair-thin line, with no distinction. It cuts like razor wire.
GM: Donovan’s stormy eyes bore into Caroline’s as the change takes hold.
“Do not involve in the police in your affairs again. Heed our prince’s laws and you will have little cause to hear from me.”
His stormy gaze flickers to encompass the other nenoates.
“All of you are dismissed.”
The large ghoul moves to escort the various Kindred and other two ghouls out of the room.
Caroline: “It would help if I knew them.”
The words wait until after they have left the room, and are ground out like steel scraping against stone. Still, the real law seems to be don’t get caught. Don’t admit anything. Don’t rock the boat. Well, she can abide two of those.
GM: The disheveled ghoul smiles thinly at Caroline’s words. As he opens his mouth, another fly buzzes out, joining the thick cloud.
“Indeed, fledgling, you have proven yourself dangerously ignorant of the Camarilla’s laws and customs. I am prepared to offer information on these that will aid your survival for the price of a boon owed to my mistress.”
The old man’s voice is a nasal drone, like a fly’s buzzing.
Caroline: “Mr. Chassagnac, you’ll forgive me if, after your earlier words of your mistress’s intent for me, I am reluctant to owe her anything.”
GM: “Mmm. Taking things personally. You won’t last long.”
Caroline: “Not at all. Simply not going into debt to someone that spoke against me before I had her pets’ domain revoked. Your concern is touching though, no doubt you and she wish me only the best.”
GM: The old ghoul snorts another fly out his nose. His wrinkled features twist into a thin smile as he slinks down the hall without further word or comment.
The younger female ghoul smiles at Caroline. “I’m also prepared to extend the same offer on my mistress’ behalf. Primogen Duquette bears no ill will over these events and is, in fact, inclined to protect her investments.”
Caroline: “’Ms. Haley, I confess I know little of your mistress, save that I am now in her debt.”
GM: “You’ll be able to put a face to her in a bit,” the ghoul answers, pleasant smile not wavering. “She’d like to extend an invitation to receive you at Blaze, where she’ll able to interview you and ascertain potential uses for her boon.”
Caroline: A smile. “Another matter to which I have no knowledge.”
GM: “Blaze, you mean?”
Caroline: “No, I mean the boon.”
GM: The ghoul smiles again. “‘Fraid that questions don’t come free, fledgling. She’ll tell you how she expects the boon to be repaid, but anything more is extra. I’ll give you a primer on how boons and more all works in return for another boon, though. You seem like you could use some Camarilla 101.”
Caroline: A laugh. “I feel like I did leading up to prom, everyone seems so interested in my hand in some way. Perhaps your mistress and I might make an arrangement, but I’d not deal with an intermediary just yet. When does she want to meet?”
GM: The ghoul taps her phone and holds it to her ear. “Hi, Coco?”
“The new girl owes you a favor.”
“Yes. When can she come by?”
The ghoul looks up. “She’ll be free in two hours.”
Caroline: “Fantastic.” Caroline’s tone makes it clear such is not her actual feeling on the matter. “Let me drop everything.”
GM: “Wonderful,” the ghoul smiles. “You can figure out the address?”
Caroline: Caroline digs out her phone to find out. “Presumably.”
GM: A quick Google search turns up the address of a seedy-looking bar in Mid-City.
Caroline: “Oh, this looks lovely. At least I’m dressed for it.” Her bloodstained and holed clothing has seen better days. Raw open wound gazes out beneath two of the slits in the side of the dress.
GM: “You should get some new ones,” the ghoul nods. “Attracting attention is a no-no. Probably should mend up too.”
Caroline: “Thank you,” Caroline replies. “I’ll try to fit it into my empty calendar.”
GM: “She’ll be expecting you in two hours,” the ghoul smiles, turning to leave.
Caroline: “Thank you for your help.” Caroline offers her own smile back as she heads for the elevators, already texting a rideshare app for a pickup. Thankfully traffic shouldn’t be unmanageable at this hour.
It’s more than can be said for the rest of her unlife.
Monday night, 7 September 2015, PM
Caroline: Caroline listens to Wright’s instructions and makes for “Storyville,” the probably less lucrative hunting grounds he identified for her. The night is growing late. She both hurts and hungers.
It’s slow going.
GM: The area’s hunting isn’t the best, which is probably why it’s “free.” Caroline eventually settles for a bar and lounge called Handsome Willy’s, a small building in a sea of parking lots. People fill the space inside, all of them potential vessels to slake her thirst. The club sports front and back patios that initially seem to allow a pleasant break from the crowded interior, but they’re full of smokers seeking a breath of fresh air, and the cigarettes are just as repellent to the young vampire as they were in Lou’s office. Caroline manages to lure a young-looking boy wearing a leather jacket into a tryst, but his vitae tastes curiously flat and empty on her tongue. It’s like booze someone has mixed with a lot of water.
Caroline: She pulls away from him, almost recoiling. What fresh hell she has found. Another byproduct of the sheriff’s blood? Whatever it is, it is wholly unsatisfying. The boy goes away just as unsatisfied, and she resumes her prowl with a near desperation. Something to make the pain go away. Something she can lose herself in…
She just wants to get lost, even for a moment. She wants to forget this miserable existence. Maybe the poor executed trash got the better end of the deal. Would Marie Antoinette have wanted to live as a peasant after the revolution?
