“Talk or we burn you.”
GM: Pain stabs through Celia’s flank. Her Beast roars.
She can’t see. Her sight is covered. There’s something thick in her mouth.
“Here’s how this is going to go.”
Someone pulls the blindfold away. It’s painfully bright out.
Celia’s head throbs. She’s in a bare room, handcuffed to a bed in spread-eagle position.
The man and woman from the car are sitting on the bed. The woman is holding a bloody knife. The man has a cigarette lighter.
He flicks it on. Moves it closer to her face. Celia’s Beast gnashes its teeth and rears it back.
He flicks it off.
“You’re going to answer our questions, or we’ll burn your pretty face.”
“If you’re still stubborn after that, we’ll get creative.”
“Nod if you understand.”
Celia: She doesn’t know how it works, the thing that Savoy did that night when he felt her die. She doesn’t know how strong the bond is, or if he or her sire will be able to feel it, if she’s doing it right, if there’s even a way to do it consciously.
But she screams. Inside her mind she screams, wordless, panic and rage and fear. That deep-seated fear of fire, of daylight, of these two people standing over her with their knife. Her mind is an echo chamber of please and God and help me, save me.
Her face isn’t flat. It doesn’t betray the rage, but the terror? She lets that show. Anyone would be scared in this position. It puts her back to that time in Em’s apartment. Watching her mother get raped. Tied down, just like this. Hacksawed.
She can’t talk around the gag in her mouth, but she nods. She nods vigorously, all the while pulling in that predatory smell and projecting the same thing she had shown them… before. Last night? How long ago?
It doesn’t matter. She projects that impression of innocence.
GM: The man’s face seems so soften, perhaps a bit.
The blindfold goes back on.
The gag comes out.
“How recently were you turned into this?”
His tone isn’t kind. But it’s perhaps less cruel than when he waved the lighter in her face.
Celia: She could lie. She could tell him she doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
But there’s an easy way to test that, isn’t there? Push her outside. Let the sun ash her. There’s a tightness in her chest where her heart used to be. Dread curls in her gut.
They want information. It’s not often you find yourself with a vampire on your hands. Would they ash her for lying? Or just put that cigarette lighter on her, slide that knife under her nails?
Her voice comes out in a broken whisper, a pained whine. Breathless. Afraid. “I didn’t know what she was.”
Keep calm. Keep calm and scream inside. Cooperate. Someone has to know she’s missing. Savoy has to wonder why she didn’t show up. That’s not like her. She wouldn’t miss a meeting. Maybe he sent someone to look for her. Maybe Pete…?
She doesn’t pull at the bindings. She is very, very still.
GM: She couldn’t see them, anyway, Just like she can’t see the man’s expression.
“How recently?” he repeats. Not angry, yet, but pressing.
Celia: When was the last selfie she’d posted on Instagram? She remembers it because it had a sunny background. Augmented reality. Photoshop. That’s what she’d told Coco years ago when she’d asked.
Too young and they’ll think she doesn’t know anything. Too old and they’ll know this innocent mask is a lie.
There’s no way to win. Another game without an end.
It isn’t fair. All she wants to do is fix her family. Her dad finally said he was proud of her. Her sister is waiting for her to come back.
Her lip quivers. She draws in a shaky breath so she can tell him what he wants to know.
“A few months.” She prays it’s the right answer. They can check her Insta page if they need to; it’ll show that sunny photo, date stamped from a few months prior.
GM: “What’s your phone PIN?” asks the woman.
Celia: “Face scanner.” Jade’s face.
GM: There’s a pause. The blindfold gets pulled away. The man’s eyes are shut as he holds up the phone to her face.
Celia: It doesn’t open. Celia isn’t wearing Jade’s face. She’d never had a chance to change for her meeting.
GM: She’s blindfolded again.
She can hear the man’s scowl.
“Dumb of you.”
Celia: “Is—is that a white phone? Mine isn’t white.”
GM: There’s silence.
Celia: She strains to hear anything beyond the door. Anything that will give her more information on where she is or what they want with her. All the while she remains still. She breathes, just to make herself look human, just to give her something to do.
GM: She hears plenty. Muffled yelling and screaming.
“Open your mouth,” says the woman.
Celia: Her mouth opens. She keeps her fangs hidden away.
GM: The gag gets shoved back in. The blindfold comes off.
Alana is gagged and tied up. The man traces the knife’s edge along her face.
“Talk or we burn you. That’s what we said, starting with your pretty face.”
“But you fucks can come back from anything.”
The ghoul is very still, but her damp eyes are wide and fearful.
Celia: Celia shakes her head, eyes pleading. She shouts from behind the gag. The words are muffled.
GM: “Can you unlock the phone?” asks the woman.
“Nod or shake your head.”
Celia: She doesn’t know what’s on her phone that they want. Selfies? Business receipts from her email? Sexts to Randy? She’d learned, long ago, how technology could fuck someone. She doesn’t keep anything worth saving on her phone. That’s just ignorant.
But she can’t take the chance she was sloppy. Sell out a ghoul, or sell out her entire kind?
It’s an easy decision to make.
She hates herself for it.
She shakes her head.
GM: The woman holds down a crying Alana, and then the man saws off her right ear. Blood messily spurts everywhere as the ghoul makes muffled screams past her gag and thrashes in place.
Celia can feel her elongated canines pierce through the gag’s cloth as the heady coppery scent fills her nostrils.
Celia: She thrashes against her bindings. Against whatever is holding her back, she thrashes, yanks, pulls. Her body bucks and bows, bending, twisting. Her fingers curl into claws. She screams again. Wordless. Rage. Panic. Shakes her head. Again, again. Stop it, she’s screaming, but they can’t hear.
GM: Perhaps her Beast bursts out and overtakes her. Perhaps she howls like the monster is. The handcuffs cruelly dig into her flesh and hold her fast.
Perhaps Roderick or Veronica could burst those steel bonds. But she’s just Celia. Weak.
