Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood and Bourbon

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Story Twelve, Caroline V

“Kill their servants. Kill their families. Kill them all.”
Augusto Vidal


Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, PM

GM: The Hussar continues to trim, shave, and sculpt his master’s facial hair from bedraggled to presentable. The process seems like it could take an hour or longer. Caroline can only imagine how much time he’s lost over the course of his Requiem. All of those hours, all of those years, removing the same physical defect night after night after night after night.

Her sire does not appear to use the time idly, however. He’s still being shaved when Robert Congo enters the room and announces that his own master shall “see and hear all that transpires through mine senses.”

Vidal does not acknowledge or respond to him.

Donovan enters through the door shortly later. His achromatic gaze takes in the seated prince, the two ghouls, and Caroline.

He says nothing at her presence.

“Miss Malveaux is my childe,” the prince crisply states without preamble.

“Seneschal Maldonato shall brief you on the details.”

The sheriff says nothing.

Caroline: Caroline stands as still as she ever did in her life. As still as death, offering nothing. She has nothing to offer without the prince’s invitation.

She’d thought she might gloat in the moment, in the past, but that seems so petty now.

Somehow she’d thought it would all be so much simpler if she could ‘succeed’, but everything just seems far more complex now.

GM: “You have news of import,” Vidal states.

“Bishop Malveaux has been murdered, Your Majesty,” Donovan answers.

“He has been missing for nights. I have contacted his sire.”

“The perpetrator remains unidentified.”

GM: The sheriff’s expression remains unchanged.

So does that of Caroline’s sire.

But she feels it.

She feels the words before he even says them.

“Twenty,” he breathes.

His voice is a whisper.

“Their ghouls.”

“Their families.”

“Their ghouls’ families.”

GM: There’s an abrupt noise as the chair’s armrests crunch into splinters beneath her sire’s clenched hands.

Caroline: The wave of fury is like the swelling of a wave before the tsunami hits the shore, sucking in everything in the room.

GM: Caroline sees it in his eyes. A hatred so vicious and black it makes her almost physically sick. A hatred and wrath that does not twist his marble-still, statue-like face, but warps and blackens the reality around it. She could swear the paint is peeling beneath his gaze.

It’s the same look he had upon Smith’s last words.

The same look upon her brother-in-blood’s execution.

“I have ruled this city with temperance and restraint.”

“I have imposed no laws upon my subjects I do not impose upon myself.”

“This.”

“This is how I am repaid.”

Caroline: The younger Ventrue says nothing. Dares say nothing, in the face of his wrath.

It’s an actively painful thing, like staring into the sun on a summer’s day.

GM: It’s her fault.

Caroline: She had to.

GM: It’s all her fault.

Caroline: She’d have never gotten to him without it.

She’d have been much less useful to him but for it.

She did it as much for him as for herself.

Maybe it’s true, or maybe it simply makes her feel better to lie to herself.

GM: The prince’s voice dies.

He does not speak.

He does not move.

He does not blink.

Darkness abruptly explodes through the room like a tsunami, the shadows screaming to terrible life as they rip themselves free of their owners. Oily blackness crashes into the younger Ventrue, sending her hurtling across the room. It sticks to her like oil, slick rending talons, ink-slathered tentacles, and bogeyman’s grasping hands—a child’s night terrors given horrifying semblance and animation. Caroline smashes into a wall and then crashes chin-first against floor. The darkness hungrily alights, strangling, blinding, and swallowing her like a swarm of ravenous snakes. Maldonato is not here this time, yet there are so many more victims to suffer her sire’s wrath. The Hussar gives a strangled half-grunt, half-shout as the darkness pours over him. He kicks and punches to break free of the suffocating black morass. Congo is swallowed up. Caroline doesn’t see what happens to Donovan.

The Beast’s howls recede in her ears by the time the darkness loses its animation and the shadows slither back to where they belong. Caroline watches hers silently step into place behind her back, feet joining back to feet.

Caroline: She drags herself to her feet. Everything hurts. Her too-pale flesh black and blue with bruises, nowhere so greatly as around her jaw, where she’s fairly certain her abrupt meeting with the floor face first broke her jaw. Vita runs in rivets from rents in her arms and legs where she tried to protect herself.

Too slow, the kind of nitpicking observation Claire would have made.

She’s suffered worse. Far worse. And truthfully, it’s better than she deserves.

She can tell herself that she had to do it. She can tell herself that it was the only way. She can tell herself that it had to happen for her to be with her sire. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve to suffer.

GM: He suffered for her, after all.

There’s little furniture remaining in the room to destroy. The throne-like chair is a black and rotted husk.

The Hussar’s face is blanched and leeched of color. Its lines and shadows look so much more haggard, but the old slave silently rises to his feet. To serve.

Congo’s shadow looks out of alignment. Its arms and legs are pointed in separate directions from his body. He does not get back up, nor open his eyes.

Caroline: The Ventrue, despite her wounds, almost blinks between spaces to the maimed old ghoul’s side.

She deserves to suffer. Other’s don’t.

GM: A heartbeat is audible to her sensitive ears.

But it is weak and fast, fading fading.

Caroline: She needs not bring her wrist to her lips—there are plenty of rents enough on her arm to run her vitae down it, across her fingers, and into the old man’s lips.

GM: Caroline finds herself the sole responder by his side. The ghoul’s lips remain still at first, with the first few trickles. Then he drinks thirstily. The wrinkles on his already lined face are so deep and haggard now, like black-rimmed canyons that give him an almost mummified appearance. But his shadow’s joints slowly re-affix into alignment with his body’s.

He meets her eyes. He does not speak—not aloud.

:: I shall not forget. ::

Caroline: The thoughts bring a whisper of a smile—and its associated stab of pain—to her face, though not for their content.

She’s glad the ‘kindly’ old ghoul wasn’t killed. Not for this. “Can you rise?” she almost whispers through split lips.

GM: Caroline feels the beginnings of thoughts forming mind—that abruptly halt.

The ghoul’s eyes stare straight behind her.

Caroline: She turns.

GM: It’s the sheriff.

He looks much as he always has. He looks exactly as he always has. His garments and slicked-smooth hair are pitch black. His bone-smooth skin is china-white. His storm-like eyes remain absent of all color. They roil faintly like troubled, overcast skies, silent harbingers of a coming storm.

His blank face is the same as he regards his master’s newly-revealed childe and the seneschal’s maimed ghoul. Exactly the same.

There is no concern. There is no contempt. There is no jealousy. There is no confusion. There is not even indifference.

There is just nothing.

Here, in the heart of darkness that is her sire’s lair, in the face of such news, Caroline may perhaps have expected… something. But there is nothing. The figure before her looks like an automaton, a facsimile, a shell for something else. All just putting on a performance and reading from a script. All until now—now, when there is no script available to reference.

Perhaps her sire’s devouring shadows hurt him most all.

Or perhaps there was nothing there to hurt.

Nothing at all.

Caroline: Another night he might frighten her. Other nights he did frighten her. But not tonight. Not here. And perhaps not anymore.

She meets his dead man’s gaze with her own icy blue eyes. Blue eyes she inherited from her mother.

She sees him with new clarity—clarity ripped from her rival’s very soul.

