“What makes a traitor so reviled, effective, and dangerous is that you do not suspect them.”
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t begin to know how to frame this one: it’s going to take more resources then she typically works with to explain the use of highly controlled military weapons in such numbers—at least in the face of any substantial scrutiny.
For the moment, she settles for working to get the cars near each other—to a passerby it might simply look like a horrific three car accident at high speed. Ferris sets to work policing the spent brass, gathering the automatic weapons and rocket launchers, and the like and hiding them at the edge of the woods.
She and Gisèlle work to mange any cars that pull up, that stop in the night. Altering memories, sending them on their way as though they’d seen just an accident, or a dead animal in the road.
GM: Midway through the group’s labors, the invisible staked figure becomes plain to Caroline’s sight. He’s a black-haired and tan-skinned man with Middle Eastern features in seemingly his late 20s. He’s lean-framed, shorter than her, and dressed in the same camo garb as his men.
Caroline: Caroline takes the opportunity to badly break both of his arms, his wrists, and fingers, stomping on them.
She’s taken enough chances tonight. He had his shot.
GM: “Shame we can’t just cut them off,” remarks Ferris.
Caroline: He’s right, unfortunately. Removing limbs is a prolonged and messy business for someone without supernatural strength, much less without sawing implements.
“Left my sword at home,” Caroline grins.
GM: “I’d be surprised if none of these people had bladed weapons. They were clearly targeting Kindred.”
Caroline: She takes the opportunity to check him for any ID, or clearly identifying marks.
GM: His ID card says Rajab al-Beydoun was born on June 4th, 1987 and is an organ donor. He also has a multitude of further weapons on his person, including a long combat knife.
Caroline: Caroline relieves the assassin of his weapons while they wait.
GM: The helicopter eventually lands. Hurst gets out with three ghouls who Caroline doesn’t recognize. He immediately rushes to Becky Lynne’s side, embraces her, and asks if she is all right. She answers in the affirmative, though sadly states that Peggy is dead, along with several others. Hurst shakes his head at the whole scene.
“Well, Eiren, it looks like a lucky thing you were here first,” says the aedile, nodding towards Caroline.
Caroline: “Lucky,” Caroline agrees.
As though the assassin hadn’t sought her out.
“Sometimes things just come together that way.”
GM: “So they do.” Hurst looks around the scene. “We got room for three, besides the pilot. Who’s coming back besides my sister?”
“Of course you’d say me,” smiles Becky Lynne. “The seneschal wants Eiren Malveaux-Devillers, myself, and our friend with the wood in his heart.”
Caroline: Caroline nods.
“I have additional ghouls en route,” she offers. “Including my cleaner. She’ll do what she can here. They’re manpower if nothing else. They left via car shortly after our first conversation, Aedile Hurst.”
GM: “Good news,” says Hurst. He hefts the staked vampire over his shoulder, waving off any of the women who attempt to help. He seats the assassin down into the helicopter and secures the seatbelt straps around his body.
Becky Lynne takes the seat next to her brother. Caroline is left to sit beside her would-be killer.
Caroline: She takes a seat next to him, wearing his knife, with her stake shoved in his chest. She tries not to look smug about it.
GM: The frozen-faced assassin doesn’t look like much of anything.
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM
GM: Hurst pilots the helicopter back to New Orleans, chatting with Becky Lynne along the way about how events down, and finally lands on Perdido House’s helipad. They are greeted on the roof by Robert Congo, who offers to take the assassin’s body, but Hurst says he’ll manage it.
The ghoul escorts them to Maldonato’s office, where the seneschal patiently awaits the group from behind his desk. Becky Lynne dips into a curtsy. Hurst bows and sets down the assassin on one of the room’s chairs.
Caroline: Caroline mirrors the older Ventrue.
She can’t deny there is relief to be back in the city—it washed over her when the city’s lights appeared over the horizon.
It’s a greater relief to be back in Perdido House, before the seneschal. That the two might turn on her at any moment during the flight was a possibility she had considered. The assassins’ knife had laid heavy against her thigh, loose in its sheath.
If it had come down to it, she’d have let the Beast off its chains. Let it and the crash sort things out. Better than going quietly.
She’s glad it didn’t.
GM: “I am pleased that your mission was successful,” Maldonato states as he surveys the three. “Risk was ventured. Reward is now our due.”
He turns to the assassin. The stake removes itself from the vampire’s chest.
The broken-limbed man offers a bow from the chair.
“I am Raaid ibn Badr bint Khalil bint Nazeeha bint Fatima bint Thetmes ibn Sha’hiri ibn Haqim, Your Grace.”
Caroline: The information is less valuable than the identity of his employer, or confirmation of his target, but she allows the seneschal to play his cards as he will. He’s been at the game for far longer than she has.
GM: “I am sorry that we must meet under these circumstances,” says Raaid. “Your name is not unknown in Alamut.”
“Nor, evidently, is mine the only such name,” answers the seneschal. “Who was the target of your contract, son of Haqim?”
“The childe of Prince Augusto Vidal, Caroline Malveaux-Devillers,” answers Raaid.
Hurst’s eyebrows raise.
Becky Lynne’s don’t.
Caroline: Caroline bites back a hiss.
So much for the longevity of that secret.
An assassin, brought from around the world to kill her, within nights of her presentation.
GM: “From whom did Alamut receive her contract?” inquires Maldonato.
“I do not know,” answers Raaid.
The seneschal stares at him for several moments.
“You speak truly, son of Haqim. I would have been surprised had you spoken falsely in this matter.”
Raaid inclines his head.
Caroline: There are plenty that would see her dead. There are fewer that might confidently name her the prince’s childe.
GM: “The contract upon Miss Malveaux-Devillers has failed,” states Maldonato. “Do traditions remain as they once did in Alamut? Are further contracts upon your target closed?”
“That is as things long were,” says Raaid. “Jamal no longer sits upon the Black Throne. Alamut may consider it a point of honor to avenge my final death and complete the outstanding contract.”
“That is unfortunate for us all,” replies the seneschal. “I would be inclined to release you as a gesture of goodwill to Alamut, if I knew for certain that further contracts upon Miss Malveaux-Devillers were closed. Yet I do not believe her sire shall be so forgiving.”
Raaid inclines his head again.
“This, too, is known to us.”
“If there are questions you would ask of our guest, Miss Malveaux-Devillers, you may do so now,” Maldonato bids.
Caroline: Caroline nods. “I have several, Seneschal, thank you.”
She turns on the crippled vampire, eyeing him warily.
“You fought well. Very well.”
GM: Raaid offers another inclination of his head at Caroline’s words.
Caroline: “Were you given a time and location I would be at to conduct your strike, or did you arrange circumstances that would pull me from the city?”
GM: “I was given a time and location.”
Caroline: There are painfully few that might have arranged such a thing.
She nods. “I know little of Alamut, so please forgive my ignorance. It seems that in your, or my, victory or defeat, this contract could have provided no peace. I am months in the Blood, expendable. But no matter the victor between us, hatred seems now destined to continue between our masters. Is it the way of Alamut to become more than the blade between two foes, to become a foe itself?”
“I would speak plainly with you. It is not my desire to become leverage used to place my sire in conflict with others by his enemies. By your hire, this appears unavoidable.”
GM: “So long as the defeated perish honorably, that is not Alamut’s way,” answers Raaid. “We have rendered judgment upon the Get of Khayvin since time immemorial. Many rafiq have met final death in pursuit of Haqim’s will. If Alamut sought vengeance for every fallen son and daughter, we would have enemies beyond count—though individual sires may find it harder to forget a childe’s final death.”
“Alamut does not forget foes whose treatment of our defeated sons and daughters profanes Haqim’s name. One of the rafiq during the wars along the Eastern Seaboard was captured by a foul Tzimisce and made a plaything for his captor’s pleasure. For this stain upon our clan’s honor, Alamut took out contracts upon him and his captor. I shall hope for all our sakes to meet a cleaner death.”
Caroline: “If released, what message would you carry back to your masters?” Caroline asks.
GM: “That I have failed to complete the contract and Caroline Malveaux-Devillers yet walks the night.”
Caroline: “That is all?” Caroline probes.
GM: “That is all of concern to them.”
“A contract was taken. The contract was not completed.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “Then we must all do as our masters bid. One final question: how long ago was the contract taken out upon me?”
GM: “I do not know,” answers Raaid. “I was ordered to fulfill your contract but recently. Whomever wishes you dead might have contacted Alamut anywhere from nights to years before then—though in your case, likely no earlier than six months.”
“You too fought well, Miss Malveaux-Devillers. All the more so for one so young. Your enemy is wise to contract your final death before you have time to grow more formidable in the Blood.”
Caroline: Caroline inclines her head in respect, then turns once more to the seneschal.
“I have asked my questions, Seneschal.”
“For what it may matter, I hold no ill will, and would see him banished, or if he must be slain, that it be done cleanly.”
GM: “What of the fact that Miss Malveaux-Devillers asked for your release, sir?” asks Becky Lynne. “Will that go a ways towards smoothing over any ruffled feathers with Alamut?”
“I will be held no worse or higher in the rafiq’s esteem,” says Raaid. “Either way, I will have failed to complete my contract. Miss Malveaux-Devillers may be viewed more favorably.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue.
There’s little more to add now. If the assassin has been honest, it is in God’s hands. And her sire’s.
The use of her ancestry in the attack tells her something, but little more than how the attack was arranged. How carefully it played to not only her own weaknesses, but those of the seneschal.
She supposes this is what her Requiem will be.
Her remaining questions, for Adler, are not the business of the assassin.
GM: Maldonato steeples his fingers as he regards the Assamite.
“Traditions in Alamut are not as they once were, son of Haqim. Would you make a second attempt upon Miss Malveaux-Devillers’ unlife if released?”
“If commanded to,” answers Raaiad.
“You would owe her a debt, son of Haqim, if she contrived to spare your unlife.”
“That is so,” grants Raaid. “If Alamut commanded me to end her unlife, I could fulfill but one obligation. But I do not believe my superiors would entrust me to complete Miss Malveaux-Devillers’ contract after having failed once.”
Caroline: Caroline tilts her head. “If released under those circumstances, would you see fit to convey warning to me if further attempts were forthcoming? Not of their details, that might betray your covenants, but of their intent?”
