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Celia III, Chapter XIV

Donovan

“I am yours. Yours. Forever.”
Celia Flores


Thursday night, 10 March 2016, AM

GM: Roderick leaves Celia some money and tells her to send him a bill for the rest. Jade drives to the Evergreen. The sound of classic Louis Armstrong jazz fills the posh club’s air, though there’s few people in the lounge at this late hour. Actually, it’s all but empty. She’s still greeted by Fabian. The ever-smiling butler tells her she’s looking “Flawless as always, ma’am,” and inquires what he may do for her.

Celia: Jade doesn’t head immediately to the Evergreen. She has a few things to do first: change, for one (she’ll look relatively silly in front of Roderick, but not Savoy) and make a copy of the notes that Roderick had left behind. The latter she stuffs into the purse she carries with her, striding into the Evergreen with the ease of someone who has long been at home in the place. She smiles at Fabian.

“Is Lord Savoy free, perchance? I had wanted to follow up with our conversation from last night. I’d have called but, well, phone trouble.” Her smile turns wry. “I don’t have an appointment,” she admits after a second.

GM: “I am afraid he is not, madam, nor is he presently at the Evergreen. I can attempt to fit you in to his schedule later, or pass on a message if it is a matter of some urgency.”

Jade has never heard of elders being available for drop-ins. She supposes it was a long shot.

Celia: She doesn’t sigh, but her lips do pull down at the corners. She’s pretty certain that elders do this to vex them. Do they not want results? Did he think she’d take weeks to deliver Roderick to him?

“It’s not urgent.” Not really, anyway. “Can you set me up with something, sooner rather than later?”

GM: “His next opening is in three nights, madam. Is that amenable to your schedule?”

Celia: “It will do. Is the warden upstairs?”

GM: “I am afraid he is not, madam. I can pass on a message to him as well, if that would be most convenient for you.”

Celia: She should have stood on the roof and waited for her sire in the rain for all the good this trip did her. Do they not want fucking information or what? She’s doubly pissed now that Roderick destroyed her phone so that she can’t just call the detective to meet up somewhere else.

This time she does sigh, forcing the air from her lungs long enough to convey her mild irritation.

“No,” she says after a moment, “I’ll just call tomorrow.”

She supposes it gives her time to pack an overnight bag to spend the day with Roderick, at any rate. Clean the apartment, get rid of all the broken bits. Not how she wanted to spend her evening, really, but… well, whatever.

She can’t wait until she’s an elder and gets to dick people around.


Thursday night, 10 March 2016, AM

Celia: It isn’t that she forgot about the extra phones Alana had purchased for her. Three, she had said, and the ghoul had delivered them. Two for her, one not for her, but with the phone smashed as it is she might delay the delivery of the third to the party she had intended it for. No, it isn’t that she forgot; it’s that she had thought, perhaps naively, that both Lord Savoy and Warden Lebeaux would want to see her, might even be expecting her. What had Roderick said? Only if you’re their childe can you expect them to let you hang around? Grandchilder count for nothing, it would seem, if Savoy can’t bother to see her for another three days.

It’s a less-than-charitable thought she has about her grandsire. A less-than-charitable thought she has of her sire. Selling hot air, Roderick had passed down from Coco; is that how they see her? That she has done nothing for them? She died for him. She died to get them that information. She has killed for him. Multiple times. Any time he’s needed anything she has jumped to do it. Murdered her own sister. Her own—

She can’t let her thoughts unravel further. She reels them in. She is conflicted, that is it. Conflicted over this meeting with Roderick, the things they had discussed, the plan she has moving forward. Even he had made her wait a night. The thought is a bitter one. Had he done it intentionally, to let her know that she thinks himself above her, or had he simply been busy? I don’t trust you not to be like any other lick, he’d said, but there he goes playing stupid games with her, too.

Jade gives herself a moment to let the irritation fade. She can only imagine that, should she not go calling after Lebeaux to change his ghoul back, she will be blamed for it if the sheriff picks him up as a hunter. As if he’d even listened to the thoughts she’d sent him in the first place.

Still, better not to risk it.

She pulls out her phone to dial Lebeaux.

GM: He picks up after a couple rings.

“Lebeaux.”

Celia: “Good evening, Pete. Are you and your friend available? I promised him a follow-up and thought tonight might work for him.” Vague enough, she thinks.

GM: “It’s a little late tonight. How’s early tomorrow?”

Celia: “Of course. Will you please remind him that if I’m to try the high-frequency ray he shouldn’t use any exfoliants or go tanning, and that he needs to avoid salicylic and benzoyl peroxide based products?” She supposes Lebeaux will have his ghoul do what he wants, but far be it from her to at least not warn the man.

GM: “I’ll listen to the expert. We’ll see you later.”

Celia: She bids him good evening and hangs up.

Her next call is to her “sire,” Veronica.

GM: The phone rings to voicemail.

“Make it good,” sounds the harpy’s voice.

Beeeep.

Celia: Typical. She’d expected this one, at least. The harpy is always busy, or at least pretends to be.

“Hello, gorgeous. I had the most delicious thought this evening and wanted to share. Give me a ring when it’s convenient, yeah?”

She hangs up.

GM: That’s probably ‘good,’ at least.

Celia: Of course it’s good. Jade knows her sire. It’s got a compliment, a secret, and a request at her leisure. What else can the harpy ask for?

Her thoughts turn to the girl who always picks up her calls. After this night, she needs it. She rings Alana.

GM: For once, it rings to voicemail.

Flawless’ day manager does need to sleep at some point.

Celia: Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

“Hey babe. Give me a call if you get this before your morning run.”

She hangs up.

She’s just going to go back home and twiddle her damn thumbs until 5 AM, apparently.


Thursday night, 10 March 2016, AM

GM: The trip back to her half-wrecked haven is uneventful. She could get started on cleaning it up herself.

Or wait and let one of her renfields do it.

Celia: It’s a brief trip back to her haven on the edge of the Quarter. She lets herself in and once more locks the door behind her, gaze sweeping the destruction that the Brujah had left behind. He hadn’t given her nearly enough to cover the expense of replacing her furniture again, but he’d said to bill her for the rest of it, so perhaps… well, her tastes are marginally more expensive than others, perhaps he won’t be surprised when she hands him a large bill. And she does, indeed, intend to hand him that bill. His fault.

She does not need Alana or Randy to clean up this mess. They have not been told of this location and she will not do it now simply to save herself the headache of cleaning. She has arms and legs; she can do it herself.

She finds an empty garbage bag, a broom and dustbin shoved into the corner of a hall closet, and gets to work sweeping up the worst of it.

Quicker, perhaps, to use her speed to her advantage here. She knows that is one of its primary uses, cleaning up messes like this. And she could. But then she would not be able to listen to the music she has connected to her speakers, the songs that make her want to dance like she hasn’t done in years. Happy, upbeat songs; the kind of top 40s stuff she pretends she doesn’t listen to around other licks, but she and Alana belt in the car while Randy looks on, torn between amusement at her antics and disgust at her choice in music.

There’s a spring in her step as she sweeps. She’s spending the day with Roderick. He said he wants to trust her. He’d held her. All these years later and he still makes her giddy. Not being able to get ahold of Savoy, Veronica, Alana—what is that compared to him? A sleepover. Finally seeing his place. She wonders if it is the same as when they were in college together, if his work will be spread across multiple desks and tables. If his ghouls live with him. She’s never met them, never even thought that he had any. But of course he does. Every lick has their servants; why would he be any different? He probably doesn’t sleep with his, at least. Is that jealousy purring in her chest?

Christ.

Celia laughs at the thought. Of course not. That would be silly. She spins around the broom as if it were a partner in a ballroom, her skirt twirling up around her legs.

GM: The mix of pop hits belts out, one after another. It’s too bad she can’t tell anyone, “Me and Stephen are getting back together!” She can picture Emily responding, “Well good for you guys,” and immediately pressing for details. She can picture her mom gasping with delight before doing the same. There’s Alana, but would she be jealous? Randy would probably feel even more inadequate.

Then again, she and Roderick had floated that “get married as breathers” idea. Maybe it’s on the table again.

Celia: She hopes he didn’t see that thing in the closet. That would be awkward.

GM: Pick out dresses and venues. Send out invitations for guests. Since her dad’s an asshole, have her mom give her away. Have Lucy as the flower girl. Emily as the maid of honor?

Celia: Who would she even invite to this? Would she have to change Roderick’s face? Or has it been long enough that no one would notice? She won’t pretend she hasn’t thought about it, even after what he did to her. What it would be like to actually get a wedding. Whether or not there would be any other Kindred guests in attendance. Probably not—it seems a silly thing, doesn’t it, to marry as a mortal.

Does ‘til death do us part’ even count if they’re both already dead?

GM: Roderick can’t invite anyone. He’d said he’d prefer a smaller wedding, last they talked about the idea.

Celia: Pity. Celia had always wanted a big party. She enjoys being the center of attention. Being adored. Still, she understands the logic behind it, and of course she will give him what he wants.

They should have had something brilliant, though. Something beautiful. Maybe now he can invite his sister, at least. There’s an upside.