She stands before him with new confidence, confidence of someone who knows who she is—and whom everyone else will soon know too.

She stands between him and an old man blameless in what passed but suffering for it all the same.

She is Caroline Malveaux-Devillers, savior more than once to those stuck down unjustly—and far from powerless in the face of violence.

She is Caroline Malveaux-Devillers, heir to a king among kine and a queen among monsters.

She is Caroline Malveaux-Devillers, childe of Augusto Vidal, Prince of this city.

Even bleeding. Even battered. Even maimed by her sire’s rage she remains all of these things.

And she is not afraid.

GM: Yet even as that spiritual battle is fought and won by his childe, the prince wrestles with his own internal war. But he does not win the struggle against his Beast so easily. Caroline sees the so-sharp fangs still jut from his mouth as he whispers,

“You will find this perpetrator, sheriff.”

His black gaze burns with hate.

“There shall be executions. Nightly. All shall see. All shall witness. Blood shall not cease to flow from Perdido House until the criminal responsible for this act is found.”

“A wise recourse, my prince,” the sheriff replies, his voice low.

“Traitors infest your city. They speak against you nightly. We shall not lack for Kindred to make examples of.”

“A blood hunt would further impress the crime’s gravity upon your subjects once the perpetrator is identified.”

Caroline: “I pray you pardon my presumption, Sheriff, but why presume it was a Kindred?” Caroline voices softly, through her slowly knitting jaw.

“Or at least one so easily struck down?”

GM: “The perpetrator must be Kindred, my prince,” Donovan states. He does not look at Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline does not gainsay him immediately.

GM: “It shall project weakness if the bishop is believed to have been brought low by an inferior order of being.”

The black fire behind Vidal’s eyes smolders slowly at the talk of traitors and weakness.

Caroline: “If there is no immediate suspect, playing the blame on blasphemous kine has merits. It only projects weakness without resolution and catharsis. Until then it reinforces the sacred necessity of the Masquerade, turns the wraith of the faithful against the favorite tools of the prince’s foes, and gives opportunity to remove a known threat vice chase a shadow one.”

“It unites the faithful with common and righteous fury, vice setting them at each other’s throats or under the skirts of the city’s pretenders, and will bring others to the faith.”

“It also silences other rumors certain to arise, if there is no immediate suspect offered.”

“At least, that is how I, a lay person, might view it, Your Majesty. I confess freely I lack the sheriff’s wealth of experience, but I have lived in terror of the prince’s justice before. My whole Requiem, in fact. Were I from lesser stock that terror might well have driven me to less noble ends.”

GM: Caroline’s sire says nothing.

The sheriff says nothing.

But the former’s fangs do not retract. The hatred in the room is an almost burning, nigh-palpable sensation, slow-searing the souls of all who behold its principle.

“Traitors, my prince,” the sheriff breathes.

Vidal’s gaze slowly settles upon Donovan’s.

“They are guilty in their hearts.”

“Guilty by intent.”

“Half the city would have slain the bishop had they believed themselves exempt from your laws.”

“It matters not who slew him. The crime is shared by all.”

Caroline: She lets her words speak for themselves. She has made her appeal. True, every word of it.

She genuinely believes the course disastrous, even wrong. That her sire is making an error that will undermine him. That it’s morally wrong.

GM: “Already do they conspire against Your Majesty. Primogen Opal has spurned your mercy for her childe’s sins.”

Caroline: But she also knows how hollow her defense is, in truth. How she might put an end to this inquisition here and now, with but a handful of words.

Hypocrite… whispers a dark part of herself. To rush to save Congo despite the blood covering her hands. To argue against the prince’s justice for a crime she committed. To deny responsibility for what she has wrought, no matter the cost.

GM: “The executions for the bishop’s murder shall allow us pretext to thin the ranks of the Hidden Clan. Primogen Opal herself may be blamed as the bishop’s murderer. To postpone her execution is to press another blade into the Baron’s hands.”

Caroline: "To strike at her without evidence will do the same with the rest of her clan—and the Anarchs besides. She is already in the Baron’s hands… " Caroline suggests. “Better to bait her to petty action that can be exposed for what it is.”

GM: Thoughts well within Caroline’s mind.

:: Cainite blood shall flow for what has transpired, Miss Malveaux. That battle is lost. Careful words, however, may yet amortize or attenuate that blood’s flow. ::

Caroline: The exhaustion, weariness, and fury on her sire’s face tears at Caroline. So much of it she has been responsible for—intentionally and otherwise. It’s almost physically painful to look upon him as he is—and certainly more painful than any of her remaining wounds.

“Your Majesty, I mean not to suggest that vengeance is neither deserved nor required, only that we have two opportunities before us, and to strike at the Baron and his newest pawn, Primogen Opal, is to forgo one and destroy the other.”

“Perhaps, had I involved the sheriff in my plans, we might have more fully wrapped up the hunters in NOSTF and the Barrett Commission. I did not, and that failing is mine alone. Nonetheless, they’ve been left reeling and unmasked. We have leads as to other members and their families, and a direct tie to Mr. Savoy through his catspaw Gettis—long an invisible thorn within your domain. If we are able to tie them together we might not only cut off that blade in his hand, but also lay the blame for this directly on him or his closest supporters, destroying his carefully cultivated image within the Sanctified as a moderate and revealing him for what he is.”

“That Mr. Savoy, perhaps alone in the city, seemed to suspect the truth of my lineage, and that serious attempts upon my Requiem began these last nights suggests to me his hand in this matter. He had long attempted to lure me into his service. The timing seems too coincidental.”

“In contrast, the Baron’s latest plot is still in its infancy. We know of it, of the planned treachery at its heart. We can interrupt it at a time and place of our choosing, when it best benefits us—for instance when Primogen Opal makes her move against Primogen Duquette, after showing her true colors for all to see. Interrupting such a thing would too show our strength and invite infighting in our foes as they searched for the source.”

“Doing so would drive the Anarchs—and perhaps even much of the hidden clan—from her defense and expose the Baron for the non-benign figure he is in truth.”

“Certainly the sheriff is more immersed in the affairs of the archdiocese than I. Perhaps he advises more wisely for his many years of service or for knowledge I am not party to. I would offer only an alternative. Long have the pretenders to the throne nibbled like rats at its pillars, and long has the archdiocese sought to stomp them out. Perhaps a subtler blade might serve us well against the spreading cancer.”

GM: The prince’s black gaze slowly burns.

“Destroy the entire clan.”

“Lay the groundwork. Gather intelligence. Manufacture pretexts. When their primogen betrays us, we shall root out the entire line, stem and root.”

“The Nosferatu clan shall be exterminated from New Orleans.”

“I have tolerated the lepers for long enough.”

Caroline: Caroline says nothing further. It is not her place to gainsay her sire’s order.

It’s a horrifying order. Caroline reflects on those among the hidden clan she has known—some monsters yes, Cartwright—but others among the most gentle souls among the All-Night Society. Gus Elgin, Sundown, Yi Huang. All condemned to death for the actions of another.

Better than it might have been—it’s a less immediate and random slaughter—but a massacre nonetheless.