GM: “Surprise is an assassin’s greatest weapon. Is not such a warning still betrayal?”
Caroline: “Is not a departure from the old ways without such a warning dishonorable?”
GM: “The Shepherd now sits upon the Black Throne. His word is Haqim’s, and Haqim’s word is law. If the Eldest would overturn prior tradition, the rafiq will obey.”
Caroline: “I would not presume otherwise,” Caroline agrees. “We must all be loyal servants to our masters.”
“I seek only a way you might honor your oaths while repaying any debt.”
She bites her tongue. “Might you delay your reporting of this?” she asks.
GM: “I would not,” replies Raaid. “But if you wished to hold me here, I could not stop you.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip.
“That is an option,” she muses.
“My murder will mean far less in a year than tonight, for many interested parties.”
And hopefully be rather more difficult.
GM: “Our guest gives utterance to a thought he knows has already occurred to us,” states Maldonato. “If a second assassination attempt may follow the first, we shall endeavor to delay it by all means available. When are you expected to report back to your superiors, son of Haqim?”
“I am to return to Alamut when the contract is fulfilled, or when I believe it may no longer be fulfilled,” states Raaiad. “My superiors informed me the contract was time-sensitive.”
“That every further passing night was undesirable.”
Caroline: Caroline’s face says everything at that admission.
GM: “If you had fulfilled your contract, how long would your journey back to the Mountain have taken you?” inquires Maldonato.
The assassin inclines his head. “I cannot stop Your Grace from reading my houghts, but I will not divulge that information freely.”
“We do not seek the Mountain’s secrets, son of Haqim,” states Maldonato. “Nor do I believe we might divine Alamut’s location through the contents of your mind alone.”
“Nevertheless, we shall not compel you to divulge that information, and we will err on the side of caution. You shall remain staked in Perdido House for one month.”
“One month’s time lost is preferable to an Istirja lost, Your Grace,” answers the Assamite. “I have no complaints.”
Caroline: She bets he doesn’t. Attempt to murder the prince’s childe and suffer a month staked.
She’s suffered worse for less. She distinctly remembers a night in which Donovan leaped across a table and unceremoniously staked her before leaving her for a weekend in a basement beside other undesirables.
GM: :: Your sire’s knowledge of this Kindred’s actions will result his final death. If you are sincere in your desire to see Raaid ibn Badr’s unlife spared, I would not bid you lie to your sire, but nor would I counsel you to reveal more than is asked for. ::
Caroline: That thought immediately turns her stomach, snatches the euphoria from this victory away.
It also demands she push back against the very idea.
:: I would not withhold information from him for Raaid ibn Badr’s sake. ::
:: I would spare him a battle on my behalf. ::
GM: :: The choice is yours, Miss Malveaux-Devillers. ::
Caroline: :: I will not lie to him, :: Caroline clarifies.
:: But you know better than any his wrath, how he would treat this attack. What he seeks he will find, but I will not lead him there. Not unless the circumstances surrounding this require it. ::
:: You know she isn’t entirely innocent in this matter. ::
GM: The stake rises aloft and plunges back into the Assamite’s breast.
“Primogen Hurst, please relocate Raaid ibn Badr to one of the holding cells.”
“I shall also trust that your clan’s elders will not discover you were made aware of Miss Malveaux-Devillers’ lineage before they.”
“Lips are zipped ‘til they’re the ones to tell me, Your Grace,” nods Hurst as he hefts up the assassin’s body.
“Gabe, you can get a ghoul to do that for you,” smiles Becky Lynne.
Hurst chuckles. “You know I don’t mind gettin’ my hands dirty, sis. Good night, Your Grace, Miss Malveaux-Devillers.” The primogen nods to Maldonato and Caroline.
“Good night, Primogen Hurst.”
“I’ll see you soon, Gabe.”
Caroline: Caroline watches the exchange silently.
An act? Difficult to tell. They certainly appear to have affection for one another. How that arose from Matheson’s cruelty is a question for the ages.
The sight dredges up suppressed desires. The image of Cécilia, immortal alongside her, potent like so few neonates in the Blood. Fully brought into this world, an ally she can rely upon like no other. She knows well she’ll never share another sister-in-blood as Hurst does, but she could share something different, almost entirely unique. Cécilia, not the observer and adviser, but an active participant in the All-Night Society. Cécilia, never growing old. Never dying.
She buries the urge as Hurst turns to leave. A few nights ago, she’d never dreamed she would even have Cécilia as a part of this life at all. She’d feared her connection to her family would die with the bishop’s demands. Now she wants to see her murdered, see the life drained from her body, so she can prey on mortals in the night alongside her.
GM: Cécilia said she’d do it. That she would accept this burden. There’s less need for a Malveaux marriage with Caroline brought into the family.
Hurst, meanwhile, takes his leave of the office and closes its door behind him.
:: If you would question Miss Adler, you may do so now, Miss Malveaux-Devillers. But take heed that she may yet prove a potent ally. ::
Caroline: She rolls that idea over. Adler might indeed.
But not if she knew. Not if she was a part of this.
She rounds on the other Kindred. “Ms. Adler. I regret that you were drawn into this, used as the bait to this trap, and that you suffered as a result.” She buries the Ventrue honorifics around the Lasombra elder.
She also buries the ‘but’, instead pausing for a moment before taking a breath and continuing.
“You heard what the assassin said. This attack required careful coordination and timing. It required knowledge of how both I, and the seneschal would react. If there is something you believe might be disclosed which would help identify the contract holder, I would request you do so now.”
Because when I find them, I am going to rip their treacherous heart from their chest.
GM: “Thank you, Miss Malveaux-Devillers,” says Becky Lynne. “Though I’d say poor Peggy suffered worse than me. I’m still unliving, at least.”
“I’m afraid I can’t think of anything that would help identify whoever’s behind this. This entire thing came as a surprise.”
Caroline: The gentle smile fades.
“Ms. Adler, who knew of our planned meeting tonight?” Caroline probes.
“That matter could not have been widely circulated.”
GM: “No one I’d suspect of having a part in tonight’s events, Miss Malveaux-Devillers,” Becky Lynne answers frankly. “I might ask you the same question, and whether any prying ears have access to your haven.”
Caroline: “Ms. Adler, until Peggy’s arrival, I’d expected to meet you in person. No one on my staff, including myself, knew you were in Gulfport. This leak did not come from my side. Not because we are above suspicion, but because we were incapable of executing it.”
“Someone knew where you would be. They knew we would be speaking and when. They pulled massive levers to create a circumstance that would entice me to respond, and in addition they knew the seneschal’s own likely response.”
“They were able to provide all the way down to a date and time, predicting reactions accurately, with enough notice to have an assassin travel from across the world to execute.”
“An assassin hired with extremely sensitive, privileged, information.”
“That you do not suspect those parties knowledgeable of this does not relieve them of suspicion. We have a traitor in our midst.”
“What makes a traitor so reviled, effective, and dangerous is that you do not suspect them. That they are above suspicion. That you trust them.”
“This traitor is perfectly willing and able to use you as leverage. To threaten your Requiem and exploit the seneschal’s affection for you to entice him into taking risks he otherwise would not.”
She saves her trump card for now. The missing bodyguard. The suspicion that she’d poisoned him. There’s no need to make allegations yet.
Better to bait the trap, to see how Adler responds.
There are circumstances in which she could imagine Adler blameless. Though not innocent. She knows something.
“Ms. Adler, it worked. They know they have a lever. And because it worked they will target you again, as acceptable collateral damage if required, to get to not only me, but the seneschal.”
GM: “Foreknowledge of your activities does not imply knowing or willful participation in this evening’s events, Miss Adler,” Maldonato states calmly. “Individuals with such knowledge may have been ignorant or unwilling accessories. Nothing is yet established. It is for the sakes of those close to you as well our own sakes that I would know whom was aware of your meeting tonight with Miss Malveaux-Devillers.”
Becky Lynne listens between Caroline and the seneschal.
“Outside of Peggy, only my sire and Primogen Hurst were aware of my itinerary,” the other Ventrue answers. “It’s certainly also possible that other Kindred could have stolen that information from them or me, through a variety of means.”
“Because it doesn’t make sense to me that it would have been one of them. Not, as Miss Malveaux-Devillers says, because they are above suspicion, but because they were incapable of executing tonight’s events. My sire knows, if I may be frank, very little about the contemporary workings of Whitney Hancock, federal law enforcement, and legal institutions. My brother-in-blood doesn’t have enough pull in those groups to have arranged tonight’s events. Very few Kindred could have done so.”
“My sire could have hired the Banu Haqim assassin, but I wouldn’t be inclined to suspect Mr. Ibn Badr of arranging these events either. I’m to understand his clan favors more direct means of moving against their targets than influence games.”
Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue across her fangs.
“A boon, perhaps, called in?”
She doesn’t comment on how inconvenient it is that ‘Peggy’ is not available to be questioned.
GM: “Am I to understand you’re hypothesizing my sire called in such a boon, Miss Malveaux-Devillers?” Becky Lynne asks.
The Ventrue’s voice is mild enough, but certainly cooler.
Caroline: “I’m speculating someone might have called in a boon from your sire or brother, Ms. Adler,” Caroline clarifies quickly.
“I think it less likely they would so overtly risk you in this way—to say nothing of the appalling Masquerade breaches associated with this attack, and the damage it may do to your own personal Masquerade.”
“Such information may have appeared less sensitive than it proved to be.”
GM: “You think they could have disclosed my itinerary for a boon called in,” Becky Lynne clarifies. “That’s certainly one way someone might have found out, but to me it’d seem suspicious to spend a boon over it—why not simply ask and claim an innocuous reason, like wanting to meet with me over something?”
“For that matter, why ask either Kindred about their childe’s or sibling minor’s availability. Much easier to ask Peggy.”
Caroline: Because you were also compelled to dispatch your bodyguard and travel alone this night.
GM: “I don’t advertise my trips to Gulfport, and Peggy knows—knew, not to do the same, but there are many ways to make a ghoul talk.”
Caroline: Caroline is trying to offer her an out, trying to find an explanation that doesn’t make the seneschal’s favorite neonate into a knowing conspirator, but Adler is playing her role too well.
She’s well aware of how easy it was to make Peggy talk.
