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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Twelve, Celia IX

“Here you are in front of me and there isn’t any time left.”
—Celia Flores


Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

GM: Jade spends some time seated on her grandsire’s lap. He strokes her cheek, pets her hair, and murmurs sweet nothings in her ear. Such sweet-sounding nothings they are, too: like verbal cotton candy soaked in honey, air-light and gooey with sugar.

“Sir, you had a remaining order of business to discuss with Miss Kalani,” states Preston.

“Ah yes, that’s right, Nat,” replies Savoy as he gives Jade’s head a conciliatory pat. “Always a shame when business can’t be combined with pleasure… but the past doesn’t ever rest easy in the Quarter, does it? Tonight, my dear, there is another we ghost might summon from the past to build our glorious future!”

Celia: All too soon the petting and fondling comes to an end. Preston’s words cut through the barely concealed temptation of sinking her teeth into her grandsire like a bucket of ice water. She tucks her fangs away and begins to disentangle hrrself without a sound, disappointment curling quietly in her gut. One night, she thinks. One night she’ll get him alone so they can consummate the desire she has harbored for years. Better, maybe, that it isn’t tonight in the wake of such hedonism that took place below.

Jade is not an afterthought.

Jade presses a final “kiss” to his cheek before she withdraws from his lap, smoothing her dress down her legs as she reclaims her chair.

“Which ghost is that, Lord Savoy?”

GM: Savoy motions to Preston. The Malkavian taps against her tablet, then turns it around so Jade can see the image filling the screen. It’s of a young woman sinking her fangs into a blissed-out-looking man in a dark club setting.

The woman’s features are indistinct, but not indistinct enough to hide the fact that she’s Danielle Garrison.

Stephen’s sister.

Celia: Oh no.

“Garrison,” she volunteers. She can’t take her gaze away from the slightly blurry photo. Dani. He couldn’t have wanted this for her. She wouldn’t. Does he know? No, he can’t; he’d have swooped in already, wouldn’t he?

“What information do we have on her?” Jade finally asks.

GM: The photo isn’t blurry. It’s dark, but it’s distinct enough to make out the vampire’s face.

“Let’s start with this,” Savoy chuckles, tapping the tablet’s screen. “The picture came out rather nicely, didn’t it, for a Kindred who didn’t know she was being photographed?”

Celia: “It did,” Jade allows. She doesn’t want to focus on what it means, doesn’t want to think the word, but it’s there in the back of her head: thin-blood. Dani the thin-blood. Not even a real vampire, just a pretend, a fucked up, not-as-good undead thing. Christ. She wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Not even the cunt locked up downstairs. It’s the worst of both worlds. Her brother is the childe of the primogen and Dani got stuck like… this. She remembers that family dinner, the way Dani had shrugged and stammered about not knowing what she wanted to do with her life, how she’d seemed like she was used to walking in her brother’s shadow. Even in death she hadn’t been made his equal. It’s a crippling blow. Or will be. To both of them. Jade wants to sigh, wants to press her fingers against the bridge of her nose to stave off a nonexistent headache. She just stares, at a loss.

She sits back in her seat, eying him over the tablet. She’d asked what they knew because she’d assumed that they were sending her after the girl. Perhaps she’d overestimated her worth. Why send her when anyone else would do?

GM: “I’d like you to take this picture to Roderick, my dear,” says Savoy. “I’m certain he’ll be very upset to discover that Danielle is now Kindred, and a thin-blooded Kindred, no less.”

“I’d like you to ask him how safe he expects she’s going to be in Mid-City.”

Celia: “Of course, grandsire.” Another ghost indeed. Will he shoot the messenger, she wonders, or just beat her into another bloody pile? She doesn’t bother to tell Savoy that she hasn’t spoken to Roderick since the night they terminated their relationship. Jokes on her for even thinking about him this evening; it’s like his very name drew this to her.

“May I ask… how long ago this was taken?”

GM: “Yesternight,” answers Preston.

“I’d like you to offer Roderick his sister’s protection in the Quarter, as well our aid in taking down Hound Agnello and Will Carolla,” continues Savoy. “So much the better we’d already planned on removing the former! That, on top of Mr. Durant’s discontent over the trial’s outcome, and his general dissatisfaction with Vidal’s rule, should be just enough to do it.”

“In return, I’d like him to stay where he is and to supply me with information on his sire’s and the Cabildo’s activities.”

“And of course,” smiles the French Quarter lord, “you’ll get to have him back.”

“Better you don’t give away that my people took this picture. In fact, if you can manage it so that Roderick feels Danielle is receiving my protection without my knowing who she is, even better. This should be all your idea—and Danielle your two’s secret.”

Celia: “It will be done as you say, Lord Savoy.” Already her thoughts are moving towards how to spin this. What to say to him. “Madam Preston, when you have a moment I will need a copy of that photo, as well as where it was taken. Roderick will want to know if anyone has, ah, claimed her, and what else we—I—know about her state. He’s very thorough.”

She pauses a moment, then asks, “did you already take her into custody, or shall I track her down as well?”

GM: “Oh, no!” Savoy chuckles. “We wouldn’t want Roderick to feel as if we’re strong-arming him, now would we? No, Danielle is off in the wild. We have her under surveillance, just in case there’s any need to mend up the Masquerade. But she seems as if she’s been Kindred for a little while, now. Knows how to feed, hasn’t left any messes behind. It’s to be completely up to Mr. Durant how he handles his sister and approaches me. I’m sure that between your two’s brains, he’ll realize the best option.”

“Miss Garrison remains unclaimed by any Kindred,” states Preston. “We have yet to verify her sire’s identity. Doubtless, there are few sires who would wish to claim such a feeble-blooded wretch for themselves.” She gives the photo a cursory glance. “The photograph was taken at the Beach on Bourbon nightclub. She is either ignorant or uncaring of Lord Savoy’s territorial boundaries.”

“Mr. Durant doesn’t need to worry about his sister being punished for her ignorance. Or pushed to the ghetto.” Savoy chuckles. “Isn’t that what the thin-bloods call their slice of the Quarter, Nat? ‘The ghetto?’”

“It is, sir. Among other less flattering sobriquets.”

“Well, he needn’t worry about her winding up there! We can do much better for a Kindred providing a service as valuable as Mr. Durant’s, if Miss Kalani can persuade him to see things our way.” He smiles at her. “Another word of advice, my dear, though I’m sure it’s already occurred to you—don’t be so crass as to bring up spying on the Cabildo directly. He’s a smart boy. He knows what he has to offer.”

Celia: Her smile is wry.

“Yes, sir. Of course. Thank you, Madam Preston.”

Word games with Roderick. How fun. Perhaps this time he will stick to his tongue instead of his fists.

Her smile fades after a brief moment. She’d asked him, years ago, to join her here. He’d made a comment about not approving of Savoy’s business dealings. The Mafia. He has to know. Why else offer Corolla and Agnello?

She doesn’t want to ask what the situation will be should she fail. She is sure that Danielle will go the way of Roxanne, and the blame will be at her feet for it.

Best not fail, then.


Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

Celia: Jade wastes no time after leaving Savoy and Preston to get to work. It isn’t so late that she fears the sun rising before her plans are set, though she knows she has a tricky evening ahead of her with the ghouls Savoy had loaned her and the facial reconstruction she will need to do. That plus drilling into them what they need to know to pass for the two for the meeting… It’ll take a while.

She pulls out her phone for the second (fifth?) time this evening, scrolling through the contacts until she once more lands upon his name. Roderick Durant. She’d avoided him since that night he’d told her with his fists that they were over. Not completely, of course—they’d shared looks at Elysium—but neither one of them had broached the subject or sought to mend the bridge.

She’s glad that she hadn’t thrown the bar crawl party. Glad she hadn’t been so petty as to flaunt her domain in his face. Glad she hadn’t thrown herself at Gui any more than usual as a cheap ploy to get back at him. Except tonight, when she’d finally given in and let the Mobster share her with Pietro.

There goes that blossoming romance. “You’ll get to have him back.” She tries to ignore the way her dead heart leaps at the thought.

Celia struggles with whether or not she should call or text for a moment. Finally, she settles on a text; it’ll let him get back to her at his own pace, and she can work in the meantime. In case he’s busy. Or a dick. Or any other—her mind ceases its spiraling before it can go too far down that path.

She types and deletes at least a dozen messages before settling on something simple:

Hey… I really need to talk to you. HMU ASAP.

GM: For all the thought and anxiousness behind Celia’s simple text, there is no immediate response.

Could be he’s busy.

Celia: Busy. Ignoring her. Sure, sure.

Why would he want to talk to the ex that he beat the shit out of, right?

Not that she’s staring at her phone or anything. She’s busy collecting the two ghouls that Savoy set aside for her and locating the bodies of the hunters.

Because she’s got other things going on in her unlife. Obviously. Like finding out if Pete cracked the other phone and if there’s anything she needs to let the ghouls know.

It’s all just a distraction from the lack of sound and vibration coming from her phone.

GM: Pete has not cracked the other phone, though only because he doesn’t have it yet. When Celia turns it over, he traces his hand over the screen and then taps in a PIN.

“You can give Tantal his makeover while I look through this,” the Tremere says. “Make sure you modify his vocal cords, too.”

