“This is a great many sins, my child.”
Friday night, 11 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline makes her way back to her driver, issuing stark directions. She barely looks at the woman. Barely notices the passage of time, or distance.
GM: Whatever else may have happened, Blackwatch has come through with their bodyguard.
Amanda Turner meets Caroline right where she wants, right when she wants. The mercenary remains silent and keeps her slate gray eyes focused on the road. Caroline isn’t paying her to talk.
Caroline: She’s really done it now.
Until tonight, it was all on her. The danger. The harm. The damnation. What the hell was she thinking? That she could do this. That she could live this life. That she could shield those she cared about.
She should have given herself to the sun with the first dawn. Selfish. Foolish. Arrogant.
GM: The soaring black and gray steel monolith that is Perdido House looms before Caroline. Tall, hard, and merciless. Fearsome gargoyles jut from crenellations, baring their claws and fangs to the night sky with muted howls. Driving into the underground parking garage still gives rise to thoughts of descending into the belly of a great beast, past an iron-grilled jaw and checkpointed teeth. Perhaps even more so than it did the last time. Armed, grim-faced, and black-uniformed security guards wave the Ventrue on through to the parking garage floors.
This time, two of them escort her to the elevator and press a button to one of the higher floors. One is the large, dark-skinned ghoul with the cruel smile who hit her in front of Donovan.
Caroline: She complies, ordering Amanda to remain with the car.
GM: The stone-faced merc complies in turn, even after Perdido House’s guards issue her the same order. They don’t talk to Caroline during the elevator ride. Its doors open to the same route she walked down last time. A short walk, and Caroline finds herself in a small, plain room with a miniature lance mounted over the door. A confession booth sits in the corner of the room.
“Enter,” rasps an unseen and too-familiar voice.
Caroline: The heiress enters with the stone-faced walk of the condemned. There is no struggle, only submission. There is no hope, only darkness.
GM: Caroline settles into the confession booth’s dark, cramped space. She might be dead, but the words are the same.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been this long since my last confession, and I accuse myself of the following sins:
Caroline: Nothing she can do will make this better or worse.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been… five nights since my last confession, and I accuse myself of the following sins: violation of the domain of a regent, murder of that regent’s ghoul and kine, and…”
In a trembling voice, “Breach of the Masquerade. I did not reveal my nature… but too much of the powers that govern it.”
GM: In a normal confession booth, Caroline would be able to make out the priest’s silhouette past the grill. Here there is only a featureless black panel.
“Go on,” the voice rasps.
Caroline: “I sought first to enter the domain of another without their permission, and when assaulted by their ghouls slew them.” There’s a near-rasp to her confessional voice, the kind you might find in someone who has been sobbing for hours.
“Subsequently, this night, I disclosed that a group of powerful individuals have been… active in my life, by means of explanation for my daytime absences.” Her posture is straight-backed, with arms limp upon her hands limp upon her thighs. Almost like a child expecting a scolding.
“I disclosed this to two mortals in seeking… succor from them: Aimee Rosler…” She pauses to take a needless breath. “And Gabriel Malveaux.”
Her voice catches as she starts to go on. Do you explain here? Seek advice? She has in the past, but no other Kindred has ever sought an explanation for a transgression from her. Punishment, not correction. That is the nature of their demands.
GM: Caroline’s confessor is silent as only a dead man behind an impenetrable barrier can be.
He patiently waits for her to complete her confession.
Caroline: “I did not feed upon my past victim, as you instructed. I was unable to dispose of the body of the man I slew as you desired. I am sorry for these… no… all but passing over the victim… and all the sins of my past life.” The words are tortured in their honesty.
GM: “That is a great many sins, my child,” rasps the albino priest’s voice.
Caroline: “In truth, Father, it is only those I know. I learn new ones each night. For those I do not yet know…. I am also sorry.”
GM: “You say you are not sorry for passing over your victim. There can be no atonement without desire to atone, my child. Your soul is your own to save or imperil.”
Caroline: “She… Father. She is still in the hospital. She has had no opportunity to re-offend. And she has… suffered already. Dis proportionally, perhaps.”
GM: “Are you anointed as a priest, my child?”
Caroline: She leans her head back and looks upwards to dry, wet eyes.
GM: The once-quiet rasp stabs through Caroline’s ears with all the swiftness and venom of a snakebite.
“Then you will cease your impudence—your pride!—in presuming to know better on matters of spirit than those who are ordained to minister yours!”
Caroline: She gives a ragged, shivering gasp. She wishes she could lie. She wishes she could tell him she did his bidding. But as twisted as he is, as twisted as his demands are, as twisted as this entire faith is… they are as close to God as she can reach.
A moment later, she replies, “Yes, Father.”
GM: “Tell me more of this Masquerade breach, my child.” The venomous voice resumes its familiar rasp.
Caroline: “What details would you know, Father? I would not have you believe I was attempting to offer excuses.”
GM: “Any and all that you believe pertinent.”
Caroline: “I confided in them knowledge of a secret group of great political power. I misled them as to its nature. I confided in them some of the physical penance given to me by the regent whose ghouls I slew. I wept in front of them. I sought to recruit them to better hide my own nature to others, but in so doing violated the Masquerade in my ignorance. I thought, briefly, to ghoul,” the word is offered uncomfortably as a verb, “them.”
“Eventually, I left them bound and gagged, and sought out another to aid me in… removing their memories of the events, as I had seen you do, and stated such intention to Hound Agnello. I did so in ignorance of my affront to God… by which I mean I committed a greater sin in.”
She doesn’t beg for his mercy for them, as she did of Agnello. There’s no use. Besides, Agnello all but declared they would die.
GM: “This is a great many sins, my child,” Father Malveaux repeats.
Caroline: “…yes, Father.”
GM: “Are there others you would name, or shall we proceed to your penance?”
Caroline: Caroline reflects. “I attempted to poach from the domain of another, my first night after leaving here. I was disrespectful to elder Kindred. I did not come to the realization of my breach of the Masquerade alone, but only through the intervention of a ghoul. Without whom I would have labored in ignorance, and compounded my error.” She bites her lower lip but doesn’t look down. “That is all I recall, Father.”
GM: Perhaps Father Malveaux leans forward, for his voice sounds closer, but it is impossible for Caroline to tell within the opaque booth.
“Tell me more of this ghoul.”
Caroline: “She watched me at the instruction of the Krewe of Janus, who disposed of the body before I did, and informed me of my… sin when I confronted her. At all times, she attempted to protect the Masquerade. At all times, she conducted herself as I should have.”
There’s no reason to drag down Autumn with her… and it’s all truth. Maybe you can help your family, as I’ve only dragged mine down. She recalls the girl’s playful laugh. Cookie dough. Such a small, human thing. Such simple contact. She’d give anything to trade places with her right now.
Or, not trade, but join her. She’d not trade places with her worst enemy. For a moment, a beautiful moment of peace, she can almost picture the auburn-haired girl, her chubby sister, their no doubt modest home. The warmth of an oven that will sit empty. The taste of chocolate, flour, and raw sugar in her mouth. A worn kitchen table, wooden chairs, battered and with chipped paint. A refrigerator with a white-board schedule and marker attached with a string. Photos of the siblings. Maybe a Chinese takeout menu beside a local pizza place’s, for Friday nights.
Perfect things that seemed so mundane a week ago. In a moment it’s gone. Just an image. A fantasy. And she’s here. The taste of her best friend’s oh-too-sweet blood in her mouth. This cold, empty, sterile room. A monster across from her. A monster within her. The perverse sacrament. The death of her best friend. The death of her oh-so-innocent brother. Betrayed by their goodness. Betrayed by her wickedness. Their spirits walk in her shadow, pulling her down, and here, in this dark room, all is shadow.