She tries to picture Savoy at an event like this. Wonders if he’d show. Not that she could invite him, anyway; Roderick would probably be opposed to his presence, even if she had a good way to explain why she wanted him there.

Would he be jealous? The cold, dark one?

She thinks such human emotions are beneath him. But maybe.

Her mind runs away with her—her sire showing up. Demanding a duel for her hand. Telling her that of course he cares about her and has all this time.

She is glad there is no one around to see the silly smile on her lips.

GM: The mix of pop hits belts out one song after another. The lyrics are bright, bubbly, and upbeat. The haven feels warm and cozy against the pouring rain as Celia tidies, dances, and sings along. She can picture Roderick. coming back. Picking her up again. Swinging her around in his arms to the pound of Victoria Ash’s Unique Technique.

It’s then that Celia suddenly feels it: an icy hand locked in death grip around her heart. Squeezing. Pulling. Forcing her legs to move while she watches like a spectator. Yanking her towards the source. Yanking her towards the source.

Her sire is calling.

Celia: Up.

The strings pull her towards him; were there no ceiling above her head she thinks, perhaps, that she might simply float away. Already wrapped in the fantasy—his icy chill touching her heart does not do so much to dampen it as he might wish—she can clearly picture their reunion this evening. His arms around her. His lips on hers. Cold. So cold. A shiver runs down her spine at the thought, from exhilaration or anticipation or some combination of them both.

She starts toward the door. Two steps and then she halts, catching sight of herself in the floor-length mirror in the hall, the silly outfit she had donned when she thought only Roderick would see her. She strips quickly, abandoning the skirt, leggings, and distressed shirt, and finds something more fitting in which to see her sire. Burgundy, long, tight through the bodice and hips before it flares out around her legs.

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But her face… he knows. She knows that he knows, and yet something inside of her demands the change all the same, that she meet him as her. The real her. The speed she had denied earlier serves its purpose now. She sits herself in front of the mirror to twist and sculpt her features back into Celia’s face. The same Celia she had been when he had come to her that night in 2009, when he had carried her body above the clouds, when his fangs had pierced her flesh to steal the life from her body. Celia Flores, 19 years old. A perfect, flawless version of her, to be sure, but still a younger visage than she has worn in many years. Innocent, wide eyes, long before she had given into Jade’s corruption and rot.

It is painful, as ever. But it is an old, familiar pain, and the hand that touches her heart—that soothes her. A balm to her hurts. Her sire has come to see her.

She is out the door a moment later, taking the steps that will lead her up, the winding spiral staircase that leads to the roof, an umbrella in her hand.

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It’s why she took this place, those steps. That easy roof access. Roderick had wanted to jump out the window earlier, and she would have let him, if only to see him in action. But Celia does not need to jump out of windows. She had made sure that, should her sire come calling, she has a quick way to get to him that does not require the scaling of buildings.

The tugging on her heart does not let up. Each step she takes tells her that she is moving in the right direction, though as the staircase winds it becomes more insistent the further away from him she gets, each turn of the stair that takes her in the opposite direction. Up, ever upwards, but for those few steps when she faces away from him she almost cannot stand it. Like that old “hot and cold” game her mother used to play with them when she hid their Easter baskets, only the prize this time is not an assortment of chocolate and other candies. It is her sire. And that, she thinks, is worth more than all the rest.

She does not run up the steps, but she does keep her gait quick, hand on the rail as she ascends. Even the rain beating down upon the city, the thought of runny makeup (as if hers would dare) and sodden hair, is not enough to deter her. She opens the door at the top of the staircase and steps out into the storm.

GM: Celia’s speed serves her well. No one is there when she reaches the top. A second later, there is. The dark blur descends like so much more rain—and a concurrent crash as a man’s form smashes into the floor.

It’s the punk Jade met at the club. He looks delirious with terror. Like he’s aged ten years. There couldn’t have been white in his hair or such heavy bags under his eyes. They’re bloodshot, feverish, and enormous. He’s barely able to raise his hands and gasp “Pl-” before a boot stomps down on his throat, gorily crushing it in with a loud crunch-snap. Blood seeps across the rain-spattered deck.

Celia’s sire does not glance down at the corpse. He’s dressed in a dark, double-breasted trench coat, its style vaguely reminiscent of a World War II German military officer. On someone else, it might look offensive. On him it feels like the Third Reich is back—and pounding on your door in the dead of night, each sharp bang promising you’re next. He bothers with no umbrella. The rain weeps against his waxen, corpse-like face, and perhaps seems to trickle down its frozen contours more slowly than rain should. He does not blink as the moisture runs down his eyes, nor move his mouth as it beads on his lips. He looks like a statue. Chiseled stone indifferent to its state in the gloomy weather.

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Equally chill thoughts fill Celia’s mind.

:: Dispose of this. ::

More materials for the spa.

Celia: The sight before her—the punk with his green hair, now tinged in white—is nothing short of shocking. The boot that ends his life is grotesque, the squelch of his lash breath, the blood leaving his body, the snap of his neck… Celia cannot look away. Does not look away, will not allow it. Not from her sire. Not from what he has done. A loose end. She had not forgotten about the punk from the club, the man that tried to roofie her, but she had not yet moved against him. Had thought he might not be involved.

Her sire had. Had tracked him down. Questioned him, she can assume from his haggard appearance. Because she had reached out to him? His had not been among the faces she had sent him. But he found the man. Found him. Ended him. Ended a threat to her. To all of them, yes, but to her. Her insides flutter.

The umbrella in her hand is abandoned against the door as she moves across the roof toward her sire. Her dress is soaked through in seconds, heavy around her legs, but she pays it no mind. Her heels click against the roof with each step that she takes. Stay, her heart whispers, please stay, just for a moment. She doesn’t dare let herself think it.

She stands before him in an instant, the dead body to her side. Her head dips in acquiescence.

:: Yes, sire. ::

A brief pause. She lifts her eyes to his face.

:: Thank you, sire. ::

GM: The dead-looking face remains motionless.

The rain pours down, plastering her hair against her scalp.

:: Inform me what intelligence you have obtained since our last meeting. ::

Celia: He had heard her. Had heard, had listened, had hunted for her. He cares. He has to care. That’s what this has to mean, doesn’t it? He hadn’t come swooping in to rescue her, but this… this has to mean something. She doesn’t dwell.

Intelligence. Hard facts. Her theories as well? She doesn’t ask. She will give them at the end. She takes a second to organize her thoughts so he does not need to sift through them. It reminds her all too much of the meeting with the archon, the steel trap around her mind.

:: Attack on Vienna, other cities. Catastrophe in Vienna. Hunters. Calbido will sit on it. Uptick in hunter activity within the city. Quarter. Mid-City. Prague conclave—they will send someone to discuss their options. The seneschal has said you are unavailable to go, that they cannot spare you. ::

Perhaps he picks up on her concern for him, the undercurrent of emotion behind the words, the relief that he will not be leaving.

:: The Nosferatu primogen pushes for Savoy and the Baron to join the Calbido. In contact with Vitel, Black, and Houston. Plan to host Black. Elders prepping for civil war. Savoy has found a way to manipulate an ear in Calbido. I am handling. Have ideas—later. ::

She has not confirmed that Savoy was the one to turn Dani, or have her turned, but she suspects. She will add it to the things she tells him that are not hard, cold facts.

:: Fledgling in the Garden District this evening, among her mortal family. Trespassing, possibly. Have ideas—later. ::

Another theory.

:: Soul-thieves in the city. ::

A pause.

:: Have possible answers to old questions. ::

Arms around her. Someone shoving a gun into her hand. Her mother’s earlier words this evening.

:: Information on Maxen Flores. ::

Hesitance.

GM: The rain continues to pour, soaking Celia’s already wet dress against her skin. Her sire neither questions nor interrupts until she is finished.

:: Expound. ::

Celia: Her eyes search his face. If she seeks an answer to question she does not find it in the marble that he has been cut from.

:: Maxen fathered a child with his daughter. Savoy knows. Possibly plans to use it against him. ::

She knows what she has done. That she has given him the card she could use against her father. The expression on her face does not change; she does not betray her inner turmoil. She has already sold out her family for him once—what’s it matter if she does so again? Perhaps she feels a twinge of regret that she cannot take him down, but he will not be useful to her sire forever; when he is old and gray, that is when Donovan will let her have him. Patience. She can be patient. For him.

:: Hunters have friends in the city, believe to be “Inq.” Will have more information tomorrow. Infiltrated meeting, need to collect. Audio device planted. ::

Pride at that. It was her doing.

:: Identity possibly compromised. By hunters. By fledgling. ::

An image of Caroline swims in front of her. She sends that along the mental path as well, the golden-haired Ventrue.

:: Theories, sire? Plans? ::

She’s asking if she should share the things she doesn’t know, just strongly suspects. Her own plans for the information she has obtained. How she will spin it to her advantage, but more than that, to his advantage.

:: Old information, as well. Perhaps not relevant. Can share regardless. Maxen-related. Just a theory, unconfirmed. Think it’s true. ::

GM: Just like that, another dagger against her father is laid before her sire’s impassive eyes.