Celia: Celia tries not to stare at Pete as he unlocks the phone with what appears to be a simple handwave. She thought she’d done something impressive to get into the other, and here he is just outdoing her with a gesture.

She’s glad she didn’t make it sound like getting into the pattern-protected phone was hard.

GM: The large-framed ghoul shows Jade off to a walk-in freezer on the Evergreen’s third floor called the Red Room. The French Quarter lord’s revels can get out of hand, sometimes. Other times there are kine he specifically wants dead. This is where the corpses all go, or at least get temporarily stored. Jade recognizes the bodies of the two hunters she slew.

Celia: She’s glad, too, that Tantal is the relative height of the hunter she’d killed. She still doesn’t know how to modify bone, so switching his height would be tricky. She has him lay out and starts her work, beginning with the face. She warns him that it’s painful and waits for his acknowledgement before she starts to sculpt his flesh. Her fingers dive into his skin: his jaw lengthens, nose cracks as she twists it into a new position, lips thin to resemble those of the fiercely scowling man who’d held her down and fucked her.

Vampire slut echoes through her mind, but she pays the words no heed. She’s been called worse.

She coaxes hair from the ghoul’s head and colors it appropriately, using her fingers to lengthen and thicken the strands, curling them gently to mimic the coiffed waves of the boy. Then deeper changes: muscular changes. She doesn’t cut him open, but she does press more firmly against his chest, his arms, his legs, putting everything in its proper place, with occasional rests to let the ghoul catch his breath. A brief respite before she’s back at it again, poking and prodding and chiseling. Her attention is focused mostly on the face; the body need only be approximate, but the face… that’s where it needs to be perfect.

GM: Tantal lays his coat underneath his head as he lies down and lets Jade get to work. The ghoul is a big guy. Well-muscled. Bigger than the hunter, actually. “I’ll wear loose clothes,” he says in a distinctly high-pitched voice, as if noting that fact.

“I’ll try not to scream like a bitch then, ma’am,” he replies to her warning as he lies still. He might or might not be joking. He doesn’t scream, but his jaw clenches and a vein bulges along his neck as the Toreador agonizingly twists and re-shapes skin and muscle like it’s silly putty. The bald ghoul has no hair at all, so Jade has to transpose it from the hunter’s corpse. She supposes that’s faster and results in a perfect likeness anyway.

Big, bald, white guy. He could actually pass for a crude Maxen, in the same way Randy passes for a crude Em.

Pic.jpg
“Guess I’m lucky you didn’t need to change my eye color, ma’am,” the deeper-voiced ghoul and now-hunter lookalike pants out with a grimace when Jade is done. He’s at least not sweating much in the cold storage room.

Celia: The fat comes off of him in droves. Pounds of it. Buckets of it. From his legs, his stomach, his face, even the back of his head. The hunter wasn’t something special to look at, but at least he wasn’t this hulking monstrosity. She leaves the muscles that she can lest she physically take his strength from him while she carves. The excess goes into a fresh garbage bag. Crude, but effective, and it’ll be waiting for him when he comes back. If he wants it back. She doesn’t know why anyone would want to weigh that much, but she supposes it’s not really her call. Not her body. Not her ghoul.

She’d had him talk to her while she worked the vocal chords to get the voice right, and by the time she’s done it’s a very close rendition of the man in the house.

“Eye changes are worse than most,” Jade agrees as she checks him over. “You have to know the anatomy perfectly, and in the middle your subjects go blind.” ‘Subjects,’ she says, not ‘victims.’ As if they’d asked for it. She touches a hand to his shoulder when everything is set.

“Do not leave the Evergreen except to go to this meeting. There’s a possibility that others are looking for the man with this face, and I’d prefer not to take chances with you. Stay where it’s safe, Tantal. Clear?”

Not that she thinks he had paid any heed to her desperate message. She tries to give him the benefit of the doubt; she’s been locked in the Evergreen since she woke up. Maybe it hadn’t even worked.

Still, doesn’t he have a phone? A way to communicate outside of face to face interaction? She knows some of the old ones can beam thoughts straight into your head. Is she not worthy enough to check in on?

No, a small voice tells her, just like she isn’t worth a text.

She wants to throw her phone across the room.

She doesn’t. She’s not a child.

She quizzes Tantal on the things she’d told him instead, the behaviors she’d picked up during her brief time with the hunters. Reminds him of his new name and the fake name as well.

GM: Tantal stares at the wet, fat-filled trash bag.

“I like my body, ma’am,” he says in his new and deeper voice. “But when it looks like… that. Don’t know I want it back.”

He nods in response to her statement on leaving the Evergreen.

“Warden’s briefed me. I’ll stay put. Catch up on the game.”

He answers her assorted questions until her phone gives a heartbeat-skipping buzz.

What’s going on?

Celia: Jade follows his line of sight to the bag full of fat. It is distinctly unappealing; she doesn’t relish splitting his skin back open to stuff it inside. It’ll liquidize at room temp, too, so she has to do the service in the cold storage room again. Doesn’t much bother her—reminds her of someone, really—but she’d watched him shiver the whole way through. Maybe she’ll have someone pick up some anesthetic so he’s only cold instead of cold and in pain.

“If everything goes well tomorrow maybe we can sculpt a new body for you.” She doesn’t make any promises, but it’s no skin off her back if the ghoul wants to look different. Could sculpt him to be more muscular if he wants, instead of all that fat…

Her planning is interrupted by the chime and buzzing in her pocket. She glances at the text.

She hates texts, she decides. How are you supposed to determine what someone else is feeling through text? How do you know if that’s a polite “what’s going on” or an angry “what’s going on” or an I miss you and I’m sorry I beat you up again “what’s going on?”

Probably not that last one. He’s had ample opportunity to say that to her if it were the case. Years of opportunities. He knows where to find her.

She ignores it for a minute. Makes him wait.

“Good. Glad to hear. Any questions?”

“Make sure you’re, ah, full up when you go in.” Jade taps a perfectly manicured nail against her wrist. She thinks she might like the big guy, doesn’t want to see him end up on the wrong end of anything. Her fault, too, she’d have no doubt. She touches a hand to his shoulder in the excuse of checking her work one more time.

“Please be careful, Tantal. They’re supposedly… dangerous.” And his domitor might never forgive her if something goes wrong. So much for glorious future.

It’s pretty spectacular, she thinks as she does look him over. Good likeness. She still has that job to do for the archon, the face that’s seared into her mind, but she thinks that she’s gotten really, really good at recreating faces rather than drawing on her own imagination.

“Shall we find the warden, then?”

The phone is burning a hole in her pocket. She doesn’t know what to say. Something coded, obviously. But not a lie. He has a thing about lies.

As if I’m not about to lie and manipulate him when we meet.

Where is she even supposed to meet him? Not here. Not there. Her place? Could tell Pete to check on her after a set amount of time if she doesn’t show up again, just in case Roderick thinks this is the kind of thing to smack her around over. Maybe she should have Randy teach her how to throw the right hook like he’d offered. He can show her and Logan both.

She nods. Yes. She’ll finally learn. Not that it helps her tonight.

She still needs to put him back together. He’d been sleeping when she left, but she doubts he’s going to complain overmuch if she takes the opportunity to give him back what she had taken. And she’s awake. That’s what matters. Be more firm, her kind are fond of saying. Maybe a firmer hand will keep him from doing dumb things in the future. Like drinking sewer water.

Moron.

For the second time this evening her nails lengthen, filing into tapered points with edges as sharp as any scalpel. A quick flick of her wrist has the skin of the hunter’s backside splitting open before her. She peels it back with one hand, using the razor edge of one claw to scrape away the fascia and fat from the gluteal muscles beneath. Like the white, pulpy part of an orange; she flicks it aside as she goes, the stringy stuff landing on the dead man’s back. Another slice of her nails severs the tendons connecting the glutes to the ilium, then the sacrum and coccyx. She’s careful there, makes sure to leave all the connective tissue behind. She hadn’t actually taken that much from Randy, just a handful, but she’ll take more than she needs from here to avoid an unnecessary trip back.

She finds another bag to slide the muscle into and pinches the hunter’s flesh closed. His butt sags without it, like a woman who’s never done a squat a day in her life.

The entire process doesn’t take longer than a few moments, and she finally looks back to Tantal.

“If he’s amenable, and if you’d like your size back without the extraneous adipose tissue, I could graft some of these muscles onto you. Fun experiment, see if it affects your strength at all.” She lifts her brows.

GM: “Wouldn’t say no to more muscle, ma’am,” the still-shivering Tantal answers after they exit the Red Room. He still looks pretty beefy, with the fat suctioned away, but Jade supposes there aren’t many security-type ghoul who wouldn’t want to be even larger and stronger.

“I like being my size. But thinking of you sticking that bag of fat back inside me makes me want to lose my dinner.”

He shakes his head at her question on questions.

“I’ll ask the warden for a hit, ma’am. In case things go sour.”

Celia: “No reason to put it back in if it’s no difference to him, then. Like an instant bypass surgery combined with years in the gym.”

Maybe she should graft some muscles onto herself before she faces the Brujah again.

Christ, this is going to go poorly, she’s sure of it.

Still, she pulls out her phone while they walk, pausing to dig a piece of sinew out from under her nail before she starts typing.