Part of her wonders if he isn’t burning down his kingdom before his torpor out of spite, but that voice is very quiet next to the one that wants to weep for what he has been reduced to.

GM: “The bishop’s disappearance shall likely be noticed before the primogen’s treachery, my prince,” the sheriff states.

No reaction crosses his face at the previous order.

“Find culprits to blame for the crime,” Vidal answers. “I leave them to your judgment. Kill their servants. Kill their families.”

“Kill them all.”

“As you command, my prince,” Donovan answers.

“Continue your search for the bishop’s true murderer. You shall bring them here, staked, to receive my personal judgment and sentence.”

The sheer force of the prince’s hatred ripples from him in nigh-palpable waves.

“His sire has volunteered her services in the investigation,” the sheriff states. “If I may presume to speak as to an internal clan matter, there is an opening upon the Gerousia.”

Caroline remembers well the Christos award the bishop presented him with during that Tuesday clan gathering.

Caroline: Bitterly well.

GM: “You may inform her of my permission to make her domain within the city,” the prince answers tersely. “That domain is contingent upon the success of her investigations.”

“She shall be informed, my prince.” He continues, “The archbishopric sits vacant. Fathers Elgin and Morrow are ineligible to fill it. I am new to the cloth. I believe Mother Doriocourt would be suitable.”

Vidal seems to silently deliberate the sheriff’s recommendation.

“The archdiocese shall require new priests. Miss Malveaux shall also take up the cloth.”

Donovan offers no response.

Caroline: There’s no small irony in that for her. She silently accepts her sire’s will as before.

Anything to make him happy. To stop the terrible wrath that has overtaken him.

GM: “Convey my recommendation concerning Mother Doriocourt to the cardinal.”

“He shall be informed, my prince.” He continues, “The rabble must be taught rebellion is futile. I advise that Mother Doriocourt’s consecration take place concurrently with the criminal’s execution and the Embrace of a new Sanctified childe. It would also be a suitable time for Deacon Benson to take holy vows.”

“You may inform Mother Doriocourt of her permission to Embrace and Deacon Benson of the archdiocese’s need for further clergy,” Vidal answers.

Caroline: “Binding others more closely that are otherwise drifting might too have value. Especially those of influence who might prove eager to participate in the culling of the hidden clan. Regent McGinn, for instance. A childe, perhaps one initiated into the faith, might remind him of the prince’s beneficence and encourage his closer ties to the throne.”

GM: The dark fire in Vidal’s eyes burns anew at the word ‘drifting.’

“Name this treachery.”

Caroline: “Only that following my Embrace, prior to my release, the elder ghoul of René Baristheaut revealed under questioning that Regent McGinn had received overtures from Mr. Baristheaut through Mr. Savoy’s court.”

GM: “Miss Malveaux speaks in ignorance, my prince,” Donovan states dispassionately. “This matter was dealt with months ago.”

Caroline: “As the sheriff says, my knowledge of those nights is truly that of an outsider. There were many matters from those nights—the Setites attackers, the motives of Mr. Baristheaut, the fallout of other plots surrounding them—that were and have remained opaque to me.”

“I would not presume to malign my elder in blood clanmate unjustly, only to propose his appreciation for the opportunity to take a childe of his own.”

GM: The prince’s baleful gaze does not diminish, but seems to glare out beyond the two.

“Your ignorance is useless to me. Hold your tongue if you know naught of what you speak.”

Caroline: The words are worse than a slap, even one delivered by the powerful elder.

She bites her lip. “As you wish, Your Majesty.”

“The absence of Bishop Malveaux will leave his domain open to raiding, especially within the church. I might recommend then only that the sanctity of your domain explicitly extend to encompass it until an appropriate custodian may be suitability identified.”

GM: “Mother Doriocourt and I are the sole priests remaining not of the Hidden Clan, my prince,” Donovan states. “The kine’s archbishopric shall be well-served in the hands of the Sanctified archbishop and demonstrate further continuance of tradition.”

The prince’s black gaze abruptly re-focuses.

“Father Polk.”

“He has not been seen since the time of Bishop Malveaux’s disappearance, my prince. Miss Gerlette has been unavailable to confirm the fact of his final death. Their killer are likely one and the same.”

The hatred etched onto the prince’s motionless face at this latest news looks barely even human. He looks like a gargoyle, a demon, frozen in lifeless and eternal fury.

Donovan does not speak.

The prince does not speak.

Minutes pass.

“Double the number of executions,” he finally hisses.

“As my prince commands,” the sheriff answers dispassionately.

“Mother Doriocourt is granted leave to oversee my domain over the Roman Catholic Church. You shall find this criminal, sheriff. This blasphemer who would slay the humblest of my flock. Such men upon whose backs the foundations of our church is built. You shall find this criminal and bring them to me. Staked and spared the mercy of final death.”

Caroline: “Mother Doriocourt is beset by duties likely to only grow with her assumption of duties as bishop if confirmed, to say nothing of her vital role in maintaining dominion over the police.”

“I am to take the cloth, and have greater knowledge of the vacant domain than any other. I might also immediately move to use the associated resources to further delve into the influence of the hunter networks in the city that were doubtless funded in part by them. I would ask for reconsideration in this matter, Your Majesty.”

And it would keep the domain in Ventrue hands. Caroline doesn’t add.

GM: The weight of her sire’s stare settles upon her.

“Mother Doriocourt is the archdiocese’s foremost expert on witch-hunters associated with the police. I have informed you I shall render unto you and expect from you the utmost best in all things. You shall have temporary rights over the domain. Produce superior results to Mother Doriocourt’s past investigations and the domain shall be yours permanently. Fail and its rights shall pass to her.”

Nothing passes on Donovan’s face.

Caroline: “I understand, Your Majesty.”

“If Father Polk has also been destroyed, that also leaves open the question of duties as archivist for both Clan Ventrue and the holy church.”

“The former might be ably filed by Ms. Adler. The latter, perhaps, by his childe, Ms. Gerlette, if she remains. At least until a better candidate might be identified to step into the role or she grows into it. It would provide continuity of that line.”

And might even give her some purpose to her wrecked Requiem.

Caroline has not forgotten that Roxanne and her Krewe, for her haughtiness, was a major reason she survived those early nights.

The clan’s archives remain deeply interesting to her, but she expects to have ample enough matters to consume her time to follow. Simply having them ‘more’ available than they previously were (barely at all) would be a win enough.

GM: Caroline can see that same haughtiness on the Hussar’s face, too, when she declares “if” Roxanne remains.

“Miss Gerlette is unsuitable,” Donovan states coolly. “As caretaker of the church itself, Mother Doriocourt is qualified to care for its history.”

Caroline: Donovan was the one that claimed she wasn’t reachable.

“The sheriff is certainly more knowledgeable than I as to his childe’s capabilities, I would suggest only that even Bishop Malveaux took an assistant in that task, and that it would not be remiss in continuing to cultivate future talent. Serving as Mother Doriocourt’s assistant might be a positive influence upon Ms. Gerlette and allow the more elder Kindred more freedom.”

As the discussion continues Caroline burns through vitae, knitting her cracked jaw, her smashed face.

GM: “Is Miss Gerlette able to serve in such a capacity?” the prince inquires.

