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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Twelve, Celia XXIV

“You want this. You have this. I can tell.”
—Antoine Savoy


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

GM: The nightjar soars trough the Big Easy’s skies. Jade looked up how fast they travel once. 19.26 mph, on average. But never dealing with traffic or parking counts for something. The Evergreen Plantation soon approaches. Its rooftop garden sits empty to Jade’s sight.

Below, she sees what’s hopefully only the first wave of guests leaving.

Celia: She’s often thought about dropping onto the roof. How her grandsire would react to find her up there waiting for him. Maybe naked in the hot tub, maybe perched in a tree, maybe just curled up on his usual chair. It’s tempting. Always tempting. Especially tonight, when she’s riding a high from arguably the best sex she’s ever had (Pietro picking her up at the bar being a close second, though she’d been mortal then so she’s not sure if it counts).

In the end, though, she decides against it like she always does, and she drifts lower as she approaches, scanning the faces of those leaving.

Just to make sure it’s no one she needed to see. Otherwise she’ll find a place to land.

GM: Veronica is one of them, trailed after by Clementine. Justine Chaudrier and Arthur Duchamps make up two more faces.

Micheal opens the car door for Veronica and Shep. He’s dressed in normal clothes, but his walk is slow and stiff.

Celia: Jade knows better than to chase after Veronica once she’s done with a party. She lets the harpy go.

GM: Micheal opens the trunk, gets in, and closes it after himself. The harpy sneers from the front seat as Shep starts the engine. Their ghouls ride in the back.

Celia: She still can’t think of anyone who deserves to be treated like that.

The whole thing is impossibly cruel.

GM: She was volunteering to give him a vagina not too long ago.

Celia: To prevent the pain of having his dick ripped off every night.

Maybe literally emasculating him will make Ronnie give it a rest.

And maybe now she feels bad.

Dating his brother and all.

Trying to be a better person.

Something like that.

She ceases her musing and finds a place to change back into herself again, strolling toward the door.

GM: Fabian greets her cordially. Inside, the theme this week seems like it was undersea. Huge fish tanks filled with coral, seaweed, and colorful fish take up the walls. Blue lights pulsate over the dimly-lit floor in shifting patterns. The party feels like it’s progressed to an afterparty. Ghouls are shutting off the industrial bubble machines, and licks are changing out of maritime-themed costumes as they oggle one another’s nudity. Reynaldo Gui cuts a dashing figure in a blue-coated 18th century naval officer’s uniform as he supervises the clean-up.

A few naked or fish-costumed vessels writhe and moan underneath nets as still-hungry Kindred drink their fill.

Celia: Had someone told her there was a theme? She can’t recall. Pity, too, as she’d have given herself gills or a tail and swam through the tank all night. Or a seashell bra and red hair. Maybe some tentacles. She wonders if she can make tentacles; she’s never given it much thought before, but apparently there’s a big following for that…

She spares a nod and a smile for Fabian, already eying the available vessels, and asks if any of the side rooms are still free.

GM: “I believe so, madam. Their occupancy has gone down,” the smiling ghoul answers.

Pete is not present in the common area. Laura Melton, dressed as a mermaid, is toying with some ‘fish’ next to Emerson Newhouse Hearst. He’s shirtless and wearing a wide feathered hat that would’ve looked at home on Jean Lafitte.

Celia: “You’re a gem, Fabian.”

And there she is, the lick of the hour. Laura Melton. She’ll track down Pete later. And even Gui, delicious though he looks tonight, can be a phone call tomorrow night. Or a pitstop between Melton and Savoy. Finish what they started last night. She makes sure to wink at him when she catches his eyes drifting toward her.

Even without an appropriate costume Jade walks as if she owns the place, winding her way across the floor to join Melton and the biker.

Celia: “How’s your catch?”

GM: “Salty,” smiles the blonde, blood dribbling down her chin as she looks up from the now-weakly breathing vessel. She’s lost her bra and is clothed only in a scale-patterned skirt that clings tightly to her hips and flares out at the bottom.

Emerson, meanwhile, is lanky at a glance, but more toned close up. He doesn’t look like he worked on his body as religiously as Roderick did, during his last nights alive, but there’s gristle and muscle on top of his lean frame. His short brown hair looks eternally and artfully messy underneath his pirate hat.

“I think they fed them fish or something. You could taste it.”

“Mm, yeah,” says Melton. “Wanna fuck?”

Celia: Jade doesn’t know which of them she’s speaking to, but she’s not one to turn down an offer like that, and Emerson can always join them. She might as well go all the way if she’s going in at all.

She leans in without a further word, licking the blood from the blonde’s chest and chin.

GM: Laura pierces the skin along her neck, waits, and laps up the flowing blood. Emerson joins in from behind, peeling off Jade’s dress and sinking his fangs into the back on her neck. The pair might not be pleasuring her on both levels, like Josua did, but there are twice as many of them. The biker’s tongue, too, soon laps up the flowing blood.

But just like that, it all comes crashing down.

Celia: It’s the taste of the blood that does it. Hot on her tongue. Salty, like Melton said. Her Beast roars its approval. But it doesn’t want the blonde in front of her; it doesn’t want to fight for its meal. Night like this? No. It wants the easy thing, that already pliable, primed and ready vessel on the ground, and Jade lets it go. The only warning is a low growl in the back of her throat that builds into a snarl when she rips herself away from the two licks who want to share her, dropping heavily onto the fish-dressed girl to sink in and feast.

GM: Jade throws herself from the two licks and over the motionless vessel as the red haze descends. When it clears, a mangled corpse stares up at her. African-American girl, maybe mid-20s, her once-sleepy eyes livid with terror. Her throat is almost completely torn out, and hot blood freely runs across her and Jade’s chests.

“Impolite,” says Melton, licking her lips.

Celia: Covered in blood, none of it her own, Jade looks up from the carnage she’s wrought. A pang of guilt shoots through her at the needless death, though whether it’s for the girl or her grandsire’s cleanup crew is debatable. The practical part of her mind tucks it away, more spa materials, more ways to show off to the Ventrue Mafia man, more building blocks for Josua.

She rises, dripping blood, hands and face and chest covered in red. Her eyes find Melton, then sweep down her own body in a come and get it motion.

GM: Emerson, she notes, is no longer present. The Gangrel pounces on her and starts rapturously running her tongue and mouth along Jade’s breasts.

Celia: Whoops. She’d scared off the little Caitiff. That’s okay; this is the one she wants anyway. Jade sinks back down once Laura launches herself forward, back arching into the feel of tongue on her skin. She sinks her fangs into the Gangrel’s neck, lapping at the blood once it has had time to cool. Bloody hands hungrily roam her body.

GM: Laura’s hands roam hers equally hungrily as she tackles Jade to the floor, hungrily lapping at the red between her tits. She rolls to the side with Jade, putting the Toreador under her, then over her, then under her again, letting the blood spill over her body and then back over Jade’s.

“Little Caitiff didn’t like killing…” she growls between licks, half-smirking.

Celia: She’s had enough being on bottom tonight. She gives as good as she gets, biting and sucking and smearing the blood across the floor and their bodies and her mouth. Especially her mouth. She rolls with Laura until they’re in a secluded corner, each of them taking a turn on top, each of them pinned at some point.

“His loss,” she purrs back, “I’m not into virgins anyway.”

GM: “He wishes he was a virgin.”

The Gangrel bites deep along her upper breast, releasing another flow of blood. She doesn’t wait for it to cool, though, just laps up more of the girl’s blood from the base of Celia’s neck.

Celia: “Born agains,” she hisses between her teeth, caught by the ecstasy of the kiss. “Even worse.” Her fingers curl through Laura’s hair, holding her close while she laps at the blood on her neck. Jade slices her fangs against the girl’s cheek, drawing forth a thin trail of red.

“You’re who I wanted anyway; he’d have just been a bonus.”

GM: The Gangrel gives a wordless snarl of arousal. Claws extend from her fingertips as she slices open Jade’s belly. A few torturous seconds for her later, seconds that Jade spends at her cheeks, her tongue burrows laps over the bleeding wounds.

Celia: Another snarl rips from her throat when Melton’s claws sink into the soft skin of her belly. She yowls, head thrown back, and only quiets again when her tongue soothes the burning ache.

But she has claws too. They slide from the tips of her fingers when she flips the Gangrel onto her stomach, straddling her hips. Jade rakes them down her exposed back, following the lines her nails have left with her mouth.

GM: Melton growls in turn as the blood flows and Jade’s tongue waits those several torturous seconds to lap it up. She lies there for a moment, content to allow the Toreador to clean her wounds, then turns around and shoves Jade off and onto her back. She buries her face against the other lick’s inner thigh, ripping and tugging at the skin like a fat drumstick. Pain burns in the half-puncture, half-tear wounds, but soothes as the Gangrel’s tongue licks them clean and partly seals the injuries.

Celia: It’s a mess of blood after that. Growling, snapping, snarling while the two licks play on the floor, ripping and rending and puncturing with their teeth and claws. Each of them takes a turn on top before being dethroned by the waiting usurper. They cover each other in blood and scratches and half-healed bites, leaving shredded skin and tattered clothing behind. Somewhere in the distance she’s vaguely aware of a certain Ventrue cowboy claiming her discarded bra. Melton’s skirt comes off when Jade buries her face between the Gangrel’s thighs, inhaling the scent of her while she waits those long seconds for blood to cool. It’s a delicious and intoxicating heady onslaught of painful pleasure, so different from the gentle waves that Josua had put her through that crested again and again until she was spent. Different from the feather-light touch of Pietro, the red-hot burn of Veronica, the rapturous embrace of Roderick. Different, but thrilling; Jade and Laura, tonight at least, are evenly matched.

When she’s spent, when her Beast has been sated by the blood of the mortal and the Gangrel, when it purrs and curls at last in her chest, the pair of them end up sprawled across fallen netting on a stretch of warm sand. Heated floor? Lamps? Magic? She doesn’t know how Savoy does it, but he pulls out all the stops. It’s like lying on a beach. Fish swim nearby in one of the tanks. Jade curls against her equally spent lover, tongue still lapping lazily at the hole she’d torn near one nipple.

“You,” she purrs to the Gangrel, lifting her arms above her head in a languid stretch once she finally pulls her mouth away with a final lick, “are exquisite.”

Celia: “And filthy,” she adds as an afterthought, though the word is softened by the clearly satisfied way it drips from her tongue. Both Kindred are covered in sanguine sand, the granules adhered to the sticky substance that coats their body. Jade remembers now why she never liked the beach. What had that animated azure djinn said? Sand: it’s everywhere.

“Come on, I’ll sneak us into a room with a shower and give you the real underwater experience.”

She’s already imagining pinning the Gangrel against the tile wall beneath the spray of the shower. Warm water, warm blood, two beautiful ladies… Emerson really missed out.

GM: He’s less a cowboy tonight than a naval officer, but Jade doesn’t doubt the bloody bra winds up in someone’s appreciative hands.

“Mmm,” says Melton contently as she rises from the sand, casually licking off some of the red-smeared stuff from her arm. “Let’s go. I need to grab some clothes, too.”

There are semi-public showers upstairs, for Kindred to clean up after their revels. Savoy is even thoughtful enough to leave free clothes.

Many of them get taken off the Evergreen’s corpses, so he’s not even paying for them.

Celia: Jade found the cutest boots in one of those free closets once. She’d been happy to appropriate them for her own use.

She follows the Gangrel to her feet and plucks her dress (not shredded, Emerson was good for one thing at least) off the floor on her way to the stairs with Melton.

“I was going to ask if I missed anything exciting, but I can’t imagine much that would top this.”

GM: Melton picks up her mermaid skirt.

“There were some good runner-ups,” the Gangrel smirks, lazily hitting the elevator instead. “There isn’t much I’d miss a Saturday at the Evergreen for.”

Celia: Jade flicks her eyes down her companion’s body. “I got what I wanted,” she says with an appreciative grin.

GM: Her companion eyes her.

“I bet you did.”

Celia: “My cousin taught me to find the most valuable thing in the room.”

