“We take what we wish. We do as we wish. This world exists for our pleasure and sustenance.”
Saturday night, 12 March 2016, AM
GM: The family’s remaining time on Grand Isle passes quickly enough. The girls meet back at the beach house, Simmone still asleep in their mother’s arms. Adeline suggests they simply spend the night, given the late hour (plus they’d be able to enjoy the beaches tomorrow morning), but Abélia says that Caroline needs to be back in the city. The others concede the point. The Nyx is soon cruising through the Gulf’s midnight waters.
Caroline: Dark waves lap against the Nyx’s hull as it cuts through the water, sleek and effortless as a shark. If she were out alone Caroline might worry about making it home before sunrise, but she has faith in her mother. What had Cécilia said? Things just seem to work out.
Her vision pierces through the darkness, and she finds her way aft, along the port side, to where Adeline’s razor thin form sits, feet dangling off the edge of the ship through the lifelines to be irregularly kissed by the mild seas.
Caroline settles down beside her sister, dangling her own legs over the side.
She loops an arm around her younger sister’s shoulders, squeezing the two shoulder to shoulder for a moment, and lets the arm drop.
“Warmer water than the northeast. I don’t know how you survived those Connecticut winters.”
GM: “I don’t either,” says Adeline, leaning against Caroline. Mild though the seas may be, the open ocean’s winds are cold enough at night for her to draw her coat about herself. “Avignon’s winters are colder than here, but they’re still fairly mild.”
“Though of course, you never really saw them.”
Caroline: “I wouldn’t make it,” Caroline laughs. “Too far from my natural habitat.”
GM: “I remember proposing this plan to Maman, once, how you should alternate summers and school years. When she said that would be too disruptive to your life, I suggested alternating what was left of elementary school, middle school, and high school.”
“But she said that would face similar issues, only more spaced out.”
Caroline: Caroline gives a wan smile, “A trade off with everything.” A pause. “I think I would have liked that, though I don’t think my father would have signed off on it.”
“He’s a willful man. Almost as willful as Maman.”
GM: “I don’t think he would have agreed to it either. I suppose if people were to dig into his family’s personal lives, he’d have found it harder to explain than ‘summers with her mother’s family, other months with me.’ It might have seemed less conductive to family values.”
“‘Complicated doesn’t go over well with voters.’”
Caroline: There’s always that. More than affection, more than love, more than family—the image, how it affected his political aspirations. It’s more than funny how alike he is to her sire—she can’t label her Embrace anything less than providence. God has a sense of humor. “They like simple stories,” Caroline agrees.
“It wasn’t all bad though. The split gave me an excuse to escape sticky Louisiana summers.”
GM: “That’s what Nolan says too about stories. It seems like a shame. I think there is societal benefit to politicians telling more complex stories to voters, but no politician wants to suffer the drawbacks to their own career that come from doing so.”
“He doesn’t, either.”
Caroline: A light laugh, she leans in conspiratorially, “my father would cringe to hear me ever say this, even if he believes it with all his heart, but democracy isn’t about societal benefit. It’s about the mob. It’s about winning and losing, your side vs. their side, tribalism. The best you can hope is that some of those that are climbing to the top are looking out for their own interests—and that those interests align in the big picture enough with the interests of everyone else in the country.”
“Most voters,” she concludes, “are stupid.”
GM: “I suppose that has been true, historically. That’s also what Nolan says. I think the potential for that social benefit still exists, though, and it’s a shame to see it go unrealized.”
Caroline: “Not quite the tragedy of the commons, but similar principle,” Caroline agrees. “I think paradoxically if you introduced some barrier to voting you’d see more meaningful engagement.”
GM: “I’d say that’s the case already, on some level. Louisiana has fairly strict voter ID laws. Though I suppose they’re still less strict than being a land-owning white man over the age of 21.”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “Even the Greeks recognized that you need enfranchised people to have productive laws.”
GM: “Nolan’s decided he’s going to run for mayor. He hasn’t announced it publicly yet. What do you think of that?”
Caroline: “I think it’ll be ugly, but he’s positioned himself well.” And that there will be inevitable Kindred back splash, some of which might hit you.
“The city could do far worse.”
GM: “It looks as if Drouillard is also going to run. I don’t want him to.”
Caroline: “Nolan or Droulliard?” Caroline asks.
GM: “I’d have said Nolan earlier, without reservation. I’d rather not be known as the mayor’s girlfriend.”
“But it was under Drouillard’s watch that Gettis shot Yvonne.”
Caroline: “You don’t want that spotlight cast on you?” Caroline asks.
GM: “Yes. I’d really prefer not. You or Cécilia might do better in that role.”
Caroline: Caroline laughs. “He’s not really my type. You could try Cécilia, though.”
GM: “I think she’s fairly happy who she’s with, too. But I meant more as any politician’s significant other.”
Caroline: “I know what you meant,” Caroline answers lightly with a smile.
“It’s difficult, being in the public eye all the time, always under scrutiny. I mean, you know better than most, but it just gets worse and worse.”
She turns towards Adeline. “But sometimes that’s the trade you have to make.”
GM: “I suppose it is. It’s a very large trade to me, though, and not one I’m sure I’d like to make, even if I think he’d be the better mayor.”
Caroline: “Then you have choices to make about what you want, and about what’s most important to you,” Caroline answers.
“For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t let your worries over Drouillard factor into it.”
GM: “I think Nolan should pursue his dreams. I’m happy for him if he becomes mayor. I’m just not sure if I want to walk that path with him.”
Caroline: “What path would you prefer?” Caroline asks.
GM: “Being able to pursue my dreams in privacy and quiet, without external commitments and distractions. But I’d also like to pursue them together with someone, and I know he values and supports my doing so.”
Caroline: Caroline nods, her form lit only by the stars and the backlight from the city in the distance.
“But that does seem like the life that Nolan is pursuing.”
GM: “I’m not a social butterfly. I hadn’t met anyone I’d felt similarly about, before him.”
Caroline: “And he pushes you out of your comfort zone, sometimes in a positive way,” Caroline finishes.
GM: Adeline seems to consider that. “I suppose he has, now that you mention it. But his being mayor, or even running for mayor, would take me far enough outside my comfort zone to be someone else.”
Caroline: “So do you try to clip his wings and hold onto him, cut ties and let him go, or lose yourself,” Caroline elaborates.
There’s no doubt in her mind that the last is the worst possible option. Odd that, the thought flirts across her mind. She’d been perfectly willing to suborn her own dreams and desires, to make her dreams and desires her father’s. To content herself with the role someone else decide for her.
And yet… the idea of anyone trying to dictate her newfound sisters’ lives grates against her sensibilities like nails across a chalkboard.
“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
GM: “By then, I’d like to be an established research professor here at Tulane. Cécilia has been encouraging me to teach students as well. Yvette, of course, thinks teaching ‘idiot undergrads’ would be a thankless job.”
“I don’t think it’s fair of me to clip his wings, especially when it’s also a question of public good. So it’s either end our relationship or accept life as a public figure. I don’t want to do either of those things, but it looks as if I’ll have to pick one of them.”
Caroline: “They can both be right,” Caroline answers of their sisters.
Typical of Yvette and Cécilia.
“Chase your dreams,” she offers.
GM: “I can still become a professor whether I stay together with Nolan or not.”
Caroline: “But will you want to? No change in a vacuum.”
GM: “I think I still would. Being first lady isn’t a full-time position or even an official position.”
“So my dreams are still on the table, whatever I decide. Otherwise this would be a much easier decision.”
Caroline: Except, Caroline knows, that the mayor’s office is hotly contested among Kindred, and she has little doubt that Nolan is in Savoy’s pocket.
That relationship isn’t a danger to Caroline—not directly—but she could readily see it becoming a flash point for conflict between elders. That conflict would become her conflict, and the back-splash would hit her sister.
“You might be surprised. Might enjoy the public life so much you forget all about research,” she almost teases.
GM: Adeline smiles faintly. “Nolan does like to say he has a knack for achieving the impossible.”
Caroline: “It’s not all bad. The spotlight.” Caroline answers. “You never get to be you, but eventually you begin to become the person you pretend to be.”
GM: “That sounds… discomfiting.”
“In what ways would you say that held true for you?”
Caroline: Caroline leans back, her arms fully extended behind her and carrying her weight as she looks up into the night, mulling that question.
The memories are faint, murky.
The easy answer would be to say that she’s always been this way, but she knows that isn’t true, mostly because of how ashamed she is of some of those memories.
Memories of being a little girl, not fully understanding why she had to sit so still, why she had to keep that smile on, why her father chided her so when she said the wrong thing. She remembers her face burning with shame. How she’d ‘embarrassed him’.
She remembers Claire all but dragging her into a bathroom by one arm when she was maybe ten. She’d been acting out at a party they were hosting. Her father hadn’t made it home. He’d been on the road all week and had promised her that he’d be there. Claire’s voice hard and sharp, her words each cutting into Caroline. ‘Pathetic. Unworthy.’ How she’d all but mocked Caroline’s tears. Told her not to come out until she could act like she belonged. Left Caroline crying in front of the mirror, every shameful tear only adding to her shame as she sobbed and tried to pull herself together.
She remembers when caught her drinking at sixteen with a couple friends. How they’d terrorized her friends. How they hadn’t spoken to her ever again. They didn’t even have to say it then, she knew what they would have said. Imagine what that story would do to your father’s career?
Remembers dreading the phone call when she was eighteen the night after she blew off a fundraiser. It’d been that time, she was in her first semester at Tulane, and god, she just hadn’t wanted to go to the charity event for her mother. She just wanted to stay home and nurse a drink, to study for the organic chemistry exam the next morning knowing. ‘Unacceptable’.
Failures that used to come back and haunt her when she was laying in bed some nights, trying to get to sleep.