“That is unknown, Your Majesty,” the Hussar answers. “Mr. Jenkins claimed she had attacked Scourge Meadows in vengeance for her slain coterie-mate. She believed that if another neonate had fought the scourge and survived to tell, it was within her means.”

Caroline: Not hardly, Caroline offers in bitter memory. The fight with Roxanne had been all-too one-sided, especially compared to that with Meadows. The memory of the scourge’s claws is more than skin deep.

GM: “Mr. Jenkin’s subsequent destruction at the scourge’s claws would suggest the Storyvilles aroused her ire.”

The words drip with disdain.

Caroline: “Ms. Gerlette was very far from a match for Scourge Meadows. The entire krewe is far from a match from her. If she attacked the scourge, especially with only half their strength, Ms. Gerlette would exist still only by her mercy or another’s intervention.” Caroline’s tone makes it very clear how unlikely she finds that idea.

GM: “There are worthier matters to investigate than another missing Storyville, my prince,” Donovan states dispassionately.

Caroline: “Certainly,” Caroline agrees.

Even her own feelings for the one among their number are a muted memory, especially here, now, in front of her sire.

GM: “The archives shall be overseen by Ms. Adler and Mother Doriocourt,” Vidal states. “If Miss Gerlette is found, she may serve in an assistive capacity.”

GM: “I would next speak of Miss Malveaux’s punishment, Your Majesty,” Donovan states.

“On what basis is this warranted?”

“Claire Malveaux was an asset under mine and Bishop Malveaux’s joint supervision. Her witch-hunters slew Your Majesty’s foes. We were neither informed nor consulted as to Miss Malveaux’s plans. Claire Malveaux has been prematurely lost to us as an asset. In our communications, she informed me of contingency plans to damage the Masquerade irreparably in the event of her death. These had stayed my hand until her plans could be verified and dismantled.”

Caroline: “Your majesty, you know better than any that by necessity, all arrangements with hunters must be short term—they inevitably become a blade without a hilt that bites deep their wielder. Claire Malveaux’s death was ordered by the seneschal himself, the manner given to me to arrange as proof of my loyalty. If there was additional guidance to stay my hand, it did not reach me.”

“Even had it not been so ordered, she played everyone for fools Your Majesty. Among her last words were declarations of her intent to stake and deliver me to Mr. Savoy for release after his ascension. She repeatedly conspired with Mr. Savoy to push me into his camp and only ever exposed a tiny portion of her knowledge, capabilities, or resources. Resources she actively devoted to undermining your rule. Those killed were among the most fanatical of the witch-hunters—mostly those infesting the police force. Others that remain are better suited for use or elimination now than ever before—many have already been identified.”

“Of course, if it is Your Majesty’s will that I should be punished, I am your humble servant. My actions were indeed without coordination with the sheriff. I know not what other measures she had in place, but the dismantling of the network she assembled remains among my highest priorities.”

GM: “Claire Malveaux’s death was ordered by Seneschal Maldonato. The implementation of that order was delegated to Sheriff Donovan and Bishop Malveaux, under whose supervision you were placed,” the prince states crisply. “Sheriff, select two retainers among Miss Malveaux’s retinue to slay.”

“Miss DeMatthews’ former servant and the Olympian,” Donovan replies coolly.

“Master, if I may speak, the sheriff’s time is occupied by many duties,” states the Hussar. “If it pleases you, I may dispatch the two in his stead.”

Caroline can see the glint in the scarred, burned man’s hooded eyes.

He wants to fight ‘the Olympian.’

“Do so,” Vidal states perfunctorily.

His gaze re-affixes upon his childe.

“I do not tolerate infighting. I do not tolerate insubordination. You will respect the archdiocese’s chain of command and your own place within it. If you cannot follow orders, you will not be trusted to issue them to others. Am I understood?”

Caroline: “Yes, Your Majesty,” Caroline replies stiffly. Execution of her servants. Murder, really. Cold hate smolders towards the sheriff, like a limb immersed in ice water. Petty.

It’s not the first time those in her service have died for her. It will not be the last, but the callousness of the sheriff in bringing the matter up is not something she shall forget.

Never mind that the sheriff excluded her from all matters to do with Claire. Never mind that he repeatedly antagonized her, even staked her.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Shouldn’t have to be this way.

GM: “I would raise one final matter, my liege, if you have no further orders for me,” Donovan states.

Caroline: For not the first time the memory of the sheriff staked, to be turned over to Savoy floats through her mind.

The seneschal was confident the blood bound ensured his loyalty, but Caroline has her doubts. She can think of no more ready agent to undermine the prince, and few ways his rule could have been more ill-served than by the sheriff’s increasingly monstrous reign of terror.

GM: “In this time of uncertainty, your servants’ obedience is paramount. I would renew my blood oath to you and ensure my loyalties can waver in neither thought nor deed.”

The prince stares upon his servant for a moment, then raises his wrist to his fangs.

Donovan kneels to drink, then rises.

The prince’s dark gaze smolders silently ahead.

He does not speak.

The sheriff does not speak.

The ghouls do not speak.

There is only silence interrupted by the scream of rain and wind against the massive window.

A bolt of lightning strikes overheard. The sudden flash starkly illuminates the hoary Ventrue’s utterly motionless face. It looks like a statue wrought by one of the old masters—the whitest marble contrasted by pitch shadows. All blacks. All whites.

And from those eternally burning eyes, nothing but black.

“Leave me.”

Donovan bows and silently departs with neither haste nor sloth nor backwards glance. His automaton face is as blank as his master’s is dark.

The ghouls follow in his wake.

Caroline: Caroline stares a moment longer, in longing perhaps, before turning to follow.

Whether or not the undead statue’s gaze follows her in turn she can’t say. But the image of those burning black eyes, alive with only hate, follows her for a long time.


Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, PM

Caroline: Caroline follows the others out the room, but calls out to Robert Congo when they are clear of it. “Mr. Congo.” When he pauses she stops a fair distance away. “I would speak with the seneschal, if he is available.”

The Ventrue has healed the worst of her wounds, but her jawline is still a mass of ugly purple bruises.

GM: “He is, madam.”

The ghoul escorts her to his master’s office. Maldonato indicates that she assume one of the seats across from his desk.

Caroline: She follows at a ‘healthy’ distance. For Congo.

“Seneschal Maldonato,” she greets the elder. Their relationship has always been complex. Perhaps never more so than now. There are so few secrets between them.

She takes the offered seat, pushing back a short distance from the table. Her fists are tightly clinched on her thighs, but her attention is clearly on the seneschal. She doesn’t try to hide the worry on her face.

“That was terrible, for him. These nights have been terrible for him.”

And for you, she doesn’t add, though her tone does.

“He stared after your departure. Just stared, for hours at where you had stood. Then tonight… he seems… done. Tired. Exhausted with everything. And when he spoke, no other would raise a voice to gainsay anything he wished.”

“Is this the future?” she asks.

GM: The Moorish elder assiduously regards Caroline from behind the oaken desk. He’s dressed tonight in a familiarly double-breasted gray suit with a pale blue necktie and gold cufflinks.