GM: “It is regrettable that we cannot question her, Miss Adler,” states Maldonato. “Yet more regrettable to you, I am certain, is the loss of a faithful servant. I am sorry that Miss Sweet’s life was claimed by tonight’s events.”
Becky Lynne bows her head.
“Thank you, Seneschal. She was faithful. She will be mourned.”
Caroline: Caroline gives that thought a moment to cool before continuing, not wanting to interrupt.
“There was nothing else unusual about tonight Ms. Adler, prior to your apprehension?”
GM: Becky Lynne seems to think.
“No, nothing especially so. I wish I could say more. As you observe, Miss Malveaux-Devillers, I’ve been targeted by these events as well. Directly and indirectly. I can’t even imagine the headache that’s going to await at the bank tomorrow—and it’s going to be all the more inconvenient to respond to, given the state of things with my mortal identity.”
She gives a faint smile.
“I suppose we’ll be in need of legal counsel that’s more sensitive to our needs than a kine law firm.”
She inclines her head again towards Maldonato.
“But you’ll forgive me, Your Grace. Your time is valuable and these neonates’ nightly dealings and concerns are not yours.”
Caroline: “Ms. Adler,” Caroline interrupts more gently.
“Almost half of the city’s Ventrue have been destroyed in the last year. Another has had his reputation so badly mauled he may never return to the city. Two more by all rights should have been destroyed tonight.”
“We’re losing. To everyone, and everywhere. Being dismantled. Picked off one by one and two by two.”
GM: Becky Lynne nods somberly.
“So we are, Miss Malveaux-Devillers. It’s my hope your sire may see fit to bring new blood into the clan, or perhaps invite older blood to relocate itself to the city.”
“Something needs to make up for these losses.”
Caroline: “Until then, I would fewer secrets between us, and greater alignment of purpose.”
She runs a tongue across her fangs, “When I sought to speak with you tonight in the first place it was to disclose something I believed might be of interest to you.”
“Richard Gettis is alive.”
GM: :: This conversation is best held on your and Miss Adler’s own time than mine, Miss Malveaux-Devillers, if it is not immediately germane to the events of tonight. ::
Becky Lynne raises her eyebrows.
“Oh, my goodness. That is something to hear. Is he one of us?”
Caroline: She’d hoped to off-balance the other Ventrue, to set her up for a push on the topic of her missing bodyguard, but she can all but feel the seneschal’s lack of patience. His frustration that his favorite neonate, his chosen heir to the throne, his dirty secret, isn’t interested in playing ball.
Speaking to her with the seneschal was a mistake.
He cannot be objective where she is concerned.
“I’m certain you have many things to see to Ms. Adler. When you’re interested in that story, the full story so far as I know, my door is always open.”
GM: “I should very much be, Miss Malveaux-Devillers,” offers Becky Lynne. “I imagine we’ll have a great many things to discuss together.”
She turns to regard the seneschal, only for him to preempt her.
“I require access to your thoughts, Miss Adler,” Maldonato states without preamble. “Will you consent to allow me ingress?”
“I am our prince’s obedient subject,” Becky Lynne answers demurely. “May I inquire as to what Your Grace hopes to find?”
“I hope to find explanation for your alleged poisoning of your bodyguard, Miss Adler.”
Caroline: Caroline falls silent.
She’s too accustomed to working within the limits of her own abilities, of her own influence. Simply invading Adler’s mind had not occurred to her.
GM: Becky Lynne’s eyebrows raise again.
“I have nothing to hide, Your Grace.”
The seneschal holds her gaze for several moments.
“You do not,” he declares summarily, “but another does. You poisoned your ghoul at the subliminal command of another, Miss Adler, and were thereafter compelled to forget the deed.”
“Miss Sweet has rendered us all a further service since her death, for it was she who raised this matter to others’ attentions.”
Caroline: She’ll render a second if Caroline has any say in it. Sweet’s death, unfortunate though it may be, is a convenient writeout for Adler’s identity, and using the corpse on scene vice killing another to stand in her place is not only efficient but moral.
All the same, she bows her head for a moment.
She’s lost more ghouls than the average lick. She rarely handled it as well as Adler has.
“A well-conceived use,” she observes after a moment. “If Miss Sweet, Miss Adler, and I had all perished as intended, this secret would have been neatly buried.”
“I don’t imagine many had both opportunity and capability to do so.”
GM: “Even had not one of you perished tonight, this deed might have escaped our notice without Miss Malveaux-Devillers’ and Miss Sweet’s vigilant attentions,” answers Maldonato.
“Great thanks do I owe Peggy indeed,” Becky Lynne offers, bowing her head again.
“May I inquire by whose urging I was made to harm another of my servants, Seneschal?”
“You may not, Miss Alder,” Maldonato answers without elaboration. “Yet I do not believe you have immediate cause to fear further invasion of your mind.”
Caroline: That catches her attention as the list of suspects for this attack grows short.
GM: He withdraws his pocketwatch from his coat to examine its face.
“These events have claimed much of my time this evening. I may spare none further and have heard all I need hear. The Masquerade still must needs be observed. You and Miss Malveaux-Devillers will return to the battle site and ensure all evidence of our kind’s hand is erased. I do not believe your Requiems will be at further risk by doing so. Robert Congo awaits outside the door and will make available whatever resources you require.”
Caroline: “By your will, Seneschal,” Caroline acknowledges.
GM: “By Your Grace’s will,” Becky Lynne repeats. “Thank you, on my and my kin’s behalf, for the aid you have rendered us tonight.”
She rises, dips into another curtsy, then departs the office with Caroline.
The assassin’s attack may have been foiled, but the night’s work does not seem done.
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM
GM: Robert Congo awaits attentively outside his domitor’s office.
“Another pilot for the helicopter has already been arranged,” states Congo. “Is there aught else madams require?”
Caroline: Other than disclosure on who pulled the strings on tonight?
“Not for me, Mr. Congo,” Caroline replies. “Most of my people are already en route. They should arrive around the same time we will via helicopter.”
GM: “I’d offer to bring some more of my own, but between Miss Malveaux-Devillers’, my brother’s, and the seneschal’s, I think we’ll have enough ghouls to go around,” volunteers Adler.
“Very good, madams. You may then return without delay,” states Congo. “The pilot is not a ghoul. His memory may require alteration if he sees anything amiss.”
“Landing where we do may be amiss enough,” considers Becky Lynne. “But thank you, Mr. Congo. We’ll see the First Tradition is observed around him as well.”
“Hm, actually, there is no need for that,” the Ventrue seemingly reconsiders. “I’d rather not add more work to what’s ahead tonight.”
“I don’t have an actual pilot’s certificate, but my brother has shown me how to fly this specific model of helicopter.”
Caroline: Caroline tilts her head.
GM: “Very good, then, madam,” states Congo.
“Perhaps better you make the flight yourselves.”
He shows the two back up to Perdido House’s roof and informs the waiting pilot, a still-handsome 40- or 50-something man whom he addresses as Mr. Barber, that his services will no longer be required. He will still be compensated for his time.
Caroline: Caroline gives the man a second glance, but not a third, as she and Adler climb into the helicopter.
She has to admit that it makes for much smoother ride than the seneschal’s powers.
GM: Barber seems happy not to make a flight out at this late hour if he’s still getting paid and takes his leave, though not before giving Caroline and Becky Lynne second glances too.
“I wouldn’t mind flying you lovely ladies at a saner hour,” he smiles.
Becky Lynne chuckles goodnaturedly at that. “Perhaps you’ll get to someday, Mr. Barber.”
Caroline’s clanmate takes somewhat longer than Hurst did in getting everything ready and double-checking things, but soon has the helicopter aloft again. The whir of the chopper’s wings makes the cockpit a less than quiet space, but there’s enough insulation for the two to speak.
“Well, I suppose there’s no time like the present now on the matter of Richard Gettis,” says Becky Lynne.
Caroline: Caroline isn’t certain that there’s no better time—a frenzying vampire flying a helicopter seems like a recipe for disaster—but doesn’t argue the point.
“He’s a ghoul,” she begins.
“A very, very old ghoul. Blurs the line between independent ghoul and hunter, but of late he’s leaned towards the former.”
GM: The other Ventrue frowns in thought.
“What makes you say so in that regard, Miss Malveaux-Devillers?”
“I’d think hunters would have more reason to target the Whitneys than independent ghouls.”
Caroline: “Because the last time I saw him directly he was working with agents of Mr. Savoy, and I have a credible report that he has longstanding ties to him. Mind you, he’s hardly the first hunter to take up with him. His stance is significantly more agreeable than that of my sire towards them.”
GM: “Ah, yes. I’d heard much the same,” says Becky Lynne. “I suppose it’s no surprise. He always has been more willing to seek friends in low places.”
Caroline: “I don’t know what the plan was, shooting my sister and your niece, but I doubt it was a spur of the moment decision.”
GM: “My niece, Miss Malveaux-Devillers?”
The other Ventrue sounds only mildly confused, as if Caroline is simply mistaken.
Caroline: “It took me a while,” Caroline admits. “Longer than it should have, but I trust you’ll grant that I had admittedly pressing concerns early on.”
“But few things escape my notice these nights.”
GM: “The seneschal is a good friend to have,” Becky Lynne concurs.
“I trust you’ll further understand my and my sire’s reservations as to any Kindred’s involvement with the Whitney family.”
Caroline: “I’ve found him so, these last few nights. We seem to have found our accord,” Caroline agrees.
“And of course. I would have had stronger feelings and less kind words than you expressed at the prospect of another Kindred associating with my sisters. Your restraint was admirable, Questor Adler.”
GM: “It was for Sarah’s and the others’ benefits, as much as anything else. No reason for any neonate to get especially antsy over another Kindred’s interest in her sire’s domain, beyond looking out for his interests.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “I can see many benefits to starting over, after the Embrace. Developing a new identity. It helps protect them. Keeps them out of things, as much as possible. Lets you start again, fully immerse yourself in this world, as painful as it might be to cut ties.”
GM: “Protects them, and the simple necessity of the Masquerade. I’ll turn 31, in not too many weeks. Sarah was six when I died. Now she looks about as old as I do. My father looks like he could be my grandfather. My brother looks like he could be my father.”
“Cosmetics can only disguise so many years.”