Once again, he offers no response over the pouring rain until Celia is finished.

:: Proceed. ::

Celia: :: 2003. Believe Savoy moved against Diana to make her confess something to Maxen that would cause him to harm her. Discredit him, lose seat. Not confirmed. Mentioned ‘woman at the party.’ Can look into further, if desired. Fragile mind, need delicate approach. 2009… after Maxen’s arrest I returned to the house. Man waiting. Thought it was you. ::

She’d wanted it to be him. Had thought about what it would mean if it were him. Choosing her over her father. How many times has she replayed that scene in the hallway, the one where he took the gun from her, tucked her into bed? She tries not to dwell. Desire courses through her all the same. He’s just in front of her. Close enough to touch. She wants to touch. Wants him to touch her.

:: Not you. Savoy said not him. Gave me a gun, told me to shoot Maxen… believe him to be Gettis. Unconfirmed, strong suspicion. Knew I would be there. Possibly dead, not sure how relevant. Apologies if this is old news. ::

There’s a pause while she considers her next thoughts. The rain has destroyed her gown, but she does not seem to notice. It is not important, not next to him.

:: Fledgling. Caroline Malveaux-Devillers. Presumed to be childe of the renegade hound… But, sire, she has speed almost at your level. Months old? Not possible, is it? Think her to be the childe of someone else. Someone older. Potent blood. ::

Another pause. Her theory might be wrong, but she offers it all the same. It’s what makes sense to her given what she tasted, the offhand comment made earlier in the evening.

:: Prince? Seneschal? ::

There’s more. Always more. But she waits.

GM: Celia’s sire offers no response to her apologies. Nor any yet to her other news.

The ran continues to fall. Much of the blood pooling from the punk’s corpse is now a watery pink, but Celia can still feel her fangs elongated in her mouth. Perhaps it is her present company. Perhaps it is simply the residual so-heady coppery smell. Perhaps both.

:: Inform me of the circumstances under which you were proximate to Malveaux-Devillers. ::

Celia: Apprehension creeps into her at the question. Roderick’s earlier exclamation at her location this evening has come back to haunt her. Her eyes dim. She doesn’t dare move, doesn’t dare draw useless breath, doesn’t fidget or drop her gaze or let him know how he makes her want to squirm. A thousand lies pop into her mind, a thousand pleas for him not to hurt her, a thousand ways for him to ignore those pleas. She voices none of them. Squashes them down inside of her where they cannot betray her, where she will not be tempted. This dark man has no sympathy.

:: In the Garden District. ::

Invited, but it doesn’t matter.

If it were possible to whisper in her mind that’s what she would do. Will he drag her before the prince? Make an example of her? She has heard that now they call him judge, jury, and executioner; will she see his justice now, tonight?

:: Not poaching. Never that. Preserving my own Masquerade. ::

It doesn’t matter.

He’s going to kill her.

He’s going to kill her here, now, tonight, on top of this roof.

No one will know. They’ll just think she vanished.

More to do for him, more to tell him, but she will die for the sin of trespassing, no matter that the usual punishment is a drink.

She stands rooted to the spot.

GM: Just like that, he’s gone.

The rain falls and falls.

Celia: But… but she had more. More to tell him. More to inform.

She could have lied. Should have lied.

No, she reflects, never that. Not to him. Truth comes out.

He’s gone, but the burning ache in her chest is not. The knot in her stomach twists. Let him down. All that and she still let him down.

She presses her hands against her mouth to contain the sounds she wants to make, wants to scream. Any pride, any satisfaction she’d had in telling him everything—it vanishes in the wake of his departure.

Failure.

GM: Suddenly, he’s back.

So Celia’s mother. She’s on her knees at his feet, dressed in a long, floral-printed nightgown already soaked through in the rain. One of his so-pale hands is locked around her arm. Her eyes are enormous and mad with terror, like the punk’s were. When she sees Celia, her mouth starts to falteringly work. No sound comes out, as though she’s trying to speak—or scream—through a gag.

Celia: No.

They’re supposed to be safe. She’s supposed to be safe. French Quarter, it’s supposed to be safe.

But she’d learned long ago that safety is only an illusion, hadn’t she?

Horror has her in its grasp. She takes a step forward—and halts, faltering, looking between the two of them, eyes wide, hands reaching, stretching towards her mother, as if she can make this all go away, as if the thing that has her in its grasp is anything that can be reasoned with.

GM: :: It requires but one careless misstep to destroy that which takes decades to cultivate. ::

Celia’s sire flings her mother into the sky as though the woman weighs as much as a baseball. Diana’s flailing, silently screaming form recedes into the rain, becoming no more than a hazy white and pink smudge.

Then she’s gone.

A heart-arrestingly long moment passes.

Then, the white and pink smudge reappears.

Gets bigger.

Bigger.

Gets some spots of blonde and fleshy pink.

Gets a face.

Gets a mouth. A wide open, screaming mouth.

She’s falling.

God knows how many feet.

:: Catch. ::

Celia: No. No, no, no, no, no.

Anything. She would have given him anything.

“She’ll die—please!” She sees it as clear as she sees him in front of her. Her mother’s body hitting the roof. The screaming woman laid out and broken. Silent. Every organ inside of her rupturing. Every bone disintegrating into dust. Bodily fluids leaking out of every orifice. She’ll watch her mother draw her last breath, smell the blood as it spills from her body. Even catching her… the roof is hard, stone beneath her feet, Celia’s arms as stiff as any other corpse. A snapped spine if she lands wrong. Paralyzed. Her dreams will die, another funeral for the already-passed ballerina.

Her mom comes closer. Fast. So impossibly fast.

One shot.

She can’t miss.

Everything has to be perfect. Flawless.

This wasn’t how her night was supposed to go. It’s her last coherent thought. Absurd, chiding, that it wasn’t how she was supposed to see him again. She does not, cannot, spare a look at him. She does not waste her breath screaming. She stuffs her hatred of him down so deep inside herself that it will never again see the open sky. She makes herself as cold as him.

Celia had fallen once. It would have been enough to kill her, too, had he not already done it.

She may not be able to jump as high as a Brujah, but she is no helpless doe. A timely gift from the beautiful fledgling who had caused this problem thrums through her veins. Tonight she is fast.

I’m fast, she’d told the detective.

Not fast enough, he’d said.

Not fast enough to save herself, not from her sire. But she had not needed to save herself. She had needed to save her mother. Then. And now. She’d been fast enough for that then. She will be fast enough now. Fast enough to take a running leap, to catch her mother in the air, to descend with her in her arms and land on her feet like the cat that she is.

It will hurt. It will break things. It might break everything. But for her mother? For her mother she’ll pay the price. For her mother she’ll break everything five times over. She’d given her life for the woman once; what’s a little pain now?

She watches her mother come closer. She waits until the right moment. The perfect moment. One chance. That’s all she gets. That’s all her mother gets. Just one.

She burns through the blood, rousing her vitae to flood her body with the boost she needs.

I’m fast, she’ll tell him.

Fast enough, he’ll agree.

The moment arrives. She runs. She leaps.

GM: Celia summons everything she has. Caroline’s so-timely gift. The vitae coursing through her own veins, nine steps removed from Caine’s own. Everything to push her willingly broken and shredded undead body to its utmost limits.

The Toreador streaks into the air like a bloody missile, moving so fast one might almost think she possessed her sire’s gift of flight. She collides against her mother, swerving her head to avoid bonking it against the so-frail mortal’s. Their chests still hit, possibly hard enough to drive the air from Diana’s lungs, but Celia can’t see the woman’s face. She wraps her arms around her mother’s back, the soaked nightgown doing nothing against her equally soaked dress. Rain screams down over their faces as her Beast howls in her ears.

They fall.

They fall.

Then with a heavy thump, they stop falling. Celia rolls over. Diana is covered in blood. For a heart-stopping moment, Celia thinks it’s her mother’s. But it can’t be, not with the woman cradled in her arms as she was. Then she feels it: the Beast tearing her apart from the inside, yowling its rage to the sky for the blood that Celia burned through to save this chattel. The heavy impact of her heeled feet hitting the rooftop with the weight of another person in her arms, the reverberating shock traveling up through her body. The organs she’d removed from herself left a gaping hole behind, one that her very bones try to fill when they’re knocked loose by the high-speed collision. Several of them splinter through her skin, covering the pair of them in blood.

Her mom’s mouth tries to move. Sound still doesn’t come out. She looks over the blood on Celia, then tries to pull up her daughter’s dress around the reddest spots. Starts to tear off strips of her nightgown to bind the wounds. Maybe she’s crying. It’s so hard to tell, past the rain, but it looks like she is. She tries to mouth something, over and over. ‘Stay with me, Celia. Stay with me, Celia.’

Alive.

Celia: Blood. Blood everywhere. Blood on her mom. She’d failed. Failed her sire, failed her mom—but no, that can’t be right. It’s her blood spilled across the front of her torn gown, across her mother’s hands as, even now, even after all of that, she sees to her daughter’s wounds first. Stolen from her bed in the middle of the night. Carried across the Quarter. Thrown into the air. And still—still her concern is for her daughter.