GM: Caroline circles the drinking throngs. Some inebriated patrons at the bar loudly exult how Willy’s serves “some of the most perfect drunk food.” She smells the luscious aromas of ginger beer marinated pork, beans, gooey cheese, and fresh jalapenos that leave “your lips pleasantly tingling.” But she instinctively knows she cannot partake. Now even blood seems off the menu.
Caroline: Self-pity doesn’t come easily, but it is wearing at her.
GM: Desperate to alleviate her suffering with something, anything, Caroline latches onto a thick-necked, red in the face college football player who’s been kicked out for spitting on one of the serving staff. He angrily complains to Caroline that he’d wanted to order some of the grilled tacos to go, but the staff refused, saying they sell the tacos at cost in expectation that the extra drinks people buy will make up for the loss in profits. One thing led to another.
“Dishonest fuckin’ advertising,” he angrily calls it.
Caroline: “Don’t I know it. I couldn’t even get a drink,” Caroline laments.
GM: The football player fishes out a cigarette and lighter from his pockets. “What, you lost your ID?”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “Just not serving anything for me.” She smiles at him. “Two poor souls.” Another smile as she places her hand over the lighter, forestalling his smoke. “What relief can we find?”
GM: The man wants an ego to lean on after being refused service, that much seems plain. It isn’t long before Caroline is conjoined with him in his car (a high school graduation present, he mentions), and he’s moaning under her kiss like a bull in heat. When the end comes, he grunts and convulses, leaving a messy white stain over the car’s upholstery.
Caroline: Caroline takes and takes from him, filling herself almost to the brim. It’s a simple pleasure, her only pleasure these days. She can almost ignore his sexual release, ignore his sweaty skin in the sticky night, ignore the pain and humiliations of the day. When she breaks it is with the shame of a junkie caught in a relapse.
She leaves him in his car and vanishes into the dark, savoring the memory of the sweet release even as she flees the scene. Wounds vanish, and she feels… better. Not good, but better. She considers heading home and actually sets off in that direction, but changes her mind. She doesn’t want to take things home and has another Kindred matter on the agenda. She makes for the hospital where she dropped off the poor idiot girl from her first night.
She can also remind herself of another failure while she’s there.
Monday night, 7 September 2015, PM
Caroline: She hadn’t wanted to go back to the hospital. There’s been no good news about Sarah and she dreads running into any of the Whitneys. But she wants to see Neil. She texts him to let him know she’s coming. Her family’s objections to the “upstart Yankee” all feel like a lifetime ago.
GM: Tulane Medical Center is an interconnected series of brown-bricked, box-like buildings with a skywalk that passes just over the street. The hospital’s name is printed on its side in blocky white letters. Despite the late hour, hospitals are never not busy, just less busy, an there’s a steady stream of traffic and incoming and outgoing people.
Outside of the ER, the hospital is weirdly bright and quiet at night. There is activity, but it’s hidden behind doors and shushed for the neighbors. A few medical staff wander the halls in search of a source of caffeine to prop up drooping eyelids, slinking down halls filled with people they plucked from their lives and installed into the healthcare assembly line.
Monitors beep. And about once a night, Caroline heard while she was in pre-med, the alarm for the medical gas line goes off. It’s loud, like a siren, and lasts about five seconds. It scatters that tiny bit of sleep they’ve started to catch in their chairs. Muffled clicks of nurse computers and quiet conversations tease their ears, coworker confessions brought out by the intimacy of a night shift.
Neil’s tired face looks happy to see his ex, though. He’s still a young man, but there are bags under his eyes. ‘Resident physician’ originally meant a physician who resided in the hospital, after all.
Neil sadly reports there is still no good news about Sarah. Doctors are keeping her in the coma to reduce swelling. Her family is not taking it well. Or rather, her grandfather is not taking it well. Warren is managing, but Lyman is going “honestly a little crazy.” He checks his watch compulsively. Whenever Neil sees him, he’s checking his watch. What time the old man doesn’t spend with his granddaughter, he spends in the chapel. He talks a lot about his dead daughter, Rebecca. Sometimes he sounds like he’s talking to her.
The Devillers, though, are doing better. Yvonne’s recovery is steadily coming along. She’s going to have surgery later to erase her scar. Her family is still camped out in her hospital room. She’s feeling up for more visitors. They’d probably love to see Caroline again.
Caroline: She shakes her head and demurs. The prospect of seeing the family again sends a current of hot shame coursing through her. Even leaving out how she failed to save Sarah, who might still wake up a vegetable when the doctors bring her out of her coma, she can’t bear to listen to the Devillers’ grateful words. An unclean and filthy thing like her doesn’t deserve them.
She’s here for someone else tonight. “…just wanted to check on her without a scene. You know how they are,” she says, quietly chatting with her ex as they go.
He knows who ‘they’ is. There was always one ‘they’ between them.
