“I say we…”
—Nico Cimpreon and Conroy Westphal
Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, PM
GM: “Two ghouls for the pack ductus and priest, and their attack plan in tatters,” Westphal says past a split lip. There’s blood over his face from somewhere. “A worthy trade.”
“The rest of the pack will withdraw once they’re finished with the shadows and shovelheads. Maybe they’re already doing so. The elder is a lot cause for them at this point.” He sneers into the rear view mirror.
Cimpreon nods as he drives. The worst gashes across his chest are healed, but he’s still bleeding over the seat. “We’ll check the road ahead for IEDs. No sense bustin’ our asses here just to let the convoy get fuckin’ blown up.”
Caroline: Caroline sits in silence for a moment, letting them celebrate as she plays out events in her mind, looking for the details she might have missed while they’re fresh in her mind.
It helps take her mind off the body’s wounds.
“Where did the wolves come from?” she finally asks. “And the grenades.”
GM: “Bropaply a Gangrel, or anozher fiend,” says Mahmoud. “Any clan zhat can control animals. Or any backmate who’s bicked up zhat trick.”
“Pack was armed to the teeth,” says Cimpreon. “Grenades aren’t a surprise.”
“You think there was a third party,” Westphal quickly deduces. “How fortunate that we’ve taken the pack’s senior leadership captive. They can answer whether the wolves and grenades could have come from their packmates.”
Cimpreon nods. “After we’ve wrung them for info. I say we…”
“…eat them,” Westphal finishes with a very nasty smile. “There’s two of them and four of us. Enough to go around without too great a loss.”
Mahmoud pricks the monster’s corpse and dabs its blood against her tongue.
“Mmm. Decently strong. Bropaply a diablerist himself.”
She glances at Caroline. “Your soul’s in zhat pody. I zhink you’ll pe aple to enjoy zhe sboils too, with anozher sbell, even if it won’t taste as good.”
“I’d say our fearless leader should get first pick,” smiles Cimpreon. “You want your half of the keeper or the fiend?”
Caroline: A decision made as a foregone conclusion.
A test or an opportunity? How closely is the seneschal watching even now?
GM: Hunger merely glints in the three’s eyes.
Caroline: Does denying them seem weak? Does partaking invite disaster and condemnation? A delicate rope to walk under the best circumstances.
“The Camarilla,” she pauses and grins through her pain, “frowns on diablerie.”
That’s an understatement.
GM: Westphal gives a humorless laugh.
“They frown on the neonates doing it. If their elders are like ours, they’ve all done it. They’re just scared they’ll be next if we develop a taste.”
Caroline: “All the same,” she offers. “Worth considering the alternative. If the intention is to show value and strength, it’s harder to frame this victory for them if the story ends with ‘and then we ate them, but this was what they said,’ than it is with a ‘live’ prisoner.”
She hasn’t said no. Doesn’t know that she wants to say no. This is a rare opportunity, if one fraught.
God, she knows she doesn’t want to say no. Remembers too vividly the raw sexual and existential ecstasy of the bishop’s destruction in a way that sends goosebumps up the mortal skin she wears.
Mother? She reaches out through the inky black line attached to her heart.
GM: Caroline feels that black line yearningly tingle, but there is no immediate response. She will have to push hard to make herself heard from so far away.
“Okay. So we eat them after the elder sees them,” says Cimpreon. “We risked our asses for them. Makes it our right.”
“We’ll let her see them staked. We’ll share what we want to share ourselves.”
“Discourage any talking.”
“Or we eat one now and save the other one for later,” says Westpal. “Just in case.”
Caroline: “Better the priest if that route is chosen.” Caroline offers, “but it’s worth recalling the system that would make their diablerie a crime worthy of your own destruction is the one you aspire to.”
She continues soberly, “At some point that contradiction must be confronted.”
“Whatever the kine agitators in the U.S. might advocate among their own kind, I do not expect the Camarilla’s elders to accept what they view as criminal at best as ‘cultural heritage’ they must ignore or even embrace.” There’s more than a bit of humor to her tone.
She tries to keep the amused smile on her face when the connection to her mother remains dull and throbbing. Maybe it’s because of the possession, perhaps due to distance.
Whatever the case, it’s easy to grow so accustomed to something, to view it as a constant. She feels like a child deprived of their nightlight or blanket.
GM: “Kid’s got a point,” says Cimpreon. “All those old fucks are diablerists themselves.”
Caroline: “Hypocrisy among the mighty is not exclusive to Kindred or kine,” she agrees.
She clings to the ‘practical’ argument like a woman dangling over a yawing chasm. To let go would be to fall oh so quickly.
Caroline doubts though that most in the same circumstance are dangling over a pit of pleasure and power that whispers to them like an old friend.