That’s love.

That’s love that he will never know.

That’s love that no one who has become a monster will ever understand.

Her body aches. Muscles hang heavy from her frame. Her side is split almost in two by the ribs that punctured her skin upon crashing onto the roof. Her mother’s hands do nothing to mend her dead flesh; her own blood sees to that, or will once the threat has passed.

She rises. Agony. But the night isn’t over yet. Her sire isn’t done with her yet. She pulls her mother close, tells her that it’s okay, it’s all okay, even though it isn’t.

:: Yes, sire. Thank you, sire. I will not forget. ::

GM: Diana looks even more distraught as her daughter rises. She tries to get Celia to lie back down. Tries to say something else.

Then Donovan’s cold hand takes her by the chin. He stares into her eyes.

“This was a nightmare. You recall your husband’s face in place of mine. Sleep. Do not awaken until you are returned to your bed.”

Celia’s mother slumps forward like an expired wind-up toy, collapsing face-first into the rain.

Celia: It’s all she can do to catch her mother’s body before she hits the ground. Celia staggers, her knees threatening to buckle after the beating she has already taken, and lowers her mother gently down. Her eyes look up toward her sire.

GM: Donovan makes no move to catch Celia’s mother as his stare falls upon his childe.

:: You will stay out of the Garden District. You will ensure that Malveaux-Devillers, to whom you were sufficiently proximate to risk everything, causes us no problems. ::

Celia: She rises.

:: Understood. It shall be done. ::

GM: Celia’s mother lies motionless on the mat, rain pouring over her still face.

:: Obtain further information on Malveaux-Devillers that is of use to me and you shall be rewarded. ::

:: Slay her without revealing my hand, or find a means to suborn her to my will completely, and you shall have Maxen Flores to do with as you please. ::

:: Risk the cover I have orchestrated for us again, and I shall risk the life of Maxen’s wife again. ::

Celia: Rewarded. Maxen Flores. The offers send a thrill through her.

:: Yes, sire. It shall be as you say. Thank you. ::

GM: :: If you have remaining business between us, speak it now. ::

Celia: Celia nods. She centers herself. Recalls where she left off in the report that she had been giving him, how much she had revealed.

:: Yes, sire. Three things. Further information. A theory. Blasphemous, but not without merit. Possibly worth looking into. Dangerous, though, and I am uncertain of its validity. I would not voice it except that it is ruinous. A question, sire, if you’ll permit it. ::

She pauses. Her mind travels to the apartment below her. The box inside of it, waiting for him.

:: One more thing, to wrap up. Something for you. ::

GM: :: Proceed. ::

Celia: :: I believe that Prince Vidal is using neonates as blood dolls. ::

GM: :: On what basis? ::

Celia: :: One of the Storyvilles was in captivity at the Evergreen. While being questioned the neonate likened the prince to a god, implied that he was the childe of Longinus or that the childe of Longinus walks among us. The scripture chosen is telling: “…lays his hand upon my heart and I know the last gift I am to give.” It felt very cult-like. ::

:: Ordinarily I would assume a full collar, but then I began to wonder if that’s all it is. The harpy’s childe who was fed upon revered Matheson the same way. Meadows took out the entire krewe. She has always been loyal to the prince, but rumor says now she is loyal to the Testament, perhaps sees the death of the krewe as a way to rein in his headhunting. Proclaimed Matheson innocent to set precedent for his own actions and possible trial. The krewe member questioned was adamant about rebuilding the group and would have gone so far as to Embrace without permission so that he could receive his sustenance. ::

:: And… this is a leap, sire, but if I am correct about the earlier mentioned Ventrue then she had extremely potent blood in her system—not her own, someone else’s—more so than Savoy, and while I am sure there is another to whom it could belong… if it is his, it suggests that perhaps the kine no longer do it for him. The rumor is that he nears his long sleep; it is possible he uses thicker vitae to keep him from sliding down that slope. ::

GM: :: Such a rumor concerning Prince Vidal’s predilections is to our benefit. Its truth is irrelevant. Assist its dissemination. ::

Celia: :: Yes, sire, I shall. ::

She does not bite her lip, though she wants to. Wants to fidget as well, though she does not beneath his gaze.

:: The question, sire? If you permit. ::

GM: :: Proceed. ::

Celia: She hesitates. She had long thought the answer to this question was evident in Veronica’s approval to sire a childe. But Roderick’s words this evening ring in her ear: they usually do not say who they wish to sire, only that they wish to do so. She’d thought to ask the harpy, but who knows when Veronica will make time for her. It is a delicate thing, she thinks, but she does not want to dance around the subject or waste her sire’s time. She asks him, bluntly.

:: Was my Embrace sanctioned? ::

GM: Donovan raises his wrist to his mouth. There’s a flash of fangs, and then red wells from his wrist. He holds it over Diana and lets the blood run over her face.

Celia: No.

She’d just been through this.

Had just saved her mother.

Celia does not stand idly by this time. She steps forward, between her mother and her sire. Her jaw works as she watches the blood drip from his wrist… and she acts, bending, taking a knee, bringing it into herself instead of her mother, letting the red hit her tongue rather than the sweet, innocent woman beneath her. She will take this offering, understanding what it means, what it will do to her. Already he has twisted her mind, and now she will let him do it further, will take that final step and all it means.

She sends him wordless apologies across the tether in her mind. She’s sorry. So sorry. She shouldn’t have asked. Please, not her mom, not like this. She has given him everything else. Everything. Will still give him everything, just not this. Not this one thing, this one woman.

She won’t question him again. Never. She will serve. It is her place. It is why she’s here. For him. To serve. To deliver the city. To weaken Vidal. She understands. Nothing else is important. Just him. Getting him what he wants. She understands.

His point is made. He doesn’t need to do anything further. Not her mom. Please, not her mom.

GM: Her sire unceremoniously pushes her aside. The blood freely runs over her mother’s sleeping face.

:: I have no use for this broken kine, foolish childe. She must swallow it to be made my slave. ::

Celia: A moment passes. His words sink in, past the blood that calls to her. Past the sleeping woman on whose face it rests. Past the frayed nerves, the emotional upheaval of the evening, her mother almost dying and then being put in danger again just by her proximity. Her sire is not a lick from whom she expects benevolence; a trick, she thought, a way to remind her of her place. But the trick was in her own mind, her own dour expectations, and she realizes what he means to do.

Her imagination had run wild without her permission, twisted his offering into something malicious. Sick. Turning her mother into a slave. Giving her his blood and then slaying her, leaving Celia to pick up the broken pieces of her family. Some other ritual or rite or depraved act that she can’t let herself dwell on, doesn’t even have proof that he knows. Rumors and hearsay, none of them good. He is not known for his kindness.

It clicks into place, perhaps worse than she had even thought. Blood on her mother’s face so she can feed. So she can lick it off of her and mend her wounds.

Like a dog.

Like the panting bitch in heat that she has always been around him.

The collar chafes at her. She wants it. His blood. His body. His gift. Her mind twists in ways to make it palatable, playing over his past words to her. You will have a place in my new order. Where? She had wondered even then and now she knows: on her knees. He would keep her on her knees without even the dignity of an answer to her question. Ignored, as she so often is by him. Rejected. Never good enough. He could let the blood cool on his body and chooses instead to let it drip onto the ground.

The face of his ghoul flashes before her eyes, the threat he’d made when she was nineteen years old and had tried to end things with him. Turning her into a dog.

This, then, is where he gets it.

Revulsion roils through her, gut churning in disgust at the thought.

:: No. ::

GM: :: I had thought to reward you for the information you had brought me. If you would reject what gifts flow from my hand, so be it. ::

The sheriff withdraws his wrist. The blood’s heavy aroma tantalizingly wafts from Diana’s red-streaked face.

:: May hunger be the wages of your impertinence and stupidity. ::

Celia: She misses it as soon as it is gone. The noose around her neck tightens to a stranglehold, but she’s lying to herself if she thinks that is the only thing that makes her want him. Even now, after all of this, she knows the truth she had just denied: if the choice is between her knees and nothing she will let him push her down every time.

It is not pride that swells within her for not sniveling, bowing, and scraping. It is not gratitude for his offer. It is shame, hot and heavy, her cheeks smarting as if he had struck her rather than just call her stupid. An old trigger. And trigger it does.

Stupid, to risk their plans. Stupid, to question him. Stupid, to not accept his reward.

She doesn’t tell him that she understands, bites her tongue rather than ask for a re-do. She bows her head and lets the rain wash the hair into her face. Maybe it will take her along with it and they can swirl down the drain together, flush it away as she flushes away any esteem she might have gained this evening.

:: I have something for you. ::

A gift, but she doesn’t know why she bothers. It will not be good enough. She will not be good enough. He will always see her like this.

GM: :: Proceed, :: sounds her sire’s impassive voice.