Caroline: Easier for Caroline than Rebecca. Dying even a few years older means, if so inclined, she could disguise her age for decades. But it’s hard to hide a teenager’s features.
“It might have been easier, early on, if that option had been available. It might have mitigated some of the worst of my transgressions before Gerousiastis Malveaux. I don’t know that I would have had the wisdom to take it, though. Abandoning who you were is a leap of faith.”
“And without an education into the clan, or even the Camarilla, missteps would have still been all but certain.”
She runs her tongue across her fangs. “I am grateful for that, as an aside. I know I was not an easy student.”
GM: It doesn’t help that the seeming 18-year-old’s small frame only further emphasizes her youthfulness.
“I’ve had no other students to compare you against, Eiren Malveux-Devillers, so for all I know you might have been,” Becky Lynne declares with a hint of a smile. “And it will be worth more dignitas now than it was before, I think.”
Caroline: “Only if I succeed,” Caroline observes.
GM: “That much was true anyways.”
“As to wisdom, time and experience is usually the only thing that teaches it.”
Caroline: “Not my strongest subject,” Caroline muses.
“But that brings us back to Gettis. I don’t know what his intentions were that night, but if I have an opportunity—and I intend on manufacturing one—I’m going to make him pay for it.”
GM: “That’s a worthy enough cause. I don’t imagine you’d care to chance a repeat of that night’s events. I wouldn’t either.”
Caroline: “I don’t know if you’d be interested, Questor, in being a part of that when the time comes, but it seemed right to extend the opportunity.”
GM: “Perhaps not personally, Eiren, depending on the final lay of things. But certainly in a background role.”
“I’d have no bone to pick with Richard Gettis, if I were confident he would never target another Whitney—my mama always said to keep your eye on the ball, and a feud by itself gains my family and I nothing. But without understanding Mr. Gettis’ motivations, I don’t feel able to confidently say the Whitneys won’t ever be in his crosshairs again.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. It’s a prudent view, and one she might have taken if Gettis had targeted her. He chose her sister though, and that she neither forgets nor forgives.
“I’ll keep in touch on the matter, then.”
GM: “Splendid,” says Becky Lynne.
“You’ll have to do it eventually, you know, Eiren,” she remarks a moment later.
“Disappear from their lives.”
“I suppose your sire considers another Malveaux death too much strain on the Masquerade, this soon. But in not so many years, staying will be the bigger strain.”
Caroline: “You’re more of an optimist than I’d believed, Questor,” Caroline observes lightly.
GM: Becky Lynne only gives that a faint, knowingly rueful smile as she stares out of the cockpit.
Caroline: Caroline’s mind dances back to all the negative, hostile thoughts she’s had about Adler, going back to their earliest meetings. The comment in the bathroom of Elysium, when she was trying to clean herself off. She’d thought the older Ventrue was just another petty ‘mean girl’—a type Caroline knew well. Hell, a type she was.
She reflects on her doubts even tonight. How she’d suspected Adler of plotting this, of arranging this. How ready she’d been for the stake in the back. And yet… it hadn’t come. By all available evidence, Adler was as much a victim as she was—and in some ways more.
And the seneschal loves her. That thought burns bright and jealously, but the beacon makes it harder to ignore. She generally trusts his judgement.
She may yet prove a potent ally. Those words echo through her mind. Perhaps enough for a leap of faith. A sharing of secrets.
“It was all arranged, actually. I was to die quite soon. I’d burned the bridges with my father’s family almost to the ground. Destroyed my name, at the behest of Gerousiastis Malveaux. I was trying to bury as many sources of conflict between us as I could, to re-frame our relationship. It seemed to be working.”
“A painful, wasted effort it seems,” she continues.
“He was assassinated nights ago. And all of our plans have turned to ash.”
“With the final death of Gerousiastis Malveaux, someone needs to be there to pick up the Malveaux pieces. Someone loyal. Elsewise someone else will.”
“It’s funny, a year ago I might have fought him to the death for the family, for what I considered my family, but I suppose the effort wasn’t entirely wasted. His efforts weren’t entirely wasted. I don’t feel excited at he prospect of claiming them as a domain. I feel… burdened.”
“I guess, though Caroline Malveaux-Devillers will live a while longer, the Malveaux part of me is truly dead. He accomplished what he set out to—much as he did with the rest of his Requiem.”
GM: Becky Lynne raises her eyebrows at the reference to the gerousiastis’ final death.
“My goodness. His loss is a great one—to the Structure, the archdiocese, and certainly to our prince.”
“I don’t know that anyone will be able to fill his pair of shoes.”
Caroline: “Every Kindred I get close to, Questor, seems to get destroyed. Every bridge I build I find leads only to ashes.”
She bites her lip.
GM: “I don’t know the good bishop was ever much of a bridge with you, Eiren, if I’m being honest. But oh, no. This really is terrible for the clan. I suppose Praetor Bindusara won’t be visiting after all.”
Caroline: “It took me too long to kiss the ring,” Caroline admits without further elaboration as the conversation moves on.
“I don’t know that his destruction will alter the Praetor’s plans. In fact, in some ways it makes his visit all the more important.”
She runs her tongue across her teeth. “Questor Polk died with him. There are painfully few that have near to their experience with the clan’s records, but too few things that I believe might drive others to take up that mantle in earnest like the forthcoming arrival of Praetor Bindusara.”
GM: “Lord almighty, Questor Polk as well?”
Becky Lynne shakes her head.
“We can just about forget that, then. No one else is qualified to take up the mantle—I don’t think there will be any opportunities for dignitas here. The Gerousia won’t risk the local clan’s embarrassment. No, I suspect the honor will simply go to another city, now, one with more qualified archivists and genealogists.”
Caroline: “You know their minds better than I, Questor, and had they been destroyed in some terrible accident I would agree. Their murder casts quite a different pallor on it, however.”
“To wave off now would be to admit defeat, to show how badly we have been wounded. And no matter how much I believe we have—the death of two members of the Gerousia within months of each other, to say nothing of the less noteworthy deaths, cannot be denied—I do not believe my sire will show what he believes is weakness.”
“If you wish to be the king of the jungle, it’s not enough to act like a king. You must be the king. There can be no doubt. Because doubt causes chaos and one’s own demise. He knows that better than anyone.”
“Now is the time for strength.”
GM: Becky Lynne smiles ruefully.
“It’s less a question of victories and defeats, Eiren, than doin’ what best preserves the regional clan’s history. Not many Kindred outside the Structure know about our archives or the praetor’s visit, so lookin’ weak to outsiders isn’t an issue here. Just the simple fact New Orleans no longer has the region’s most qualified historian, so that mantle will pass to another city. Your sire is strategos of all the Southeast, not just our city. He sees the big picture.”
Caroline: But there are plenty of Kindred within the clan that will look to such a move, alongside the presentation of his first childe in centuries and presumptive heir, and see weakness.
She doesn’t buy it, but doesn’t argue the point with the Ventrue a decade in the Blood.
“I’ve been wrong before,” she concedes.
GM: “But, really, I suppose it’s not our concern any longer, unlike the gerousiastis’ final death. Such a tragedy. He’d been a peer to the old gerousiastes even as an aedile, but my brother hasn’t seen near as many years in the Blood. And none of the remaining questors and eirens have seen near as many as him, with Polk gone too.”
“It truly feels as if we’re diminished now, not simply letting clanmates who’ve long earned their dues finally claim them.”
“I’ll admit his personality could be rather prickly, but I always found him helpful when approached politely. Smart as a whip, too. I think he knew something about everything, to say nothing of our clan’s history—it’s so sad to think how all of that knowledge is gone forever. All of that loyalty, as well. He worshiped our prince, would have done anything for him. And I suppose the Structure will no longer have a master sorcerer on call, either. Or, really, any sorcerer without Questor Polk either.”
She shakes her head.
“This and the last year have been comparable to Katrina, at least for us blue bloods.”
Caroline: Of course he was unfailingly helpful to you, Caroline doesn’t exasperatedly declare. The childe of the second-oldest Ventrue associated with the city, who never had to fight for anything. Who had a krewe from her earliest nights and the unwavering patronage of the seneschal. Who was educated into the ways of Clan Ventrue before a messy public reveal. Who wasn’t competing with him for his domain, stomping all over it just to maintain her Masquerade.
It’s almost too convenient, when she thinks about it. Adler Embraced against the seneschal’s wishes, by a group that included a psychotic and cruel Brujah nomad and… Gerousiastis Matheson? It strains credulity, but she can’t tell in the moment if that’s because she still wants to think the worst of Adler, wants to have something to blame her for. Some imperfection.
“His assassination was well-timed,” Caroline agrees. “Six months ago it would have hurt, but not been nearly so backbreaking. The loss of a loyal priest and aedile is one thing. The murder of the bishop and member of the Gerousia is quite another.”
“And as you say, Questor, there is no one to take his place in any of his myriad roles. Perhaps the prince will invite others to the city, and certainly we will all shoulder more responsibilities, but he can only be succeeded, not replaced.”
“I wish we had met under other circumstances.”
GM: “Even six months later might have made all the difference,” Becky Lynne nods.
“But I suppose these thoughts are better saved for his remembrance, and all the clan can do now is soldier on.”
“Perhaps we’ll see other Ventrue invited to the city. Perhaps there’ll be new Embraces.”
“Perhaps some of both.”
Caroline: “Did you know, Questor?” Caroline asks.
GM: “No, not specifically. Though I did know that Questor Baristheaut’s childe shouldn’t have been able to revive Miss Baker from torpor with her own vitae.”
Caroline: Caroline smiles. “The worst kept secret in the city, I think, some nights.”
GM: Becky Lynne smiles back. “In hindsight, perhaps wiser to have brought her to another Kindred, but spilled milk.”
Caroline: “I didn’t lie to her that night,” Caroline answers. “I knew some things then, but not all of it.”
GM: “I don’t think she’d begrudge you either way. We all have things we can’t talk about.”
Caroline: “Depends on what you lie about. More to point, I suppose, I wasn’t trying to manipulate her. I know she’s your friend, or at least was, Questor.”
“Lies are no way to build a relationship.”
GM: “True enough, Eiren. Honesty may be a luxury in the masked city, but it’s few Kindred—or people—who don’t enjoy luxury.”