“Eternity’s rigors are great, Miss Malveaux, and the human mind is ill-suited to withstand them. Humans are cyclic beings. Days pass to nights. Spring passes to winter. A parent’s generation passes to their child’s. ‘To every thing, there is a season, and a time and purpose under Heaven.’

“Kindred are not human. The Requiem has no cycle: nights pass to days, and days pass to nights, but our minds do not register this passage of time. Sleep passes to wakefulness in an eyeblink. Yet we were once human, and we cannot so easily transcend the need for a cyclic existence. Torpor is how we satisfy this need. Rare is the Cainite who does not eventually succumb to its call.”

“Some Kindred fear the sleep of ages. To surrender to its call and remove ourselves from the world is to return to a cyclic existence where we are not eternal. It is to experience our own death in microcosm.”

“It is sleep but not sleep, where thoughts are sluggish as thick honey and take years to flow. It is a state where dreams and might-have-beens intercourse with true memories. It is a state where sounds and smells from the deepest recesses of one’s consciousness find their way to the surface again, but disturb the mind no more than a rose petal falling on a still pool of water. Time has no meaning; hunger has no meaning. There is no future. There is no past. There is but an endless and eternal now.”

“It is restful.”

“It is restorative.”

“It allows the dead to experience some measure of true death and be reborn again, as a living man might also after a long and rejuvenative sleep.”

“That is his future. His rest is long overdue.”

Caroline: “But not yet,” Caroline almost whispers. “He has work still to do… I fear for him, though. That as he is, he may become his own worst enemy.”

GM: “It is the way of things, Miss Malveaux, that there is always more work to do.”

Caroline: God, if that isn’t the truth.

“When does he get to rest?”

GM: “When he chooses to lay down his crown.”

Caroline: “He wanted to execute twenty Kindred. All their ghouls. All their mortal family. All their ghouls’ mortal family.”

GM: “All that was discernible to Mr. Congo was discernible to mine ears.”

“His rest is long overdue.”

Caroline: “What must we do then, to assure it?” she asks seriously, a hint of desperation in her voice.

GM: “He must first name you the heir to his throne. He has accepted you as his Blood and childe, but no more. One whose intended rule spans eternity has no need for an heir.”

Caroline: “He must be convinced, then, that I am worthy. Capable,” she fills in.

GM: “This fact must become reality and its truth self-evident to him,” Maldonato states in simultaneous agreement and correction.

“No ruler governs without the consent of those whom they govern. You are in need of friends and allies from within traditional halls of power, Miss Malveaux.”

Caroline: “Indeed,” Caroline answers bluntly.

She bites her lip, the added sensitivity from the bruising making the sensation all the more acute.

“I cannot be at war with his sheriff and also be his heir,” she says. “And buy-in from others is all but required—too many of whom I have unpleasant history with.”

“Might you offer any wisdom on either point, Seneschal?”

GM: “The sheriff desires your sire’s throne, Miss Malveaux. This fact has escaped the attentions of few in Elysium.”

“Of all the would-be claimants among your sire’s allies, his eventual praxis remains the most probable, even weighed against the loss of his most potent ally.”

Caroline: “He would appear to be a rare pillar remaining in the prince’s rule, to be treated as a rival,” Caroline answers with concern.

GM: “The greatest impediment to the sheriff’s ascension is your sire’s recalcitrance. Even were he inclined to surrender his throne, to do so to the childe of our foe would leave him ill at ease. Time has served to erode his inhibitions, and present circumstance might erode them further still, but the fact of your existence has strengthened them anew.”

Caroline: Caroline nods.

“Perhaps I lack the proper context, but it seemed to me his actions this night were not the actions of one eager to see a continuity of rule. I can think of no surer path towards the archdiocese fall than a tyrannical rampage—unfettered execution’s in mass.”

“By your strength and the prince’s, it may limp on, but deprived either, and with allies turned enemies by such wanton violence, it seems unlikely the Baron and Mr. Savoy both could be held off.”

GM: “If the attempted genocide of the Hidden Clan should come to pass, our combined strength may yet be insufficient to retain praxis over the city,” Maldonato answers gravely.

“That strength has waned over the past months even as our foes’ has waxed. There is a limit to how many losses we may endure. Mightier princes than your sire have lost their thrones.”

“However, you have done well in postponing that genocide. His mind may yet be swayed to milder courses of action in the interim.”

“Mercy shall not sway his mind, but proven actions to neutralize the clan’s threat may yet do so—such as the assistance of Primogen Opal’s clanmates in her removal, or the blaming of parties besides our prince for her demise.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “Tyranny without understanding breeds neither love nor respect. It is right that they should fear his judgment, but necessary too that they should perceive it as the prince’s justice, rather than his fury.”

“If I had my way, Primogen Opal’s actions would be exposed in the moment, naked in their treacherous duplicity. Her conspirators in the action facing immediate and effective judgment. But no further. A show of the prince’s strength, justice, and control. They should remember why he is worthy of both fear and respect.”

“Such an action would require all three to succeed.”

“Which brings me back to the question. From where might strength be best sought, if the sheriff is to set himself against me?”

“Or perhaps better stated, who that might be open to supporting the prince has cause to stand against Sheriff Donovan?”

“My thoughts trended first towards clan, where Regent McGinn presents powerful, if distasteful, potential, but judging from the sheriff’s response tonight, I expect him to be off the table. He also possesses significant ambitions of his own. Prince Guilbeau offers some similar potential, but there were the concerns raised as to him when I was presented to my sire.”

“Among the Sanctified, the sheriff stands in high regard likely to only grow as his childe assumes the title of bishop. She may lack the spiritual authority of Bishop Malveaux, the appearance of power remains power, and there are few other contenders.”

“Only Father Elgin remains that might command significant respect, and my sire is likely to look ill upon further cultivation of that relationship. On the other hand, cultivation of him—and other loyalists among the Hidden Clan—might suffice to encourage a staying of my sire’s hand when the time comes.”

“That leaves mostly outliers not firmly committed elsewhere. Primogen Poincaré and Duquette spring most readily to mind, though the former has his own ambitions and the latter her own reservations, I’ve enjoyed… pleasant relations with each.”

“And Mr. Matheson, who is much the mystery to me.”

“And of course, any I’ve missed or misjudged.”

GM: “All Kindred of standing possess flaws and ambitions, Miss Malveaux, and all the more so in this climate of uncertainty. To desire allies with neither is to be lonely for allies indeed.”

“Regent McGinn’s distasteful qualities are well-known, nor are we we ignorant of Mr. Guilbeau’s complicity in past crimes. Yet a Gerousia that afforded seats to neither of them would be lonely for members indeed.”

“Your counsel was rejected on the demerits of its means rather than its ends. To demand that any sire initiate a childe into a covenant of the prince’s choosing is to abrade the sire’s pride and advertise the prince’s weakness. It is implicit in the promise of a childe’s creation that one may mold the fledgling to one’s will.”