Celia: Celia rises, the motion stiff. She does not wince, does not betray her body’s injured condition; she could have fixed herself had she not snubbed her sire’s reward. Perhaps if she leaps from the edge of the roof the ground will welcome her warmly into its arms, hold her in sleep until dawn, and the sun will burn her worries away. Then she cannot make a fool of herself, or of him.

The thought is fleeting.

The gift is downstairs, but if she leaves to retrieve it she fears that he will find reason to punish her for taking too long, and her mother’s body is right there, exposed and vulnerable to his mercy. Worse, she fears that she will come back to an empty roof. But they have never been inside together. She does not think there is a room on this Earth that can contain him. He simply fills the space he is in, and to ask him to submit to the offense of walls…

:: Will you come inside for a moment? ::

GM: He’s there. She’s there. Then they’re not. They’re inside her haven, water dripping from their damp clothes.

Yet it feels less that he submits to walls than those same walls have become a prison. Filled by him, with suffocatingly little room for her. Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to breathe. Nowhere to escape the weight of his roiling stormy eyes, and hope he will not decide she is wasting his time. What little forgiveness he may have seems close to spent.

Celia’s mother isn’t with them. Donovan must have left her lying face-down in the rain, clad in that blood- and water-soaked nightgown.

Celia: She hadn’t even seen him move. A blur, like she’d said to Roderick. How do you fight a blur? How do you keep it from destroying you? Because he has destroyed her. Every bit of her. Every time he touches her, every time he speaks, he takes a little bit more of her with him. Soon she will have nothing left of herself.

He had touched her, though. Brought her down here. Carried her, in his arms, though it was done and over with before she could so much as enjoy it. Not a kindness, she knows, not a way to prevent the discomfort of walking down steps when she is plagued by injury, when her muscles are sore and she hurts to her very bones, when each step, each movement, sends a throb through her core. Simple logistics. He moves faster than her.

Music still plays inside her home. She had not turned it off when she went up to the roof, and there it goes, the singer’s voice belting out his lyrics from the Bluetooth speaker Celia had set it up to earlier.

Every time I get no further
How long has it been?
Come on in now
Wipe your feet on my dreams


Her dress drips onto the hardwood floor, pink-tinged water settling into the grooves that she had gouged by her own nails twice over. She had cleaned the worst of it, the broken glass from smashed knickknacks and mirrors, the stuffing the Brujah had pulled from the couch in his frenzy, the splintered wood from destroyed kitchen stools. But the damage remains. Stupid, to sing and dance in her home when she had cleaning to do. His first time in—what must he think of her? Does he look around the destruction and wonder at the disorder, wonder if she had been attacked? She has been inside his haven, long before she knew it was his. The austere walls. The pristine condition. Her evening had been marked by violence, but she does not think he cares.

His presence suffocates her. Smothers her in its proximity. Outside there is room to maneuver; here, inside her home, she is trapped with a beast more deadly than she has ever known. Lion, tiger, bear, wolverine—worse than all of that, she is trapped with her sire. Ice incarnate. A freeze so cold it burns.

I’ve done this before
And I will do it again


Rituals, Savoy had said, keep the worst of it away. Rituals, she thinks now, when inside of her something tells her to play hostess. Ask him if he’d like to sit. But there is nowhere for him to sit. Everything had been destroyed except the large, four-poster bed in the corner with its carnation and charcoal sheets. Her stomach lurches at the thought of Donovan in her bed. On her bed. Whichever way she cuts it, the thought is the same, and inside her mouth her fangs lengthen. Frayed nerves, she blames. The recent smell of the blood she had not been able to taste, she blames. Not the thoughts of him in her bed, not that, not the images she sees, the memories she has of him—arms around her, give Daddy a kiss, you’re my special little girl, his fangs in her neck. Can you share what we share? No. Never. Never with anyone else. His. Forever.

She hopes—prays—that he is not looking into her head, that he has not seen what she wants, what she would give anything for. Something that would make every trial and tribulation worth it.

Come on and kill me, baby
While you smile like a friend
Oh, and I’ll come running
Just to do it again


Celia crosses the floor to where her phone rests on the kitchen counter next to the small black speaker.

You are that last drink I never should—

The music fades with the press of a button. Silence in the room. Silence in her haven. Silence but for the fluttering of wings inside of her. Can he hear them?

GM: It’s hard not to wonder what else he might have done, or still be waiting to do, if he’s looking into her head. If her mother would not ‘merely’ be lying in a cold and wet but still very much alive heap upstairs.

But, no. You can tell when someone’s in your head, can’t you? That’s what Pete had said. Some part of them in inside of you. It leaves a trace.

Unless some part of you is already inside of them. If they have your blood. The blood is power. The Blood is everything. If they have that, they can do anything to you.

How easily might he claim hers? She was so ready to accept his. It doesn’t even seem that bad. Maybe he would feel something more for her. Believe her more loyal. Trust her with more. Trust is so scarce, in their world. It’s scarce even to Roderick. How much more must it be to one such as him?

He does not survey the room, like Stephen did, or take in the decor and furnishings like her one-time paramour seemed to. His renfield’s house was as close to empty as it could be. Roxanne said the emptier her room got, the crazier it made her. What manner of soul makes their abode in an empty place?

His frigid gaze settles heavily upon hers. The music feels like it died long before she turned it off.

:: My time and patience are short. ::

Celia: Her heels tap against the floor with every step she takes. No faltering, not here; she does not play the games with him that she had played with the primogen’s childe. The gown hangs heavy from her frame. She is glad for it. Glad that it weighs her down, heart and mind. Glad that its color hides the worst of her wounds. Glad for the gift inside her veins that steadies her steps as she nears her sire once more. In the kitchen, she could breathe freely—should she need to. Here, approaching him, she cannot. His presence sucks the air from the room. Suffocates her, a firm hand on her throat. Every step closer to him is another piece of ice against her skin.

It will never be enough to turn her away from him. It will never be enough to not make her come when he calls. Does he know that? Is that why he does not pretend with her, because he knows that no matter how much he hurts her she will always return to his side?

Her mother showed her love on the roof. Love for her daughter many times over: even when she was in danger, even then, she saw to her daughter first. Against her sire. Against her father.

Is it love she feels for him? Some twisted version of it, brought on by the collar around her neck and his hand in her life? Twenty years, she has belonged to him. He is the answer to every question she has ever asked. Is that what he wants from her, love and adoration? Does he even recognize those emotions? No, she thinks not. He simply wants her to serve. To be useful. He will never care for her like she cares for him. Perhaps he doesn’t want her to care. The “place” she has in “his new order” is on her knees. He had shown her the truth of it on the roof.

She takes a knee now. Beside the bed, reaching under it to pull out a box. Wooden, a little over a foot long, half as wide. It slides across the carpet at her insistent pull. She lifts it, rising once again, the box in her hands. She’d thought about a bow. Wrapping paper. Had wondered for a long time if anyone has ever given him a gift. If he’d pulled apart presents on Christmas day, on birthdays, on anniversaries. If he has ever wished for anything.

Perhaps it is why she cannot have him. Or rather, why she does have him, just not the way she wants. Had he heard her wish that day she turned eight? A pony. She had gotten it—and him. Like a djinn, he twists her desires.

Still, she wishes for him. Wishes with every part of her. Every yearning, broken part of her, all the lying parts that had ever told anyone else she would be theirs. This, here, her true master.

This is not how she wants to present it. Not to an angry, disappointed, impatient sire. She had wanted to give it to him on a date that meant something special, three weeks from now on the anniversary of her death, when he had spared her life by taking it into him, when he had shown her what he is. The true him, the one inside his mind, that even years later she has not shared with a single soul. Will not share. His secret. Their secret.

She’d thought it meant they were made for each other.

Concern for his future is what moves her to offer it now rather than waiting. Concern and uncertainty—she never knows when next she will see him.

No fanfare planned, not even then. Perhaps a celebration, of a sort. More information. More dead enemies. More blows against the regime he seeks to overthrow. Not this. Wet. Cold. Her mother’s fragile body so close, too close. Celia’s beautiful corpse torn apart by her own hands. His insults heavy on her soul.

Maybe, even had it gone as planned, she wouldn’t have earned anything for it. No smile. No pat on the head. No offer to let her drink.

Still, she longs for that evening instead. She knows what she would say. How she would present it. Everything is different now, though.

She sets the box atop her bed so that he can open it.

GM: He doesn’t draw it out. He doesn’t ask or guess what the contents might be. He doesn’t smile, remark how thoughtful she is, or inquire as to the occasion.

He simply takes off the lid.

A bow and wrapping paper seem like they’d have only been regarded as inconveniences.

Celia: Nestled inside the box are a pair of leather bracers as dark as the night sky above them. Pure obsidian; indeed, they seem to drink the very light from the room, soak it up like the black hole that she has often compared him to inside her mind, the thing that pulls and twists and rends her, that she knows she cannot escape.

That she does not want to escape.

They are slim. Designed to be discrete, to fit beneath the long-sleeved garments that she has always seen him in. She has never seen his arms, only his hands. These will not draw attention, not like the saber he carries at his side. It is the saber that made her think of these, that spawned the idea and thus the craft she has spent long hours pouring over to get just right. She does not imagine that he can take his blade everywhere. But these? Oh, these he can take anywhere and no one will ever know.