“Miss Baker and I are on good enough terms, though we don’t spend as much time together as we used to. Our Requiems have taken us in different directions.”
Caroline: “No different than life in that way, I imagine. You drift away from your high school friends, your college friends, your young adult friends,” Caroline muses. “You don’t hate them, you just don’t see them.”
GM: “So I’ve found it,” Becky Lynne nods.
Granted, she died before making any college or young adult friends.
“The Baron is willing to let us investigate Louis Armstrong Park, by the way, so long as some of his people are there.”
“Though I’m not sure that may hold the interest or value it once did.”
Caroline: “It’s one of the few pieces I don’t have my thumb completely on,” Caroline admits.
“Such a distinctive location.”
“And such a distinctive sequence.”
GM: “I’m certain your sire or the seneschal know why you awoke there, Eiren.”
Caroline: “Verily,” Caroline agrees.
Not that they’re generally in the habit of doing so for her benefit.
“Likely not worth your time, Questor.”
GM: “I’ll simply thank the Baron’s people for their accommodation, in that case.”
“So what’s next for you, Eiren, with things as they now are?”
Caroline: It’s a good question.
“Recent events have seemingly pleased my sire. At least enough so that he has expressed willingness to acknowledge my existence and lift my head from the block. I’ve been told to expect sooner, rather than later, that I will be required to take some time away from this life to prepare for the one as his first childe in centuries.”
“I have a few house keeping matters to see too before that happens,” Caroline replies.
Like exposing and destroying the sheriff.
“Things I cannot leave half-finished. Establishing and securing my hold on various pieces of my Requiem—Masquerade and otherwise. Leaving fewer loose ends. And there are several matters I intend on putting into motion.”
She runs her tongue across her fangs. “Some of which may be of interest to you.”
GM: “You should expect that time with him to last potentially years,” Becky Lynne nods. “But you’ll be glad for it, whatever the inconvenience. You’ll learn and receive more things than you can imagine.”
“Perhaps we might reach an arrangement over some of those unfinished matters. Which spring to mind?”
Caroline: She runs her tongue across her fangs. “I have a thin-blood ward.”
A pause. “She’s pregnant, pretty far along, but I don’t think I’ll be here long enough for her to come all the way to term. I promised I’d shelter her at least until her child was born.”
GM: “Oh, my,” says Becky Lynne. “They really can be more like kine than us.”
“I could arrange for her shelter.”
Caroline: Caroline nods, though the gesture is lost on the flying Ventrue.
“She was Embraced, if you can call it that, pretty far along.”
GM: “That’s unfortunate for her. I’m sure all she wanted was a normal life for her child.”
Caroline: “It’s all she still wants.”
She bites her lip. “It didn’t stop me from bringing her and her ‘sire’ to the hounds, but it did convince the seneschal to offer at least a temporary stay of execution.”
“As long as one of us—or specifically I—was willing to take responsibility for her.”
“I don’t think my sire would take it very well, but letting a pregnant teenager, a good Catholic girl, get executed was more than I could stomach.”
“I don’t know if the baby will survive, or what it will be, or if she’ll be spared afterwards, but it was what I could do. The least I could do.”
GM: “I don’t know if she’ll be able to get what she wants,” Becky Lynne answers frankly, “but I’d say you did all that you reasonably could, Eiren.”
“And more than some Kindred would have done.”
“You are right that your sire wouldn’t approve of you spending time and trouble on her, too. Neither would mine, for that matter.”
Caroline: “It’s easy to see why they may feel that way,” Caroline admits. “My circumstances of my Embrace and necessities of my Requiem have torn away more of my humanity than I’d like to admit. Sometimes she makes my skin crawl, just being in the same room. I look at her and I see something unnatural. We are not supposed to exist that way. The monster in me sees taint, sees perversion, an existence in a quasi-state that spits in the face of God.”
“It challenges everything we are. She can walk in the sun, she can eat and drink, she can pretend to be mortal better than we ever can—she can almost be mortal. Almost. And I hate it.”
“But I’m not all monster, not yet, and I also see a teenage girl, excited to be a mother, thrown into this hellish purgatory. Suffering. If she’d simply been murdered it would have been evil, but swift. To Embrace her would have been cruel, but decisive. This is worse than both. Because it gives her hope.”
“It’s the hope that kills you.”
GM: “Clean breaks are better,” Becky Lynne nods. “As painful as separating from my own family was, I think it spared us all more heartache in the end.”
“In so many things, you can’t have it both ways, and trying to have your cake and eat it too just makes a bigger mess.”
“That’s how it seems with the last generations—being simultaneously like Kindred and kine. And what do they have to show for it? Most of them lead brief and awful existences. Even groups that claim to advance ‘duskborn rights’ like the Ashfinders just seem to cause more pain and tragedy. For thin-bloods and full-bloods. There’s a compelling argument that it would have been kinder for them never to exist.”
Caroline: Caroline nods again. “I’ve heard talk of, and experienced firsthand, the unforgiving stance of my sire on the subject of unsanctioned Embraces. At first I thought it harsh, even cruel. My first introduction to Kindred society was being dragged before a crowd of Kindred, watching the execution of half a dozen others, and having my own head laid upon the block.”
“Only time, and experience, showed me his wisdom. We’re predators, we can take what we want. Are inclined to, even. Only the threat of unflinching, unhesitating, swift judgement can steer us from doing so. For every unfortunate killed, I think on how many his justice has saved.”
“It would be better if the thin-bloods didn’t exist, but we can’t change the past. All we can do is influence the future.”
GM: “His justice has saved many, without doubt,” Becky Lynne agrees. “It’s all-too few of us that remain virgins.”
“But even beyond the matter of temporal justice, there’s also the question of spiritual purpose. I’ll always be a First Estate girl through and through,” the other Venture declares with a faint smile, “but there’s real comfort in the Second’s faith. Knowing that God has a constructive purpose in mind for us. So from a theological standpoint, what purpose do the thin-blooded serve? They’re not wolves or sheep. I suppose you could argue they’re toothless wolves. Either way, I can’t reckon any explanation for why God allows them to be.”
Caroline: “A warning against the excesses of Kindred?” Caroline postulates. “A method of ensuring the continued fate of all Kindred remains tied to our eldest, closest to the original sin, vice the kine who may be fruitful? Another test upon us, and our discipline, that we remain divorced from the kine.”
She bites her lip. “A sign of the approach of the end of times, that the line of Caine draws to a close?”
Her mind races ahead, takes the thread of canon and the needle her mother’s words provided.
“Our immortality is a lie only the most cynical elder or naïve neonate would believe. The End of Days will come, and we will all be judged. The kine are given many signs to watch for, in Timothy specifically.”
She pauses, then quotes, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good.”
“More simply put, when the kine turn from the face of God in mass, when they abandon the covenant with Him.”
She bites her lip. “What then are the thin-blooded but Kindred torn from our own covenant? Sired in sin, without permission, and multiplying like rats in the same, degenerate in each generation. Broken from the line of Caine, from clan and bloodline, damaging to the Masquerade by their nature, still wed to the kine, and unable to fulfill their holy purpose. There is no holy law they can uphold, and only one Tradition they do not violate.”
GM: “If it’s a test of discipline, I’d say it’s one we Kindred are rather badly failing,” Becky Lynne says, frankly. “As you note, Eiren, there’s no express commandment for us to be fruitful and multiply. If anything, there’s the opposite. Scripture has a lot to say about how solemn and purposeful an event the Embrace should be, and even how worthy of punishment the sire is for it.”
“I suppose God does have a lot to be angry over, with how heedless—and simply ignorant the thirteenth generation is, in spreadin’ around their vitae. And I suppose that everything has to come to an end eventually, even us. But how soon? My brother says millennialist fears were steadily building over the 20th century, and hit a peak in the late ‘90s when the thin-blooded appeared. I can remember talk about the end being nigh back in ’04, but there was a sense it was getting stale. Then after Katrina, everyone in the city plum forgot about it. We’d had our apocalypse.”
Caroline: “That’s interesting,” Caroline observes. “I didn’t get that part of the history lesson, but I suspect it’s impossible to really appreciate it without having lived through it. I’d be interested in hearing from Aedile Hurst’s about it directly some time.”
“You’re right though, we’re no better than the kine when it comes to discipline or fidelity,” Caroline agrees. “Religious participation has been declining for decades as people have fallen in love with themselves, rejected tradition, and increasingly embraced deviancy and any ideology that will allow it. If anything we’ve matched them step for step. What I don’t understand, can’t wrap my head around, is how other Kindred do it so blithely.”
“The Sanctified dogma is harsh, painful, even callous, especially as a neonate. When Gerousiastis Malveaux first exposed me to it I recoiled in horror. It’s also rooted in Christianity, and I can academically understand why those with different religious traditions and backgrounds might not leap into our arms. But we are visible evidence every night that the secular reality so many of the kine are obsessed with, one that allows them to declare there is no morality and no god, and thus that every perversion is justified, is an outright lie.”
“How licks can see that, then decide they’ll continue as though nothing has changed, as though they don’t need any religion, don’t need god in some form, is beyond me.” She bites her lip. “But perhaps its as much a sign that they are truly lost as anything else, that they deserved their damnation as much as the rest of us.”
GM: “I suspect, like a lot of things, it’s easiest to just not think about,” says Becky Lynne. “To get accustomed to, and take for granted, once the initial shock wears off. People, and Kindred, can get used to anything. God isn’t knockin’ on their doors tellin’ them to observe the faith, or that they’ll be judged for not doing so upon the Second Coming. Even among Kindred, some things take simply faith. Or at least, zeal.”
“But I think that’s also the way God wants it. Kindred have free will, just as kine do, to decide their actions. Some of us, like your sire or my brother, actively choose to spread the gospel. Some of us, like me, merely try to observe it. Some of us, like my sire, pay mind to other faiths. And some of us don’t pay much mind to faith at all. It’s what we decide to do when we have the power to decide, I think, that most shows who we are.”
“As to my brother, I expected he’d be happy to share his memories of the period with you, Eiren. He’s no elder, but sometimes I still have to remind myself that he’s old enough to be my grandpa.”
Caroline: Caroline is polite enough not to observe that failing to spread the gospel means you aren’t exactly a faithful member of the Sanctified. The Fifth Canon is quite clear on this point.