“Your sire’s hand may be stayed against the Hidden Clan if and only if its members demonstrate their loyalty to him through support against Primogen Opal. Such aid is easier requested than enlisted, for she is more than merely their primogen. She is their mother. I believe Mr. Cartwright the least loyal to his clanmates and easily bought off with Regent McGinn’s aid. Primogen Opal’s other blood descendants shall never consent to aid Prince Vidal against their ancestor and would likely follow her to the Baron’s camp even without our prince’s decree, so their slaughter harms us not. Father Elgin may be possible to sway. Few Kindred save Scourge Meadows have ever considered him as more than the unpresuming host, nor sought to understand his desires and ambitions. These remain abstruse to me. Regent Sundown might best be neutralized through token offers of covert aid that satisfy the prince without threatening the former’s apolitical status, yet so fine a line may be difficult to tread. Father Marrow might also be approached on the basis of shared faith. His association with the Baron has obscured his name in the eyes of many Sanctified.”

“Among the Sanctified, there are many actors beyond those whom you have named. Their support is essential if you are to be a credible heir to our prince and alternative to the sheriff. Primogen of other clans and covenants have little cause to support a Kindred who cannot command her own covenant’s loyalty.”

“Scourge Meadows is the first Sanctified whom I would make amends with, for reasons practical as well as political. She is no dumb beast and may make a second attempt on your unlife under more favorable circumstances. For all her faults, the scourge has drunk from our prince as deeply as you, and her actions remain a net benefit to the Church Eternal.”

“Yet she has still left our prince’s service and answers to no master but her own interpretation of the archdiocese’s laws. Were she returned to the fold by the efforts of our prince’s childe, such a deed would at once uplift your name and grant hope for the covenant’s future. Miss Malveaux might be shown to unite as well as divide—and there is no little symbolism in a scion of the Kingship Clan bringing a Gangrel to heel. Every ruler requires a dog at their side. Few dogs are so feared as Caitlin Meadows. Only the sheriff’s name inspires equal dread among our enemies.”

“Seek out why she has left our prince’s service. Perhaps therein may lie the answer to her return. Hound Agnello or her other childer might aid in such an endeavor.”

“Yet a prince’s scion must have allies beyond dogs. Primogen Hurst, Mr. Harrison, Hound Wright, Deacon LaCroix, Mr. Pacuad, those further neonates of lesser name and achievement—without the support of the covenant’s rank and file, your rule shall end before it might ever begin. It is on the backs of such Kindred as Father Polk that lasting praxis is built. Kindred who faithfully carry out orders and aspire to little higher. The sheriff has allies beyond Mother Doriocourt and Deacon Benson, but these are not so immutable in their loyalties.”

“Any Kindred must first win allies among their own age and standing if they are to aspire to ones of higher station. Cainites of mine years have always viewed neonates who seek our exclusive company with contempt. They are as your mortal family regard the ‘noveau riche’ who pretend above their station.”

“This is why I have planned for a 70-year regency to permit you time to establish yourself among the Camarilla, to come more fully into your Blood’s power, and to facilitate a smoother political transition from one regime to the next. The Requiem of Chicago’s Prince Jackson has spanned 30 years and he insists he is master of his destiny. For so long as elders of comparable vintage to mine own reside in his city, I do not believe this claim.”

Seventy years, Caroline recalls from her lessons with Becky Lynne, is the age at which the Lancea et Sanctum (and by extension, much of the city at large) considers a neonate to have (at least nominally) become an ancilla: a mirror number of the biblically allotted years of a mortal man’s life, spent instead in darkness.

“All of these connections shall be facilitated by the growth of your domain and associated mortal holdings. I advise you to personally see to as many details as is feasible tonight. I shall aid in that domain’s expansion where I may, as shall your sire. He too desires the material success and prosperity of his childe.”

Caroline: Caroline takes in the cynical commentary as to the rest of the Gerousia without great comment, though she does stop to inquire as to whether the seneschal believes either of the older Ventrue present attractive allies in his mind, and whether he has any thoughts as to the merits of them. Of the two, she judges McGinn to be significantly more powerful, but also more dangerous, while Guilbeau alienates fewer others by his nature and has a ‘relief’ system as it were, with his desire to retake his city.

She largely agrees with Maldonato in so far as the Hidden Clan—she’s seen no sign they might break ranks. She fears without such an overt breaking, or significant value added, that her sire is unlikely to chance his course.

Meadows is an interesting idea she hadn’t concerned, but it certainly seems to catch her interest. She inquires as to whether he might point her in the direction of a starting place for such an endeavor, or if there is a best way to approach the scourge.

She takes the rebuke as to cultivating relationships only with older Kindred for what it is: intended well despite its pointedness. She inquires specifically whether she thinks Hound Wright might be swayed from the sheriff’s influence.

She comments about the theological significants of the seneschal’s decision of seventy years before observing that whatever her regency—and with seventy years the prince might well have risen from torpor by its conclusion—they do not have seventy years to convince the prince of her worthiness, nor seventy years to gain allies and influence sufficient to hold off pretenders immediately (even if she takes that time to grow into her full influence).

Even with the seneschal as regent and prince in all but name, she does not expect her sire to lay down if she is unable to establish herself, nor others to refrain from potentially lethal infighting even within the prince’s loyalists.

GM: Maldonato believes all of the Gerousia to be allies worth cultivating. “It was by your sire’s will they ascended to that body’s ranks.”

Caroline: She inquires more specifically if there are any allies that he would specifically suggest she avoid for reasons she might not otherwise immediately realize.

GM: He corrects Caroline’s misinterpretation and repeats that there are Nosferatu whose loyalties he believes might be swayed. It is Miss Opal’s direct descendants, with the exception of Randolph Cartwright, whom he considers a futile cause.

She might start with any of three Meadows’ childer, or perhaps the scourge’s other clanmates. The Gangrel clan also holds periodic gatherings known as ‘things’ where fights are frequent but rarely to the death.

Caroline: She observes that there are few enough not from her line—but more lightheartedly than in an attempt to correct the elder.

Caroline inquires as to whether such Gangrel gatherings are ‘welcoming’ to outsiders, or more closed as are Ventrue.

GM: “Primogen Opal has six known surviving descendants within the archdiocese, including Mr. Cartwright. At least five further Nosferatu who do not share her bloodline also reside within the archdiocese.” Maldonato’s face is utterly without levity at Caroline’s remark. “You are fortunate to have erred in mine presence, Miss Malveaux. Such nescience would cost have cost you face before other Kindred of standing.”

Caroline: Any hint of levity goes out like a candle snuffed out on a moonless night. “Thank you for the correction, Seneschal. I had meant only to convey that her line was one of the most prolific in the city—perhaps the most prolific outside of Primogen Chastain.”

“I can understand how poorly that might be received if spoken so carelessly.”

GM: “Mother Iyazebel’s line eclipses Primogen Opal’s in size by some half-dozen Kindred. Bishop Constantine’s line also exceeds the primogen’s by one descendant. The devil may lie in the details, but so too does truth.”

“The line is middling in size relative to the other clans’. It is its members’ devotion to their matriarch that distinguishes it.”

“Yet that devotion is sufficiently powerful as to influence perceptions, as evidenced by your own assumption. One must strive to see facts as they are and not as others would mispresent them.”

Caroline: Caroline tilts her head. “Ah, you’re including those beyond the city or destroyed, Seneschal.”

“I suppose they must be more ingrained in your mind more uniquely than mine, having a Requiem that spanned their own. Still, the point is well taken as to specificity of language in such conversations, especially among those who have seen so many years.”