She can’t remember a time she didn’t expect to go out into the spotlight, not really. She just remembers painfully the times she didn’t. That’s how getting molded works though, isn’t it? Slowly, over time, conditioned to associate one thing with praise and another with punishment. Behavioral adjustment in clinical terms. Parenting in Claire’s.
“I think the easy answer would be in the way I plan and do things.”
“I didn’t like big parties, big events. I remember as a little girl thinking that if I had a wedding I just wanted a few people there, something small and intimate. I remember wanting small events, birthdays, graduations. Being almost ashamed of those things being in the spotlight.”
She shrugs. “But you just get used to it. To thinking of these things in different ways. To planning in different ways. You get comfortable with people celebrating you, and learn to embrace it.”
“That’s the simple answer though. The truth is who I am is more a function of what I was made than whoever I originally was.”
“Framing everything in terms of how it’s perceived. Weighting words with strangers. Constant mindfulness. Ignoring inconveniences and small pains because it’s worth it sometimes.”
“Skirts instead of pants. Heels instead of flats. Smile instead of cry. Laugh instead of snarl.”
“Aristotle asserted we are what we do—that by habit we become habituated. I cannot find fault with his reasoning.”
GM: Tears never did make much headway with Claire.
“Oh, boo, hoo, hoo, Caroline. Boo hoo hoo,” her then-mother had said, leaning close to Caroline’s face and making an exaggerated, mocking expression as her ten-year-old daughter cried. “Do you think you’re impressing anyone with this? That throwing tantrums is going to change reality? You’re not, and it won’t. All it does is make you look pathetic. All it does is show me how immature you are, that you can’t even react to news as basic as your father still being on the road without pitching a fit. It’s selfish, too. Did it even occur to you that if your father isn’t home, that’s because he’s out doing more important things? But no, you can’t even be happy for him. You’re either too stupid to realize or too selfish to care. I’m glad your father isn’t here right now to see what a bad daughter we’ve raised. To see what a selfish, pathetic, crying little brat you are. I suppose if you’re not capable of acting your age, then time-outs are an appropriate punishment. Don’t come out of this room until you’re ready to stop being a failure.”
The door hadn’t quite slammed, but it had closed very sharply.
Adeline’s expression stills for a moment. She may not be Cécilia, but Caroline may wonder just how many of the emotions behind those memories are discernible to new sister.
“Do you think you would have been happier if you hadn’t had to grow accustomed to your new habits?”
Caroline: “I don’t know if I ever stopped to think about it, Adeline,” Caroline admits. “Or had a choice. That person I used to be died a long time ago.”
“They’re not even a memory.”
She sighs. “I’m sorry I can’t give you a better answer to that. But you still have a choice.”
GM: “I do, and I’m not sorry. I think you’ve given me an informative answer and an inside perspective into public life that Maman or Cécilia couldn’t have given me.”
GM: “Some of the things you’ve told me about habituation make me think I could grow accustomed to a more public life. Aristotle isn’t the only philosopher who’s expressed sentiments along those lines.”
“Some of the things you’ve told me are concerning and make me think I could compromise my identity and be less happy by remaining together with Nolan, even if I grew accustomed to a more public life.”
“I’m still not sure what decision I’m going to make. But I’m glad you’ve given me more information to consider.”
“Perhaps I should talk with more people who’ve been close to the current or previous mayors.”
Caroline: “I doubt they’d be of much use,” Caroline answers.
She lets the answer hang in the air before adding, “I don’t think any could hold a candle to you.”
GM: Adeline smiles. "That’s very sweet. But they would have perspectives that I lack, all the same. We can glean information from anywhere. "
She glances out over the midnight waters. “Nolan has some unusual choices in friends.”
Caroline: “Such as?” Caroline asks, still leaning back.
There’s more curiosity behind that question than she wants to let on.
GM: “There’s an explosives engineer named Liz Williams. I’m not sure what she has to offer him, and he doesn’t seem romantically interested in her.”
Caroline: “An explosives engineer?” Caroline tilts her head. “That’s a very strange associate. Is he planning some major demolition?”
GM: Adeline shakes her head. “He owns a waste management company. He doesn’t need to demolish buildings.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. If Adeline wasn’t her sister she might bite her tongue too.
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons he won’t…”
Few of those reasons seem legal.
GM: “That’s true,” Adeline acknowledges. “But they’ve also associated with each other for a while. This seems too long-term to be a simple demolition.”
Caroline: “You know him better than I do,” Caroline concedes. “Any thoughts? Shared interests they have?”
GM: Adeline shakes her head. “They don’t seem to have many shared interests, though they do hold similar views on a number of issues. I’m sure you know about the work Nolan has done with the French Quarter Response Force. All of that is only possible thanks to technology. Nolan and Liz are both very excited for what the future holds and the social progress that technology is going to make possible.”
Caroline: Savoy? Hard not to think so.
There’s a less pleasant option there she prefers to avoid dwelling on.
“It’s difficult. A lot of the charm of Vieux Carré is in its character and history, but a lot of that character is… unpleasant.”
GM: “Yes. And I don’t think the better parts of that character or the area’s history are incompatible with social or technological progress.”
“Obviously, of course, not everyone feels the same way.”
Caroline: “Sure,” Caroline answers, contemplative. “I think the roughest edges can and should be smoothed off, but I think so much of what appeals to people that visit is that what they do here, much as in Vegas, stays here. Technology is the greatest threat to that.”
GM: “It is. It’s not a new observation that privacy is increasingly becoming a thing of the past, but I’ve found it notable how not just unconcerned, but excited Liz and Nolan seem about the growth of the surveillance state and surveillance capitalism. That’s one of the views they seem to hold in common.”
Caroline: “And their interest in perpetuating it?” Caroline asks, an ugly thought forming in her mind.
GM: “Possibly. I’m not certain what Liz stands to gain from that. Nolan’s company, at least, benefits from the collection of consumer data.”
Caroline: “Ideological concurrence is enough for plenty of people. See most voters.”
GM: “That’s true enough,” Adeline grants, “though there are other people who agree with his ideology, and with whom he has more in common. I’m not sure where they even know each other from.”
“I’d press him further, but it seems hypocritical when there are enough details about our own family that I’m keeping secret.”
Caroline: “Everyone likes to keep their secrets,” Caroline agrees. “Though there are some more wisely kept than others.”
She pauses on that thought, seeming to let it drift. “And others perhaps less wisely kept.”
“I’m keeping one from Cécilia,” she admits.
GM: Adeline looks surprised. “Oh? You and Cécilia have always been so close.”
“More than any of us besides Yvette and Yvonne, in fact.”
Caroline: “It’s sensitive.”
She rolls her tongue across her fangs, seemingly considering.
GM: Adeline simply nods at Caroline’s initial statement and doesn’t press.
Caroline: But there’s no better confidant she could hope for.
“Luke went snooping in the house at Claire’s behest.”
GM: “Oh no,” she murmurs. “Do you know what they were expecting to find?”
“Or I suppose more technically, to accomplish?”
Caroline: The Ventrue fishes a tiny plastic bag out of her purse. Inside, just visible, are a handful of pale blonde hairs she passes to her sister.
“I think she sold him on something about protecting himself, maybe from infidelity down the line.” She shakes her head. “The whole being my dad’s second choice never sat well with her.”
“And… I don’t think he did it to hurt Cécilia. Hell, I’m certain of it. I know better than anyone how much pressure she could exert, how easy it is to cave on something with no obvious harm instead of fight over it.”
GM: “I see,” Adeline frowns, looking at the hairs. “Curious, though. If he wanted to directly test the baby’s paternity, you need to wait eight weeks to have a viable blood sample. And if he didn’t want to test the baby’s paternity directly, there are plenty of couples and individuals who do recreational DNA tests to trace their heritage. Luke could have brought up the idea, gotten her to hand over a DNA sample freely, and only stolen hairs if she refused.”
“But perhaps she did. There are privacy concerns about how that genetic information is being used.”
Caroline: “Or perhaps he didn’t want to touch on the topic,” Caroline offers. “It’s sort of like the prenup topic: everyone should, but most people won’t.”
GM: “Oh, I meant taking the DNA test under false pretenses. But I suppose it’s a moot point.” Adeline frowns at the hairs. “I suppose this isn’t surprising, either. I don’t think Cécilia has ever given Luke reason to believe she’s unfaithful, but to your stepmother, this must have seemed like good sense.”
Caroline: “It’s also possible she was manipulating him towards her own ends: she’s never been comfortable with how Maman won’t share details about everyone else’s father.”
GM: “Ah, yes. That’s also true. Not having a father is an aspect of our lives we simply take for granted. I’m not even sure when I last thought about it.”
“That would make a great deal of sense if Claire wanted to tease out that hidden branch of the family tree.”
Caroline: Caroline nods again. “She could be relentless in her pursuit of what she wanted, and I don’t know if she ever really trusted anyone.”
“It may all be a moot point—I don’t think Luke would actually hurt Cécilia intentionally, or that anyone else has enough influence over him to compel him to do so indirectly, but the whole thing just leaves me feeling… dirty. I don’t know if anything good comes from telling Cécilia about it, but I hate the idea of keeping a secret from her.”
GM: “Have you confronted Luke about it, or do you think you already have a full picture of motives and events?” Adeline asks.
Caroline: She shakes her head. “I haven’t had a chance yet… and with everything going on I don’t know when I will.”
GM: “What do you want to find out from him?”
Caroline: “I think it’s more what I want from him, than what I want to find out, if I’m being honest.”
GM: “What is that, in that case?”
Caroline: “His full commitment to Cécilia,” Caroline answers without hesitation.
“My father’s side… there’s so much duplicity, and jockeying for position, and backstabbing. You can hardly imagine it. Even when we’re notionally on the same ‘side’, it’s not the same as it is between us. It’s more like being chess pieces of the same color than like being a family.”