“Either way, let’s see what they have to say first,” she suggests.
GM: “Suppose we need to,” shrugs Cimpreon. He looks over the staked monster splayed out in the back seat.
“Cut off his limbs and put out his eyes,” says Westphal.
“Read my mind,” agrees Cimpreon.
Mahmoud looks vaguely impatient, but doesn’t press.
Cimpreon parks the car. He takes out a knife and starts to saw. The knife is an inefficient took for the job. Cimpreon needs to grasp the creature’s bone joints, after the muscle is gone, and break them apart. Westphal stabs out the creature’s eyes.
“Store the ductus in the other car,” he orders the surviving Blackwatch ghoul. “If one gives us false information I don’t want the other able to repeat the same story.”
The ghoul does so. With their captive so mutilated, Cimpreon pulls out the stake. The monster reverts to its ‘human’ form. A hiss of pain escapes the priest’s lipless gray mouth.
Caroline: The Ventrue stops them short of stabbing out the eyes, instead blindfolding him for now. “You can’t pry information from him that way?” she asks.
She stares on pitilessly as they saw off the priest’s arms and legs. The image of his victims is too fresh in her mind.
GM: “I don’t know that power,” Westphal grudgingly admits.
Caroline: “We all have our limits,” she agrees.
GM: Westphal just looks sour at that remark. “I’ve acquired other powers of the same potency. They were better uses of my time.”
“That kinda mindfucking’s pretty limited at intel gathering, anyway,” shrugs Cimpreon.
“But if you know it, can’t hurt. I was just gonna take this asshole apart until he talked.”
The Tzimisce’s expression is one of utter disdain.
Caroline: “Some of it,” Caroline agrees with Cimpreon. “But it’s possible to place them in a state in which they are able to affirm or deny specific statements.”
“And that can be very useful for fact checking broader claims.”
GM: “Ask away then. This guy ain’t goin’ anywhere.”
Caroline can all but feel the vampire’s hatred behind the blindfold.
Caroline: She looks down at the maimed vampire. “The next few minutes may be your last. How much you value them and whatever else your words might buy you should guide your answers.”
Caroline: “Who are you?” she demands.
Caroline: “I have two captives. I need only one. You would rather your name die with you?” she inquires.
GM: “He knows we’re just gonna eat his soul,” says Cimpreon. “What he’d do if he were us.”
Caroline: “And yet one of them might yet be spared—or at least buy more time—with even a bit of cooperation,” Caroline notes. She lets the observation hang for a moment. “I thought he’d be fiercer.”
GM: Cimpreon shrugs. “Sabbat are fanatics. They don’t expect mercy.”
“Only times I’ve seen them talk are under mindfucking and torture.”
The Tzimisce remains silent.
Caroline: “I don’t think that’s it,” Caroline answers. “I think he’s a coward. He knows once he starts talking he won’t be able to stop.”
GM: The fiend does not rise to the bait. The same haughty contempt and simmering hate etches the alien face.
Caroline: “Oh, you think you know something of pain? Of stoicism? Of meeting your end with some kind of dignity? You think you deserve that?” The shorter blade slips free of its sheath and finds a new one in the fiend’s groin.
“Give me a lighter,” she demands.
It seems fitting that if he will be spared the fires of Hell that he should endure them here.
GM: The Tzimisce’s jaw clenches hard enough to crack teeth as a furious hiss escapes his lips.
A lighter finds its way into Caroline’s hands.
Caroline: “Have water ready. We don’t want the pain in the now to spare him the fun later.”
The fire comes to life in her hands, such a small thing, but she applies it to the underside edge of the blade still impaled in the fiend.
The smell of burning flesh fills the air as his balls cook, and as the blade inside him heats.
“It stops when you want it to,” she tells the field.
GM: All of the vampires’ Beasts instinctively rear at the fire’s presence, however tiny and controlled.
But none of them have that fire inside of them.
The blasphemous priest stoically endures the pain at first. The low growl emanating from his throat steadily increases in volume. He eventually half-laughs, half-rasps out a contemptuous, “Children…”
Perhaps they may be, next to his clan.
But he’s not the one inflicting pain. He’s the one receiving it.
Ferris once told Caroline that everyone breaks under torture eventually.
The blade grows hotter, burning the vampire up inside, tormenting his immobilized Beast. His genitals roast until he can endure no longer. The fiend finally gives out a hissed,
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite snarl in satisfaction as he suffers, but it’s there.
Evil. Real evil suffering, being punished for what it has sowed. The images of the men, women, and children in terror play behind he eyes as he slowly burns. Children not only murdered, but callously damned with their curse, fated for Hell.