“He’d steal it, but, well… the sentiment stands. I suppose I could throw you over my shoulder if you want the full experience.”

GM: “Try me. I’m pretty light.”

Celia: Someone had told her once to lift with her knees, not her back. She supposes if she got Diana and that punk down the stairs—dead weight, the both of them—Laura might be an easier time. She steps forward, arms going around the Gangrel’s thighs, and rises, slinging her over her shoulder.

GM: True to Laura’s words, she is pretty light. She’s only dead weight in the literal sense, too. She wiggles her hips and gives Jade’s rear a good squeeze.

Celia: Jade giggles at the touch, pleased that she didn’t embarrass herself by sending them both sprawling to the ground.

“Cut everything out with those claws of yours?”

GM: The Gangrel continues to knead her rear.

“Only sexy things. Like your juice.”

A buzz goes up from one of the phones in Jade’s purse.

Celia: “I’ve heard there’s a trick where you can stuff things inside of you. Like a prison pocket. Imagine all sorts of fun things come out then.”

Awkward timing for the phone. Her hands are busy with the Gangrel. The door opens, though, and she lets Laura down so they can move through the hall to find the showers. She peeks into her purse at the caller ID.

GM: “I know someone with that trick. It’s pretty handy.”

It’s a text from Emily.

Celia: “Oooh. I’d love to learn.”

She’ll check the text in a minute.

GM: “I could get you started when we’re done here,” says Laura as she opens the door to the semi-public showers. There’s multiple rows of them. There’s usually quite a few Kindred who need to wash off after Savoy’s revels. Laura hangs her mermaid skirt on a clothing rack and turns on a faucet.

Celia: “I’d like that.”

Jade follows her in, eyes scanning the stalls to see if anyone else is present. She takes a moment to check the text from Emily while she hangs her dress and sets her purse down.

GM: They look empty. The text reads,

Ugh fell asleep studying and woke up… my schedule’s gonna be fucked

Celia: Is it late enough to safely ignore the text? Maybe. Emily knows she’s a night owl, though.

Nah girl you got this. Crack a soda and stay up all night & then tmr if you want to fix tho.

She puts her phone away to join her new friend in the shower.

GM: The Gangrel squirts some soap over her hands, then lathers it over Jade’s breasts.

Celia: Oh, it’s gonna be like that? Jade can play this game. She leans back against the tile wall, a lazy smile curling the corners of her lips upward at the attention to her breasts. It’s the third time Laura has gone right for them.

They must be nice.

Real nice.

GM: She did make them that way.

Celia: She’s very proud of them.

They’re perfect.

Like the rest of her.

GM: Laura’s hands squeeze the soft but perky flesh as she gets soap all over them, then topples over with a wet thud against the tile floor. A wooden stake protrudes from her back.

Celia: Playing her role, Jade shrieks and stumbles backwards.

The wet tile steals her footing from her. She goes down hard, scrambling away from… whatever it is that’s staking naked vampires in the shower. It’s like a slasher flick with sorority girls, only she and Laura are the sorority girls.

GM: Another stake pierces Jade’s chest. She goes down, stiff as a board.

Celia: There’s nothing to do but lay there, staring helplessly at the ceiling while the water pours down over her naked body.

GM: Water pools over her face and eyes. She can’t blink or even move her eyes. Laura’s staked body turns over in her peripheral vision. Blood slowly washes down the drain.

After a little while, a blindfold wraps around her eyes, and then she can’t see anything.

Celia: Rude.

There’s nothing for it, though. She can’t move, can’t speak, can’t blink, can’t use any of her powers. Her claws lie useless beneath her nail beds.

She listens. That’s all she has left.

GM: She hears water running, then stopping. She hears the door open and close.

Moments pass. Then the blindfold comes off and the stake comes out of her chest.

Celia: Jade sits up, moving across the floor until her back is at a wall. She rises slowly.

GM: She has the otherwise empty shower stalls to herself.

Celia: Does she, though? Or is the shadow dancer watching from across the way, staring at the naked lick?

GM: That’s always the question, isn’t it?

Melton’s mermaid skirt is still there on the clothes rack.

Celia: “Send for me when they’re ready,” Jade says to the empty air.

And then, just in case the ghoul is still watching, Jade gives him (her? it?) a show.

As a “thanks for playing” sort of thing.

And because she’s a completely vain creature who deserves to be admired.

But who’s counting?

It’s not that she’s aroused by danger, but… well, for a moment there she thought maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t her friend in the shadows, and with how easily he’d (she?) had dispatched two licks, one of whom she thinks is a great deal older than her…

Maybe she is aroused by danger.

She’s never even seen the shadow friend before, has never learned which of the ghouls it is, but she’s always appreciated their work, and they’re all alone here in the shower.

It’s easy to play vixen in a place like this. The water pours down on her from above. It beads on her skin, the little droplets trailing downward, drawing the eye toward the stiffened peaks of her breasts. Laura had been touching them, but her invisible friend can take over if they like. The soap is right there, ready to be lathered and spread. Jade spreads the suds across her fingers. Slick and slippery, they slide down her body, across her chest, thumbs flicking across the tips. Her hands slide lower, across her flat stomach, halting only at the tops of her thighs. A wistful sigh leaves her lips, barely audible above the sound of the water, and a single finger traces her lower lips. She’s alone, after all, or maybe her friend is there, and if they are… it’s an open invitation, should they choose to accept.

GM: Celia abruptly feels something phallic ram up her ass, furiously pumping back and forth. A hand-like sensation clamps over her throat, choking her, nails digging into flesh. More pressure pinches over her left nipple, squeezing and tugging like they’re trying to rip it off.

Celia: She’d giggle, but her air is decidedly cut off. Not that she needs it, beautiful corpse that she is. She doesn’t resist when her partner claims her. The shadow uses her body how it wants, and her only contribution once it has her in its grip is to slide a hand between her legs to find that sweet spot so she can get herself off while it hammers her from behind.

GM: The shadow slams her face-first into the tile and chokes her tighter, jackhammering her ass like a drill. Its other hand makes a clenched fist inside her cunt. It doesn’t enter slowly. It just punches right into her, shoving itself as far up as it can, as fast as it can. Her inner walls strain under the sudden pressure.

Celia: At least her nose doesn’t break, right? She’s got that going for her, that her nose doesn’t splatter and ruin her pretty face. Her cheek presses into the tile beneath the spray of water from overhead, head turned to the side to protect the delicate orbital and nasal bones. Each subsequent thrust pushes her further against the wall, an endless battering ram that lays her out and pins her helplessly before the shadow’s lust. She snarls despite the hand crushing her windpipe, though the sound that comes out isn’t nearly as forceful as normal. Like a kitten compared to a tiger. The fist in her cunt makes her whole body jerk, her free hand slamming into the wall at the unpleasant stretching. Claws sprout from her nails, sliding harmlessly off the slick tile. She hisses. That, too, is choked. But the fingers between her legs keep moving and her head drops back, lips parting silently while the onslaught continues.

GM: The fist in her cunt retracts. Something sharp stabs into her throat and rips across, cutting it open. Blood leaks down her chest as fingers penetrate the slit flesh, squeezing and tearing and digging. She hits the floor side ways with a hard, wet smack. Water trickles through the fingers. The pounding in her ass doesn’t slow.

Her Beast threatens to burst its chains at the apparent attack, to turn fang and claw on its invisible adversary, but Celia keeps it down. Some of the fingers withdraw from her throat. The remaining ones plunge deeper. Red, wet slashes suddenly appear over her belly and under her breasts. More fingers dig greedily into the cuts as a palm rubs against her nipple.

Celia: It’s not the sexual encounter she expected. Not from a ghoul. Unless it’s not a ghoul but a lick instead, someone like her who gets off on causing pain, which doesn’t explain the cock buried deep in her ass. Her snarl comes out as a wet gurgle, blood dripping freely down her body from the holes the shadow rips into her throat. Then more from her belly, threatening to stain her body and the floor both before the water washes it down drain. Her claws rake at the hands holding her to yank away their painful touch inside her abdominal cavity, clit forgotten in her quest for blood.

GM: The shadow seems only further aroused by her struggles. By her pain. It reminds her of someone Celia used to know. The fingers plunge deeper into her throat, gorily twisting and pushing upwards into her mouth, liker her head is a sock puppet. Another stabbing pain shoots up her cunt. Blood flows like the mother of all periods.

Celia: It reminds her of being fucked by Jamal. Only Jamal hadn’t tried to rip her apart with his hands, and he certainly hadn’t fisted her while he’d fucked her—though she vaguely recalls broken ribs after coming to, pinned beneath him with her knees near her ears and the monster buried deep inside of her.

It’s like that, almost. But with a smaller dick. There’s less chance of it tearing through her abdomen on its own, so the claws (are they claws or just nails? She can’t tell) do that part for it.

She bleeds. And she screams. And, again, it comes out as a wet, ragged rasp. Air hisses from her lungs and onto the shadow’s hand and fingers where it has torn her open, like a lifelong smoker who finally had an artificial larynx put in after theirs rotted out of their throats.

It’s not sexy. But this isn’t sex anymore. It’s a power struggle, and she’s losing. Losing because she keeps a firm handle on the thing inside of her that wants to tear the shadow’s throat out. Do shadows have throats? Beneath the shade he’s a man, certainly, or it’s a rather effective strapon.

She wheezes. It might be a laugh.

Her body can take the damage, though. His can’t. Her claws disappear, fingers moving back between her legs. She’ll get herself off since he won’t.

GM: Oscar Wilde said everything was about sex, except sex, which was about power.

She’s wrong about that firm handle, though. The monster bursts from her chest in an explosion of pure rage and hurt. Everything goes red. When she comes to, she’s coated in still more red that doesn’t smell like her own. The pouring shower head swiftly washes it away.

Celia: Whoops.

She looks for a body.

GM: She does not see one.

Celia: She flips off the water, feeling around the floor for a body. She follows the scent of the blood if she can. She’d thought that maybe the stealth fades if they die, but what does she know.

GM: She does not feel a body. The lingering coppery odor leads out of the room.

Celia: She sniffs, too, for the tangy, musky odor of human jizz.

GM: She does not smell any.

Celia: Shame. Her poor shadow friend didn’t even get off.

GM: They can’t all be Jamal.

Celia: She should call him. See what he’s up to these nights. Maybe he’ll give her the fuck she needs after… whatever this was.

Someone has blue balls.

Her body repairs itself, Beast so amused by the fact that it got to come out to play twice this evening that it doesn’t even fight her for the blood. It gives instead, sharing its resources with the girl that takes such good care of it. Her earlier transgressions must be forgiven, she thinks, and she stretches contentedly as muscles and skin and sinew wind back together. She clears her throat as her esophagus heals, pleased that everything is in working order, and finishes her shower.

She doesn’t show off this time.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

GM: Ughh I usually fall asleep midway through the day if I do that, reads Emily’s answering text after Celia exits the shower.

Tomorrow’s Sunday so no school to keep me up

Celia: Still early enough to go to bed and wake up at normal time. Not a big deal. Take a sleep aid & call it a night.

GM: Eh true I’ll try not to wake Mom getting bills… see you tmrow

Celia: Who said having a sister had to be difficult?

GM: Jade has a moderate amount of time until her scheduled meeting with her grandsire.

Celia: She passes it at the Evergreen. There’s no reason to leave when she has to come back anyway, and there might be a handful of people hanging around. The cowboy, the warlock, or the Gangrel once she’s done being questioned. Friends wait for each other, right? It won’t look weird if Jade dresses, then helps herself to a seat downstairs, eyes peeled for any of the three aforementioned friends.

Otherwise, she spends some time on her phone looking into this Vinny fellow. If she’s whoring herself out to get what she wants anyway she might as well go all the way. She looks for a public social media page, pulls the best-looking photo from among the lot posted, and does a reverse search for it to see if she can find him on a dating site. Middle-aged, lonely cop? Probably on a dating site.

Where else would he meet someone? Taking a statement at a hospital?

Oh, wait.

GM: Gui is present, still directing the cleanup. Jade does not see the other two.