Batman v Superman. Got an early copy. ;)

She’d thought about saying trouble or urgent or family, but she hadn’t wanted to alarm him. Or leave a trail. He’ll just have to trust that she isn’t breaking four years of silence for no reason. He knows her enough to know that it’s code, doesn’t he? He’s smart enough to figure it out.

GM: Your place midnight tomorrow? comes her ex’s answering text.

Celia: That had been surprisingly easy. Maybe he wants to see her. Or maybe he thinks she actually has the movie. Should she get the movie? She can probably find it by tomorrow. Lots of places out there to do so.

Let’s watch this while I twist your arm.

Cool. Cool cool.

Perfect.

…but what is she going to wear?


Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

GM: Pete says it’s fine if Celia replaces Tantal’s former fat with added muscle bulk when she sees him next.

“You won’t need to give the other renfield a makeover. He knows some shadow dancing.”

Celia: Celia nods in answer to his statement. She fidgets for a moment. No matter how long she’s known the guy she always feels like she’s done something wrong when she sees him, as if her mere existence is one giant fuckup and he’s been sent to admonish her for it. Does he know what Savoy wants her to do?

She doesn’t bring it up yet.

“Find anything useful on the other phone?”

GM: Pete nods. “Some other targets they were planning on going after. Mid-City Anarchs.”

Celia: Stephen.

“Roderick?”

“I’m supposed to see him tomorrow,” she adds, “so if he’s dead that kind of…ruins that.”

GM: “I said ‘planning.’ Future tense.”

“Those two’s plans count for about as much as an empty blood bag now.”

Celia: “Lord Savoy has plans for him,” Celia says, “if his identity has been compromised it’s the kind of thing I need to know before I waste my time bringing him to heel.”

GM: “Roderick wasn’t one of them.”

Celia: Thank god.

“Thank you, Warden.” There’s a pause while she fidgets. Then, “is, ah, Celia safe, or is that still being… looked into?”

She’s stalling. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who knows her.

GM: “Being looked into. I take it from the stalling that you and Lord Savoy talked about your sister.”

Celia: She forces the air out from her lungs in a sound that might be a sigh if she wasn’t dead. She nods. Picks at a loose thread in the seat of her chair. Finally, she looks back up at him, and when she speaks her voice is quiet. She has no doubt Savoy will know everything she says here.

“He wants me to be the one to lay her out.”

GM: Pete gives that a long look.

“I can’t imagine him insisting if you didn’t want to do it.”

Celia: What can she say? That his favor is worth more than her sister’s life?

“I owe him a lot.”

GM: “Well, you’re hardly paying him back. It isn’t skilled work. Anyone could do it.”

Celia: Is that meant to make her feel better? She sinks lower in her seat.

“Felt like it was important to him that I… prove myself, or something.”

GM: “Prove what?”

Celia: She fixes him with a look. He has to know what happened last time. Why their stunt with Maxen didn’t work out.

How does she ask him if he’s going to think less of her if she does do it? There isn’t a real way to win here, and she’s afraid that even having this conversation means she isn’t sure.

But she is sure, isn’t she? Savoy has asked her to kill others in the past and she’s done it without batting an eye. Why would this be any different?

Because part of her thinks it’s a test as to her true loyalties. As if she’d ever pick her sister over him. But she’d picked her father once, hadn’t she? That’s what it looks like to him. Only she hadn’t picked her father, she’d picked her sire, and that makes all the difference.

It’s going to get back to Savoy that she came to his warden. He’s going to think she’s weak. Unable to put her family behind her. Then what? He’s magnanimous for an elder, she’ll give him that, but he’s an elder all the same. If he weren’t her grandsire he wouldn’t give her the time of night, she’s sure.

Snake in the grass, Donovan had said, but isn’t Donovan the same? Another would-be prince using her to his own gain.

“I should talk to her,” she finally says, “one last time. Sister to sister. Like you said.” She pauses. Waits for him to say… something. Absolve her of this guilt, maybe, or offer to show her to the room, or offer to take it off her hands, or something.

Maybe she shouldn’t have come to him.

But she doesn’t know where she’s supposed to lay out Isabel. If there’s a spot for it. Or if it means just take her head off. Or… what. She hadn’t wanted to ask. Preston has a way of making it seem like she should know these things already. As if she’s killed another lick before.

Pete doesn’t see the way they look at her. Like she’s useless. Vapid. God, how good had it felt when they’d praised her for her work with the hunters? And now her stomach is all in knots again, worried it won’t work out, worried she’d been captured for nothing, worried one or both of the ghouls are going to die and it’ll be her fault, all her fault, and how can she say that to Pete? How can she tell him that she feels like she doesn’t belong, that every time he looks at her she thinks he’s judging her, that no matter how much time passes she’ll always hear her dad’s voice in her head calling her stupid, and her sire’s voice inside her head saying advantageous byproduct, and Roderick’s voice inside her head calling her a whore?

She knows what they think of her, with her Instagram feed and her salon. She’s not ignorant. There’s a reason she buries herself in her work.

But it hurts.

Maybe she should just cut out her heart like her sire did. Cut off the rest of her family. Refuse to feel. He doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that people talk a bunch of shit about him, though it’s never in his hearing.

She wants him, she realizes. Not Pete. Not Roderick. Not Savoy. Her sire. He won’t care that she has to kill her sister. He won’t judge her for it. He’ll probably tell her it’s the right move.

Right?

It doesn’t matter. Savoy asked her to do the thing. She’s going to do the thing.

She knows what she wants from Pete and it isn’t going to happen. Coming here was a waste of both their time.

GM: Pete fixes Celia back with a look.

“You know, I think you do what you do, most of the time, because someone else is saying you ought to do it.”

“Or you think that’s what they want you to do.”

“Would your mom have kept her toes if I hadn’t been there to browbeat you?”

“You don’t seem to be hurting too much for money these days. That sure would’ve been a shame if she’d lost them for absolutely nothing in the end.”

Celia: “I was going to get the money for it. I wouldn’t have just left her crippled.” Not fair that he brings that up now. She’d been a newborn. She was still adjusting.

GM: “Go be who you are, Celia. I’m not going to stop you.”

“She’s ash anyway, after all.”

“It’s definitely not like making her old man rape her was.”

Celia: Celia rises to her feet. Her knees threaten to give way beneath her, and the knuckles where she grips the back of the chair she’d been perched on are white.

“Yes, Warden Lebeaux,” she says to the floor, “thank you.” Her body jerks in what might be an aborted curtsey before she sees herself out.


Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

GM: Jade has to get Tantal to unlock the interrogation room’s door for her, but true to Pete’s words, her sister hasn’t gone anywhere. She’s exactly where the Toreador last left her.

Celia: She had thought of this moment for years. Roxanne—Isabel—helpless in front of her. All the nasty things that she would say. All the terrible, cruel, petty, mean things on her mind. How her sister was a disappointment. How she was a slut. How she would never be anything other than the failure that she is.

But now that it’s happened, now that Isabel is here in front of her, the words don’t come.

It’s over. This is Jade’s moment of victory. Her triumphant conquest over Celia’s long-hated sister. She reaches for those feelings, that chest-pounding, heart-thumping joy, satisfaction, relief.

There’s nothing.

Nothing inside of her.

She is empty.

Numb.

Where there should have been the sweet taste of the win there is only ash in her mouth, lifeless and dull and as gray as the rest of the world around her.

Her heart is hollow. Her feet are leaden. Every step she takes is an eternity down a hallway that stretches and stretches in front of her, lengthening no matter how her feet eat up the ground.

Until she’s in front of Isabel and can see the damage that she has done to her sister. Here because of her.

She hadn’t been lying to Logan when she’d told him that she had written Isabel letters. They had always come during her darker periods, when she’d felt as if nothing would ever be bright again, when her eyes had threatened to leak and her jaw would not cease its trembling and no one in the entire world would have been able to take away the ache inside of her. They were written on her bleakest nights, empty promises that never once were kept, hatred and vitriol and filthy accusations. All of them fed to a candle that took her words away.

Except for one.

One of them she keeps close to her heart. One of them isn’t anger. One of them isn’t inferno personified, destroying everything that it touches.

Her nails lengthen. She touches the tip of her index finger to the flesh above her sternum, just next to her left breast, and draws it down. Her skin splits in its wake and she makes a noise that’s halfway between a hiss and a sigh. She peels back her own skin and fat and muscle to find the tiny piece of paper tucked inside.

She pulls it out. Seventy-something percent of the human body is made up of water, but Jade isn’t human. She’s Kindred. There is no water inside of her body, no spit, no tears. Everything she has is blood. It is blood that covers this tiny slip of paper, blood that smears the letters on the page. Like the blood that’s on her hands. For all that, it’s still legible, her slanted, flowery script written in dark ink.

She reads it to her sister.

Dear Isabel,

I remember when we were children we used to lie in our beds and make wishes on the glow-in-the-dark stars plastered to our ceiling. You wanted to be an astronaut, you said, or a zookeeper, or race dog sleds in Alaska. I wanted to be a teacher or a writer or a concert pianist, and we said we’d always stand by each other.

I remember when we used to play dress up, you’d let me put sparkly pink eyeshadow on your face, and we’d take turns being the princess or the knight. We didn’t know then that Dad was the dragon we needed to defeat.