The other Ventrue is right, though, about how deceptive ages can be: it’s too easy to forget that Adler is hardly the teenager she masquerades as.
“I’d like that, Questor,” Caroline answers.
“To point, I agree choice is essential in the meaning of any fidelity,” Caroline agrees. “I just think to the growing number of kine that declare their lack of faith for the absence of evidence—among the damned evidence of the supernatural is inherent to each night you awaken.” She tilts her head. “On the other hand, perhaps that call to evidence is more excuse than explanation.”
“We all seek to justify who we are by some means.”
GM: And even beyond politeness, it’s hard not to think what her sire would think of her own track record at spreading Longinus’ word.
Her thoughts so easily turn back to him, now. In this and all things.
“I think that’s what it comes down to,” says Becky Lynne. “Lots of us will spin facts to justify the opinions we have, instead of vice versa, if given choice and free will. Evidence takes a back seat, next to that.”
She chuckles faintly.
“But there’s probably even less to be done about that than thin-bloods.”
“In any case, Eiren, you’d had other matters of interest you wanted to bring up?”
Caroline: “Not in the immediate, Questor,” Caroline answers. “A fair number of my own matters are still very much in the air, and more pressing in the moment, I would speak to how you would prefer we handle the challenge ahead of us, at the scene of the attack.”
GM: “Ah, then one matter first, Eiren. Prestation-wise, I’m not rightly sure what I owe you for tonight. On one hand, your presence saved me from the assassin’s attack. On the other hand, from what he said, he was only there for you.”
“You also saved me from winding up in the hands of hunters, from what you and my brother said. I’m not sure to what extent their presence was due to the assassin—that is, whether the Kindred who took out your contract with the Assamites orchestrated the FBI raid, or whether that Kindred and the assassin simply took advantage of the FBI aid.”
“So we could say that taking in your pregnant thin-blood puts us even. My sire, much like yours, wouldn’t approve of my spending time and trouble on her if he knew.”
Caroline: Caroline muses for a moment.
“In principle I don’t object, Questor Adler,” Caroline answers. “I didn’t come to your aid tonight seeking to earn a boon, and any additional benefit is, for me, incidental.” She smiles. “I think your mother might have described them as like the sprinkles on a sundae.”
“There is the matter of Eiren Packard, but if you and your sire are content to see that her own actions this night are repaid, I’m happy leave things as they lie, Questor.”
GM: “I don’t doubt she would have, Eiren,” Becky Lynne smiles back.
“As to Eiren Packard and Aedile Landau, they ‘work’ for my sire, so to speak. He’s their sire too by a few more generations, and coming to my aid was part of their obligations to him. But he’ll make sure they’re rewarded for fulfilling those obligations.”
Caroline: “Then we are in agreement, Questor,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “Splendid,” the other Ventrue declares with another smile.
“As to the aftermath of this mess, I suppose Peggy’s left me with a body.” Becky Lynne’s smile fades at those words. “And my brother, I suppose it’s no surprise, wants to do what keeps me safest.”
On the helicopter ride back to Perdido House, he questioned Caroline and Becky Lynne extensively about the FBI raid. He concurred that it sounded like hunters. He was in favor of Becky Lynne staging her current pseudonym’s death to throw them off her trail.
Caroline: Caroline can imagine some of what she feels—she’s buried a lot of ghouls.
“How long had she been with you?” Caroline probes.
GM: “Yes, for around ten years,” Becky Lynne answers.
Caroline: “Since almost the beginning,” Caroline observes as quietly as she can while being heard. Helicopters are loud places.
GM: The other Ventrue nods.
“She was always faithful. Kind. Attentive. Thoughtful. Modest. Trustworthy. Never greedy. Never asked for more. Wanted to, of course, what ghoul doesn’t, but never did. She understood we weren’t equals, and she didn’t ever try to be more than she was. But what she was, she was to the fullest. She saw a great deal of me. I couldn’t have asked for a better confidant or employee.”
“I wish it had been possible to save her.”
Caroline: “How did she come into your service?” Caroline asks, steering the topic away from death, and towards life.
There’s been plenty of death already tonight, and they will have to deal with it in the hours to come.
GM: “She worked at the bank, as a PA to someone who I didn’t think fully appreciated her. I invited her to come work for me.”
Caroline: Coming from another Kindred ‘invited’ might have a more sinister undertone, but Caroline can’t imagine it from the seneschal’s favorite neonate.
“What did she think, when you told her?”
GM: “She was taken aback and a little frightened. I did my best to set her at ease.”
“She liked the thought of working for a nicer boss and being part of something greater than herself.”
Caroline: “And she did. You were able to invite her into a world she didn’t even know existed,” Caroline observes.
“I’m certain her life was far different than she’d ever expected, that serving you gave her opportunities she never imagined.”
GM: “It certainly did, Eiren. Though I’m not sure she’d believe those opportunities were worth the cost of her life.”
Caroline: “Respectfully, Questor, she seemed to think it was worth enough to risk her life trying to save you.”
“I don’t think any of us expected rocket launchers to be part of the equation, but she knew this was dangerous.”
GM: Becky Lynne gives a sad smile.
“That’s a domitor’s eternal question, Eiren. How much of their actions are their own?”
Caroline: "Questor, you are my senior in many things, but please take this for what it’s worth. I have been directly responsible for the deaths of ghouls in my service. I’ve been made to kill them to satisfy others, I’ve killed them because they became monsters, and I’ve had them killed in front of me to make a point to me. I’ve also seen them die trying to protect me. In six months I’ve buried seven ghouls, and every one of their names I’ll remember for the rest of my Requiem.
“Many of them were soldiers, all of them were fighters, and none of them leaped so eagerly to their fates as Ms. Sweet. She cared for you, Questor, beyond just the bond.”
“You were in no way responsible for her death. Others contrived to do evil to you. They invaded your mind and plotted to do it. They compacted with or knowingly used witch-hunters against you—and against me. Ms. Sweet stood against that. She stood against them.”
“Don’t take that from her. As much as you might mourn her death, as much as you may feel guilty, don’t rob from a slain faithful servant the last, most impactful choices, of their life.”
GM: Becky Lynne takes that all in with a somber, thoughtful look.
“Wise words, Eiren, and ones that sound learned through bitter experience. This might be one area where I’m not your senior,” she replies.
“I’d hoped Peggy cared for me beyond the bond, but we can delude ourselves. It’s of some comfort to hear from a second party that Peggy’s feelings and choices were real.”
“You’re right, too, about honoring and making the most of her sacrifice. I think it’d please her, to know we were able to use her body to help keep me safe, even after she’d given her life to do that. She can have a proper funeral and internment of her own later.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t know if the words truly move the other Ventrue—their stoicism cuts both ways among them—but she hopes they do.
“To that end, car accident remains, I think, the best of poor explanations. Head-on collision at high speed, joyrider in one vehicle, with the third vehicle caught up in the wreckage. I expect, barring interference from someone else, Mr. Ferris will have already begun to stage it in that way. Much of our work, I expect, tonight will be helping paper over memories of first and follow on responders. The follow on—ensuring that forensic evidence matches or is falsified—will take days to weeks.”
“I don’t have those contacts this far out, and it’ll also prove both dangerous and lucrative to continue that effort. If, as I believe, hunters were at hand in this, they’ll attempt to dig into what happened tonight, and that investigation may open holes in their shroud.”
It’s possible they’ll simply abandon this endeavor and retreat into secrecy, but Caroline doubts it. Hunters are like bloodhounds: once they have a scent getting them to leave it well enough alone was more trouble than it was worth—at least at the bottom.
GM: “That sounds like how I’d want to stage things, Eiren,” Becky Lynne nods. “A car crash is nice and simple.”
“The only issue I see is the missile launchers and the burned state of the cars and bodies. I’m no weapons or automotive expert, but I know cars don’t really explode like they do in the movies.”
Caroline: “No,” Caroline agrees. “But they do burn, and all it would take is one ruptured tank to start it. Roger or Autumn will have identified the most likely candidate variable by damage, make, and model. The difficulty will be staging so the explosive damage appears to a casual observer like it’s plausibly a result of the crash. That, and making sure there’s no other obvious evidence of what happened—wreckage blown too far away or bullet casings amid the debris.”
Fortunately, they should have enough bodies to comb the site, between her own arriving ghouls, the two elders, those they left on the scene, and the Hurst’s own ghouls left behind after the flight.
“Needless to say, this isn’t going to go away in a night, though. We can lay the groundwork, but it’s going to require regular follow-ups over the next year as cases are opened, investigators assigned, claim agents review damage, and, obviously, the hunters.”
GM: “Ruptured fuel tank sounds good in the short term,” agrees Becky Lynne. “But my lord, Eiren, are you right about this not going away in a night.”
“I think Mr. Campbell will be of a mind to sue the Bureau, and possibly the sheriff’s department and other parties too, for the death of his niece.”
“God knows they’ve caused the bank enough trouble they can at least pay a decent chunk of change for it.”
Caroline: “Is Mr. Campbell your sire’s most recent identity, Questor, or simply a useful mortal proxy?”
GM: “He’s the former, Eiren.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. She’d been afraid of that.
“I don’t know that there’s any good way to tell him this, Questor, but he’ll likely take it better from you than any other: that identity is also well known to our enemies. So much so that they had no difficulty convincing mortal authorities that it was both a valid and desirable target.”
GM: Becky Lynne frowns.
“His name came up among them, as well as his niece’s?”
“No matter. Retiring the identity won’t be much trouble, he’s hardly met anyone with it. Whitney Hancock, I think, will still be inclined to sue.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “They expressed interest in using his niece—who had an unsavory reputation of her own—to lure him out. The kine seemed to believe he was the real target.”
She muses, “Which leads me to suspect you were not simply intended as bait this evening for me. It took knowledge, and months, maybe years of planning and investigation to dig far enough into each of your holdings, to identify identities and poison them with law enforcement, to make the ordered raid tonight possible. I suspect this was an alignment of purposes—laying one existing plan or contingency atop another. They could have pulled the trigger on this raid any number of nights. They chose tonight.”
“If they’d succeeded, they’d have destroyed the childer of the two most powerful Ventrue in the city in a single night.”
She bites her lip. “And the timing, alongside Gerousiastis Malveaux and Questor Polk’s assassination seems… more than coincidental. And convenient.”