She doesn’t snap the lighter shut immediately when he caves, but does after a moment.
Her voice is steady. “How did you receive information about the elder? From whom?”
GM: “Sp… spy, her retinue…”
Caroline: “Name,” Caroline demands without pity. She snaps the lighter open again.
GM: “Clara… Bühl.”
Caroline: “Does she know you’re attack is coming?”
Caroline: “How many other packs are coming?”
GM: “More… arrive every night… Camarilla bitch…”
Caroline: That brings a smile to her face.
“How many other packs are here for the elder tonight,” she clarifies.
GM: “Just… us.”
Caroline: “Your name, and that of your leader,” she demands.
GM: “Marceli Sierakowski. Julián Cambeiro.”
Caroline: She looks to the others in the group.
“Is there anything else you would know?”
GM: “Got just about all I’d ask,” says Cimpreon.
“Always,” says Westphal. “From him? Little at present.”
“Yust how he’ll taste,” says Mahmoud.
Caroline: Caroline gathers herself. “Well then.”
The lights don’t actually get dimmer, or the shadows deeper, but one could be forgiven for believing they have as something unseen gathers within her. The hair on the arms and the back of the necks of the ghouls present rises as she leans in, hatred rolling off her in waves.
Caroline wonders how many he’s destroyed so utterly for his ends. Not only killed—God knows she is a murderer—but terrorized for no greater purpose than his amusement before consigning them to damnation. She knows this was not the first time.
She can’t give life back to the beast’s victims: giving is not within the scope of the powers given to a monster like herself. She can’t spare them the hellfire that awaits them: sparing is not within the bounds her own Beast places upon her.
No, the gifts she has are cursed, and it is curses she has to give. Terror and pain, and ultimately defeat. The former she has given the other vampire, but she has one more to offer. One final blow, to his pride, to his perverse dreams and aspirations, to his spirit.
Looking down on his broken body, she knows she can break one more thing: his will.
She looms over the creature and in one smooth motion tears the blindfold from him even as her eyes meet his, boring into them, seeking to crush what is left of him.
GM: The fiend’s one remaining eye is a clear, pale gray thing. Compared to the rest of him, it’s downright human-looking.
There’s no remorse.
Just simmering hate and contempt.
Then the Ventrue’s will comes down on his, and that all glazes over.
Caroline: “Did you lie to me about your spy within the elder’s retinue?” she demands.
GM: “Yes,” the Tzimisce answers sleepily.
“Hmph. This is why you interrogate multiple captives,” sniffs Westphal.
Caroline: Caroline tunes out Westphal, keeping her will focused on the monster before her. Losing her focus could be a deadly proposition.
“Do you have a spy within the elder’s retinue?”
GM: “No,” comes the sleepy answer.
Caroline: She grits her teeth. “Did a Lasombra spy provide information about the elder to you?”
Caroline: “Is the spy among those gathered here?”
Thinly knowing smiles greet that question from the three Lasombra.
Caroline: “Is the spy located in Africa?” Her will presses down on the monster.
Caroline: “Do you know of additional packs here tonight to attack the elder beyond your own?” Arguably the most important question.
Caroline: She feels her hold on him begin to waver, like a wave at its apex, having built to its peak with nowhere to go but crashing down. What had been a smooth, almost effortless, hold over him beginning to pull and strain, his own cowering Beast perhaps rising to the occasion, forcing her to feed more and more into her own to keep it at bay.
She slams a hand down, covering his remaining eye and breaking the contact, with the gentleness of a punch in the face and lets out a breath the body didn’t know it was holding in.
“You’re right about one thing, you lying piece of shit,” she snarls, riding the wave of her own Beast. “They are going to tear apart your soul and eat it. It’s sort of a shame, because you deserve to burn in Hell, but you’ll have to settle for nameless but total oblivion as they rip you into pieces.”
She pulls the blindfold back into place and looks at Westphal and Mahmoud.
“He’s yours,” she offers, nursing the hand that she struck him with. She forgot how fragile mortal bodies could be, but this night is full of reminders.
GM: Throaty laughter sounds from the blinded fiend.
“I expect no less, Camarilla bitch. I would do the same to any of them. I accept what has happened here… but do you?”
A sneer twists the alien face.
“Do you care for the kine who died tonight? Do their deaths touch you… do they move you to righteous anger? Oh, childe, know that I have killed more times than I can count, and many of those deaths were not so merciful as the quick affair you saw tonight. Or perhaps it is these kine’s transformations into a superior species that so offends you, you who despise what you are? Ah, childe, know that I die content, if that is what angers you so. I have performed many mass Embraces and have many childer. My pack survives. My pack and my Blood will perform many more mass Embraces in the future… your actions tonight have changed nothing…”
Caroline: The words cut her more deeply than she lets on, than the fiend can see behind his blindfold.