GM: As to Hound Wright, while Maldonato does believe him loyal to the sheriff, he also believes those loyalties more mutable than his childe’s or Deacon Benson’s. The Brujah might be swayed by her.

As to the matter of her sire’s torpor, Pearl Chastain’s lasted some 80 years and was not her first (nor even second). Maldonato’s first torpor lasted approximately 120 years, when he was centuries younger and his blood thinner than Vidal’s is now. There are Cainites of greater age and thicker blood whose slumbers span centuries, even millennia. Ultimately, it is impossible for any Kindred to know how long Vidal’s torpor will last—“save perhaps the Agonistes. Fortuna is an unreliable ally, Miss Malveaux. I make no plans around what I cannot predict.” Maldonato’s operating assumption is that her sire’s sleep will last indefinitely.

Maldonato replies that he would not have suggested the Gangrel’s things as a potential inroad with Meadows if he believed them nonviable. The Beast Clan is more open to the presence of outsiders than the Ventrue, yet they ascribe to their own customs, traditions, and form of honor (“they are more than feral beasts”). They are also far less shy than the Kingship Clan in expressing offense in a directly physical manner. Caroline would be well-served to arrive in the company of an established clanmate as a guest—and to expect a fight even if she causes no offense. Fighting is one of a thing’s typical activities.

Caroline: Yes, because the last time I was sent to meet someone without guidance ended so well. Caroline bites back the acerbic thought of her meeting with Matheson in response to the seneschal’s critique of her questioning.

GM: Doubtless her present audience would be utterly without sympathy.

Caroline: “As to domain, and this night, should I confine my activities to Perdido House tonight, and in the foreseeable future?”

GM: “I would make preparations to do so, Miss Malveaux. You may venture beyond Perdido House, but beware your safety if you choose to.”

“Nevertheless, your doing so may prove propitious. You may assist the sheriff’s efforts to preserve the Masquerade in the wake of your mortal mother’s death.”

Maldonato provides Caroline with Donovan’s ‘work’ phone number, along with the usual cautionary on telecommunications security. The expectation seems clear that whether they like each other or not, they are working together now.

If requested, he provides contact information for other Sanctified Kindred.

He also raises the matter of granting Caroline an expanded domain. It is better if she receives such an award before her lineage is publicly revealed, for it will not do to foster the impression that she owes all she has to her sire’s names alone.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite twitch at the naming of Claire as her mother, but ancient Moor is far too practiced a watcher of people to believe her unaffected by it. Still, she bites her tongue and addresses the matter he’s brought before her.

“I’ve made no secret of my interest in the courts, and recently began cultivating some influence locally with Primogen Duquette’s permission. Opportunities to make positive use of that influence and cultivate more would tie into what I’ve already cultivated as well. The firm will need restructuring, but also stands alone. The Giani Building has its appeal to me, but ultimately nothing I built there need be more than temporary.”

“The Malveaux family, obviously, as expressed before my sire. The influence there is significant and widespread even in the city. I should think maintaining those quite a challenge if I am to be sequestered here for a time.”

“There’s also a small section of the Garden District that I also have my eye on,” she alludes to.

GM: “Your safety may be guaranteed nowhere, Miss Malveaux, only ameliorated,” Malonato answers gravely.

“Political circumstance, however, may prove a more efficacious shield than force of arms. Not a one of Prince Vidal’s prior heirs were ever publicly acknowledged as his intended successor. Your station may both attract and repel attempts upon your unlife.”

“Expanding your protective detail may thus prove a sagacious use of your resources, now that your ghouls number two fewer. The childer of Washington D.C.’s Prince Vitel are protected at all times by agents of the Secret Service. I believe they have found the investment in vitae to have amply repaid itself.”

Maldonato clarifies, however, that he was referring to a territorial grant of domain rather than a specific sector of kine society to grant Caroline domain over (though he is pleased to hear she has established a working relationship with one of the city’s primogen). He inquires as to what physical areas of the Central Business District she feels herself “most capable of assuming stewardship over.”

“If you are inquiring as to your adoptive mother’s home, Miss Malveaux, such a grant of domain would be wholly titular,” the seneschal answers the matter of the Garden District. “Few are the Kindred who would not find their designs frustrated should they seek to claim the Walter Robinson House or its occupants for their own. Though a prince’s word may grant domain rights, power and cunning alone doth make such a claim reality.”

Caroline: There’s a flash of anger at the idea that another Kindred might presume to claim her family. Their designs frustrated? How about their havens burned. Their kine gutted in the streets and every Kindred in their line extinguished. Some wars are worth fighting.

She buries that thought as deeply as she can, turning over the suggestion of a geographic domain within the Central Business District.

“I’m most familiar—and established immediate area around the Giani Building. I’d notionally pitch a block in either direction, but you’d be committing almost half of what was former Hound Agnello’s domain in so doing, and that’s unlikely to earn me any long term good will from the hound, and would also place me squared up against the domain of Mr. Savoy.”

“Sitting on the corner of Canal Street had its benefits when I was fence sitting, but I have no illusions as to my ability to withstand any hostilities he could bring to bare.”

She shakes her head. “The Giani Building was convenient when I was under Hound Agnello’s influence, but my commitments to it are not so deep as to blind me to its strategic weakness.”

GM: “Hound Agnello’s domain is not being held in abeyance pending its former owner’s improvement in standing. The domain is a prosperous one and shall be awarded to any other Kindred whom I deem a worthy steward. Interested individuals have already sought to curry my favor.”

Maldonato agrees with Caroline that the Giani Building’s location is less secure than a domain further away from the French Quarter. However, he does not consider that to be so bad a thing. Savoy has made repeated attempts to expand into Vidal’s territory, and the prince into Savoy’s. Kindred vassals fight these battles on their behalf. The seneschal does not consider such a role unbecoming of the prince’s childe. She will be expected to carry her weight in the faction and to help fight its battles. The operative question is whether that is best done through her physical domain or other avenues.

Caroline: “I would never gainsay your right to dispense with your domain as you see fit, Seneschal. I would only observe that if my own influence might have bearing on Hound Agnello’s renaissance, such a thing might have value for all parties. Vice the alternative, that the new stewardship of his former domain be a barb between us other parties could exploit.”

GM: “Such a barb will exist between Hound Agnello and other Kindred to receive his former domain, Miss Malveaux. Failing the hound’s immediate return to favor in mine eyes, he must reconcile himself to the fact that his territorial holdings shall pass to another.”

Maldonato also raises the related question of whether she wishes to relocate her law firm to a floor on Perdido House. The prince and his lieutenants obviously spend much of their time in the building. Moving the firm there will better integrate it, and Caroline, into the flow of the prince’s operations. (She should also expect much of her future legal work to relate to Vidal’s and his lieutenants’ assorted enterprises.) The firm itself will also benefit from the building’s considerable security. However, Caroline is the firm’s owner and better aware of its needs than anyone else, so the final decision is hers.

Caroline: She chews on that idea. “I’d originally intended to keep it largely independent, in the belief that it would be more approachable to Kindred perhaps… intimidated by Perdido House. But then my understanding of my role here was more opaque.”

She runs her tongue across her fangs.