“Is this her phone?” the man asks Alana, holding it up.
The sobbing, newly-one-eared ghoul mutely bobs her head, over and over, as if that will make the pain stop.
“Oh, look. More lies.”
The blindfold goes back on. The gag comes out.
“Punctured it,” says the woman.
“She’s a monster,” says the man. “Look at those fang marks.”
“There’s monsters and then there’s monsters,” says the woman.
Someone’s hand touches Celia’s shoulder.
“You say you’re pretty new to what you are,” comes the man’s voice.
“Okay. You’re a sweet girl something bad happened to.”
“This will go easier if you cooperate. Just tell us how to get into the phone.”
Celia: The skin where they’d stuck the knife knits itself back together beneath her shirt. The wound is bloody enough that they might not notice, even if they were looking at it.
How long has she been here? How long until nightfall? Until someone comes looking for her? Did anyone even notice? Does he care that she was screaming in her mind, or is he snoozing, peacefully, behind those steel doors in Paul’s house? Alana will fold soon. The girl wasn’t built to withstand this kind of torture.
Her mind rips through her options. They seem to feel at least something for her. Pity, maybe. But that won’t stop them from taking her head when they get what they want. Her and Alana both. And then what? Then Roxanne fades away into nothing, or breaks free of the restraints. Kills one of her employees. If they get into the phone and find what they’re looking for—what are they looking for?
She doesn’t need to see the man to make him feel things. There’s no eye contact required. She pours it down that line of energy that connects the two of them, the one from her shoulder to his hands to his heart. She makes him feel it. See her how she wants him to see her: friend. Not a monster. Just a sweet girl something bad happened to. Someone who wants to help, she just can’t, and she doesn’t want to be this way, she wants to help, of course she wants to help, she’s a people pleaser, she’d do it if she could.
“J-Jade has to do it.” She puts a tremor in her voice. “I can help, just—what do you need?”
“Please don’t hurt her,” she tacks on, because that sounds like the kind of thing someone nice would say, the kind of thing someone decent would be worried about.
GM: “Who is Jade?” asks the woman.
Celia: “She’s in charge. She’s the one… the one who…” she breaks off.
GM: Celia can’t see Alana’s face, but the ghoul’s gag-muffled sobs are still all-too audible.
“The leech who turned you,” fills in the man.
“Blankbodies now,” says the woman.
“Suppose they are,” says the man.
Celia: Celia nods her head. She presses her face into her arm, even tied as it is, as if to hold back tears.
GM: “That’s good,” the man says encouragingly. “Tell us about Jade.”
Celia: “She—she’s hurts me. She makes me do what she says, I don’t want to, but she… she makes me and… she kil—she killed—” She cuts off into a hiccupping sob. “I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to, she r-raped me, she ju-just takes over when I…” Her head shakes, back and forth. “Please, please, tell me w-what you want, I’ll help, I will, I c-can’t go back to her.”
GM: The pair question Celia extensively about Jade. Her name. Her haven. Her routine. Her demonstrated powers. Her preferred vessels.
The lies drip from the Toreador’s too-practiced tongue like honey. She was spouting bullshit long before her Embrace.
And besides, it’s not even completely a lie. Once you can fake sincerity you have it made, so it’s even better if you don’t have to.
The pair seem to swallow it all. Hook, line, and sinker.
Celia: She tells them what they want to know. She tells them about the woman who came to her. The old woman with the curling gray hair, leathery skin, wrinkles upon wrinkles upon wrinkles. Evening appointments only, but that’s not strange—a lot of people work during the day. The woman had wanted her to fix her flaws. To make her younger. More beautiful. Only any change Celia made came undone the next night. There’s no way to make it permanent. Nothing she can do for them.
She tells them about the rage. The beating she’d endured inside her own establishment when her client hadn’t liked her news. When they press for details about what the woman can do, she tells them about the durability. The healing. The mind control. Smart to cover her eyes or mouth. So smart. You need direct eye contact, she tells them, that’s how they get you. Both eyes. Nothing in between. That’s the drawback, she says, that there are ways around it if you know what you’re doing. She’d had a special pair of glasses made for when she deals with the woman. Maybe they saw her with them?
She tells them about the dirty table where she was taken apart. The table covered in blood, filth, excrement. The bindings like these—and here her voice breaks again, because these bindings remind her of being beaten, of being violated, and she tells them that, too, and she presses her face again into her arm as her body trembles. Helpless. Her friends are hurting her. She tells them, too, about the laughter. The screaming. The broken bones. Sometimes she’d be suffocated. Her vision would go black and then red. The blood vessels would pop in her eyes and face. She’d have to pile on the makeup after that. The woman would always bring her back from the brink of death, though.
Until one night she didn’t.
Now she’s one of them. A leech. A slave to a more powerful master. She just wants to be left alone. To make people pretty. She’s good with makeup. She seizes that idea, showing them excited desperation: she can help them. She can help them get in to where the woman stays. It won’t be strange for Celia to show up, and she can disguise them, bring them with her.
She can help. She just wants to help. To help them. To let them help her. To get her out from under the thumb of the evil thing that stole her life from her.
She asks, at some point, if they can put the ear on ice. Maybe a doctor can reattach it.
There’s a ritual, she tells them, haltingly. Breathlessly. A ritual that will make them fast and strong. It will help when they fight the woman. When they go after Jade.
But there’s a price. Two prices, really, and she’s flustered as she tells them that. Shy. She makes them draw it out of her, coaxing. She’s afraid to scare them, she says, she doesn’t want them to think less of her, doesn’t want to be seen like… like the woman. She seems reluctant to part with the information.
She needs blood, first. Their blood. She doesn’t need to bite them, not if they don’t want her to. They can put it in a cup. Feed her with a straw. Hold it to her lips. It’ll leave a scar if they cut themselves like that though, she can’t fix that. But if they do want her to bite them, she promises it won’t hurt. She can take it from their wrist if they want, and it’ll close after, no scars. She won’t take too much. Enough for the ritual, that’s it. The other one can hold the knife to her if needed, if it sounds like their partner is in pain.