She sighs. “I know that sounds harsh, and maybe it is, but it’s not without value or purpose. There’s a method to the madness. It’s part of why we’ve spread out across the entire state like we have, and risen to where we are.”
“Being involved with Luke inherently brings Cécilia in part of that into that frey—I think that’s something she accepts—but goddamn it…”
“Not between them.”
“She deserves better than that.”
GM: “She does,” agrees Adeline. “I hope Luke can be more than that for her, but I don’t know how realistic that is to expect. I don’t know if the level of commitment Maman would be happy with for us is realistic to expect for anybody. It makes me wonder, in fact, if that’s why we don’t have a father in our lives. Ultimately, there can be no deeper trust than among blood.”
Caroline: “That’s part of what I’m torn over,” Caroline agrees. “If Luke weren’t family as well, I’d have ripped out his throat over this. As is… I don’t know if I trust my judgment.”
GM: “I don’t think Cécilia would be happy doing what Maman has done, either. She wants a husband to raise her daughters with.”
“But as far as Luke. You might be able to pressure him into confessing what he did. If Cécilia still wanted to marry him, would you be happy with that outcome?”
“Or, for that matter, if she decided she no longer wanted to?”
Caroline: “I don’t know,” Caroline admits. “There’s a lot tied up in the wedding for everyone, and I don’t want to introduce anything that blows that up. But I also don’t want Cécilia to get hurt.”
“Or if I’ll ever view anyone as good enough for her.”
GM: “Yvette never lets us forget about ‘Elliot,’ at least.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t take that bait.
“She could do far worse than Luke.”
GM: “She could. She’s also very social. I think she could find a new partner more easily than I could.”
“The wedding is still some time away. Most of the arrangements haven’t been made yet. If you choose to act on what you know, I think now would be the ideal time.”
Caroline: “Would you?” Caroline asks.
GM: “I think that I would. Relationships don’t have to be built on complete honesty, but they should be built on reciprocity. I can’t picture Cécilia choosing to spy on Luke in the same way.”
“I think she would also want to know the truth.”
Caroline: Caroline nods, mulling over Adeline’s words.
“I guess there’s never really a good time.”
GM: “I prefer to plan towards things. But Cécilia was happy that Luke didn’t wait any longer to propose to her.”
Caroline: “Seize the day and all that.”
GM: “That is the sentiment. And good luck. We all know you want only the best for Cécilia.”
Saturday night, 12 March 2016, AM
GM: Cécilia finds Caroline shortly after her talk with Adeline.
“This feels like as good a time as any to talk to Maman about Simmone, unless you think we can help our case by waiting,” she says over the steady sound of waves lapping against the Nyx’s hull.
Caroline: Caroline grins. As good a time as any: to say that there is never a good time to contest their mother’s wisdom.
“No, you’re right.” The Ventrue rises from where her feet dangle over inky darkness and casting her senses, rather than her gaze, to orient herself on her mother’s location.
GM: Caroline and Cécilia swiftly finds their mother at the yacht’s aft, a sleeping Simmone held in her arms as she stares out into the midnight sea. The pitch black water seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on the ‘woman’.
“Ah, how timely of you, my dears,” she smiles, stroking her youngest’s hair.
“Pontus has had some most concerning things to say about your sister.”
Caroline: “The sea speaks to all of us in different ways,” Caroline tests. “Some more directly than others I think.”
“We had our own concerns as well,” she adds, leaning in to brush Simmone’s hair from her eyes.
GM: The blonde child remains contently asleep in their mother’s embrace.
Cécilia nods at Caroline’s words. “What has Pontus had to say, Maman?”
“Simmone shall be most unhappy in several nights, if measures are not taken. Her dance teacher will refuse her further lessons.”
“Oh, no,” Cécilia frowns. “That class with Stephanie and Lucy seemed to go very well.”
“I concur, my dear. How many children does Simmone’s teacher have?”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes alight. Celia’s mother.
Celia, the sheriff’s secret childe. Protecting her mother from Caroline?
GM: “Six, Maman,” answers Cécilia. “And her granddaughter Lucy, who lives with her.”
“Do you believe they have something to do why she’s going to cancel?”
Caroline: “Celia,” Caroline states. “Trying to shield her mother?”
GM: “Fret not, my dears. Maman shall take care of everything,” their mother assures.
“May I ask how, Maman?” asks Cécilia.
“I shall slay the extraneous children, of course," she smiles, “and allow Simmone’s teacher to spend more time upon her. The woman will come to view your sister as a surrogate for her own lost offspring.”
“How old is her youngest, Lucy?”
Dark waves steadily lap against the yacht’s hull.
Caroline: Caroline greets her mother’s solution with stunned silence.
“I believe her granddaughter is five,” she answers belatedly.
She tries not to default back to apprehension as she continues on the thorny issue. Pushing back has been met poorly by most in her Requiem.
“I imagine a more mild response might achieve a similar outcome,” she ventures.
GM: “I think Lucy is six,” Cécilia answers. “Her birthday is in January. I might also suggest a milder course of action, Maman.”
“Oh, this shall be as much for you as for our Simmone, sweet Caroline,” their mother smiles.
“We shan’t let the child’s blood go to waste. The seneschal’s powers of anima visus are great; we cannot risk another violation of your mind by his. We may use sweet Lucy’s blood to conceal the evidence of your blackest crime.”
The water around the boat ripples. Lucy’s reflection stares up at the three, six years old and smiling, with large eyeglasses and several missing baby teeth.
“An infant’s blood would have been most efficacious, but a child of Lucy’s years shall still afford you strong protection.”
“And I sense she is dearly loved by her family.” An affectionate smile spreads across their mother’s face. “Yes, sweet Lucy’s blood shall serve you well indeed.”
Indistinct black shapes cut through in the water. Sharp and hard like the fins of sharks. They begin streaking towards the little girl’s smiling reflection.
The word costs her something. Wrenches at her insides. Hurts.
“Mother, I bid you, do not do this.”
GM: Cécilia’s quiet protest is equally immediate.
“Maman. Stop. Please.”
The black shapes halt inches away from Lucy. The girl cups a hand over her mouth in a yawn.
“Why, of course, my dears,” Abélia smiles. “I live but to fulfill your wishes.”
Caroline: “For my sisters, I would tempt any dark deed, but this is unnecessary and bleak. And will not solve the question of Diana.”
She stares at the smiling girl.
“For myself, we might find a more agreeable substitute. For Simmone… I suspect her daughter fears for her mother. Harming the family will turn them ever more onward. Perhaps a more neutral location would be more agreeable for her? The LaLaurie House, for instance?”
Agreeable substitute. How easily she’ll agree to infanticide for her mother, such a firm line only nights ago.
She’s not drowning in darkness, that happened long ago. She is adrift in it though, carried away.
GM: “Simmone mislikes moving between homes with too great frequency,” Abélia replies, stroking the child’s hair.
“It would be simpler to slay the objecting daughter. And her other of-age siblings, to be safe.”
“Fret naught for Simmone’s teacher. Though her mind would be most pliable without the distraction posed by Lucy, we may render her wholly devoted to our Simmone’s instruction.”
“I would like you to spare Lucy’s aunts and uncles as well, Maman,” Cécilia requests.
Caroline: This is her mother. Who will, with a smile, slaughter half a dozen children to simply bring ease to her daughters’ lives.
“Simmone is what we would speak to you of, Maman,” Caroline continues.
GM: “Do the lives of Lucy’s aunts and uncles mean aught to you as well, my dear?” Abélia inquires.
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip.
“Compared to my sister’s happiness? No,” she answers truthfully.
She continues quickly, “But would invite retaliation, and I do not believe this serves Simmone’s happiness. Her joy. Even if it did, it invites retaliation down the line. Two of Lucy’s relatives number amongst the Damned.”
She thinks to Celia’s blood on her lips, to the girl she wronged returning among the Damned.
“And while I would sacrifice my happiness for Simmone’s, slaughtering them so would be such a sacrifice.”
She bites her lip again, a nervous habit. “Perhaps we might return to that rather permanent topic in a moment with greater context from what we would bring to you though, Mother?”
GM: There’s a peal of fluttering laughter.
“Oh, my sweet, sweet Caroline.”
Her mother’s dark eyes glint.
“You have spent too long upon your knees.”
A wind starts to whip about Caroline’s legs, blowing her skirt.
“This must needs be corrected.”
The wind rises to a shriek in Caroline’s ears. The yacht rocks beneath them.
“Do you not wonder how we travel these dark waters without molestation?”
Suddenly, all is black. All is cold. Weight smothers down on Caroline, from all directions. They’re underwater.
“Do you not wonder why the prince suffers us to make our home within his personal domain?”
Cécilia lies motionless upon the floor, as if sleeping, her hair lazily drifting through the water. Her sisters lie similarly asleep. May, Hayes, and all of the vessel’s mortal crew asleep. Does the yacht even have a crew? Caroline tries to recall their faces, but cannot.
“Do you not wonder how your sisters sleep peacefully every night?”
Motion rocks beneath them. Caroline’s hair whips past her. The Nyx cuts through the midnight waters like a shark. Faster. Faster.
“Do you not have faith in Maman’s power? In our family’s power? In your power?”
The Nyx breaks the water’s surface with a splash. The air is colder. Caroline’s skin and clothes are not wet.
“Yet you caution fear from the children of a crippled schoolteacher! From mere babes in the night!”
Caroline sees a cruise ship ahead of them. Land is nowhere in sight. Light is nowhere in sight, except from the boat’s windows. They could be in the middle of the Atlantic. They could be in the middle of the Pacific. They could be anywhere.
“Oh, my sweet child.”
Shadows envelop Caroline and her mother. They reappear on the cruise ship’s deck. It has a swimming pool and adjacent jacuzzis. Dozens of people are seated around tables with white tablecloths. White-clad servers move among the diners.
“We do not fear others’ retaliation.”