And it really is. She couldn’t think of a better cover for her assassination of Malveaux if she tried, not that she expects they thought this would serve this purpose.
As for this attack, there are only really two suspects when it comes right down to it: two foes with cunning, resources, power, motivation, and knowledge. To have mapped out Adler’s routine. To have invaded her mind. To have identified the seneschal’s blind spot. To have called an assassin across the world. To have named her to the assassin, to ensure one of appropriate skill was dispatched.
She supposes its possible that Savoy is responsible, rebuffed as he must be by her decision. But she suspects another, one much closer to home. The same one she suspects orchestrated René’s return, her abduction into the Dungeon, and the seneschal’s descent into that hell to save her. The same one that knew how much Adler’s Embrace had affected the seneschal—that likely arranged it in the first place. The one standing in the room, who her identity was definitively declared before, only nights ago.
It’s just as she said before the seneschal. A traitor.
Not that anyone will believe her. Not without proof.
“Questor, may I lay my cards on the table between us?” she probes.
GM: “Long investigations is how it usually is, with the Feds,” agrees Becky Lynne. “I certainly don’t see this raid having happened on the spur of the movement, though the magistrate judge you mentioned signing off on the warrant is interesting. One explanation is that their pretext for the raid was less than rock solid and a magistrate was easier to coerce. Or that they simply don’t have friends among any district judges. But if this was an alignment of purposes, there could have been a time crunch that only made the magistrate immediately viable. I’ll be very interested to find out the full story from him or her.”
“But please do, Eiren, as far as laid cards.”
Caroline: “The seneschal would not share the name of the Kindred that invaded your mind, in the lead up to this evening,” she observes.
She runs her tongue across her fangs.
“I have a suspect. The hand in this evenings events and others. One that I cannot prove—yet—but that I will. I would not ask you, your brother, or your sire, Questor, to rush into anything, to take the word of an eiren on such a weighty matter. But when I can prove it there are painfully few Kindred I would trust, and when that night comes I will need some I can call.”
GM: Becky Lynne seemingly takes that in stride.
“In what capacity would you desire to call on us, Eiren?”
Caroline: Caroline muses, “That would depend on your appetite, Questor.”
“I am inclined to take the fight to this foe with steel in hand.”
“Another sword, or two, by my side would be of great value when they meet the fate they so richly deserve. But that is asking for a great commitment. Down the spectrum somewhere from that would be logistical support in the lead-up and moment. Down further than that would be support in the immediate aftermath. Whether it’s who I suspect or not, I don’t expect anyone capable of arranging tonight’s events to roll over, and I expect to be uncomfortably vulnerable thereafter.”
GM: Becky Lynne looks as if she might tap a chin in her thought, but both of her hands are occupied steering the helicopter.
“I’d be most inclined to suspect Mr. Savoy or any of Prince Vidal’s would-be successors of being behind this affair,” says Becky Lynne, “seein’ as they have the most to gain by eliminating the prince’s childe. The Baron has equally much to gain, but I don’t see his agents moving in FBI circles.”
“Yet if it were Mr. Savoy or the Baron, I don’t rightly see why the seneschal would decide to keep that from us.”
“Seneschal Maldonato told my brother that our clan elders were unaware of your lineage, which would seemingly rule out Gerousiastis McGinn and Gerousiastis Guilbeau.”
“No motive, if you’re not the prince’s childe to them.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue for a moment. “The number of Kindred privy to that secret, before this night, should have been counted on one hand. Perhaps two, if you were to include those who had reason to suspect.”
GM: “The author being Primogen Steinhäuser, Primogen Poincaré, or Primogen Duquette would certainly be a delicate situation. I could understand the seneschal keepin’ mum over any of them. But if this attack required highly privileged information to execute, I don’t rightly see why they’d have it when the Gerousia don’t. They’re bound to our prince by neither blood nor faith.”
“As you say, Eiren, the remaining suspects on the list are rather few.”
“I’d say they could be better counted with one or two fingers than one or two hands.”
Caroline: Caroline lets the other Ventrue work through it.
“I confess too, Questor, I have some knowledge of this matter you do not. My suspect has high level connections to the sort of hunter groups that might have arranged your imprisonment, and that I fear were used to assassinate Gerousiastis Malveaux.”
GM: “I’d need hard proof before I was willing to move against the suspect,” Becky Lynne answers, frankly. “My analysis could still potentially be wrong—what if the other gerousiastes have already have been informed of your lineage, and the seneschal simply doesn’t want them and my brother talking, or for us to know the extent that one or both gerousiastes might be in the seneschal’s counsels.”
“My kin and I would be willing to provide direct or logistical support with the seneschal’s blessing.”
“In lieu of that, we’d be willing to provide support in the aftermath of whatever might take place, with the understanding that we will inform the seneschal of our actions.”
Caroline: It’s more than she had any right to expect, honestly. But then, this attack tonight was brazen. It felt almost… desperate. Killing Adler might smash two birds with one stone, but the consequences of the failure have the potential to be profound if they can deliver her allies. Especially from within Clan Ventrue. To say nothing of how much easier it makes framing him for Malveaux’s death—perhaps the only hostile act she doesn’t lay at his feet.
Caroline nods. “That’s fair, Questor,” she answers. “I think hard proof will be hard to come by—all I have right now is circumstantial. A tremendous amount of circumstantial, as much of it very sensitive, but circumstantial all the same. The seneschal’s blessing all the more difficult for many reasons, including the danger of such an attempt. But any assistance is more than I might have hoped.”
GM: “I don’t much care for someone murdering my servants, violating my mind, or attacking my and my sire’s domain. Whatever else may come, my kin and I will investigate what occurred here and not stop until we have conclusively established who was responsible.” Becky Lynne’s voice is firm at those declarations.
“Tonight’s events will not pass without consequence.”
Caroline: Caroline grins.
“Then we have that much more in common, Questor.”
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM
Caroline: By the time they land, the scene is rapidly falling—falling apart and falling into place.
Ferris meets the two of them at the helicopter with a pair of dark blue windbreakers with ‘POLICE’ across them in big yellow letters. Their owners seem to have misplaced them tonight.
True to Caroline’s expectations, Ferris and the elder ghouls have moved the vehicles already—they’re nearly slag by the time Caroline and Adler arrive, the bodies within charred beyond all recognition: dental records will be required to identify them, and in the cases of some of the worse victims of the ‘crash’ even that may not suffice. A body has been moved into the drivers seat that Kâmil vacated—but who’s body Caroline isn’t certain—and Sweet’s into the van, though Caroline can only tell because the deceased ghoul is smaller than the rest of the bodies. Fire does horrible things to Kindred and kine alike.
It’s fortunate the rest of her ghouls left when they did—their arrival beat most of the emergency responders and helped wrangle gawkers, sheriffs, local police, firefighters, and paramedics. It’s similarly fortunate that Hurst’s ghouls are older in the Blood than hers—they wield a broader range and depth of potency in the Blood that has mostly worked to keep things contained.
It’s also fortunate that the emergency responders beat Caroline and Adler back: they’ve had time to put out the fires set by the ghouls that would have hell for the vampires’ Beasts.
Despite the ghouls’ successes, the limitations of ghouls in the scene had begun to become clear by the time the two vampires arrive: there just isn’t enough blood, and not enough ghouls gifted with the proper disciplines to handle the number of and increasingly pointed questions that coming from first responders. Not even with Packard.
That is where Caroline and Adler slot neatly in, to pick up the pieces falling apart, to fill in holes in memories and handwave explanations away. The gulf between the childer of elders and those of more humble bloodlines is on full display as the matching blondes move through the ever-expanding crowd.
Identities spring out of whole cloth for the ghouls in response to side ‘conversations’, complete with provided credentials. Eyewitnesses emerge to the crash from among the lookie-loos after ‘interviews’. They fill in the police reports about what happened, the reckless driver, the crash, the terrible fire that engulfed all three vehicles.
They also stoke tensions, build recriminations: between the deputies and officers, between city and parish, introducing distrust and a lack of cooperation that makes it all the easier for her people to blend into the effort, that will make putting things together afterwards harder. Professional relationships fray. There’s a punch thrown that gets swept under the rug. Offending officers and deputies are told to leave.
Amid the scuffle, several people take their own initiative. Bodies are removed before the scene is fully documented—an overly zealous coroner. Then a wrecker shows up and manages to get hooked up to the ‘vehicles’ before someone realizes they haven’t finished initial investigations. It takes leads time to get the scene under control. Precious evidence is destroyed and tainted by mishandling—not that anyone is terribly shocked: it isn’t often the thin blue line buries four of their own. Everyone’s nerves are frayed, for too many here this is a personal tragedy, and screw-ups only make it worse as all sides point the finger at each other.
Some of the chaos is Caroline’s doing, others Autumn’s suggestions, with a sprinkling of advice from Ms. Green given her own experiences on the force. At the heart of it is Ferris. The eight-fingered ghoul turns his devious mind to the problem: sowing dissent, hatred, and anger.
As the scene stabilizes, the ghouls begin to withdraw. Adler has to leave before Caroline—the helicopter being the last thing on scene will attract too much attention—but she’s not the first to depart. Ghouls vanish into the night with the lookie-loos as they begin to disperse, stolen police jackets returning to their owners.
Last out are the elder ghouls, Caroline, and Ferris as the feds begin to arrive. It’s not their scene, not their business, and the call went out late. Shame about that.
It’s been a daunting evening. They have a long drive back.
Caroline doesn’t waste it. As Kâmil takes the wheel she turns her mind to the next task.
“Kâmil, can you tell me of the Banu Haqim?”
GM: Having help has its perks.
Staging the scene is an altogether different experience for Caroline than her early nights, by herself or just with Autumn, scrubbing bloodstains, spraying bleach, and disposing of corpses single- or two-handedly. Supervising a team of ghouls and Kindred with a panoply of Cainite gifts to draw upon is an experience all of its own. It feels less like trying to preserve the Masquerade, and more like deciding how she’s going to preserve the Masquerade. It feels like the sheriff maybe feels when he goes about his duties. There are so many people to order about and assign to this task or that. Caroline takes a more supervisory than front-line role, mainly stepping in to rewrite memories that the ghouls couldn’t do as well. The casquette girl greatly assists by facilitating silent telepathic communication among the many actors, keeping Caroline apprised of their activities, and relaying orders. No one notices her as she moves among the responders, taking items, planting others, or simply spying. Becky Lynne helps Packard and Caroline rewrite memories, but most helps by playing responders’ feelings like a cheap harmonica. Irritation, impatience, jealousy, and anger surge as she walks past. Ferris provides mundane pretext to justify and further stoke their feelings. The wrecker is his idea. All Caroline has to do is sit back and watch the fireworks.