The Evergreen slowly returns to normal as Jade pulls up Vinny’s profile on Facebook. He looks younger than middle-aged, though he’s definitely on his way there. Older millennial. He has olive skin and spade-black hair. Slim like the toothpick between his teeth, but toned and taut as a racetrack greyhound. His facial hair looks somewhere in between stubble and a beard. His face might be called ruggedly handsome, if not for its diminutiveness and half-dozen moles. He wears a dark-ribboned trilby in all of his pictures, but his hair looks a little thin around the edges, as though he’s going prematurely bald.

VincenzoCardona.jpg
The page has a moderate amount of activity. There are no post or pictures that identify him as a police officer, and his work and education history is unlisted.

Jade does not find Vinny on any dating sites, though multiple pictures show him at the Fair Grounds Race Course, often known as New Orleans Fair Grounds, a thoroughbred racetrack and racino in Mid-City.

Celia: Jade waves at her favorite Ventrue as she takes a seat in clear view of both the elevator and the door, intending to catch Melton on her way out. If she leaves. What if she doesn’t leave? Uh oh. What if Jade had been about to make a friend and messed it up by opening her mouth?

Well, what else is new. She’s sure she’s done that sort of thing before. Spilling things she shouldn’t have. Whoops. But it’s for the safety of her grandsire, right? Making sure there’s not a spy hanging out in their midst.

Even if it means she won’t be able to learn that trick. And even if she doesn’t really think Melton was a spy, just someone who doesn’t want their real identity known.

She huffs, keeping an eye on the elevator while she scrolls through Vinny’s page. Maybe Gui could even introduce her. Though not if he hangs out at the tracks…

What sort of face would a guy like this be into? Someone attractive enough to be appealing, but not so attractive that he thinks it’s a trap. She can find a balance, she’s sure.

She pulls up the hours and the website for the track. Maybe there’s an upcoming event.

GM: It’s open from 9 AM to midnight every weekday, 10 AM to midnight on Sunday, and closed on Saturday. There’s also an on-site casino and dining options. Doesn’t seem like a bad place to take a date.

There’s a “3x multiplier madness” savings event on Tuesday. The horse races, though, all seem to be during the day.

Celia: She already has plans out the wazoo tomorrow night. Sometime this week, though, she’ll get that ball rolling. She doesn’t imagine it’ll be the sort of meet-cute that happens in rom-coms where she only has to run into him once. More of a slow burn.

Ah, inconvenient hours for racing. She navigates back to his page to see if his photos were mostly taken during the day or at night, or if he’s posted at all about horses or is more of a general gambler.

GM: Both, from the looks of things. Most photos are during the day, and show him in the stands for the races, but he seems to have come by the casino during some evenings too.

Celia: Perfect. She’ll go on Tuesday for the multiplier madness. If he’s a gambling addict—is he a gambling addict?—then he’ll probably be there. She’ll run into him, start up some small talk… She’s got plenty of cute outfits to choose from… And it beats asking Pete or Gui to introduce her, though she supposes those can be her plan B and C. Maybe C and B. Somehow her vision of “policeman’s ball” ends up with her sire and sister-in-blood also present, and she’d rather not have to deal with either one of them.

Is a policeman’s ball even a thing? Where had she gotten that idea?

Probably a movie.

Plan made, she pays less attention to her phone than she does her surroundings, though she keeps it out to look busy.

GM: Melton does not reemerge, though licks continue to come and go from the Evergreen, including Rosa Bale (who rarely attends the parties). The common lounge area is eventually restored to its former state.

“I think this is yours,” remarks Gui as he sits down next to her, holding up a bloody bra.

Celia: Jade finally slides the phone back into her purse, turning to face the smirking cowboy. Pirate? Naval officer? He’s something alright.

“Like a trail of breadcrumbs, it led you right to me.”

GM: He wraps an arm around her shoulder. “You’re too sexy to sit here with just a phone for company.”

Celia: “I was waiting for someone.” His hand finds no bra straps when it slides across her shoulders. She hadn’t lifted one from the free closets, though her chest doesn’t look any worse for wear at the lack of support. She tucks the bloodied garment into her purse.

GM: “Usually more effort than it’s worth to get dried blood out of clothes, but it can be a look.”

Celia: “Next week’s theme is ‘vampire.’”

GM: “Someone can tell the thin-bloods they still aren’t invited, then. One tried to get in.”

Celia: “Oh? How’d that go for them?”

GM: “Well, Veronica and Shep discovered they still leave behind ash.”

Celia: Good to know.

“What a waste of blood.”

GM: “Discovered for some guests here, at least. I don’t doubt they already knew that.”

Celia: “Wonder where they all keep coming from. They’re like an infestation.”

GM: “You and every elder in the Camarilla, lush. Even those pogroms in the ‘90s weren’t able to get rid of them.”

Celia: “I just ran into one in the square, actually. It tried to shake me down for money.”

GM: “Jackson Square’s a bad place at this hour. How’d that go for it?”

Celia: “How do you think it went?” She flashes a smile.

GM: Gui smirks and makes light banter with her until Fabian approaches and smiles to Jade that “Lord Savoy will see you now, madam.”

Celia: Ah. Well. She supposes she’ll talk to him about that bit of muscle sculpting business later then. And Harrah’s. And the Blackmatch. Better to do it privately, anyway, and he’d looked too cute in his little outfit for her to take him seriously. Plus she’d been busy pretending she’s a thin-blood killer, as if it’s something to be proud of to slaughter such helpless little things.

Christ, she really fucking hopes it wasn’t Dani. But she hadn’t told Dani about the Evergreen, so really there’s no reason for it to be…

She leaves Gui with a last lingering look—she’d ended up perched on his lap somehow, though their banter hadn’t led to anything beyond harmless flirting—and an invitation to give her a call in the next few nights if he thinks he has any use for… well, she holds up her hands and lifts a brow and expects him to know what she means. A final scrape of fang against his cheek sees her on her way, a spring in her step as she goes to greet her grandsire.

Celia can’t help but wonder if Fabian was her faceless attacker as she follows after him. He’s always smiling. It’s people like that you have to watch out for; they’ve usually got some sort of screw loose upstairs. All that smiling rots their brain. Pretending to be happy all the time. Yeah, she bets he wants to rip into a stray vampire if he gets a chance. She sniffs (discretely) at him as they get into the elevator.

GM: Gui says he expects he well may, and gives her bottom a pinch as she rises.

Jade smells no blood on Fabian.

But it’s possible the cheerful-faced ghoul is a very thorough cleaner.

Celia: He really is her favorite. Pity Roderick has that “no sharing with members of the Mafia” rule. She imagines they’d be fun together.

Bit awkward to ask, isn’t it? “Hey did we bang earlier? Sort of?”

“Sorry for losing my cool, I was kind of into it until you ripped my abdomen open. Wanna try again sometime?”

GM: Fabian takes her up to fourth floor, or technically, the third floor’s roof. Savoy and Preston are seated at their usual spots around the table. There’s also a ghoul cleaning up an ugly black substance off the ground, but the two make no comment of it as Savoy rises to kiss her hand.

“It feels like it’s been much too long, my dear, but a long absence only makes reunion all the sweeter.”

Celia: Jade eyes the black substance as she steps around it, though as soon as her grandsire rises to greet her he has her full attention. She dips into a curtsy, an easy smile finding its home on her lips at the words.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder, grandsire. Mine is fit to burst.” Her eyes move to Preston and she dips again, paying the steward her due respect. “Good evening, Madam Preston.”

GM: “Good evening, Miss Kalani,” the Malkavian returns.

Fabian pulls out Jade’s seat for her as Savoy resumes his own, then smiles at her. “My agents tell me you did masterfully in helping to apprehend Miss ‘Melton.’ She was eating out of the palm of your hand, by all accounts! Very well done, my dear.”

Celia: “Thank you,” Jade says to the ghoul. She crosses one ankle over the other beneath her chair. “And thank you, Lord Savoy. She was rather eager to make friends, it would seem.” Make friends. Fuck. Same difference. “Have you spoken to her yet?”

GM: “Not as of yet. It’s been a busy night.” He chuckles. “But she’s been gracious enough to wait.”

“She has little choice but to wait, sir,” states Preston.

Celia: “I was about to say the same, Madam Preston.” Jade smiles at the Malkavian.

GM: Preston doesn’t smile back, although Jade doesn’t think she’s ever seen Preston smile.

She wonders how many times men have told her she’d look nicer if she did.

Or let down her hair and removed her glasses. The esthetician can’t help but note the potential makeover.

Savoy chuckles again. “That’s true enough, you two. But I prefer to assume graciousness from others until they show us otherwise.”

Celia: Probably not many make that mistake twice regarding Preston and smiles.

“If it’s no trouble, will you let me know what you find? Only… we rather hit it off, and I was hoping to salvage that relationship if possible, as I think if she’s in the right camp she and I have a lot to offer each other.”

GM: “Of course, my dear. We could interrogate her here, if you care to change your face.”

Celia: Jade nods. “I’d be happy to.”

GM: “Very good. Have someone bring her up once we’re through other business, Nat.”

“Of course, sir.”

Savoy smiles at Jade. “Mr. Gui tells me Celia Flores picked up Miss Garrison from his club! I hope she’s proven an asset thus far?”

Celia: “Ah. I wasn’t aware that Mr. Gui knew who Celia was.” The lift of her brows suggests the question. She certainly hadn’t told Gui about her mortal identity.

GM: “Oh, I think quite a few people know who the famous Celia Flores is,” Savoy grins. “Certainly anyone with an eye for personal beauty.”

Celia: Jade smiles prettily for him at the compliment. She has Kindred followers? How amusing.

“But not her relation to me?”

GM: “I haven’t told him as much, my dear. I’d be surprised if he did.”

Celia: She nods.

“Thank you for clarifying. I was concerned that I had gotten sloppy with my mask. The recent incident with the hunters has set me on edge, I admit. Yes, I picked up Dani. Miss Garrison. I didn’t know if Mr. Gui was in on everything, and I didn’t want to take the chance that he discover her if not. We had been… well, he received a call while we were together that suggested trouble, and I thought it might have been her…” She trails off, wringing her hands.

“She was aware of what she had become, though none of the specifics. I gave her a bit of an overview so that she doesn’t wander into places less welcoming to those like her.”

There’s a brief pause. Her eyes widen slightly, gaze becoming more earnest.

“I hope that’s okay. I didn’t mean to step on your toes. I was just concerned for her safety, knowing the piece on the board she could offer you.”

GM: “The thin-blood was in his territory. There were few better agents to monitor her,” states Preston.

Savoy smiles in understanding. “I trust your judgment with Miss Garrison and her brother, my dear. I’m glad you did what you felt was best.”

The elder Toreador doesn’t repeat his earlier question, but they have clearly come back to it.

Celia: “My mistake for not asking about his hand in this. I apologize. She is being looked after and has been advised to stay within the Quarter.”

The words are stiff. Perhaps, she wants to say, if they had told her that Gui knew about it then she wouldn’t have been so pressed to move Dani to a safer location. She really had been concerned for the girl’s safety. But she should have assumed that Gui knew; Dani had been there for almost a week at that point. It would be a sloppy landlord indeed who didn’t pick up a thin-blood in his own territory.

GM: “The thin-blood’s fate is irrelevant save as leverage over her brother,” Preston replies, seemingly unconcerned.

She should have known Gui would know.

Stupid, whispers Maxen.

Celia: A Dani under her control is a Dani that makes Roderick play right into her hands.

Maybe that voice should check itself.

“Mr. Durant has been apprised of the situation regarding his sister. He chafes at the idea of keeping her here and seeks a way to liberate her to a more thin-blood friendly city. He thinks Houston will treat her better. I have disabused him of this notion. He has asked to be able to see her to hear her wishes on the subject before he agrees to anything permanent, but submits himself to a boon should you be amenable to allowing his reunion with her.”

She pauses to collect her thoughts.

“I have given Miss Garrison an unfavorable view of life outside the city as well as an idea of what to expect should she try to make a home for herself outside the confines of your territory. She is not interested in leaving. The thing about Mr. Durant…” She takes a breath, then lets it out slowly. “He will try to play hero. He will try to move her, possibly against her wishes, but he has no one to assist with getting her out of the city. He mentioned an attempt to retrieve her from the Quarter during the day with an independent shadow dancer.”