I remember when we first moved into the big house and you and I would sneak into each other’s beds at night and read those old books about mermaids and talking lions and witches who were good instead of evil. I remember the night I lost my makeup you smuggled me in a tinted lip balm. It was the only color I wore for years.

I remember when it changed.

I remember when we learned that monsters are real.

I remember the fear of growing up in that house, what it was like to walk on eggshells around Dad, how any moment we expected him to snap. I remember the boys crying, I remember Sophia crying, and I remember us crying when we were sure that no one else was looking.

Strong, they call us, to survive that kind of life. We were children. We didn’t need to be strong. We needed to be safe.

I have made countless mistakes these past years. I lit the flame beneath your feet rather than rescue you like I was supposed to. I let one incident of teenage emotions put a knife between us that will never come free.

I’d always thought that there would be time to mend it. That you and I could be sisters again. That I could apologize for all of my mistakes…

Celia looks up from her wet paper.

“But here you are, Zee. Here you are in front of me and there isn’t any time left.”

GM: Roxanne growls, at first, when she hears the door open. Lips pull back to reveal fangs. Perhaps it’s Peter Lebeaux come back to pump her for more info. Or Jade to spew more venom.

From the way her jaw falls open, though, her sister was probably the last person on earth she was expecting.

She’s silent as Celia reads her letter. Perhaps giving the Toreador time to finish. Perhaps incredulous over the words she’s hearing. Perhaps trying to think of a way out.

Celia: Celia is silent when she finishes. For long moments she waits for her sister to say something. Anything.

They’re just two girls from the same broken home, on opposite sides of a war that started long before they were ever born. Isabel hadn’t chosen this. Celia did, sort of, and in her choosing had damned her sister.

GM: Isabel finally starts to talk.

“Look. You hate me. I get it. I’ve had a long time to piece together what happened that night. You made him him rape me because you found out I tattled over Mom.”

“Dad was out of jail less than 24 hours after getting arrested. It didn’t even make the headlines. There was no way Mom was going to keep us. Just no way. And this was going to make him madder than he’d ever been. I was terrified of what he was going to do. To me. To David, Sophia, Logan. You.”

“So I told him where to find us. I’m not proud of that. I wanted to get away. But that wasn’t happening. It was either get on his good side or wait until he got us back anyway, and did God knows what.”

“I was the good girl. That was how I survived, okay? I didn’t have Mom. I didn’t have you. All I had was Dad. The others were too young. So I tried to make him happy. And every minute was like walking on eggshells. I couldn’t ever let the mask down. Ever.”

“But it didn’t work. He never looked at me the same way again, after that night, even after Donovan edited his memories. He didn’t hit me, because that might hurt the baby. He kept me locked in my room 24 hours a day. He installed bars on the windows. There was a slot on the door, for Luana to slide in meals. I had to piss and shit in a pot, and slide it out for her. If I didn’t use it right before she showed up, the whole room would smell like piss and shit, until he knocked down the wall between my bedroom and the bathroom, and sealed up its door.”

“He even got a treadmill so I could exercise. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life in that room. It was like being in a max security person. I never got to talk to anyone. I couldn’t use a computer. I couldn’t even look out the window. He kept the shades bolted to the wall, and had the bars installed over them, so the neighbors couldn’t see anything was weird. All I could do was sit in bed, re-read the same books over and over and over, talk to the baby in my tummy, and go crazy.”

“I went crazy. Sometimes I’d scream and tear things up or bang the walls. He’d tie me down to the bed and leave me there for 24 hours, without food, without the piss pot, until I could tell him I was calm again. And then he’d take away a book, or a stuffed animal, or some other object. And that was even worse than not getting to eat, because every time that room got emptier I’d go even crazier.”

“I tried to go on a hunger strike, once, and he force-fed me. Then he installed a sieve on the toilet, so I couldn’t try to dump meals in there. I guess Luana had to pick up the poop. He eventually got rid of that and just installed a lock on the bathroom door, and I could only use it twice a day, after my plate was empty. Luana would unlock it from the other side.”

“That lasted nine months. When my water broke, he let me out. He brought me to the hospital, and the doctors all thought I was crazy because I was laughing and babbling and running my hands over everything, because I’d finally gotten out of that room. I kept trying to get up from the bed, so the nurses tied me down, and when I wouldn’t shut up they stuck a gag in my mouth. So I had a gag and cuffs on the entire time I was in labor. I couldn’t even hold him, when he came out. They didn’t even let me see him. They just took him away. Then they gave me a bunch of drugs, and when I woke up I was back in my room again, tied down to the bed.”

“And I wanted to die.”

Isabel gives a broken laugh from the St. Andrew’s cross.

“Look. You want revenge on me, for what I did. Dad got it. He already got it for you. He already fucking got it for you.

Celia: Celia had never gone back for her. She’d gone back for Mom. For Emily. For Stephen. Christ, she’d gone back for Em. But not once for Isabel. Hadn’t even checked up on her. Oh, sure, she could lie, tell herself that it wasn’t safe to go back to find out what happened, that she was afraid of what Donovan might do. And maybe there’s some truth to that.

But deep down, she knows.

She knows she didn’t go back because she didn’t care. Because she was angry. Because she wanted Isabel to hurt as much as Celia was already hurting.

That’s the joke then, isn’t it, that they were both already hurting and trying so hard to stay strong and cling to their pride that they didn’t let the other one in after that night when Isabel had found out what sort of justice Maxen doles out to people who defy his rules. Spanked until bloody.

Some small, unseen part of her had thought about fixing Isabel’s toe, too. Had wondered if they’d doctored her memories. But, no, why would they have? Why would he have? She was nothing. Is nothing. She’s not the prize race horse. Just the… byproduct.

Nausea swells within her. It’s an alien feeling to the Beast. Purely human. It starts in her stomach, a clenching of jaw and gut, but nothing comes up. The Beast clings to its closely guarded resource like Celia had clung to every semblance of safety she could find when she was still alive.

“It wasn’t supposed to be you,” she says after a moment. Her voice doesn’t tremble or crack, but it’s soft. So soft. Like if she speaks too loudly her sister will crumble away with the wind from her breath.

“That night, it wasn’t supposed to be you. It was supposed to be me. Maxen hurting me. Raping me. Getting it on film to distribute. Then I saw what he had done to Mom, and I remembered your text, and I saw the way you offered to help him. And I wanted to burn the entire world down.”

She’d let the hatred fill her until she was nothing but a vengeful spirit doling out her own justice, Maxen-style. Take what they love.

GM: Her restrained and blindfolded sister is silent for another moment.

“It’s why he Embraced me,” Isabel says. “Good Christian girls don’t get pregnant by their dads.”

“It was the only way out of that room. So I said yes, I did it, yes, I’d seduced him.”

Celia: It takes her a moment to realize that the Embrace was meant to be a punishment. Isabel had always been more into the faith than Celia; even as a lick she’d apparently been… fanatical.

“How did he know about it? Your sire. If you were trapped in your room.”

GM: “He’s close to Donovan. It came up between them. When he was looking for a childe.”

“He wanted someone who deserved it and wasn’t attached to their kine life.”

Celia: “Why didn’t he take your memories?”

GM: “I don’t understand.”

Celia: “You said he changed Dad’s. Donovan. Why would he let you keep yours if he took Dad’s?”

GM: A broken laugh.

“Because I was never going to leave that room alive.”

“I think he fed on me while I was there. Why not, right?”

Celia: “Do you remember that birthday party when Dad’s dad interrupted? And later that night you and I snuck downstairs? You woke me up because the light was on.”

GM: “I… think so?”

Celia: “You were young. Six, maybe.” Does it matter? “I saw him for the first time that night. Shaking hands with Dad. Making a deal. Everything went to shit after that.”

GM: “That’s what we do. We’re damned.”

“Though you’re only half.”

Celia: “Sure. But I guess my question is… if you knew that he was behind all of this, why would you stay on that side?”

GM: “The same reason I stayed on Dad’s side. Safer not to cross them. Him. And at least they let me out of the room.”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment.

“They told me you want to turn me.”

GM: “I was panicked. I was furious. I was hurting. I was saying anything.”

“Meadows killed Evan.”

Her voice breaks. “I never even had a boyfriend when I was alive. He was my only one.”

Celia: “I’m sorry. I… know what it’s like to lose someone. D’you know why…?”

GM: There’s another broken laugh. “Because she’s fucking insane and she kills licks for absolutely no reason. Who even knows what goes through her head.”

“And now my whole krewe’s dead. All dead.”

Celia: “If they let you out, what would you do?”

GM: “My friends are all dead. I don’t… don’t even know.”

“Maybe leave the city and start over.”

Celia: “You wouldn’t be able to come back. Ever. No contact with Dad or Logan or any of them. Is that what you want?” Freedom. Complete freedom from her mortal and Kindred lives. A new beginning.

GM: “I haven’t spoken with any of them since I was turned. That’s the Eighth Canon of the Catechism.”

Celia: Celia nods, even though her sister cannot see.

Jade can get her out of the city. She knows people. Knows people here and other places. Get her into Texas, at least; Emerson does runs there all the time. From there Isabel will be on her own. She’s pretty sure Alana kept the purse of that co-ed she’d killed. Could change her face. Make up for being the one to ruin her life by giving her a new one.