She awaits her penance. Whatever it is… it’s better than she deserves. In a bitter way, it’s a reflection of her life. Privilege she never appreciated. Power she wielded injudiciously. Rebellion without purpose. Murder for pride. For face. For the approval of her twisted family. And more murder atop it. Half a dozen corpses. Two innocent girls she botched saving, even when she was alive. All she’s ever done is get people killed.
Let’s dig a grave, she tells her shadows. Her brother, her best friend, Paxton, the ghouls, probably Sarah Whitney…. and her son, who looks so like Gabriel in her mind’s eye. One for each of us. Eleven graves is a good start.
And a good end.
A sad smile that creeps across her face like the rising of the sun. She’s ready for whatever is to come.
GM: “That is a great many sins, my child,” Father Malveaux slowly repeats, his rasping voice intruding upon Caroline’s reverie like a steady rapping against one’s bedroom door.
Perhaps his penance will finally spell an end to it all.
“Let us begin with the most grave.”
Caroline: “Yes, Father.”
GM: “Thou shall not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing such shall renounce thy claims of Blood.”
Caroline: And there it is in stark letters.
GM: “Such was the truth of the First Tradition that it was plain even to Caine, who turned from God’s path and surrendered to the Beast. Such is the truth of the First Tradition that it is codified within the Camarilla’s secular laws. Such is the truth of the First Tradition that Longinus the Dark Prophet exhorted his disciplines to obey it above all other commandments save submission to God. The Tradition of Blood, by the Bishop Timotheus: ‘Reveal yourself only to your Kindred.’ Such is the truth of the First Tradition that our prince enshrines it above all others, for it is not merely the law of the Camarilla, but the word of God as passed down by the Dark Prophet Longinus. To break the Silence of the Blood is not merely a civil offense. It is blasphemy. The sentence for blasphemy, my child, is the same that has long been reserved for those who flout the laws of the divine: burning at the stake. What have you to say?”
Caroline: The most horrible death that she can imagine, that the Beast inside her can imagine. She can feel it already straining against her at the very word ‘burning.’ And yet… she’s not afraid.
“Father, there is nothing I may say. I have sinned. Blasphemy is Blasphemy. God cares not your intent, or your wisdom, or your nature, and as I should not doubt your judgment, I shall not attempt to pass judgment upon such long held traditions. You must hand down the sentence you feel appropriate.”
It’s as though someone else is speaking with her mouth. It’s so easy. The end, at least, is in sight. At least in the fire she won’t be able to see the shadows.
“My only request would be, if such is my fate… that it happen with the dawn. I should like to see the sun once more, if at all possible. I have made a full confession of my sins. If I am to go on… there is no better time.”
GM: “You will not go on, my child,” Father Malveaux declares. “No blasphemy has been committed here.”
Caroline: The bottom falls out of the world, and she is seated in darkness. In the void. Thought vanishes, and she’s alone with only the tortured shadows. Numbly, at last, she murmurs, “Yes, Father.”
GM: “Blasphemy has been averted. You have reported the matter to Hound Agnello, who has taken care of it, and you have confessed your sin to me, as is right and proper.”
Caroline: Taken care of it. Such a simple way to describe the execution of the two beings she cares for… cared for… most. Not even the decency of a true euphemism.
GM: “Our prince is merciful to those who follow Longinus’ path. One who had not confessed his sin, who had not reported his crime, would have faced the flame. Your sin still warrants penance, my child. But none so grave as final death.”
Caroline: She grits her teeth. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
GM: “Your disrespect for Regent McGinn’s domain and your slaughter of his servants has already been punished, as is Regent McGinn’s right as lord of his domain. No further penance is required of you.”
Caroline: Perfectly white teeth, perfectly cared for, cleaned, bleached, almost as if in preparation for her Embrace, lock together like a vice. No…
GM: “Your disrespect for your elders has been punished by them. Further disrespect will continue to be punished. No further penance is presently necessary.”
Caroline: Her eyes close against her will, letting lose a volley of bloody tears. No.
GM: “Bar circumstances of exceptional nature such as this one, you take confession with me once a week, my child. Five nights have passed since your last confession. You were given seven nights to show the first kine you preyed upon the consequences for their sinful behavior. Two nights yet remain. If their sins have gone unpunished by the end of that time, further penance will be required of you. Until then, the matter is of no concern.”
Caroline: NO, she screams inside her head.
GM: “The interference of the Krewe of Janus was beyond your control. I assign you the same penance as I did five nights ago: show another sinful mortal the consequences for straying from Christ’s path. Inspire them to change their behavior, or deliver them their just rewards if they are beyond salvation. You have until the confession after our next confession. Nine nights.”
Caroline: She lets out a pained breath through clenched death. “Y… es. Father.”
GM: Caroline hears Father Malveaux rise from his seat. “As to your penance for your near-violation of the Masquerade. Come.”
Caroline: It takes her three attempts. She finally rises. Numb hands struggle with the door for a moment. Two trails of blood line her face.
GM: The albino priest leaves the confession booth, resembling nothing so much as an overlarge pale bat emerging from its cave. He looks Caroline’s bloody face over. “Clean yourself.”
Caroline: “Yes, Father.”
NO! The voice inside continues to stream.
She has a napkin in her bag. The result is a ruddy red complexion on her cheeks that almost makes her appear alive.
GM: He leads Caroline out of the bare room and down the cold gray hallway, into another plain, bare, prison-like room. Rocco Agnello is there with two ghouls, one of whom is the large black man who struck her, along with Aimee and Gabriel. Her two loved ones look as if they are sleepwalking. They stare at her with uncomprehending eyes.
Caroline: She misses a step at the sight of them. A small, but noticeable, gasp.
Rocco: Rocco is standing in the room with a cold, patient expression. His posture is straight and his hands are behind his back as he watch the two Kindred enter into the sterile room. He looks to Father Malveaux. “Ciao, Father.” He looks to Caroline. “Ciao, Caroline.”
Caroline: It’s a lover’s embrace, and a kick in the gut to see them. Kindred are not merciful. Her lip trembles, eyes locked upon the kine. Belatedly, mechanically, she replies, “Hound Agnello.”
Rocco: “I take it your confession went well,” he states coolly.
Caroline: Please… not this… Is there any contrition she could offer? Any staving off the writing she can already see on the wall.
She glances at Malveaux. “The…” A pause. “The confessional seal is absolute, Hound Agnello.”
Rocco: A small smirk appears on Hound Agnello’s face with that answer; the first sign of emotion.
“I am pleased.”
Caroline: Motherfucker! She wants to cut his face off. And to weep. To beg. To scream and cry.
GM: Gabriel and Aimee only continue to stare blankly forward.
Rocco: Rocco looks away from Caroline for a moment, looking for some sort of confirmation from Father Malveaux.
“I take it we’ll get straight to business,” he says, “as I believe expediency and straightforwardness is the best course in regard to matters of a civil nature. By your leave, Father.”
GM: “Hound Agnello has been affected by your sin, my child,” Father Malveaux states to Caroline. “Is it not just for a thief to look into the eyes of the man he has stolen from? For a rapist to look upon the woman he has violated?”
The Ventrue turns to regard Rocco. “One last matter, Hound Agnello.”
Father Malveaux stares into Gabriel’s eyes. “Return to Baton Rouge. Remember nothing of this night save what you have been told.”
Gabriel nods slowly, as if in a stupor, and begins to shuffle off. Father Malveaux motions to one of the ghouls, who moves to accompany Caroline’s brother.
Caroline: She watches him go with trembling hands. Gabriel… alive. Clear… the best thing she’s ever done with her unlife. The smallest of mercies… and the greatest. Her mouth murmurs silent words as he retreats. Short. Simple. Distinguishable to even an untrained eye. Words every man or woman has spoken. I. Love. You. Words he can’t see, words he can’t hear.