GM: Neil knows all-too well, but doesn’t comment as he leads Caroline along to the girl’s room. “She’s lucky you were there for her,” he says, offering a tired smile. “You say you weren’t cut out for med school, but you keep saving people. Third one in how many nights?”
Caroline: Lucky. Right.
Saving people. Right.
She’d rather talk about something else. Anything else. She asks Neil what he’s been up to.
GM: Neil says he just got together with another girl, a philosophy major named Angela Greer. He met her when she called campus emergency services to help out with an influenza case that broke out during a dorm party at Josephine Louise House. That was really something. A whole bunch of students all came down with the flu at once.
“We’re not really sure what caused the outbreak,” he concludes with a frown.
Caroline: “The flu like that is bizarre. The fascinating mysteries you get while I get to read opinions by dead guys.”
GM: “Pi Alpha Kappa got all over it too,” says Neil. “Angie’s a member. She brought in a bunch of them to help, and boom, they were there.”
Caroline knows them to be a “publicly known secret society” and prestigious college sorority with chapters across the country, somewhat like Skull and Bones. Her mother was a member, and Luke and Gabriel had suggested she join to help mend things between them (Westley largely didn’t give a fuck), but the sorority refused Caroline membership without explanation.
Caroline: “They’re certainly strange ducks,” Caroline agrees. That rejection, long a sore spot, seems so petty now.
GM: Neil nods, scratching his scraggly beard.
“Angie does a lot for them. She’s away at the weirdest hours sometimes.”
Caroline: Caroline stifles a laugh. “Sort of like this?”
GM: “Like this,” the resident smiles, half with tiredness and half with amusement.
Caroline: “I think it’s your taste in women.”
This feels… normal. Real. It’s not something out of a nightmare of violence and horror ike the rest of the night. The tension slips off Caroline’s face like layers of makeup under a faucet, simply washed away. There was a reason she’d gone out with Neil, even knowing her family would never approve.
GM: “Or maybe their taste in trusting boys,” he answers ruefully. “Some of my friends give me crap for it, but I really don’t think she’s up to anything.”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “I could find out if you wanted.”
GM: Neil pauses, running a hand through his disorderly hair in thought. “Well. Hmm. Would you feel your boyfriend was going behind your back if he tried to find out where you were now?”
Caroline: “Yes, but I’m not bound by the rules of a secret society, and if he wanted to know I could tell him. Hypothetically, of course.” It’s been a while since Caroline actually had a boyfriend.
GM: “Hypothetically as in, if he knew you were out, or the boyfriend period?” the resident doctor asks tellingly.
Caroline: “I don’t exactly have a lot of time for a social life,” Caroline responds defensively.
GM: “Believe me, I understand there. I only met Angie as a doctor.”
Caroline: “Frankly, I’m surprised you do. What, do you get together for coffee in the rooms of coma patients? Would you like some vegetables with your latte?”
GM: Neil actually looks a bit embarrassed. “Uh, something like that, actually. I’m lucky she understands and doesn’t just want to spend every Friday out clubbing.”
Caroline: “I don’t think I want to know,” Caroline decides on reflection.
GM: Neil conveniently changes the subject. “Well, anyways, that’s nice of you to offer. Maybe if you just found out what her friends are up to. Rather than her.”
Caroline: “I’ll see what I can do.” That kind of question at least seems like a simple one with her new means. Something she can do that won’t result in anyone dying…
GM: “Her full name’s Angela Greer. She’s the dorm supervisor at Josephine Louise House. The rest of the Kappas sometimes meet there too.”
Caroline: Caroline takes mental notes. “I’ll look her up.”
GM: Though he tries to look casual about it, Caroline can detect some measure of relief in Neil’s eyes as he nods and thanks his ex-girlfriend for promising to look into his current one. He leads her down several more dark hallways to her victim’s room. The girl’s name is Lauren Peterson.
Caroline: Caroline pauses at the door. “Any idea how she is?” she asks.
GM: Neil looks past the small vertical glass pane at the silently sleeping woman, though Caroline can’t quite make her out at the current angle.
“She had some neck wounds, which required stitches and will leave scars. Someone hit her there with a glass bottle, if you can believe it.”
Caroline: “I can believe it,” Caroline replies distantly. “How bad?”
GM: “She lost a lot of blood,” Neil answers. “She’ll have to stay with us for at least a few more days. She should have a clean bill of health when she’s good to go, though I can’t say I’d like to be in her shoes.”
Caroline: “Who could blame you. How crazy was that night in general? Were you on duty?”
GM: Neil nods, rubbing his forehead as if it’s tiring to remember. “I was. Decadence and the other big festivals are always… busy times.”
Caroline: “Anything particularly interesting?” Caroline asks.
GM: Neil sighs and stares down at the linoleum floor, still rubbing his temples. “You don’t want to know, Caroline.”
Caroline: “What if I do?” she asks, arching an eyebrow. “Come on, we took A&P together. Not like you’re going to squick me out.”
GM: Neil sighs again. “We had one kid, no more than fourteen years old I’d guess, who’d been force-fed glass. Lacerations all over his interior throat and stomach. He didn’t make it. Someone called his parents. I could hear them just outside, screaming.”