She doesn’t want to hurt her friends.
The second part… she trails off as she tells them. She bites her lip with flat teeth, sends the blood to her cheeks to redden them. She plays up that picture of innocence; demure, chaste, pure. She squirms as she tells them.
The second part is to seal it with a kiss.
GM: Celia can’t see anything happening as she talks, but she hears Alana chokingly add to the story. She sobs about the unspeakable things Jade does to them both. About how she and Celia are both victims. How she didn’t want this, any of this, for herself, she doesn’t want anything to do with vampires, but Jade forced her. She begs the pair not to hurt Celia, who’s done so much to shield her from Jade’s wrath. Who’s endured beatings and worse, so much worse, in her place. She begs the pair to save them from Jade.
Celia: Celia pictures the girl’s words as she talks. She puts herself in that position, the both of them in that position: playtoys for more powerful Kindred. It isn’t a stretch to imagine. She sees Veronica’s face twist as she destroys things. Hears the phlemgy, squelching laughter of the Nosferatu. Imagines her sister’s wounds. She didn’t even get a chance to ask what happened. Who had hurt her.
Celia lets that fear fill her voice. Shows them the way her body trembles at the thought of being subjected to more abuse. It isn’t even a stretch: she knows if she plays this wrong the rest of her kind will have something to say, too, and that’s assuming she gets out. Savoy has never had cause to be disappointed with her before, but she can see it in his eyes when she pictures him. Failure. He’ll say he should have left her in the water. Should have let the sun ash her. Donovan threw her away, and Savoy will say he should have left her like the garbage that she is. It’s a quick execution to sell out their own kind, she knows. Maybe that’s the best she can hope for now.
Or maybe they’ll sell her off to the highest bidder. Make an example of her: this is what happens when you get sloppy. Veronica had smugly told her she’d taken someone like that. He’s just a bitch now. Treated worse than she’d ever treat a ghoul, or even the kine. A primogen’s childe and he still has no recourse.
All of that she pours into her words. Halting. Splintering. But not for her. For Alana.
Please, she says to them, please would they consider letting Alana go? She can get a head start out of the city, before the others wake up, before they learn about the betrayal. Alana doesn’t deserve this, she tells them, voice breaking, and if Celia… if Celia is going to find her ruin here—pleasedontendme—at least Alana would be free from it.
GM: Once more, honey drips from the Toreador’s practiced lips. Perhaps the alternating gag and blindfold would be enough to shield them from Celia’s powers of enthrallment, were she a childe of Ventrue whose gaze must be assiduously averted, but the Rose Clan’s vitae runs through Celia’s veins instead.
Celia cannot meet their eyes. She cannot read their faces. But she can read their voices, and the silences in between. She can feel their hearts paining for the innocent victim she proclaims herself to be.
She has, after all, had so much practice playing the victim.
Being the victim.
Her captors don’t apologize for Alana’s ear. But she hears retreating footsteps, an opening door, and the mutilated ghoul stammering out here thanks. There’s the door opening and closing again, and the woman’s voice saying to “keep applying pressure.”
Celia’s request to be let go is met with a hard but pained, “I’m sorry, but that’s out of the question,” from the man.
“It’s good you’re cooperating. This will go as gently for you as it can.”
“Things are about to get a lot worse for your kind. A lot worse. You’re lucky we were the ones to get you. We’re teddy bears, honestly, next to—”
There’s a sound from the woman.
They tell Celia to keep talking.
They pause when she gets to ‘the ritual.’
Celia: She tells Alana that the ear can be reattached. It can be fixed. To go to a meldical—sorry, she’s slurring, medical, she’s so tired, her brain is fuzzy—and she can get it fixed, she won’t have to live without an ear.
She sounds hopeful. So hopeful. And so grateful when they let Alana go, when she hears the retreating footsteps. She thanks them for their kindness when the door shuts, not a trace of irony in her voice. She understands. They can’t let her go. She tells them she understands. But there’s hurt in her voice.
“Next to what?” she asks, desperate. Fear seeps from her pores. She’s helpless. Bound. Gagged. They know how to beat her. They’re scaring her. She doesn’t want to go out screaming. Can they tell her? Please? She doesn’t want… she doesn’t want to be surprised by it. When it happens. She asks, quietly, when they pause, what will go gently. “Are you going to… to finish me?” She doesn’t say ‘kill.’ She’s already dead. That will just remind them.
GM: “Please don’t! She never wanted this!” begs a too-familiar voice.
“Stay quiet,” says the woman. “The more pressure you maintain, the less blood you’ll lose.”
Alana falls silent.
“We’ll talk about that later,” the man answers Celia’s question. The words are gruff, but not without pain of their own.
Celia: Oh. Oh no. They hadn’t let her go. Celia had just been making up stories in her head. Imagining the things she wanted.
It’s not fair.
It’s not fair, Alana shouldn’t be here. She’ll have to watch her die. She’s going to watch her die.
She makes a sound. It might be a sob.
GM: She feels the man’s hand against her shoulder.
“You’re doing good. We won’t draw this out. Just answer some more questions. About this… ritual…”
They question her. They patiently listen to her answers. About becoming stronger, faster, tougher. About the blood cost. About the kiss to seal it.
Chaste and demure. It’s not hard time slip into character. It’s what her dad taught her to be all her life. It’s the only thing he could love her as. It’s what her mom still is, in all frankness. She’s had a lot of practice with this act.
“…we could use that,” the man says finally. “Stronger. Faster. We can’t go toe to toe, against… leeches. Have to fight dirty. Hit where they’re weak.”
“We’ve lost friends, when we couldn’t. Your help might save lives.”
Celia: “Will it… will it save mine? Hers?” She nods her chin to the last spot she had heard Alana’s voice.