GM: Her little brother’s shuffling, oblivious form slowly disappears down the hall.
Caroline: She watches him go, long after he has gone. As long as silence endures. For a moment, for that moment, she can pretend everything will be all right. Her brother is going home. She can pretend her best friend is not standing before her with two other monsters, she can pretend she doesn’t know what will happen next, and she can be grateful for the little mercy of God.
GM: “Caroline Malveaux, you are of my blood twice over,” Father Malveaux pronounces. “In you runs the vitae of the Clan of Kings.”
“‘We ruled in Enoch! We ruled in the Second City!
Dumuzi! Gilgamesh! Zeus! Jupiter!
We are every great man, every perfect man.
We rule, not by strength, but by right.’”
Rocco: Rocco appears to ignore those lines, looking rather impassive through the proceedings at the moment. He waits.
GM: “Without a sire, you know nothing of your heritage. Nothing of your deathright. Nothing of what it is to wear a crown and to bear a crown’s weight.”
“Others have spent long enough cleaning up your mistakes. It is time you accept responsibility for your actions—and learn your place as a lord among the damned. Such cannot be done on a forever bent knee. It is time that others bent knee to you.”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes sweep the three… and suddenly she doesn’t know. Certainty was so easy. Resignation. What is he saying? What does he intend? What hell is this?
Rocco: Rocco watches Caroline with muted interest. His emotionless eyes bore into the poor girl.
GM: Father Malveaux’s pinkish eyes settle on Aimee. “Bow before your mistress.”
Aimee slows walks forward and bows before Caroline. Not merely at the waist. She sinks to her hands and knees, prostrating herself before the Ventrue.
“Kiss her feet,” Father Malveaux orders.
Aimee grovels, kissing the tips of Caroline’s shoes. She feels the girl’s lips press against her feet.
Caroline: The scene makes her sick. This is Aimee… this is her friend. Her confidant. Her… she grits her teeth. Tries not to look down. Tries not to focus on the lips.
GM: “Rise to your knees,” Father Malveaux orders.
Aimee does so, her head remaining level with Caroline’s waist.
The older Ventrue turns to Caroline. “Order her to do as I have. Our founder’s gifts let us command the obedience that is our right.”
Caroline: She hates it. Hates herself.
“I don’t… "
She grits her teeth and draws on that part of herself, the ruthless will to power. The right she has to rule, as a Malveaux. The right that so rankles her to be denied in this new existence. She is not a serf, whatever she swore to the sheriff. She is Nathaniel Malveaux’s daughter. The nearest thing to royalty in this state. And she will not be denied. Iron fills her voice.
“Bow before me.”
GM: “Remember,”rasps Father Malveaux.
Aimee blinks as her eyes clear. “Caroline?! Wha-”
The words die in her throat, however, as she grovels before her friend, all but rubbing her nose into the floor. She can’t unbend her back, but she manages to crane her neck up and meet Caroline’s imperious gaze. Fear, confusion, and hurt war over her face.
Caroline: I’m so sorry, Aimee…
Words she can’t say. Teeth clench. It cuts deeper than the knife.
Maybe… maybe if I….
She already knows it’s a lie in her heart.
“Kiss. My. Feet.”
The words are hard. So hard. Harder than the tiled floor on the girl’s mortal knees.
GM: Aimee obediently lowers her head and plants a kiss on each of Caroline’s shoes. They feel wetter. Tears are starting to run down her face.
“Caroline!?!” she half-begs, half-exclaims, her voice raw with hurt and confusion.
Caroline: “Stop crying!” Caroline shouts. “Just stop!”
It’s such a selfish order. She hates it the moment it escapes her.
Rocco: A small, almost imperceptible smile appears on Rocco’s face as Caroline’s voice raises.
GM: Aimee stops crying. She blinks rapidly, confusedly. A few of the tears already leaking around her eyes trickle down her face. But no new ones join them. Her face starts to glow red with humiliation.
Caroline: Her eyes break to her kin. Anything to escape Aimee’s pitiful gaze.
GM: Father Malveaux’s pinkish albino eyes meet Caroline’s. “Command her to drink from you.”
Caroline: “I…” She looks down at Aimee.
I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry. I’m…
She raises a wrist. Bites into it. Lowers it, still bleeding.
GM: Still prostate on her hands and knees, Aimee pitifully reaches for Caroline’s wrist, fingers brushing against the other girl’s forearm. Her mouth isn’t anywhere near close enough.
“Rise to your knees,” Father Malveaux orders.
Aimee shakily ambles to them. Now that her head is level with Caroline’s waist, she’s finally able to grasp her roommate’s arm and press it to her lips. Her eyes widen as the blood hits her tongue, and suddenly, it doesn’t look as if the Ventrue’s influence is compelling her to drink at all. Caroline can feel the girl’s tongue lapping against her wrist like a dog’s against its owner’s hand. She feels Aimee’s body shudder as a low moan escapes her lips.
“Cease,” Father Malveaux orders.
Aimee drops Caroline’s wrist. But she still licks her lips. Multiple times. Want burns in her eyes.
Caroline: Caroline withdraws the bleeding wrist. Holds it up. Away.
GM: Confusion and humiliation are returning to Aimee’s face. But her eyes follow its path unfailingly.
Rocco: The sound of light clapping from Hound Agnello breaks the silence. He smiles cheerfully.
“Very good, Caroline. Very, very good.” Positive reinforcement.
Caroline: The clap sounds like a laugh. Like a child… like a child training a dog.
Rocco: “I have to admit I am impressed by your strength,” Rocco continues, ceasing his claps. “It’s a difficult lesson. I admit I suggested Wright be the one to take ownership of Aimee, but clearly Father Malveaux’s suggestion, coming from a priest, was best. Well done.”
Caroline: She looks down at her poisoned friend. Her shamed friend. Her trapped friend. Is it relief? Is it horror? Is it… it’s responsibility. Settling across her shoulders like a cross for her to bear. Not just for what she’s done. But for what she will do. What she has to do, from now on. Fight. Claw. Tear. Feed. Whatever is necessary. Whatever she must. Anything now. There’s only one rule: succeed. She owes her servant nothing less.
GM: Father Malveaux turns to regard Caroline. “Your ghoul is yours to command in all things. She will be your hands and eyes, your arm and shield, and whatever else you require of her.”
“Feed her one further draught of vitae tomorrow night, and the night following that night. She will be fully yours by our next confession together. She will cease to age and learn to command the Blood’s rudimentary powers. One draught per two weeks will thereafter be sufficient to maintain her state. If she is not fed, she will lose the Blood’s powers until she is next fed.”
“Your ghoul will attempt to cajole further vitae from you. They are wantful creatures and will resort to any and all methods to satisfy their urges. Exercise a firm hand. Punish misbehavior. In time, she will learn gratitude for what she is given.”
Caroline: She looks down on Aimee. Her friend. Her slave.
She looks back to the priest. A deep stillness has settled upon her.
GM: Father Malveaux turns to regard Aimee, still on her knees, staring at Caroline’s wrist.
Caroline: There’s no anger. No room for it, even if she wished it.
Rocco: Rocco appraises Aimee’s reaction, then Caroline’s reaction, looking as pleased as a cat that had its fill of cream.
Caroline: Gabriel free. Aimee alive… a ghoul’s life need not be so terrible. She’s seen that. It’s so much more than she dared hope. Dared believe possible. The cross across her back rests so easily.
And Malveaux… the pale old fiend. The devil’s own. He could show her uncle how to play the game. Any of them. Flip the board. Reset the table. Change the scene. Rewrite the script.
The Tragic Tale of Caroline Malveaux.
The Rise of Caroline Malveaux.
GM: Father Malveaux turns to regard Caroline again.
“This ghoul belongs to you, my child. You are responsible for all actions she commits. If they merit punishment, it shall fall upon your shoulders.”