Caroline: Caroline makes the sign of the cross almost instinctively. “Savages. Say what you will, my uncle’s not wrong about trying to smother that ‘festival’.”
GM: Neil smiles, but there’s nothing happy about it. Just tired. “Does he want to ban Mardi Gras too? We’re even busier then.”
Caroline: “Too many saints, I think. But one less outlet for debauchery is a small win. But that’s not the worst you saw.” Caroline’s eyebrow remains raised. “There’s something eating at you. Spit it out, Neil, I’ve known you long enough.”
GM: He sighs again. “What do you want to hear, Caroline? The other victims we’ve seen, the people we haven’t been able to save? There was one girl who’d been penetrated with a razor and had her eyes gouged out. She kept screaming how she couldn’t see. There was a twelve-year-old, too, who’d been strangled with a Mardi Gras bead necklace, and left naked and bloody on the hood of her parents’ car. That happens almost every festival. Police think the ‘bead strangler’ is a serial killer.”
Caroline: “Eyes gouged out?” Caroline perks up. That’s a thin lead, but might be something.
GM: Neil looks at her in askance. “Christ, Caroline, why would you want to know more?”
Caroline: That’s a hard question to answer.
“I…” Convincing lies are hard to find. “I was out there, in it. I saw some things.” She’s holding something back. “I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe that I needed to see it. But..” She frowns, biting her lip. “That particular bit of brutality. Or at least the threat of it… let’s say it’s familiar.”
GM: Neil frowns with concern. “Caroline, when you say…’”
Caroline: She looks away. “Do you really want to know?”
GM: That hangs for a moment.
“I asked you same thing,” Neil answers quietly.
Caroline: Caroline sighs, eyes not meeting Neil’s. “Someone attacked me. Claimed they were going to… well. Very similar to what you described happening to the girl.” She holds up a hand to stop any response. “They didn’t actually… well, obviously. Someone else saw him drag me into the alley. Interrupted. But…” She shivers. “I got the feeling that he wasn’t likely to stop. So yeah, I’m interested.”
GM: “Oh my god,” Neil murmurs. He steps closer to give Caroline a gentle hug. She can smell the blood coursing through his veins, hear the thump-thumping of his heart. He doesn’t smell as good as the football player did, but still, the Beast whispers, he could sate her thirst too.
“Caroline, that’s… that’s horrible. Did you file a police report? Or… talk to your family?”
The latter would probably make more headway.
Caroline: She breaks off the hug as early as she can without seeming rude. Bad idea.
“God no. Do you have any idea the shitstorm it would kick off? When my uncle found out I was out in the festival as it was… well. You know better than most how they can be. It would be bad, Neil. Really bad.” She shakes her head. “No one can know, just like no one can know about her.” She gestures to Lauren’s room, then finally meets his eyes.
“I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. The number of degenerates in the city, the two events are probably unrelated. But… yeah. It caught my eye, because if it is the same person, then even if I can’t do anything about his attack on me….” She leaves it unspoken.
GM: “Still. There’s the police, or you just could…” Neil sounds like he’s about to go on, but Caroline’s firm gaze resoundingly tells him no. He reluctantly continues, “Well… it’s out of our hands now. She didn’t make it. If you really want to follow up, you should to Amos Wilkinson, at the Coroner’s Office. He oversaw the autopsy and… other details.”
Caroline: “Other details?” she asks, slightly perplexed. “And Neil, you know as well as I do, any report to the police with my name attached would be on my family’s desk before nightfall.”
GM: “Talking with police, contacting relatives, making arrangements for the body. All the things that happen when a person dies. I think it’s a worse job being a coroner than a doctor. The latter sometimes has good news.”
Caroline: “Hopefully you’ll get some one of these days.”
GM: “I do, Caroline. It’s just easier… no, not actually easier. We just usually talk about the bad.”
Caroline: “Easier to share a burden.” Caroline shivers a bit.
But who can she share her burden with? This thing that she has become. The things she has experienced. The things she has done.
GM: “Well, all the same. If you wanted to see your friend, here she is.” Neil nods towards the window.
Caroline: Friend. Victim. All the same. Caroline steps in Neil’s direction to look through the window at her.
She’s stalling. She knows why she’s here. Or at least why she should be here. That horrible albino relative of hers. His demand of her. Seek out her victims, make them suffer for their sins. There’s a certain ease, or even incentive to the request. She’s helpless. And the blood… it’s the only real pleasure left. The roar of the girl’s beating heart, the taste, the soothing of the beast inside her. It’s easy. So easy.
GM: The room is dark, but Caroline can make out its features quite clearly. The usual plain hospital bed, covers pulled up to the patient’s chin. Lauren Peterson, college student, assault victim and hospital patient, may not sleep in contentment, but at least does in respite. She’s at most 21, with black hair and dark skin left pale from blood loss. Her neck is covered with bandages, and an IV is hooked up to her arm. A few “get well” cards featuring designs of cute animals and smiley faces rest on the adjacent bedside stable.