“I’ll speak to Lord Savoy.” Celia takes a step toward the door. “I’m sorry, Zee, for what happened between us. For not being there for you. I wasn’t a good sister to you, but I can… I can do this much, at least.”

GM: “Lord Savoy won’t listen to a renfield. That’s just how it is. Talk to someone… someone lower down.”

“But, do that. Get me out of here, and we’ll be even.”

Celia: Celia doesn’t tell her the truth, even now. She just nods. Says okay, that she will, and closes the door behind her.

Long moments pass. Not nearly long enough for Celia to have made good on her promise before the door opens again. Footsteps across the threshold. The door closes. They don’t come any closer.

Silence for a moment. Then,

“Saw your sister crying in the hallway.” Jade’s voice.

“Seemed to think if she let you out of here you’d just leave and not bother any of us again.”

She steps forward, circling around to where Roxanne’s back is displayed. Her eyes move across Roxanne’s destroyed body. She reaches out, her hands warm against the Ventrue’s skin. She’s mindful of the open wounds, mindful of the scrapes and cuts and other hurts beside. There isn’t a lot of area for her to work on, not really, not with Roxanne as beat up as she is, not with her body vertical instead of horizontal. But what there is safe to use she touches. Her fingers splay across her back, pressing against her skin. It’s a soothing gesture, meant to calm, and maybe if Roxanne weren’t strapped to a cross about to die she’d enjoy it.

She’s always been good with her hands.

Letting go of Roxanne is a big risk. Even asking Savoy to let her go is a risk. So Jade needs to know the truth. The impression leaks out of her: trustworthy. It’s a subtle thing, combined with the touch, and even though Jade had previously belittled and goaded her, what’s not to trust? She’d been angry at the attack on her girl, that’s all, surely Roxanne understands anger; we’re all friends here. Why would she be touching her if they weren’t friends?

And it feels so good, too. So soothing, so soft. Deep enough to touch the muscles she’d hurt in her fight against Meadows. Deep enough to assuage some of that pain from being held on a cross for hours.

It takes some time. Long minutes of work. Jade’s consciousness projects forward, though she doesn’t enter the other lick’s mind. No, it isn’t her mind she’s reading; she’s not some telepath to break into people’s thoughts when reading their bodies will do just as well.

It’s an energy that passes between them. A feeling of relaxation that takes Roxanne from this room and puts her at ease. Jade can feel her hands working over Roxanne’s back, but her mind delves deeper. Into that waiting sea of energy. Into the spinning disks of light inside of her. She can see, even from this distance, that they are out of order; they spin lopsided or not at all, their flow halted by the world around her.

Jade can fix it.

She starts at the base. The root chakra, base of the spine. Muladhara. Like all things in their life, its color is red. Red for blood. Red for life. Red for survival. All hierarchies put survival at the very bottom. Food, air, water; those are all base needs. So it is that Roxanne’s body—all of their bodies—start with the need of survival. Without this falling into alignment the rest of them will suffer, too. And this one is just a lump of brown clay, a log of fire that has been charred beyond recognition.

Jade doesn’t touch it physically, but mentally she sends the signal that makes it start spinning again. Your needs are being met, she tells it, you are safe. Meadows cannot harm you here. Warmth flows from her hands to set the newly rounded sphere to spinning again.

She moves on. The lower abdomen, the sacral chakra. Svadhistana. Orange follows red, though this one too is nothing but a dying ember. It is the home of wanting. Sensuality, sexuality… but pleasure, too. Desire. On humans it’s simple things, but with Kindred it encompasses both man and Beast. Passions, dreams, cravings—it touches on them all.

Jade sends her energy spinning along it. The color starts to shift from burnt sepia to something brighter. But not full, not yet. Jade doesn’t know what her sister desires. That’s what she’s here to find out. Blood is the expected answer. It’s always blood. But beyond the blood there is more, and that’s what Jade searches for. She sends her name—her real name—spinning along those pathways. Celia. Family. Loyalty. Something to meditate on while Jade moves higher.

Higher, into the solar plexus. Manipura. Yellow. This is fire, truly, the resolve and determination to get what you want, to set your sight on something and go for it. Roxanne does not lack color here. This is no disk inside of her, no sodden lump of nothing; this one burns brightly. Jade does not need to meddle here.

Higher still, into the heart. Anahata. Green. Love and compassion. Healthy relationships. This is air, but Kindred do not need air to survive. This chakra does not spin. It is a bleak, black disk. Her heart is solidified calcium. There is nothing here.

Except… except maybe there could be. Jade was named for the color of a goddess’ eyes, and what do these goddesses do if not bring life back to dead things? She sends a pulse along it. Thump, it says, a half-hearted thing. Her mind rips through her options—her family, her dead lover—and settles on the God she professes to serve. Love comes in all forms. Jade lets her know. Damned, certainly, but a wolf sent to guard and thin the flock. Another pulse. Thump-thump.

It sets itself to spinning. Slow, sluggish, but movement all the same.

It is enough. She moves on.

Her energy and focus drift higher, from the heart flowing up into the throat. Vishuddha. Blue, but what a blackened blue this is, its color filled with oily slicks of the lies and deceits that are all around them. Jade presses deeper into that circle of light, letting it surround her, letting the blackness fade away until she finds the shining thing within. The sliver of truth that Roxanne—Isabel—wants to speak. Deep inside, where no one can see it, it’s spinning and shining. Jade wants to let it out. The snaking tendrils of falsehoods become brambles around the rose garden, and Jade blasts them away with a thought. There can be no release if you are wrapped within your lies.

Higher still, into the third eye. Ajna. Indigo. Inner thoughts, intuition. It’s a murkier place up here; man and Beast struggle for dominion. But Beasts belong in a cage, don’t they, when they are not serving their purpose. Jade makes it happen. The mental image of a lion inside a zoo—they’d been to this zoo, doesn’t her sister remember? It’s so familiar. The lion cannot hurt her behind its bars. Let the man free.

And finally the crown chakra. Sahasrara. Violet, but a dead and withered thing. Spiritual connection, peace, union, bliss… Jade can fix this one too. She burrows inside, connects their energy together, lets Isabel see and feel the light coming from her.

Outside their bodies, they are just two girls inside a room, one tied to a cross, the other rubbing her back.

Inside it is more. So much more.

It is from inside this place, where all has finally been righted, that Jade finally speaks to Celia’s sister.

“What did you hope to accomplish by going to see your sister in the Quarter?”

GM: Roxanne snarls at Jade’s initial touch, but the sound soon dies as the Toreador’s practiced hands work her magic.

She works her ways up along each chakra like a flute. Emily had thought it was a load of “alternative medicine not-even-pseudoscience mystic bullshit” when the topic of chakras came up between them. But Emily also isn’t a vampire, so her perspective on the world might be somewhat more limited.

Jade is, and hers isn’t. Strung up on a cross isn’t the same as laid out flat on the table, but it’s a change of pace, and in some ways even helps the Toreador spatially conceptualize the flow of energy from low to high. Vampires may be dead creatures, but they’re animated by energy, the same as object or entity that engages in sustained activity. Jade intimately knows that energy’s ebbs and flows.

More than knows. Directs. She can see almost see the shifting colors as glowing lights as the wounded Ventrue moans with equal parts pleasure and relief under Jade’s expert touch. It’s such a tempting message that the Toreador’s hands have to say. You are safe. You can let down the walls. You can just relax.

It’s her craft. Her calling. To make people just relax.

Star mode helps a lot, too.

When Roxanne speaks, her voice is tranquil, monotone, and far away, as though coming from the depths of a luxuriously soft bed.

“I wanted to Embrace her.”

“I needed to rebuild my krewe. I’d failed them. I’d shown Prince Vidal I was a failure.”

“I was angry at her, too, for what she did to me. Meadows made me feel so helpless. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to make someone else suffer.”

“She deserved to suffer for what she did to me. She destroyed Dad’s love for me. She crippled me. I still can’t walk right from that toe I’m missing.”

The words are spoken without anger or pain. They’re in that same calm and tranquil place Jade’s hands have taken her.

“She is a bad person who deserves to be damned. But she can still serve God’s will.”

“She would have gone to Hell when she died if I hadn’t Embraced her. She’d still go to Hell, if I had. But she could do something good.”

“And I was lonely. My krewe were all dead or traitors. They were my friends.”

“I could have a childe. She could have a sire. She could see everything she’d done wrong in her life, and make it right again in her Requiem, with my help. We could be a family again.”

“I could get revenge on her at the same time as I fixed everything between us. I’d have my cake and eat it too. I couldn’t not do it.”

The words all come in that same calm and peaceful monotone.

Celia: Jade’s hands continue to work over Roxanne’s back as she speaks. Now that the energy has been restored, now that everything is in balance, her focus is on the touch. The play of muscle beneath the skin, the soft and hard tissue that she finds underneath, the little nodules of pain that she can press on to take away.

She does it all while the Ventrue tells her of her plan to Embrace her sister. Sweet revenge, wouldn’t it be, to take Celia from her mortal life and make her pay for everything that she has done. Damn her to the same fate. And what a terrible fate that would be—the illicit childe of a nobody.