Reckless hate, wrapped in an ideology that approves of any atrocity in its nihilism.
Part of her wonders if this isn’t the true fate of their kind, it’s ultimate expression. Unbound from the kine that she has so tied her life to, devoid of conscience and spitting in the face of God Himself with every breath, a stain on the world.
Does the filth painted on the house of society, like sticky tobacco tar running down its walls, really have claim to be better than the putrid muck in the street outside?
That part of her remembers her mother’s words. She would approve, Caroline things, of devouring him, and of his devouring of others. She would not even condemn the mass Embrace, Caroline admits.
There’s another pull on her, though, wrapped around her soul since birth, and all the more tightly since her Embrace.
This is the unbound evil her sire has stood against for a thousand years, that he fought without hesitation or mercy in the name of the God they both share. Even as this rabid Kindred gloats about his childer, of future generations.
She is the next generation of the Camarilla’s sword. A sword that has proven its victory across civilization, that these creatures have been beaten back to the edges of it.
That thought, that she stands in her sire’s footsteps, brings a smile to her face and lifts her from the gloom.
“You’re right, it changes nothing,” she admits.
“It’s just another chapter in the slow victory of God over your wretched kind.”
She takes up the stake and plunges it back into the monster’s heart.
GM: The fiend gives a contemptuous snarl, and then the stake silences any further reply.
Caroline: A heartbeat passes without the others moving. Then another. She can feel them pounding in her chest.
Realization dawns on her. “There’s really two options, my friends,” she finally begins.
“Do you want credit for this, but the ugly details of someone on your side spilling secrets out the back door to these animals in the open, or do you want the strength of their blood and a stain when we meet the elder, but no credit for your victory tonight?”
“Keeping in mind that our benefactor may still be watching as well?”
She lets out a short laugh. “Everything’s a test. Welcome to the Camarilla.”
GM: “I’ll take blood,” says Cimpreon. “Credit’s in someone else’s hands. Blood’s in mine.”
“Three of us technically aren’t members of the Camarilla,” observes Westphal. “Moreover, we know very little about this elder. We might never see her again, depending upon where our respective future plans take us. We might get no meaningful credit at all for this. Increased discipline mastery is a guarantee, along with possibly thickened blood.”
Mahmoud scowls. “Credit’s a lot of maypes. I agree. Put if he’s watching.” She looks at Caroline. “He showed ub with you. How likely is it zhat he’s still got an eye here?”
“Can you detect him?” Westphal asks Mahmoud.
“If he doesn’t want to pe found? I doubt it.”
“I’m hearin’ more maybes,” says Cimpreon. “Maybe he’s watching. Maybe he’ll care enough to, what, fuckin’ give us the boot because we drank a couple Sabbat assholes after wasting them? Stake us for the sun? Why the fuck would you do that, if you were him?”
“This was a pack of random Sabbat assholes in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere. I’d look the other way, if I was him.”
Caroline: “Well, that’s an interesting question,” Caroline answers. “But if you knew him, you would know that he is a man of little moral ambiguity and great faith.”
She supposes at some point she’ll have to reconcile her own intentions with her faith.
“This is an interesting theological question, really. Theologically, most is that the opposition to diablerie is built on two pillars, that it prevents another vampire from serving the will of God due to their destruction, and that it unnecessarily accelerates of the thickening of one’s blood, driving one more swiftly towards torpor.”
She offers a toothy grin. “In this case, however… neither is likely to thicken blood, and both imminently face death in one form or another. Does that make it a more temporal trespass? And if so, against who? There is no prince here we trespass against.”
“Perhaps one could make a philosophical argument. I wouldn’t be tempted by it though. Morally, it is clearly a sin. More practically, partaking shows disregard for the accepted customs and practices of the Camarilla which you expose to wish to join with.”
“So why might he watch? To judge your character and worthiness for inclusion.”
And my own.
GM: “Any lick would do this if they thought they could get away with it,” says Cimpreon. “Camarilla or Sabbat. We’re all fuckin’ vampires in the end.”
“Theologically, one can make several counterarguments,” says Westphal. “Which you’ve just done. I’d make a third, that increased discipline proficiency allows us to better fulfill our function as God’s predators. In fact, the Fourth Canon’s objections to diablerie seem to be strictly pragmatic rather than moral. There’s very little actual direct condemnation of the practice. Likely because it was more prevalent during the Monachus’ time.”
Caroline: “Semantic argument either way,” Caroline observes without malice from behind a smile.
“They’d rather it not be prevalent now.”