Caroline: Caroline quietly opens the door and slips into the small room. She moves closer to the resting girl, casting nary a shadow in the darkness. Light feet move over tiled floors. The room smells clean, no, sterile. The alcoholic cleanliness only hospitals and doctors’ offices have. Like they are soaked in hand sanitizer. It’s not a comforting smell to anyone, though it’s familiar enough to Caroline. She looks down on the girl, then towards the cards arrayed around her. She picks one up to examine.
GM: The card is signed, With much love,
—Aunt Viv and the dogs
Caroline: Caroline drops the card back on the table as though it’s on fire. It’s easier when she can pretend that her victims aren’t people. When they are stereotypes. Cutouts. Party girl. Jock. Deviant. Investigator… most of them don’t even have names.
But Lauren isn’t a cutout. She’s a girl, an innocent girl in the wrong place, and now in an even wronger place. She shouldn’t be here…
GM: The young woman tosses in her bed. Something indistinct escapes her lips as her face clenches.
Caroline: Caroline knows what she has to do. Knows what she is expected to do. The bandaged throat. The uneasy sleep. The cards. That stupid dog.
She backs up, recoils, and nearly trips over a chair, sending it sliding across the floor. Her vision swims. What is she doing here?
GM: Lauren turns in her sleep, pressing her face against her pillow. Oblivious to the presence of the nocturnal predator sharing her room.
Caroline: Predator without doubt, but not tonight.
Caroline makes for the door again. She can’t do this. Not now, maybe not ever.
GM: She finds Neil a short ways away, checking something on his phone. He looks up as Caroline reappears. “That was quick. Were you leaving a card?”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “I just wanted to look in on her.” She smiles weakly. “Not that I doubted her care with you here. Does she have insurance?”
GM: “We do our best,” Neil states, returning a tired smile at the compliment. “Should I tell her you came by?”
“College requires her to, but it doesn’t cover everything and there don’t seem to be any parents in the picture. She has some aunt who’s paying the rest out of pocket.”
Caroline: Of course. I attacked an orphan girl. Because I’m a monster.
Caroline shoves the thought away. “That’s a big out of pocket. Even with the university…”
She does some math. “I’ll take care of it. An attorney will contact the hospital about it.”
GM: “And you keep saying you aren’t cut out out to be a doctor,” Neil repeats with a weary smile. “That’s really good of you, Caroline.”
She senses a ‘but’ on the edge of his tongue, though.
Caroline: “Oh spit it out.”
GM: The resident doctor seems to weigh it for a moment, then sighs.
“Your dad and the rest of the party constantly undermine efforts to expand health care access. I don’t see how you can support him in that. It’s people like Lauren there who are literally paying the price.”
‘Democrat’ was another big reason Caroline’s parents didn’t approve of Neil.
Caroline: She gives him a flat look. “You want to retread this again here?”
GM: He shakes his head. “Lauren’s in the same boat however we feel.”
Caroline: She nods. “Later then. In this moment though, I confess, I can more easily see the merits of your case.”
“And no. To your earlier question. Don’t tell her anything. The truth is always uglier than fiction. The last thing she needs is to get drawn into the Malveaux gravity well.”
GM: “I’m sure. Your uncles…” Neil seems to consider saying more, then leaves it at that.
“If you want to keep this secret, though, Lauren’s probably going to be curious who helped pay for her stay. The aunt might want to send you a cake.”
Caroline: “She can forward correspondence through the attorney then, who will protect his client’s confidentiality. Law offices love cake, it’ll make everyone’s day. So far as she’s concerned, a good samaritan took pity on her.”
GM: “Hiring your own lawyers to keep the family from finding out. I guess the Malveaux name can work both ways.”
Caroline: “You learn some tricks,” Caroline concedes. She looks back into the room, at the fitfully sleeping girl. “Thanks, Neil. I know this wasn’t necessarily on the up and up.”
GM: “It’s still a good deed. And neither’s looking into the Kappas, is it?”
Caroline: She smiles. “Wouldn’t be much fun if it was.”
Nor much of a challenge, Caroline suspects.
Monday night, 7 September 2015, PM
GM: As Caroline steps into the bar, newly changed into less conspicuous clothes, her ears are subjected to a two-pronged assault by blaring rock and shrieking voices. A patron screams as another man smashes a full bottle over his head, sending him crumpling to the ground in an alcohol-soaked heap. Leather-clad, spike-haired, and nose-pierced punks, bikers, skinheads, and malcontents of all stripes roar over the shattering glass, pierced tongues clinking against yellowed teeth. The bartender, who doesn’t look up, absently continues to polish a shot glass underneath a wooden plaque bearing red-crusted Mardi Gras beads arranged into the words “FUCK YOU.” Caroline can feel the anger simmering in the room as surely as the cigarette smoke. It clings to everything in a murky black haze.
All told, Blaze is an absolute shithole of a dive bar.
In contrast to the rest of the clientele, the woman by the corner table wears a black turtleneck, sand-colored slacks, a leather jacket, and knee-length black boots. Her fair-skinned, high-cheekboned face lacks any piercings or makeup, and her shoulder-length, bright red hair provides a striking contrast to her clear blue eyes. Her posture is relaxed, but the other patrons give her table a wide berth. Caroline hears no heartbeat from her chest. Kindred.