“Your ghoul is property under our laws. It is not a crime for other Kindred to lay hand upon her. It is your responsibility to deter them from doing so. You are her sole protection against others of our kind.”
Caroline: He’s rewritten her part. A smile curls across her face, unbidden, unwanted. It’s fleeting. But it’s there for a moment. Victim. Tragedy. Self-Pity. She took those words like shields against the worst of this life. The smile vanishes behind sobriety.
“I understand, Father.”
She could hide behind a shield. Cower beneath it as the world raged around her. It’d been so easy… to be free. A pleasant diversion. An embrace of her own helplessness.
Infantile, she concludes bitterly, already disgusted with herself. In truth, she wore them as poorly as any Malveaux would.
No… I may deserve what happened to me. The deck may be stacked… the odds may be long. The game may not be fair… but that’s no excuse not to play.
GM: The albino priest turns to Aimee. “I release you into your mistress’ care.”
The new ghoul blinks, slumping forward as if someone’s cut her puppet strings. She falls and catches herself on the palms of her hands.
Father Malveaux traces the sign of the lance. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Propheta Tenebris, ego te absolvo. Confession is over, my child. You may go.”
Caroline: There’s something burning in Caroline’s eyes. Not the wildfire of anger. Not the spark of hope. It’s something else. Something that hasn’t burned since she was Embraced. Since that fateful night. Determination.
“Thank you, Father.”
Is this part of God’s plan for her? Time will tell.
GM: The albino priest rasps, “‘Cower not in fear of the Sun!
Shrink not from Fire!
Though cursed we may be
We are the Lords of the Earth, and all things fall under our dominion.’”
Caroline: “Thanks be to God. Amen.”
As the tension breaks, Caroline’s eyes sweep between the two Kindred. She pointedly does not look down at Aimee. “If he,” she gestures to the remaining ghoul, “would be so kind as to deliver her to my vehicle below?”
GM: Father Malveaux motions. The large black man pulls Aimee to her feet. When she’s slow, her slings her over his back like a sack of flour, and carries the floundering woman out of the room like she ways nothing.
Caroline: It’s difficult to do what comes next. But not too difficult.
“Hound Agnello, my thanks to you for your corrections in this matter. And in your judiciousness in handling it.”
Rocco: “You’re welcome, Caroline.” The Gangrel gives Caroline the most angelic, genuine smile he can muster. “I will certainly endeavor to make sure you don’t veer from the right path any longer; consider it a small token of gratitude for that business with Eight-Nine-SIx.” His sincerity is palpable.
“But before you go, I have a small request. I want you to join a krewe. And I have one in mind for you.” Rocco waits for a bit as if gauging Caroline’s reaction.
Caroline: She studies the angelic fiend’s boyish face. He looks even younger than she does. What does he want? What is the end game? His sire’s activities burn in her mind. A mole? A trace? Someone in among the younger less affiliated Kindred… she just doesn’t know enough. Can’t know enough. But whatever his end game… he’s not asking very much of her. Nothing at all, in fact, she had not sought out herself.
“Without objecting, Hound Agnello, I’d be curious as to your reasoning, and thoughts on the matter, if you would share them.” Her eyes slip to Malveaux, to see how he greeted the request by the hound.
GM: Father Malveaux offers no comment as his eyes rest upon Rocco. His gaze is respectful, if not deferential. He has spoken of spiritual matters, and now the hound shall speak of temporal ones.
Rocco: Rocco’s smile never wavers. “I merely want to help.” He continues without missing a beat, “The reality is you need some form of instruction. We both know that. But you have no sire. And while Hound Wright may be your handler, he is too busy to give you the full education a sire should. This whole mess could have been avoided if you had received proper guidance.”
He makes a gesture with his hands, indicating the situation Caroline finds herself in.
“We know the problem, now I want to put forward an answer: if you join a suitable krewe, then they may provide you with the education you need and hopefully make my friend, Hound Wright, rest a little easier during the day.”
“I want you to join the Storyville Krewe. Their members have backgrounds comparable to your own; that is to say, they come from well-to-do kine families. They are devout in their faith. I believe it would be a perfect fit. What do you think, Caroline?”
Caroline: “Can we… rest during the day?” The question seems to distract Caroline for a moment. “No, I’m sorry, that’s a distraction.”
She bites her lip. He’s not exactly asking much of her. “They are…” She looks to Father Malveaux again. “Agreeable to me. I don’t know that such could be said in return. Not even neonates wish to take on burdens.”
Rocco: Rocco smiles at that. “Burdens make us stronger. I have some sway with the Storyville Krewe. I assure you they will take you on; you are the lone neonate who brought embarrassment to Eight-Nine-Six, a rival krewe I might add. I can give you their phone numbers.”
Caroline: She smiles. “I am not so wholly helpless.”
Rocco: Rocco’s face falls a little, impatience creeping into his emotions. His smile doesn’t completely waver, though.
“I will also add that you owe me restitution for failing to tell me about Autumn; that is something I had to find out for myself. It is not looked favorably upon to hinder a hound in his duties. But we’ll forget that matter if you join the Storyville Krewe. Does that sound fair?”
Caroline: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound dismissive of the request or idea as a whole.” Caroline is quick to correct. “I meant only that I’ve spoken with several of them, and have points of contact, but how one should go about actively seeking an invitation among them… does one simply approach them and ask?” She sounds skeptical.
Rocco: “Yes. Perhaps that’s what they’re hoping,” Rocco answers, apparently unperturbed by his misunderstanding. “You are not entirely pathetic, Caroline. There is certainly potential in you. I am sure they will see that, too.”
“In any case,” the hound says with a flourishing turn, “if you already have their contact details, there’s ]nothing more to discuss. If it makes you feel better, though, I do plan to get in contact with them myself and alert them of my wants.” He looks to Father Malveaux with a polite smile, nodding his head. “Good night, Father Malveaux. Thank you for your help in this matter of faith.”
GM: The Ventrue inclines his head.
Caroline: “Hound Agnello,” Caroline replies when he’s finished. “You’re too wise to suggest anything so rash as that they bring me into the fold I trust? A subtle interest may work best… and I will do as I may, on my end.” She bites her lip. “And thank you. Perhaps someday I’ll be so fortunate as to count you, as does Hound Wright, as a friend.”
Rocco: Rocco pauses slightly in his stride, glancing back for a moment. “You’re welcome, Caroline,” he says, voice raising as he moves forward once again, “but remember what I said: don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ to Hound Wright, too.”
Caroline: “Of course.” She lets him go, leaving her with the priest. “Father…”
GM: The older Ventrue turns to regard Caroline.
Caroline: “Might I ask you one question, unrelated to strictly spiritual matters?”
GM: “You have asked one already, but I will permit another.”
Rocco: Rocco stops at the doorway, looking back at Caroline and Father Malveaux. He seems to be waiting for Caroline to follow him, but nevertheless he patiently waits for her to ask any question of Father Malveaux that’s on her mind.
Caroline: She glances at Rocco and bites her tongue. “I’m sorry. Another time perhaps, Father. By your leave?”
GM: Father Malveaux looks irritated. “Out with it, childe.”
Caroline: “I would only ask, to what extent do my dealings with our kine relatives trample upon your own arrangements. I would not give offense to you once more in ignorance, as I did when we met.”
GM: “You will not attempt to draw your relatives into any activities that relate to the Kindred, nor will you employ Caine’s gifts upon them,” Father Malveaux pronounces. “I will give further consideration to this question and the nature of your future dealings with my domain.”
Caroline: She nods, frowning at the restriction. “Of course, Father. Thank you.”
GM: “You are dismissed, Miss Malveaux. Hound Agnello has further business to discuss with you.”
Rocco: Rocco smiles, seemingly happy to be mentioned.