GM: “Oh? That’s curious he’d promise me a boon for a reunion with Miss Garrison,” muses Savoy. “From Mr. Durant’s perspective, that offer would likely make me very curious who this thin-blood is to him.”

Celia: Of course that’s what he’d focus on. Not any of the rest of it. Not any of the careful maneuvering she has done since she realized she botched the situation.

She could lie. She should lie, rather than admit that she fucked up. Rather than admit that she opened her mouth. Rather than add insult to injury by not only moving the thin-blood but spilling the beans as well.

She starts to. To say that that “perhaps he just meant move through your territory for an evening,” but even to her the reasoning is thin.

What happens next? He never trusts her again? Never asks her to do anything for him again? Strips her of her domain, rescinds his offer of support and guidance, tells her that he should have let her burn in the Gulf?

She falters. Her eyes find the floor for a long moment.

“I thought,” she says at length, “that in the interest of long term manipulation he would be more susceptible to the idea of someone in his corner, and thus become more pliable. I had wanted to convert him fully rather than ask him to play double agent to a sire to whom is he twice-bonded, as I doubt the integrity of such reports.”

GM: She feels a hand against her shoulder.

“It’s hard, isn’t it, given the history?” Savoy asks.

Celia: Her lip wants to tremble. She presses her teeth together rather than let it, nodding her head in answer to his question.

GM: The hand gives her shoulder a squeeze.

“Maybe this wasn’t fair of me to ask of you, my dear. I know how much you want to do well and impress. Maybe I should have asked someone else to bring over Roderick to my side, and then your two’s relationship could have rekindled under better terms, without any lies between you.”

Celia: “N-no,” she says, shaking her head, “I can do it. I shouldn’t have let our history get in the way. It was…” stupid “…it was wrong of me, and it would have been easier if I just… didn’t.”

Why are his gentle words so much worse than if he’d simply berated her?

“I can do it. I will do it. It’s just taking longer because I… thought that I had a better way.”

Thought she knew better than an elder who has been around for centuries, someone who could lie circles around her.

Maxen’s voice is back. She recognizes it this time. Two syllables.

GM: Stupid.

“You’re easily the stupidest of my children. I don’t have to do this with your sister. What’s wrong with you, Celia? Why have you turned out so intellectually stunted?”

“I don’t know, Daddy. I’m sorry. I’m trying.”

“You’re failing. You’re not trying hard enough. You aren’t just stupid, you’re lazy too.”

Stupid.

Stupid.

Stupid.

Celia: Yeah, that’s the one.

Maybe the floor will just… swallow her.

“I have this,” she says, pulling the paper from her pocket to thrust into his hands. As if that makes it better.

GM: Savoy tilts her chin up to meet his gaze.

“Shhh.”

C’est bon. It’s all right.”

“You want this. You have this. I can tell.”

He takes the paper, skims it, and smiles at her.

“You’ve brought me this. You’ve turned Miss Garrison against Houston. You’ve brought me Mr. Durant’s plan to get her out.”

“I don’t need to have faith in you, my dear. I have evidence. You do want this.”

“It’s not too late for us to fix this. You’ve got both Garrisons right where you want them, it sounds.”

Celia: Her eyes don’t leave his. Maybe he can see the emotion swimming behind them, the nerves and apprehension and half-shuttered expression that readies herself for a verbal backhand.

But it never comes.

He is not her sire. He is not her father. He is disappointed, surely, but he offers understanding and encouragement rather than beratement.

She does. She does want this. More than anything, she wants to impress him, to flip Roderick, to do something right for him. To make him proud of her. She will do it. She will.

She swallows, nodding her head at his last statement.

“He… he wants me to move in with him. In Mid-City. He spent this evening looking for a place for us. I thought… worst case scenario, you know, I could just borrow the notes when he’s not there. But that doesn’t… I mean, I’m sure you want to be able to ask him questions about what happens, so that’s not ideal, but it was my backup plan. There’s also…”

She steadies herself.

“There’s more. I have more.”

GM: “I do want to talk to him myself,” Savoy nods. “I’d suspect he’s going to be more careful with those if you’re living together.”

“If his sire finds out, she could arrange for the notes Miss Kalani finds to contain false information,” states Preston, looking up from her tablet. The Malkavian’s face is otherwise neutral.

“That’s possible too, Nat. But tell me what else you have, my dear,” Savoy says, turning back to Jade.

“In fact, I wanted to ask you some more about Mr. Durant too, now that you’ve spent some time together. What would you say he wants most? Regrets most? What would he change about his Requiem if he could, in your estimation?”

Celia: “He wants democracy. He’s an idealist. He wants Mid-City to be its own little city within a city. He wants to clean the city of the Mafia. He keeps saying that he wants to take them down but then he just ‘forgot’ because there’s more pressing matters to see to, and maybe that’s true but sometimes I think his sire just kept him busy so he couldn’t, and there’s that rumor that she sired Mr. Carolla, so I was going to meet up with him to find out, but… maybe that doesn’t matter, I was just thinking of ways to snap his collar to her.” She takes a breath. Collects herself.

“He’s twice-collared to her. He wants to believe that she’s good, but he knows that she was behind that massacre in 2011, that she sold them out to the prince, and she’s ‘just as ruthless as any other elder when it comes down to it.’ He implied that she was collared by him. The prince, I mean. That she made a mistake and she’s stuck now.”

“He wants to believe that Kindred can be good. He talks about Carthage a lot. He doesn’t think violence is a good answer to problems. He’s… loyal, once you get him on your side, but he… well, to be honest, he doesn’t like you because of your ties with the mob. He doesn’t trust you.” She looks down. “Sorry,” she murmurs, as if that makes it better.

“He regrets faking his death. He’s upset about his dad no longer having children. The Garrison line died with Dani. He wishes he’d stuck around for his dad. He’s concerned about me, to some extent, and my safety. He… um, his haven was attacked recently while I was there, and he lost control and killed them because he thought they might hurt me, and he’s never actually killed before that. He’s upset about it.”

Once she starts talking about him it gets easier. She tells her grandsire everything she thinks will help regarding his question about Roderick.

GM: “Very informative, my dear,” Savoy says thoughtfully, drumming his fingers. “I think there’s a few things we can use here. But you said you had something else?”

Celia: “A few more things. Unrelated, and related.”

“Has Warden Lebeaux spoken to you regarding the information I shared with him earlier this week? I don’t want to repeat anything you already know.”

GM: “He has, but why don’t you bring it up so we’re on the same page?”

Celia: “The prince has sired a childe.”

GM: “Ah, yes,” Savoy smiles. “It sounds as if she was quite taken by you.”

Celia: That, at least, earns a self-satisfied smirk.

“I believe so.”

GM: “Very good. You should continue seeing each other.”

Celia: “I had thought the same. My concern is that she knows me as Celia, and I don’t wish to connect Celia to Jade with more people than I need to. There’s also the possibility that she discovers the truth of my lineage, which… well, that could spell trouble.”

GM: “The secret of Celia’s identity is already out to her,” states Preston with a verbal shrug.

Celia: “That wasn’t my concern, Madam Preston.”

GM: “There are methods by which to mask the taste of one’s blood. It is not improbable she has tasted the sheriff’s already.”

Celia: “She and I have also already shared blood. That is the issue.”

GM: “You spoke ‘discovers’ in future tense, Miss Kalani. Save memory alteration or killing her, there is little to be done for the past.”

“Her relationship with your sire, however, is poor. All the more so now that both wish to be named the prince’s heir.”

Celia: There’s nothing to do about it except hope that Caroline keeps her mouth shut in the meantime. She doubts the girl has any reason to, given the situation, especially if what Preston says is accurate. And why wouldn’t it be?

Celia can simply die, she supposes. It’ll hurt her mother, but without proof… enough people can connect her to Jade though, which is a risk, but she can disappear for a bit. She plans to leave the city for a while anyway.

It’s not really her neck on the line if Donovan is caught with an illegal childe, is it? She’s not an abandoned fledgling. Not that it would stop them from taking away one of her grandsire’s pawns if they could, coming for her anyway. And Veronica for claiming her. And everyone else who helped cover it up. Guilty by association and all that.

She flattens her lips into a thin line.

Maybe they should just lock her in a basement somewhere to keep her from fucking things up.

“Mr. Durant mentioned that some of the primogen on the Calbido would appreciate your presence there as well,” Jade finally says to her grandsire. “You can see the vote, split as it is. I wasn’t sure if it was something you wanted, or if you’d prefer to just know what they were up to without the seat, and I discovered something that could tip the balance in your favor.”

“That being said… I think there is a greater use for it than a seat on the Calbido.”

“It is no longer a matter of if our prince will abdicate his throne. It is a matter of when. While the issue of his childe causes some concern, I believe that her history these past months has worked against her. She has made enemies of most she should have been able to call friend, and while her blood is potent, while she is physically strong, I do not believe that she would be anything more than a puppet to the seneschal, Cabildo, or anyone else that she allies herself with were she to claim power. The city needs a stronger prince, and I have little doubt that the city’s elders would be leery at best to throwing in for someone so young.”

It’s a rather polite way of saying that Caroline has absolutely no social skills.

“The fledgling aside, the others who stand in your way, with the exception of my sire, are all Invictus: Primogen Poincaré, Prince Guilbeau, and Lord Councilor McGinn. As discussed prior, we have begun the process of pulling Mr. Guilbeau to our side with the takeover of Harrah’s, and progress has begun on that front.” She’s already fucked one of the two people she needs to fuck, she means, and will be meeting with Marcel shortly now that she has his attention.

“I will be honest that I don’t know Regent McGinn as well as you or Madam Preston probably do, so perhaps my calculations are off base… but we have seen his climb to power these past few years, and we all know of the way he wishes to grind his ‘rival,’ Primogen Poincaré, into the dust. Not getting a seat on the Calbido surely rankled him. While it is not the title of prince, perhaps he would content himself with that were we to open the door for him.”

Finally, Celia allows herself a small smile.

“I have discovered interesting information about the current Ventrue primogen that would possibly vex the prince to the point of dismissing him from his position. Were that information to make it into the right ears, well, perhaps it would be enough to make Regent McGinn thankful enough to throw his weight behind you when the time comes.”

“There remains the issue of Primogen Poincaré. Some say that he has turned his sire into no more than a puppet, but I think, perhaps, the opposite may be true. I have no wish to speak ill of them, but… they stand in your way.”

They stand in his way, and she will remove them for him if he needs her to.

“Perhaps you have use for them. If not, I… may have further information that could be essential in dismantling their power base.”

“The first is what you’ve already read on the transcript. Primogen Chastain suggests to throw childer to the Inquisition. Just… like we’re nothing.” Celia finally looks back at him now, hands twisting in her lap. “I… I get it, I guess, get rid of the new to save the old, let at least some of them survive, make them think that they got all the Kindred in the city. You can always create new childer, right? What does it matter if a seven-year-old neonate dies compared to the loss of an elder? All that history. All that power. Life, even unlife, is cheap.”

Would he do that to her? Throw her to the hunters to kill like she’s nothing? She doesn’t want to think that he has it in him, she wants to think that he cares more for her than some random off the street, but what is she to him? His grandchilde. Not even of his blood, just his estranged childe’s blood, and no matter how useful she tries to make herself she doesn’t think she will ever be able to atone for spilling their plans to Donovan shortly after her Embrace or messing up with Roderick. If her own grandmother would have seen her aborted for the good of her child, what’s her life worth against the rest of her kind?

She swallows the thought.

“I don’t think that any of the young ones would agree. And maybe they’re not heavy hitters, but they are numerous. If we could get that word out, tell people how callously she views them all… perhaps it would turn public opinion. Which, admittedly, might not sway who takes the throne. As you pointed out to me before, this is not a democracy. But if the favored childer or pets of elders start disappearing… it might be enough to turn the tide against her, and her childe. For example… Mr. Durant was attacked in his haven by three hunters. He’d be ash, possibly worse, if I hadn’t been there to wake him. If his sire were to think that it was another primogen who sent them after him as the first sacrifice…”

Maybe Coco’s loyalty isn’t something that he needs.