Caroline: Caroline has dressed down, muted colors, and looser clothing that hides the many wounds she doesn’t spare the vitae to heal. Pain is preferable to weakness, especially tonight. She has little doubt that sooner, rather than later, Eight-Nine-Six are going to try to get ‘even.’ Another problem she doesn’t need, like this meeting.
Still, it has potential. A favor owed is an investment, as the ghoul observed earlier. Perhaps she can leverage something out of this fiasco. Too many people think that being owed a favor is the way to the boss’s heart. Smart people know that no one wants to help someone that they feel indebted to. She moves across the bar, around the crowd, like oil floating on water. The two touch without mixing. She approaches the other Kindred slowly, making sure the other woman sees her coming. And in truth… she’s curious. Why someone with power would linger in such a cesspool of waste. Caroline’s swam through such filth of late, but long to fill a need. So what’s hers…
GM: The woman’s eyes meet Caroline’s. She motions absently for the Ventrue to pull up a rickety-looking chair with chipped black paint. “So, you’re my new debtor.”
Caroline: Caroline does as instructed, taking a seat. “So I’m told, Primogen Duquette.”
The matter of her title had irked Caroline on the way over—what is the proper address? She settles on the safest option.
GM: The elder Kindred makes an idly dismissive motion. “It’s just Coco here, Miss Malveaux. You mind if I call you Caroline?”
Caroline: “It’s your domain, you may do whatever you wish with it. And presumably in it,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “I’m well aware, but that’s not what I asked.”
Caroline: Caroline bites back on a snark-filled response. It’s petty, and childish, and beneath her… and becoming disturbingly easy to do.
She smiles instead and tries to make it genuine. This is the second-longest she’s had a Kindred conversation without getting assaulted, after all.
“Of course not. Thank you for the invite.”
GM: “Well then, Caroline, why don’t we cut to the chase of things. You can get the police to come down on an Anarch krewe, which they’ll all soon be talking about. What else can you do that’s useful?”
Caroline: “A matter of perspective, I suppose, and I know little of your own.” Caroline is not trying to be elusive. “To that ‘krewe’ I suspect my other skills would involve bleeding. To you, it might involve baiting them into foolishness that secures you sole control of your domain. But I suspect there is also a happy medium somewhere else.”
“Connections to police, finance, politics, law…” She shrugs. “A lack of connections or allegiances that is potentially useful in terms of cleanliness. I expect that type of thing is actually relatively rare. And potentially more valuable than people realize.”
GM: “Every lick enters their Requiem without allegiances, although how long they stay that way is another matter,” Coco remarks. “I suppose it’s almost like the kines’ virginity that way. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Caroline: “Indeed? I’d heard that lack of a sire was considered to be in poor taste.”
GM: “It is. That’s an unrelated observation.”
Caroline: “Would that not normally be a first allegiance?”
GM: “It’s a potential, if not likely indicator of one, but not truly so until the fledgling is released.”
Caroline: “As you say then,” Caroline concedes.
GM: “Go on, in any case. Tell me about these connections.”
Caroline: “A duty then, to disclose all my allies and talents as part of a boon?” Caroline looks… faintly amused. Perhaps joking. “My, what a boon it is. You’ll rob me of all my mystery.”
GM: “Word of advice, greenfang,” says Coco. “You’ll find jokes about boons with elders tend to go over as well as ones about dead babies in church.”
Caroline: “And yet you seek to rob me in truth of all I possess in this life, and after my actions delivered supremacy unto you. Respect is proper, and you have mine. But my ignorance not withstanding, you seek a great deal for free, when I suspect you have already been paid in gold, and still hold a bond over my head.”
She matches the elder’s gaze. “Inadvertent though it might have been. As miserly as all have been with any knowledge, I cannot imagine it is good form to lay my treasures at your feet. Nor do I imagine you could help but to trample them if I did.”
GM: Coco raises an eyebrow. “You’re fairly new to this, Caroline. You’ve gotten off to a relatively good start with me, particularly given your recent tussle. It’s up to you if you want to keep things that way. But you’re an unknown quantity in the masked city, and I will know what my boon is good for.”
Caroline: Caroline lowers her gaze for a moment, but only that. Coco may be a queen here, but the Ventrue is clearly not intimidated. “Your goodwill is desirable, and I have no interest in denying you your boon, awarded as it was.”
GM: The elder Kindred smiles and motions for Caroline to go on.
Caroline: “But you must truly think me a fool if you think that I believe a queen in her kingdom would weigh affection in any measure towards a sireless fledgling under threat of destruction, against the rewards you might reap by selling out that fledgling to at least half a dozen other Kindred that want my head on a plate and might only be kept at bay by wariness born from uncertainty.” Her tone and body language is respectful, but firm.
“That said, I an not unsympathetic to your plight. It was not so long ago that I stood in shoes more like yours than mine today, so let me strike a middle ground. Let me establish a minimum by which you can measure baseline expectations, and keep my secrets still.” She waits for an affirmation or condemnation before continuing.