GM: “We can’t let you go,” the man says heavily. “You’re still human now, but eventually, you’ll turn into a monster. As bad as Jade.”
“Do you really want that to happen? Do to some other poor girl what she did to you?”
Celia: “You don’t have to let me go. I… I’ll stay here. I want…” Celia’s lip trembles. “I want to… to be normal again… if you… you could keep me, you could… a cure, maybe, there has to be…”
“They say… they say the worse you get, the worse you look. It shows in your face. You could monitor me. Look for signs. If… if I start to go…”
GM: “I don’t know if there’s a cure,” says the man. “We’ve heard… rumors. Things like killing the leech who turned you.”
“But we’ve never seen it,” says the woman. “I don’t know if a cure even exists.”
“Maybe… they know more…” says the man.
“They wouldn’t help,” says the woman.
“We could try. Hold her here, like she says…”
Celia: “I met one once. Before Jade. I didn’t know what he was at the time. But we talked about saints and sinners, and it came up… it’s compounding. It builds. And if you help enough people…”
“I can help you. With the ritual. Every night. You can… I don’t know who they are, but… maybe, maybe they would help, maybe they would know more, and I’ll help, I will, whatever you need from me.”
“Are they… rivals?”
GM: “No.” A pause. “Well. Mostly, no. But things aren’t going to be like they used to be, anymore. For you or us.”
“She shouldn’t hear this,” interjects the woman.
Celia: “I’m sorry. I just wanted to help. I thought maybe… maybe I might know something about them, but I don’t know who…”
GM: “They’re no one you’ve heard of,” says the woman. “And they won’t help. It’s better if—”
“—we want to kill her sire anyway,” interrupts the man. “Maybe that’ll do something, maybe it won’t. Doesn’t hurt to see if it does.”
Celia: “I can’t go anywhere.” Celia pulls at the bindings, to show them. “I’m… your prisoner. I’m yours. It’ll… it’ll let me redo the ritual. Each time you need it. So you… you won’t lose each other.”
GM: There is another silence as the two seem to mull over Celia’s words.
Maybe they are finally coming to their senses.
Maybe this sounds all-too suspiciously like ghouling.
Maybe they know about that.
Maybe they’ve realized what she is trying to do to them.
Maybe they’ve realized the innocent victim mask is a lie. That it has been a lie since even before her Embrace.
There’s a sound like footsteps.
The door opening.
Then, an unmistakable coppery tang in her nostrils, even before she feels something cool and ceramic pressed to her lips.
“Okay. Do it.”
Celia: Her mouth opens. She does her best to keep her fangs tucked away.
GM: The luscious, too-brief taste rolls down her mouth like red velvet. Veronica called it “the best sex you’ve had, the best high you’ve had, the best food you’ve had, all rolled into one.” There’s a decidedly bitter note to this hunter’s vitae, which has a strong, hearty flavor. Celia can imagine it might taste even better in the thick of combat, laced with adrenaline.
It’s not without a note of sweetness, too… sweet with the man’s feelings for her, because it has to be the man’s. It’s a blatant and unsubtle note, like someone poured sugar all over a hamburger. It’s sweet, and might even pair okay, but there’s nothing at all subtle about it. Savoy and Veronica both always said that inspiring the kine’s lusts “the real way” made for better flavor.
Celia: She doesn’t need it to taste good. At this point it’s just sustenance. She hushes the Beast’s complaining at the taste; soon she’ll be out of here. Soon she’ll feed on something sweeter. Someone has to know she’s missing. Someone has to be looking for her.
She swallows it down, but it’s not enough. Never enough. The red clings to her lips and she licks it free. She won’t waste any of it. Her hand moves, but it’s caught fast by the cuffs. She turns her head to frown at the arrested motion.
“Runes,” she says.
GM: “Runes, what?” asks the woman.
Celia: “Ritual,” Celia says, as if that explains it. “Runes. For it to complete. Need to mark you.”
GM: “You just said there needed to be a kiss,” she says with a frown.
Celia: “To seal it. Blood for payment, kiss to seal. The ritual itself…” Celia trails off. “The sun. It makes everything I do weaker. I can wait. Until sunset. Stay tied. Or I can mark you. Infuse extra power into it. Make sure it sticks.” There’s a pause. She gathers her thoughts. Sends out a new impression: trustworthiness.
“How familiar are you with rituals?” she finally asks.
GM: “Brianna was the real expert at that stuff,” admits the man. “Leeches—blanks, killed her a few months back.”
Celia: Her lips pull downward.
“I’m sorry. They…” she hesitates. “They killed someone I was seeing. My boyfriend. Before. I didn’t know until I was turned that they were responsible for him.”
GM: “Jade killed my mom,” Alana speaks up quietly. “I didn’t even know why, for a month. Until she told me it was because she was hungry.”
“And because she knew where my mom slept. Convenient, was what she said.”
“That’s the thing,” says the man. “They’ll kill just anyone. And everyone leaves a hole behind. Other people to pick up the pieces.”
Celia: “I don’t want you to lose anyone else,” Celia says quietly. “I’d do anything to keep that from happening. I… if they found out I was doing this ritual…” she trails off. A delicate shudder runs down her body.
“I have a daughter,” she says after a moment. “She’s with my mom now. But Jade knows she exists. And… I live in fear that something is going to happen to her. That she’ll hurt her. To hurt me. Because I do something wrong.” Her voice is strained. “All I wanted… I just wanted to see her graduate… to know that she’s taken care of, and I…” She trails off.
GM: “You don’t have to worry about Jade for much longer,” says the man. “We’re going to hit her. Today, while the sun’s still out. Before she notices you two are gone. You can help us with your… ritual.”
He leans in and kisses her lips. It’s a somewhat awkward kiss, with no real lust or passion behind it. It feels almost sad.