“I mentioned before that she’s stuck. Collared. Not fully, maybe, but he said after the accident of Mr. Kelley she became stuck, and if she had to drink from him to avoid further punishment, and if she had to do it when she arrived because of their clan enmity…”

Celia shrugs. Maybe Coco is a non-factor here, but from what Roderick said Savoy has been courting her for some time to sway her to his side, and she had seen as much last night.

“She might throw in for Malveaux-Devillers regardless, depending on the bond or her desire to assert more independence to Mid-City. Mr. Durant has implied belief that the next prince will not be as strong or heavy-handed and will be unable to crack down on the Anarchs as much as our current prince does, which I believe is also a factor in her holdout.”

Finally, she shakes her head.

“I’ve gotten off topic. There is further yet to be used against Primogen Poincaré and the prince both.”

Celia sits back in her chair, crossing one leg over the other. She doesn’t otherwise fidget, though the words stick in her throat. After a moment she finds her voice.

“I have reason to believe that the prince is feeding on neonates. Specifically the Storyvilles. It was something that came up before Rox—Miss Gerlette died. I think that her lover, Evan, was killed for it. Drained by the prince, perhaps, and his childe covered it up by blaming the scourge. She’s an easy person to lay blame on, and I had thought to do the same with Miss Gerlette’s disappearance. Perhaps Evan was an accident, but when the Storyvilles started looking into it they started vanishing, and the coincidence of Malveaux-Devillers joining up with them and pointing fingers at others is… well, it’s a bad cover up, really, and it’s rather telling that the only one of them still alive is her lover, Miss Jocelyn Baker. I would not be surprised if the story she concocted about Meadows coming after Suarez was but another cover. She’s fast, certainly, and maybe she brought an army of ghouls like the Anarchs claim, but then why hasn’t retribution been taken against her? Why is Meadows content to leave her alone if she thrashed her so thoroughly? I think Malveaux-Devillers sought to curry favor with her sire and has been feeding him, made up the story about taking on Meadows because she was tired of looking like a bottom-feeder, and used it as a convenient excuse for his behavior.”

“Which brings us to Primogen Poincaré.”

“I have Evan’s former ghoul. I questioned her thoroughly about the situation, and she let slip that the Storyvilles were meeting covertly with the prince. She was mind-twisted into forgetting it, but I was able to get through that. It sounded like there was some sharing of blood, at the least.”

“She mentioned that shortly before his disappearance Evan was on edge. Scared, nervous, anxious. And that he met with Primogen Poincaré about it. Felt better when he came back. I think… I think he might have told Primogen Poincaré. I’m supposed to meet with him after Elysium next week to speak about it. I don’t expect he’ll sell out his prince regardless of my relationship to him. But if he did know, and if he didn’t do anything, and if he sat idly by when the prince excused that behavior from Mr. Matheson…”

What’s that saying? Guilty by association? Accessory after the fact? It’s circumstantial, but then when have Kindred politics ever played fair?

It’s enough, she thinks, to sink both of their reputations.

GM: “The Cabildo have wanted Lord Savoy to sit on their body for some time, as well as the Baron,” states Preston. “This is unlikely to come to pass even if they achieve a majority vote. The prince will simply overrule them.”

“But it is telling that it’s come up again, Nat,” Savoy replies consideringly. “So is the size of the vote, for that matter.”

Savoy smiles at Celia’s words concerning Vidal’s childe.

“Oh, she’s definitely something special, my dear. I should like to see what she’ll make of herself in a century or two! But no, she’ll never be prince this early in her Requiem. She’ll either be a figurehead for Maldonato or a bride for Donovan.”

“I find the latter unlikely, sir,” states Preston. “Anarchs might mistake her for the sheriff’s pet, but their poor relationship is not news to us.”

“She has made many enemies and few inroads, as Miss Kalani observes.”

Savoy just grins. “You should know better than anyone else not to underestimate her, Nat. We both know how fatal a mistake that can be.”

“I see very few of those enemies as lasting ones, given the names in her lineage. Except perhaps for Donovan. If she’s Maldonato’s figurehead, after all, he won’t be prince.” He winks at Jade. “Your sire’s the one I’d watch closest, my dear, out of all the claimants.”

“Potential inducements for Regent McgGinn have been considered,” states Preston. “Primogen would likely be an appealing position for him in the new order. What information have you discovered concerning Primogen Hurst, Miss Kalani?”

Savoy smiles at Celia’s talk concerning the primogen. “The last time elders threw their childer to the Inquisition’s pyres, my dear, the results nearly destroyed all of our kind. Feeding a fire only makes it burn larger and hotter.”

“But we are going to keep this to ourselves, concerning what the primogen have been saying. Right now it’d largely amount to rumors and hearsay, even if we came out publicly. That would just make us enemies among the Cabildo and alert them as to Mr. Durant’s leak.” Savoy chuckles. “Before we’ve even managed to make him a ‘real’ leak, at that!”

“Don’t ever forget, the Invictus, Tremere, and Anarchs aren’t the Sanctified. Their leaders only support our prince as long as they consider him the winning horse.”

“Feeding on neonates like Mr. Matheson could certainly well change that.” Savoy smiles. “That would rather neatly explain what become of the Storyvilles. How can we assist you in your meeting with the primogen, my dear?”

“He’s hardly going to blab ‘I know the truth’ to Miss Kalani, sir,” says Preston. “If he knows anything, he’ll just lie and send her on her way. Then send someone to silence her if he thinks she suspects.”

“Don’t underestimate this neonate either, Nat,” winks the French Quarter lord.

Celia: Celia waits while the two discuss her report amongst themselves, quietly absorbing their words. They make solid points considering many things she brought up that she hadn’t considered; she’s glad she waited to speak with them before acting.

Perhaps they should take this item by item.

Unfair, isn’t it, that Caroline can blunder her way through her Requiem and all is forgiven when she is announced as Vidal’s childe, while if Celia were to come forward as Donovan’s they would wonder what such a monster saw in her and ask themselves how thoroughly she takes after her sire. It is all well and good for the sheriff to have the personality of concrete, but his neonate childe is nothing but a chink in that armor and an extension of his severity. Her existence serves only to punish him should that truth get out. Already she can picture the responses of those close to her: immoral, cold-blooded, inflexible. Ruthless.

Isn’t she, though? Isn’t that why she thinks he turned her? Not because she has mastered his level of austerity, but because she will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. She is not some unstoppable force, no, not some battering ram that hits again and again and again and hopes this time her opposition shatters; she is not ice, unyielding with her jagged edges. She is liquid. She overcomes obstacles by rising above or swirling around them. She gives when someone puts their hand inside of her, nestles into the little nooks and crannies of the world around her, carves her niche out over time like the great rivers of the past. She can be as gentle as a trickle or as forceful as a tsunami. Even her form is malleable: she takes the shape of whatever container they put her in, hardens when the atmosphere calls for it, or floats on by as little vapors in the air, unseen.

The waves do not care if you cannot swim when they come for you.

“Fatal?” she asks after their words about Caroline. She looks between the pair, because the idea of a well-connected, powerful, beautiful blonde Ventrue coming after her is some cause for concern. Why wouldn’t she take out her rival’s childe?

GM: “From what Warden Lebeaux has informed us, Miss Kalani,” Preston answers, “had Miss Malveaux wished you ash, she had more convenient opportunity to render you such while you were in the Garden District. Slaying you gains her nothing, in any case. It is more probable, if she ascertains the blood relation between you and the sheriff, that she will seek to use your existence as leverage over him.”

“I can’t see him taking that well,” chuckles Savoy. “He’d then most likely attempt to kill her himself. Discretely.”

“A Prince Maldonato with Miss Malveaux as his figurehead is a greater threat to us than Prince Donovan. If the sheriff succeeded in killing her, so much the better for us!” smiles the French Quarter lord.

“Better still if the prince discovers his deed, too,” states Preston. “It will drive Prince Vidal to a fury like little else, and the seneschal will have no figurehead. The succession would become a truly open question.”

“Hmm,” muses Savoy. “I think there’s much that Miss Malveaux and I have in common, and many things we might do for one another. You know I hate to throw away any potential asset, Nat.”

“But she might not be salvageable, either. It has been some time since she last gave us a call.” The French Quarter lord gives a self-deprecating chuckle. “So we’ll go into this with open eyes, but we’ll give diplomacy a last go. Jade can see Miss Malveaux again to discuss the benefits of a continued association.”

He looks at Celia. “I think she already suspects that I know her real sire. You can play apparently straight with her, my dear, and confirm that I do—I don’t imagine she’s about to report your conversation to the prince. You can tell her that I’d like to discuss the things we can do for one another. Things ranging from her personal future to Richard Gettis to the future of the Sanctified. I’d like you to arrange a direct communications channel between us. Perhaps a meeting with Melissaire at the LaLaurie House or Giani Building—I can speak through her, and I imagine Miss Malveaux will feel safe at either of those locations.”

“And if she doesn’t seem interested in talking, well, I suppose we’ll just have to kill her. There’s several ways we might orchestrate that.” Savoy sounds for all the world like he’s discussing the weather.

Celia: Jade nods her head at the plan. Part of her fears are put to rest. She switches gears to the other thing weighing on her mind while they are on the topic of the Ventrue.

“If Miss Malveaux has already disseminated the fact that I am an illegal Embrace… I’m no longer an unreleased fledgling, so the prince’s rule concerning their treatment doesn’t quite apply to me. But I wouldn’t put it past someone to use it as an excuse to take away one of your subjects.”

Is there such a thing as statute of limitations in Kindred society? For all the friends that she has made, she can’t quite imagine any of them jumping in front of that blade for her.

GM: “There is not,” Preston answers. The punishment of such crimes depends entirely upon the inclinations of the prince and the clout of the illegal childe and their political allies.

Celia: Well.

That answers that question.

She supposes she’ll have to cross that bridge if it’s ever built.

She moves on. Or rather, moves back to a prior topic.

“Primogen Hurst has taken a thin-blood lover that resides within the Quarter.”

Saying it aloud now, she doesn’t know if it will be enough to displace him from his seat. It would be one thing for him to take one of those from Mid-City; his dalliance with someone from her grandsire’s camp, she imagines, is even less favorable.

GM: Preston makes no effort to hide her look of disgust.

“Rather damning,” chuckles Savoy. “Well done, my dear. Tell us more.”

Celia: She gives him the details of the thin-blood: Patricia Strickland, former adjunct professor at Tulane (she taught something with gender studies, Jade had found in her digging, and she relays this as well; she thinks that maybe Strickland and Preston would have gotten along if the former wasn’t a thin-blood).

“She has been around since at least 2011. She lived in Mid-City prior to her relocation to the Quarter. There was a…” Jade pauses, considering her words. “An extermination of the thin-blooded populous in December that year, set up by the two regents of the parish. They ducked out to hide their hand in it and save face.” As they’ve been told to again, according to that transcript.

“Strickland was one of the most vocal of the thin-blooded to attend. She pushed for equal rights. When the group came to kill them, she was one of two survivors. She has since been in the Quarter and has assisted with the transition of many from Mid-City to your territory, citing that Mid-City is unsafe and that you are a better, um, overlord is the word I’ve heard used.”

Jade pulls out her phone, showing them the former professor’s photo on a defunct Tulane faculty page.

“I had hoped we could use it to oust him from his seat.”

“Truthfully I’m not sure why she’d have taken up with him in the first place. Though he was a perfect gentleman to her while I was there.”

GM: Preston gives Jade an extremely flat look.

“Do you think we are idiots and do not know who Strickland is, Miss Kalani? Or what occurred at Cypress Grove Cemetery in 2011?”

Celia: “I… was just being thorough.”

GM: “Vidal is the city’s current prince. Lord Savoy rules the French Quarter. The Camarilla is an organization of vampires, who call themselves Kindred. Vampires drink blood and burn in sunlight. Is that also sufficiently thorough?”