Celia keeps her explanation brief.

:: The underside contains a blade. As long as your forearm. It slides free at a touch, and can be pulled further to be held by the hilt should you need a longer reach. :: It is designed to be a companion to his saber, not to replace it. The edge of the blade itself was inspired by the diamond-tipped tools she uses at her salon. Long have people used glass knifes, obsidian knives; they are finer than any scalpel, will keep their edge as they sharpen with each release. He will cut through everything in his path with ease.

:: The other contains three blades. They are folded inside, long and thin, can be expelled outward. When pressure is applied to the tip—upon impact—they will expand. Like an arrowhead. They hook. :: A Brujah had once shown her how he could throw anything and make it come back to him. Thus she had the inspiration for the second bracer: Donovan will no longer need to chase people down. He can simply fling the smaller blades at them and yank them back to him. Perfect for multiple enemies. Doubtless he will find other purposes for it.

:: The outsides are cured leather, but inside it is layered. Anything that impacts it will be sent reverberating among the layers to distribute the force. Were someone lesser to wear these they might bruise, but you should not bear a mark. It will turn aside projectiles, blades. ::

She had thought to put Kevlar inside. It had been her first idea, to steal from the kine police forces. But Kevlar works because it is curved; things hit it and ricochet off. Bullets may not do much to them, but she would still not want to be struck by one. The “layered” idea had come from the ancient Chinese. They used to layer paper in their armor. Paper. And it kept them safe for years. But paper disintegrates when wet and can only take so many blows. Her sire is made of firmer stuff.

So, too, are the bracers.

:: Inside, carbon fiber. ::

Steel is strong, but it is not flexible. Aluminum is flexible, but it corrodes, and not as strong as steel. Celia had wanted something that mimics the body itself. Humans are fascinating, truly; they heal from things most animals do not. Their bodies are made for shock absorption—how many drunk drivers had killed others but themselves gotten off without a scratch because they had not tensed? How many have been hit or mauled or burned by things that should have ended them and did not thanks to their own flesh and blood?

Since she began learning how to sculpt and craft the flesh she has poured over medical research, digging through thousands of pages and conducting her own trials. How the body works. How each piece fits together. Collagen is a major structural protein. It strengthens tendons and ligaments, provides support for their internal organs so their insides aren’t simply free to hang around.

Each fiber contains thousands of individual molecules to keep it strong, and its structure—the triple helix—provides additional strength and stability, allowing it to withstand most mechanical stress. The collagen in the dermis gives the skin its elasticity. Even the kine use it: cosmetic surgery, bone grafts, skin grafts, wound healing.

She had looked into multiple materials to find what she sought, natural and synthetic, but carbon fiber had jumped out at her. Lightweight. Stronger than steel. The strands are as thin as human hair. Woven together like yarn, like the collagen inside the body, it becomes even more durable. It is already used in military and aerospace applications; easy to find a design and turn it into what she needs.

The bracers are thin. Compact. Unobtrusive. He will be able to wear them without problem, strike people with surprise when they think he is unarmed. And black has long been his color.

She does not think to fight his battles for him. He does not need her help there. She has seen, has heard, the things that he can do. It is not a ring like she offered Savoy; he does not need ornaments, jewelry, anything to distract him. So she has gifted him something that serves a purpose. Something functional. Utilitarian and lethal—like him. Still, she does not expect the kind words she had received from her grandsire.

She only knows that there isn’t anything she wouldn’t give if it meant keeping him around. There is no world without him in it.

Celia does not put that thought into words. She does not send it along the mental link between them. She barely lets herself feel it. Tightly coiled constraint keeps her still.

Waiting.

GM: Celia does not wait overlong.

Donovan rolls up his coat and shirt sleeve to the elbow. His forearm is is like the rest of him: waxen, corpse-pale, and hairless. It’s well-muscled and proportioned, too, without an inch of excess fat. He looks buffer than Roderick does, in fact. He fastens on the first bracer, then rolls up his other sleeve to fasten on the second bracer.

He extends the blades. Longer from the first bracer, shorter from the second.

Then he turns and slashes them straight at Celia’s face.

Celia: She doesn’t so much as flinch. Some part of her had thought this might happen. Who is she to deny her sire his target?

GM: There’s a soft, almost tickling sensation along her shoulders and back. The Toreador’s hair falls to the ground in ugly-looking clumps, aged years in an instant.

:: Satisfactory. ::

The blades retract.

Celia: Pleasure thrums through her at the words. She is careful to keep it inside where he cannot see. She simply nods.

:: Thank you, sire. ::

She does not comment on the shorn hair. The attack against her person. The attack against her mother.

GM: Her sire lowers his sleeves back over the bracers. He cups Celia’s chin in his hand, tilting her face as though stare into his eyes. But before she can sink into its achromatic depths, sink and drown in their hellish bottom like last time, he sweeps out her legs from under her. She falls. Her shortened hair stops just short of the floor before his cold hand seizes the back of her skull, exposing her throat to the air.

Then he kisses her.

It isn’t a rough kiss, like a common brute’s. But it is forceful, heedless, and direct, like an avalanche colliding against her lips. One that perhaps makes her want to be buried. She can feel his fangs stabbing against her lips and taste a faint trickle of blood against her tongue.

Celia: She cannot help but stare at the exposed flesh. She does not mean to. But she has never seen her sire without the long sleeves; she had thought about what it would feel like to lace the bracers onto him herself, the slow rolling back of his shirt sleeves, pulling them on—

Her thoughts are disrupted by the foot he kicks her way, her body beginning its descent—then halted, abruptly, by the hand that catches her.

Always catching her.

If there’s a heart left to melt it does so, but she has no time to dwell on it. Her lips part beneath his mouth; she can taste herself when his fangs tear her open, her own elongated to snap back. But only if he lets her. Only if he pushes her further, letting her sink her teeth in like she’s wanted to since he landed earlier on the roof of this building. Her hands snake around his shoulders, clasping behind his neck. Her dress is already destroyed; what does it matter if he tears it off? And she wants him to. Wants him to tear it off of her. Wants him to take her like he has before.

GM: There’s suddenly air under Celia’s feet. They’re rising. Floating. Higher. Higher. His pallid hands shift. Celia’s suddenly falling again, legs flailing through the air, and then stopping short. He’s holding her aloft by just her head. His palms are pressed crushingly hard against her temples. She can’t see in her peripheral vision past his hands. There’s no looking away. His frigid gaze bores all-too close and all-too intense, as though seeking to draw her bodily inside. It feels like her head is the only part left of her, and her body so much dross. There’s no world but her face and his. Just them. His colorless eyes flicker like tongues of lightning through a storm.

:: The prince’s torpor approaches. The hour I have long anticipated is at hand. A childe of Vidal’s blood threatens to undo everything I have worked to achieve. ::

:: I am relying upon you, Celia. I am depending upon you. ::

:: Destroy Malveaux-Devillers or place her wholly under my power, and you shall be everything I could have desired from a childe. ::

Celia: Falling.

Always falling.

For him, with him, it doesn’t matter; her body drops, her legs flail, but he’s there to catch her. Always. Her stomach spins; she clings to him, like she had that first night, that last night, but it does nothing to abate the pressure in her neck. A flick of his wrist will send the blade into her brain. A tensing of muscles will crush her skull.

And yet… her name. From him. For the first time. He does know. She could cry at that realization, that he knows who she is, that he trusts her, that her Embrace wasn’t some advantageous byproduct, that he chose her.

She is not some nameless somebody. She is Celia Flores, childe of Donovan. Jade Kalani, grandchilde of Antione Savoy. Groomed for this. Chosen for this.

She can’t nod. She doesn’t try. Her eyes stare into the depths of hell, recall the images she had seen inside of him that night he took her life into his body, let her fall to the Gulf below, let her shatter. So that he could rebuild her. So that they could rebuild her. Fire in her gut. Fire in her eyes. Fire, not ice, not like him, but molded from him, by him, for him.

:: I am yours, sire. ::

GM: Then just like that, he’s gone. Celia is lying on the floor. Rain weeps through the open window.

Celia: It is not the only thing that weeps this evening. She does not let it flow, not outwardly, but inside sounds a keening wail now that he is gone. The room is empty without him in it.

Dazed, she lays on the floor for a long moment. She can hardly think straight after this evening. A whirlwind of emotion pours through her, a whirlwind that she cannot get a grasp on, that she needs to get a grasp on. Her mother, upstairs, needs to be taken home. A body needs to be disposed of. And a fledgling… a fledgling needs to be dealt with.

Childe of Vidal. So she had been right.

Celia rises slowly to her feet, agony with every movement, her eyes on the open window. Out there, somewhere, her sire is plotting his next move. She breathes in the night air, inhaling deeply to bring the scent of rain and darkness into her lungs. It clears her head, though does nothing for the pain in her side, does nothing for the ache inside of her chest.

An outstretched hand shuts the window, closes the heavy drapes, and touches fingertips to her lips.