Everyone blinks or stares in disbelief at Abélia’s and Caroline’s sudden appearance. Some people start to yell or get up from their seats. Abélia does not so much as glance at them. Her smile exists only for Caroline.
“Others fear ours.”
The Ventrue’s mother gestures. Waves of blackest magic pour from her hands. A chorus of wailing screams split the night as dozens of people collapse, rotten flesh sloughing off their bones in putrescent blackening slurry. Screams gurgle from decomposing fluid-filled lungs. Hair falls away in slimy clumps. Liquefied eyes run from their sockets like milky tears. Teeth tinkle to the floor as they fall from black and shriveled gums. Half-liquefied organs splatter over the deck like overripe fruit as they slip free from crumbling skeletons. Enzymes eat dead muscles from inside out. The stench of ripe shit, expelled vomit, and necrotizing flesh is overpowering. The corpses look like they’ve been left to rot and bloat in water for weeks. All that’s missing are the clouds of buzzing flies.
Even their blood doesn’t smell worth drinking.
Elderly retirees dressed in Hawaiian shirts. Moms and dads on vacation with their kids. Kids on vacation with their moms and dads. Gold diggers with balding sugar daddies twice their ages. Yuppies enjoying the fruits of their MBAs. All are made equal in death as Abélia snuffs out their lives. Tables, chairs, dishes, and more crash to the ground as as the dying expire, the slain rot, and the survivors flee. They stampede off the deck in a blind panic that tramples the slow, the ungainly, and those simply too sick or terror-struck to flee. The scene makes Caroline think of water suddenly poured over an anthill.
Her mother’s smile is radiant.
“We take what we wish. We do as we wish. This world exists for our pleasure and sustenance. Its denizens are our prey, and we its predators. Say only the word, and Maman shall set her might against the prince himself, if it would ensure your happiness.”
There’s a low, fluttering laugh.
“But we really must train the timidity out of you, my dear…”
She surveys the fleeing droves of mortals, then raises another pale hand.
Caroline: Caroline has always known that her mother’s moral compass pointed only to her family. That Kindred and kine both have all the meaning to her of an insect crawling like an interloper across a world she rightly views as belonging to her daughters. She knows, has seen, her mother’s power to warp the world to make Caroline hers. To warp reality itself, to rewrite it to her wishes.
But it’s one thing to know, and another to see it in such stark and terrible majesty. To watch her so effortlessly snuff the life from dozens of men, women, and children with all the energy it might require to draw a breath. It’s better and worse than the Sabbat scene—lacking the cruelty but also the purpose of that slaughter.
At least… on the surface. Something quests within her, seeks an answer to a scene that a year ago would have brought her to her knees.
Because her mother did bring her here with purpose, did slaughter with purpose. Everything she does is with purpose—a singular one.
“You’re right,” she admits.
“I have grown accustomed to a Requiem on my knees.”
She looks out at the putrid husks of flesh that fill the deck before them. She pushes the sight of them a moment before, of them alive and well, from her memory. They were always rotting flesh. Always human waste. Better to view them like that. Better than to admit they were…
That thought dies.
“I like to think that the sacrifices I would make for my sisters, for you, is a strength. But it’s a weakness too. Never in my life or Requiem have I had someone who would sacrifice for me, and all the world I see only through the lens of what I might offer.”
She turns her gaze from the massacre to meet her mother’s dark eyes. “Anything to avoid being a burden. It’s selfish of me though. To you.”
“And narrow in its vision.”
GM: The screams of the fleeing and the dying echo around the pair as dozens of footsteps thump against the deck. Abélia gestures again, but no further kine perish.
Instead, a great and trembling shudder runs through the vessel.
It slowly begins to sink.
“Love is sacrifice, my dear.”
“Compelled by blood.”
“Requited in blood.”
“Through a sister’s sacrifice alone does your Maman stand before you now.”
Caroline: The heiress nods, her gaze not escaping her mother’s. “Truth then, Maman.”
“I have grown accustomed to casting everything in how it might most benefit, how I might persuade and convince.” She bites her lip before continuing, but only for a moment. “Plainly, I do not wish Celia’s mortal family taken from her. I have my own desires for her, and would see them intact for those.”
“More than those desires though, while I would see Simmone happy, I am not convinced the Simmone of this night is who she is, who she was, or who she should be. I fear she is a pale reflection of all of those things cast by those who did harm to this family, and I am disinclined to allow the actions of any other to so define her.”
“Towards that end, towards her happiness, I would not she be granted every whim and wish by only the most direct means.”
“She may yet be your eternal child, but I want her to make that decision in the fullness of knowing, stepping boldly towards that destiny rather than meekly seeking it in flight from devils that haunt her.”
GM: The last of footsteps thump away over the shrieks and cries of the fleeing. Caroline has never seen a public space clear so quickly.
There is no one left alive on the cruise ship’s deck. Just Caroline, her mother, and putrefying corpses for as far as she can see.
“There is one matter first, my treasure, before we might discuss your sister’s future,” Abélia smiles.
“Simmone is happy with her dance teacher. I bid you tell your Maman—what is the proper course of action in this matter?”
Caroline: The screams and shrieks and wet slop of rotting flesh sliding across the deck fade away as Caroline puts all of her attention on her mother. “Certainly ensure that she does nothing so foolish as disrupt Simmone’s happiness.”
“I can think of many ways to do so that will make Cécilia, Simmone, and I all happy.”
GM: “Speak, then, my treasure. These kine perish so they might further your wisdom.”
“Are we to fear the whelps of a crippled schoolteacher?”
Caroline: “We do not fear,” Caroline answers, drinking in the darkness in her mother’s eyes. She does not need to qualify the statement.
GM: Those dark eyes smile with pride, even as her mother patiently waits.
Caroline: The Ventrue lets the words hang in the air for a long moment before continuing.
“Most presently, Celia meets with Cécilia regularly. I’m confident my sister can impress upon her the importance of her mother in our sister’s lives with little effort.” Her eyes drink in the darkness in Abélia’s own, “I think it would make her happy to do so, to secure her sister’s happiness and also ‘protect’ her friend.”
“Willing compliance is desirable, isn’t it?”
Does some of her mother’s darkness creep into her own blue eyes?
“If that should fail, Celia can be reminded that her own welfare, and that of her sire, is perhaps a discrete word in the wrong ear from disaster. To say nothing of the fragility of those kine close to her. The sheriff once thought it amusing to place me within his power, to exercise that power over me. I might enjoy the turnabout.”
“If not willing compliance, I will prompt eager compliance.”’
There’s no mistaking the darkness now.
“And should they scoff at my sister’s gentle touch, or believe themselves above my firmer hand…” She spreads her arms out, encompassing the horror around them.
“Then let them learn to fear.”
GM: Her mother’s answering, pride-swollen smile is even more radiant as she brushes a tender hand along Caroline’s cheek.
The cruise ship rumbles beneath them, slowly but steadily sinking into the deep. Caroline is not sure how long it will take, only that its end is surely inevitable.
“Your answer is pleasing to me, my treasure.”
“It pleases me to see you strong.”
“Tell me, now, of the course of action you would counsel for our Simmone.”
Caroline: That smile almost washes out the horror of hundreds, perhaps thousands, dying as the ship sinks beneath them.
“I would my sister’s voice also weigh in on Simmone, but most directly, Maman, she needs to be challenged. It does not do for her to clutch you in fear, however much your touch may comfort her.”
“Cécilia and I would break her of the grip the ghoul’s actions have over her. Slowly expose her to more and more. Allow her to return to some semblance of normalcy.”
GM: “Do you believe this would make her happy, sweet child?”
“She has told me, many a time, that she is happy in our company. That she desires naught but our blood for companionship.”
Caroline: “I believe she would be happier if, even if she preferred us, she did not cower in the face of others, Maman.”
“If she chooses to remain a child, I would have it be a precocious child.”
GM: “She need never lay eyes upon another soul if she does not wish it. She may wish for the moon and stars themselves, and Maman shall provide.”
“But should she wish for greater normalcy in her life, then I shall make the fulfillment of that wish, too, my foremost purpose. Convince your sister of the rightness of this course of action, and her whim is my command.”
Abélia glances out over the side of the groaning cruise ship. It’s so tall. Practically a building flipped sideways over the water. Little by little, the waterline draws closer.
Caroline can only guess how many people are on board.
“There is more than enough vitae on this vessel to slake your thirst, my dear.”
“Please, feast to your heart’s content ere we depart.”
Caroline: More than enough. That’s an understatement. She doesn’t want to think about how many hundreds, or even thousands, of people are dying here tonight. In the blink of an eye, more lives taken than the whole of her Requiem.
She wants to be okay with it. She wants to be able to shove it all aside. They’re just kine, right? Not even kine that she cares about.
It doesn’t make it right. Can’t make it right. A lesser atrocity she might ignore, but this is killing orders of magnitude greater, and of innocents purely for… for her education?
She wants to make her mother happy. Wants to do as she bids, but some pathetic part of her snarls at her claims, at her dismissal of the lives on the ship. Until now, until this moment, she could pretend in some moral hypocrisy that she wasn’t a part of it, however responsible she might be. She didn’t kill anyone directly, did she? Did she? It’s not her fault… is it?
And then the walls break away, break down, the dam crumbling under assault before collapsing entirely.
Why? Why are they here? Why does she have to do this? And she does have to. She knows (fears?) what her mother will do if she balks. If she expresses anything so pathetically human as remorse or horror.
And perhaps that idea, that lie begged from her is what does it. She fears what the truth will bring—not for herself though—but more than she fears that, the idea of the lie between them over this is what she can’t stomach.
Crumbling bones slosh around the deck in rotting human stew and filth, some far too small. The smell is overwhelming. And she feels so powerless.
“Maman, I…” the words die as pitifully as the kine died here.