GM: “The way our clan does it is much more sensible. We know it’s going to happen whether it’s allowed or not. But if you legalize it you can regulate it.”
Caroline: Caroline gives an almost girlish laugh that belies her damned state.
“As I said, my dear, blacks might successfully claim to the bleeding hearts that violence and infidelity are cultural heritage, but I don’t expect a similar argument to move the Camarilla’s unbeating ones. Though I might enjoy watching the attempt.”
GM: “We don’t have to make a ‘cultural heritage’ argument. It’s an objectively more efficient system that turns diablerie from an underground taboo into a regulated practice that still benefits those at the top while affording greater social mobility to those at the bottom, strengthening Kindred institutions as a whole. It’s clear you have a great deal to learn from us.”
“Sentiment’s for suckers,” Cimpreon agrees. “We do it ’cause it works.”
“If it stops working, we’d be the first to drop it like a hot potato.”
“Zhat staked keeber could make my command over zhe Apyss more bowerful,” Mahmoud suddenly snaps, her dark eyes hungry. And angry. “Fuck everyzhing else. I didn’t want to pe here. I didn’t want to risk my ass for credit. Fuck credit. I want bower. If none of you have zhe balls, I’m eating zhe keeber myself. More for me. Yay. Fuck any Cam elder who gets zheir panties in a wad over me draining a Sabbat asshole in zhe middle of nowhere.”
Caroline: Caroline can feel them slipping out of her grasp as surely as the priest’s mind slipped from it, the moment where she might have influenced this matter with but a word passed.
I could still decide it, she thinks, but the matter now would require violence, would splinter this group, would make enemies among them. Perhaps of them. There’s no certainty she could prevail.
Had she simply decided, not let the matter open to discussion, it might not have snowballed. But her hesitation—her temptation—has allowed the yawning gates open. Putting the genie back in the bottle is infinitely more difficult than letting it out ever was—and that assumes she event wants to.
And when she’s honest with herself…
It’s so tempting. Power there for the taking. Power she desperately needs, if she is to hold to any illusion of the throne. She’s seen her mother’s strength, but also her weakness. Seen herself as a millstone around the neck of her sisters. She would not rely upon that alone.
Nor too does she believe, as she told Fatimah, that the seneschal’s strength or plans will be sufficient. She needs her own strength.
And these three too… such a shared secret could create a powerful lever for use against her, but so too could it tie bonds between them. More than one pact is sealed in blood, in darkness. The addition of even one of them to New Orleans, favorably inclined, would be such a victory.
You want it, whispers a voice. The taste of it, the feel of it again. She squirms against the want, the raw desire to do this rooted in nothing but selfish hedonism.
Even as she builds her logical case there’s truth there she cannot deny. She does want.
And, whispers a darker voice, deserves.
The spoils of victory.
“Then we do not speak of this pack to anyone. Ever.”
Her gaze settles on each in turn.
“Payment for the deeds this night is in blood.”
GM: “I can live with that,” says Cimpreon.
“There’s considerable evidence to the contrary,” says Westphal. “Missing and injured ghouls. Damaged clothing. Two dozen missing kine. The battle site. Half a dozen surviving Sabbat that engaged with us.”
“Saying we never engaged this pack is a much bigger lie than saying we took no prisoners. It’s an even smaller lie to say we took prisoners and that they attacked us, someone frenzied, and we regrettably have none to turn over.”
“That’s eminently believable. It isn’t the best look and it’s understandable we’d try to avoid telling the whole story, which we should. But it won’t ruin us if it comes out, since our actions were a net benefit to the Camarilla.”
Caroline: “All of that evidence is easily waved away—clothing replaced, ghouls written off or put back together. A battle in the desert that could have been any number of competing factions,” Caroline answers in turn.
“A thread once exposed is much more easily pulled upon, and it would take little pulling to reveal the truth of what happened here,” she continues.
“I propose not a lie, but an omission.” Her gaze settles on Westphal. “But if the topic should be raised or explored, that story—especially revealed only in pieces as required—is better than a denial.”
GM: “So don’t talk apout zhis unless someone asks.” Mahmoud shrugs. “Fine py me.”
“Don’t talk about this and don’t volunteer more information than someone directly asks for,” says Westphal. “She’s right this is better if the topic simply doesn’t come up at all. We’ll clean up what evidence is here.”
“Fugly here said there was a keeper spy,” says Cimpreon. “Fuck Cairo, I guess, if we don’t want to pass that on. This ain’t my city.”
Mahmoud frowns. “It’s hard to explain how we know zhat wizhout taking brisoners. Or wizhout fighting zhe back at all.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “I will ensure that information makes it to who it must. I suspect the spy’s identity is well known, however.”