Savoy raises a hand. “Now, now, Nat. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain in thoroughness. Better we review some details we may already know than risk overlooking even one we may not.”

Jade’s phone silently vibrates in her purse.

Celia: “I don’t have anything further to add about Strickland.” She doesn’t know what else they’re looking for.

She ignores the phone; she’ll get back to them later.

GM: “Where and how did you discover this information, Miss Kalani?” Preston asks.

Celia: Oh. That. Why hadn’t they just asked to begin with?

She tells them: at his haven using an alternate identity that can pass as mortal.

GM: “Do you have photographs, audio recordings, or other inculpatory evidence, Miss Kalani?” Preston asks.

Celia: “Yes, Madam Preston.”

The phone makes another appearance. She pulls up the relevant files.

GM: Savoy smiles. “Cleverly done, my dear. The two of you can schedule an audience with Regent McGinn to discuss how best to release these pictures. We’ll do so publicly once he understands he owes his Cabildo seat to our support.”

“If he doesn’t find that arrangement palatable, there are other interested parties who likely will.”

Celia: Jade gives another nod and says she will make herself available as needed. She asks Preston if, considering their shared Invictus ties and her greater standing in general, she would prefer to be the one to reach out, or if Jade should take care of it.

GM: The Malkavian answers that she will do so, so as to secure a sooner audience.

Celia: That settled, Jade moves on to their final “targets,” Primogen Poincaré and his sire.

“I believe Madam Preston’s earlier assessment is correct in regards to how he would handle the situation. The meeting is already scheduled, but if you would prefer that I not make contact about it there are other avenues to pursue. We could handle them another way.”

GM: “How would you play things, my dear?” Savoy asks.

Celia: “I don’t know,” Jade admits at length. “I don’t think they should be allowed to freely stand in your way, but I agree that leaking the transcript with Primogen Chastain will lose us more than it gains. I haven’t had much contact with her. With him… he still has concern for his childe, estranged though she may be, and thinks well enough of me to send the archon my way for assistance with a surgical matter. Perhaps there is a way to use her for an in? His feud with Regent McGinn could be utilized, but if we’re promising him a seat on the Cabildo…” Play them both? She’s not sure that she has anything her pretend grandsire wants. Just the thing with Cloe, but even that she can’t do on her own. His hands, maybe. She’s long thought about fixing his hands. But she’s not a bone surgeon, she doesn’t know that she can right it. Unless he lets her remove everything, pull the phalanges from a cadaver. Then it’s not bone work itself, but flesh work around the bone, and that might work if he’s amenable to not having his own fingers…

Would he trade favors for the use of his hands again? She would.

Cartilage, maybe. Harden it. Use it as a stand-in.

Meet with him anyway and suss out the truth of the matter with the Storyvilles, find out if he knew. What’s the worst that happens, he gets suspicious and rips his way into her mind and she ends up lobotomized?

GM: “Use of his hands is a small thing to trade for information that could remove Prince Vidal’s legitimacy,” Savoy muses. “If this information is true, I suspect Poincaré is already considering how to use it to advance his position.”

Celia: That definitely answers that question.

GM: He chuckles. “I don’t see our prince responding especially well to direct threats.”

“However, whether it’s true or not matters less than whether there’s proof.”

“Talking to the primogen, by itself, wouldn’t get us that. We’d be no worse off than if we just started a rumor, without Jade ever talking to him.”

“We might even be better off, since her doing so is a potential danger.”

“Merely starting a rumor accomplishes little by itself, sir,” states Preston. “It must have apparent basis in fact for it to spread and take hold in minds.”

“You’re not wrong, Nat.” He looks back to Jade. “I’d continue to look into what’s become of the Storyvilles. The prince feeding on them would be a delicious scandal after Mr. Matheson. But I don’t know how fruitful an avenue the primogen is likely to be.”

Celia: She has further avenues to explore. The Baron’s girl. The fortune teller. It doesn’t solve the problem of the primogen standing in his way, but she’s not sure there’s anything she can do about that right now. She’ll keep looking into both.

She says as much.

It feels like less of an overall victory; she had hoped to take out all three of them for him.

GM: Savoy expresses his approval and says she has but to ask if there are any resources she desires to aid in her search.

“You originally scheduled this meeting, sir, to discuss Mr. Durant,” Preston states.

“Ah yes, so we did,” Savoy smiles. “Where did we leave off?”

Celia: “His plans to move his sister.” She shares her final thoughts on that, but that’s the last she has on Roderick directly after spilling her guts about him earlier. She had told him everything she could think of.

“The idea of serving you doesn’t appeal to him. His sire and the rest of the Cabildo has poisoned his mind against it. I thought maybe I could pull him away from his sire, but he’s twice-bonded. Short of overriding that with my own—” which has all sorts of potential complications but is something she’ll do if she needs to “—I had some thoughts on other ways to sever it. Tying his sire to the Mafia somehow, though that would need to happen independently of our relationship as I don’t think he’d trust that if it came from me or anyone on your side. He was pretty angry when we discussed that rumor about her also siring Mr. Carolla.” She’ll find out the truth of that when they get together, but if it is just a rumor then she needs a backup plan. Maybe one of them has an idea.

“He doesn’t want to betray her. She has been a good sire to him. But if he thought that she betrayed him first, or even if her entire purpose in Embracing him had been a ruse…” Jade trails off, leaving it open for discussion.

It feels too much like asking for help when she’d been the one to knock the plan astray. So much for riding the high over the Hurst thing; she’d imagined this meeting going very differently. Shame, hot and heavy, makes her drop her gaze.

“There’s also the matter of Miss Garrison herself,” she tells the table. “She doesn’t recall who Embraced her. Perhaps if we could offer Mr. Durant a name it might give him somewhere to focus his aggression regarding her state, and he might be grateful to us for turning them over to him.” Not that she expects a real name, just a likely patsy. She thinks both Savoy and Preston realize the implication, though. And if they did happen to have a hand in Dani’s Embrace she doesn’t want to know.

There’s more, but she waits a beat.

GM: “That’s a promising idea with his sire, my dear,” Savoy smiles. “Very promising. Wouldn’t you agree, Nat?”

“As long as he’s as loyal to his sire as Miss Kalani describes, sir, any intelligence from him is suspect,” Preston replies.

“That’s very true. All right, Jade. I want you to arrange a meeting between Mr. Durant and me,” says Savoy.

“Tell him that’s how he’s repaying his boon to me. He’s coming here to the Evergreen so the four of us can talk in privacy.”

“If he wants to enter in disguise, that’s fine with me. He doesn’t have to tell the world that he’s stopping by. I doubt he particularly does. So long as he’s sitting next to where you are now, I’ll consider the boon fulfilled.”

Preston looks through her tablet. “You have a Wednesday opening at 3 AM, sir, to meet with Mr. Durant.”

“Hmm,” answers Savoy. “When are you going to reunite him with his sister, my dear?” he asks Jade.

Celia: “I had planned on tomorrow evening.” She tells them briefly of her dinner plans. Her mother lives further into the Quarter than she thinks he will risk attempting a breakout from, and she doesn’t think that he’ll endanger the Masquerade to force Dani out in front of her mother or sister. She had also planned on applying some “special effects makeup” (they both know what she means, but Roderick doesn’t) to disguise him. At this point, Dani doesn’t know that her brother is still around.

“I’d thought that if she did she would demand to see him immediately, and I wanted to make sure I had her loyalty first. If any of what I’ve just said is unacceptable to you I will cancel tomorrow. Mr. Durant is unaware of the plans; I didn’t want to give him enough time to make his own.”

GM: “Prudent,” says Preston.

Celia: “I suspect he’ll want to speak with her privately as well. I had planned to use my public haven. Or the krewe’s.” Both are situated well into the Quarter, and Dani is staying at neither.

GM: “The location is immaterial,” says Preston.

“It’s best if we see Mr. Durant soon after he sees his father,” says Savoy. “When are the next openings in my schedule, Nat?”

“Monday at 11 PM is the soonest, sir,” answers the Malkavian.

Celia: “I can reschedule the dinner to Monday, if you’d prefer.”

GM: “Sunday still works splendidly, my dear. Just introduce him to his sister too before he stops by the Evergreen.”

“There is also the matter of Mr. Durant’s plan to abscond with the thin-blood, sir,” says Preston.

Celia: She had planned to introduce them after the dinner, when they’d have a moment to actually speak to each other privately. She could put it off until Monday, and Dani shouldn’t know it’s him if things go to plan. Which she can’t count on. And he’ll want to know why he can’t talk to her immediately. Then exchange numbers, she’ll want to know why she can’t go with him immediately or stay with them. Track her phone. Steal the phone? Guards. All she has to do is keep Dani safe until Monday evening, which is tomorrow and Monday during the day. Rotating guards. Maybe see if she can borrow Tantal, cash in the favor if Lebeaux doesn’t need him. The shadow dancer?

No, maybe not.

Tell Dani to call off school and work for the day to keep her out of Riverbend and Mid-City.

Stake her in a basement somewhere, no one will find her then.

Stake him in a basement somewhere.

He’ll know she spilled the plan. So much for trust.

Then again, if they just can’t find Dani, that doesn’t really come back on Jade.

GM: “So there is. What advantages do you see to introducing them on either day?” Savoy asks Jade.

Celia: “Sunday: he’ll expect it after dinner since one of them flows well into the other, he’ll trust me or at least that I’m doing right by his sister, she will likely be less angry at me when she discovers that I’ve kept her from her brother. It’s essentially just their opinion on me, sir. He’ll see me as on his side. Better for the longer game.”

Is Coco telling him the same thing, to get in good with Jade so he can manipulate her, too?

“Monday will cause tension, but gives him less opportunity to sway her to his side. It will allow me to warn her he’s around. Meeting her will be fresh in his mind when he meets you. I can show her what unlife is like for thin-bloods in other cities or even other parts of the city. And him. Show him the Square once the tourists are gone, maybe, or the rest of the unappealing parts of the Quarter. More time to get things in order, less chance he makes contact to abduct her. Better for the short game. Unless he sees me not letting him meet her privately as a, um, breach of trust and then doubles down on his plan without telling me about it.”

Then there’s no game.

“My concern in letting them meet on Sunday is that he’ll have more time to get to her and pull her away. She’s rather taken with me, but he’s family.” Sunday makes more sense from a flow perspective, but Monday is objectively better otherwise.

She’s also concerned about him putting his fists through her face again, then dragging her to Coco to wake up, and that’s… a problem.

Celia: Speaking of Coco…

“There’s also one other thing that occurrs to me regarding Mr. Durant and his sire. He mentioned that they have gotten into it a few times. Most recently he screamed at her following last night’s Elysium, but he has mentioned it happening a few times.” She can’t imagine screaming at her grandsire regardless of how vastly their opinions differ. “I don’t know if he’s the type to be able to quietly continue serving her if he thinks she violated his principles. Which makes him less useful to you if he’s on the outs with her and no longer the scribe.”

Which undoubtedly already occurred to both of them.

GM: “Tell you what, my dear. I trust your judgment. Introduce brother and sister to each other on whichever day you see fit,” smiles Savoy. “Just let us know where Dani is staying, so we can have someone keep an eye on her during the day.”

“If you can find out the shadow dancer’s name, all the better. Pass it along to Fabian and we’ll take care of them.”

Celia: “Yes, sir. I’ll find out.”

She passes along the address where Dani is staying and says she’ll let them know if it changes.

GM: “Very good,” says Savoy. “We’re going to acquire a vitae sample from Mr. Carolla for Warden Lebeaux. That’ll be someone else’s mission than yours. If you can acquire a vitae sample from Mr. Durant, that’ll let us find out whether there’s any truth to the rumor of them being broodmates. We’ll proceed based on what we find.”

Celia: Does that mean she doesn’t need to go on a date with him?

“Yes, sir. I’ll get one. I have one from his sister. If you want it to find out who did this to her.” If they don’t already know.

GM: “Her sire is irrelevant for our purposes,” states Preston.

“Doesn’t hurt us to have, though,” answers Savoy. “You can turn both of those over to Mélissaire or Fabian once you have them. Before our Monday meeting would be best.”