If she were a human she might be hyperventilating as it all crushes her, is the near panic tightens around her chest like a vice, instead her chest is still and lifeless. As lifeless as she is. As lifeless as the ship will be before long.
Her mother wants what’s best for her. Will do anything for her. Will do this for her. Something black and twisted whispers that she’s being weak, too weak to claim what she’s being offered, this great gift. Would it be so bad? To cut ties to the kine? To embrace her inner monster?
But she remembers what she felt when she fought the Sabbat, when she cut the head from one, when she delivered their ‘priest’ into oblivion he so surely deserved. How right it felt to do so. And too with the demon in the Dungeon, a last act of her life that helped give purpose to it, that gave her peace.
She doesn’t want to become one of those things, even if no one knows. She’ll know. Even if Maman accepts her for it: she can’t accept herself that way.
GM: “Oh, my sweet, sweet child.”
Abélia brushes a hand along Caroline’s cheek.
Distantly, she can make out noises. Voices. Sounds of fear. Panic. Commotion.
But no one approaches the top deck.
Who in their right mind would, after what dozens of witnesses saw?
The ocean doesn’t glint in her mother’s eyes. It’s swallowed by them. Two hungry orbs that look oceans in their own right, black and fathomless. Caroline is reminded of her prior words:
“Unimaginably vast and unknowable, with depths so dark no light will ever touch them. Eternal. Something others can only rest upon lest they be swallowed up by it.”
“I think the most talented kine might be a captain on your sea—always subject to your mercy, no matter how wise he may be. We, I think,” she had gestured to her sisters across the ship, “are creatures in that dark embrace.”
The ship continues to slowly, steadily sink beneath them.
“This is displeasing to you,” her mother states.
Caroline: The scale of what her mother has done for her is staggering. As a demonstration of her will and how far she will go in an attempt to make Caroline better or happy, it’s a herculean task that shames Caroline to even think about. How few in the world could begin to do what she’s done? Certainly no other that would be inclined to do something.
But it’s a carrion gift of such staggering horror that even its impersonal nature isn’t something she can ignore. Hundreds or thousands of people are dying. Will continue to die. It’s monstrous. Utterly monstrous.
And yet… and yet Caroline feels so ashamed of her rejection of it.
What’s wrong with her? Why can’t she just accept it and move on? Isn’t this the very lesson her mother wanted to teach her?
The Ventrue bites her lower lip. She doesn’t want to admit it. Doesn’t want to make her mother unhappy.
But she’s more afraid of the lie between them. She’s so tired of lies.
She nods, her mask cracking into one of grief. “Yes, Maman,” she admits, her voice choked with grief.
“I’m so sorry.”
GM: “Oh, my poor, sweet child.”
He arms encircle Caroline, pulling her into a soft embrace.
“You don’t want to make me unhappy. But you are unhappy.”
She feels a hand stroking her back.
“Thank you for your honesty. I know this wasn’t easy for you. You have nothing to be sorry for. A mother could not ask for a better daughter. I could never bear to see you unhappy,” her mother’s voice whispers in her ear.
“What would you ask of Maman, my treasure? Ask for the moon and stars themselves, and I shall pluck them from the sky if it would but allow a smile to grace your lips.”
The ship continues to shudder beneath them.
Caroline: What does she want?
The Ventrue grits her teeth. For this never to have happened. But she knows how ridiculous and childish such an answer is.
The follow on—not to remember any of this—feels even worse. Moral and physical cowardice, hiding from the truth like a girl under the covers, or worse, sticking her head in the sand. It would almost make it all worse, make her a worse and more pathetic part of it.
What does she really want? Not to be weak. To be what her mother expected of her tonight, to make her proud.
But she knows too, that’s not in the cards. Not tonight. Perhaps a century will harden her heart. She hopes (fears?) so.
What does she want tonight? The question is more alien than Abélia has ever been to her, leviathan depths and all.
Behind her mother’s gentle acceptance, that soft whisper and touch, the building panic begins to slide away. The pull towards normalizing is so insidious, so seductive.
The purely rational part of her mind makes its argument, if the kine are going to die anyway, shouldn’t she take her fill? Satisfy the hunger here, rather than with some needless victim and simultaneously please her mother.
Another voice back, ’aren’t all kine going to die anyway? Where’s the line?’
And still, another part asks even more insidiously, when has she ever had such an opportunity? To feast and feast and feast until her Beast cries out to stop, until the she is so drunk on blood that she can’t take any more. To drown it in blood past the point of satiation.
They’re going to die anyway… aren’t they?
She’d argued the use of Nazi and Japanese war crimes related medical research during her senior year in LD debate. That the damage was done, that it was more disrespectful to the victims to put it to waste. To not save other lives that could be saved with it, no matter the suffering and human cost of it.
Is this different?
GM: She’s not sure whether her father agreed with her or not. He was too busy to weigh in on something so inconsequential as high school debate topics.
But it felt like he would have.
She feels her mother’s hands stroking her back.
“Your thoughts are conflicted, sweet child. Take as long as you require to reconcile your feelings, then say only what you would see done here. If it is within Maman’s power, she shall see it done. And if it is not within her power, she shall not rest until it is.”
Caroline: What does she want?
It should be such a simple question, but the entire premise is just alien. The answer has always been rooted in what someone wanted of her, for her, as long as she can remember. The answer was always part of the mask she presented to everyone: her father, her professors, her lovers.
Is it really possible that someone genuinely means it when they ask? That it isn’t a trap?
Her mother’s touch drains the tension in her shoulders, in her back, and just for a moment the regal bearing slips and she’s just Caroline. Not Caroline Malveaux. Not Caroline Devillers. Not a scion of Louisiana’s most powerful family or one of the Americas’ mightiest princes.
She breathes in the warm night air and it fills her cold, dead body.
“I want this to mean something, Mother. More than just my edification, I want the death of the kine tonight to be with purpose.”
“You would that we paint over my sins—let us do so here. That I should sake my thirst—that as well. And whatever other bloody lessons I must learn, or you would have me learn, I would see them done. Tonight.”
Her gaze settles upon her mother’s once more.
“You have humbled me with the scale of your love, but I would that there be no need for a future demonstration of this scale. I have no doubt of your power, nor question of my importance, but this…” she gestures to the nightmare around them.
“Don’t make make me see this again. Please.”
GM: Her mother’s arms seem to encircle her all the more tightly at that dropping of the mask. The ship may sink beneath them, and the sea’s winds and waters may be dark and cold, but for a moment she can be just Caroline.
Just a young woman with her mother.
“Of course, sweet child,” sounds Abélia’s voice. “You have my solemn pledge that I shall slay no further kine in such numbers for your edification, or for any other purpose on your behalf you find objectionable.”
There is a faint chuckle.
“Yet I am no governess to plan your lessons as might your sire. Where I see need, I shall teach. At present, I see no further such need.”
“You ask that these kines’ deaths serve a purpose. So be it. The souls of those aboard this vessel might fuel many workings of power on your behalf. What ends would you see them used towards?”
At Abélia’s words, the rot within the mob of splayed corpses accelerates. Already half-pulped flesh, muscle, and splattered organs dissolve into putrescent, equally foul-smelling black slime. Rotted bones decompose into sodden clumps of ash. Shuddering pools of liquefying flesh, dotted with clumps of hair and teeth, lurch into a semblance of animation as they half-crawl, half-seep off the deck. Clothes, shoes, phones, wallets, jewelry, and assorted other personal effects are carried after them. Caroline can’t hear any splashes as they disappear over the side. Soon, the deck stands bare and empty.
The smell is better.
Caroline: Speak what she wants. Is it really that easy?
“I want strength enough to stand outside my sire’s shadow, to carve my own Requiem from the world. I wish my mind inviolate, a terror for those that would dare to trespass in it.”
The words come more easily as she speaks. “I want to be feared more than I am loved. I want to soar on the wind when the sun rises and watch my sisters prosper, to be there beside them against any that would dare to raise a hand to them. I want to lead, not be led along, to rule.”
She looks at her mother. “I would make myself the master of my destiny, that I might take what I wish from my Requiem, not only what misers might give me.”
“I want my sire to be proud of me, but not to rule me, and for everyone that once cast me side to lay awake in fear wondering how they ever made such a foolish decision.”
Her eyes drink in the darkness. “I would be you, reflected in all your dark majesty, Mother.”
GM: There’s a fluttering laugh from her mother. Dark and full, that the wind itself seems to carry, until all the night shares in Abélia’s mirth and merriment.
“Such ambition! It thrills me so to hear you speak in such a way, sweet child.”
“Much would I give to see your words become reality.”
She gives a wistful sigh.
“Yet I am afraid the lives aboard this vessel are insufficient for the power you seek. They are of inferior worth to mine, even in such numbers. Were their worth equivalent, we could not claim them so easily.”
“Some paths to power are shorter than others. You know this well, my dear. You have walked one already. Yet I am afraid there are no truly easier paths.”
Caroline: Her mother’s words reaffirm her own, the fresh cutting out of wants from whole cloth she had been so tepid in voicing.
Caroline grins. Some were easier than others.
“I have no expectation that I could scale those heights with ease or without sacrifice, Maman, nor that they could be summited in any single night, but I thought it better to paint with a broad brush.”
GM: Her mother’s dark eyes brim with pride at her thought.
“Tell me but how you would make use of these kines’ lives to further your ascent, sweet child, and I shall see it done. Even lives of trifling worth may be put to great uses in so great a quantity.”
Caroline: How far might her mother’s powers go?
It’s difficult to say. She’s seen frightful depths to her abilities, but how deeply they drew upon her is a mystery. How greatly did her initiation into the family wear at her? She knows Abélia will give her anything, but she does not wish to deplete her towards this end. Not tonight. There are other uses for her mother’s powers that coming nights will require on behalf of her sisters.
She begins modestly.