Only Celia is already dead. She’s already paid the price for betraying her family, the sheriff had seen to that. This is just another example, another thing she has to do to make up for all the bad she’s done: put her sister down.

She created the mess, now it’s time to clean it up.

Her next question takes a moment to form.

Jade doesn’t need to know what Roxanne’s plan is if she gets out. She isn’t getting out. There is no freedom for her. It had all just been another game, another web of lies. A chance for a sister to come clean before her death, but Roxanne had tried to manipulate her instead, to play on the human sympathy that no longer exists within Jade. Some small part of her wants to ask about Celia’s family, too. What Dad thinks happened that night. But it doesn’t really matter, does it?

She asks something different instead. A long shot, considering Roxanne’s status—or there lack of—in Kindred society.

“The prince,” she says, purposefully vague to encompass anything her sister might know, “his allies, their plans.”

GM: “He is as God,” Roxanne replies tranquilly.

‘The Lord lays his hand upon my heart and I know the last gift I am to give.
To my childe I entrust the keeping of the lance that had begun my enlightenment O those many nights ago.
I know that it is now his blessing and his burden, and I praise the Lord for these things.’


“He meant Prince Vidal. Only Prince Vidal. Prince Vidal has been touched by God.”

“He is not Ventrue. He is not Kindred. Not to us.”

‘You shall honor the Dark Prophet and give thanks for the perfection of his sinfulness and the miracle of his transformation. Say to the Lord: My God, all praise is due to you for the miracle of transformation that you bestowed upon the centurion. Blessed are we who know the truth of divinity in the world because of the blood of the Christ that gave the centurion sight and life! May we ever walk in his ways and follow his example, by your power and will. Amen.’

Celia: Yikes.

“And what does Prince Vidal have in store for those who would move against him?”

GM: “Annihilation.”

Celia: No shit, Roxy.

“Do you know of his plans to stymie these would-be usurpers?”

GM:‘Do not let yourself be lulled into complacency by faith in the Purpose and the teachings of the Dark Prophet. For serving the Purpose cannot be accomplished by mere mouthing of doctrines and groveling to one’s betters. No, God’s Purpose is a burden and a charge, and he who claims to exemplify Damnation without effort or proper works is not in communion with the faithful.’

“Prince Vidal is not Kindred to them or us. They cannot withstand him. For he is of the Blood of Longinus, not the Blood of Caine.”

“Do you understand?”

“The Second Generation walks among us in the Final Nights. He walks among us.”

“I do not fear for him. I fear only my own failure and inadequacy before him.”

Celia: Jade says nothing to this. She steps closer. One hand continues to massage Roxanne, kneading and stroking her muscles. She keeps her in that mental state, only half-aware of her surroundings. Kinder this way. Merciful. She can give Celia’s sister this much, at least.

The other hand snakes around Roxanne’s body, pressing between it and the cross. Her fingers don’t grow claws; they don’t need to, not when the tips of them serve just as well at getting inside the body.

She had never learned how to do the bone work. The archon had disappeared before their supposed lesson. She cannot simply move the bones that stand in her way, that encircle the organ she seeks like a protective pen. But she knows the body’s anatomy, knows the path that she needs to take. Maybe it will give Roxanne some solace that, in the end, she died like Jesus. Nailed to a cross. Blade cutting into his side. Only the blade is not a blade, just a hand, snaking its way up under the ribcage from beneath the sternum, diving past the dermis to the tissue, fat, and muscle within. There’s no thump-thump to give away the heart’s position within this body, but Jade doesn’t need it. She knows what she’s looking for. Deep inside the chest cavity, her fingers close around the dead organ that hasn’t worked in years.

She leans in to press a final kiss against Roxanne’s cheek.

“The Lord be with you,” she whispers.

She pulls the heart free.

GM: Jade’s nailed hand swims through the thick fibrous pericardium like butter. She feels the inert and lifeless heart around her palm. An unlife literally in her hands.

Then, just like that, she doesn’t feel anything. Nothing in her palm. Air around her arm. Air against her lips—air and ash, as the immobilized Ventrue crumbles to dust in an instant. Perhaps she tries to scream, but if she does, Jade doesn’t hear it. Roxanne’s lungs would’ve crumbled to ash just as she did. Ash rains down from the cuffs of the St. Andrew’s cross, blanketing the small pile of tattered and bloodstained clothes at the Toreador’s feet. All that’s left of the younger sister who once asked Celia to check under the bed for monsters, because she was too scared.

All so much ash.

Celia: Jade fades away as soon as Roxanne is gone, leaving Celia staring at the pile of Isabel’s clothes. Torn and bloody, from all the people who had stood against her, who had hurt her, who had abused her. Evidence that she had once existed, though her body is no more. She searches inside of herself again for the for the guilt or shame or grief… and finds it curiously absent.

Her heart is gone. If she were to reach into her own chest to find it she’d come out empty-handed. Ash, like Isabel. When she speaks, her voice is soft enough that it doesn’t threaten to disturb the pile of what her sister has become.

“Amen.”


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Comments

I fixed the intro to reflect what I sent you earlier.

Savoy

The conversation here with Savoy feels a little stilted to me, particularly following the prior part of it. I think even without the prior part it would feel stilted. “It will be done as you say.” I dunno, the line is weird.

“Don’t tell him I know.” Whoops. Celia is bad at following directions. Guess I see why he said this. To be fair, I had a perfectly convoluted plan when I did reveal that he knew to Roderick, which I was planning on outlining to Savoy later, but I’m not sure if the blood bond she has with Roderick will actually let her go through with it now. And there were a lot of moving parts, could have gotten messy. So I guess I just messed up, but that can be discussed in that log instead of here.

I also kind of thought he was bringing up Dani to have Celia fetch her for him, or that her appearing fine on camera means that she’s bait. I got a little paranoid after the hunter thing.

Feels like an abrupt end to their meeting.

Pete

Super jealous that Pete can just wave his hand over the phone and get into it while Celia is over here playing detective. Handy trick. I wonder if he’ll teach it to her. Meant to ask last meeting, kind of don’t want to step on Navy’s toes with the tech stuff though. Not sure how many phones she’s going to liberate, but y’know.

Did you add the Red Room description? I think it’s new. I like it. Must’ve been super gross for Tantal to see his body like that. I actually thought he was Savoy’s ghoul so I made a reference to that here that doesn’t make sense now. Whoops. For the record, Celia wasn’t offering him her blood, just telling him to fill up before he went. It didn’t come up with Pete being like “why you tryna steal my ghouls” so I don’t think it matters.

Regarding Roderick, debated a while what to tell him via text. Like dithered over that way longer than I needed to. Finally decided to stick with the Batman thing, which I think worked. Also then the whole “wait should I get the movie?” We see in the scene that she did get the movie, it was the blank-cased DVD sitting on the table, but I think it might have gotten destroyed. Lucky me that a new Batman movie was coming out at the appropriate time.

Glad “shadow dancing” caught on. I like it more than “stealth mode” and whatever else people say about obfuscate. Very Celia word for it.

Debated asking Pete what other targets the hunters had, both here and in the talk they have later, but I kind of felt like he wouldn’t tell her. I think I’m still salty he didn’t tell her about the gun thing way back when, but who knows. Then when Roderick got jumped I was immediately like “Pete you fuckwad you lied to me,” but I think that might not be what happened. Hard to imagine him letting Celia walk into danger knowing that the person she’s going to meet is someone that Savoy wants on his side.

So there’s a part here where Celia is thinking about the fact that she has to kill Roxanne, and she says “she wants her sire.” And it’s not in a “I want him to make me feel better way,” but it’s like she wants him because he isn’t going to make her feel bad about it. He doesn’t really seem to judge her for her actions, doesn’t make her feel bad for being a monster. He’s a monster too. I think maybe that was why he Embraced her, because she showed that she was willing to do whatever it took to get what she wants, that she’s absolutely ruthless in ruining people’s lives when she goes after them and doesn’t much care about collateral damage. That and a few other reasons. Anyway, my point is that she’s surrounded by people who are “good” people, like Pete and Roderick, who’d probably look sideways at her if she were to be like, “Ah yeah I murdered a girl the other day because it was convenient,” or “I made my dad rape my sister to teach them a lesson.” I don’t know what sorts of fucked up shit Savoy has done so maybe he wouldn’t mind either, but it’s not like they unburden themselves over a glass of wine or anything. So with her sire there’s no judgment there, he’s not going to make her feel bad for doing something awful. Just something stupid.

“Would your mom have kept her toes if I hadn’t been there to browbeat you?” That’s kind of unfair. I was looking for another way to get Xola the money without making Pete or Emily pay. Celia wasn’t just going to let her mom live without her toes. Pete is so judgey.

Isabel Scene

I’m not sure if I conveyed the feeling I was going for with Celia’s opening post here. I think it had been put off for so long that I was personally kind of numb to it, and one of the areas where I struggle as a writer is letting other people feel things. I feel things when I’m writing, but because I’m feeling them the reader isn’t. I also struggle putting emotion into writing when I don’t personally feel it. Something to work on, anyway.