She will not let him down.

Comments

Emily writes an alternate ending to this log here where Celia fails to save her mother.

Celia III, Chapter XIV
 

duckftw Feedback Repost

Initial Stuff

“Elders don’t take drop-ins.” Ugh, don’t I know it. Definitely a long shot. I guess I could have called first instead of after, but that’s okay. That third phone Alana had purchased for her was actually going to be handed over to Donovan so they didn’t need to do this clandestine meeting on the roof thing, and then she was just going to send him eggplant emojis and cat gifs all night, but I figured that wouldn’t go over well. Also who am I kidding I like the rooftop meetings, especially when they don’t involve throwing Diana around.

The frustration in not being able to get ahold of anyone is palpable. Fuck this, I’m buying Status in the time jump.

Had fun with this scene of Celia cleaning. Definitely could have used Posthaste here, but also like why bother? It’s not as if she’s got anywhere to be or anything to do before Roderick shows back up, so why not belt out the lyrics to pop 40s music and twirl around the room? Definitely a Celia thing to do. Enjoyed getting into the fantasy of the wedding. Celia is such a girl.

Would he be jealous? The cold, dark one?

She thinks such human emotions are beneath him. But maybe.

Her mind runs away with her—her sire showing up. Demanding a duel for her hand. Telling her that of course he cares about her and has all this time.

I forgot I put that in there. So silly. He definitely would, though. Can’t have Celia being happy with someone else because then she wouldn’t be obsessed with him. Which is why I’m surprised that he hasn’t yet made her take that third drink, not because she needs it to be loyal to him but because it would prevent her from ever being able to put someone else above him. I thought he might do it here after her slip up with Caroline, make sure she couldn’t do it again, but I guess not. Which is a little weird to me because I can’t think of a downside for Donovan if he blood bonds her all the way, and she even like… offers it later when she thinks that he’s trying to hurt her mom and he pushes her out of the way. I literally don’t understand it. Why not?

Blood Bond

Speaking of blood bond mechanics. So we know that with Caroline / Celia she got a prompting to bond Celia or she’d have to mark a Stain, and you gave me a nudge once when Celia was going to reveal her sire to Roderick, so I’m curious about if that is a normal thing—”if you do this thing you will mark a Stain”—or if it’s just kind of what you personally feel is an obvious thing. Like… I’m going to use a Harry Potter example I guess, but there’s the “Unbreakable Vow” and I’ve seen a lot of cool interpretations for it, like where the magic of the Vow actually prevents you from doing / saying something that would betray the Vow, so you completely clam up and literally can’t talk about it. Even if someone were to give you Veritaserum or use Legilimency or pull out your memories with a Pensieve, the Vow keeps you from doing it. Even if you wanted to you couldn’t. Whereas another interpretation lets you do/say something against the Vow but you face the consequences if you cross the line to what you agreed upon, which is pretty similar to how it works in this game. And it manifests in different ways, like for example sometimes the magic might “nudge” you, or in one fic it was written that if you violate the Vow your magic will basically boil your blood in your veins so you can talk/do things but you start getting a little hot maybe. It’s kind of hard to explain without an example…

So, for example, let’s say the blood bond is with Celia and Donovan. As written, she can’t plot against him, directly harm him, or fail to prevent direct harm. But how far does that go? Emotionally? Socially? Their pawns / ghouls / general interests? Like, let’s look at Maxen / Donovan / Celia.

Celia gets the tape of Maxen torturing Diana and raping Isabel. She doesn’t warn Donovan about it. Does she mark a Stain because it will lead to Maxen losing his office, which directly harms Donovan’s interests? Would the blood bond nudge Celia in the direction of opening her mouth about it (basically GM prompting to confess) when she has the opportunity? She’s not acting, but she’s failing to act basically. Would I mark a Stain when she fails to confess and then again when Donovan is harmed by it? Is Donovan losing his pull in mortal politics really “harm?”

I mean in this example I guess I’ve asked a bunch of question.

What about retroactive Stains? So, for example, with Celia and Caroline. Celia revealed herself. Caroline knows that Celia is Donovan’s childe. That throws off Donovan’s plans, even though Celia couldn’t have possibly known that at the time. Does she have to mark a Stain for an action she took in the past that leads to him being harmed?

I’m also curious if the bond is subject to the same jadedness of Corruption. Like if you’re lower Corruption then doing lesser things (not warning them about something, minor embarrassments, etc) accrue less Stains? Just seems like something to consider.

Anyway I got super off topic here.

Donovan

Bit of a slipup here with her outfit. She’d changed to see Savoy so she probably didn’t have the silly outfit on again, unless she’d changed when she got back. I could see her wearing that to clean in. Minor point.

Already wrapped in the fantasy—his icy chill touching her heart does not do so much to dampen it as he might wish—she can clearly picture their reunion this evening. His arms around her. His lips on hers. Cold. So cold. A shiver runs down her spine at the thought, from exhilaration or anticipation or some combination of them both. Ah, yes, if only it had gone like this. I’m actually still just kind of amused by how into him she is, because… by the time we get to the end of the log, and since we’ve played this out, my feelings on him have definitely cooled. There are a few lines in this scene that I definitely remember forcing because of the way he’d been acting / how my own goals have shifted.

You and I had discussed, much earlier, whether or not Donovan knows that she’s capable of Vicissitude. I assume that he is, Celia assumes that he is, but she still changes her face before meeting him. I can’t imagine that he isn’t aware of what she can do, so I think it’s just… like her way of being her “real self” with him, maybe? No one else ever sees that face anymore. The modern-day Celia is just another mask, Jade is just another mask, and she takes both of those off for him. I think it makes sense if I put it like that, but I’m not sure it actually matters any / has any bearing on the game other than flavor.

There was a lot of frustration on Celia’s end when she got caught up by the hunters and reached out to Donovan and he didn’t come (I know it was in the middle of the day and she got herself out), so her question on whether or not he actually cares is answered for her here when he drops off the punk. I’m not entirely sure he was part of the plot vs just being a random dude she picked up, but the fact is that Donovan hunted him down in case he was a threat and took care of it. By stomping on his throat. Which… uh, is gross, you know, but still kind of sweet. Like when a cat brings you a dead mouse or bird, you know? It’s sweet.

I’d actually debated what to do with the umbrella here. I took one up because I figured he’d maybe have one and probably wouldn’t share since he’s a dick like that so Celia should have her own, and then I thought if he didn’t have one she could offer to share. Which, of course, would put her right next to him, which is where she likes to be. Then Celia sees that he doesn’t have one and doesn’t seem bothered by the rain, and of course she’s like “I can play that game too, look at me not care about the rain, I’ll be just as cold as you are.”

The amount of times Celia says “sire” in this log makes me wonder if she gets off on it. I’m pretty sure she does.

I was going to say that this is the first time that Celia has had the Telepathy communication, but then I remembered the Jon scene, so I guess not. I remember wondering why he’d chosen to speak with her like that instead of aloud. Privacy? So he can look through her head while she’s already open and talking to him? I think her conversation is a little stilted here, much more so than it would be if she were speaking aloud, which was me trying to figure out what communicating mind-to-mind would actually feel like. Less of a conversation, more of a series of thoughts that are loosely strung together. I don’t dislike it, I think it makes sense to do it like that with mental communication.

Perhaps he picks up on her concern for him, the undercurrent of emotion behind the words, the relief that he will not be leaving. I’d actually written a little expanded thing on this before we started this scene, where she tells him that he can’t go because what is she going to do without him. It’s uh. Angsty. (when isn’t it?)

So. I got a DM from Izzy about the fact that Celia revealed the Maxen thing again, and I’m just gonna post my answer to that below:
AMP10/13/2020
Anyway, the Maxen plan is a long term one. Telling Donovan about a threat to him now that probably wouldn’t have done anything anyway since we don’t have Isabel’s DNA makes him think that I’m not going to move against him, which gives me more leeway to move against him in the future.
[…]
AMP10/13/2020
Just like if he’d found out about her being in Tulane she would have spun it as protecting Maxen.
Izzy10/13/2020
you just think differently than i do
which is a good thing
AMP10/13/2020
I’ve already laid the seeds for the Maxen plan
Was actually hoping he’d ask her about Tulane so I could lie to him some more
But oh well

Celia wasn’t spilling about Maxen to spill about Maxen, she 100% had a plan here. Just like she wasn’t spilling about Savoy to spill about Savoy / betray him, she also 100% had a plan here. Which we’ve taken a long time to get to. But hopefully we get to the Savoy meeting so I can finally get that out there. Though with as much as has happened in the meantime I guess her goals have shifted a little, so we’ll see how it goes.

Briefly debated confessing to trespassing in Tulane to see what he’d do, decided against it.

I like how she says of Diana, “fragile mind, need delicate approaching.” She’s basically telling Donovan not to fuck with her mom. When he brings her back later I was like “is he going to Dominate her or question her or something, I literally just told him I could handle it,” and then he threw her in the air instead like an asshole, so.