Celia: She makes a noise, something that might have been a squeak of surprise, but she’s quick to recover. Celia’s lips part. Her mouth is warm, but there’s no moistness to the tongue that she slips into his mouth. Her hand pulls against the restraint almost reflexively, as if to cup his cheek or touch his shoulder. It’s held fast by the steel handcuffs.
There’s no exchange of power. Nothing happens.
Except the pulse that she sends down the line. The way her tongue curls around his. The desire that she infuses him with; a desire for her, to get these cuffs off, to take her like a man takes a woman. She’s so pretty, isn’t she? Beautiful skin. Tight body. Curves in all the right places. So soft, so warm, so inviting. She’s been so helpful. And how often is is that he’ll get a chance to bed a vampire? It’s desirable for the novelty alone, really. Hasn’t he read any pararomance novels? Vampires make the best lovers. She even has a heartbeat. He can feel it in her chest, pounding away. Her nipples are hard beneath the shirt she wears, straining, begging for him to touch them.
He’ll never get this opportunity again. He should bed her now, while he has the chance. Send the girls out of the room. Just the two of them; what sweet love they can make.
GM: Celia can’t read the man’s face. But she can hear his breath and how much quicker it comes. She can feel his hands lingering on her body.
And not least of all, she can feel the lust that inflames his kiss.
His tongue entwines with hers, his mouth all-too hungry as their lips meet.
Until they are interrupted.
“My turn,” the woman says thickly.
The man reluctantly pulls away.
Celia hears a faint noise, then another unmistakable copper tang fills the air. The ceramic cup is pressed against her mouth.
The woman’s blood tastes similar to the man’s. Hearty and bitter, but with a salty undercurrent, and nowhere nearly as much of the glamor-induced sweetness, though some of that is still there. The flavor feels natural. Mostly natural.
The woman leans in for a second kiss. It’s less sad than the man’s. Quicker and more businesslike. She’s doing this because she has to.
Celia: The man being ripped away from her draws a mournful sound, low and in the back of her throat. She misses him. She wants him. There’s a promise in that sound: what she can do to him if he comes back for more. If he gets her alone. But she doesn’t turn down the blood. She drinks again, swallows it down, and her tongue flicks across the woman’s lips.
Is this what jealousy tastes like?
Her fangs extend. Two points of fire in the woman’s lip, followed by the sweet ecstasy of the kiss.
GM: Celia sips, rapturously. The lips are a poor point to drink from, though. She works lower, nuzzling her head against the woman’s neck. The Toreador can feel the initial tension in the woman’s body drain away like a stressed client laid out on the massage table. Celia knows all about making people feel good. She shivers and pulls taut against the handcuffs as bliss flows down her throat. Oh, oh yes—
Suddenly, there’s rough hands squeezing her breasts, then pulling down her pants. Working off her panties. There’s the sound of a belt unbuckling, a fly unzipping, and then a man’s hard cock filling her.
“Ah, yeah, take it, you vampire slut! Take it!”
The man’s thrusts come hard and fast. If Celia were like most of her kind, for whom their sex organs’ nerve endings are as dead as the rest of their bodies, she might not have even noticed amidst the sanguine ecstasy coursing down her throat. The man doesn’t sound at all bothered. He presses down on top of Celia, on top of the woman atop her. He pins Celia’s cuffed wrists to the bed as his balls smack back and forth.
“You’re fucking mine! I OWN you, slut! Beg for your life! Work those whore lips!”
Celia barely hears him. There is only the rapture of the kiss, the rush of life shooting up her veins, making her warm, making her whole. She takes and takes and takes. Her victim moans and pushes herself closer against Celia, but doesn’t resist. They never do. The Toreador takes and takes until the woman’s heartbeat is a dull, weak thump, then silent altogether.
“You’re FILTHY! DISGUSTING! Yeah! You’re MINE! You’re gonna fuck me all day! My—pet—vampire—WHORE!”
Celia feels strong hands clamp around her neck, cutting of her air supply—if she still breathed. The man chokes the shit out of her as he thrusts faster and harder. There’s an almost manic quality to his voice as he half-screams, half-sobs,
“MINE! MY! PROPERTY! BEG FOR YOUR DADDY, YOU WWH-OO-OORREE!!!”
The man gives a strangled inarticulate cry as he tenses and blows his load, filling Celia’s dead cunt with his seed.
Celia: Celia takes more pleasure in sex than most of her kind. They call her perverted for it, tell her that it’s the blood that she should get off on. She just smiles at them because she knows how wrong they are, how the simultaneous enjoyment of blood on her tongue and a tongue on her clit is better than anything they’ll ever get. They’re missing out. Deprived, really.
She’s been with enough men to know the signs. The way he speeds up. The nerves in her dead cunt telling her that his buried-to-the-hilt cock is beginning to twitch, just as she was starting to enjoy the ride. She might have even started to call him “daddy” the way he wants, or would have if his fingers weren’t curled around her throat. Maybe she makes a noise or two to urge him on. Happy noises, like Veronica taught her. Right there, those noises say, don’t stop. Even so, she can feel it. She knows it’s coming. Knows he’s coming.
She times her moment right. Waits for his fingers to curl around her neck, for that first sign of climax to hit him. She lifts her head and sinks her teeth into his arm. A tiny prick of pain, then prolonged pleasure. Waves and waves and waves of it.
Fucking his vampire slut is the best feeling.
GM: But just as Celia nips at him, a heavy thud hits the floor.
The man pulls back.
His voice is aghast with horror.
Suddenly, there’s a click from one of Celia’s handcuffs.
Colliding. A horrible shk sound.
That unmistakable coppery tang.
Alana’s voice, screaming.
A second heavy thump.
Celia: The Beast rears its ugly head. It yowls and hisses and spits, demanding blood, demanding payment, demanding life. For a moment maybe it’s free. For a moment maybe Celia hisses, too. But her teeth clamp shut, lips pressed together in a firm line. She cannot lose her cool. She beats it down through sheer force of will, stuffs it deep inside of her.
The sound of Alana’s continued scream is the only thing that keeps her calm. The body isn’t hers. The body can’t be hers. She wouldn’t be screaming if the body were hers.
She yanks her free hand toward her face to pull the blindfold free.
GM: But it is Alana. Lying in a heap on the floor, her right ear coated with blood, and her hands stained red as she cradles the savage cut across her abdomen.
The half-dressed man throws the knife aside, seizes a wooden stake, and lunges at Celia with a wordless scream of rage.
Celia: There is a single moment here where Celia has a shot.
A single moment where she can get out of this situation, hopefully alive. Or at least less permanently dead than she would be if this man has a chance to stab her through the heart with that stake.
Her vision, her world, narrows to him. To the stake in his hand. She can hear, distantly, the sound of Alana sobbing on the floor. She can smell the blood. See the rage twisting on his face.
None of that matters.
Nothing but the piece of wood in his hand. The distance between them. The arc as he brings it down toward her chest.
The world slows.
Her dead heart pumps.
Quick as the snake hiding in the grass, she lashes out. Her hand flashes towards the man’s face. There is nothing pretty, nothing glamorous, about what she is about to do. It’s the sewers all over again: she doesn’t create. She destroys. Her fingers seek his nose. His mouth. His eyes, if they can reach. They sink into his skin. Flesh-colored playdough. They don’t rip: they smooth. How many wrinkles had she smoothed over the years? How many fine lines and signs of aging had she stolen from people’s faces?
His lips are nothing if not giant wrinkles of their own. His nose is cartilage waiting to be splattered. The lids of his eyes will never open again.
When she pulls her hand away his face is smooth.
GM: Celia took an Intro to Psychology class at Tulane that briefly went into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What people want and when they want it. First they want food, water, warmth, rest. If they don’t have those basic physiological needs met, they won’t care about more abstract needs like relationships and achieving their full potential. You start with the basic shit first, then you work your way up.
But Maslow got one thing about his hierarchy wrong.
He put ‘food’ at the bottom.
‘Being able to breathe’ should have probably been at the bottom.
Because if you can’t breathe, who gives a fuck about food?
Or, for that matter, killing vampires.
The man panics. That’s the only thing he can do, as he stops breathing and human nature sets in. He claws at his face as if that will do something. He claws and tears until blood runs down the baby-smooth plateau of flesh that used to be his face. He claws and gouges until there’s a sickening squelch and retinal fluid leaks down his cheeks, not from eyes that do not see, but eyes he no longer has—eyes fused solid with the flesh of his eyelids. Celia can hear the ghastly muffled sound coming from past the fused flesh that used to be his lips.
He has no mouth.
And he must scream.
It isn’t pretty. It isn’t quick. Celia watches the entire time as he dies a slow, torturous death on the ground from asphyxiation, writhing like an overlarge half-squashed bug no one even has the decency to put out of its misery.
But he dies the same way that anyone else who allows Jade to work her hands upon their face comes to live.
Celia: It had almost happened to her once. High. So high in the air. In the arms of the thing that had destroyed her life, she had almost suffered the same fate.
She had never intended to go into medicine. She hadn’t thought that the career would be fulfilling, or the concepts interesting. But that night her mom went into that shack with severed toes and came out whole? That changed everything. She knew she wanted to be able to do that some day. She’d studied. Learned everything she could.
So she knows, now, what is happening inside the hunter. No air holes. No oxygen getting inside his lungs. He’s struggling to breathe, to bring anything in, but what he doesn’t know is that it needs to get out. What people don’t realize is that it isn’t the lack of oxygen that will kill you: it’s the oversaturation of carbon dioxide. It’s toxic to the human body. That uncomfortable feeling in your lungs when you hold your breath? Carbon dioxide trying to leak out. All he has to do is stab himself over the mouth and rip free a breathing hole and he’s golden.
But the first thing to be hit by the lack of oxygen and excess carbon dioxide is the brain. It causes panic. Flushed skin. Perspiration. She can smell it, dripping off of him in buckets. There’s hemorrhaging in the sclera, though she cannot see how the whites of his eyes turn red with his skin sealed shut. Only after, when he punctures the skin and it oozes down his face, red and white mixed together.
She watches him stumble, scratching, clawing, hacking at his face with his own hands and nails. It almost ruins her beautiful work.
She doesn’t even give him the dignity of watching him die.
Her eyes turn away from the pathetic mass of flesh writhing on the floor. She reaches for the key still embedded in the steel handcuffs he had used to tie her down, swiftly unlocking her other wrist, then both ankles.
She rolls off of the bed to check both women. Alana’s sobs call to her, but her attention is on the other hunter for the moment it takes to determine her status. She cannot leave an enemy at her back.
GM: The woman has no heartbeat audible to Celia’s ears. She doesn’t need to touch the hunter’s so-pallid neck to feel for the pulse that isn’t there. Any medical attention came too late for this one.
Celia: The loss of information—who are they?—is the only pang of guilt that Celia feels for ending the lives of these two. Her hands close around the woman’s wrists and she drags the body to where Alana sits on the floor, hands pressing against the gaping wound in her stomach.
Celia bites her own wrist and offers it to the ghoul, ready to sink her fangs back into the woman to replace whatever her pet takes from her.
GM: The heady scent of blood is everywhere. All over the floor. All over Alana. It’s impossibly arousing: Celia couldn’t stop the ‘boner’ in her mouth even if she was trying to.
The ghoul falls on her domitor’s wrist with a wordless sob. She sucks and sucks like a babe at its mother’s breast. The nasty stab wound closes as thought it were never. The bleeding stops. Flawless.
“Mistress… my ear…” she whimpers.
Celia: “I know, darling.” She lifts a hand to touch the ghoul’s cheek. She has done so well. So well.
“I know. I’ll get it sorted. Do we know where it went?” Better to reattach the old ear than fashion a new one. Her hands move along the woman’s body, searching her pockets.