This is the first time we see Celia “smuggle” something like this and I think it’s pretty cool. She’s used it a lot since then and I think it’s less novel now that we’ve seen it a few times and now that it’s an actual Devotion, but I enjoyed its use here. Like she just kept a letter close to her heart. Still want to learn the Devotion, though.

When I originally started writing the letter I tried to summon feelings for my own sister. “What would I say with Claire if I could talk to her again?” We weren’t in a great place when she was murdered so I thought maybe it would be cathartic for me to let it out. But Isabel/Celia are completely different and have a different life than my sister and I did so I couldn’t quite capture it. I’d be apologizing to Claire for different reasons, though I suppose it amounts to the same thing: not being there when she needed me. So I don’t hate the way it turned out, but I’m also not 100% pleased with it. Wanted it to be more of a gut punch than it was.

Isabel’s story about the pregnancy ate up what was left of my sympathy for her. It’s a little too horrific to be believable. We know Maxen is an awful person but this just kind of took it over the top, like a movie that uses so much blood that it goes from horror to fake. I don’t know if what I’m trying to say makes sense.

I do regret making Maxen rape her. I also regret not going back for her. It would have been interesting to have an actual sister who was Embraced / released around the same time, who came from the same horrible background, and I know you said that anything is possible regarding relationships between people if I’m willing to put in the effort… but Roxanne is just one of those people that I hated interacting with. I just hated her so much and there wasn’t even a reason for it because Celia won against her every time, so I can’t even explain why I hate her except that I just do. Maybe if Celia hadn’t been picked up by hunters and Pete hadn’t found her at the spa in the aftermath. Maybe if Roxanne hadn’t lied here. Who knows. I guess on the other hand I’m glad the choice was taken from Celia as far as laying her out. She can always just say that Savoy made her do it. Who knows how it would have gone if she’d been able to speak to her back at the spa.

Still don’t know why Donovan didn’t edit her memories if he fixed Maxen’s. It literally doesn’t make sense.

“I think he fed on me.” Yeah got a little jealous there.

“I haven’t spoken with any of them since I was turned.” Liar.

I think for like half a second I was considering actually letting her go, like going back to Savoy and being like “nah I changed my mind” or just sneaking her out, but that probably would have ended poorly. This was before the last Dominate change, too, so I had some vague plan to completely wipe her mind and ship her off to another city, or keeping her here and conditioning her. Oh well.

Writing the chakra thing felt pretty pretentious. Distance has given me the ability to appreciate it. Could flesh out more of it, particularly the heart/throat areas because I don’t think it captured what I was going for. I also wanted to delve more into the idea of the energy between the pair of them, but again I think it’s because I didn’t quite capture what I wanted to. Feels a little shallow, almost. Maybe it’s just me because I knew what I wanted to say.

Less than impressed with Celia’s posts once the questioning starts. They’re a little too blase.

Celia killing Roxanne here is very abrupt. It’s over pretty quickly, like she’s just in the middle of questioning and pulls the plug. I know that IRL I had more questions, I had a lot more I wanted to do with Roxanne, but there were a lot of factors that made me just say “fuck it” and kill her. I was annoyed with the scene and wanted it to be over. It felt like it was dragging / took a long time to get answers, and it does because that’s the nature of using a Devotion that lets you question people, and I got impatient. It also started bringing up a lot of emotional shit for me about my own sister, so the combination of upset / frustration didn’t do me any favors. I probably should have asked to pause it and come back to it when I was in a better headspace, but I really just wanted it to be over and done with. Had a lot more potential to get more out of her, so it feels like a waste that I didn’t. Pretty disappointed with that decision.

Story Twelve, Celia IX
 

Emily Feedback Repost

GM’s note: this spoiler-filled feedback is from the log where Dani was first introduced. We played it out as a flashback and later decided to sandwich it into the Story 10 logs because it effectively foreshadows Dani’s fate.

I was about to say something like “Why does Stephen think that Al Capone died when he’s definitely a vampire?” but then I realized they’re still mortal. Also sad that he talks about his son / grandson going after the Mafia since we both know that he doesn’t get to have kids now. That’s really heart-breaking. With both him and Dani as licks now there’s not going to be any more Garrisons that go after the Mafia. Mafia won, didn’t they? Makes me wonder if Coco is in on it and Embraced him because they’ve been a thorn in the side of the local Mafia for such a long time that she finally said “fuck it” and took him so he couldn’t, then kept him busy so he stopped trying to go after them. I think I pitched that theory to you before when I made up that rumor about Carolla. Also is it Carolla or Carollo? I’ve seen it spelled both ways in game, but wiki says Carolla. Also you know who needs a page? Carolla.

Meeting Dani was pretty cool. I think if we’d played this scene in this order, rather than how we did, Celia might have had a stronger reaction when she found out that Dani had been Embraced, especially since she’s a thin-blood. She was kind of just like “oh fuck how is this going to affect Stephen?” instead of “oh that poor girl.” Also she has a real “underdog” vibe going on. I don’t know if it’s low self-esteem or what, but man is it going to suck for her when she becomes a thin-blood. “Oh my brother is the childe of a Primogen and I’m a thin-blood? Cool, cool, cool.” Yeesh.

[…]

Admittedly I’m a little nervous about running into Dani again with her knowing that Celia cheated on Stephen as I don’t imagine it will be a happy reunion. Same thing with Diana and Henry getting together, as Roderick wants. Why would he want to date the mom of the girl who cheated on his dead son? He faked his death so it’s not like he can be like “yeah it was kind of a misunderstanding and we worked it all out.” Personally I think he should have just let Celia claim that Lucy was his as a way “in” with Henry but he’s got that honesty thing going on, so.

Story Twelve, Celia IX
 

Calder: Gracias for the fix. Completely forgot we’d written that
I agree that while the Preston interrupt is as good as any we could ask for, the tone/topics of the rest of the convo could be brought more in line with the earlier stuff
What happens when you play scenes out of order though
Rod stuff I agree is better saved for that log
If Celia wants to learn Pete’s trick she’s always free to ask. Teaching Disciplines is one of the iconic things Mentors do

Emily: Seems handy is all.

Calder: I don’t think it’d step on Emil’s toes any more than Celia learning to fight would step on Caroline’s

Emily: Plus then she can teach Emil when he’s all “blah blah blah this is how you hack”
And she’s like “That’s nice I can just wiggle my fingers.”
And he goes “yes let’s be friends.”

Calder: Oh I’m confident Emil will pursue a panoply of supernatural means to hack

Emily: Emil you crazy bastard.

Calder: So less toe-stepping that way too
Batmav vs. Superman doesn’t stack up at all to the Dark Knight trilogy IMO
So good thing you never watched it

Emily: I haven’t seen it.
Lol

Calder: It’s not bad but it’s not good
I don’t regret seeing it but I don’t recommend it either

Emily: “Who tossed your place?”
“I invited a guy over to watch a movie and he hated it.”

Calder: Shadow dancing is a cool Obfuscate term
I should update that lexicon page with more vampire slang

Emily: Probably

Calder: I might disagree Celia is surrounded by good people

Emily: The main 4 she interacts with have been Rod, Pete, Emily, and Diana.

Calder: Veronica and Pietro haven’t done anything on the scale of Donovan, but they’ve hardly been saints

Emily: Yeah but they haven’t done much with each other on screen, is just what I mean.

Calder: Ah, well going by screentime coverage
I’d agree with that

Emily: She’s hardly gonna call up Veronica and be like, “Hey so I did this bad thing can we chat about it?”

Calder: Yeah, Veronica would probably make fun of her

Emily: That’s why I like her.

Calder: Considering Savoy told you to kill Roxanne, and has a Red Room in the Evergreen, plus vampire elder, it’s hard to argue he’s a paragon of morality either
(Though Kindred like Pete do argue he’s more moral than Vidal)

Emily: It’s a different kind of acceptance, though.
Celia would feel the need to explain what she did to him.
Whereas she’d just be like “Yeah I killed my sister,” to Donovan and there’s no judgement at all because he doesn’t have emotions.
Idk if that makes sense. It makes sense in my head.
Not that she’d talk to him about it.
But if they were friends.
Just quiet acceptance.
What a swell guy.

Calder: I can see what you mean. She feels the need to justify herself around someone who does, in fact, seem to have actual emotions

Emily: Exactly.
I mean she confessed to killing someone to Roderick and he was all, “make reparations”

Calder: Because justifying your sister’s murder is what a normal emotionally balanced person is supposed to do

Emily: And I’m like lol bro what
Right
And I don’t think she’s as emotionally balanced as she thinks she is.

Calder: I mean, “make up for murder” is the normal human response, too

Emily: There are a handful of people she cares for, everyone else is pretty much expendable.

Calder: One of my favorite video games had what I felt was the fairly mature theme of “Love doesn’t necessarily redeem you”

Pete: That’s most people though, right?

Emily: Probably, to be honest.

Pete: Like, genuinely don’t care for the suffering of people I don’t know

Emily: I mean, I don’t know that as a person I would intentionally fuck someone over.
Or murder them.

Calder: I think you’d balk at murdering a stranger for their hair though
Really, this is how I’d define D&D morality

Pete: Depends on the hair…

Emily: There’s… one person I can think that I would not feel bad for killing.

Calder: good cares about people they don’t know

Emily: In the whole world of people, just one person.