GM: “Sufficient for me,” says Westphal. “If that alternative doesn’t materialize, I have sources I can claim to have discovered that information from.”
“Well then, ladies and gent, do we want to interrogate the keeper, or proceed right to the feast?” Cimpreon grins.
Caroline: The grin somehow makes her uncomfortable. Their eagerness makes her uncomfortable.
It’s one thing to do this with purpose. It’s another thing to grudgingly admit you even enjoy it. But it seems somehow wrong, vulgar, to actively desire it. To cheapen it.
She supposes in that way it’s a lot like how her Catholic school teachers made her feel about sex.
GM: “I doubt he’ll tell us anyzhing zhe fiend didn’t already,” says Mahmoud.
Caroline: “Which is to say, he’ll tell us nothing,” Caroline agrees. “These are fanatics who think they’re going to die anyway. At best, they’re going to spit in our faces as they go.”
She doesn’t admit that she’s uncertain of her ability to pull secrets so deeply from another mind. Not without feeding, and she doesn’t even know if that’s possible from this body.
“The sooner we’re about it, the better. We don’t have all night before the elder arrives.”
GM: “The fiend told us something new,” disagrees Westphal. “But we’ve taken enough time, it’s no guarantee we’ll find out more from the keeper, and it’s likely he’ll try to spit in our faces by feeding us false information. That’s what I’d do if I were incompetent enough to wind up in his position.” A sneer curls his lip.
“All pefore how zhe keeper doesn’t need his arms and legs to attack us,” says Mahmoud. “He might do zhat and try to make us frenzy yust to escape diablerie.”
“Might even work with how torn up we are,” says Cimpreon. “That’ll be another nice little bonus to this.” He smirks and exits the car. “I’ll get the ductus. Don’t start without me.”
“Quickly,” says Westphal.
Caroline: Caroline can feel the heart beating in her chest.
GM: There’s a very, very hungry look to the young vampire’s eyes.
“I’m taking zhe keeber,” Mahmoud repeats. “You two eat who you want.”
“I’m eating him too,” says Westphal. “I brought him down. I’m not eating a kill that isn’t mine.”
Caroline: The heiress says nothing, but she can feel the breathing in this body accelerating slightly, the blood flowing more quickly as its heart beats harder. Fear or excitement? She’s not certain she can even tell the difference anymore.
Does it really matter which it is?
Once more, the callousness of the others on the topic scraps against her like nails on a chalkboard. Makes her wonder if they’ve ever done this before. If it’s true callousness or simply bravado.
GM: Does it really matter, either?
Mahmoud looks at Caroline. “Ghouls can’t commit diaplerie. When whoever zhe fuck you eat is fully drained of plood, leave her body. Zhere’s enough shadowstuff pound to your astral form zhat you should pe aple to finish zhe job. Zhe brocess of diaplerie is one soul consuming anozher, more zhan it is anyzhing bysical.”
Caroline: Oh, isn’t it? She remembers the truth of it. Seeing to the heart of everything Bishop Malveaux was in the moments before his oblivion.
“Presumably the priest,” she fills in hollowly.
GM: Cimpreon gets back with the ductus’ staked body. He’s torn off the limbs to make it an easier fit into the car’s back seat.
“First time?” he smirks at her.
Caroline: “Would it matter if it weren’t?” the Ventrue asks back, retreating into stoicism as she meets his eyes. “Even were this not a crime in law, it is premeditated murder, cannibalism, and rape.”
She bites the body’s lip hard enough to draw blood in the soft flesh. “It may be…. necessary, but to revel in such things brings us two steps closer to them, vice one,” she gestures to the body in his hands. “Someone once told me we all lose eventually, that the best we can hope is to do so more slowly.”
She shrugs gently and tilts her head. “I would prove him wrong in the former while appreciating the sentiment of the latter.”
GM: “These assholes have murdered, cannibalized, raped, and more who the fuck knows how many times,” says Cimpreon. “They’ll do it forever, laughing, if we don’t ash ’em here.”
Caroline: The smile reaches her eyes. “You’ll not hear me arguing for their Requiems. Only our own souls.”
The smile fades. “We should get to it.”
GM: Westphal’s lip curls again. “I have no plans to lose. Now or eventually.”
He sinks his fangs into the ductus’ staked form. Mahmoud joins him.
“Too bad we can’t share this someplace romantic by candlelight,” smirks Cimpreon, then sinks his fangs into the staked Tzimisce’s rubbery gray flesh.
Caroline: The sound of their slurping fills the vehicle’s interior.
She’s committed now, on some level. A witness at best, an accomplice more likely.
The kine’s body lacks her body’s fangs, the ability to easily break skin, much less the thicker flesh of the monster, and she doesn’t try. Instead she finds a wound and sets herself to it.