Caroline: Caroline bows to the priest and turns to depart with the hound.
Friday night, 11 September 2015, AM
GM: Rocco takes an elevator several floors down with Caroline and leads her to a sterile gray corporate meeting room. If Lord Byron seduced the sister of Oscar Wilde, the result of their union could hardly be a less ostentatious creature than the Kindred who joins them. Caroline recognizes him from Elysium. His attire consists of a white domino mask with elaborate gold filigree, a black tricorn hat, purple velvet gloves, and brightly colored, almost jester-like clothes threaded with gold. His unblinking pale blue eyes have a glassy, porcelain-like quality, and almost appear part of his mask at a casual glance.
Four masked ghouls trail after him. Each one looks as if they’ve stepped right out of a Mardi Gras parade. Or insane asylum.
“Hound Agnello,” the masked Kindred offers in greeting with an amused twinkle to his eye.
Rocco: “Regent Harlequin,” Rocco responds with a boyish smile. “Always a pleasure.”
Caroline: Caroline trails the hound at a respectful distance and stands to his side, but not quite out of his field of view. She silently studies the group.
Rocco: Rocco looks to Caroline. “This is Caroline Malveaux, Harlequin. This is Harlequin, Caroline. He’s a harpy and the regent of the Masquerade. Best be on your best behavior.” He winks cheekily. “And of the Krewe of Janus…”
GM: The garishly attired vampire looks Caroline up and down. Something seems to dance in his eyes.
“How droll, Hound Agnello. I had been about to tell her the very same thing.”
The four masked ghouls nod their heads in exact synchrony.
Caroline: The effect is… unsettling.
“Of course, Hound Agnello.”
Caroline bites her tongue as she studies the bizarrely attired Krewe members.
GM: Harlequin abruptly turns away from Caroline, as if she’s wearing some dreadfully out of date article of fashion. “Is this where you say ‘bring in the accused,’ my dear hound?”
Rocco: Rocco nods his head, inclining it toward a doorway. “I suppose it’s my turn to say ‘how droll, I was just about to say that.’”
Caroline: Accused of what? Caroline wonders distantly.
Rocco: The hound dials a number into his phone.
“Bring her in, please,” he politely requests.
GM: A burly man enters the room at Rocco’s request. He’s dark of hair, dark of eye, and dark of expression, but still handsome enough.
Autumn walks in front of him, head bowed and eyes downcast.
“Ah, Autumn! My scarlet leaf in the wind! I had such hopes for you, darling, really I did!” Harlequin exclaims.
Caroline: Caroline studies the captive ghoul, looking for signs of ill treatment.
GM: Caroline sees no marks or bruises on Autumn’s flesh, but the ghoul does not respond to Harlequin or raise her head.
The harpy waves one his gloved hands in simultaneously flamboyant and imperious gesture. One of the masked ghouls gets down on his knees. Harlequin sits on the man’s back, using him as a chair.
Caroline: Caroline flinches.
GM: “Do you require a seat as well, my dear hound?” Harlequin asks.
There are actual chairs.
Rocco: “I would be most appreciative, Harlequin,” Rocco replies with a smile.
GM: Another masked ghoul obediently kneels for Rocco to seat himself.
Rocco: He takes the proffered seat with a more subtle flourish.
Caroline: Caroline watches the scene more impassively.
GM: Harlequin tilts his masked head to observe Autumn’s downcast features. “Where are we to begin with this sad little leaf, dear hound? Where shall we begin to find the truth that lies buried in the pile of sodden autumn leaves?”
Caroline: “Master Harlequin… if I might speak?” Caroline’s voice is respectful, but not limp.
Rocco: Hound Agnello studies Autumn with mild interest. He is about to speak before Caroline chimes into the conversation. He frowns.
GM: “Regent Harlequin, Miss Malveaux,” the masked vampire corrects, still staring at the ghoul with his head cocked.
Caroline: “You are her dominator?” She gestures towards Autumn. “If so, I believe I owe you, on its face, an apology for my poor treatment of her this evening.”
GM: “The term is domitor, Miss Malveaux,” Harlequin corrects again. He looks as if he’s snickering behind his mask.
“I suppose her poor behavior begot poor treatment.”
Caroline: Caroline accepts the correction with a smile.
“Of course. I would have it known that most of this evening she was wrapped within my control, and even still her actions reflected highly upon the dedication with which you select your servants.”
Rocco: Rocco cuts in, “Why did you originally fail to mention Autumn?” He looks at Caroline with a scrutinizing gaze.
Caroline: Caroline looks from the harpy to the hound. “She was no liability to the Masquerade and in fact actively engaged herself to mitigate any potential breaches to it even when under my influence.” She considers the next words for a moment. “And you’ll recall, respectfully Hound Agnello, that your questioning was not particularly thorough once the heart of the matter was spoken to. It was not my intent to deceive you, and I made a full confession of her part in matters to Father Malveaux when the opportunity presented itself.”
GM: Harlequin’s expression is impossible to decipher past the mask, but Caroline has the impression that the harpy is sneering.
“His questioning was ‘not particularly thorough’, Miss Malveaux? Really?”
Caroline: “Was it insufficient? Regent Harlequin?” She turns back to the masked Kindred. “He seems to have dug to heart of the matter with remarkable swiftness. Presumably he judged securing the scene more important than minutia he was more than qualified to discover on his own, though I would not actually presume to speak to his methods or motives.”
Rocco: Rocco raises his hand. “I think you misunderstand my line of questioning, Caroline,” he says, continuing. “You have already been judged, and I have no interest in judging you further. There is no point in trying to deflect the blame onto me. I am simply trying to ascertain Autumn’s role at this point. It’s admittedly odd that you failed to mention her considering her blood is all over your house. You understand, right?”
GM: Shrill, mocking laughter sounds from the harpy. Further laughter spills from the throats of the four masked ghouls, even the two that Harlequin and Rocco are sitting on.
“Ventrue always are terrible at apologizing, aren’t they? I do believe this simpering brat thinks she’s somehow saving face.”
He glances back at Caroline. “I have known you for all of two minutes, and already I find our association as tiresome as a cracked plaster mask! Really, darling? ‘It wasn’t my intention?’ Is ‘lie by omission’ a foreign phrase to you? Either you possess the personal initiative of a sea slug, or you have mistaken the dear hound and I for complete imbeciles. Your ‘apology’ is soundly refused.”
Caroline: Caroline turns her head to the harpy, as though studying some strange creature behind the glass in a zoo. She seems about to reply, but bites her tongue, and instead starts again, “Respectfully, what personal gain did I seek in failing to mention your servant, who executed her duties, to the hound? A servant easily identified by her blood, or two kine both left behind for him to take custody of that knew both her name and face?”
She continues on, more forcefully to Rocco, “I take full responsibility for the events of this night, and if my actions caused you inconvenience, then I apologize, in addition to my aforementioned submission to your request.”
“Would you have me offer a great excuse for my actions? An explanation of lies more convenient than the truth of a serious matter handled in haste?”
GM: Harlequin gives another mocking laugh as he regard Rocco. “‘Submission.’ I do believe she thinks she’s doing us a favor, my dear hound. I’m almost sad you were present to clean up this mess before my people were. The whelp had already received her first warning, you know.”
He glances back at Caroline.
“I suppose that ploy wouldn’t be a terrible one, for a buffoonish and gutter-Embraced whelp seeking to retain some modicum of pride. Set the Krewe of Janus at odds with the Guard de Ville—but that’s where the ‘buffoonish’ part comes in, isn’t it? Set the Krewe against the Guard over the misconduct of a probationary member terrified over what we would do if we discovered the extent of her disobedience.” There’s another shrill laugh. “This soggy autumn leaf stopped working for us the moment she proceeded to feed her sponsor a pack of lies over her phone.”