Celia: “Yes, Madam Preston. I assumed as much. I just wanted to cover my bases. It will be done as you say, sir.”

There’s a brief pause.

“Her usefulness to us is only as leverage over her brother. She’s pretty adamant about finishing school. She goes to Tulane and clerks in Mid-City. If she’s picked up in either area we lose our leverage. I thought that if I could secure her safe passage into Riverbend her brother would have less to complain about. Or rather, it would put him further into our pocket. I don’t think she should be allowed into Mid-City at all. Chance of being picked up is too high if they’re looking for her there.”

Another pause. Nothing to lose in asking, even if she doesn’t think he’ll go out of his way for a thin-blood.

“I was wondering if there was any way to put her in at the Supreme Court instead. I was planning on marking her to make her smell human, so no one would know. The shadow dancing trick.”

GM: “The thin-blood’s job occupation is hardly meaningful to us. Have her give haircuts at your salon if you wish her to be gainfully employed,” Preston answers disdainfully.

Celia: Right.

“Okay.”

“Except that every trip outside the Quarter is going to be a risk she’s picked up by someone else. So while she doesn’t matter, if we don’t have her then we don’t have him.”

GM: “We can also secure her employment as a waitress. Or perhaps a strip club,” the Malkavian continues, faintly sneering. “Or a janitor, if she would prefer slower-paced work. That seems like a good idea, Miss Kalani. She might as well earn her keep if she’s staying with you.”

Celia: Jade purses her lips.

“I’m aware that you look down on her kind. Until her brother is securely in our pocket I had wanted to at least pretend to care. I already can’t adequately explain why everyone hates her, or why she can’t come to the cool kids parties, or why she’s suddenly a second class citizen. She’s a female version of her brother; she hardly sits idly by while something she perceives as injustice is thrown in her face. It would be the same if you were barred from something on account of formerly being female.”

“I’m not asking to parade her around as a pet. I’m asking to give her a reason to not run into his arms the moment he shows.”

“And I’m not interested in stepping on your toes to do so,” she says to Savoy. “So if it’s no then it’s no.”

GM: Savoy chuckles. “I’m inclined to agree with you, my dear. That sort of work is only likely to make Mr. Garrison and his sister both resentful.”

“There’s an immigration court here in the Quarter. We’ll get her a place there.”

Celia: “Thank you.”

GM: “Courts conduct their business during the day, sir. The entire point may be moot,” says Preston.

Celia: “She doesn’t burn.”

GM: “Abominations,” says Preston, shaking her head.

Savoy smiles vaguely. “I suppose that addresses that.”

Celia: “I don’t understand,” Jade finally says. “What’s the prophecy about them? Why are they supposed to doom us all?”

GM: “Oh, that’s really just old superstitions,” answers Savoy. “But they do provide some extra oomph to the secular reasons, don’t they, Nat?”

“Yes, sir. Thin-bloods reproduce at an extraordinary rate. Almost every one of them is a violation of the Third and Fourth Traditions, and many of them wind up violating the First and Second, down the line. They represent a breakdown in the Camarilla’s civil order. A mass breakdown.”

Celia: She’s curious about that, whether they reproduce so much because no one bothered to explain the rules to them or if it’s something worse. Like a contagion. Maybe they can’t help it, it just spreads. And Dani can’t even use powers half the time, not unless she has vitae in her system it seems like.

“Primogen Chastain seems convinced they’re going to be the cause of our destruction. Even Mr. Durant’s sire wouldn’t tell him about it.”

Must be bad, secular reasons aside.

GM: Preston shrugs. “The chances of Mr. Garrison’s sister being apprehended in Riverbend during the day are minimal. But the risk is not nonexistent, and there is no gain to us in a thin-blood’s continued school attendance.”

Celia: Jade lets the topic drop. If they don’t think it’s a concern then she won’t let it bother her.

“I had planned to mark her. With the shadow dancing mark, to hide what she is.”

GM: “Then the risk is close to nonexistent, but there is still no gain,” states the Malkavian.

Celia: “It just comes back to us presenting a friendly front to both of them until we get what we want. And if it looks like I pulled strings there then he’ll feel indebted to me.”

Durant, she means.

GM: “I’m inclined to agree,” says Savoy. “Mr. Durant would understand the reasons for his sister not to attend law school, but I doubt he’d be happy, and his sister even less. That just makes us the villains to tell them ‘no.’ I think the risk posed by Miss Garrison’s continued attendance is acceptably low, especially if Jade marks her.”

“A thin-blood with a law degree. What a milestone for Kindred civil rights,” Preston sneers. “Perhaps they will hand them out to monkeys next.”

Celia: “Did they say similar to you when you went to school? The first of many who were born female to take that path. Why is this any different?”

GM: “How forward-thinking of you, Miss Kalani,” replies Preston, her lip curling.

Celia: “She’ll be an expendable pawn. A law degree only makes her more useful before she’s inevitably destroyed.”

GM: “Respected professions have standards to maintain, Miss Kalani, even if your own profession lacks both qualities.”

It’s there on her face. The same look as when Roderick asked if she wanted to paint the scourge’s nails.

Celia: “I have a medical degree,” Jade snaps at her. “Just because I let my clan think I paint faces all day doesn’t mean I don’t have any skills. It’s an easy, passive source of income while I pursue other interests.”

GM: “An online degree if I am not mistaken, Miss Kalani?”

“Enough, Nat,” says Savoy.

The Malkavian says nothing further.

Jade’s grandsire degree smiles at her. “I lack any degree, my dear. So does the prince. It’s easy enough for younger Kindred to get attached to credentials and lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Celia: There’s no other option than an online degree when you’re murdered at 19.

She doesn’t bother thinking it, even knowing that they’re in her head. She just nods her head at her grandsire’s words. No one calls him stupid, she bets.

GM: “If Miss Garrison wants to earn a degree, there’s little harm in it. If she wants to work a legal job without one, credentials are easy enough to forge.” The French Quarter lord chuckles. “What are scraps of paper to one with power to defy life and death? We can take pride in our achievements among kine society if we choose to. But we must never forget that such achievements are as water in a world ruled by blood.”

“‘We are given dominion over the line of Seth, third son of Adam, as he is our youngest brother. We will watch over his children as if they were our own, we will show them the right way, and in return, they will serve us all of their days.’”

Celia: “Yes, grandsire.” Jade bows her head in deference. “As you say.”

GM: “We’ll re-acquaint you with Miss Melton after you’ve brought Mr. Durant to the Evergreen. Would you say that seems fair, for us to make new friends at the same time as one another?” Savoy smiles.

Celia: It feels like punishment.

Deserved, maybe, but punishment all the same.

“Yes, sir.”

GM: Savoy rests a hand on her shoulder.

“I have every confidence in you, my dear. I’ll wish you good luck over these next few nights, but we’ll see how much you even need it!”

Celia: As long as she keeps her mouth shut everything should go fine.

“Thank you.” Her eyes find the table for a moment before she rises, dipping into a curtsy. She doesn’t want to know what happened when they’d put her under earlier. What sort of disparaging remarks had been made about her, how disappointed he had been. There will be no lap for her this evening.

“While I’m here, I found something else that might be of passing interest to you concerning your rival’s mayoral candidate. Drouillard gave the order for Gettis to be put down following the shooting rather than subject his victims to a public trial. It might throw a wrench into his plans if it gets out.”

“The shooter, Jeremy May, has been holed up with the Devillers in the Garden District as private security since his dismissal from the force.”

GM: “Oh, now that’s rather useful for us to know,” smiles Savoy.

He pats his lap.

Celia: She shouldn’t want it as much as she does. But the offer means she did something right, doesn’t it? Even if it’s trivial. Even if it doesn’t mean anything to him, even if it’s a silly gesture. It moves her. She takes a step forward, then another, and soon she’s sliding onto his lap as if it’s the most perfect place in the world. Like this is exactly where she belongs. He’s not large, but she can make herself even smaller; she tucks and curls and fits herself snugly against him, her face hidden in the hollow of his neck. How easy it would be to just… bite. To forcibly take another collar, and then a third, and then there’s no more fuckups, no more questions of loyalty, no more risk that someone else will try to force it on her.

The thought is fleeting.

“Grandsire?” She turns the word into a question, her breath a whisper on his skin.

“I… I wanted to say that I’m sorry for deviating from your plan. I thought there was a flaw in it that I could fix, but that was arrogant of me. Of course there wasn’t. You’ve had centuries to learn and I…” She swallows. “Regardless of my history with him I should have trusted that you had accounted for it. I’m sorry I made it messy and risked everything.”

“It won’t happen again, sir.”

GM: Savoy rubs his hand up and down Jade’s backside. He isn’t a large man. But she can make herself smaller, and his lap is very comfortable. He smells very nice (he’d asked Jade for cologne recommendations, once, as “the beauty professional in our midst”), and his touch is soft and lingering. A hug with one hand.

“I know it won’t, my dear. I can tell how much you want our mission to succeed. So I’m trusting it to you. It’ll be quite a win for us both, if we can get Mr. Durant to come over.”

“But I want you to look for flaws in my plans, too. I want you to tell me every possible flaw you see. I want to hear your ideas. Two minds are smarter than one.”

“It’s very common for the other clans to think our heads are empty because our faces are comely. Sometimes, we hear it often enough that we start to believe it.”

Celia: She blinks back something that might be emotion, snuffing it out like a candle before the wick can do so much as catch. She just wants to prove that she’s not broken, that Paul wasn’t right, that the Nosferatu aren’t right, that she has more value than what she can do on her knees or her back. Even Roderick had—

Celia—not Jade, not right now—closes her eyes against the thoughts because she doesn’t want to think them and she certainly doesn’t want him to hear them. She’ll do better.

She has to.


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Comments

Evergreen Party

Thought about talking to Veronica here when I saw her but decided against it. Clem said “At the Evergreen” but she didn’t specify when, so technically Celia didn’t blow her off. Technically. Amused to see more Micheal the bitch. I keep wondering if there’s more I can do for him but I kind of don’t care enough to. OOC, I’m curious as to why his character had a write out that way where he’s still on screen and just humiliated for it rather than disappearing into the sunset.

Sad I missed the undersea party. I had a bunch of outfits to pick from. I was going to make a joke about tentacles but I see Celia already has. Great minds and all that.

Amused by how absolutely upfront Melton is about this whole thing. “Wanna fuck?” That was easy. I figured she’d frenzy here and was prepared to kill the vessel. Pity it scared off Hearst, I’ve been looking forward to meeting with him, but glad that Laura is made of stronger stuff.

Had fun playing with the scenery here. I enjoyed being able to be like “Ah yes there’s definitely sand, it’s an under the sea party, and of course it’s heated like they’re on a beach.” Gave me a convenient excuse to get Laura up to a shower. Pretty cool that Savoy offers things like that, just open showers where they can rinse off the blood, the clean up, the “lost and found.”

I thought the whole thing with Laura was pretty deftly done. Enjoyed their banter. Not sure if I needed to expose that Jade has claws here, but oh well. Seems like not a very big deal. Have a hunch on what Melton is, anyway, since we know she’s not Gangrel. Also happy to have found someone that can teach her how to do the Contraband thing, provided she and Melton stay friends. I think “playing her role” in pretending to be surprised at the stake was a good call so that she doesn’t know it was Jade who sold her out and set up the whole thing, anyway, even if it did get me staked for my trouble.

Shadow Sex Scene

As we’ve talked about before, I was pretty unenthused with the shadow sex scene. It could have been much cooler than it was. I’m going to copy the feedback that I preemptively wrote about it back when it happened:

I wasn’t super into this sex scene. Not only for the rolls, but for the content itself. “Seduce the shadows” sounded fun in theory, but I was expecting something, uh, nicer? Less violent? I mean the setting itself was kind of perfect, Celia bein’ Celia beneath the shower, could have been a pretty intimate / mind blowing scene where an unseen “assailant” started feeling her up, spun her around, fucked her from behind. They both get off and go their separate ways and she wonders who it is for the rest of the game / tries to find them again / always wonders if she’s alone. Could see her having a crush on the shadow.