“I told your sister truthfully, Mother—I have no desire to make diablerie a Requiem-long indulgence—but I am not yet finished. And I would not suffer the judgment of others for the lengths I will go to, not now or in the future.”
GM: “You have said as much, my dear. Fear not. That shall require but a single, young life.”
Her mother smiles contently.
“The purer the innocence, the more totally may sin be concealed.”
Caroline: A single young life.
Does she fear?
Only where this path will take her. How many sacrifices will she judge sufficient? How many compromises of her principles?
More than she wants. But isn’t that how it is, in life and in death?
The hardest paths, the tallest mountains, the the greatest heights, require the strongest of wills.
She hardens her will.
She is her mother’s daughter. She is her father’s daughter. She is her sire’s childe. Whatever else she is, she must be strong in will.
Caroline runs her tongue across her fangs. “Even the mightiest of those I would strike down and claim within New Orleans would leave me with a shadow of the power wielded by my most potent rivals.”
“But there are others. Could they illuminate the path to them?”
GM: There is another fluttering laugh from her mother.
“Perhaps, my dear. These kine’s lives may be used to illuminate a path. Whether that path leads to the fruits you desire at its terminus shall be seen.”
“I am certain you harbor few doubts, sweet child, that some of those Cainites lost to Katrina also lost their souls beneath their fellows’ fangs. Many Cainites who knew of the amaranth, I am certain, took advantage of the storm’s chaos to feast upon forbidden fruits. I would be surprised if any vanished elders remained undiscovered by their fellow Cainites, waiting for a fortunate diablerist to turn their torpid dreams to nightmares.”
A smile spreads across her features.
“But I would not be surprised to find lesser slumbering Cainites still buried throughout the city. Their vitae would serve little enough purpose remaining buried.”
Caroline: “Lesser Cainites abound, Mother. But were I content to climb the slow stairway to power, I would have no need for their blood to begin with,” the Ventrue observes.
“Still… they would present a less dangerous path than hunting more active Kindred.”
She shifts track, kiting against the wind. “Diablerie and the slow march of time are the only paths to power—personal power—that I have seen. Might the blood of the kine direct me to another? Or accelerate one or the other?”
“With the bishop and priest both, I could feel all that I left on the table, pieces of them sliding away into oblivion even as I took those parts I cared for most.”
GM: “There are means, to derive power from masses of insignificant lives such as these,” her mother answers. “There is always power in sacrifice.”
“Yet for your species, sweet child, many of those paths are closed without skill in obscure arts. For most Cainites, power lies in the Blood alone. Your forefather became what he was through murder of his kin—those whose blood was as his own. To become closer to him in power, you must become closer to him in deed.”
“For you and I alike, the lives of these kine may be used to fuel many evanescent workings of power. Through them, you may enspell men’s minds, move as lightning, weather assaults upon your body and mind, and call upon Caine’s other gifts. In my hands, the lives of these kine may accomplish still further feats.”
“But I am afraid they may increase your puissance in the Blood no further, nor allow you to consume all parts of your defeated foes. Even an ocean of water cannot age a cask of wine.”
Caroline: As much as she might have wished otherwise, it was the answer she expected. If there was an easy road to power through the kine, she’d expect to see mountains of corpses presided over by Kindred kings.
“I presume too, that power cannot simply be held in reserve for a moment of need, and must instead be directed immediately?”
GM: Her mother cups her cheek.
“Sweet child. Much as you might wish an eternity to plan, hoard, and strategize, the world moves ever on.”
“It is a weakness of Ventrue’s childer.”
Caroline: Caroline leans into that hand, eyes closed, but her mind doesn’t slow. It rarely did before, but never since she consumed the bishop. She took far more from him than just supernatural puissance. Fittingly so.
Her mind races to what ends she might turn a night of power to—tearing apart the city in search of Claire’s safehouse, hunting Gettis, bringing Meadows to heel as the seneschal wishes. The last is so very tempting—to meet the terrifying Gangrel in overmatched terms. Whatever she might share in public, whatever flight she and her ghouls forced from the scourge, she knows the truth of it: alone that night she’d have been destroyed, ripped apart by the savage.
Her mind further races to other scores she might settle, to power she might claim. An elder, alone, who so nearly unmade her in his desire to take from her. To use her. Could she challenge him? Defeat him? Claim all that he is from him? Perhaps. His destruction would do much to further her plans, to shock the few remaining of Clan Ventrue. Galvanize them perhaps into action for each other, to cease their plotting against each other for a time. That she would do so by plotting against them is an irony not lost on her.
But she has plots laid for all these goals, things in motion, ways forward, and none require her to tear through the city in a whirlwind of power.
More too, she knows herself. Knows how addictive that power would be to her. Like her father, like her sire, her vice is not sex, not drugs, not alcohol, not even violence: her vice is control, it’s power, and power she would not easily let go of. It would also tempt her: do it again.
Perhaps it is fleeting affection for the living—a vestige of humanity clinging to her pitch-stained soul—that screams at the orders of magnitude greater this atrocity is than any before. Hasn’t she always been able to justify her victims? Sinners, or killers, or monsters, all those that deserved their fate.
Perhaps it is the temperance of her life, turning her away from that final indulgence. Too aware of the terrible draw of such easily obtained might. More though, she thinks, it is the thought of her sisters.
Cécilia, she knows, could forgive her for such an black act. Cécilia would forgive her for anything. But she would know. She would always know how Caroline transgressed against God and man for a fleeting power that even now she must search for a purpose. Not to protect her family—for that she would take the power in an instant—but for transitory goals. She would know how hollow Caroline’s principles were, how little she valued Cécilia’s own. Caroline owes Cécilia more.
And Yvette. Her sister would take from it only an example, a path to be followed. She knows the darkness around the twin, knows how precarious the balance of her Requiem will be in early nights, not to descend into savagery. This act would be a beacon for her when she learned of it. A siren’s call that would lead her to a moral abyss even the damned could not withstand. Caroline has a duty to be better than that, to blaze a better path.
Then, the shallower level of it. Caroline doesn’t want her accomplishments built on carrion throne by her mother. She doesn’t want to leave any doubt of who others should fear, should respect. Her ascent might be atop a mountain of corpses, but those are bodies she will stack with purpose. She doesn’t need a fell ritual, doesn’t need the kine, to ascend. She will take from the world what she needs—with her mother’s help, but not purely by her mother’s might.
Her eyes open, once again staring into Abélia’s own.
“I am what I am, and I would not change. Let us be gone from here, Mother. I would sooner spend the rest of my night with my sisters and mother just as I would sooner trust to my own strength of will, to my schemes, to my plots, than believe in what these kine may offer me.”
“It is not power they would provide, only weakness, a reason to doubt in myself.”
“Let us leave them to their terror, they are worth no more of your strength and no more of our attention.”
GM: The bishop’s rapacious intellect, added to hers, spits out scenarios and analyses like a computer.
She’s seen how potent ghouls old in the Blood can be. Kelford, against whom she described as “a joke.” Lou, who brought down René. The Hussar. Who knows how Gettis compares to any of them? Perhaps the sacrifice of hundreds could help.
Her mother’s safehouse. Doubtless, Claire hit it well. Donovan has many matters upon his plate, but doubtless, he and other parties desire it for their own too. Perhaps the sacrifice of hundreds could help.
Coco said Meadows has ghouls of her own. That she won’t underestimate Caroline a second time. That she won’t just blunder in to the heart of Caroline’s strength by herself, surrounded by all of the Ventrue’s servants, and still claim two lives before abandoning a needless fight. The nights where anyone underestimates her so sorely seem as if they will soon be ending. Perhaps the sacrifice of hundreds could help.
Matheson. His blood and soul, if she can claim it, could add so much to hers. The bishop’s and the priest’s were no stronger than hers, yet their fruits were sweet indeed. A true elder could batten her vitae so much further. Perhaps the sacrifice of hundreds could help.
How indeed could Cécilia not forgive her. She’s lived with their mother for close to thirty years. How many sins has Abélia disclosed to her? Can this be the first time she has sacrificed so many for power?
The cruise ship continues to groan and sink beneath the pair as she deliberates. Caroline wonders how long it will take the great vessel to rest beneath the waves. They made a movie out of how long it took the Titanic.
Yet, at her choice, her mother smiles.
“You are full of surprises, my child. You make what to many would seem a strange choice. A unique choice. Yet there is its own strength in it.”
“So be it. We shall leave these kine to Pontus’ mercies. His subjects shall dine well.”
Caroline: Her mother’s agreement lifts a weight from Caroline’s shoulders she didn’t know was there. Because she spared their lives, because she stepped back from the abyss, or because of her mother’s approval? Does it matter?
“Sea has forever been a fickle domain,” she agrees.
GM: Caroline’s mother takes her hand, and then darkness gathers around them both like a rising tide.
They reappear aboard the Nyx. Everyone still lies asleep upon the deck. The cruise ship is so much taller than the Devillers family yacht, but the angle is slightly off-kilter. Caroline can see some of the great vessel has already sunk beneath the waves. The rows of white and orange lifeboats all lie adrift in the water, and far from their mother craft. Lights flicker uncertainly from the cruise ship’s windows, as if mirroring the moods of its passengers.
Abélia watches the sinking vessel contently.
Caroline: Caroline leans her shoulder against Abélia’s own, watching the lights go out in the darkness.
“Allow the wind carry their salvation to them, Mother.” She gestures to the floating life rafts. “Let those with the strength to seek it claim their future.”
“If I am not taking their lives with purpose, I would as soon we not take them at all.”
GM: “Some of them may recall your face, my treasure, and what transpired here. It would be a simple enough thing to tender them to Pontus’ true mercies.”
Caroline: She weights that risk in her mind.
The odds that one of the few that saw her clearly on the deck would be among those that survived—diminished all the more by the terror that will cloud their judgement in making their escape.
The odds that the memory of her is clear in their mind amid the terror of this night.