In for a penny, in for a pound.
GM: Hot bliss fills her tongue. It’s different in a ghoul’s body. Less primal and more recreational, somehow. More like the rush of cocaine or a strong drink than sating an animal hunger. This body doesn’t need vitae to survive. But it wants it. How it wants it. She’s a heroin user getting her fix. Getting more than her fix. Rare, Caroline imagines, is the domitor who lets their thralls feast so deeply, so totally without restraint.
Maybe this is what it felt like for Diego.
The fiend’s blood is sour, bitter, and hot with hatred towards her, towards what she’s done to him, towards all she stands for. But the taste is no worse for it. It tastes like victory.
It tastes like conquest.
There’s a distinctly alien undercurrent to it that Caroline can’t begin to describe. It’s not at all like Jocelyn’s blood, her sire’s blood, or any of the other ‘Camarilla vintages’ she’s sampled. There’s something regal to it, like her own. It tastes warped and twisted and cruel, yet somehow refined. Foreign but familiar. It reminds her of when Luke talked about his business trip to Saudi Arabia. The al-Sauds were his counterparts in another culture, and more barbaric than him, but more concerned with hospitality too.
She drinks, rapturously, an addict riding an endless high—until she hits the crash. Blood slows to a trickle, then ceases to flow across her tongue. The sounds of slurping no longer fill the car. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Cimpreon’s eyes blaze as he squeezes the staked corpse, snapping bones under his crushing grip.
The true pleasure, she knows from last time, only begins now.
Caroline: She focuses on that, on the taste, on the feel. Blocks out the sickly crackling and pops as Cimpreon’s fingers dig into the corpse, the sickly slurping of the other two vampires cannibalizing their clanmate behind her, the revulsion she feels inside herself.
Just ride the high. Ride the moment.
It’s the same thing she’s told herself before, in life and death.
The shame will come later, she knows, but for now there’s only the feeling. And however much she’ll feel shame later, she can’t deny the truth: that she does like it. There’s nothing quite like it in the world, no high the equal of victory, blood, and power.
The Ventrue pulls herself from the weak, fragile, frail kine’s body—the spell tying to it already decaying, weakened by the same entropy that will one day claim stars and even galaxies. Pulls herself towards another form of oblivion.
Just not her own.
GM: Not her own, but her body’s.
The soreness in her muscles and the sweat on her skin vanishes. Her heartbeat stops. The smells of blood and gunpowder dissipate. The cool night becomes perfect room temperature.
She barely registers how it all stops, or what becomes of the ghoul. It’s just another distraction to tune out. She’s on autopilot, guided by pure instinct.
By pure pleasure.
She’s not sure how she’s drinking. There’s no physical liquid coursing down her throat. But there wasn’t last time, either. And it is like last time. It’s the same sublime taste, as heavy as gold and weightless as air. It’s so pure and powerful that she seems to be swallowing liquid fire.
Cimpreon, across from her, is ravenously devouring the fiend’s neck. He doesn’t look like he’s drinking blood. He looks like he’s trying to swallow the Tzimisce’s entire body through sheer force of will. His eyes are enormous and every inch of his face is lit up with ecstasy. He isn’t drinking. He’s feasting.
Below them, the Tzimisce’s mouth is wide open in a soundless scream, his alien face a mask of utter terror, even past the stake in his heart. Caroline would say she’s never seen another sentient being in such fear and pain, but she’d be lying. The priest looks exactly the way Bishop Malveaux looked before he died. There’s a distant sound ringing back and forth in Caroline’s ears like the tolling of a great bell. That’s also like last time. It’s fast at first, like a beating heart, then slower and deeper. Caroline feels lighter than air and denser than earth. She is water and fire. She is impossibly gorged and impossibly ravenous. She is divine and depraved. The Tzimisce’s neck is a fountain of liquid gold.
But it’s not like last time. There’s less than last time. She feels Cimpreon sucking away, tearing away at the feast beneath her, as though they are two people eating from the same shared plate. They are two people sharing the same faith. Fuck him. Fuck him for taking what’s hers. She should eat him too, to show that fuck what he gets plate stealing her fucking kill. The murderous impulse from her Beast passes like a roaring fire, and she wonders how much harder it would be to fight off if she were not incorporeal.
The equally ravenous, hateful glint in Cimpreon’s eyes tells the Ventrue that her Beast is not alone in that feeling.
She can’t kill him. He can’t kill her. There’s only one thing they both can do.
The desperate urgency to get as much as she can before the Lasombra drives her like hell’s own hounds are at her heels. She pulls that blissful vein of liquid gold into herself, gulps it down—and, just like last time, her ecstasy surges to unimaginable heights. It rocks through her like an orgasm coursing through every inch of her body, like a thunderstorm she’s riding between her thighs. She’s a volcanic eruption. She’s a star going nova. She wants to scream, and scream, and rip out her hair from the sheer rapture, superior to any feeding, superior to any sex. Past ceases to matter. The future ceases to matter. Her reasons for doing this cease to matter. There is only the endless and eternal now as thought and self dissolve into bliss. The fiend’s psychic scream reverberates through her, piercingly loud. Just like that, the alien gray body crumbles to ash between her and Cimpreon’s mouths.
But there’s no vision like last time. No impression of the life she has not merely taken, but subsumed.
Just the knowledge that there’s one less Sabbat monster in the world, and its strength is now her strength.
Caroline: The raw pleasure, the all-consuming desire, becomes literally everything that matters as its end approaches, as the vein dries up, and when it’s drawn away it wounds her, like someone his literally ripped away a piece of her. The perfect moment of bliss is shattered in an instant and Caroline is left to drift back to the earth.
Perhaps Caroline the woman, the intellect, could rationalize that sudden end, but there’s something so much darker inside her that’s grown strong on yet another soul, and before its impulsive raging demand there can be no defense. It sheers loose from its bonds, and in the moments that follow she’s blind to how the other Lasombra react, blind to other watchers, blind to everything except wanton desire and rage that its want has been taken away.
It’s perhaps fortunate that for the first time since Claire trapped her in the circle of flame that the Beast’s rage is as ineffectual as a screaming child.
GM: The same cannot be said, however, for the Lasombra.
The car’s interior is a wreck. All of them are scratched up again, their clothes newly shredded. They look like they just blew thousand-roper loads while snorting cocaine.
Caroline isn’t sure which of them did it. The ghoul whose body she previously inhabited lies slumped over on the seat, her throat ripped out. Her eyes gaze blankly up at the car ceiling.
Mahmoud seems to slowly come to her senses at the sight.
“Which one of you fucking killed her?” she snarls.
“Who the fuck says it was us?” says Cimpreon.
Caroline: “We all did,” Caroline answers pointedly.
GM: “It doesn’t matter,” says Westphal. “She was a loose end.”
Caroline: “Aren’t we all then?” Caroline answers the child vampire, just as pointedly.
GM: “Yes,” he smiles in agreement, “though looser than any of us, as she was merely an accomplice to the crime. All of us are principals for having consumed half a soul.”
Mahmoud glares, but says nothing at Caroline’s words.
“Look at her,” says Westphal, pointing at the seat. “Look at the pattern of those bloodstains. She was trying to lick the vitae off the seat. If she were smart, she’d have ran.”
Cimpreon shakes his head. “Fuckin’ addicts.”
Caroline: “She’s dead,” Caroline doesn’t quite snap. “There’s no need to further smear her name.”
“And as for us, I would have no mistaking of what we’ve done. We are bound now, in this crime, in this moment, to each other. We’ve seen each other’s worst impulses, committing the Camarilla’s greatest crime.”
GM: Westphal nods knowingly.
Cimpreon slings an arm around Mahmoud’s shoulders. “Don’t look so glum, gorgeous. Was worth it, wasn’t it?”
Mahmoud closes her ghoul’s eyes.
But she nods too.
“All bower for a brice. Zhe Apyss demands sacrifice.”
Caroline: “Sometimes the price is higher than we thought.”
Caroline lets that thought linger for a moment.
“And sometimes the rewards are as well.”
“From this night on we might be the greatest threat to each other’s Requiems… especially if Clan Lasombra is recognized within the Camarilla.”
Her gaze sweeps across them. “Or… we might be the greatest asset to each other’s Requiems. Few secrets we might share in the future would be more deadly to each other than those this night.”
GM: “In for a penny, in for a pound,” agrees Westphal. “I have no objections to continued cooperation should our interests take us to the same cities.”
Caroline: Caroline smiles and turns her gaze to the other two. “And you?”
GM: “Hey, I’m happy to make friends wherever I go,” grins Cimpreon. “Gonna need ’em in the nights ahead.”
“I agree,” says Mahmoud. “Whatever we are to each other, asset or zhreat, has peen sealed in plood. And I’d pe an idiot to bick zhreat.”
“Then we’re agreed,” says Westphal, looking between the other three. “Allies.”
“Allies,” repeats Cimpreon.
“Allies,” says Mahmoud.
They could seal it in blood.
But they already have.
Caroline: Caroline’s gaze sweeps across the others, lingering for perhaps a moment on Cimpreon.
“Good. Then let’s get started dividing up the world, shall we?”
After all, they’ve already started.