“Your stupid fucking people let the wrecker through!”
“Yeah? Well who the fuck let the coroner move the bodies? We hadn’t even finished the fucking photographs of the scene.”
“Because your goddamn people told us they had pictures!”
“Oh, did they? Which one of my people was that?”
“I don’t know, Jon? Johnny?”
“You don’t even have a name? Jesus. You city boys are fucking lost.”
“Eat shit, you pig-fucking country bumpkin!”
“The fuck did you say?”
A punch gets thrown.
“I’m going to fucking kill you! Get off me! Get the fuck off me! He’s a dead man!”
There are scuffing sounds of someone being pulled away.
“Yeah, yeah, pick up your teeth and get the fuck out of here, city,” the punch-thrower grins smugly.
Ferris doesn’t smile, but Autumn can’t refrain from doing so.
Wrapping things up takes some time, but Caroline can’t even begin to imagine how much more it would have on her own, or if such a task would be even possible. She’s come a long ways from her first nights causing these breaches: now she supervises their repair. Indeed, it’s not lost on her that the seneschal didn’t go himself or dispatch the Guard de Ville to handle things: he trusted her to. The Masquerade is the foremost law of the Camarilla’s and the foremost responsibility of Clan Ventrue.
And hers, now, as well.
To wear a crown is to assume many duties. How many other neonates could do what she has done?
Ghouls and Kindred return back to their cars in increments, rather than all at once, to make their departures less conspicuous. Becky Lynne remarks that she’s “most impressed indeed, Eiren; you’ve come a ways,” before returning to her helicopter.
“This felt like working for the Krewe again,” remarks Autumn. “In a good way. Just in terms of… all of the resources and experience to draw upon. Everyone knowing what they’re doing. I don’t think the Krewe could’ve done a better job, here.”
On the drive back, Kâmil answers Caroline,
“They are rarely seen in New Orleans, but they are more common in the lands of my birth. I knew nothing of them before I came to the archdiocese, for it was here that I received the Blood. My domitor has had dealings with the clan, however. What would you know of them, bayan?”
Caroline: There’s a contented feeling as the car leaves.
“I’d like to start with…”
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM
GM: Caroline’s convoy returns to Perdido House. Gisèlle and Kâmil ride with her. At the Ventrue’s request to see Raaid, Kâmil states that the Assamite is likely in the holding cells. He parks inside the underground garage, then proceeds to the elevator, where Caroline swipes the keycard she received from Robert Congo to allow access to the restricted basement floors. The doors ding open, revealing another steel door where the Ventrue presses her hand against a biometric scanner. Congo added her print earlier as well. Kâmil leads Caroline down a hallway to another locked steel door. Inside are several bodies wearing dark hoods with stakes protruding from their chests, unceremoniously laid out over the floor like kindling. Kâmil shoulders Raaid’s and carries it into a nearby interrogation room.
It’s a cheerless place. Unlit, though the vampire’s eyes penetrate the dark without issue, and neither ghoul requests a light. Rows of alternately sleek- and brutal-looking steel instruments whose only function can be the causation of pain sit nearby. Kâmil lays Raaid on a heavy steel table with leg and arm restraints.
“Do you wish him fettered, bayan?”
Caroline: Caroline eyes the assassin. He’s still crippled from their last encounter and unarmed.
“I don’t believe it necessary at this time, thank you, Kâmil,” she answers.
He had also declared his mission a failure. She doubts he will try again.
She removes first the hood, then slides the stake from his chest.
GM: The dusky-skinned vampire lies still upon the table.
“This is sooner than a month,” he observes.
Caroline: “It is,” Caroline agrees.
“I apologize if you had desired that long rest, but there are further matters I would discuss with you, Raaid ibn Badr,” she begins. “They were not suitable for our previous company.”
GM: The Assamite’s eyebrows faintly raise.
“Very well, Caroline Malveaux-Devillers. Please proceed.”
Caroline: “There are some topics beyond the attack, but I had one more follow up about it,” she begins.
“Were you and your agents given any direction at all, insofar as the presence of and intended outcome of Ms. Adler, in your attack?”
GM: “Miss Adler was to be spared.”
Caroline: The Ventrue mulls that one over.
She takes a breath.
“You are the first of your clan I have met, so please forgive this question if it is disrespectful. Is your word your bond, Raaid ibn Badr?” Caroline asks.
GM: “It is, Caroline Malveaux-Devillers, save only when to fulfill it would hinder the will of Haqim,” answers Raaid.
Caroline: “And I presume you would not give it of you believed it would do so,” she clarifies.
GM: “That is so.”
Caroline: “I do not believe you will survive the 30 days helpless here,” she states starkly.
“Your Requiem and return to your master are of no value to the enemies of mine, while your death could benefit them greatly.”
“Whether by direct hand, accident, or the intentional sharing of your actions and whereabouts, I believe they will arrange for your destruction.” She lets that thought hang in the air for a moment.
“I do not wish it so.”
GM: “So be it,” Raaid answers calmly. “Your seneschal has seen fit to place me here. The world is not always as we wish it so.”
Caroline: “I am his servant, but I am foremost the servant of my prince, who is his master too.”
“For both of them, I may intercede, if an alternative may be found.”
GM: Raaid inclines his head.
“What alternative would you offer?”
Caroline: “If I see your Requiem spared, would you be willing to do a service for me, Raaid?” she asks.
GM: “That would depend upon the service, Caroline.”
“But in principle, my Istirja for a service rendered seems a fair bargain.”
Caroline: She nods. “There is a battle to come. I know not exactly when, but it will be soon—before your month-long sentence has passed. My sire would slay you for raising your blade against me. I would see you spared if you would raise it beside me when that conflict comes.”
She tilts her head. “It would seem a thing of balance.”
GM: “As are all conflicts. You say you do not know when this battle will come, and also that I will die if I remain here. How, then, is there any surety I may participate in this battle at all?”
Caroline: “I would present two options, the more palatable before you.”
“I can take you into my own custody, or I may release you on your own recognizance until the time comes—or two weeks have passed.”
GM: “The latter of these would likely be more palatable to us both, if you did not wish me torpid or starving when the time comes.”
Caroline: Caroline inclines her head. “As long as your honor permitted it.”
GM: “It would, so long as this battle is not against the Banu Haqim or friends and allies to the Banu Haqim.”
Caroline: She thinks on that, then continues, “I do not believe that to be case, but confess I am not privy to the inner workings of the Banu Haqim. If there are those you would count among either group in the city, that you might wish to name, I would put you at peace regarding them. Otherwise, you have my aforeoffered word that such a conflict is not my intention.”
GM: “Your seneschal’s name is held in some esteem among our clan. Beyond him, I was briefed on none in the city, though nor is their temporary presence impossible in a major port.”
Caroline: She nods. “Then I foresee no troubles. I would not raise a hand to him.”
GM: “Very well. Then upon the Ancestor, the Shepherd, the Blood of my sires, and my honor as a son of Haqim, I swear to assist you in your battle, and to not leave this city until I have either done so or two weeks have passed.”
Yet even as he speaks, another voice echoes within the Ventrue’s mind.
:: Gisèlle has informed me of your present intentions, Miss Malveaux-Devillers. To seek permission before overturning my judgment would be courteous and proper. ::
Caroline: She bites back a scowl at the casquette girl as the seneschal’s mind brushes against her own, but her response to the seneschal is demure. Not false, nor apologetic, but humble.
:: Seneschal, I’m certain you know my intention was not, and has never been, discourtesy or disrespect to you or your office. ::
GM: :: Chain of command must needs be observed, Miss Malveaux-Devillers. If you would reverse the decisions of your superiors, you will ask them if you are not compelled by dire and immediate need. ::
Caroline: She could argue that this falls under that. That she doesn’t believe that Raaid will survive a day and a night in these chambers, but she knows it isn’t what the seneschal is getting at. She’s done more than skirt his authority on this matter. Her provisions, though not at cross purposes to the seneschal’s, significantly exceed them.
:: I understand, Seneschal. ::
:: Do you disapprove of my purposes in this matter, and might any disapproval be moderated if I acceded to requiring your approval to call upon Raaid’s promised service? ::
GM: :: You may take Raaid into your custody. He is to remain staked until such time as you deem his service necessary. His freedom incurs graver risks than you understand. ::
Caroline: Perhaps it is so. There are many secrets the seneschal has kept from her that give weight to his decisions. So too does the weight of centuries of experience among the Damned give gravity and wisdom to his judgements.
Caroline isn’t going to argue either way.
:: It will be as you have said, :: she answers.
A pause. :: Thank you for your patience. ::
GM: :: You are welcome, Miss Malveaux-Devillers. Responsibility for Raaid’s actions shall lie with you. ::
The Assamite, meanwhile, patiently waits across from Caroline.
Caroline: :: I understand. Is there anything further I may do for you, Seneschal? :: she asks, her gaze leveling back on the assassin.
GM: :: There is not at present. ::
Caroline: “Your early release and remission into my custody is acceptable to the seneschal, but he wishes that you remain in my custody until the appointed moment.”
She meets his gaze.
“I will ensure vessels are available, as required, to ensure you are capable when the moment comes. This remains acceptable to you?”
GM: “That is acceptable,” answers Raaid.
She doesn’t smile.
This isn’t a victory, and it is possible she has misjudged the older Banu Haqim. He could still betray her in some way. To say nothing of how driving around the seneschal on this matter might provoke his own wrath.
But it is a start. She has to start somewhere.
She’s crossed blades with Raaid. She likes to believe that gives her some insight into his character. She believes the assassin will be true to his word, and that is something vanishingly rare.
The word slides across her mind like a curse, but there is a face attached to this name.
Like Adler, there is only one suspect in her mind for this attack.
He’s tried to kill her twice. It’s well past time she returns the favor.