The odds that any of those with clear memory might clearly identify her by that memory.
The odds that any might take those few seriously, and not simply commit them for the psychotic breakdown they would be experiencing.
Their paltry numbers against the hundreds or thousands on the ship.
She laughs. “Mother, was this not in part your lesson this night? Am I to fear them more than a schoolteacher and the neonate childe among her children?”
GM: Abélia’s dark eyes smile.
“My daughter should not fear these ignorant masses, but a mother always fears for her children. It would require little effort to silence those fears permanently.”
Caroline: “I have no doubts,” Caroline answers warmly, of her mother’s claim.
“But lions hunting inspects does nothing for the lions, and even if by the most unlikely of circumstances one ever rose to threaten me, he would be only a tool in my arsenal as I hunted those who brought them before me.”
“I have few enough opportunities and rare enough inclination towards magnanimousness. Indulge me this one, Mother.”
GM: “So be it, my dear,” her mother answers. “De Corazon’s little dream is no less deceitful than its dreamer.”
Caroline: That stings. The Masquerade is important. The basis for her very existence, of the existence of all of her kind.
But then, hasn’t she always been willing to take more calculated risks with it than most?
“If you don’t bend the rules you’ll never know when they break,” she quips.
GM: Her mother smiles as she looks back upon the sinking ship.
“Your education is most incomplete where that rule is concerned, my dear. I doubt Philip or your sire shall ever tell you its truth. But that lesson is for another night.”
“As for tonight.”
“If Simmone wishes to retain her dance teacher, then the matter is settled. You and Cécilia may act as you see fit towards the fulfillment of that end, but if you are unable, I shall slaughter the Flores line stem and root.”
The cruise ship continues to steadily, inexorably sink in the background.
Thousands of lives perhaps lost, without Caroline’s intervention.
Caroline: Her mother’s remark about the Masquerade perks her interest, but she allows the matter to slide. Caroline knows that all things will be made clear in the proper time. Instead she turns to the topic at hand.
“I’m confident that will not be necessary, Mother,” Caroline answers, watching the death of the great ship. “As, I’m certain are you. Few things might resist the pull of one of your daughters. With two, it is as near to a certain thing.”
Saturday night, 12 March 2016, AM
GM: “I feel like I was asleep,” Cécilia remarks to Caroline after the Nyx is back underway.
“Maman must have put us under.”
She doesn’t sound curious.
Caroline: Caroline nods, watching dark waters. How many died tonight? How many more might have if she had not drawn back from the yawning abyss? The Ventrue’s cold hand seeks another in the darkness and finds Cécilia’s.
“She had a lesson for me that was ill suited to everyone else.”
Part of her wants to continue, but that is not a sin she would lay upon Cécilia’s conscience, and instead she changes topic. “She was willing to grant a stay on the Flores family, presuming we ensure that Diana does nothing so foolish as cease teaching Simmone before she is ready.”
GM: Cécilia squeezes her hand back.
She looks confused for a moment at Caroline’s words.
“Yes. Maman said she would spare the other Flores. I remember that too.”
“But, I agree. We should definitely try to keep them out of danger.”
“I admit Celia and I have grown apart since high school, but I don’t want Maman to hurt her. Or her daughter, or any of her brothers and sisters. They don’t deserve that. Mrs. Flores doesn’t deserve that.”
Caroline: “It’s for the best,” Caroline observes, her voice distant. “That you drifted apart, that is.”
“It’ll be better for them too if we can find a replacement for Mrs. Flores in Simmone’s life.”
GM: “You might be right on that first count,” Cécilia agrees.
“Why do you say, though, on that second one? Mrs. Flores has taught all of us, for over ten years now. Simmone really likes her.”
“I really like her, too. So do the others. She came to visit when Yvonne was the hospital, with food. It was very kind.”
Caroline: “She’s too close to too much of Kindred society,” Caroline answers.
Because our mother will murder her entire family if she turns her attention from Simmone for any reason…
“Eventually someone will try to use her. It’ll go badly for everyone. It’s dangerous for her just to visit us, honestly, given… well, her daughter.”
“I’m sorry. That’s a really depressing take. I just mean that I know you and the others care about her, it’d be better for her, safer for her, if we got her… a little more out of the way.”
GM: “That is, yes. But I suppose Celia does complicate things, for her and everyone. Maybe that would be best.”
“I don’t know that Simmone will want to give her up, though. She has such a hard time with strangers. And Maman will want Simmone to have whatever she wants to have.”
Caroline: Of that Caroline is well aware.
“We’d need someone with the proper appeal to her,” Caroline agrees.
“Maybe we could make it a game of sorts for her, treat her, with the option to pick out one she likes.”
GM: “That might be an idea,” Cécilia considers. “But is it really a treat to replace a favorite teacher with a new one?”
Caroline: “I don’t think you frame it that way,” Caroline answers. “Let it be a treat, and see if you can have it take the place of the existing option.”
GM: “What if she’s not interested, though?”
“Simmone isn’t any stranger to turning down offered things she doesn’t think she’ll like.”
Caroline: “Don’t make it about her, then,” Caroline suggests. “Especially if everyone is going to be home for a while, make it a group activity… or better, make it the adult activity. I can’t imagine her being happy about being excluded.”
GM: “Maman says that’s going to come to an end soon,” says Cécilia. “Though I still think I’ll keep living at home. I don’t feel safe living by myself anymore.”
“In any case, we can try that with Simmone.”
“I’d just expect a struggle. She’s so used to getting what she wants.”
Caroline: “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Is there? Or is she becoming her mother?
“I just know how much more distressing it would be for her if she was more attached to Diana and something happened to her.”
GM: “I certainly hope nothing does. Mrs. Flores has been a really good teacher to us, for just so long.”
“But I suppose you’re right that Kindred are inherently dangerous. All the more so to have one as a daughter.”
“Well,” she amends with a faint smile, “for ordinary humans, at least.”
“Maybe there’s something we could do to help, though, if there’s some kind of trouble she or Celia is in? Especially if we’ve put them in more danger, with coming to the Garden District. Like you implied.”
“That isn’t worth Mrs. Flores’ lesson fee. And Celia insisted on not charging anything.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “Her sire threatened to kill Diana if she was caught here again. Or maybe as punishment for getting caught here.”
GM: “Oh my Lord,” Cécilia murmurs.
“All right, then we should definitely stop the dance lessons. They aren’t worth anyone’s life.”
Caroline: Caroline nods in agreement. “There’s a better answer for everyone. We just need the tyrant to sign off on it.”
GM: “The tyrant? You mean, Simmone or your sire?” Cécilia asks with an amused smile.
Caroline: “Oh, Simmone of course,” Caroline answers with a hint of levity. She’s dumped enough on Cécilia’s plate as is.
GM: “All right. We might as well do it now, unless you think there’s a better time.”
Caroline: “None like the present,” Caroline agrees. “I’ll have one if my people do homework when we get back. Line up some prospects.”
GM: “I could ask Mrs. Flores, too. I’m sure she knows other dance teachers.”
Caroline: “That’s not a bad idea… I don’t want to give her the wrong impression, though, that she’s unwanted.”
GM: “I don’t either, but we’ll have to tell her that at some point if we’re hiring someone else.”
“The Flores are fairly well-off, at least. I know they won a pretty big insurance settlement a while back. So they don’t need the money.”
“I don’t think Mrs. Flores even does private lessons anymore, actually, for students besides Simmone.”
Caroline: “Maybe you could talk to Celia about it too, have her lean on her mother?” Caroline suggests.
GM: “I might ask you the same, actually. You can be honest with her about why the lessons need to stop.”
Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue over her fangs. “She and I play for rather different teams, and she doesn’t exactly frequent Elysium. Plus few licks look kindly on things that could seen like threats to people they care for.”
It’s not exactly a no, though. “I can bring it up if we see each other, though.”
GM: “That sounds good, then,” nods Cécilia. “I can find a way to bring it up if you don’t find the time.”
She pauses for a moment, listening to waves lap against the ship’s hull. The coastline looks vaguely familiar to Caroline again. She hasn’t been out yachting after dark too many times.
“What about you, Caroline? I know there’s been a lot to process lately. With everything at the beach house, but before too. How are you holding up?”
Caroline: She stares into the dark.
A lot to process. In less than a week she’s consumed the souls of two Cainites, marking herself as a pariah among her own kind but leaping decades ahead in supernatural prowess, seen her sire’s acceptance, journeyed across the world and fought the Sabbat, joined her family and learned of dark secrets within it. Slain Claire. Deceived her brother. Destroyed Jocelyn. Claimed the Malveauxes.
Been party to the murder of hundreds.
She feels… weary. That bone deep exhaustion she associates with the end of a tournament or a marathon.
But the marathon has only begun.
“You know about caterpillars and butterflies, but did you know that the caterpillars has identical genetic material to the butterfly?”
She takes a deep breath, leaning her head back to look at the sky for a moment as she continues, “When they go into the cocoon most of their body liquefies, but it doesn’t change from from one species to the next. The caterpillar always had the genes to grow wings, and from their first steps they know how to fly, even though they couldn’t.”
She turns to Cécilia, “I think it’s a lot like that. Parts of me are breaking down, disintegrating, melting away: but they are pieces that have to go so I can do what I always knew could.”
GM: “I’m sure you must have a lot of feelings around that,” Cécilia nods. “Caterpillars do what they do by instinct. But to any thinking, reasoning person, that sort of metamorphosis would be fraught with all sorts of emotions. Normal puberty is fraught with enough emotions already.”
“But these are changes that you want? That’s the important thing.”
Caroline: “I don’t know that it really matters. Change comes to is whether we want it or not, just like the caterpillar.”
Does she want Caroline to complain about her lot? Talk about how she barely recognizes herself in the mirror? About how with so many different titans pulling on her she wonders how she hasn’t come apart?