GM: “They… they took it outside…”
Celia finds a phone, but the screen asks her to ‘draw unlock pattern’ over nine dots.
Celia: “Then I’ll make you a new one,” Celia promises her. “I know it hurts. You have to be strong for me right now, okay? Just a little while longer. Just until we’re out of here and back home.” She checks the time on the phone’s lock screen before setting it down.
“Did you see anyone else here?” Then, a second later, “why outside?”
She crosses the floor to where the man discarded her clothing when he fucked her, pulling the material back over her legs. She searches his body for a phone, too. For his and hers. He had been the one holding it earlier.
GM: It’s around noon.
Alana nods slowly at Jade’s entreaty and rubs her head against her domitor’s stomach. “Outside the… door, mistress. Somewhere else, in the house. They had me blindfolded. I didn’t see.”
The ghoul’s ear is still gone, and her face is streaked with dried blood, but Alana’s voice is steady as more ceases to flow. She looks and sounds all better now, minus the ear. Miracle medicine, Pete called it.
Celia finds her phone, locked to any face but Jade’s. The man’s phone also asks for a PIN.
Celia: She’s going to need to change that, she realizes. Being stuck without access to a phone in a strange location is not doing her any favors. She is still a moment, mind ripping through her options.
She cannot stay here. She does not know if the hunters have others in the house, and if they do they’re likely to be like them, hunters as well. She doesn’t want to send Alana off on her own, but there’s work that needs to be done here that the girl cannot do. She presses her for information: did she hear anyone besides these two? She assumes, perhaps incorrectly, that if there had been others in the house they would have come running at the noise. She needs to be ready for that.
A moment of reflection later and Celia decides on a course. She tells Alana to watch the door. Her hands move to her face, twisting and shaping it with practiced ease to become what she needs it to become, to become the monster the pair had been looking for the whole time: Jade.
GM: Alana answers that she did not hear anyone else in the house. But the hunters were talking on their phones, and seemed in contact with other people. They sounded as if they were talking in code. They did not ever reference ‘vampires’ by name, nor did they volunteer their own names or Celia’s name, but they seemed to be insinuating they had a vampire in captivity. Alana does not think it is safe to stay here.
But it is dangerous to leave, too. Celia can feel the sun hatefully bearing down on her even through the building’s walls. She is tired. She is so, so tired. Beautiful corpses like her should stay properly dead when it’s this bright out.
Celia: The facial transformation doesn’t take long. It is an old, deft skill at this point, a transformation that she has performed multiple times per evening for the past few years. Once it is complete she unlocks her phone. She tells Alana to take the woman’s clothes so that she is no longer covered in blood.
She scrolls through her contacts to find Mélissaire’s number, then dials Savoy’s ghoul.
GM: That doesn’t make it hurt any less. It hurts as much as any plastic surgery without anesthesia could be expected to hurt. Protesting muscles pulled and contorted every which way, reshaped like putty in her hands. It feels like someone is destroying her face. Because someone is.
Beauty always hurts.
Alana strips and changes.
“Why hello, Jade. We missed you last night!” greets her grandsire’s ghoul over the phone.
Celia: She’s used to pain. Used to the way her muscles fight against the transformation, the way her skin feels as if it has been stripped from her face and reapplied with nothing more than tape to keep it down. Like a thousand paper cuts all at once. Or the fine edge of a blade sliding into the soft flesh beneath the keratin of her nails. Beauty is pain, but beauty is everything. She’ll pay the price.
“I found myself inexplicably busy,” Celia says into the phone. Her voice betrays her exhaustion. “I ran into some friends, and we had a wild night. I would love to make it up to you, but I seem to have misplaced my keys. Can I catch a ride?”
GM: “Sure thing. I can’t wait to hear all the sordid details.” The ghoul laughs faintly. “Where are you now?”
Celia: It takes just a moment for her to find her location on the phone’s map. She passes it along. She insinuates that her friends mentioned they might be having company over for lunch, and that she’d hate to be a third wheel.
GM: She’s in the 9th Ward. A bad neighborhood.
“Oh, well we certainly wouldn’t want that… someone as cute as you should have third wheels, not be one herself. Hang tight, I’ll be over in a jiff.”
Celia: “Appreciate it.”
Celia’s eyes roam the room in speculation. She needs to do something to clean this up. She could just take the bodies with her, she reasons. Inconvenient to waste building material when she has so much research left to do on what she can and cannot accomplish. Maybe Pete can do that blood reading thing and find out more. He only needs one of them for that, though. Still, the girl’s identity might be useful.
Her thoughts spin over each other in disarray. She’s exhausted. The sun is beating down on the house and she can feel it. She needs sleep.
She says something to Mélissaire about trunk space, room for a massage table. She’ll bring the bodies, she thinks, and then there’s just blood to clean up, but without a body there’s no crime. Maybe she can have Alana smash a few windows. Take some petty cash. She searches the bodies for wallets, identification, anything.
Support: It’s a few moments after she hangs up that a window opens and Randy rolls in like a ninja, shotgun brandished. “I got you, babe!”
Then he looks at the bodies, the blood, his very beleaguered and entirely freed domitor.
“Oh. You, uh. You finished without me.”
Wouldn’t be the first time, he thinks ruefully. He straightens up awkwardly, holding himself at an odd angle, all the better to compensate for his missing…cheek.
GM: “Wouldn’t be the first time,” Alana sourly remarks, arms crossed. Her face is streaked with blood and she’s missing an ear.
Celia: The sound of someone else approaching is enough to make Celia wary. It’s too soon for Mel to be here, unless the girl is driving, as usual, with a lead foot. She’s already planning how best to dispatch this new threat when she recognizes Randy’s voice, and she abandons the half-crouched fighting stance she’d taken up.
She lays a hand on Alana’s arm at the typical exchange between her ghouls. She has no patience now to deal with their squabbling.