Instead it turned into… really violent sex. Which, personally, I’m not into. I tried to roll with it, but it got rather obscene rather quickly. I could have dealt with it not being “romantic,” could have dealt with no buildup or foreplay, but the immediate fisting leading into the throat ripping and then the abdominal tearing doesn’t really do much for my libido. Even if I were (more) of a masochist, this sort of escalation isn’t really within my interests.

Now instead of wanting to find out who it was / pursuing that she’s probably just going to stay as far away as she can, while I was looking forward to trying to puzzle out which ghoul it was and if they’re watching her every time she’s at the Evergreen and does she kind of maybe have a crush on this invisible shadow person?

On a mechanical level, rolling for frenzy during sex is pretty “meh,” and being worried that I’d killed Savoy’s ghoul makes me not want to engage in this sort of thing again.

There are people that I expect sex to be violent with. Veronica, Paul, and Jamal come to mind. Most Kindred come to mind. But there are also people that I don’t expect sex to be violent with. If Roderick were to suddenly rip her open I’d ask “what the fuck.” A ghoul doing it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially since he was relatively decent beforehand: he played along with the idea that she wasn’t in on the attack on Melton, he covered her eyes under the shower so that she didn’t have to deal with that raining down on her, etc.

There was more potential for Celia/Shadow than we see here and it was extremely disappointing. I can think of one or two NPCs that if you were to reveal as the shadow I’d be like “oh okay that makes sense,” but otherwise this section missed the mark for me.

Vinny

Vinny is not attractive. Lame. Thought the dating profile would work out but happy to meet him at the track instead. My other idea was to ask Pete to be his +1 at a cop event. They have parties, right? Glad that the Harrah’s plot is moving forward, anyway. Excited to meet him and kick it off.

Savoy

While we were playing through the meeting with Savoy I was pretty disappointed with it. It was a scene I’ve been looking forward to since September or October, so like six months, and the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. There were a lot of things Celia didn’t bring up that she could have / that I wanted to, but after the fiasco with Roderick it didn’t really feel like something worth getting into. There’s always next time, I guess, but I expected to kind of ride the high of this meeting for a while and it went a completely different direction.

Honestly the whole of Saturday night was kind of lackluster for me, sex with Josua aside.

Celia has a solid point about them just telling her that Gui was watching Dani. I kind of assumed if she’d been hanging out in his club that long that he was in on it, but I still think moving her was the right call. She’s loyal to Celia now, her brother is loyal to Celia now, the situation feels better.

I guess I can explain some reasoning behind some of the things I was thinking here. Savoy asks Celia to flip Roderick and get him to spy. Roderick sees his sister is a thin-blood. He doesn’t know that Savoy knows, but he goes to Savoy anyway to offer his service. Savoy is going to be like, “Uh, why? How can I trust anything you tell me? Sure you hate the prince but your sire hates me. What’s the sudden change?” I wouldn’t have trusted any information he passed along. I’d have assumed he was a double agent. If I were Savoy I’d also want to know why, so I’d start looking into that and find Dani. Did none of that occur to Roderick? I assume that Savoy had some way around it, but the whole thing just felt pretty thin from an outside perspective.

Celia didn’t want bad information from Roderick. She wanted good information because she wants to weaken Vidal’s allies so that Savoy and/or Donovan are the clear choices. Making Roderick think he can trust her was a pretty clear cut way to get him to actually give good information over, so yeah, she spilled about Savoy and Dani. And there was a whole plan there that I was going to put into action but it seemed like the sort of thing that would fall apart and not really work out to much in the long run, so I nixed it. I think given everything we’ve seen that this is going to work out better in the long run.

Maybe I’m just still feeling negative things because of all the Diana stuff happening recently, but I really hate how fucking weak Celia looks here in this meeting.

I had told you that I suspected Savoy was in her head / Dominated her into forgetting a few moments here. You don’t need someone’s blood for Auspex 4: Telepathy to read their mind, but I still think there’s probably an interrogation or something that happened while she was out. Preston pretty handily answered that question about Telepathy for me when she responded to Celia’s thoughts. I don’t know if you’d have done that if I didn’t already tell you what I suspected. To be honest, it made some of the rest of the meeting easier since I could just think things without needing to say them (for example, when Jade is wondering what to offer Accou I didn’t know how to word that as dialogue, so I put it in thoughts so they could see her flickering between ideas and it worked out better).

I was rather pleased with what Celia had been able to present to him regarding the other contenders for the throne. If things work out, Marcel and McGinn might be out of the way, or at least willing to back Savoy against another claimant. I admit that her plan against Accou and Pearl were the weakest of the lot, but I still think that they’re in the way if Savoy / Donovan want to take over. Have further thoughts there. Happy to finally use that lie about Caroline helping her sire eat the neonates. It’s pretty much all circumstantial and would never hold up, but it’s a neatly packaged rumor all the same.

Feel like I should have waited for the end with the Hurst thing. Annoyed that Preston was such a cunt about it. She talks a bunch of shit about thin-bloods but I’m supposed to expect that she knows who all of them are? Also, to be quite honest, I was mostly putting the exposition there for people who are not privy to our OOC conversations and the other players, since some of this was stuff we’d talked about in DMs. Pretty sure Preston was a bitch because Celia thought that they might get along, which isn’t even a bad thing it’s literally just “they had similar interests, too bad Strickland is an abortion.”

The Sunday vs Monday thing for Rod/Dani felt like it dithered a lot.

Oh. “Pass it along to Fabian.” Whoops. Celia told Mel the name of the shadow dancer. I assume it got to the right person, anyway.

God, Preston is such a cunt.

I still like her, but holy shit she’s a cunt. Would have liked to say to her what Celia eventually says to Roderick about Preston and “how fortunate for you that you were Embraced after finishing school,” but didn’t get a chance before Savoy intervened. Oh well.

I get that they don’t give a fuck about Dani. Celia does, but more than that she cares about Savoy’s plans going off without a problem. Dani being in Mid-City is a problem, so moving courts is a good idea. Dani being in Riverbend is a problem, but more of a problem is not finishing school (in Dani’s eyes). Being the good guy will get her further than being the bad guy, which Savoy seems to understand but Preston doesn’t care. It’s a combination of making Dani and Roderick happy to make them loyal. Happy subjects are loyal subjects. Christ.

Story Twelve, Celia XXIV
 

Calder: There probably is more you could do for Mike, but the operative question is indeed whether you care
His own sire certainly doesn’t seem to
His former pals don’t really either
He already established himself as a laughingstock after what the Boggs did to him

Emily: Roderick doesn’t, either. So. Not really.
If someone asked me to I might be moved to do it.
But Celia has no stake there.

Calder: Ah, but has anyone?

Emily: I mean someone that isn’t kine.

Calder: He doesn’t really have any friends

Emily: Some random girl at a party doesn’t count.
Might be a useful pet to keep for Celia, though.
Her very own bitch.

Calder: Bitches are popular pets
Elyse has a whole stable
Micheal got this writeout because ex-PCs almost invariably get grimdark endings
And this was a cool flavor of one

Emily: Ah

Calder: Isa got ripped to pieces, George got executed, Lavine got executed, Julien got ripped to pieces, Mouse got bludgeoned to death… Mike winding up as a bitch was a distinct write-out for the PC that was the logical consequence of his IC actions
He didn’t actually do anything to make someone want him dead ASAP

Emily: Fair enough.

Calder: Vis a vis showers, everyone knows what a great host he is
And there is need for them
Blood frequently gets spilled
I also thought you made a good call with Celia playing her role

Emily: Gotta learn Contraband, ya feel.
Also Melton seems chill.
Even if she is a secret Setite.
What if it’s Sami? :O
Strike that from the record for spoilers.

Calder: I suppose you’ll just see
As far as the shadow, I also thought it was unfortunate that the scene didn’t jive with your expectations

Emily: I wanted Celia to have a secret lover.

Calder: You had a pretty cool and amusing “Oh who was that?” scenario planned with Celia’s invisible fuck buddy

Emily: A secret from her lover.
Exactly.
I tried to write what should have happened but it didn’t go anywhere.

Calder: The scene was also quintessentially Celia
“Someone is maybe watching you invisibly.”
“Okay, I seduce them.”

Emily: “I cast magic missile… at the darkness.”

Calder: “I seduce the darkness.”

Emily: Exactly.
Listen man
They did her a favor
She did them a favor.
It’s a whole thing.
“I’m cute, you can watch me masturbate.”
Was gonna ask savoy who it was but that felt weird.
“Hey man I fucked and maybe hurt your shadow?”

Calder: I didn’t realize at the time that surprise freaky gore-sex would be such a turn-off, anyways. Will bear in mind for future scenes

Emily: Like I said, it was less the freaky / gore and more the “Surprise!”
If I’d expected it, I could have dealt with it.
Like I’m not personally into it, I’m not going to seek it out, but Celia would deal with it for a scene.

Calder: Duly noted. More notice of that stuff
Vinny indeed is not attractive
They can’t all be Celia’s level
Cops do have parties

Emily: Gonna demand a fuckin’ Debt to sleep with this guy.

Calder: Roderick stuff we’ve discussed in a fair amount of depth, and it’s true you didn’t have him quite where you wanted him
But I hope it felt as if Savoy gave you a way forward with the plan, which you’d previously thought was hopeless
I wouldn’t have trusted any information he passed along. I’d have assumed he was a double agent. If I were Savoy I’d also want to know why, so I’d start looking into that and find Dani. Did none of that occur to Roderick? I assume that Savoy had some way around it, but the whole thing just felt pretty thin from an outside perspective.
You might ask Savoy to explain his thoughts/plans there, sometime

Emily: Because elders are sooooo forthcoming.

Calder: Why aren’t they, usually?

Emily: Because they’re mean.

Calder: So is Celia

Emily: Celia is the nicest person I know.

Calder: I’m sorry

Emily: You’re probably right, though.
She’ll ask him tonight when he slips into her head with his bedroom eyes.

Calder: At least here, the information probably isn’t of much value to him. He’s already using you as his agent to bring over Roderick
Vis a vis mind-reading, note the Telepathy description:
The vampire can mentally transmit words and images to nearby people (range of normal sight or hearing) without speaking aloud. They can respond back with words and images of their own. The vampire can also probe deeper to read the victim’s surface thoughts or view the victim’s memories as if the vampire had been there themselves. Victims with Supernatural Tolerance scores can tell whenever a foreign mind is invading theirs in this way, but can’t specifically identify the vampire as the invading mind.

Emily: Then I’m right.

Calder: Maybe. Maybe not
Contenders-wise, I don’t remember if this came up, you left out Steinhausser and Coco

Emily: Coco is no longer listed as a contender.
And Steinhausser I had nothing for.

Calder: I thought your analysis of them all was pretty good
The neonate-eating lie would certainly come at a horrible time for Vidal after Matheson

Emily: PRetty sure it’s not a lie.

Calder: Goes without saying it’d be even worse if it’s true

Emily: Too bad Sidra said no.
About Evan, anyway.

Calder: Preston likely doesn’t know who all the thin-bloods are, though Strickland is probably the best-known one in the Quarter
Given her role in the 2011 massacre and subsequent activities
Amused you like Preston despite her being a cunt
But your observation a while ago was apt
If she had a dick she’d get less crap for it
Her not caring about Dani’s happiness is likely why she’s positioned to be seneschal and Savoy’s positioned to be prince

Emily: It’s not about her happiness. It’s about making it look like they care.

Calder: Yes, that’s better-put
Savoy certainly tries to look like he cares

Emily: Obviously neither one of them do, which Celia knows.
But if they pretend then that’s a mark in their favor with Dani

Calder: Thin-blooded trash that she is

Emily: Even if Rod knows it still lets Dani do what she wants

Calder: It’s a seller’s market when it comes to showing them kindness. The alternative is Vidal/Cypress Grove

Emily: Sure, but Dani is less likely to flee with her brother.

Calder: Oh, there’s no doubt that treating her well begets rewards
She loves Celia, even before the bond
She’s solidly in your corner

Story Twelve, Celia XXIV
Calder_R Calder_R

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