But then… that’s exactly what she wants, isn’t it?
Her shoulders sag from their haughty posture as she leans heavily on the lifelines.
“It’s a lot,” she tentatively admits.
GM: “I can only imagine how much it is. At least your sire hasn’t called you away yet.”
Caroline: It’s interesting, and faintly terrifying that he hasn’t. She’d presumed everything would change radically. This feels very much like the same with higher stakes.
“It’s been an unexpected blessing,” she agrees.
“Cécilia…” There’s not a good way to phrase this. “There’s no one else. No one else in my Requiem I trust to help be my rudder. Just you.”
“Maman, I know, will always seek that which makes me happy, which I want. But it’s… different.”
“You’re the last person with a human perspective. The last person with a conscience. Maybe the last person with a soul.”
“When I said earlier I didn’t want you to take the offered Embrace, I meant it for the reasons I said, but there was another, more selfish reason too.”
“I don’t want you to become like me, and I need you if I’m going to retain a piece of what I am… or at least what I’ve been.”
GM: “I don’t think that’s selfish,” says Cécilia. “Wanting to retain a conscience is exactly the opposite of selfish, in fact. Your conscience determines how you treat others. You’re telling me that you want to treat other people decently, and that you’re also self-aware enough to recognize you have problems doing that on your own.”
“So if I can help you, or rather, help you to help others, I’m happy to. That’s another reason to feel like saying no to Aunt Mur’s Embrace was a good decision.”
Caroline: Caroline nods, relief spreading across her face.
“It’s not my voice anymore, that I hear when I consider the ‘right’ thing. It’s yours. And without it…”
Bodies melting, purifying in free fall. Skulls bouncing around the deck. Skulls that are far too small. The scream of the Sabbat Priest as she tore his soul from him, tore it into pieces to consume.
“It’s so easy to take the simpler answer, the fast hour, the convenient answer.”
GM: “Do you feel like you’ve been able to resist doing that?” Cécilia asks.
Caroline: The Ventrue shakes her head.
GM: “I’m sorry, that was a bad question. We’ve all had times we’ve fallen short. I think very few people could answer ‘yes’ without any caveats.”
“Most people would probably answer what you did, or ’I’ve tried to.’”
“What about more recently? How do you feel about yourself there, and taking the easy versus hard answer?”
Caroline: The yawning abyss.
“Maman offered me something. Something dark and terrible. And I wanted to take it so badly.”
“But I didn’t.”
“It was eye-opening, though, to the lengths she would go. It’s almost frightening, having someone that will give and take for you without limit.”
GM: “I was wondering when she would,” says Cécilia. “She’s done as much for me too, but I imagine the temptation was even greater for you.”
“I’m glad you were able to do the right thing.”
Caroline: “What did she do for you, did she offer you?” Caroline asks.
GM: “After Mercurial Fernandez harassed me outside of my apartment, Maman offered to kill him for me. Along with all of his family members and the gang he was associated with, to tie up loose ends, and to spare me from having to deal with the stress of getting the restraining order and wondering whether it would be effective.”
“Or I suppose, she didn’t offer to kill them, so much as state she was going to.”
“I asked her not to.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t know if she’d have asked if Cécilia had been her sister then.
“You made the right choice. He was pathetic.”
GM: “I’m glad you think I did. Maman’s otherwise offered to kill a large number of people for me, when dealing with them was frustrating or inconvenient. Most of them didn’t do anything on the same scale to me that Mercurial Fernandez did.”
“I asked her not to kill any of them either.”
“She also offered to kill Emmett for me several times.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue on that particular point.
“They weren’t even people that did anything wrong. They were just… convenient to me. Or their deaths might have been.”
“But once you go down that path… every next time becomes easier.”
“I didn’t like what it would make me to you. Didn’t like the example it would set for Yvette.”
GM: Cécilia nods. “That’s the nature of any habit. Do anything enough times, and it becomes harder to stop.”
“But you’d still be my sister, whatever you might have decided.”
“I think you’re right to want to set a good example for Yvette. She’s going to need them.”
Caroline: “It would be very easy for all the power of the Embrace, and all that mother might offer, to lead her down a very dark path,” she agrees.
Like Caroline is one to talk.
GM: “It would. I said, earlier, that the Embrace takes a special sort of character. I think Yvette has that, but that it could also be very easy for her to lose sight of humanity.”
“She’s still going to look up to you. I imagine she’s going to want to spend a lot of time with you. So you might find a second source of strength in that—in being her role model.”
A pause. “Because I don’t think her sire and ‘stepfather’ are going to be, at least when it comes to maintaining her humanity. So that leaves you.”
Caroline: Another reason she has to ascend, to race to power. Influence over her sister aside, the balance of power between Caroline and McGinn, much less him and his harpy lover, is grotesquely skewed in his favor.
While she would rather cultivate a more cordial relationship, she’s always favored the Reaganeque line: ‘peace through strength.’ All the more so in a society of literal predators.
“And you,” Caroline offers. “You’ve helped pull her back before.”
GM: “I’ll continue do my best there. But my guess is Yvette will be completely enamored with the new world her sire brings her into. She’s only 18 and her brain isn’t fully developed. I’m ultimately a spectator to that world, whereas you’ll be able to share it all with her.”
Caroline: “I’ll always find time for her,” Caroline agrees. There’s an excitement there she can’t entirely hide.
GM: “You’re looking forward to that,” Cécilia smiles.
Caroline: Caroline nods. “If the opportunity presents, I’d love to introduce her to the world ahead of her Embrace.”
“I’d rather she go in with all eyes open and her first experience not at her sire’s tender hand.”
GM: “That sounds wise. Taking her to Elysium, or something else?”
Caroline: “Elysium perhaps,” Caroline agrees. “Though I don’t think I’d want her recognized. Things to consider.”
GM: “Her sire-to-be might not either,” Cécilia considers. “Though I suppose where else would you take her? Do Kindred tend to have public gatherings at other locations?”
Caroline: “I honestly don’t really know,” Caroline answers. “I’m sure there are more specialized social gatherings, but I didn’t exactly make many Kindred friends while I was on the warpath.”
GM: “I’m sorry. I’m sure more friends would have been helpful to have in so many ways.”
Caroline: Caroline waves a hand. “I made my bed… with some help. It’s water under the bridge now. Most of them would have been liabilities now.”
GM: “They would?” Cécilia sounds curious. “Maman tells me it’s typical for neonates to gather in coteries for mutual protection and support. She said it was mortal connections they usually try to keep secret.”
Caroline: “I’ve cut through entire coteries of young licks by myself, and I’m hardly the match of most powerful ones in the city.”
“I’m not saying friends won’t help, or even that I don’t want them, but of the available pool from where I was?” She shakes her head.
“Too many Jocelyns.”
GM: “Ah. I can see why you might have wanted to avoid that,” Cécilia frowns. “I suppose it doesn’t matter how old or capable your friends are if they’re setting themselves on fire at your house.”
“How are things with the two of you now, by the way?”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t let the thought of Jocelyn’s demands linger, doesn’t let the memory of the Toreador all over her, shoving her blood in Caroline’s face, float on the surface for too long before she smothers it in the dark.
Who cares anyway—it’s hardly the first ‘bad’ sex she’s had in her life.
“It’s…” she shakes her head, “it’s fucked. The seneschal bid me to bring her back into the fold, so I did.”
She shakes her head again. “Maybe if I’m gone, if the blood has time to cool…”
Then, “She thinks she bound me to her.”
GM: “I suppose it’s no surprise she’d have wanted you both to be fully bound,” says Cécilia. “That must have made things feel even to her.”
“How does that make you feel?”
Caroline: “It’s all the bond,” Caroline declares angrily. “It’s all it ever was with her. Possession at best, infatuation. There’s nothing real there. But the seneschal says keep her around, and if I have to keep sleeping with her to make that happen, then so be it.”
GM: “That sounds terrible,” frowns Cécilia. “There has to be another way.”
“Of either satisfying his demand, or getting him to retract it.”
Caroline: “It’s fine,” Caroline states without passion. “At least there aren’t any illusions about what it is for me.”
“If I’m going to enter into a blood marriage with Primogen Poincaré, it’s all a moot point in the end anyway.”
GM: “Do you want to do that, either? You felt… interested, but also wary.”
“I can see why you would, on both counts.”
Caroline: “It serves my interests, his own, and also those of our aunt’s,” Caroline answers. “That there are preconditions I need to meet in personal growth and achievement to make it tenable is a problem I’ll get around.”
“I could do much worse. He’s a near-universally respected and powerful elder who could bring in an entire covenant. We could end the war before it started.” She describes it as though she’s describing a corporate merger.
GM: “I’ll pray that’s how it goes. I don’t want to lose you in a war.”
“But I suppose even if there is one, that’s all the more reason to need new allies. Your sire will be a huge loss to the Sanctified. The covenant will need to make up for that somehow. This could be a way to.”
Even on the road she’s on, it’s not enough. Not nearly enough. No matter how many licks she consumes in New Orleans, it’ll still be centuries before she can actually stand in his place.
She’s not enough. And not because of a war with Savoy or the Baron.
“I need to know about her father. Maman’s.”
GM: Cécilia nods. “Mur and Maman obviously know more about him than me, but I’ll answer what I can.”
Caroline: “I think he’s stirring, under the Dungeon.” She bites her lip. “I fear that he’ll rise again when my sire falls.”
“I need to know the story of how he was defeated the first time, in France.”
GM: Cécilia gives a grim look. “That sounds consistent with everything else you and they said.”
“I don’t know that story, though. Much of what Mur and Maman said was new to me too. Maybe we can ask them?”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “I don’t expect its a tale they want to tell, or that we’ll get it tomorrow, but… eventually.”
GM: “There’s time. Hopefully.”
Caroline: A nod to the darkness.
“All the time in the world, an eternity, and never enough.”