GM: Coco leans forward. Suddenly she’s the center of Caroline’s entire world. Her blue eyes sparkle like sapphires. Her red hair shimmers like fire. Everything about her is magic. Caroline feels ashamed, talking this way to such a kind and generous and amazing woman. After trespassing in her territory. Words begin to well in her throat seemingly of their own accord. Distantly, she wonders if this was how her Uncle Orson felt.
Then the primogen snaps her fingers, and the feeling dissipates like steam released into the night air.
“It’s normally considered gauche to do that sort of thing,” Coco mentions, “but then, it’s normal for creditors to have some sense of what their debtors’ boons are worth. I can’t claim to be too interested in haggling over the right to use what’s mine, but I’d sooner allow you to answer me as yourself. So, let’s have it out. Cross my heart that I won’t go begging to Eight-Nine-Six for favors in exchange, if that’s what you’re so worried over.” The elder Kindred crosses her fingers together in droll emphasis.
Caroline: Caroline staggers. She just stops mid-word and stares at the elder vampire. That brutal and continuing revelation of just how powerless she is in this world. She should have expected it, of course. This isn’t the first time she’s had her will crushed by another Kindred, but it’s shocking nonetheless.
It takes her a moment to recover. All masks slip away. Vulnerability, loneliness, confusion, and loss play across her face. Even a hint of fear—not so much of Coco, but in general. Near-hopelessness. But only near.
In that instant she is laid bare before the elder, but she sweeps it under a mask once more. How odd that training for a life in the public eye, amid backstabbing and manipulation, has helped prepare her for this reality.
GM: “That’s what happens when younger licks rock the boat, Caroline,” says Coco. “You’re lucky not to have given it a shove around someone like the prince.”
Caroline: Is she really? Caroline sits, defeated for the third time tonight. Rocking the boat by banging her head against it in the darkness.
“My mortal family has strong political ties. My father is a senator, with all the associated ties. My uncles…” Caroline spells out her extensive family ties. “Personally, I have a police sergeant in my pocket, and have an in with the state Supreme Court.”
GM: Coco questions Caroline for several further minutes about her various mortal friends and contacts, then finally leans back in her chair, seemingly satisfied. “Well, well. Not a bad set of connections for a neonate. I’ll have to think this over.”
Caroline: Caroline has no response to that. After a moment she asks, “In that case am I free to go?”
GM: Coco idly motions for Caroline to rise if it suits her.
Caroline: Caroline does so and heads for the door. Love and hate roar again as she damns the sheriff for putting her in this position.
Previous, by Narrative: Story Three, Emmett VII
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Next, by Character: Story Three, Caroline IX, Louis VIII
Pete Feedback Repost
Short session, but a great deal moved along last week in hangouts. Caroline’s bumbling attempts to get a snack really landed her in hot water. The silly thing is she was floating at 8/10 Vitae before and was just trying to top off. Now she’s down to 3/10 Vitae and carrying enough damage that if she doesn’t get a meal before the end of the night she’ll drop into torpor from the healing. Youtch.
GM’s note: obsolete mechanical term. We use Hunger rather than Vitae now.
On the other hand, it was a fun scene, or series of them, that I thought added a fair bit to her character and story. Getting the better of her initial attackers, the overconfidence of hanging around, the shock of them coming back with friends, the Presence roll botch, etc. Overall, as frustrating to her plans as it was, it’s been fun to play out as a player because it’s required a combination of carefully placed luck and relatively solid plans to escape thus far.
The thug vampires are a delicious take on the Embrace opposite Caroline’s more refined vision. I think you can fairly say that they’re almost as disgusting (though not repulsive) as the vampire church. Getting the better of them was a big coup for her as a character. Combination of planning, GMs, and more than a bit of favorable dice (9 v. 11, picked up 5 vs. 2 successes). I don’t even mind the complications that their capture vs. escape created, because it gives her an opportunity to settle this rather than have it chase her. Some degree of closure on some of the many threads is of interest.
I was surprised the other vamp was able to talk the crowd completely down given the dynamics there: attractive well-dressed white girl vs. thuggish looking minority. Is that the type of thing you’d typically apply a penalty on? Not complaining, just trying to get a peek behind the curtain.
Not bending a knee to the hound was I thought an important scene, almost as much as overcoming the gang. Caroline may not know the details of vampiric law, but she knows enough not to accept responsibility for things like that. When in doubt, blame blame blame blame blame. It helps when they really were idiots and it isn’t all her fault.
I’m surprised by how the little sentencing went, but you knew that. I’d expected a harsher sentence on the 8-9-6, but I’m pretty close to it, so my perspective is skewed.
Coco felt suitable different than other Kindred—which is a bit of feedback in general. They’ve all felt distinct.
Sam Feedback Repost
That was an eventful session. I’m sorry I didn’t get to play, but I surely enjoyed reading the log.
GM’s edit: Yeah, back then we played actual scheduled weekly sessions. Would never go back to that format now.
I was particularly impressed with Caroline’s coup over the gang. I also enjoyed conjuring up potential waves made by the event, both for Caroline, but also for the larger kine and Kindred society (e.g., a slain cop is sure to cause ripples with the NOPD, the Anarchs are likely to neither forgive nor forget the turf invasion, a sire-less neonate taking on 4 Kindred and walking away the victor is sure to be a subject of vampiric gossip, etc.). I also look forward to seeing how the immediate chase scene goes. Caroline’s plotlines have been very fun to read. Despite the breakneck speed of events, things have seemed very organic while still cohesive her story’s apparent themes thus far.