Calder: neutral doesn’t care but won’t do bad things without good cause
evil will do bad things to without good cause
like, in Kain’s game Pazuzu asked Lavinia if she’d murder a stranger to spare Joliet and she said no
that’s good alignment
that also isn’t most of us
I’d be down for murdering a stranger (or multiple strangers) to spare a loved one

Emily: I’d murder someone to save my dog. So.
I’d probably feel bad.

Calder: For sure

Emily: But I’d still do it.

Calder: Also, pets better people than most people
So there’s that

Emily: ^

Calder: How else do you think you’d have collected the toe money for Xola?

Emily: I have no idea.
Shake down Maxen. Rob a bank.
Blow Paul.
Ask Stephen.
Probably none of those.

Calder: Ironically, nothing much seemed to come of Celia losing her cash

Emily: Wellll

Calder: You lost the Background and had to replace it with XP

Emily: Yes

Calder: But nothing IC happened

Emily: Might have if we hadn’t time skipped, which allowed the XP purchase.

Calder: Eh, maybe. You’d been living with Savoy, who was taking care of nightly expenses

Emily: So that worked out well.
Well yeah so then she just gotta get that extra Mentor status to move in full time.
Savoy can be her sugar daddy.
God she’d be fucking spoiled if that were the case.
Little bratty neonate.

Calder: If you’d had 4/4 Mentor dots he’d have taken you back to his own haven instead of kept you at the Evergreen
But not Celia’s fault
Grandchilde vs childe

Emily: Isn’t it her fault, though
For selling out their plan.
Couldn’t get the 4/4 because of that.

Calder: Actually, yes
It’s always her fault

Emily: Funny
Is that actually why?

Calder: Why she didn’t have 4/4 dots?

Emily: Yes

Calder: It pretty likely was

Emily: Whoops.

Calder: But if you hadn’t sold out the plan, no Donovan Mentor

Emily: But we all know he secretly loves her.
Soooo

Calder: As ever in the game, impossible (or at least prohibitively difficult) to be friends with everybody equally
At least at the time. Celia might earn her way up to 4/4 Mentor
It’ll just have taken extra work/come later

Emily: But does she still get to live with him? :thinking:

Calder: Won’t that be an exciting thing to find out?

Emily: ugghhhh

Calder: I continue to be amused over how Celia sticks random shit inside herself

Emily: This was the first time
And it was cool

Calder: It was
Vicissitude means extra room inside
Remove all those superfluous organs
Kidneys, what are they good for

Emily: “Well you’re alive… but you don’t have any organs…”
But do we think Celia did surgery on herself or let her teacher do it to her

Calder: I mean, it’s good practice
If painful

Emily: They watched while she cut herself open looking into a mirror

Calder: Also, way to lose some weight

Emily: “It’s mirrored, that means it’s backwards, stupid.”

Calder: Easier for guys to carry her around now

Emily: That’s probably why she did it.

Calder: And to hop up on laps

Emily: She likes being slung over people’s shoulders.

Calder: Ooh, lose 7.5 pounds removing your intestines
Ditch the kidneys… another 1
I liked Celia’s letter, and I’d say it’d be more of a gut punch if the two had a stronger relationship
Context is always as important as the words themselves

Emily: Felt kind of flat to me.

Calder: Always fun to see players come away from scenes with different takeaways
I remember Izzy being pretty sure her story was true
I think you hate Roxanne because she hits a few notes close to home, but also that she wasn’t the loving BFF sister you’d have really enjoyed

Emily: Maybe.
She’s just kind of a cunt.

Calder: And how she sided with Maxen when it counted

Izzy: My recollection was that the story might have exaggerated elements, but I definitely don’t think Maxen treated her gently
and she probably had some decent base material to work off of

Emily: Right, but she hammed it up too much.
To go for the sympathy play.

Izzy: yeah

Emily: And it backfired.

Izzy: and outright lied about her motives

Calder: Can’t all be as manipulative as Celia is

Izzy: big giveaway I remember was her saying she had to turn over Diana
when we straight up saw her tormenting her in the trunk and wanting to “help” Maxen
but she couldn’t have known you knew about that

Emily: I guess part of what bothers me about Isabel is that the day they announced their divorce she was already on Maxen’s side.

Calder: Celia was on his side too, at first

Emily: She went to her mom immediately.
As soon as she got the call, she went.

Calder: Oh, she did
Definitely better daughter there than Isabel

Emily: It didn’t make sense that Isabel just blindly sided with Maxen.

Calder: Perhaps she’d have more to say about why
If she was still undead

Emily: Oh well.

Calder: I’m glad you couldn’t/didn’t go with a plan that involved wiping that much of her memories. I disliked how Dominate removed moral dilemmas/hard decisions and became the go-to answer to so many problems
“Just wipe their memory.”

Emily: Well, she’d have had to convince someone to do it, too.

Calder: Even still

Emily: That’s part of why I haven’t looked into getting it, though.

Calder: And even worse, honestly, for the tool to potentially be open to all PCs

Emily: There have been a few scenes where I’m like “mmm let’s try this again and not say that thing.”

Calder: Hahahaha

Emily: And I just don’t want to be able to do that.
I mean, I do.
But I don’t.

Calder: Caroline has rarely done that because it offends her pride
“I have to admit I fucked up.”

Emily: Ah, see, Celia doesn’t have that qualm.
“I wasn’t supposed to say that.” Mashes delete button.

Calder: Celia has less pride, too
Way less pride

Emily: Eh
I’d disagree, there.
She has a different kind of pride.

Calder: Maybe in some… yeah

Emily: Caroline is steel. She’ll break before she bends.

Calder: Yep

Emily: That makes Celia fuckin’ aluminum or something, idk.
All bendy.

Calder: I thought the chakra post was amazing

Emily: Oh, thanks.

Calder: We always think our writing is worse than it is

Emily: It felt really pretentious.

Calder: I mean, if she was just a normal masseur, then sure

Emily: Like I’ve got a post I’m working on for an upcoming crossover and that feels pretentious as fuck, too.

Calder: But the supernatural is objectively real in the WoD
Run it past me and I’ll give you an opinion

Emily: Aight

Calder: My hunch would be you’re being more critical to yourself than I’d be
As far as killing Roxanne, you might’ve been able to find out more, but you wrote a badass execution post at least
Hard to go wrong with ripping out hearts

Emily: It was fun to write.
Still annoyed I didn’t do what I wanted.

Calder: Diablerize her?
I still wish you’d done that

Emily: I mean, it let Celia develop her own theories about Vidal I guess, but I could have found out way more concrete things than theories.
Roxanne is not worth diablerizing.
You can tell her I said that.

Calder: I mean, I’ve posted her stats
You could have gained Fortitude

Emily: And Dominate.

Calder: Fits well with Celia’s Flawless shtick
If you didn’t want it, you wouldn’t have gotten it
I usually give players a say in what Disciplines they pick up
Kindly GM that I am

Emily: Drawbacks too… drawbacky.

Calder: no risk, no reward

Emily: Potential to become addicted.
^ That’s the one I was worried about.

Calder: I love Celia as a black widow
Or at least could see loving her that way

Emily: Someone would have found out.

Calder: Diablerize them!

Emily: She’d be in trouble.
Etc.

Calder: Maybe get some of those extra Disciplines you crave
Ah, man
You even have “maybe Fortitude” on your list of desired purchases

Emily: Reward wasn’t worth the risk.
Plus then she’s got Isabel inside her forever.
Who wants that.

Calder: I was concerned at the time that Roxanne’s death meant Celia would lack a personal tie to Kindred politics (mortal rival becomes Kindred rival), but the “later” stuff we played out with the plot against Rocco has helped alleviate that

Emily: Roxanne would never be Jade’s rival.
Roxanne was a nobody.
You see how far back she sat in Elysium?
Literal nobody.
Making her a rival would be doing her a service.
Though I’d have loved to see her face when Vidal falls.
Anyway, there’s always flashbacks, though I admit I’m rather uninterested in seeing her.

Calder: I agree time is better spent on active than deceased characters
Rival-wise, she was Status 0/0/1 to Celia’s Status 1/1/1
And led her own krewe
Odds favored Celia, but she was a (relative) peer
Which is a good place for some PC rivals to be, actually

Emily: Listen
I just like insulting her.
Also, she co-led a krewe
Also
We don’t know who runs Celia’s krewe
Since we haven’t seen them

Calder: You want some who are too strong to just make a run at, but you want others who the PC can go up against in a fair fight while still being likely to win
We’ll see indeed
Some krewes have leaders, others don’t
Oh, and the Red Room was new
Extra bit of detail for the logs

Emily: Thought so.

Calder: I put some more thought into the Evergreen’s layout/features after we played that scene out
Celia being the first PC to explore it beyond the garden at the top

Emily: I am excited to see more of it, tbh.
I wonder if she’s allowed to just take parts she needs from the Red Room

Calder: She can check the rest out anytime
Savoy usually doesn’t mind

Emily: Like a little library of organs.

Calder: It’s a way to get rid of them
It’s not like he wants a corpse collection
They’ll presumably just get dumped in the Gulf/swamps or otherwise disposed of if Celia doesn’t take any

Emily: We gotta get this man a shark tank.

Story Twelve, Celia IX
Calder_R Calder_R

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