“Much, I believe, depends on what the threats to my Requiem are, Seneschal, and how they might best be combated. The lengths gone through to remove prior heirs are clear, but how such pitfalls might be avoided moving forward is less so to me. Shall I set my ghouls to adding to my retinue, or leave Perdido House only in secret, or at the greatest urgency? I don’t imagine any of the three to be the plan—none project strength for either the archdiocese or myself. And yet, I imagine the threats to my Requiem will only grow once publicly acknowledged.”

GM: “Threats must be met, Miss Malveaux, by either strength or guile, and no prince may rule by the latter alone. An eternally cloistered childe shall earn the respect of none.”

“I would find it prudent to expand your ghouls’ retinue. I would find it prudent to relocate your law firm to a more secure location, given the dangers posed to your Requiem, in absence of any compelling reason to do otherwise.”

“I do not consider independence from your sire to be a desirable state of affairs. Nor do I consider dependence upon your sire to be a preferable alternative. Interdependence is the state you must achieve if your futures are to end in aught but tragedy.”

“Sheriff Donovan’s and mine own domains are closely linked to Prince Vidal’s, and his to ours. The value of this relationship exceeds that of any relationships you might form with Kindred lowly enough in station to be discomforted by Perdido House. Though it behooves any sovereign to be loved by their subjects, their foremost duty is to rule.”

Caroline: “Verily,” Caroline agrees.

“Strength is precisely the question. I’m as strong as any childe of this millennium in the city,” she states as fact. “But I don’t expect my foes to be neonates off the street. With guile I have stood against even far older Kindred at places of my choosing. But I labor under no illusions as to the limits of my strength.”

“A balance to be struck, as in all things. Between prudence and the appearance of weakness.”

The heiress doesn’t argue with the seneschal. Indeed, she agrees that relocating the firm to Perdido House as too many advantages to ignore. Doubly so if she’ll retain the ability to interact with it while under her sire’s tutelage.

As the topic shifts back to possible domains, she identifies several likely areas, each several blocks, as promising candidates based on their demographics, useful services she might coopt there, or prospects for their development.

None of them border the French Quarter. “I am not afraid of defending a domain against Mr. Savoy, but if this is to be a domain prior to my recognition, and I am to hold it during my sire’s promised education, I think it wiser that it have more inherent stability.”

GM: Maldonato listens patiently to each one.

The block around O’Keefe and Poydras, though somewhat large for a neonate of her years, is acceptable to him. Caroline may deal with poachers due to the relatively good feeding for the CBD and its close location to Storyville (the local name for the Rack rather than the former neighborhood).

The seneschal seems more interested, though, by the prospective domain she identifies near City Hall—specifically, its legal institutions. Vidal will, unsurprisingly, not surrender the former, but will pass the DA’s office into her hands, along with the adjacent Civil District Court and First City Court.

Some of the land to the east could also be hers, which includes some bars, restaurants, and similar establishments. It is less hunting than along O’Keefe and Poydras, however.

At present, Maldonato does not wish to issue a large enough grant of domain to be the subject of speculation at Elysium. He is amenable to issuing a larger grant once the truth of her identity is made known. Caroline’s immediate grant should thus be one that she may best serve her sire by having additional time to cultivate.

Caroline: She wants the DA’s office and District Court, but observes to have anything meaningful beyond it would require a massive geographic grant—to the east are mandated parking lots for the civil institutions, to the north is Tulane Medical, to the south is Perdido House, and to the west is largely industrial wasteland, so far as Kindred are concerned.

She observes that with already wide ranging grants from her sire, a geographic base might make more sense—and raise fewer eyebrows than a grant of a major institution, which could come with official acknowledgment.

GM: Maldonato does not believe it will raise overly much suspicion when Caroline is uniquely qualified to manage that institution on the prince’s behalf. There are no other Sanctified attorneys, after all, and such a sign of Vidal’s trust could raise her standing in the eyes of other Kindred.

Nevertheless, he concurs that such a grant of domain may still occur later, if Caroline wishes to develop the area around O’Keefe first.

Caroline: Caroline does not swim against the current: she can see readily enough the seneschal’s interest. So long as she is permitted to maintain her hexis over the Giani Building, she sees well enough the symbolic and practical value in dominion over the court and DA’s office.

GM: “Arrangements shall be made,” Maldonato states. Caroline would be well-served to use any remaining time tonight, after she has rendered aid in whatever efforts to maintain the Masquerade the sheriff enlists her for, to begin laying groundwork for her hold over the legal system.

Caroline: More to do. Thankfully, she already has plans drawn up for that eventuality.

She bites her lip. “There’s another, more personal matter, Seneschal.”

GM: “Proceed, Miss Malveaux.”

Caroline: “Ms. Baker has not taken our… split… well. I had hoped…”

She pauses, wrestling with the memory of Jocelyn’s charred body, of her tears at Caroline’s words. Of the sick thump the stake had made when Caroline drove it through her lover’s chest.

I guess there was more there than the bond after all, she admits.

She continues, “Time away from the city might do her well. I had hoped the means to contact her sire might be available.”

GM: The seneschal frowns gravely.

Caroline: The frown is like a slap.

It’s a selfish request. A petty one. A poor use of the archdioceses resources.

And to make it of him in the shadow of his own lover’s banishment must sting.

But she cares. And she doesn’t know what else to do. Keep Jocelyn staked in her basement indefinitely? Just let her immolate herself?

GM: “We are less than one hour departed from your sire’s audience, Miss Malveaux, and already you bring me news of further strife among our covenant’s house?”

Caroline: “The opposite, in fact, Seneschal,” Caroline answers quietly.

GM: “Elucidate, Miss Malveaux.”

Caroline: Caroline’s face hardens. She spits out the answer clinically. “She wished that I wipe her memory of our fight over the thin-blood’s Embrace. After we split she fell into depression and later tried to immolate herself if we could not be together.”

GM: Maldonato raises a forestalling hand.

“Enough. I care not who authored your quarrels with Miss Baker, only for the fact they are unresolved. No longer will I suffer to hear the name Caroline Malveaux associated with strife and disunity among the Sanctified. That era is finished. Though I have vested much trust in you, do not believe me so temarious as to gamble the archdiocese’s future upon the actions of a single neonate. Other avenues yet remain should my trust prove unworthy.”

“If you desire my aid or counsel in resolving your quarrels with Miss Baker, I shall render it. But I shall not facilitate her removal from the city and pull yet another stone, however small, from your sire’s crumbling house. More is expected of you now, Miss Malveaux. You may may end or continue your personal relationship with Miss Baker as you see fit, but you shall ensure she remains our prince’s obedient subject by our next meeting.”

Caroline: The words leave Caroline feeling hollow, as though she’s experiencing an out of body experience, all the world distant.

Foolish, to think the seneschal would care about a neonate, beyond her use to the archdiocese.

Foolish to, to believe there might be a miracle fix to the problem, someone that could simply carry Jocelyn away to a better Requiem.

Foolish, to put her own feelings, what’s left of her tattered conscience, ahead of her fa—her sire’s needs.

The words that leave her lips feel as though they cannot possible travel the enormous distance between herself and the ancient Moor.

“By your will, Seneschal,” she acquiesces.


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