Some new and in some cases years-belated GM feedback:
Whew. This log took a lot of effort to clean up. It’s mainly the earliest ones that need the most work. As we get up more up, and later logs come to increasingly resemble the current game’s, they should be able to go up faster.
The other vamp beat Caroline’s Presence because she outrolled Caroline (back when the GM rolled dice under the Storytelling rules) and Awe specifically negates all penalties from the vampire’s actions or appearance, so the well-dressed attractive white girl vs. thuggish minority dynamic went out the window. With a mundane Social roll, the DC to beat Mil would’ve been adjusted downwards.
I also don’t normally reveal what powers NPCs have. I’m okay doing that here with Mil because, well, that’ll become plain in later logs.
It was later a subject of OOC discussion on how 896 came back for round two instead of fleeing. Lot of reasons they did that. This was their territory. Caroline took out Bliss pretty handily, and enough to make Mil retreat, but three on one with time to prepare/no element of surprise for Caroline seemed like better odds to them. (Which they turned out to be, since they’d have overcome Caroline if she hadn’t sicced the cops on them.) If someone drives you off from your own territory and freely hunts there, you’ve basically forfeited your claim to it if that gets out. 896 had to defend their domain if they wanted to keep it. Which, ironically, their actions with the cops cost them.
Kudos to Sam for his ‘call the cops’ idea. That later turned out to have consequences, as the prince considers the police his and doesn’t want vampires to draw them into their own feuds, but it was a solid idea going by the information Pete had and saved Caroline’s bacon.
Viv later shows up in one of Mouse’s logs. Since that isn’t posted, she’s a different Viv than the lawyer who helps out Celia and her family, for those who’ve read Story 10.
Jamal did not show up in this log when we played it out in late 2015. The ghoul who hit Caroline was just a nameless and largely undescribed ghoul in Donovan’s employ. We’ve since fleshed out the ghoul cast list, so he’s now Jamal.
Damn girl, you just poaching all over the place. Ain’t nobody explain the rules to you? I dunno how the rolling went against 896 but it seems like Caroline did well here considering she took out two of her attackers and the rest of them fled. Might have been a bad call to go back into the same club to try to feed, though, and if you were gonna go that route I’d have probably grabbed that girl in the bathroom since it was isolated and the krewe seemed to be looking for Caroline in the main area rather than the bathroom. Then again Celia does a lot of feeding in bathrooms so that’s pretty much her M/O there. I could see Caroline being too, uh, prideful to feed in a bathroom since it gets kind of a dirty/grimy vibe with most clubs, but it’s also the simple solution. The lady was right there waiting for you.
I don’t know if Caroline “rode the wave” with the frenzy against the group or if she just failed the roll, but I think it was a good way to portray things. Caroline might not have fighting instincts like this but the Beast certainly does, as we’ve seen multiple times with Celia and (probably) others. Anyway was a good read.
Clever to get the help from her police friend when she’s in trouble. I assume the guy’s reaction to her Presence was a botch since he just grabbed her and gave up pretending. Shame that she lost out against the Hispanic girl’s Presence, since that move from Caroline was also clever. Get attention, make people look at you. Good shit.
Someone else shouts they hope Caroline gets raped. Damn dude.
“Don’t take long for fangs to grow back. Maybe we hammer some nails into your gums. Fix ‘em in. Wonder how that’d feel to mend during sunup?” True story, I’ve thought of multiple ways to fuck vampires over with their fangs, but this one is new to me. I love it. I’ma do it.
Like how she egged them on to the point that they made it a 1v1 instead of 3v1. Smart. I mean it’s not much of a loss to them if their girl loses since Caroline can just be jumped by the other guys, but at least then she’s less outnumbered. Timely arrival of the cops, too. Smarter opponents probably would have run, but these guys frenzy and stuff (and seem dumb in general, lol) so they never got the chance. Took out a half dozen officers, oof. Rough.
Enjoy the “traumatized victim” thing she goes for. Real easy as a lady to just turn on the tears and play victim. Celia does it all the time, but I don’t think it’s usually something Caroline does so it’s cool to see it here.
Wright’s interactions with her continue to amuse me. Must have really sucked to not have anything explained. Making a big mess. Oof. You figure they’d have little pamphlets for new licks like what to do and what not to do when they don’t have the sires to explain. Dicks.
Suddenly very glad for waking up on Savoy’s lap and not needing to pretend I’m ignorant.
Kind of a messy retrieval of the gang in custody, but beats letting them hit jail, so that works.
This whole thing is a pretty clear example of elders/people in power doing whatever the fuck they want to the neonates and younger licks. “We got you on whatever the fuck we say we got you on.” I mean yeah Caroline was kind of at fault here but not nearly to the extent of 896.
The he said/she said in Donovan’s office is amusing. Also happy to see Jamal there. :D What a guy. What a hunk. What a lovely little ghoul. <3>