“Randy. Perfect timing.” Her voice is carefully neutral, though not cool. He can see the relief in her eyes, the emotion that she can’t put into words. Not here. Not yet. Her tightly coiled control is the only thing keeping her together. “Search the place. Anything useful. Identification. Wallets. Computers. Weapons. Documents. Anything. We need to know who these people are.”
Something. Anything to make all of this worth it. To make the fact that she was kidnapped, tied down, treated like an animal, and fucked worth it.
“Alana’s ear, as well,” she adds after a moment.
GM: The trio search the house. For the most part, it’s a wreck: decrepit and foul-smelling with significant water damage. One of many homes wrecked by Katrina that just never got fixed up. There are dust-covered hypodermic needles, what might be human feces (aged enough to no longer even smell), and other signs of habitation by junkies and squatters. The lights and sink don’t turn on.
The hunters have brought sleeping bags, toiletries, packaged foods, water, and an ice-filled cooler. They find Alana’s ear inside, along with more food. The ghoul immediately implores her domitor to reattach it.
Support: Randy picks up the ear and flicks it with a finger before handing it to Alana, somewhat apologetically. “Yikes. That… has to be a health hazard.”
He’s been polite enough to not say anything thus far, but Celia can tell from the way he keeps looking at her, biting his lip, his sluggish attempts to participate in the search.
Celia: Her ghouls, she reflects, are so needy.
“I need a more sterile environment to attach your ear, ’Lana.” Celia touches her cheek once more, her thumb brushing across the girl’s lips. “We’ll put it on ice. I promise, when I wake up, when I have time to assess the damage and see if there’s any hearing loss, I’ll reattach. Where it’s clean. Randy wasn’t here because he was infected by the sewer water; I won’t have you, too, succumbing to something that can be prevented.” She pulls the girl closer to her, taking a moment to nuzzle her neck. “You did so well today. I won’t let you be without it. I promise.”
Her eyes flick toward Randy. He doesn’t need to say anything. She can tell.
Indecision wars in her gut. He wasn’t here. He wasn’t here when she needed him. And yet… he came down to the sewers for her when she called. He followed her, he was late, but he came. He’s useless without the blood. Nothing more than a junkie jonesing for his next fix.
She crooks a finger at him, beckoning for him to follow her back to the bedroom, back to the site of her ordeal. The body isn’t yet cool. She opens a vein for him with her teeth and drinks from the man.
Support: They make a morbid, lopsided human centipede, the corpse feeding her, her feeding Randy, Randy contributing nothing but those bright, bright blue eyes.
Eyes that look at her like she’s a goddess.
Randy might not be that smart, but he knows enough not to complain when she decides he’s had enough.
GM: Alana beams at the praise. She starts to get handsy with Celia, and leans close as if to kiss her, but then seems to mind herself and the present moment. So she simply nods, “Yes, mistress. Thank you, mistress.”
She watches with a sour expression, though, as Randy follows Jade in.
Celia: All the same, Celia lets Alana sit on her lap while she feeds the other ghoul, and despite the very, very inopportune place for it, her hand travels up and down the girl’s body.
“Your cheek as well, Randy,” she says to him once she pulls her wrist away.
GM: And just like that, the look is gone. Alana makes ‘happy noises’ as she nuzzles her face against Celia’s neck, planting soft kisses.
Support: “Oh, uh…” he looks at Alana.
Definitely not his brightest moment, he thinks, as he drops trou, displaying his uneven posterior to both his fellow ghoul and domitor.
GM: Alana snickers.
Celia: Her eyes flash in amusement.
“Later, Randy, is what I meant.”
“That, uh. That wasn’t clear.”
Randy coughs, and then pulls up his pants.
This is not his day.
GM: “Celia always makes herself perfectly clear. If we misunderstand her, that’s through our own fault,” Alana declares.
Celia: Her fingers pinch the ghoul’s nipple through her shirt.
“I prefer,” she purrs, “when you call me mistress.” She nips at the girl’s neck, though there’s no heat or threat behind word or deed.
Support: He eyes her sourly, trying to think of a joke about her missing ear but failing.
“Kiss-ass,” he mutters finally.
GM: Alana makes a light, so-sensitive gasp as she rubs the back of her head against Jade’s neck.
“I couldn’t think of a happier privilege than to plant kisses on the mistress’ rear,” Alana declares with a smile.
“I’ll do it right now, if she wants me to.”
Celia: “Enough,” Celia says to them, “both of you. We’re a team. Tonight, you can squabble. Today, cease your posturing.”
GM: “Of course, mistress. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was being catty, Randy. It is important for us to work together.”
Support: What posture? My back is killing me from the glute up.
But he shuts up with a pointed folding of his arms. He hates when she apologizes. He has to pretend he cares.
“I’m sorry, too,” he grates. “What’s the plan, ba—mistress.”
GM: It doesn’t sound the same coming from him.
Alana adores the word, they can all tell. She loves saying it. Acknowledging Celia as her superior, as her owner, not just her lover.
Celia: “Mélissaire is on her way to collect me. We take the bodies, and any evidence that they were here, with us. You two…” there’s a pause. Despite her words, despite her position as ‘above them,’ she sounds tired. “Find a place for the bodies. Stay with me today. Tonight. Until we learn the extent of these hunters’ reach I would prefer to keep you both near me.”
GM: Alana nuzzles her head against Jade’s cheek and runs an arm along her back.
“Of course, mistress. We won’t ever leave you.”
Celia: She reaches out to take Randy’s hand in hers. Gives his fingers a gentle squeeze. They’ll get through this.
Support: He squeezes back, some of his bad humor and humiliation abating.
Anything for his babe.
GM: And just like that, the Toreador is out like a light, slumped backwards over the bed.
Alana looks at her for a moment, then kisses Celia full on the lips. Deeply and hungrily.
Support: Randy lets her, and starts seeing to the other corpses in the room.
The things he does for love.
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