Caroline: Buffoonish and gutter-Embraced.
“Not at all,” Caroline replies, consciously not grinding her teeth. “In fact, set aside your preconception of manipulation, Regent Harlequin. I alleged no misconduct on her part. And I believe even called her a credit to your recruiting, given her reluctance to bend to anything more than a delay in reporting the matter, even under my influence.”
Rocco: “The problem is that Autumn lied, too,” Rocco mentions, “and that gives the impression of collusion. We have you omitting Autumn’s involvement to me and Autumn lying to her superiors. It’s all a bit too coincidental, don’t you think? If anything, the matter isn’t really about whether Autumn lied outright to her superiors or you lied by omission to me,” Rocco explains politely, “because that’s already been decided upon. I want to know the ‘why’ more than anything. As I said, this is Autumn’s judgment.”
Caroline: “Because she did nothing wrong. Not willingly.”
GM: Harlequin gives a shrill and piercing shriek of laughter at Caroline’s pronouncement. Laughter spills from the throats of his ghouls.
“You can just close your mouth at this point, darling. It’s so much uglier with noises coming out of it.”
Rocco: “I think we should hear from Autumn.” Rocco looks to Harlequin.
Caroline: Be smart, girl… Caroline thinks. Get yourself clear.
GM: The harpy makes a ‘do on’ motion at Rocco while dabbing at his eyes through their slits in the mask.
Rocco: “Why did you lie to your superiors, Autumn?” he asks the ghoul. He certainly likes to get straight to the point.
GM: Autumn does not raise her eyes from the floor. “May I explain the full story, sir, to give context?”
Rocco: “Yes.” He smiles, trying to put the girl at ease.
GM: The ghoul does not look in the least bit at ease she obediently relates the story’s entirety: how she watched Caroline at the Krewe’s behest, overheard her confession to Gabriel and Aimee, was spotted by her, enthralled by her, and told her everything—including how she needed to cover up this breach of the Masquerade. Autumn accompanied the Ventrue back to her house and attempted to stop her from revealing too much, but when Caroline began to cry bloody tears and the Masquerade unraveled, Autumn broke free of the Kindred’s control. She tasered Gabriel and Aimee unconsciousness (rather than shoot them with the gun in her hands) and got into a physical altercation with Caroline as their tempers flared. The Ventrue nearly killed her, but spared her life and fed her vitae to heal her injuries. Autumn realized that she had no alternative but to work with Caroline and panicked—not wanting to report the fact she spared rather than killed the two kine, or her many other failures up to that point—and instead bugged Caroline’s home so that she would have something useful to bring her masters. She stayed behind to watch over Gabriel and Aimee while Caroline left the house to find another Kindred who could erase her friends’ memories. She fled when Caroline informed her that the Guard de Ville was coming, but was intercepted by them before she could get away. She surrendered without a struggle. Here she now is.
Caroline: Caroline listens silently.
GM: “You are hereby expelled from the Krewe of Janus, drab, dreadful Autumn,” Harlequin declares in a bored tone.
Rocco: “I suppose this puts Autumn in the unenviable position of being an independent ghoul.”
GM: The ghoul mutely stares at her feet.
Caroline: Caroline says nothing either, waiting to see what comes of this.
Rocco: “Do you blame Caroline for your predicament?” he asks.
GM: “…a little, sir,” Autumn quietly answers. “But I know it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lied.”
Caroline: “No, you’d be dead.”
Rocco: “Ah,” Rocco says, smiling at Caroline. “Nicely put.”
Rocco then stands up, pulling out a gun in a fluid motion. He cocks the weapon and aims the barrel at Autumn.
GM: Autumn finally looks up.
To say her face falls would be like saying a suicide looks “rather sad,” but she looks more resigned than surprised.
Caroline: It’s subtle, the slight tensing of tightly wrapped muscle on long limbs.
“She’s my responsibility then, Hound Agnello, since the Krewe has released its claim to her. Unless you object?”
GM: “As a matter of fact, darling, you’re somewhat—actually, rather more than somewhat—premature,” Harlequin declares. “I have expelled Autumn from the Krewe of Janus. I don’t feel at all inclined to say she is yours. What is this drab, soggy pile of leaves worth to you?”
Caroline: Caroline ponders for a moment. “First, I would submit that in my service she would be of value to you. Whatever her other values or lack thereof, she clearly has a more complete understanding of the Masquerade than a proven failure such as myself. If nothing else, she mitigates the possibility of any future failings.”
“Second, I would of course speak nothing further of this matter. Finally, though I hesitate to offer something you hold to be so valueless… a boon. For the service she might still provide to me.”
GM: “Refused,” Harlequin blithely declares. “Two boons, and no less.”
Caroline: She grinds her teeth, staring at the girl.
GM: Autumn stares back with silently pleading eyes.
Caroline: ‘They probably ate the whole pack.’
‘I couldn’t afford to attend college without them.’
‘I can afford to buy better food.’
‘She has diabetes.’
Rocco: Rocco waits for Caroline’s answer. The gun is still poised at Autumn’s head as he waits.
Caroline: Is her life worth less than Aimee’s? Is she any less responsible?
Finally, Caroline smiles.
“Two boons for Autumn? Gladly accepted. Thank you for your judiciousness.”
GM: The ghoul’s knees tremble.
Rocco: Rocco watches impassively and as he lowers the gun from Autumn’s head, un-cocking and pocketing the pistol.
GM: A faint smile crinkles the edge of Harlequin’s eyes. He rises from his ‘seat’ and pats Autumn on the head.
“You heard her, my precious little failure. I suppose another failure is an appropriate new mistress for you, isn’t she?”
Autumn manages to nod, numbly.
Caroline: “Are there any further matters, Hound Agnello?”
Rocco: “No. I believe the matter is quite finished,” he says, smiling.
“I believe Autumn has proven herself useless to you, but not quite deserving of death.”
Caroline: Is that what you see, Agnello? Caroline keeps her smile in place.
“Regent Harlequin, is there any other matter you would speak to me of?” Caroline’s tone is appropriately deferential.
GM: Harlequin turns to regard Caroline with that same masked smile.
“I suppose I’m feeling well-disposed, darling, now that you’re in my debt. So I’ll do you one better—I’m willing to forgive and forget our earlier exchange, so long as the future noises to come out of your mouth are less offensive.”
Caroline: “My faults are my own,” Caroline agrees as she folds a hand over her chest and gives a short half-bow. “Your magnanimity will proceed you. Hopefully the next time we speak it will be under more pleasant terms.”
GM: Harlequin glides towards Caroline and cups her face in his hands. The Malkavian’s fingers are soft beneath his purple velvet gloves as he traces a pattern over her cheeks.
Caroline: Caroline says nothing at the physical intrusion.
GM: “Uphold the Mask, my dear,” five voices repeat in unison. Caroline can hear the word’s capital letter.
Caroline: “Of course. To do otherwise is blasphemy.”
GM: The Malkavian withdraws his hands from Caroline’s face and turns his masked gaze to Rocco. “Don’t be a stranger, my dear hound,” he smiles.
Rocco: “Of course not, Harlequin,” Rocco says, pleased with the situation.
“But I really must go now. This matter has taken up enough of my time. Thank you for your help, Harlequin. I am sure we’ll have much to catch up on at the next soiree.”
GM: The Malkavian gives a giggle.
“I am equally sure you’ll make certain of it, darling.”
Rocco: Rocco turns to Caroline, flatly ignoring her newly requisitioned ghoul. “Good night, Caroline.”
With that, the hound leaves.
GM: Harlequin, too, departs without further word, trailed by his masked entourage.
Caroline: Only when both have departed does Caroline sag against the wall, bracing with one arm.
“Fuck me,” she murmurs.
GM: “Time for you two to go, ma’am,” grunts the handsome ghoul who followed Rocco in.
Caroline: Caroline nods, not moving for a moment. She looks to Autumn.
“Yes… I think it is.”
Friday night, 11 September 2015, AM
GM: Rocco’s ghoul escorts the women back to the underground parking garage. Autumn looks subdued and does not speak along the way.
Caroline: Caroline crawls in the back of the black SUV with Aimee, motioning for Autumn to ride up front.
GM: Autumn does so without complaint.
Aimee doesn’t. She immediately bristles at the sight of the other ghoul. “What’s SHE doing here!?”
“Yeah, nice to see you too,” Autumn mutters.
Amanda Turner, the ugly-looking Blackwatch merc who’s now Caroline’s bodyguard, wordlessly starts the car.
Caroline: Caroline leans her head back. “Not the place,” she snaps at the two ghouls.
“Home, Ms. Turner, and don’t spare the horses.”
GM: Turner takes the SUV past the checkpoint with its own dead-faced security personnel. The speed meter goes up as they clear the garage.
“Not the time!?” Aimee yells, looking equal parts hurt and bewildered. “She ELECTROCUTED me, Caroline! And you, you just-”
Caroline: Caroline rolls her head to the side and leans forward, eyes meeting Aimee’s.
“We can discuss it at home. In full.”
GM: “NO!” Aimee screams. She’s getting red in the face. “What the HELL was that, Caroline? Those people? Were they the Court? And you, back there, why the fuck did you…!”
Caroline: Caroline keeps the other girl’s eyes at ‘those people.’
“Be quiet until we’re home,” she demands, pushing her will down against Aimee’s.
It’s brutal, vicious, even cruel… but necessary.
GM: Aimee’s voice abruptly dies in her throat. Her mouth continues to soundlessly work, looking almost as if she’s choking. Her eyes stare at Caroline in simultaneous outrage and shock.
Caroline: She keeps the other woman’s gaze, her head resting against the head rest, her back not quite leaning against the seat, as long as is necessary. She memorizes every ridge and valley of Aimee’s face, burns the image of her struggling visage into her mind. Bites down the bile she can’t actually expel. Bites down the horror, the pain. There’s more than house money at stake here. Caroline can’t afford to be weak. Other lives depend on her now… not the least of which… Aimee’s own.
GM: As Caroline’s gaze bores into the ghoul’s, Aimee’s agitated expression eases into a tranquil, almost sleepy one. She leans back in her seat. Her eyes don’t seem to register the cityscape moving past the window. She just stares straight ahead into the back of the front seat.
Caroline: When they at least pull into the driveway of her home Caroline finally leans back.
“Head inside, I’ll be in in just a moment,” she instructs both ghouls.
GM: Autumn gets out the door and does as told.
Aimee starts walking in the other direction, away from the house.
Caroline: Caroline effects a sigh.
“Take the rest of the evening off, Ms. Turner. I’m sorry for the unevenness of it. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
GM: Turner responds with a grunt of acknowledgement and pulls the car out of the driveway.
Caroline: She climbs out of the car.
“Aimee,” she calls.
GM: Aimee doesn’t so much as glance back at Caroline.
Caroline: Caroline moves after her, still speaking.
“Every answer you want is waiting inside.”
GM: Aimee doesn’t break stride. Caroline can’t quite see her face, but she hears a low sniffling.
Caroline: Her longer legs work for her here, as she closes the distance. “Aimee!” The word is wretched, half hurt, half angry.
GM: Aimee finally turns to face Caroline. Tears are brimming in her eyes. Her face is red.
“Go to HELL, Caroline!” she yells.
Caroline: Caroline grabs her by the arm, not hard, but firmly. “You can hate me all you want, Aimee.”
“But let me explain. Please. Let me tell you what really happened to me. Let me… I can’t apologize, can’t ask your forgiveness… but let me explain. Please.”
GM: Aimee gives a shriek and wrenches her arm away from Caroline.
“I’ve had enough ‘explaining’!” she yells. “‘Explaining’ with that PSYCHO! And you, you-”
Caroline: “You can call me whatever you want. As long as you do it inside, Aimee. This isn’t a game. If you walk down this street alone they’ll put a bullet in the back of your head before you make the gatehouse. I’m sorry.”
GM: “Just leave me ALONE!” Aimee yells, striding away from Caroline.
Caroline: She doesn’t make it far before Caroline’s gaze intrudes again. There is no suggestion anymore. No request. Just a demand.
“Come with me.”
GM: Aimee’s eyes glaze over. She follows Caroline back to the house without a peep.
Caroline: Caroline greets Autumn at the door and unlocks it with the spare key from under the deck. Rocco declined to return hers. “You didn’t bug her room, right?”
GM: “Just yours and the dining room,” Autumn answers, sparing a glance for the subdued woman but no further comment. Her voice is still a little quiet. “The Krewe isn’t expecting you to keep them around, though.”
Caroline: She nods. “By dawn I want them all removed, and the rest of the house searched for any redundancies they had in place.”
She looks to the redheaded girl. “You understand what I did back there, right?”
GM: “Which ‘where’?” Autumn breathes out. There’s been a lot tonight.
Caroline: “Perdido House,” she answers as she leads them upstairs, Aimee by the hand.
GM: “Maybe you should explain for me anyways,” Autumn answers quietly.
Aimee looks for all the world as if she’s sleepwalking. Her face is completely relaxed and her eyes uncomprehending.
Caroline: “Get the tape again, I’m not… dominating her again.” Aimee has her hands, wrists, and legs bound, and is placed on the bed in her room. Caroline settles into the high-backed chair. Autumn is left to find a space on the bed or floor. “I just mortgaged my future to save your life.”
GM: As Caroline dismisses her mental hold over Aimee, the girl screams upon finding herself suddenly bound and helpless in Caroline and the psycho’s presences, and with a gap in her memory how she got there. She twists and thrashes against her bonds.
Autumn sighs as she jerks away from a kick. “This isn’t going to work.”
Caroline: Another piece of tape is applied over her mouth as needed.
GM: “GET AWAY FROM ME-!” Aimee screams before the tape plasters over her mouth.
Caroline: Caroline heaves a sigh as she releases her presence into the room. That soothing, calming presence.
“Calm down, Aimee, everything is going to be okay. Breathe…”
The Beast whispers that everything is all right.
GM: It’s almost pitiful how Aimee, bound and gagged, jerkingly crawls towards Caroline like some overlarge worm trying to squirm as fast as it can. Her gaze is still full of fear, but at Autumn, not her ‘friend.’ Muffles sound past the tape gag.
Caroline: Caroline pulls the tape away, not dropping the aura.
GM: “Caroline! Get her AWAY!” Aimee yells, wild-eyed.
“I don’t think this is gonna work while I’m still here…” Autumn ventures.
Caroline: She gestures for Autumn to wait in the hall. “Take care of the bugs.”
GM: Autumn heads out the door, Aimee’s eyes never leaving her.
Caroline: “Better?” Caroline asks.
GM: “Caroline, what’s she DOING HERE!?” Aimee all but yells. “Where’s Gabriel? What happened!?” She doesn’t so much as glance at her duct tape bonds.
Caroline: “Quietly, Aimee,” Caroline replies. “Gabriel drove back to Baton Rouge. He’s fine, he’s safe. Unharmed.”
GM: Aimee breathes a sigh of relief. “But what _happened? Why is she still here?!”
Caroline: “The story begins quite a bit further back than tonight,” Caroline starts. “Back at Decadence. The night I went missing, you see…”
Friday night, 11 September 2015, AM
GM: Aimee patiently listens to Caroline’s lengthy tale. She does not once flinch, denounce, or exhibit any discomfort over Caroline’s many sins. The Ventrue sees her Beast reflected in the ghoul’s tranquil eyes.
Caroline: And Caroline tells it, after a fashion. She doesn’t go into the gory details of her assaults, but her nature, the nature of this life, and the many forces pressing upon her are told in enough detail. She finally releases her hold upon the other girl, for a moment.
GM: Aimee blinks confusedly, as if awakening from her spell. She immediately begins struggling against her duct tape bonds.
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes sweep across her as she struggles.
“And then what? You break free, overcome me, and flee into the night where you will be hunted down. I wasn’t lying when I told you that you wouldn’t make it to the end of the street. You wanted in. You wanted to know.” She all but glares at Aimee. “Now you do.”
GM: “You could at least try pretending I’m not your prisoner,” her ghoul glowers. “Maybe, I don’t know, still your friend?”
Caroline: “I tried!” Caroline snaps, hurt in her voice. “You wouldn’t listen. Kept screaming, running away.” She looks her friend in the eye. “I was trying to protect you.”
GM: “Take these off, Caroline!” Aimee shouts, straining against the bonds.
Caroline: God, she just wants to slap her. But is that the Beast talking? She fishes a pair of scissors off Aimee’s desk. She cuts away first the bonds around Aimee’s feet, pausing to see how she reacts.
GM: Aimee initially winces as she peels the tape off off, but between her already smoldering expression, she just looks even more pissed.
“What are you scared of? You can just… just what, mind control me again if I try to run, right?”
Caroline: If she only knew what was to come…
“I’m scared of doing that to you!” Caroline shouts back. “I hate doing it to you.”
GM: “Yeah, that’s why you never did it to me even once. Oh, wait.”
Caroline: “Not until tonight… Aimee, they’ll kill you. They’ll do it for something you don’t even realize is a sin. I tried to keep you clear… then I tried to get you clear.” She sighs. “And I failed. Utterly.”
GM: “You’re pretty good at doing things to peoples’ minds, right? You can just erase their memories?”
“No. They can, others. I don’t know. Maybe eventually I’ll learn.”
GM: “Then why are there so many gaps in mine?”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t further her answer, having already provided it.
GM: “That’s bullshit, Caroline. There are gaps after we started driving home!”
Caroline: “Control maybe, in the moment. I don’t know. There isn’t a fucking instruction booklet, or at least I didn’t get one.”
GM: “Oh, isn’t that good to know you’ve done it so many times you don’t even remember. I want you to do it again.”
Caroline: “It doesn’t fucking work that way. Not for me. Maybe an elder, but I can’t just go digging through your mind. Nor would it help you now. Even if I could make you forget everything, even forget me, it’s in you now.”
GM: “I don’t believe that,” says Aimee. “If you’re already in my head, then I want you to erase everything about this… this nightmare. I don’t want to remember any of it. I don’t want to be your… whatever this is. I don’t want anything to do with vampires. I just want to go to law school, graduate to work as a lawyer somewhere boring, and live a normal life.”
She lets out a breath. “I’m sorry for what happened to you. I know that doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
Caroline: “That’s all I wanted too, Aimee. And all I wanted for you.” Caroline takes each of her demands like a slap on the face. “And you can go to law school, graduate, and work. But once you’re in the Blood… you’re in. That’s the whole sadistic point. And even if I could let you out, even if I had the power of God… they’d dump your corpse in my bed to prove a point. I didn’t do this to you on a whim.”
GM: “I wish I could help you,” Aimee continues. “I really do. But I can’t. So if you really care about me, if you really do… you’ll find a way to make this all go away, turn it all into some bad dream, and not drag me down into this… whatever the fuck you’ve gotten sucked into.”
Caroline: “Stop. Just fucking stop. Hate me. Damn me. Blame me. It’s my fault you’re in this. I deserve it all. But stop living in a childish wonderland in which your desires are reality. Welcome to the real world, Aimee, welcome to the horror at the edge of night. I tried. I failed. You have to live with it.”
GM: “I have to? Sounds like I was getting along just fine until you decided to drag me in.”
Caroline: Caroline sweeps pens, books, and a battered Sunburst laptop off Aimee’s desk with a snarl of rage.
“Yes. You were.”
GM: Aimee looks past the point of caring about the violence. “I want out, Caroline. If you really care, you’ll find a way.”
Caroline: Caroline drives her right first down into Aimee’s table hard enough to crack bones in her hand.
GM: “I want OUT!” she screams.
Caroline: She grits her teeth through the pain, riding it like a wave away from Aimee’s voice.
GM: “What, are you gonna start hitting me next if I don’t say I’m happy to be your… your slave?”
Caroline: For a moment she can’t hear her. She cradles her hand to her chest, blood leaking between torn flesh.
GM: “You couldn’t even tell me any of this without, what, turning my brain into a vegetable! Doesn’t that tell you something, Caroline? That maybe the best thing would’ve just been to leave me alone?” Aimee continues.
Caroline: “It would have been.” Caroline’s voice is soft. “I should have. But I didn’t want to let you go. I wanted… I just wanted someone to understand, in some way. I’m sorry.” The words are as empty as she is.
GM: “Understand me, Caroline. I want my life back!” Aimee’s voice finally breaks. “It might be too late for you, but it’s not for me! Please!”
Caroline: Caroline says nothing as the silence grows.
GM: It grows, then finally breaks too.
“So that’s it, then? I’m your, what, tied-up slave who slobbers over your feet? Forever?”
Caroline: “Do you really think I’d treat you like that, Aimee?” Caroline asks.
GM: A long, cold silence answers Caroline’s question.
Caroline: The silence grows and grows.
At last Caroline’s hurt, throaty voice murmurs, “You bitch.”
She falls to the ground next to Aimee.
GM: Aimee gets up and strides out of the room.
Caroline: Caroline crawls to her feet on her aching body. Everything hurts. She follows Aimee.
GM: Aimee walks into Caroline’s bedroom and picks up the discarded gun, but doesn’t turn to face her domitor.
Caroline: “It doesn’t have to be like that, Aimee. I’ll do everything I can… everything, to keep you safe from it. To keep your life as normal as possible. You’ll go to school. You’ll graduate. You can have a life. Tempered by this one… but it’s more than I’ll have. It’s all I can give you.”
GM: Aimee still doesn’t turn around. “I’ll live forever, right? Never get old, like you won’t?”
Caroline: “I’d have to ask Autumn… I think so.”
GM: Aimee loads the gun and presses it to her head.
Caroline: Caroline clenches her teeth. “Please don’t do this, Aimee… I love you. You’re the closest thing to a friend I can have.”
Again that subtle work of tightly wound muscle, coiled like a spring. Her eyes are on Aimee’s hand, on the gun. Those inhuman eyes that see so well. Even in the dark.
GM: Aimee’s hand remains steady, barrel pushed against the side of her head. Caroline can smell her perspiration. Her despair. Her fear.
Caroline: “It’s not the end, Aimee… for you.”
GM: Sweat against steel. Aimee sinks to her knees. Her head lolls forward. The gun’s barrel dully clinks against the floor. Caroline can hear soft sobs.
Caroline: Caroline slinks forward behind her. She rests her un-maimed hand on Aimee’s shoulder.
“I can’t tell you it’ll be okay. But I’ll try.” Her voice is as soft as a mother’s to a newborn.
GM: The sobs grow lower. And louder.
“I jus-just want to be normal.”
Caroline: She goes to a knee and wraps that hand across Aimee’s chest, holding her from behind as she sobs.
Previous, by Narrative: Story Three, Louis XIII
Next, by Narrative: Story Three, Louis Epilogue
Previous, by Caroline: Story Three, Adelais II, Caroline XIV, Lavine I, Rocco I
Next, by Caroline: Story Four, Caroline I, Louis I
Previous, by Rocco: Story Three, Adelais II, Caroline XIV, Lavine I, Rocco I
Next, by Rocco: Story Four, Cletus IV, Micheal VIII, Rocco I