I think I overplayed Celia’s apprehension about Donovan’s reaction to her being in the Garden District. I thought it at the time, too. Like she was nervous, but I took it too far with the thoughts of him killing her. He’s a terrible person, sure, I just don’t think he’d have actually killed her for it. So it feels a little overplayed.

Threatening Her Mom

I’m a little less than impressed with Celia’s reaction to him throwing Diana into the air. She’s kind of numb with the horror of it. I think this post took a long time IRL while Navy and I figured out what to do and I was, IRL, kind of emotionally exhausted at the thought of this happening because of the inevitable fallout. I remember thinking, “if this doesn’t work am I going to snap the bond or is she just going to accept she’s a failure?” It would have definitely depended on him and how he handled it / what he said and did immediately after. I wrote that piece that shows her accepting it, but I think the Donovan that I write is a little more emotionally attuned than the Donovan you write. Game-Donovan is definitely a very hard, very cold person, and I give him a little bit of wiggle room there, as you’ve seen. The carrot is more proportional to the stick, or something.

I think it does, however, speak to the depth of affection that Celia has for her mom. There aren’t a lot of people that Celia cares about, but when she does care she does it fiercely. Diana’s reaction here as well, which I think I did outline nicely in my post. How, even after everything, her concern is for her daughter, how she sees to Celia first. “That’s love.” Got a little misty-eyed rereading that.

The fact that she thanks him for the lesson is… just raw, dude.

I guess I kind of thought maybe he’d confirm that Vidal is headhunting. Ah, well. Probable that no one knows. Have some ideas on how to get that rumor out, anyway.

Alright so… this next bit I’m still a little salty about. She asks Donovan the question about her Embrace and he starts to pour blood on her mom, and Celia clearly freaks out. When Celia rolled Empathy she got 7S. There have been points where you’ve given players information and used a success that they didn’t necessarily ask for (it was even done in this scene with what you said about Caroline when it’s something that Celia clearly figured out on her own), so I guess I’m a little curious as to why you didn’t also give me that information. As a character, Celia was confused. As a player, I was confused. His dialogue didn’t really clear it up at the time, either. I mean like reading it now, sure, but not then. I even sent the log to a friend of mine who I’ve played VtM with and he asked the same thing, “what’s he doing to her mom?” Like in no rational world does it make sense that Donovan would just drip blood onto someone’s face in the middle of a rainstorm to feed them. And I don’t like how weepy / emotional Celia gets because of it, and I’m a little frustrated. It made me feel stupid as a player. There were all sorts of fucked up things he could have been doing there—Embracing her and making Celia deal with it, ghouling her to give her back to Maxen as a playtoy, some sort of Sanctified or Setite or Baali Blood Sorcery thing where his blood boils her face off—and I think you could have just used one of the 3 successes I had left to tell me that instead of waiting until after Celia makes herself look like an idiot. Which I guess is a delicate line to walk as a GM, since I’m sure there’d be a player who doesn’t want it… but yeah.

I probably should have let the scene with him end here instead of giving him something. But I’d been planning that gift for a while and wanted to get it over to him… eh. It just feels like it kind of drags after this.

Post-Roof Scene

I looked for a while for a song that would fit the mood I wanted for this. Like way longer than I’d care to admit. I think I asked Gary for a few suggestions, too. And the result is that it feels super contrived and forced and on-the-nose and is embarrassing to reread. But also it kind of fits, like pretty much all of it. “Wipe your feet on my dreams,” like damn. It’s also not actually a song that would be on Celia’s playlist because it’s definitely slow, not a dance tune. So it’s awkward to me to read but only because I have all of the emotional attachment to it.

I did have fun describing her destroyed haven. Sometimes I pre-write posts if I suspect things are going to go a certain way, and I did that here because I figured he’d follow her in. He doesn’t really react to the fact that her haven is destroyed. I guess I didn’t expect him to. Wonder if it made him curious, though, if he’s thinking about who did it, if he’d be mad if the raging Brujah had hurt her too. Like, years ago, if Roderick had left her there, would Donovan have woken her or would he have left her there too?

Bracers

Had wondered for a long time if anyone has ever given him a gift. If he’d pulled apart presents on Christmas day, on birthdays, on anniversaries. If he has ever wished for anything. Still wondering this. If he’s ever received a gift. Been given anything. If he has ever been happy. I don’t think that he has, honestly, or if he has been happy it’s so long ago that he doesn’t actually know what it feels like anymore. Like. Does he have emotions?

And then… the bracers!

Alright so maybe people don’t think these are as cool as I do, but I actually had a fucking blast with these. I was sitting in bed one night thinking about what I wanted to give to Donovan, because apparently Celia’s love language is gift-giving, and I knew it had to be something useful. And I kept thinking about how he uses a blade, right, but he probably can’t take it everywhere, so maybe he needs something that’s a little more discrete. And then there’s that Boomerang skill so obviously there needs to be something he can shoot at someone because I bet he knows it. And if not, fuck, he can still put it through someone’s throat from afar. I knew I wanted them to be slim so he could wear them under his clothes, and then I thought it would be cool if he could avoid setting off metal detectors with them (though I don’t know why he’d be walking through any), and then I figured if I’m giving him a secret weapon it should also protect him. I had a lot of fun writing it up, being able to relate it to the human body (you know Celia is going to definitely make bone / leather armor once she learns Protean 3 btw), talking about the ideas that she had rejected. I also had fun with the knife stuff, but I was kind of treading a fine line between not wanting to rip off Game of Thrones with an obsidian knife. They are really sharp, though. We also use diamond-tipped tools in the salon, which isn’t just to be like “hahaha diamonds on your face” but because they’re sharp af, so we use them with our microdermabrasion machine. They’re very exact, very precise. Some surgeons use them. Glass knives are brittle, though, so the whole thing couldn’t be made out of it. But yeah I just had fun with these. “Utilitarian. Lethal. Like him.” 100%.

And then Donovan is like, “satisfactory.” Like. Could you just. Fucking smile one time.

Celia does not wait overlong. Fuck you it took you three days to respond and I was freaking out the entire time.

Celia definitely fantasized about putting the bracers on him and being able to touch him. I think maybe we should move her thoughts about seeing his arms to earlier, when she’s basically standing still for him to use as target practice. Which, to be honest, I expected. Thought maybe he’d zip across the room and try the Boomerang thing, or maybe just stab into her, and I was like “this gonna be real awkward if he torps her because she didn’t Mend.”

I think Celia should have just bitten him here when he kissed her. I guess I thought maybe they’d fuck so I was going to let him lead the way there. My bad. Next time she’s just gonna sink her teeth and take what she wants.

Holding someone by their head is like a fuck ton of pressure on the neck and also it is rude, Donovan you are a dick.

Celia III, Chapter XIV
 

Aluroon Feedback Repost

I had some strong feelings on this log.

Been on the receiving end of the ‘elders don’t accept drop ins’. It makes sense most of the time, but less so I think when they are expecting updates. Definitely sympathized with Celia there.

I liked Celia dancing around her house and having fun. It was a side of her more in touch with being alive that we don’t see as much of, and drives home just how much cognitive dissidence there is in being a murderous vampire that’s taken many lives and feeds on people to survive… while also being a woman in her 20s.

* * *

Donovan showing back up for Celia was a big deal here – it’d been a long time IC and OOC since he spoke with her. Unfortunately, I feel like this is both the weakest part of this log, and one of the weakest parts of Celia’s story in general.

Showing up with the punk was a good opening, but everything there after just… It all just misses the mark for me, and I usually find Celia’s logs pretty compelling / fun to read.

Celia’s immediate go to → he’s going to kill her just sort of misses the mark for me in a lot of ways. I mean, I agree with the idea that Celia is used to harsh responses from ‘father’ or just ‘male’ figures based on her history, but that seemed to go a bit far given his reaction at that point.

Snatching Diana out of her bed and flinging her into the sky was a demonstration of his power, but man does that just sort of miss the mark for me on a lot of levels. It’s such a massive escalation in that scene, and of the personal stakes.

The bit where Donovan starts pouring blood all over Diana… I just wasn’t a fan of. The dialogue was chunky, his intentions really unclear, and Celia’s misreading of it is sort of a significant blemish on her. Makes her look foolish / stupid in front of the NPC whose approval she most desires.

We’ve talked at some length about the NPCs dictating PvP and how much it rubbed me the wrong way. I’ll also chime in that while the Caroline reveal didn’t really cost Caroline anything (and showed Pete Donovan’s hand), it also rubs me the wrong way on a lot of levels. It’s sort of the most boring way for Celia to find out, and revealing it is a significant risk for Donovan so far as tipping his hand. I’d sort of looked forward to the idea of Celia meeting with others and trying to get more info on Caroline before she met her again. Especially Savoy.

As a whole this scene had a lot of anticipation built up in it, and it didn’t really work for me. It was vicious, and cruel, and mean in places. It killed mysteries and replaced them with problems. Celia comes off as a disappointment to her sire and looks dumb.

Just feels like a bad scene all around. Created a lot of OOC problems, created IC problems, still has lingering IC problems resulting from OOC decisions / discussions. Etc.

Celia III, Chapter XIV
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany