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Victoria III, Chapter XIII
The Life Debt

“Never tell anyone what she means to you. They’ll ruin her, and they’ll ruin you, and they’ll make you do it to each other.”
Jade Kalani

Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM

GM: Victoria wakes in a sterile room. She’s standing, laid carefully on the floor in the small, closet-sized space. There’s nothing in the room. Nothing at all. Not even cameras or an intercom or anything. Just Victoria, the door, and something that looks like an elementary-level puzzle located above the door handle.

Victoria: If she had a heartbeat, it’d have set a world record.


Her palm slams against the door.

Okay. Calm. Calm, Victoria. You need to get out.

She examines the puzzle.

GM: Anna’s nowhere.

The puzzle looks simple enough for a child to solve.

Victoria: She solves it quickly, and pushes on the door.

GM: The lock clicks and the door opens. The room beyond is larger, but just as sterile. A metal operating table takes up the center of the room, with drains placed in strategic locations below and around it. The table has shackles. Next to it is a tray of surgical instruments, plus a few things that might… maybe…? They serve some sort of medical purpose, don’t they? Because otherwise, well…

The rest of the room is similarly set up. Various medical devices lie in spaces across countertops and in drawers. Bottles of liquid sit inside glass cases. A pile of leather is stacked neatly next to the sink.

Two doors lead out of the room, one on either side. Both are closed. One is chained.

Victoria: Victoria drinks in the room with a cool, logical head, and a gentle hand on the beast that already strains at its bindings.

It wants Anna.

Victoria takes a scalpel—just in case—and moves to examine the chained door.

GM: Strain it does.

Victoria is hungry.

So hungry.

There’s a great cat inside her chest, straining to get out.

Her wounds, though, are completely gone. Her skin is as pristine as the day she died.

“Oh, relax, darling,” sounds a familiar voice as she seizes the knife.

Victoria: Her hackles raise as if cold water was just thrown on the cat inside her.

She turns to look.

White_Top1.jpg Jade: She’s appeared out of nowhere. Victoria is positive the room is empty. But Miss Kalani is there, and looks as at home in the surgical suite as she had in McGinn’s estate. Unlike Victoria, who’s still naked and covered in blood, Kalani is pristine. Her hair, makeup, and nails have all been expertly styled. Nude stilettos give the diminutive vampire another few inches, and the deep purple gown that clings and flows in all the right places brings out the jade of her eyes.

She lacks the stillness of the lord and lady councilors, and she does not look half so dead as them. There’s color in her cheeks, the faint sound of a heart beating inside of her chest. If it weren’t for the things she had done to Victoria, and the Beast pacing just behind her eyes, she may as well be human.

“I’m sure you have questions,” she says, idly examining the white polish on her nails. “Let me preempt them. Your slave is nearby, safe. You can see her when we finish in here.”

Victoria: If the color could drain from Victoria’s face, it would leap so far backward that it would leave the wall in pieces and be halfway around the world before Miss Kalani could blink.

She takes an involuntary step backward, trembling.

“Y-you…” she mumbles in chorus with Jade, falling silent after.

“W-what? Why?”

Jade: “Why what?”

Victoria: “W-why did you save us?”

She swallows. The pit settles in her throat.


GM: She swallows.

But there’s no lump in her throat, and no saliva to swallow down it.

There’s just nothing.

Jade: “That wasn’t personal,” Kalani says with a shrug of her slender shoulders. “You’ve managed to piss off a lot of people in very little time.” She sounds amused.

Victoria: “Then… why did you save us?”

Jade: “I have a thing for orphans,” Kalani says with an effected sigh, hand over her heart. “You’ve got Malveaux-Devillers’ panties in a twist and the rest of the city in a tizzy. Now they think you’re dead. There’s freedom in death.”

A smile.

“And debt. You owe me a life boon, darling.”

Victoria: Victoria trembles.

“Was… are…”

She swallows.

“‘A friend’?”

GM: Swallowing does as little for her as the first time. There’s none of the physiological sense of relief.

Jade: “That’s a rather low bar for friendship,” Jade observes.

Victoria: Not her friend.

But not a friend?

“There was… never mind.”

There are more pressing explanations needed.

“My teeth. My bones.”

Her love?

“My Anna…”

Jade: “Compose yourself, fledgling. There’s no crying in baseball.”

Yes, she’d just quoted Tom Hanks. Maybe it’ll make Wolf laugh, or maybe it just dates Jade, but the rebuke is gentle enough. Kalani softens her features.

“I won’t nickle and dime you for this, you’re welcome. The bones will regrow. The teeth will regrow. The Anna will not regrow.” A pointed, disappointed look. “Half-bloods aren’t like us. Don’t throw them around all willy-nilly for someone else to sink their teeth into.”

Victoria: Did she just quote Tom Hanks…?

Victoria looks as if Jade strapped on a clown nose and honked like a goose.

She doesn’t laugh, even if she looks like she’s almost there, but she does compose herself.

“Can your abilities heal Anna? You unwound me with a touch. You put me back together seamlessly.”

Jade: “Yes, I rather did, didn’t I?” Kalani rakes her gaze up and down Wolf’s form, as if searching for imperfections. She doesn’t find any.

“Physically, I can heal her. Mentally and emotionally, that’s on you. Remind me how long you’ve been dead.”

Victoria: “I’ll owe you. If you make her pristine. More than I already do.”

A pause.

“No more than a couple of days. Do you know who did this to me?”

Jade: Jade slides a hand into her pocket and pulls out her phone. She fires off a text, then replaces the phone.

“Do you love her? Your Anna.”

Victoria: “More than anything in the world.”

“All of this. All of what happened. It’s because I tried to take revenge for her.”

Jade: Something crosses her face.

“Never let them know,” she says. Her voice is… different. “Never tell anyone what she means to you. They’ll ruin her, and they’ll ruin you,” her green eyes flash gold, “and they’ll make you do it to each other.”

Victoria: “Sound advice,” she answers. After that experience, she doesn’t need to be told that Anna will be living in a box in a secret closet from here on.

“…I need to know why you did all this. It’s not just because you’re fond of orphans.”

Jade: Kalani giggles. “I’m more fond of strays than orphans, that’s very true.”

“I know your ghoul. We seem to share an annoyance with a particular set of people. It amuses me to know that I’ve outsmarted the elders by saving you.” Jade waves a hand. “All of the above.”

Victoria: “You know Anna?”


Jade: “You know how people say ‘need to know’ and you assume they just want to be dicks and not share intel? I finally find myself on the other side of that, and I guess they’re right. You don’t need to know. It’s not relevant. But I will tell you that it’s caused great profit.”

She’s pleased rather than smug.

“Next question.”

Victoria: She looks nonplussed, but knows better than to punch a giftwhore in the mouth.


Jade: “You know, the whole LaLaurie thing. Bunch of rich kids got shot, rich kids families ask for the best doctor, the doctor works, they owe the doctor.”

Victoria: “I see.”

“Are you to make a profit off me?”

Jade: “We all profit off each other, darling. I profit by saving you. You profit by asking and learning. What is it that you really want to ask?”

Victoria: “Why was I saved from what I assume is the Malveaux family, and why what do they gain from my being a vampire?”

It’s not asking who!

GM: Despite the two being standing, Victoria feels no particular urge to sit. She’s no more sore or tired than nothing.

She doesn’t even feel cold, despite being naked and barefoot.

Jade: “That was not the Malveaux family. The incredibly quick blonde your friend warned you to stay away from was Caroline Malveaux-Devillers.”

Victoria: To her, that’s the Malveaux family.

Jade: Ah, but that hyphen is so significant.

Victoria: “How did I escape? So much of what happened—it was in my head. I woke up this way. I thought I was dead, but this is…”


Jade: “You are dead. And undead. Your physical body is now a sack of meat that protects the thing inside of you. Your soul. Your heart. That’s the only thing that matters. The rest of it is all details,” she waves her hand again, “and we grow back.” Jade considers the naked lick. “Usually, anyway. You will eventually.”

She clasps her hands together.

“So, Victoria—do you mind if I call you Victoria?—we have ourselves a bit of a conundrum. You are what we call a bastard. Rather like an illegal immigrant, you’ve snuck into the city with never a by-your-leave, and that’s an infraction punishable by final death. You’ve already broken the Masquerade, which is also punishable by final death. You were poaching, I assume—how did McGinn get his hands on you, anyway?—which in and of itself isn’t a crime punishable by final death, but regents do what they will.”

Especially now.

“You’re also thrice-damned for your blood,” she adds cheerfully, “and if anyone catches you outside the Quarter it’ll be right to the chopping block.”

“The good news is that everyone you’ve ticked off will soon think that you’re already finally dead.”

“But you’re not! We’ve tricked them. Isn’t that delightful?”

Victoria: “You may call me Victoria.”

There’s a long pause as she processes everything else.

“It doesn’t excuse the crime, not knowing that a crime is a crime; but, I didn’t know any of this was a crime. I didn’t have a hand in my birth. I didn’t know any vampire laws. I didn’t even know how to find another vampire. Someone left me a note—just a few words, really—and that was it. Nothing more. The first kill—feeding—I don’t even remember. It just… happened.”

She folds her arms, suddenly aware of her nakedness.

“Do… all vampires have powers like you and the lord councilor?”

Even out of the room, she feels a need to respect him.

“How can I live without ever leaving the Quarter?”

Jade: “No, no, you misheard. You can’t be seen outside the Quarter.”


She gestures.


Victoria: “Oh. Okay.”

A pause.

“But I’m me. Should I wear a mask? Do vampires have some ability to be Superman as Clark Kent?”

Jade: Well isn’t that a loaded question.

“That’s entirely up to you, darling. Most of us change our names and avoid old hangouts, stick to the shadows, that sort of thing. Some change their faces. Some wear masks. And some wear masks that change their faces.”

“We can blend in with the night, see in the dark, pick up a virgin’s first cycle a mile off. We fly, we shift, we run so fast we cross water. We make people love us with a snap of our fingers and command complete obedience from others. We crush cars into soup cans, command wolves with a snarl, bend the rules of reality with blood and bone.”

“We are Superman.”

Victoria: Victoria looks down at her hands, flexing her fingers.

She feels powerful.

She doesn’t feel powers.

“How do you know what you can do?”

Jade: “Trial and error. Most of us have an affinity for disciplines that have been passed on from sire to childe for so long that they become ingrained in our blood. Our clan talents, as it were.”

“Others are taught. Take any Brujah off the street and you know he’ll be strong and fast. But you don’t expect to see him with claws.”

Victoria: Finally, Victoria smiles.

“I have an affinity for discipline, in a manner of speaking.”

Jade: That draws a laugh. “You were the ‘lawyer,’ then.”

Victoria: She snickers.

“You were there?”

Jade: “I heard secondhand.”

Victoria: “It was never about the money. It’s about sending a message.”

“…then, powers are hereditary? In the vampire way.”

Jade: “Basically.”

Victoria: “Can you tell what I might have?”

Jade: “But you can learn from anyone. If you knew something I did not you could teach me, just as I could teach you. We learn through blood. It is only that our sire’s blood is our first taste.”

Victoria: She wrinkles her nose.

“Why don’t I remember drinking?”

Jade: “Because it killed you.”

Victoria: “Was their blood toxic?”

Jade: “The opposite. Their blood brings you back from death’s door. Your sire is your murderer and your savior.”

“You don’t want to remember dying.”

Victoria: “I don’t, no.”

She averts her eyes, if only for a moment.

“I… understand that you had to put on a show. I understand that you probably enjoyed it. You don’t become that creative without enjoying your work. Will you hurt me again?”

Jade: “At this time I have no intention to. Inevitably, we hurt everyone before the end.”

Victoria: She shrugs. It’s an acceptable answer.

“I want to learn a power.”

“Can you tell me what mine are supposed to be?”

She offers her wrist.

Jade: Jade fetches a beaker to serve as glass. Far be it from her to turn down a meal.

“Like this,” she says, showing Victoria how to use her fangs to cut into her wrist. But Victoria has no fangs, and Jade huffs at her. “They’ll grow back,” she says again, as if to herself. She passes the beaker off to Victoria and takes the offered arm.

Vic can feel the heat of Jade’s fingers on her arm. Then the soft touch of her lips, the points of her fangs. Jade withdraws without drinking, a smear of blood on the corner of her mouth.

“Our blood doesn’t flow so much as leak. It sits dead in our bodies until we need it, but once we beckon it heeds our call. Feel it now. Call it to do your bidding. Pour your blood into the beaker.”

Victoria: Rarely has Victoria felt more like a child than these moments. Oh well.

She wills her blood to leave through the pinpricks.

Jade: If it helps, all of them had to learn this at some point.

The blood flows. The more Victoria focuses on it the more it flows, as if it is not confined to the physical holes in her flesh. It doesn’t take long for Jade to say stop.

“Lick it,” she says, nodding to Victoria’s wrist. Jade lifts the beaker to eye-level. She swirls the blood like a sommelier with a wine glass, sniffs, then drinks.

Victoria: She licks her wrist, healing the wound.

“To think this entire world has been here my entire life…”

GM: It’s an interesting vintage. It’s sweet with lust, like Jade prefers, or at least did. Not so much these nights. It tastes like sex and steel and black leather, but faded… like a boat with chipped paint. It hasn’t been maintained lately. Sour notes of fear and bitter notes of anger are there, too, and quite out of place with the underlying sweet flavor. They’re crudely thrown on. Like ketchup over steak. Someone sees meat and goes ‘sauce’, but the flavors don’t complement one another. They don’t build into something greater. The steak is past its ‘use or freeze by’ date.

For all that, it’s blood, and Kindred blood. Headier than any human stuff will ever be. An inherently superior grade. But it’s coasting by on that fact alone.

It tastes, most of all, like someone once in control, who relishes being in control, who is no longer in control.

She thinks it would taste a lot better with that someone back in control.

Jade: Jade swallows it down. The blood slithers down her throat and makes itself right at home in Jade’s body. She savors the raw, smoky taste of the beast within the Beast. It lingers on her tongue like a woman’s perfume in the air, and she can see the shy, coquette smile that hides fangs.

None of it surprises her. She’d tasted it with that first nick of the knife.

But this taste is that much deeper, that much richer.

“Star mode,” Kalani says. “The ability to be charming, manipulate the emotions around you. Shadow dancing. You can appear or disappear at a whim, obscure your face, turn yourself into someone else. It’s all an illusion.”

“What isn’t an illusion,” Jade says, running her tongue across her fangs, “is that you can do it for real. You can shift.” There’s appropriate appreciation behind those words.

“I taste the blue blood. How many times did he make you drink?”

GM: Victoria hungers.

She was hungry at the start of the night.

She’s even hungrier now.

The Beast, momentarily quieted, rears to terrible life as her blood flows and Jade drinks. It screams at the sight of this other bloodsucker feeding where it does not. Where it grows thirstier?

The ravenous fledgling flies at Jade, hissing and spitting, death in her eyes and destruction in her hands.

Jade: Should have said no.

Still, another expectation. Jade waits. She waits. She waits. And then, when the lick launches herself forward, she rams the wooden stake through her chest.

GM: Victoria topples backwards onto the floor, face frozen in a hateful snarl.

Jade waits.

The madness in the fledgling’s eyes eventually dims. It’s a peculiar expression, with her mouth still open, eyes narrowed, regrown fangs bared.

Victoria feels paralyzed. Her mind commands, but her body does not respond. Pain stabs through her chest.

She still thirsts, too.

How she thirsts.

Jade: Jade waits patiently for the Beast to finish its tantrum. She gets it.

All the same, when she says, “Let’s get that under control,” she leaves the stake where it is to feed the greenfang from her wrist.

Victoria: The Beast groans and grumbles, then roars in its envy.

Victoria only hears some of what Jade says, her words drowned out by the torrent of fury from her rampaging Beast.

Then, she leaps, assailing the woman with enough force to put her through the wall, and yet stopped short all the same. Helpless. Frozen. Staked.

If ever ‘internally screaming’ is a picture, it’s the frozen expression on her face.

Jade: Victoria tastes leather and lace. She tastes bubbles and roses and the color of the sky at dawn, then the cold bite of steel that gives way to a thrumming that slides all the way down. It’s vibrant but delicate, a teasing virgin.

Jade pulls the stake from Victoria.

Victoria: How is it that every individual person can taste so unique? Victoria has always enjoyed food, though her palette lacks the fine-tuned awareness that permeates every mouthful of blood since her new unlife began.

She sits up with a sharp inhale.

“I don’t like that.”

She looks at Jade with a mask of irritation, though, at herself.

More sheepishly, she adds, “…sorry. That’s not the first time that’s happened.”

Jade: “It won’t be the last time,” Jade says mildly. “But our society holds you responsible for what your Beast does. Tell your girl to keep one handy.” She gives the stake a little wiggle.

Victoria: The Beast bucks as she wiggles that stake, but settles once more. Her eyes are calm.

Jade: Jade offers a hand up.

“Did you hear any of that?”

Victoria: She takes the hand, pulling herself to her feet.

“Star mode?” she asks. “Like, from that video game about a plumber?”

Jade: “Precisely. There’s music and everything.”

Victoria: Victoria squints and stares.

Jade: Jade smiles benignly.

Victoria: “…perhaps you should explain again. Once more. Without my interruption.”

Jade: So she does!

Jade starts over. She tells Victoria about the supernatural charm, how she can wind people around her finger with a word or smile. Then the dancing; the hiding inside shadows and using illusion and mind tricks to go unobserved. It can even hide objects, deliver misinformation to the brain, and vanish buildings.

And shifting. Jade doesn’t forget to mention the shifting.

Victoria: She looks at her fingers, flexing them.

“I… can do all of that? Right now? I could even look like you, if I wanted to?”


GM: Her fingers on one hand remain broken and ugly.

Victoria: Maybe not so flawless.

“What can I do about this? Without him commanding me to allow it to heal?”

Jade: Jade explains.

Victoria: “Then… it’ll heal on its own? He told me that if I try, it’ll be permanently damaged.”

Jade: Jade arches one magnificently sculpted eyebrow.

“Why would it be permanently damaged? Did you die with broken fingers?”

Victoria: “N-no, but he commanded me to break them, and leave them broken.”

“…did he lie?”

Jade: “Yes.”

Victoria: She wills her fingers to heal.

GM: The bones and flesh re-align.

Victoria’s Beast growls hungrily.

Victoria: “I’m gonna FUCKING MURDER HIM!

She punches a nearby table.

Jade: “No,” Jade says sharply. “You are not. You are a nights-old greenfang that already pissed off the big players in the city, who now all think that you are dead. So you are going to swallow your pride, you are going to keep your mouth shut about McGinn, and you are going to let them continue to think that you are dead. You start spouting off, it’ll get back to them.”

Jade narrows her eyes at Vic.

“If they come knocking, you will taste my fury.”

“Wait a few years.”

Victoria: She stuffs that roaring beast back into its cage, draws a centering breath, and remains quiet for a moment.

“I’m gonna fucking murder him eventually.

Ah, the difference one word can make.

Jade: Jade flashes a thumbs up.

“Your ghoul won’t heal as quickly. Use your blood as a stabilizer, not a magical cure-all. If something heals wrong you’ll need to re-break it all.”

Victoria: “My blood will help her, then?”

Jade: “Yes.”

Victoria: “Can I see her?”

Jade: “Soon.” Jade taps the phone in her pocket. “She’s being brought over.”

“What do you plan to do so far as your identity? And hers. No one can know she, or you, survived.”

Victoria: “I don’t know,” she answers. “I’ve never had to craft an identity. I can change my appearance. I can change my name. I can never see my family again.”

She looks, for a moment, like Jade just punched her in the gut.

“Where do you even begin?”

Jade: “I started with a name.”

Victoria: “Easy enough. And how do you give up everyone you’ve ever known?”

A pause.

“…you don’t think McGinn has cameras outside to make sure I died?”

Jade: She smirks. “We don’t show up on cameras.”

Victoria: Victoria stares.


Jade: “Vampire magic.”

Victoria: “What an elegant explanation.”

Jade: “You’re welcome.”

Jade waves a hand. “Audio recording picks us up, video doesn’t. It’s just kind of blurry.”

Victoria: “And he won’t see a blurry figure and a not blurry figure escaping over the wall into a not blurry van?”

Jade: “To be perfectly frank, you don’t matter enough for him to bother.”

Victoria: “That would annoy me if it didn’t mean I have a second chance.”

Jade: “There is power in flying beneath the radar.”

Victoria: “I see that. It’s the only reason I’m alive.”

She looks somewhat embarrassed.

“I need to eat.”

Jade: “Bastards, Caitiff, and abortions feed on Rampart. It’s slim picking. You could try Canal, but the skiff that way portions out their little hovels and might pick you up for poaching.” Jade gives Victoria a poignant look.

“We’re very territorial.”

“Best thing to do is find yourself an established lick you can tolerate and ask for rights in their domain.”

Victoria: Victoria offers Jade a look that shows she understands about as much as if she’d suddenly started speaking ancient Greek.

Jade: “We’re in different gangs and we fight you if you wear the wrong color on our turf.”

Victoria: “OH!”

That makes much more sense.

“Am I in a gang now? A… vampire gang?”

Jade: “After I tattoo your face, yes.”

Victoria: “…you are joking.”

Jade: “Yes.”

Victoria: “You’d rather tattoo my ass.”

Jade: Jade makes a twirling motion with her finger, then whistles. “Yes.”

Victoria: Victoria actually laughs.

“I prefer this side of you so much more than the artist.”

Jade: She flashes a smile.

“There’s a bar on St. Peters called The Howling Wolf. It’s at the edge of my domain. You may hunt there tonight. Do not be seen.”

“That will incur a debt on top of the life boon.”

Victoria: “Thank you. A debt is acceptable. What is entailed in the life boon?”

Jade: “Everything. Boons are what hold our society together. They are what we pay and accept as payment, and they cover… everything. Information, introductions, illicit deals.”

“They keep us honest.” Of a sort.

“I’ve traded blood for magic. I’ve traded intel for luck. I’ve paid boons for tutoring, learning skills, legal advice. They are as varied as the rest of us.”

“Those who try to wiggle out of them suffer the same fate regardless of rank or station.”

GM: “Most boons between Kindred are quid pro quo. This for that. A service for a service. Over and done.”

“But a life boon is different, darling. I earned a life boon by risking my unlife to save yours. That means any and all services I ask, you must render, until you save my unlife in kind. That means your unlife is mine, until you keep me from losing mine.”

“Because if the prince learns what I’ve done, I’m going to watch my last sunrise, you understand? By shielding you from the consequences of your crimes, I am guilty of your crimes, and will suffer the same fate as you.”

Victoria: Victoria listens in intent silence. A favor for a favor. This for that.

A life for a life.

“I would give you eternity for saving both Anna and I. But I’ll settle for one life of service.”

Jade: “There are worse licks to owe.” Jade glances at her watch. “Do you have other questions?”

“There’s a party tonight at the Evergreen. Feed before you go.” A quiet, considering look. “I advise against taking Anna. She is too obvious a chink in your armor.”

Victoria: She has a hundred thousand other questions, but they can wait.


“Do I just take someone off the street? I don’t want to break any more laws.”

Jade: “You can. Or go inside the bar and take a mark to the bathroom. Car. Alley. Wherever. Don’t be seen, that’s the rule. Don’t get caught feeding. Don’t let anyone know you’re a vampire, or that we exist. That’s what got you the second death sentence.”

A cheerful smile. “That’s the first rule of the Society of the Damned. Don’t talk about. Don’t break or even stretch the Masquerade.”

Victoria: “And when they start struggling…?”

Jade: “They won’t. Or at least shouldn’t. To them it feels good. To us as well.”

A knowing smile.

“That’s how we fuck.”

Victoria: Victoria wrinkles her brow in missing understanding, but doesn’t ask for an explanation.

“All right. What’s the dress code for the party? Given I have… nothing.”

Jade: “Find a handsome boy. Use your charm on him. He’ll come readily.”

Victoria: “I meant for clothing.”

She gestures to herself.

GM: There’s a knock on the door.

Victoria: She looks to the door, then Jade.

GM: “Come in, darling,” calls Jade.

The woman who enters is a vision of beauty, from her straight black hair to her toned, lithe body. Every inch of her is sculpted perfection. Her cheekbones are high and reflect the light with dark highlighter. Delicate freckles dot her nose. Her eyes are large, black pools that someone could fall into, and her lips are full with a prominent cupid’s bow. Her face is made up with full glam. Her hair is blonde and neck-length.

“Hello, mistress,” the woman beams towards Jade. Victoria can instantly tell she isn’t a vampire. Not with a beating heart like that.

The woman approaches the vampire and gives her a very friendly kiss on the lips that Jade returns. She giggles delightedly as the vampire slips an arm around her waist.

“Alana, this is… well, darling, I suppose there’s no time like the present for you to decide on something new,” Jade says, looking towards Victoria.

“Oh, never mind,” she then declares impatiently, looking down at her slender wristwatch. “Sort that out yourself, but you’re not going to be Victoria Wolf at Lord Savoy’s party.”

“This,” Jade then says, squeezing the comely woman’s waist, “is Alana. She’s one of mine. And she’s such a good girl, isn’t she?” Jade runs a hand through the ghoul’s hair.

“Thank you, mistress,” Alana beams.

“She’ll help you settle you in,” says Jade, looking back towards Victoria. “That includes clothes, any further questions, and your Anna.”

“Alana, this is no-longer-Victoria. You already know her, of course.”

“I do,” says Alana, who offers a pretty smile. “Charmed.”

Victoria: Victoria watches with quiet caution. She’s human. That much is clear.

Yet, still a threat. Everything is a threat.

“…I’m going to be living here?”

Jade: “Settled in to Kindred society,” Jade clarifies.

Victoria: She hopes a law book will be provided.

“She is… like Anna?”

Jade: “Yes.”


Victoria: “Ghoul. Which means… has drank blood but not become a vampire? And serves us?”

Jade: “Essentially, yes. They don’t age. They get less sick. Their bodies are more hardy. They can learn our abilities, as well. I’ve taught Alana plenty of tricks.” Jade squeezes her waist.

GM: Alana fairly beams at Jade.

Victoria: She notes the squeeze, but doesn’t comment. Never will she be a hypocrite.

“Thank you, Miss Kalani.”

Jade: “You may call me Jade.”

She makes it sound like a privilege.

Victoria: It feels like a privilege.

“Thank you, Jade.”

And may you never take me apart again.

The lord councilor, however…

Her eyes settle on Alana.

“How is it that you know me?”

GM: Alana laughs.

“I was there when Haymaker brought you in, of course. I got the doors for him.”

“He had you in a very romantic bridal carry.”

Victoria: Haymaker must be another vampire.

“Charming, I’m sure. Perhaps we can do with a shower and clothing, to start?”

GM: Jade waves a hand. “Take care of it, darling.”

Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM

GM: After replying, “Of course, mistress,” the ghoul leads Victoria past a heavy door into a waiting room that looks inspired by Turkish and Russian bath houses, with marble flooring, furniture, and walls.

It smells very nice in the room: like lavender; citrus; rosemary; bergamot; lemon, orange and eucalyptus. Spa smells.

Another door leads Victoria and the ghoul into a peaceful, equally sweet-smelling room with gauzy curtains, potted plants, and soft lights. Instead of candles, though, all of the lights look artificial. There are hooks for clothing and cubbies for shoes, with fresh robes in black.

“In case you’re tired of wandering around naked,” says Alana, retrieving one of the robes.

“They’re black because that color hides bloodstains best,” she smiles.

“White’s just a nightmare, you know. Bad color.”

Victoria: Victoria follows the ghoul with notes of caution. They’re friendly—for the moment—but given the rampant betrayal and changing climate of every moment of her new unlife, she’s all but entirely expecting a knife in the back and a chorus of laughter.

Still, she won’t turn down clothing.

“Thank you,” she says, wrapping the robe about herself.

“All right, then. What do you think I need to know about this world?”

GM: It’s soft and comfortable.

Not that she’s fared worse under hard and uncomfortable.

“Darling, I’ll answer your questions, but I’m not going to come up with them for you,” laughs the ghoul.

“Let’s get you cleaned up now,” she says as they proceed through some more rooms into a vichy shower.


“You couldn’t have picked a better place to show up in need of a shower, you know,” Alana says with another laugh, before calling for Victoria to disrobe.

The shower’s multiple heads cascade water onto Victoria’s entire body to simulate rainfall. Alana has her lie down and massages the vampire with soap and sweet-swelling scents and oils. Her muscles might be dead, but the experience still feels luxurious. The blood and grime of previous nights swirls away into the floor drain.

Alana doesn’t talk during the shower, seemingly respecting Victoria’s own silence. She rubs, scrubs, and massages the vampire until she’s clean and nice-smelling again, dries her off with a fluffy towel, invites her to slip the robe back on, and then leads her outside.

“Your ghoul’s this way, I’m sure she’ll want to see you.”

Victoria: She offers the ghoul a tart expression at the non-answering answer.

As they enter the shower room—it’s much too much to call it a ‘bathroom’—Victoria pauses. When she awoke into this strange, new world—a world that’s existed beneath her feet and in shadowed corners since long before she could form words—it was with chaos, and violence; it was with uncontrollable rage, and all the ill-placed restraint of a starved animal. The world is cruel, and cold, and bloody, and terrifying; but, the more she lives, the more she understands: It’s no different than the world she’s lived in all along.

It wasn’t restraint and control that she lacked. It was culture. Culture in the same way that the common tribes of the dark continent lacked when they were liberated and ascended into the world of man by her own forefathers.

Kind of.

Does that mean she was ‘black’ for a few nights?

Kind of.

It feels that way.

And so she ascends, through hot water, scented oils, divine soaps, and a massage fit for a queen, and in the end: culture.

“How is she feeling?” she asks, slipping back on the robe.

She feels just a little better when she’s cleaner.

Kind of.

GM: McGinn and Adelais certainly treated her like she was black.

Alana continues to smile on the way to the shower like Victoria is offering one of her own.

“Pretty bad,” Alana answers once the shower-cum-massage is over and she’s dried off Victoria.

“Mistress spared enough juice to stabilize her condition, but anything past that comes from you. She’s still pretty hurt. So she’s stayed in bed and been sleeping a lot.”

“Mistress also had me answer her questions about things once she was awake.”

The two walk past more treatment rooms into what feels like an employee area of the building. They stop outside a door.

“Your rennie’s inside,” says Alana. “I’ll give you two some time together. But first, what sorts of clothes would you like for the party?”

Victoria: She stops beside Alana, offering a nervous look in reply. Would the sight of a broken Anna break her again?

She’s not sure how much more broken she can be.

“What would fit best for the party? I’ve never been to a…”

Party with this kind of people.

Are they people?

Or would the party be mostly the living?

“Whatever you think is best,” she shrugs. She doesn’t care.

She reaches for the door.

GM: The ghoul hmphs.

“Oh come. Pick something. Weren’t you a dominatrix?”

“You can wear anything you want, as outrageous as you want.”

Victoria: Outrageous. Tame. Outrageous. Tame. Middling? Middling is boring. Boring is safe. Boring was safe, but then the world was turned upside down.

Is this a test?


“A dress? Something refined, but expressive; something with personality, but that isn’t too loud.”

Something that isn’t her.


Victoria isn’t sure, and it shows, but she waits for how Alana receives it.

GM: “You got it,” Alana says simply.

If the ghoul has any further feelings on the matter, they aren’t apparent on her face.


Victoria: “Heels?”

It’s as much a question as it is a request.

GM: “You can wear whatever you want,” repeats Alana.

Victoria: “Heels. Also red.”

“…no more than two inches.”

GM: “Two-inch heels,” says Alana.

Victoria: “Two-inch heels.”

Why the specificity?

“Am I going to regret that?”

GM: The ghoul’s heels look closer to four.

“Well, you can’t get blisters anymore.”

Victoria: “Lovely.”

She’d trade permanent blisters to be back in her bed a month ago.

“Can I see her now?”

GM: “Knock yourself out,” Alana answers.

She asks Victoria’s clothing and shoe sizes, then leaves.

Victoria: She opens the door.

If her heart could hammer, it would build a house.

Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM

GM: Victoria walks into what looks like the salon manager’s office. It’s tastefully decorated with pinks and flowers. Like the rest of the salon, it smells very nice. There’s a desk with a computer, phone, and assorted papers on it.

There’s also a couch with a pull-out bed. Anna lies there, swaddled in a blanket. Last night she looked almost dead. Whipped and beaten three-fourths to her death. Now she looks closer to half-dead. Her face has a black eye, partly healed split lip, and bruises everywhere. There are some bandages over her head.

Victoria can’t see what the rest of her injuries look like, underneath the blankets. She remembers well how Adelais and McGinn whipped her until she couldn’t walk unassisted, and how Alana said she’s “still pretty hurt”.

But Victoria can’t smell any fresh blood.

“Sylvie…?” Anna croaks, tilting her head towards the door.

Victoria: Victoria crosses the room in half a heartbeat, nearly knocking into the bed. She leans down, stopping halfway to a hug that would have sent Anna back to three-fourths dead. It’s painful to resist.

“A-anna? Are you okay?”

She fumbles with the blankets, gently patting, and feeling—are all her limbs still there?

GM: Anna visibly winces at the contact, but that doesn’t stop her from sinking into the hug. Melting into it. She feels so fragile. Made of such vulnerable flesh and blood, next to the dead woman who’s walking about like nothing even happened. Like her own death never happened.

Anna rests her head against Victoria. She answers the question with a slow nod.

Then, after a few moments:

“You… said I was your… wife,” she gets out. “I said… you were mine…”

She slowly pulls away to look Victoria in the eyes. Hers are wet.

“Isn’t that… we both said… we were married…”⁠

Victoria: Victoria softens at the wince of pain. Even gentler, she’s still stronger than she’s ever been.

So fragile. Was she that fragile before?

She offers Anna a puzzled expression.

“What… do you mean?”

GM: Anna swallows.

“We… told them… both… we were married… remember…?”

Victoria: The past few days feel about as clear as a muddy lake in a hurricane.

She finally completes the hug, pulling Anna against her—gently.

“We’ve been married for a long, long time,” she answers. “And we’ll be married a long time yet. If you can be strong through all of this.”

She pauses, drawing back just enough to look into the teacher’s eyes.

“Can you be strong?”

GM: Anna still winces faintly at the contact, but doesn’t pull away.

Her nod is slow. Her eyes are weary. But they are firm.

“I want… to get married… officially,” she gets out.

“As soon as… possible. We can… see a judge… have a ceremony later…”

Victoria: Victoria simply squeezes her arm.

“Rest. You need to be able to stand for that.”

GM: “When… when I can… I want… to invite our families, and… just stop, hiding it…”

“I want to wear…. white. And I think you should wear… black. Wouldn’t that… be fitting…?”

Victoria: “And fuck all of them who have something to say,” she purrs, nuzzling their foreheads together.

“…you look good in black.”

“Delicious, even.”

GM: Anna returns the motion and gives a light, cough-like laugh.

“Is that… literal…?”

Victoria: Victoria remains silent for a long moment, before a faint smirk crosses her face.

GM: “Alana said… drinking your blood will… get me better…”

Victoria: “Do you want to try, Anna?” she asks, gentle.

GM: “Y… yes! I don’t want to stay like this!” Anna entreats.

Victoria: Victoria raises her wrist to her lips, fighting the lingering insanity in opening her own vein so casually, and…

She remembers her missing teeth. Right.

She looks around for something sharp, expecting to find nothing at all.

Jade: There are plenty of sharp things at Flawless, especially in the office where Victoria and Anna converse. The newly-minted vampire finds a pair of scissors, a letter opener, and even a switch blade (if she digs deep enough under the couch cushion, and who knows how it got there). The handle has an “R” engraved on it.

Victoria: Scissors? No. Gross. Never sharp enough.

A letter opener? Nope.

She flips open the switch blade, gingerly nicking her wrist. She holds it out to Anna.

GM: Anna takes the wrist with both hands and immediately falls on it.

The effect is just as immediate.

Her split lip mends. Her black eye turns purple, then red, and shrinks. Her once-faltering grip strengthens.

Victoria feels hungrier with every second that Anna drinks.

She feels like the great cat inside her chest is getting larger and angrier with every second that Anna drinks.

And clawing all the harder to get out.

Anna, oblivious, doesn’t stop. Bruises still mar her face.

Victoria: Victoria pulls the welling life away, conscious of that cat’s growing discontentment. She won’t let Anna lay there in pain, nor will she risk killing her.

Too much.


It’s a promise she knows knows she can’t keep.

“Shhh… I know you want more. I can’t give you more. Not yet.”

GM: Anna stares at her girlfriend.

Victoria has never seen a look of such total, abject want and dependence on someone’s face before.


Not with any submissive in the deepest recesses of subspace.

Anna looks like an atomic bomb could detonate behind her and she wouldn’t even blink.

She seems to take a moment to find her voice.

“When,” she gets out.

Victoria: Hunger. Pure hunger. It’s the look Anna gets every time she passes a construction site, given to extremes.

Victoria places a gentle hand on Anna’s throat.

“When I allow it.”

GM: The touch seems to hit her like a maximum setting vibrator.

“When,” she repeats hoarsely.

Victoria: Gently but firmly, Victoria presses her into the bed. “After I eat and return from the party.”

GM: Anna doesn’t try to remain sat up, though there is some resistance from her body.

“Can I come with you?”

Victoria: “Not feeling like you are, you can’t. If you heal well and rest—and not finagle your way out through Alana—I’ll take you to another party.”

GM: “I’m feeling a lot better,” says Anna, brushing her hair. “Really.”

“Don’t you think it’s better if we stick together, after… everything?”

Victoria: The gaze with which she looks upon Anna is both understanding and somber.

“Not this time. Not after last time.”

GM: “But what about next time?”

“Alana says there’s lots of vampires.”

Victoria: “We’ll see, Anna,” she answers with continued cool. “We need to better understand our new world before we risk something so precious and breakable.”

GM: Anna doesn’t look like she has any argument against that.

“I knew the answer,” she says. “To his question about the Confederate flag’s origins.”

“Yours was… don’t take this the wrong way, but it was exactly the answer that a student who didn’t know the answer would give.”

Anna’s smile may takes some of the words’ sting away.

GM: “‘Reflective of changing values.’ I mean, yes, that describes literally every country’s new flag!”

Victoria: You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but never the classroom out of the teacher. It must have taken everything in Anna not to correct her on the spot.

“And what would you have answered with, dear teacher?”

GM: It took a vampire promising death if she spoke out of turn.

“It was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate civilian government never actually used it, except as part of the design on the last of their three flags, and that flag was only used during the final months of the war.”

“Lee’s flag was introduced on the battlefield because it was easy to distinguish from the Union’s, unlike the stars and bars flag, and had as little of the ‘Yankee blue’ as possible. It was used by the United Confederate Veterans, and the later Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, because that was the flag they or their ancestors fought under. They were very civically active groups, so Lee’s battle flag became the flag most people now associate with the Confederacy.”

Victoria: “Spoken like a true racist,” she says, patting her partner’s cheek. “Would that I’d let you speak in my place—perhaps we’d have been sipping from crystal with him right now. Instead, we’re learning how to live in death.”

A pause.

“Twice over, it seems.”

GM: Anna looks confused at those words, but leaves in to Victoria’s hand.

“He was… he was sick,” she shivers. “I don’t think we would. Or for long. He’d have done something else to us, eventually.”

“I’m just glad we got away.”

Victoria: Her fingers curl, leaving only her thumb to stroke Anna’s cheek.

“He was. Is. We’re lucky—or, we’re being played. Either way, for the moment we’re safe, and we should be grateful for that.”

Victoria pushes herself off the bed, leaving her partner to rest.

“You can have more later, if you stay in bed and try to sleep. You’re not well. You will be. Okay?”

Unless Anna stops her, she turns to leave the room.

As the door closes behind her, leaving Anna behind, she wonders if she will ever see her again. If today, then tomorrow? If tomorrow, then for how long? She’s leaving her most precious possession to rest in a nest of vampires. A nest that—for now—has given her reason to trust them.

How long will that last?

The deeper she’s dug into the shadows behind New Orleans, the less reason she’s had to trust anyone at all.

Though, that’s not true, is it? It’s only become more deadly when trust is misplaced.

She leaves Anna there to rest. At least these people seem like they care enough to keep them alive for the moment. That, she can trust.

Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM

GM: Alana gets back with clothes before Victoria heads out. She’s brought a selection of red dresses and shoes.

One pair of heels, as requested, is red and two inches high. It’s in a chunkier sandal style.

The other two pairs are significantly higher stilettos in black and white.

“Tah-dah,” says Alana. She lays all of the clothes and shouts out along a massage table. “You’re lucky that Mistress has so many spare clothes. And that I’m a fast shopper, since you’re nowhere near the same size.”

All of the ghoul’s words sound like so much droning, though, next to the thumping heartbeats pumping blood through her veins.

Victoria has to concentrate to clearly make them out.

How would she taste?

Victoria: Her examination of the clothing slows to a crawl, then stops, as Alana’s appetizing thumps grow louder.

How would she taste? Not as good as Anna. Nothing will ever be as exquisite a delicate as Anna.

Her very own, private delight.

She shakes her head.

“I need to eat. If I dress now, I’m going to make a damn mess.”

One she may not be able to hide, even knowing she has to.

GM: Alana stares at the bathrobe-dressed vampire who says she needs to eat.

And who isn’t going to dress to go out.

“I’m not feeding you,” the ghoul says flatly, all smile gone from her face. “I’m not yours.”

“Feed from me, and Mistress will turn your spine into a pretzel.”

Victoria: Victoria-no-more shrugs.

“I don’t want to feed from you. I find a problem in dressing for the party, then making a mess of myself eating.”

Making the assumption that it will be a mess.

But it doesn’t have to be, does it?

Her face tenses.

“Your mistress has more faith in me than I do. At least in that regard.”

GM: “Fine,” says Alana. “Dress however you like.”

Victoria: Victoria gives her a look between regret and apology.

“I didn’t mean…”

She shakes her head.

“I just don’t want them filthy before the party.”

She holds up the butterfly gown.

“Won’t this look out of place at a bar?”

But not the party, clearly, or it wouldn’t be here.

GM: Alana rolls her eyes.

“Mistress doesn’t care what happens to the clothes.”

“Dress however you like.”

Victoria: Would vampires care if she showed up to a party garbed in bloody clothing?

Her expression asks the question for her.

Victoria snags the shorter, red dress, and the shorter sandals to match. It isn’t entirely the regal elegance she original pictured, but will be more functional. Given she has to eat first.

GM: “What?” says Alana.

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“Nothing. Nevermind.”

She dresses quickly, while she speaks.

“Mirror? Would Miss Kalani be available to talk sometime in the next few days? I have a few more questions for her.”

GM: “You’ll be going to the party together,” says Alana.

Victoria: She’s more relieved than a ‘yes’ would have given her.


She hopes.

“Will I be finding my own way to the bar, or will she be coming there, too?”

GM: Alana gives a look as if Victoria asked whether they’d be holding hands, too.

“She has other things to do. She’s not your mother.”

Victoria: She clicks her tongue.

“Right. So she’ll be meeting me there. Got it. Do you have any idea what the recently deceased might do to access funds without drawing any suspicion?”

GM: “You’ll come back here and leave together,” says Alana.

“And I guess that depends what funds.”

Victoria: “Enough to live on for a while, kept in index funds. Some cash in the bank. Do you think McG—Lord Councilor would keep a watch on my accounts to ensure I’m dead? Is it safe to withdraw? I don’t want to give him suspicion, especially if it’d lead him to you and Miss Kalani.”

GM: Alana looks at Victoria like she’s stupid.

Victoria: “…I can’t be the first person to ask that question.”

Maybe she is. How many people escape that grounds and live to think of the question?

GM: “Forget all of that money,” says Alana.

Victoria: Victoria breathes a sigh. How the fuck are they going to survive? One of them still needs to eat normal food.

“Forgotten. I suppose it was a dumb question. All right, I’ll ask the obvious question—how the fuck do the ‘dead’ get started? I can’t imagine Miss Kalani expects me to walk to the bar.”

But she’s not going to be given the answer, is she? In some way, this is probably to their amusement: to watch the once-predator-turned-kitten struggle to find her footing in a world she doesn’t know how to take the first step in. Beyond their guidance.

So, what then?

Take a cab and bolt on the fare? Maybe—but flagging herself if the cabbie calls the police would only cause problems.

Public transit? She wrinkles her nose at the thought.

She can’t depend on them forever.

“Does Miss Kalani have a spare car? Just to travel to the bar and back.”

Jade: “The Quarter is one of the most walkable parts of any city anywhere,” Alana says archly.

“It’s a mile and a half away. Mistress left your legs intact.”

Victoria: “Bless that she did,” she answers, weathering the insult.

Victoria finishes readying herself, and turns to leave. Hand on the door, she looks back to Alana.

“Anything else I should know?”

Jade: “Don’t get caught.”

Victoria III, Chapter XII
The Wolf's Den

“So. Yer the source o’ all this ruckus.”
Pierpont McGinn

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

GM: 4717 St. Charles Avenue is a gigantic 4-story stone mansion with grounds big enough to be a public park. Even on the millionaire’s row that is St. Charles Avenue, the property dwarfs its neighbors. Elevated on an earthen terrace, the two-and-a-half-story house is built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style with warm-hued beige limestone and a red tile roof. The walls themselves are striking, with stones that are coursed but vary in size and surface treatment across the principal facade, whereas the gables, chimneys, and subsidiary walls are laid in random patterns. Across the front, the one-story porch, with a row of wide arches outlined by huge voussoirs and supported on squat columns, provides a deep, shadowy transition from the dazzling marble steps to the interior.

“It’s us,” the still-bleeding man grunts into an intercom. The gate swings open to admit Victoria’s car.

It clangs shut behind.

Grim-looking men lead Victoria through the palatial house. It is easily the most luxuriant property she has ever stepped foot inside. Rare and expensive-looking ‘flame’ mahogany covers the interior, along with antique tapestries, stained glass windows, and mantels that look from the 1700s.

They come to a stop in a luxuriously appointed living room. Richly upholstered, gold-decorated furniture, persian rugs, and classical portraits dominate the surroundings. Two crossed cavalry sabers hang over the empty fireplace, along with the portrait of a dashing, square-jawed, blond-haired man dressed in the gray uniform of a Confederate military officer.

Most prominently displayed is a family tree with names and genealogies that trace all the way back to Caine. It’s a shorter tree than others Victoria has seen, partly because each name only has one rather than two ‘parents’ listed above it. The genealogy (of the house’s master?) proudly traces back,

Pierpont McGinn (e. 1886)
Troy Hansen (e. 1838)
Alejandro Rojas y Batiz (e. 1445, d. 1862)
Decimus Titus Optatus (e. 210 AD, d. 1454)
Etewoklewes (e. 1100 BC, d. 245 AD)
Medon (e. 4000 BC, d. 900 BC)
Ventrue (e. First City, d. Second City)
Enoch (e. First City, d. Second City)
Caine (e. Genesis 4:1)

Victoria: Victoria has known wealth only through her clients. She’s never been to their homes. She’s never met their families. She’s seen their cars; though, only those crass enough to bring their favorite toys to her humble neighborhood.


This is excessive.

It even smells excessive.

The fledgling stops before that family tree, examining it. It only takes her a moment to process the fact that one parent is missing because vampires only require one parents.

Is it pride in his lineage? Or does lineage matter?


“Caine… the brother of Abel?”

GM: “I suppose that’s the first thing you haven’t gotten wrong,” says a young woman who strides through the double doors, high heels clicking against the hardwood floors. She’s a slender-figured, blue-eyed strawberry blonde wearing a pale blue dress and pearl necklace. A crow sits perched on her shoulder and caws at Victoria.

Victoria: Her eyes flit to the woman, then the crow, then back. She holds out a hand.

Is that how vampires greet each other?

Is she even a vampire?

GM: The woman stares at Victoria’s hand as if she’s just been offered something dirty.

Victoria’s escorts depart. She is left alone with the woman, who makes no move to speak with her.

Victoria: She drops her hand.

“Are you a vampire?”

GM: The woman inspects her nails.

Victoria: Victoria falls silent, her eyes scraping the walls.

GM: The woman rises and opens the doors. Two figures stride in.

The first is a tall, steel-jawed Southern man with dirty blond hair. His white skin is deathly pale and his chalky blue eyes burn with a predatory intensity. He looks like he smiles a lot, but they feel like hard smiles. Cruel smiles. Smiles like a cobra flaring its hood. He wears an immaculate white seersucker suit and white dress shirt contrasted by a jet black necktie. His gray leather shoes look like the thousand-dollar kind worn by politicians and business executives. A gold Rolex sits snugly around his wrist. He does not walk so much as swagger, lord of all he surveys.

Lots of things give it away. The total lack of heartbeat from his chest, that pumps from the woman’s. The aftershave-like scent of blood. Just the way he looks. The way he carries himself. A wolf among sheep. Those things and a thousand other little things make it instantly apparent to Victoria:

He is… like her.

The other figure, a woman, looks little kinder. She’s just as pale as the man, but with dark hair that makes her deathly complexion stand out all the more. She’s beautiful, with high cheekbones and contemptuous, icy features. Unlike the grinning, swaggering man, the woman’s perfect lips do not look as if they have ever smiled. Her gray eyes survey Victoria like a piece of meat. She wears a slim-fitting but conservative black and gray dress. Jewels, tastefully understated, glint from her throat and ears.

Victoria can instantly tell that the woman, too, is like her.

The man lazily plops down on one of the couches, casually stretching and claiming the entire space. The woman gracefully sits next to him. Very close next to him. She surveys Victoria like the other woman is something unsightly scraped off the bottom of her shoe.

The blonde woman, who Victoria is now positive is not like the other newcomers, stares at her and loftily proclaims,

“Kneel in the presences of the Honorable Lord Pierpont McGinn, earl and regent of Uptown, councilor of the Prima Invicta, commissioner, and fellow of the Most Noble Fellowship of Artemis…"

“…and the Good Lady Adelais Seyrès, viscountess of Magazine Street, councilor of the Prima Invicta, librettist, notary, speaker, harpy, and master of the Guild of Nemesis.”

Victoria: It’s become more apparent to her, that lack of tell-tale thumping in the breast; that herald of warmth and wet and salty-sweet nourishment. One doesn’t often consider a heartbeat. Not beyond close moments with a lover.

The silence is oppressive. She doesn’t need to ask if they’re like her.

Victoria’s eyes flit from the smiling man to a woman who seems to see her as evenly as if she were a smear on her otherwise pristine floor.

She’s like her, too; and yet, nothing like her.

With effort, she keeps her words in check, sealed behind taut lips.

It becomes harder to control at the playwright’s proclamation of a greeting; and yet, they seem quite serious.

They’re just like her; and yet, nothing like her.

This isn’t her New Orleans anymore.

She kneels, dipping her head.

GM: “So,” drawls the man.

Pierpont McGinn, if the woman’s greeting is anything to go by.

“Yer the source o’ all this ruckus.”

The woman—Adelais Seyrès—merely stares at Adelais with a look of icy disdain.

“What’s yer lineage, girl?” asks McGinn.

Victoria: She looks up, but doesn’t rise, meeting his gaze.

“You don’t mean my parents, if I’m to judge by your lineage above.”

A pause.

“I… don’t know.”

GM: Adelais stares at Victoria as if she just confessed that her mother ruts with dogs.

Victoria: She looks to the woman, then back to Pierpont.

“I take it that my current state is usually a more earned, deserved, or otherwise intentional affair.”

GM: Pierpont snickers faintly and shakes his head, as though observing something so pitiful it’s funny.

“Tell us everythin’, darlin’,” he drawls.

“How ya were turned.”

“How ya got here.”

He leans forward.

“All the ruckus you caused along the way.”

“Startin’ with the last thing ya remember alive.”

He makes no move to invite Victoria to sit.

Victoria: She begins with an uncertainty.

“I don’t remember if the last thing I remember alive is a real memory. They were… toying with hallucinations.”

GM: “Then start with those, darlin’. Do kindly start with those.”

Victoria: “I remember… feeling like I was being followed. Almost all of the time. I remember answering the door—and fighting someone; someone impossibly fast.”

She feels stronger, but not quite so blindingly fast.

“I remember waking up. Seeing someone I love tortured in front of me. Being asked questions about me.”

She takes a breath.

“And then… waking up in a hotel room. Like this.”

After a moment of silence, she adds, “I’d been earning the ire of a certain powerful family. I thought they wanted me dead—so I don’t know who did this to me.”

GM: Adelais shoots Pierpont a withering look.

Pierpont drawls, “Bash your head ’gainst the floor ’til ya break yer nose.”

Then Victoria does.

The floor rushes up. Hardwood smashes against her nose. It hurts.

She pulls away. Then the floor rushes back up. She hears a crunch. She feels a crunch. She watches her body, like a marionette dancing to a puppeteer, mindlessly smash its face into the floor again and again, while she helplessly watches, a prisoner in her own flesh.

And she feels a rage, primal and burning and mindless, well up inside her like lava from a volcano. Screaming. Howling. Like a ravenous wolf at the door, snarling and biting and pushing against whatever self-restraint she turns against it.

She feels, too, as her face smashes again and again onto the red-specked hardwood, that she might try to hold it in.

Or let it out.

Pierpont grins from ear to ear.

Victoria: A moment hangs following his words where she considers following his command of her own will. She doesn’t have a chance.





Fire burbles up inside her, and—just as she did when Anna was assaulted so long ago, and just as she wanted to when Anna was threatened with a knife—she wants to let it out; to allow her rage to reign free; to take Pierpont’s head in her hands, and smash his face into the floor over, and over, and over again, until the pool of his life dwarf’s her own.

But she knows better.

She knows that she’s still a small fish in a pond whose bottom she can’t even imagine.

Even if she’s a durable fish.

She holds that rage in check, shaking with the restraint of it. Blood pools down her mouth as she regards him, silent.

GM: Pierpont, Adelais, and the now-seated human woman stare down at her.

“Well, well, well,” drawls Pierpont.

“I s’pose ya ain’t a complete animal.”

“Do not be premature, Lord Pierpont,” Adelais says critically. Her voice sounds every bit as contemptuous as Victoria imagined it would.

“It was still a dull-witted answer so lacking in context as to be useless to a listener.”

“Aye, ’twas still a piss poor answer, Lady Adelais,” the man idly agrees, before shifting his gaze back to Adelais.

“So try ’gain, girl.”

He grins, displaying his fangs.

“Or we can get ta the fun part o’ this early.”

Victoria: The rage burns, but as her mind catches up with her emotion, she begins to feel more: fear.

Why did she do that?

He spoke, she obeyed. No question. No consent. No room for disagreement. Input, output.

He can do it again.

He will do it again.

She begins to tremble.

“Th-that’s the truth! I wanted revenge—revenge on the Malveauxes, for their part in harming people I love,” she half-stammers, half-growls. Emotion tears out of her with that word, more fear than fire.

“They took me at my house—or so I thought. I—I was told that it was all in my head! Honest! My last living memories are of being followed, and exactly what I said.”

She bows her head again, as if it’ll save her.

GM: “Yer gabbin’,” declares Pierpont in an annoyed tone.

“Break e’ry finger in yer right hand.”

Victoria: She tenses, waiting for it to happen.

And then it does.

Her left hand takes her right index finger, snapping it ninety degrees to the right with the nonchalance if she were instructed to pour him a drink.

Her screams fill the hall.





“I—I answ—AUGH!”



Her fingers look like they were slammed in a car door moment’s before a highway pileup.

She wants to puke, but holds it back. She’s durable, but that doesn’t stop the pain.

Or the rage.

Or the fear.

“The last memory I have of being alive is being tied to a chair being interrogated!”

Is that to the point enough?

GM: “Tell us how ya got there, girl,” drawls McGinn, barely looking up as her fingers break. “Tell us the whole story. A ta Z.”

“If I don’t like yer next answer, we’ll be a makin’ a trip downstairs, hear?”

“You won’t like that none too much.”

The human woman smirks.

Adelais just stares contemptuously.

Victoria: And so she recants the story, from start to finish, pausing only to clear the blood from her mouth. She tells them of her plot to take revenge for what happened to Anna and Christina, of the series of meetings to make it a reality, of coaxing Jordan into abducting the priest, of Jordan’s subsequent episodes, and her attempts to save him, and of her strange encounter with Adam Malveaux, and the downhill journey thereafter—leading up to her hallucinations, the encounter at her house, the torturing interrogation, and waking up covered in excrement in her new life.

GM: The three patiently listen. They don’t interrupt with questions. They don’t tell her to break more fingers. Or say she’s coming downstairs.

Victoria supposes that is something.

“See, girl? I knew ya could do it,” Pierpont smiles indulgently.

“Now, let’s have everythin’ that came afterwards.”

Victoria: Still shaking, but not wanting any more fingers broken—or worse—she continues on to describe her adventures as a newborn vampire. She describes her bits of experimentation, her attempts to keep herself reigned in, her wanderings and subsequent murders—which she admits some guilt for, though tempers that with the knowledge that “they weren’t very good people”—finding Anna again, and eventually coming back to their house.

GM: “So,” drawls McGinn when she’s done.

He looks at Adelais.

He smiles, removes an old-fashioned flip phone from his breast pocket, and tosses it into Victoria’s hands.

“Call yer lil’ kine toy and tell ’er to git over here.”

Victoria: “Kine toy meaning… Anna?” she clarifies, flipping open the phone.

GM: “If she’s the one ya told ya were Kindred to, I most surely do, darlin’. I most surely do.”

Victoria: If the color could drain from her face, it would.

She dials the number, if only to show she’s obeying.

“What will you do to her…?”

GM: “A lot worse, if I’ve got ta send someone ta bring ’er over.”

Victoria: She presses the green phone immediately.

GM: “Hello?” asks Anna after picking up on the unfamiliar number.

Victoria: “It’s Vic. Listen, I need you to come somewhere—don’t ask why, don’t ask anything. Just come, okay? And when you come, be very respectful. Understand?”

GM: “Okay,” Anna says slowly. “Where?”

Victoria: “4717 St. Charles Avenue. Be quick.”

GM: “Okay,” says Anna.

A beat.

“I trust you.”

Victoria: “Always.”

She flips the phone closed, handing it out to McGinn.

GM: McGinn offers Victoria one of the coldest, cruelest, most shark-like smiles of her life as he accepts it back.

Victoria: She’s dead. Anna’s dead. In that moment, she knows it.

GM: “Yer future’s gonna depend on somethin’ now, girl,” draws the other vampire.

“Yer lil’ kine’s, too.”

Victoria: She listens intently.

GM: “You’ve left me a great fat stinkin’ mess, see.”

“And ya done left it on ma land.”

Victoria: “How can I make it right?”

Her hand trembles. The pain hasn’t deadened.

GM: “How considerate o’ ya ta ask, girl,” says McGinn.

“How considerate o’ ya indeed. I suppose the last one couldn’t e’en be assed ta ask, now could she, Lady Adelais?”

“No, Lord Pierpont, she could not,” answers the icy-faced woman.

There’s a glint to her warmthless eyes that wasn’t there earlier.

That wasn’t there before the call to Anna.

Victoria: “My lack of understanding does not grant immunity to wrongs on your land. I want to fix it.”

GM: “Well, how could ya fix it,” drawls McGinn.

“I s’pose ya could cover up e’ry one o’ yer killin’s, neat and tidy with no police askin’ questions, pay me fair recompense fer the vessels o’ mine ya killed, and silence e’ry hospital staff member who knows ‘bout that livin’ dead patient they treated.”

“Oh, and ghoul or kill yer lil’ kine.”

“After ya pass the blood test.”

He sounds more amused at the prospect of Victoria doing all of those things than serious.

Victoria: She looks as if he just asked her to speak a dead language and dance a Mesopotamian mating dance.

“Blood… test?”

GM: McGinn snickers.

“I s’pose we’ll do that now. Violet, if ya’ll be so kind?”

The human woman rises and approaches Victoria with a glass.

“Bleed inta that,” says the other vampire.

Victoria: “Is my broken nose blood sufficient?” she asks, taking the glass.

GM: “If ya can get it in the glass,” drawls Pierpont.

Victoria: She leans her head over the glass, tipping her nose down toward it such that it flows from the tip.

The pain there hasn’t deadened, either.

GM: Violet takes the glass and passes it to Pierpont.

“Yer unlife’s gonna depend on how yer blood tastes ta me, girl,” smiles the other vampire.

“Yer lil’ kine’s, too.”

Victoria: Lovely. It’s out of her control.

She nods.

GM: He holds the glass for several seconds.

Then he tips it back and drains it.

He’s still afterwards.

Victoria: She stops breathing.

GM: Time stretches.

Pierpont and Adelais look at one another.

“Again,” says the female vampire in that same imperious voice.

Violet passes the glass back to Victoria.

“Fill it,” says Adelais, as if Victoria is too stupid to understand.

Victoria: She does as commanded, without complaint or question, then hands the glass back to Violet. She looks to the two, waiting on continued lack of breath.

The silence in her chest is deafening.

GM: Violet hands the glass to Adelais.

She sips it next.

Then she sets the glass down.

She surveys Victoria with an eye that it would be generous to describe as critical.

Outlandishly generous.

Victoria: She knows better than to so much as think of asking.

GM: Pierpont smiles.

“I suppose ya can think of yer result as… inconclusive fer now, girl.”

Victoria: She swallows the baseball in her throat.

“What does that mean, my… what do I call you?”

GM: “That means we don’t kill ya right now.”

“But we might later.”

Victoria: They can do that whenever they want. ‘Not now’ is as good as anything.

GM: “Ya’ll call me Lord Councilor, and ya’ll call the Lady Adelais, Lady Councilor.”

“Are you capable of using those forms of address?” Adelais asks critically. She sounds genuinely doubtful that Victoria can.

Victoria: “Yes, Lady Councilor.”

GM: “You may still be put to death, of course,” says Adelais. “Your breaches of the Masquerade remain most egregious.”

Victoria: “You have my sincerest apologies, Lady Councilor. I’ll do anything to make it right. I… didn’t know, and that doesn’t excuse my behavior.”

A pause.


GM: “What could an ignorant fledgling like yourself do?” asks Adelais. “Lord Pierpont enumerated your offenses. All you could manage was a dull look that would not have been out of place upon a bovine chewing its cud.”

Victoria: Her face tenses. What leverage does she have?


She looks to the Lord, pleading, then back to the Lady.

“I am a woman of my word.”

GM: “If a child gives its word, does that mean it can reproduce the paintings of the old masters? Your word is worth only what it is capable of delivering us, and you have offered us no reason to believe that is not, in fact, precious little,” says Adelais.

Pierpont just grins and watches.

Victoria: It’s the same as Christina.

Victoria shakes like the last leaf in winter.

“I’m—I’m good at getting people to give me what I want. I’ve made my living off it. I tarnished the Malveaux reputation over it. That’s why they were so upset with me. I’m not sure I can do everything you wanted, but I’ll damn well try. What else can I do?”

GM: “Entertain us,” drawls Pierpont.

“When yer lil’ kine gets here.”

“Yer gonna turn her inta yer slave, darlin’.”

Victoria: It takes more effort than she wants to admit to restrain her smirk.

GM: “We’ll probably kill her too if we kill you,” Pierpont casually continues. “If we can’t find a buyer for ’er.”

“Unlikely, Lord Pierpont. She has not even been broken in,” says Adelais. “What Kindred would pay for an untrained, newly blooded ghoul?”

“True ’nough,” says Pierpont. “Maybe we’ll give ’er away fer free, if ya really beg.”

Victoria: That unsmirked smirk dies in a pit.

“H—how will you know? If we’re to die.”

That’s her answer: better death than slavery to anyone else.

GM: It does not appear lost on either vampire.

Pierpont grins widely.

“Oh? Ya wouldn’t like us ta find ‘er a nice owner, if’n it won’t be you?”

Victoria: “No, Lord Councilor.”

GM: “And why e’er not, darlin’?”

Victoria: “Because she’s mine.”

And just like that, more leverage handed to them.

“She’ll listen to me. She always does.”

Most of the time.

GM: “Ya’d rather kill ‘er than let anyone else touch ’er. Because she’s yers.”

Pierpont lets that hang for a moment.

Then he barks a laugh.

“Well, well, well, girl. I suppose ya ain’t all bad.”

“Yer still gonna pay mightily fer what ya done to me, o’course.”

Victoria: She nods. That much, she knows.

GM: “But if we kill you, yer lil’ ghoul will die too. I give you ma word.”

He smiles magnanimously.

Victoria: “What is a ghoul, Lord?”

GM: “Bash your face ’gainst the floor a few more times,” orders McGinn.

“Then tell me what ya did wrong.”

Victoria: Her face crashes into the floor, this time against her forehead.

The thud is sickening.

The second is worse.

She picks her face up, streaming blood.

“I addressed you with the incorrect title, Lord Councilor.”

“I apologize.”

GM: Pierpont grins widely, showing his fangs.

“Now jus’ look at that. Ya can be taught.”

Victoria: “Yes, Lord Councilor.”

She won’t make that mistake again.

GM: “Am I not generous, ta offer ma word o’er yer ghoul?” he asks. “Ya didn’t sound none too appreciative.”

Victoria: It didn’t click at first. He did give his word.

“That was very kind of you, Lord Councilor. I was… a bit slow on the uptake, with that. It won’t happen again.”

GM: “Would ya like ta kill ’er yerself?” asks McGinn, his fangs again showing.

“Ya could do it by drainin’ ’er.”

“It’s a gentle ‘nough way ta go, if it’s done right.”

“Much gentler than a bullet ta the head.”

“Plenty kine who right enjoy goin’ that way.”

Victoria: “Yes, Lord Councilor. I’d prefer that. Thank you for offering me the choice.”

It’s like she’s joined a world straight out of the Dark Ages.

GM: “How do ya think she’d taste?” grins McGinn.

“You didn’t say if you’d fed on ‘er or not, darlin’. But ya only get the deepest taste when ya kill.”

“Deepest bite.”

“Deepest pull.”

“Deepest taste.”

Victoria: “I haven’t, no, Lord Councilor. Truthfully, I didn’t trust myself not to kill her. I… haven’t quite fully mastered restraint.”

GM: “You don’t say,” Adelais remarks airily.

Pierpont snickers.

“Yer gonna feed ‘er yer blood, darlin’,” says the other vampire.

“That’ll make ’er yer ghoul.”

“Yer slave.”

Victoria: She’s much rather be the Lord Councilor’s, but the tide of displeasure is kept stifled.

She trusts that she won’t be made to walk into traffic, given his demeanor so far.

“Yes, Lord Councilor. How should I…?”

He won’t ask her to bite his wife-assumed, will he?

GM: There’s a buzz from Pierpont’s flip phone. He opens the screen.

“Seems she’s ’ere,” he grins.

“Yer gonna make a lil’ show of it, darlin’.”

“All she done got ta do is drink yer blood. Then the next night, and the next night, then once a month ta reinforce it. Keep the leash taut. But with that first drink, the collar, as the young ones like ta say, is already on.”

Victoria: “Yes, Lord Councilor,” she nods.

Her fingers throb.

“May I ask a question?”

GM: “Ya’ve asked so nicely,” smiles the other vampire, motioning for her to proceed.

Victoria: “When I was shot, the wound healed automatically—so quickly. My fingers, and my nose. They’re not. Why? How can I heal them? Provided I have your permission, when I leave.”

GM: Adelais finally smiles at Victoria.

It’s a faint smile.

It’s crueler than any look she’s leveled yet.

“You presume that you can heal these injuries, fledgling.”

Victoria: “Am I to be left like this, Lady Councilor?”

GM: “Are you complaining?” asks Adelais.

Victoria: “No, Lady Councilor, only asking about the world I don’t yet know.”

GM: “What would you think if you were to be left like this? Forever?”

Victoria: “I would think it’s better than dying, but I’d like to earn being healed, Lady Councilor. I understand that my desires don’t matter, though.”

GM: “Your injuries were suffered under the power of Lord Pierpont’s voice,” says Adelais. “As it was his will that maimed you, only by his will may you be healed. There is no other means.”

Victoria: “I see. Thank you, Lady Councilor.”

That’s her answer, in itself.

When he wants to, he’ll correct her. Until then, asking only delays.

GM: “Look at that good girl, not even askin’,” smiles Pierpont.

“Ya have ma will ta heal your nose.”

Victoria: “Thank you, Lord Councilor.”

A mote of glee even enters her words! She wills her nose to heal, but doesn’t so much as think a thought of trying anything else.

GM: It feels like being a submissive.

It is being a submissive.

Victoria feels an odd sensation. Blood rushing to her face. There’s an odd and rather gruesome sensation of bone growing, shifting, mending, unnaturally fast. Skin smooths over. Cartilage folds back into alignment.

Her nose feels whole.

“A word of caution, fledgling,” says Adelais. “Should you attempt this same process upon your fingers, or any other injury suffered under Lord Pierpont’s voice, the resultant scarification may prove beyond even his power to remove.”

She smiles again.

It does not reach her eyes.

“It it not right and proper, that slaves should suffer terribly for disobedience?”

Victoria: It’s unnerving, despite her knowing it’s healing. The human body doesn’t experience this—but, Victoria Wolf is more wolf than human now, isn’t she?

“I understand, Lady Councilor. I wouldn’t dream of crossing either of your wills.”

“And yes, Lady Councilor. Even though I wasn’t aware of the laws, I’m still to be held to them. I accept that.”

GM: Pierpont opens his phone.

“Billy, bring in the girl.”

He flips his phone closed and smiles at Victoria.

“Do make it good, now.”

“It’s only yer lives ridin’.”

Victoria: “How do I make this entertaining, Lord Councilor…?”

GM: “Do you suppose we also wish to tell actors what lines to say and how to say them?” Adelais asks severely. “Are you this boorish in all aspects of your life, or are you merely too boorish to have ever seen a film or play?”

“You will entertain us. If you fail to entertain us, you will be punished. Your ghoul will be punished. It that sufficiently clear, or should I use words with fewer syllables?”

Victoria: She slowly shakes her head.

“Perfectly clear, Lady Councilor.”

GM: The double doors open. Another skinhead strides inside, built like a haystack, and so covered in tattoos and metal studs and piercings that Victoria almost thinks he’s full clothed. Instead he’s merely wearing a pair of cargo pants and black combat boots. He’s dragging along a frightened-looking Anna by her arm, then rudely shoves her towards Victoria.

“Sylvia…!” Anna cries, stumbling into her girlfriend’s arms.

Then she looks at the two.

The vampires.

The vampires, with their deathly pale faces. Their cruel grin and look of icy, complete contempt. Their protruding fangs. The menace that wafts from them like a palpable musk. They stare at Anna like hungry wolves eyeing a tiny rabbit.

Something in those stares seems to make her wilt.

She doesn’t ask who they are.

She doesn’t ask what they want.

She doesn’t say a word.

Just shrinks against Victoria’s side.

It reminds Sylvia of Anna’s first time at a play party.

The sub seeking assurance at her domme’s side.

But Anna was less shy there.

And Victoria was a real domme there.

Victoria: Anna was less shy, because Anna had freedom back then.

As the teacher-no-more shrinks against her side, Victoria shirks her. Her good hand—palm open—crashes into Anna’s cheek, knocking her to the ground.

Her words are ice.

“I gave you clear instructions. Be. Respectful. Were those instructions too complicated for you?”

She kneels, seizing Anna’s cheeks as she would a rebellious child.

“You didn’t even acknowledge our hosts.”

She forces her head to look at them.

“Say, ‘hello, Lord Councilor!’ and ‘hello, Lady Councilor!’.”

GM: The surprise seems to hit Anna as much as as the physical blow.

She doesn’t fight back.

She doesn’t crawl away.

She doesn’t resist.

Something about their hosts—or Victoria—or both?—seems to freeze her in place.

“H-hel-lo, Lord C-Councilor! H-hello, L-lady Council-lor!” she gets out in a high voice.

McGinn grins at her, fangs long and sharp in his mouth.

Adelais looks as if a small dog started yipping.

Victoria: “You don’t listen!


“You never listen!”


“You didn’t listen when I told you to trust me! You didn’t listen when I told you not to take me to the hospital!”

No slap. No, Anna has been wounded enough.

“You didn’t listen to me when we were equal, and now? Now we’re not equal. Now you’ll never disobey me again.”

Anna’s face is pinched so hard that she can’t form words, one-third for show, one-third for the very real anger Victoria feels at Anna getting them into this mess—in part—and one-third—the largest third—so Anna can’t say something to get both of them killed.

Victoria’s fangs come forth, and she bites her own wrist. She doesn’t hesitate, despite the foreign feeling of intentionally wounding herself so severely.

She forces her flowing wound against her girlfriend’s mouth.

“If you spit it out, I’ll drown you in it.”

GM: Anna crumples to the floor, red welts bright on her cheeks.

“But I d-” she starts, then weakly trails off.

Something about the watching vampires seems to terrify Anna, beyond all sense and reason. She’s even crawling back to Victoria before the painfully sharp pinch registers. She weakly cries out, then chokes off Victoria’s fangs came out. Sylvia remembers how much those fangs unnerved her.

The bite of her own fangs doesn’t feel that bad, despite how deep they pierce. She’s had worse shots.

Anna makes a sound like protest at first, as Victoria shoved her bleeding wrist into her face.

But she doesn’t spit it out.

Oh no.

Something twists her face for a second.

Then she drinks deeply.


She doesn’t stop.

Victoria can feel herself lessening with every sip Anna takes. Like her girlfriend is sucking the food right out of her stomach.

Victoria: She allows her girlfriend to drink, and drink, and drink.

Her eyes flash up to her audience. Will they tell her when to stop?

No, probably not.

She pulls her wrist from Anna’s mouth, shoving her back to the ground.

“I’m disappointed in you.”

GM: Anna swallows and licks her lips.

Then she looks away.

Shame swims in her eyes.

Adelais leans forward.

Anna suddenly looks up.

“More. Please.”

“A true ghoul’s first words!” laughs McGinn.

Victoria: Victoria smiles faintly up to McGinn.

“Apologize to our hosts, Anna.”

GM: “I’m-I’m sorry, Lord Councilor,” says Anna.

She can’t quite meet his eyes.

But that might be because she’s staring at Victoria’s wrist.

Victoria: “Is her rudeness forgiven, Lord Councilor? Lady Councilor?” she asks, gesturing to the heap of a woman.

“I wouldn’t give her more of what she wants, unless she is.”

GM: “I suppose she is,” drawls Pierpont.

“And I suppose it’s yer blood, girl.”

“Yers ta give away.”

“Yer hunger ta live with.”

“’Til ya feed again.”

Pierpont smiles a wide, fanged smile.

“That won’t be so easy fer ya, though, in the future. No sir-ree.”

“So ba all means.” He gestures magnanimously. “Do as ya like with what’s in yer veins.”

Victoria: Victoria presses the sole of her shoe to Anna’s chest, pushing her onto her back.

“Where you belong. You’ll get more when you earn it.”

To McGinn, “We’ll leave her wanting. May I ask another question, Lord Councilor?”

GM: Anna stares up.

She looks between the three vampires.

She lies very still.

“Go ahead,” grins McGinn.

Victoria: “What is the proper way to feed? I’d like not to make more of a mess on your land.”

GM: McGinn laughs again.

“That’s presumin’ a great deal, girl, that ya’d be able to make any more messes on ma land.”

“But ya’ve left me in a generous mood.”

“Ya kill only those who won’t be missed. Ya take care o’ the body yerself. Ya don’t leave it lyin’ in an alley with puncture marks.”

“Ya don’t kill those who will be missed. Ya drink light, not deep. Ya lick yer wounds closed and ya leave them rememberin’ nary a thing.”

Victoria: “We can alter memories, Lord Councilor?”

GM: “Do you consider yourself finished with your slave, fledgling?” Adelais asks critically.

Victoria: She bows her head.

“Unless you’d like to be entertained further, Lady Councilor.”

GM: “I do not consider you finished,” says Adelais.

Victoria: She dips her chin to the lady councilor, and then lowers her gaze to Anna. Oh, poor Anna.

Poor Victoria. She doesn’t allow the pain to eek through.

“They don’t consider you done, dear,” she breathes, her words acridly mirthful.

The fledgling presses her shoe to Anna’s throat, pressing none-too-gently.

“What is it you want? More?”

GM: There’s desire in her eyes, but fear too. And whiteness in her cheeks.

Anna shakes her head.

Victoria: “Do you think that the lord councilor and lady councilor are stupid? That your pitiful lie hides your desire from them?”

GM: Anna shakes her head again.

Victoria: “Say. What. You. Want.”

She presses down more firmly.

GM: “Y… your bloo…” Anna gets out in a small, choked voice.

Victoria: “I don’t think they can hear you, Anna.”

GM: “Y… our… blood!” Anna gets out, louder.

Victoria: “And what does that make you, dear Anna?”

GM: Anna swallows.

“A… slave?”

Victoria: “No, dear. You’d be a slave if you’d listened from the start. Now? Now you’re just a bitch.”

She grinds her heel into Anna’s cheek.

GM: Anna winces under the pressure. Her cheeks redden. But she doesn’t say anything. She remains very, very still.

“This grows tiresome,” declares Adelais.

She looks towards Pierpont. “Get rid of her.”

McGinn effects a yawn. “Ah’m well inclined ta at this point.”

“Such a shame. It started off with promise.”

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

GM: An eyeblink passes.

Victoria’s suddenly in a windowed room that’s empty but for a blanket and bucket. Anna’s next to her, blinking with a confused expression.

The other two vampires are gone.

Victoria: She opens her mouth to talk, and suddenly finds herself face to face with a wall.

She looks around.




“What… happened?”

GM: “I don’t know, what did?” Anna gets out.

The question is full of equal parts bewilderment, anger, and hurt.

Victoria: The fledgling glances sideways at her girlfriend.

“…I had to do that, Anna. They’d have killed you if I didn’t. We’d probably be out of here if I’d done worse—but I won’t. I’m not going to kill you just so I can walk away.”

GM: Anna sits down against the wall, wraps her arms around her knees, and starts quietly crying.

Victoria: Sylvia slumps down beside her, wrapping an arm around her.

“Forgive me.”

GM: Anna’s head bolts up.

Her skin feels warm against Sylvia’s. So warm.

“You’re… you’re cold…”

Victoria: “Sorry.”

She pulls her arm back.

“…you know I’d never talk to you like that.”

GM: Well, not technically true.

But always from a place of mutual consent.

So maybe completely true.

“Wh… what happened,” Anna repeats.

Something feels odd about the way her gaze lingers on Sylvia.

Victoria: “They are, I presume, the local royalty of my new life.”

Despite the cold of her words, there’s some curiosity poorly veiled.

“And… they wanted to be entertained. In their way.”

GM: “You were going to the house,” Anna says, numbly. “To get… laptops. Clothes. Things.”

“What happened?”

Victoria: “They were there. I fought them off—most of them. The normal ones.”

The human ones.

“Then… I had them call their boss. I wanted to end this, before it involved you even more than it did already. I thought meeting him would be… right; would give me answers.”

She swallows a lump.

“Clearly not. Not as I’d hoped.”

“I didn’t expect them to have the powers they do. To have any powers at all. Not like this.”

She shakes her head.

GM: There is no lump.

There’s nothing to swallow.

Just more nothing.

Anna looks even more confused. And scared.


Victoria: “He told me to do something, and I did it. I couldn’t even think of disobeying.”

GM: Anna doesn’t say anything.

She looks at the room’s closed door.

Victoria: “I’m sorry.”

GM: “I don’t understand,” Anna repeats, sniffing again.

“I don’t understand any of this.”

Victoria: She resists the urge to pull her close again.

She resists the urge to be angry, or sad.

She resists the urge to pound on the door she already knows is sealed against their kind.

She resists the urge to wonder what would have happened if she’d sought her ‘friend’.

“I don’t either. Little more than you.”

But Anna is a pebble in an ocean deeper than she can ever fathom. At least Victoria is a fish.

GM: Maybe a pebble can better evade the sharks.

Or maybe it will just get swallowed without thought.

A fish can at least swim under its own power.

A pebble can just sit there.

“Who are they? Why did they want…”

Anna just trails off.


Victoria: “Locals of… my kind.”

Vampires. It still doesn’t feel right to say.

“We broke their laws. I broke their laws.”

GM: Anna looks a little less confused.

A little.

“What laws?”

Victoria: “Like… not feeding and leaving bodies in the street.”

A pause.

“And… not telling you.”

“They’re pretty upset about the last one.”

GM: Anna looks at the closed door.

“So what do we do?”

Victoria: Wordlessly, Victoria turns toward the door, trying it.

GM: Victoria’s arms don’t move.

Victoria: She tries to touch the wall beside it.

GM: She does so.

Victoria: “It seems I’ve been told not to open the door. You’re welcome to try, yourself.”

“…though I think that’d matter little.”

GM: Anna gets up and walks towards the door.

Then she just does nothing.

“I… I can’t…”

Victoria: Her lips part in surprise.

“…their commands work on you, too?”

GM: Anna stares at the door with a look of growing consternation, then finally sits back down.

“I can’t. I can’t open it.”

She looks at Sylvia.

“Why can’t I? What’s going on?”

“They didn’t… command me.”

Victoria: “Do you remember entering this room, Anna?” she finally asks.

GM: “Yes.”

She regards Sylvia like that’s an odd question.

Victoria: Lovely. Now she’s hallucinating again.

…is any of this real, too?

“I don’t.”

GM: Anna doesn’t look sure what to respond to that.

Victoria: Victoria pinches the bridge of her nose.

“They want to be entertained, but if I disobey—when I even have the chance—we’re dead.”

She looks down at her broken fingers.

GM: Anna looks at Sylvia, but doesn’t look at her fingers.

But then, the only light in the unlit room is the moonlight and starlight from the window.

Can her weak human eyes even make out Sylvia’s broken fingers?

“So that’s what that was? With me?”

Victoria: “I told you that that’s all that was,” she answers, her words barren of sympathy.

“You don’t need me to tell you again to know that I’d never talk to you that way without a sound reason.”

GM: Anna doesn’t immediately say anything.

But she scoots over and lies her head against Sylvia’s shoulder.

She feels warm.

Victoria: Oppressively warm, and she’s still hungry from feeding Anna.

“Do you… feel any different? Drinking my blood.”

GM: “It… it was incredible, Sylvia….” says Anna, wrapping an arm around her girlfriend’s other shoulder.

Some amount of light returns to her eyes.

“I’ve never tasted anything like it.”

Victoria: “What did… it taste like? What did it feel like?”

She doesn’t seem any more magically subservient.

GM: “It was… sweet.”

“Rich. Deep. It’s hard to describe. I’ve never had anything like it.”

“It was like liquid sex.”

“I felt like I could do anything. Run a marathon. Fight a grizzly. Go all night.”

Victoria: Is it no different for a human than a vampire?

She waits for Anna to continue.

GM: Her girlfriend looks away.

“I wish that hadn’t been our first time.”

Victoria: Victoria’s jaw tightens.

“Virginity is lost only when it’s willingly given.”

GM: Anna looks back up.

“Can I have some more, Sylvia? It’d really make me feel better…”

Victoria: Victoria may not be an experienced vampire, but she does learn.

“Anna… I think that may be why they locked us up together. If I give you too much, I’ll get hungrier. If I get too hungry…”

She doesn’t think she needs to explain.

GM: “What if it’s just a little, then,” says Anna.

Victoria: “Then I’ll be just a little bit hungrier, and you’ll be just a little bit closer to death.”

GM: “You’re not going to kill me. You’d never.”

Victoria: “I wouldn’t kill you, Anna, no; but, I… didn’t have a choice. With the last one.”

Or the one before that.

GM: “That was different,” she says, rubbing Sylvia’s shoulder. “They weren’t me.”

“Just a little. Please.”

Victoria: “They weren’t you, and I wouldn’t place any more risk on you,” she answers. It’s like having a child.

“I’ll give you as much as you want when we get home.”

GM: “But what if they don’t let us go home.”

Victoria: “They wouldn’t have us both alive if they didn’t have some intent for us.”

After all, she’d earned some smiles before coming face to face with a wall.

GM: “I hope so.”

“Please just a sip, though. It’d really make me feel good.”

Victoria: Victoria stares at her as if she’s just asked ‘why?’ for the sixth time.

GM: “A little isn’t a big risk,” Anna presses. “I’m okay with that. Every kink has risk. RACK, right? Risk Aware Consensual Kink? I’m okay with this.”

Victoria: “Anna.”

Lord, is she this addicted this quickly?

“We’re locked in a room in a vampire’s estate, who can command us to do what he wants with no room for rebellion. Magic is real. I’m dead, but living. I drink blood. Fairy tales are real. Our lives are completely flipped upside down and turned inside out, and all you can think about is getting your fix?”

She shakes her head.

“Fuck it. Fine. Come here.”

GM: Anna’s already leaning against her.

But she looks away again at Sylvia’s words. Red colors her cheeks.

“N-never mind.”

Victoria: Despite her chilly skin, she pulls Anna against her.

“I’m sorry. I just… I want to get us home.”

GM: “You’re going to miss even more clients,” Anna remarks miserably into the crook of Sylvia’s neck. “They’re going to think you’re unreliable.”

She gives a weak laugh.

“I don’t know why I thought of that.”

“What are clients going to matter now.”

Victoria: “They’ll live. Medical emergencies happen.”

Of which she considers this as one.

“I think they’ll forgive me. All that matters is us.”

Friday night, 8 April 2016, PM

GM: Victoria feels exhausted. More tired than she’s ever been in her entire life.

Then, suddenly, she doesn’t. She’s swaddled in a blanket and can’t see anything.

Victoria: She thrashes in her sudden blindness, arms flailing about in the blanket.

GM: She hits someone and hears Anna yell. The blanket comes off. Anna was right next to her. They’re still in the same empty room.

Victoria feels hungrier.

She smells piss from the bucket.

Victoria: “Sorry,” she grumps, tossing the blanket off and looking around.

“What happened? Did I fall asleep?”

She wrinkles her nose at the scent.

GM: “Yeah,” Anna says in a weak voice.

“We’ve been in here… all day.”

She looks like she slept terribly.

She looks like she slept without any pillows or blankets on a hard floor.

Victoria: “All day.”

Victoria feels fine.

“It was… instantaneous. I was tired, and then I was out. I suppose I don’t get much choice in that anymore.”

GM: “I haven’t had anything to eat or drink,” Anna mumbles.

“No one’s been here.”

“They’ve just… left us.”

Victoria does feel fine. Not weaker. Not tired. Not in the least bit sore from lying all day on a hard floor.

Just hungrier.

Victoria: “I know better than to ask for food for you. Even if they can probably hear us.”

She looks up at the ceiling, trying to spot a camera.

GM: She doesn’t see any.

Victoria: She stands, walking toward the window, then presses on it.

GM: Her arms refuse to move.

Victoria: The thinks about wiping a smudge off the window and tries to do so.

GM: She finds herself able to do that.

Victoria: “Anything that might allow us to escape, I can’t do.”

She slumps against the wall below the window.

“They know that I’ll eventually give them the show that they want.”

GM: “W… what kind of show…?” Anna asks.

“I tried the window, too.”

“I couldn’t touch it.”

Victoria: “The show where I eat you. All they have to do is wait. They’ll get their blood eventually.”

Or they’ll forget they exist. Either way, death.

GM: Anna swallows.

“What do we do…?”

Victoria: Victoria snorts.

“They didn’t happen to leave your cell phone on you somewhere, did they?”

GM: “Took it.”

Victoria: “Then what can we do? Any thought we have on escaping, we can’t execute. We’re trapped. We’re fucked. They win, and we can do nothing but wait until they decide to do something with us.”

GM: Despair stares out from Anna’s eyes.

But it’s not a new-looking despair.

“There’s got to be something we can do,” she says. “Something. Anything.”

Victoria: Victoria looks around the room, taking everything. Every tiny detail. Every crack and crease in the wall. Every imperfection of the window. So much more than human eyes can see. Is there anything at all that can help them?

GM: She doesn’t see anything of note.

It’s a completely bare room, but for the blanket, piss-filled bucket, and two occupants.

Victoria: Unless Anna started pissing sulfuric acid in the last day, there’s no tool that can help them out.

Victoria storms toward the door, kicking it out of frustration.

“We get it! You win! You get what you want, whether I give it to you or not!”

GM: Her foot refuses to strike the door.

No one answers her yells.


She can’t even take her anger out on an inanimate object.

GM: The wave of anger, furious and hateful, crests and falls.

There’s the bucket.

There’s Anna.

But the rest of the world is deaf to her rage.

Victoria: “Fine! Fuck!”

In a motion just as fast, and anger just as hot as a strike of lightning, Victoria’s incisors unsheathe, sinking into her wrist and tearing until life bubbles forth.

“Come here!” she commands Anna, seizing her in one hand, while her wrist is pressed to her mouth.

GM: Anna’s face loses some of its color.

But her eyes set on the bleeding wrist.

She scarcely has a chance to disobey, anyway, before Victoria grabs her.

Her eyes widen as she drinks thirstily, ravenously.

She looks awash in bliss. Completely spaced out to everything else.

Victoria feels herself growing less the longer Anna sucks. She feels pangs of hunger, not in her stomach, but everywhere. She feels like a great cat is trapped inside of her, stalking and pacing, and getting bigger and meaner with every second that Anna drinks.

Victoria: Victoria rips her wrist away.

“That’s enough!”

The predator inside her leaps, the deadbolt to its chains bending under its will. It roars and howls and whines all at once.

“Stop. I can’t… I can’t give you anymore.”

She looks to the door, shouting.

“That was your command, right? To feed her once a day for three days? Well, there’s the second day.”

GM: Anna stares after Victoria’s withdrawn wrist. Bliss mingled with sudden despair plays across her face. An all-too abrupt end to the carnival ride.

No one answers Victoria’s words.

“Sylvia… look, nothing bad happened…” starts Anna.

Victoria: “Don’t talk for a minute. Just… don’t say anything. Don’t move. Don’t think. Don’t even excessively breathe.”

Especially the latter. If she does, that predator inside is liable to finger paint with Anna’s entrails.

GM: Anna doesn’t.

She doesn’t speak, move, or breathe.

But Victoria can hear her heart thumping.

She’s probably still thinking, too.

Victoria: Oppressive thumping.

Wet thumping.

Warm thumping.

Salty thumping.

Sweet thumping.

All of McGinn’s horses and all of McGinn’s men would never put Anna back together again.

The predator inside cackles.

Would just a single bite hurt?

She can control it, can’t she?

It’ll only be worse, if she staves off that hunger longer.

So much worse.

She’ll definitely kill Anna then.

Predator salivates.

He said she could lick it closed, didn’t he?

He never lied to her.

Not once.

GM: McGinn didn’t say she couldn’t take any blood back.

Did he?

It’d be for Anna’s own good.

To keep her less thirsty.

Take a little now to avoid taking it all later.

She can even lick it closed.

He hasn’t lied.

Anna just waits, silent but for the beating of her heart.

The faster beating.

Victoria: She her face crosses the distance to Anna’s shoulder in what feels faster than she can blink.

Her fangs sink into the flesh of that shoulder, stopping halfway as resolve crashes against desire.

Don’t. Lose it. Don’t. Lose it.

If she doesn’t feed, she’ll cave eventually. They’re being left to rot.

There’s not a meal in the world more exquisite than the taste that floods her mouth, and it’s wrapped up in and entwined with all the intimacy of making love to your wife. It’s salty, and sweet, and orgasmic, and—

And if she doesn’t stop, she’ll kill Anna.

A little more?

Just a little more.

A few seconds.

A few pulls.

A few mouthfuls.

She forces herself off, licking the wound closed.

The Beast inside whines.

GM: Whatever Victoria was expecting Anna to taste like, it’s not like she was expecting.

It’s nothing like she was expecting.

It’s warm and soft and brimming with love. It tastes like Mary’s spaghetti and meatball dinner that first night at the St. George house. It tastes like getting the adoption pictures signed and posing. It tastes like that first orgasm she received from Anna’s insatiable tongue. It tastes like that time Anna said, as they lay in one another’s arms and basked in the afterglow of their first lovemaking, that this was the warmest, brightest, happiest spot in the universe. It tastes like the first collar she fitted around Anna’s neck, and the soft click of the lock, and the way her eyes delightfully fluttered—

It tastes like that and more.

Victoria feels warm. She feels whole. She feels satisfied. She feels in control. She feels Anna’s in her hands, in her mouth, in her throat, inside of her, in this gesture of ultimate submission. Putting her life in Victoria’s hands. Loving her for it.

Her blood tastes like love.

It makes everything else she’s tasted taste like piss. Beneath the love, there’s a pleasantly sweet taste to Anna’s blood, too. It’s sweet and bubbly, like italian soda or cotton candy.

But there are unpleasant notes, too, that grow all the stronger the more Victoria drinks. Hunger. Fear. Exhaustion. Deprivation. Misery. Horror. They’re bitter and sour and salty in all of the wrong ways, like someone’s sprinkled sand and dirt into Mary’s spaghetti, or given Victoria a splitting headache during a night of otherwise great sex.

How much better could Anna taste, away from here?

Her girlfriend crumples to the ground with a low moan. She stares up at Victoria with wide, glazed eyes. Her skin is simultaneously paler and flushed, as though from sex. Her mouth hangs open.

“That… was…” she gets out.

Victoria: It tastes like memories.

Like a life not yet lived.

Like possibility.

Like looking back at their story.

Like gentle spring, and soothing autumn.

Like a warm cup of tea and milk before slipping into cool sheets.

Next to her. Always next to her.

It tastes like a dream; like they have a chance in Hell of escaping back to a reality before Victoria decided her pride and revenge was more important than her life with Anna.

Horse. King’s men. Victoria. Together again.

Yet Anna never loses a single piece of her.

“We’ll be okay,” she answers.

It sounds half-convincing.

Saturday night, 9 April 2016, AM

GM: It feels like they’ve been sitting there for hours when the door opens.

A vision of beauty strides in. Dead like Victoria, with not a beat sounding from her heart. But perfectly pulchritudinous, a divine goddess; one could doubtlessly compare her to Aphrodite herself. How many people have fallen to her otherworldly looks? She looks like she was born in full glamour: hair, makeup, nails, clothing. Every inch of her is painted, sculpted perfection, from the shade of her foundation to the wing of her eyeliner to the fresh coat of polish on her nails. Everything is in its place.

Her hair is dark and worn loosely curled in the latest fashion, her dark eyes framed by long lashes, smoked out shadow, and impeccable liquid liner. Her waist is trim, her cheekbones high, her nose aquiline; all of these features could doubtless be enhanced even more if she smiled. She looks like she smiles with her eyes before it ever touches her lips.

She must have had work done to look this way. But that’s the key to good work, isn’t it? When it’s bad it’s obvious, when it’s good you cannot tell. And Victoria cannot tell what, exactly, has happened to make her into this exquisite creature.


Victoria: Blood mats her face.

Blood mats her wrist.

Her hair.

Her broken fingers.

She’s a bloody mess, and only half of the mess is blood.

She regards the woman with a note of surprise. Did she even hear the door open?

“You’re one of his?”


Jade: Obviously.

“So you’re the vagabond.”

She looks like hell. Her and the face next to her. Prey.

“What dumb thing did you do to end up here?”

The newcomer’s voice sounds amused.

Victoria: “Answer the phone,” she answers. “And fail to entertain.”

She slants her gaze toward Anna, tightening her protective arm around her.

“Who are you?”

Jade: The vampire arches one perfectly sculpted brow. Then she laughs.

“That’s not how this works, darling. Who are you?

Victoria: Victoria reins in her smoldering embers.

No fire, Victoria. Not now.

“Victoria. This is Anna.”

She winces. Her fingers still throb. They look like a small child bullied its doll.

Jade: “But I already knew that,” the vampire says with an effected sigh. “I want to know how and why you suddenly appeared in my city.”

Victoria: Your city?

“I’m not sure. I woke up like this.”

Jade: The whole city. And why not? She’s beautiful. She’s alluring. She fills the space in the room, a commanding presence with an easy arrogance. Like a big, lazy cat watching mice. He’d sent for her.

The vampire nods. “That makes sense.”

Then there’s a knife in her hand, a sharp white thing grooved on one side and jagged on the other. She slices it across Victoria’s arm until blood coats the edge and steps back as if this were an everyday thing. It’s cool enough. She lifts the knife—are those teeth?—and licks the blood from its surface.

The knife disappears back into its spot on her thigh.

“Where’d you wake up?”

GM: Anna gives a little shout of alarm. Perhaps at the attack. Perhaps at the teeth. Perhaps at watching Jade lick someone’s blood.

But she doesn’t lunge forward. Just sits there against Victoria. Eyeing Jade warily.

Jade: Now that’s a familiar thing.

Victoria: Victoria resists the urge to snatch her arm back. She’s protective. She’s unsure. She’s scared. She’d rather be alone with Anna, locked in a room, than to deal with any of these strangers any more.

She’d rather be at home, never having tried to play the hero; to right the wrongs that happened to Anna and Amelie; to have given in to her pride and flew too close to the sun.

She’d rather be human.

She allows her arm to be wounded, and her blood to be licked clean. Simple wounds don’t bother her quite as much.

GM: “She woke up a in a hotel,” Anna volunteers in a slow voice.

Jade: “Thank you, darling. Which?”

GM: “The Hampton Inn. A little ways from here.”

Jade: “Did you spend the night prior?”

GM: Anna looks at Victoria, then shakes her head.

Jade: “And how did you get involved in all of this?”

There’s a deeper affection present than the bond.

GM: Anna pauses for a moment, then answers,

“She’s my w-girlfriend.”

Victoria: She opens her mouth to speak, but Anna answers first. Her answers are sound and simple, and so she feels no need to interject. This pair is less cold than the previous pair, if still cool, and less overt than her hallucination.

A hallucination she still knows is real out there, somewhere in New Orleans.

Jade: The vampire encourages Anna with a nod. She probes further; she wants to know where they’d been prior. How they got there. Who they were with.

GM: Anna says she isn’t sure. They’d had a fight and Victoria left the house. They weren’t with anyone.

Jade: Useless. Jade breaks a finger to see if she’s holding out on anything.

GM: Anna shrieks in pain.

“She was h-hallucinating! She w-was talking about en-nemies, she had a g-gun with the safety off!”

Jade: She probes further about the enemies. Who? How many? What did she say about them?

GM: Victoria feels it again, with her girlfriend’s scream. The flash of rage. The lengthening of her fangs. The monster within her surging to leap up, to tear the other vampire’s face apart-

Victoria: Pop!

With that single action, she coils into a spring, but doesn’t leap. The cat inside her pulls at self-inflicted chains, its bones threatening to snap just as much as the chains themselves. She wants to attack—to reduce that creature before her to a pulp so fine that not even God himself could grant a regeneration powerful enough to make her right again—but she knows that their being here means they are one of McGinn’s, and giving in to that primal will would only serve Anna with more broken fingers.

Or worse.

Trembling, anger unabated and prominent on her face—but restrained—she watches and waits.

Before Anna can speak, she answers. Again, she recounts the story of what happened, from Jordan’s strange return from the Malveaux abduction all the way through waking in the hotel.

Her words are laced with dripping flames, but she practices restrained, if barely so.

“The Malveaux family answered perceived wrongs against Anna and the niece of another—Christina Roberts—in their own way. Anna was fired and effectively blacklisted from her career. Her career meant everything to her. I answered that by having a client abduct, drug and have photos taken in a rather compromising scenario of one of their kin; a member of the clergy. One career ruined for another. When that client—Jordan Ratcliff—returned, he was in a state of paranoia past the point of a mental break. I met him later, and he attacked me, knocked me out, and left me in the street. I woke up there, hours later. I still tried to pull him out of that, and when I found him, he agreed to come with me to church. He did so, had another episode, and ran. It was there that I met the man that I intended to ruin, who… inflicted me with something. Fear? He didn’t sound natural.”

Which makes a hell of a lot more sense, now.

“From then on, I, too, saw things that weren’t there; namely, that I was being followed. Whenever I stopped to look or bait them out, they disappeared as if they were made from smoke. Later that night, I received a knock at the door, and—to my perception—I was attacked by someone impossibly fast. She took both Anna and I, and tortured Anna in front of me.”

She swallows.

The longer she talks, the more the rage subsides; the more she submits.

“To Anna’s perception, we had a fight, and I ran out into the night. She never saw the attack, nor the night of torture. I woke up in the hotel room, and found her. From there, it’s as I described to the Lord Councilor.”

A pause.

“Please. Don’t hurt her. I’ll do what you say. I’ll entertain him if he’d like. I’ll do anything. I’ll enslave my own wife. I’ll be enslaved by the lady councilor. Just… please, don’t hurt her any more.”

Jade: “The fast one. Blonde?”

Victoria: “Yes, they were blonde,” she answers immediately.

Jade: It’s the only interruption she makes. The vampire’s face otherwise remains as stone, not a flicker of emotion or recognition or anything that even resembles humanity. This is a monster. There’s no doubt about that. No matter how pretty that face is she sucks all the air from the room; what sort of creature can’t muster any empathy for these sorts of atrocities?

Without a word the lick holds out her hand for Anna’s. There’s a pop, a twist, and suddenly Anna can move her finger again. It’s still swollen and red. It still looks broken. But there’s no pain.

Just like magic.

GM: Anna gives a little gasp as the vampire fixes her finger. She tenderly flexes it.

She looks up at Jade. Her face is still wary, as if unsure what to think.

Victoria: Victoria’s eyes flick between the vampire’s face and Anna, desperate for her pain to stop as much as she is desperate not to have reason to lose herself to the animal inside.

At that pop, she almost does, but Anna moves her finger.

Now she’s restoring her? What?

Jade: The pretty girl fixes her gaze on Victoria.

“I am going to torture you.” She says it with all the care of someone discussing laundry detergent. “You will bleed. You will scream. You will break.” They almost sound like orders. “They’ll release you shortly before dawn. Don’t beg for hospitality.”

“I will be highly disappointed if you allow yourself to be enslaved.”

Victoria: Victoria’s gaze locks to their captor as she looks at her.

“I… see.”

What else can she do?

“May I ask a question?”

Jade: The vampire waves an indolent hand.

GM: “Torture me,” Anna pleads. “If you have to torture somebody. Please. She’s been through enough.”

Victoria: She breathes a growl at Anna, then turns her gaze back to the vampire.

“Why will they let us go?”

Jade: She completely ignores Anna’s plea.

“The lord councilor is teaching you an important lesson. Once it’s over he’ll have no use for you.”

Victoria: “I see.”

She answers as if a doctor informed her she has a cancer she’s known about for years.

At least she’ll be alive.


Saturday night, 9 April 2016, AM

GM: Victoria and Anna are left to rot in their cell until they’re retrieved by the strawberry blonde and the large skinhead. They’re told not to even think of running and escorted downstairs to the sitting room. Some of the furniture’s been moved around. A plastic tarp has been set up with a stained-looking tail in the center.

Pierpont McGinn and Adelais Seyrès sit together on the same couch as last night, along with the nameless vampire that Victoria spoke to earlier.

McGinn grins as he sees them.

“How’d ya sleep last day, Miss Wolf?”

Victoria: “As if I didn’t have a choice whether I slept or not,” she answers, her words strained, but calm.

She’s obedient, for now, with the rage subsided.

“Lord Councilor, I admire your… tenacity… in making a point.”

GM: McGinn barks a laugh.

“Girl, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Victoria: She exhales through her nose, shaking her head.

“I imagine not.”

GM: “Yer about ta receive a special honor,” he smiles. “See, normally I’d just turn ya over ta the prince, and have a right chuckle attendin’ yer execution with the missus, or maybe stake ya fer the dawn maself. No one who’ll miss a lil’ nobody like you.”

He smiles and looks towards the newcomer vampire.

“But it’s come ta my attention that Miss Kalani is possessed o’ certain unique talents, and I’m just dyin’ ta see a demonstration o’ them.”

“Could work out mighty well fer her if I like what I see.”

Victoria: “As it could have for me, I’m sure, if I’d better predicted your tastes in entertainment, Lord Councilor,” she answers respectfully, dipping her chin.

GM: “Sock yer lil’ ghoul hard as ya can.”

Victoria: Her fist crashes into Anna’s stomach, strength unabated.

She looks down at her girlfriend, however brief, lips tightening in an unseen apology before she turns back to McGinn.

“Would you like me to strike her face, too, Lord Councilor? I wasn’t sure if you’d prefer the sustained pain of… that.”

She gestures to Anna, now in a heap on the floor.

“…or something more bloody.”

GM: Anna cries out and hits the floor in a heap.

Adelais’ expression looks like something between boredom, irritation, and contempt. She doesn’t even glance at Anna.

“If Lord Pierpont wished to torture your ghoul, fledgling, there are more efficacious means doubtless beyond your limited imagination. He merely sought to silence your prattle.”

“Your ignorance offends our ears.”

Victoria: She falls to silence. Talk more. Talk less. Talk more. Talk less.

She wishes vampires would collectively make up their damn minds.

GM: “It’s a rare occasion ma wife says a word o’ praise, and surely they are rarer and more precious ta the recipient than gold,” smiles McGinn. “But she has given me some idea o’ what ta expect from Miss Kalani, and I am most intrigued.”

“Strip and lie on the table.”

Victoria: Mortal wounds no longer mar her long, unless commanded by the Lord Councilor; yet, pain remains. Pain enough, it seems, from this woman, that it’ll entertain him.

At least it’s her.

Not Anna.

She complies, stripping her bloodied clothing down to skin and laying on the table.

GM: “A slave should not enjoy privileges above its master’s,” says Adelais.

McGinn nods absently.

“Strip,” he tells Anna.

Victoria: She tenses, but knows better than to so much as let it touch her expression.

GM: Anna slowly reaches for her top, then when McGinn’s face starts to look impatient, rapidly pulls it off. Then her pants and underwear. She stands naked before the small gathering.

Red faintly colors her cheeks.

Victoria: Victoria ignores her, looking over to their commanders.

GM: “Lesse… hm, _don’t move a muscle,”_ McGinn commands Victoria, smiling.

Victoria: And so she doesn’t, even if she had a choice in the matter.

GM: “Move her head back, slave,” says Adelais. “She must see what happens.”

Victoria’s whole body is frozen. Her neck is stuck looking at the sitting vampires. Anna silently tilts her girlfriend’s head back to normal resting position.

“And there ya have it, Miss Kalani,” drawls McGinn, gesturing widely. “A trespassin’, poachin’, Masquerade-breakin’ piece o’ gutter trash ta do with as yer black lil’ heart and curious lil’ hands do please. If ya would use her ta study somethin’ or other, go right ahead. If ya would use her merely as a scratchin’ post, go right ahead. I desire only ta see how yer methods work with ma own two eyes.”

“Billy, the final restraint now, if ya please.”

The skinhead approaches Victoria with a wooden stake and rams it into her chest.

It feels every bit as painful as she expected having a sharp piece of wood rammed inside of her would feel.

Victoria: It’s worse than being locked inside a cell. She can’t move. She can’t breathe. She can’t shift her eyes. She can’t blink. They dry out. She can’t even shift her gaze to see what’s happening around her.

All she feels is pain; the sensation of a sharp spear crashing through her sternum, nailing her to the table by her own ribs.

She wants to cry, and yell, and let that pain out even if it further rips her lungs, but all she can do is stare.

Stare, and count the cracks in the ceiling.

GM: She doesn’t count any. It’s a well-maintained ceiling.

Her eyes don’t dry out, either. There’s just more of that same feeling of nothing.

Or at least.

Nothing but pain.

“The experience will be diminished if she cannot scream or beg,” says Adelais. “What have we to fear from this nothing?”

“’Tis not us, but our guest I fear for,” smiles McGinn. “I would not think ta have any invited guest o’ mine suffer harm under the aegis o’ ma hospitality.”

“What say ya, Miss Kalani? Stake in or out? The lordly voice will keep ‘er still, but once ’er Beast’s in the driver’s seat, all bets are off.”

“Could not physical restraints be sufficient, Lord Pierpont?” says Violet. “Or the amputation of her limbs? Then she would be physically immobilized and able to scream.”

“Perhaps,” smiles McGinn. “Perhaps. But, darlin’, this here’s one thing I’ve learned, bein’ married ta a rose. Ya leave ’em ta do the art how they please.”

“And this will be art, I do not doubt. If Miss Kalani requires any further supplies or setup, she is of course welcome to them.”

Jade: The newcomer is silent when the pair are brought into the room. She is silent when Victoria slugs Anna. She is silent when Anna strips, silent when Victoria lies down, silent when Anna adjusts Victoria’s head. She may as well be made of stone. Only when the vagabond is bound, staked, and ready to go does she finally animate herself.

“It’s refreshing,” she says idly, strolling forward, “to openly practice my true art. And for such an audience.” She smiles down at Victoria, running a hand down her cheek. “Thank you for the canvas, Lord Councilor.”

Then it starts. Whatever else they say about her, no one can claim she isn’t an artist. Not when they see her with her hands on a body; she touches and the skin moves, she digs and the muscles spasm. A fingertip splits the flesh across her chest. Slowly. Without anything sharp at all, just Miss Kalani’s fingertips. Wolf’s flesh becomes thinner and thinner and thinner until it finally tears.

The artist times the removal of the stake perfectly. It’s just as the skin wrenches apart that she yanks the piece of wood from Wolf’s heart. Skin pain isn’t something that can be ignored. It’s an organ just like everything else in the body. It has nerve endings that Miss Kalani sets alight with a pinch, the sort of shallow pain you can’t release with a stretch or hot towel. It’s crippling. Debilitating. Even if she could move, she wouldn’t get far.

Miss Kalani turns Victoria’s body into a tapestry of agony. She rends strips of flesh from her stomach and thighs in long ribbons that she twists together in her hand, but its use isn’t discernible until the rose forces her canvas’ mouth open and rips out her fangs. Each of them go on the end of her ribbon. Soon has the doctor has Victoria vivisected on the table with flaps of flesh pinned back by nails hammered into the table; a swipe of her hand and the costal cartilage splits into nothing. Victoria’s sternum practically falls out of her body. Kalani wraps it in her collected flesh until the leather is hard and the device comes to life.

She gives it an experimental crack.

Pleased, the rose hooks the whip to her hip. It isn’t done yet. But its creation changes something in her.

She’s lost to the work. McGinn and his wife become nothing but a presence in the back of her mind. Words blur to become the distant hum of insects in the night. Even the screaming fades. It’s just the artist and her canvas.

She paints it red. Then white, when she strips away flesh and shifts aside muscles to reveal the bone beneath. She scratches the bone itself with long talons, leaving behind a mark reminiscent of an X.

Things hurt less after that.

Kalani takes out her lungs and orders her to speak, but with no breath how can she say a word?

GM: Jade’s audience watches raptly.

She can tell they are, until she loses herself in Arikel’s blessing.

McGinn laughs heartily, exclaiming that it’s “Like watchin’ a cat with yarn!”

Adelais merely surveys the unfolding torture scene without criticism, which Jade well knows is compliment in of itself. There’s even a look of smug satisfaction when she extracts Victoria’s lungs.

Violet oohs and ahhs, politely while covering her mouth. “My goodness… she can’t even scream now, can she?”

Billy whoops and exclaims, “Goddamn! Lookit that cunt! She’s fuckin’… FUCK! She’s MEAT!”

He falls silent with a glance from Adelais.

Anna watches no less raptly, too.

Victoria’s girlfriend clutches her hands to her mouth. Her nudity is forgotten. She stares, transfixed, in abject terror. And abject horror. She does not once look away. Tears rim her eyes. Maybe she thinks to do something. But what can she do, one of her against five of them? Against vampires who can command with a word.

It’s over four sets of enthusiastic applause that Anna finally finds her voice and croaks,

“Is she dead…?”

Victoria only knows pain.

Excruciating, blinding, unequaled pain, like nothing she has before felt.

She feels something else, like she did last time. The snarling, raging, spitting monster within her bursting its chains. Sight and sound dissolve into furious red. Mindless red. The onlookers are gone. The vampire torturing her, Miss Kalani, is gone.

There’s nothing but pain.

Pain and rage.

Animalistic. Unthinking. Instinctive. A bloodcurdling, bone-splitting rage from the deepest recesses of the id.

But unlike last time, she is impotent to act on it. Her limbs do not respond to her will. Her mouth does not move. She cannot even scream. She feels like an erupting volano with a blocked geyser. She wants to destroy everything. She wants to drown the world in fire and blood. She is destruction incarnate and trapped in a box.

There is no destruction.

Just pain.

Victoria: How bad can it be? How much can they hurt someone? She was shot, and it barely felt as if her assailant had flicked her. She was cut, and the wound healed almost immediately. She feels pain, yes, despite her apparent immortality, but none of the wounds last.

Victoria stares at the ceiling, unmoving. Unblinking. Unbreathing. Yet, her mind spins as if trying to escape from her head. Somehow, subconsciously, despite all of her justifications, her mind knows that they’ll find a way to hurt her.

It begins with shattered expectations. The brush of a fingertip, ordinarily so pleasant—so welcoming—brings about the shift of skin, the recoil of muscle, and finally, the rending of flesh as if stretched and torn. A scream erupts from her mouth, the fusion of torn skin and searing wood bringing about more pain than she thought possible.

For the first time since her arrival, she forgets about Anna. Her life, and her love, and her health and well-being, and her own life, and her history, and her wants and whims and desires all become meaningless. She becomes meaningless; just a lump of flesh and bones, and a soul trapped therein.

She screams, and screams, and screams, until the halls are filled with no other sound.

Then, with a gurgle and a sputter, her screams cease into an immediate and deafening silence.

The chain snaps. The cage shatters into a thousand shards of rusted iron. The beast escapes.

The beast escapes, and howls, and rages, and spits, and snarls, and claws, and thrashes, but it is alone. Floating, in a void of nothingness; a void of torn flesh and ethereal restraint.

All of McGinn’s horses and all of McGinn’s men would never put Victoria back together again.

And yet they try. Most of her, somehow, comes together again.

Most of her.

A few organs shy.

A few teeth short.

And most of her spirit in pieces.

Jade: No one can tell. As with all her work, Victoria’s outer shell is flawless.

Eventually, the pain stops.

Miss Kalani has used and abused and marked every part of the newly turned Kindred. She stripped the body down as far as she could without destroying the poor soul still trapped inside; most of the lick lay in messy piles on the floor. She had twisted and wrought and tested every organ in as many ways as she could, turned muscles into red sculptures that moved with a touch, and created leather odds and ends from her flesh.

Anyone can destroy. But Miss Kalani, oh, Miss Kalani was invited here for a reason. She’d entertained the lord and lady councilors with destruction and pain, had give herself over to Arikel’s blessing, but now… now she shows them what she can do.

She puts Victoria back together again.

Kalani replaces the severed organs. She unwinds strips of flesh and smooths them back into place. She fixes torn tissue of every variety, then moves the limbs around to ensure they properly work. She doesn’t replace the sternum, nor the fangs that she stole, and she keeps the flesh she’d wound so neatly around them both. Blood flows. Kalani scrapes her nail on the inside of Victoria’s skin before she seals it. And maybe things hurt a little less.

The Toreador silently turns toward her hosts when her work is done. She searches their gaze for approval.

GM: Jade’s audience is every bit as approving as she’d hoped for, and more.

McGinn applauds and grins from ear to ear.

“Took ‘er apart and sewed ’er back up. That’s power, Miss Kalani. Power o’ life and death, it is.”

“My word,” says Violet with a polite gasp, hand briefly covering her mouth as she applauds. “I’d have thought she’d be good for nothing except dog food. Truly, you are as skilled as they say, Miss Kalani.”

“Holy fuck!” exclaims Billy. He claps too, alongside his domitor.

Adelais merely says nothing critical.

That remains high praise in its own right.

She even applauds.

Anna cannot restrain herself. She falls over Victoria’s body. Cradling her girlfriend’s face in her hands. Weeping. Scarcely able to believe what’s in front of her. All thoughts of their audience disappear.

“Sylvie… Sylvie… are you…?” she whispers.

“Unstake ’er,” says McGinn.

Billy rudely shoves Anna to the floor with a crash, then pulls the stake out of Victoria’s chest.

It hurts every bit as much as she’d think having a sharp piece of wood yanked out of her chest would feel.

“Ya can move again,” the other vampire smiles.

“Say thank you to Miss Kalani for puttin’ ya back together, girl.”

Victoria: Like a kaleidoscope rolling its many facets around, the world is a shattered series of times and places, all connected, yet completely wrong. Pain. Heat. Anger. Loss. Love. So much love. So much loss. Broken. Repaired. Broken again. So much anger. The heat becomes hotter, then cools again. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Colder. Until finally, the room snaps into place with a single searing stake being torn from her boneless sternum.

She screams one final scream, and sits upright, pressing a palm to her forehead, expecting to feel sweat and finding nothing but the cold skin of her undead face.

She’s ravenous.

Ravenous, yet she can’t feed as she should.


She knows that if she doesn’t, she’ll only go through worse.

She looks to Jade.

“Thank you, M-miss Kalani.”

Jade: Jade beams at Victoria as if she hadn’t just spent long hours dissecting her.

“You’re welcome, darling.”

Victoria: She holds her gaze for a moment longer, eyes trembling, then looks back to the Lord Councilor.

GM: “Do ya think this makes up for yer crimes against me, girl?” smiles McGinn.

Victoria: “No, Lord Councilor,” she answers, dipping her chin.

“I think that you’ve made your point, and I think that the only right way to make up for a crime is to right the crime.”

“I would like to earn your forgiveness.”

And her missing parts, but she knows better than to ask.

GM: “What are your crimes?” asks Adelais, sharply. “Do you even remember what they are?”

“Recite them for us. Tell us how many transgressions you are guilty of.”

Victoria: “As I understand it, Lady Councilor, my crimes are all related to making a mess and adding risk to your kin being discovered. I killed multiple people, without disposing of the bodies properly.”

She swallows.

“My crimes are two counts of murder on your land, though I surmise that’s more theft of resource than murder. Additionally, leaving the bodies to be discovered by the non-vampire populace. Additionally, causing risk in the medical center when they discovered my unbeating heart.”

GM: “Beat your ghoul,” orders Adelais.

Anna looks between Adelais and Victoria, then shrinks slightly back.

But she doesn’t raise a hand.

Victoria: And so she does.

Anna only receives an apologetic glance before she’s knocked to the ground, and given a beating that would make even New Orleans’ finest blush.

Victoria strikes her lover with unabated strength. It pains her—as much as it pains Anna—but she understands now that any wounds she inflicts will be less than those they’ll command inflicted if she even shows an ounce of restraint. Her fists crash into Anna’s face, and stomach, and thighs, and arms as if she were the target of all that chained beast’s fire let loose.

She’s only cautious not to strike the same area too frequently, nor to break bones.

GM: Anna cries out and crumples to the floor. She doesn’t fight back. She tires to shield her vulnerable belly, wrapping her arms around that spot. But otherwise, she just curls up and takes it. Naked, Victoria can see every mark, every bruise, every bit of darkened and purpled skin. She’s going to have a real shiner under her eye. She cries and sobs.

But she doesn’t plea for it to end.

She knows it won’t help.

“Enough,” Adelais finally says.

Victoria: She stops, facing the lady councilor again.

GM: Anna makes a choked noise from the floor. She doesn’t get up.

Victoria: Victoria doesn’t react.

Jade: Kalani watches with empty eyes.

GM: “We should execute her now,” Adelais says simply to McGinn. “The prince will not object to this nothing being taken out with the rest of the trash.”

Victoria: Victoria is silent. She knows better than to interrupt.

Jade: “Lady Councilor, if you have no objections or use for her, I can think of plenty experiments I’d love to try.”

Victoria: That invokes a flutter of fear.

GM: McGinn chuckles.

“We did promise ’er that, Lady Adelais. And although Miss Kalani has had chance ta ply her craft, ’tis been but once, and I honor ma deals in spirit and letter.”

“I have no use for this nothing,” says Adelais. “I care not whether she meets her end at the sun’s hands or Miss Kalani’s, so long as it is painful.”

Victoria: Whether Miss Kalani ends her or not, she’s more liable to survive that than another hour with these two.

She remains silent.

GM: “Final death at Miss Kalani’s hands certainly has the potential to be far more prolonged, and painful, than at the sun’s,” opines Violet.

Victoria: “Lord Councilor, is there any way I can set my crimes right?” she asks, one final attempt.

GM: “But you are unable to provide an accurate recount of your crimes,” says Adelais, mockery dancing in those contemptuous eyes. “How can you make right crimes you do not know?”

Victoria: “Excuses are pointless. However, the night my crimes took place was filled with… novel experience, much of which removed entire portions of memory. I may not remember everything—but, if you will set the terms, I will do everything I can to make it right. I may not be the perfect picture of a good impression, Lady Councilor, but damned if I don’t learn quickly and keep loyalty.”

GM: “Do you not wish to know your crimes?” asks Adelais.

Victoria: “It’s the only way I can atone for them, Lady Councilor. Will you tell me?”

GM: “I will not tell you,” says Adelais. “For free.”

“The tedium of providing such a recount must be fairly compensated for. Does that not seem fair?”

Victoria: “Yes, Lady Councilor.”

More so due to her life hinging upon it.

GM: “Hensler,” says Adelais, looking towards McGinn.

McGinn gives a belly-deep laugh and smacks his knee.

Victoria: She looks to the lord councilor.

GM: “On which one o’ ’em, I wonder,” chuckles the other vampire.

His gaze looks over Victoria and Anna.

She hasn’t moved from her place on the floor, but silently watches the vampires through puffy eyes.

“Ya have a preference, girl?” McGinn smiles towards Victoria.

Victoria: “What do you mean, Lord Councilor?”

GM: “You have been asked to name a preference, fledgling,” Adelais reproaches sharply. “If you do not name one, you will be assumed to have named both.”

Victoria: “On me, Lord Councilor,” she answers.

GM: “How touching,” says Adelais.

Dead smiles greet the declaration.

Victoria: She holds their gaze. Don’t let them smell defeat.

GM: “She’s done so well,” remarks Violet.

“Maybe she should get a chance.”

“You don’t want Hensler, do you, fledgling?”

Victoria: “I don’t know what it is.”

GM: Violet smiles.

“Oh, perhaps I was mistaken. So you do want Hensler?”

Victoria: “…I do not want either of us to have a Hensler. I would like, however, to atone for my crimes, and if that is the cost the lord councilor and lady councilor set to know what those crimes are, then I would be in poor manners to fight their ruling.”

A pause.

“…though I would prefer not to have a Hensler.”

GM: “You make it sound so dignified,” says Violet. “I don’t know that I believe you.”

“Maybe you should convince us. Beg at Lord Pierpont’s feet. Really show us just how much you’d ‘prefer’ not to have Hensler.”

“Would you be moved by such a plea, Lord Pierpont?” she asks the male vampire.

“Perhaps,” smiles McGinn. “If it was, as ya say, darlin’, sufficiently convincing.”

Victoria: She tilts her head a hair, appraising the lord councilor’s seriousness. It’s hard to believe that such a jovial man can be so cruel.

Finally, she lets her emotion flow into her face, and her actions.

Victoria hits the floor, as much a piece of meat as when she was in lumps of flesh wrapped in neat bows only minutes before.

“Please, Lord Councilor, Lady Councilor!” she whimpers, tears of blood flowing down her cheeks. “I fucked up. I didn’t know, but I still broke your laws. I’m not worthy of life, but I beg you to give me a chance to atone for my sins; to take my ghoul home safely, and serve you until such a time as you feel that I sufficiently understand the gravity of the mess that I’ve caused you, and have made up for it! I’m not worthy, but I’d like to become worthy!”

She crawls forward, her face barely enough off the floor to meet their gaze, looming miles above.

GM: McGinn clucks his tongue thoughtfully.

“That was very emotional,” says Violet.

“She did not beg to not have Hensler,” says Adelais. “Clearly that is her wish. What else can we assume from her words?”

“That is a valid point,” says Violet. “Do you think she wants Hensler, Miss Kalani?”

Victoria:PLEASE! Please! I don’t even know what a damn Hensler is, and I know that I don’t want it! I don’t want Anna to have it, either! J-just t-t-tell me my crimes! I promise I’ll atone!”

Jade: “She doesn’t seem to, my darling Violet. Perhaps she knows she isn’t good enough for Bruce.”

Victoria: Victoria is a bawling, sniveling, sobbing mess.

GM: “Go back ta yer cell and come back when ya see Violet,” McGinn orders, boredly.

Victoria feels her legs carrying her out of the room.

Anna, beaten and bruised, robotically marches after her.

She supposes that no “Hensler”, at least, is a win.

Saturday night, 9 April 2016, AM

GM: Victoria and Anna languish in their cell for hours. Anna drifts off to sleep. She does not look as if she sleeps well. Not between the beating and the hard floor. Victoria can’t catch a wink.

Violet eventually shows up. She orders them back downstairs. McGinn and Adelais are there on the couch again.

“Ya asked ta know yer crimes,” smiles McGinn.

“Well, girl, here they are.”

“Breakin’ the Second Tradition twice, by drinkin’ two vessels on ma land and takin’ what’s mine.”

“Breakin’ the First Tradition twice by gettin’ caught both times by witnesses. Leavin’ me yer messes ta clean up.”

“Breakin’ the First Tradition gettin’ the police called o’er gunshots in a quiet neighborhood. ’Nother mess ta clean up.”

“That adds up to five offenses,” says Adelais, as if the sum were beyond Victoria’s intelligence to arrive at.

“Five so far,” smiles McGinn. “Yer guilty o’ three more.”

“That adds up to eight,” Adelais adds in the same ‘helpful’ tone.

“Breakin’ the Second Tradition poachin’ in the Quarter,” says McGinn.

“Breakin’ the First Tradition leavin’ another right mess in the Quarter, fer others ta clean up.”

“Breakin’ the First Tradition lettin’ those doctors at Tulane do their tests and find out they had a walkin’ dead woman on their hands.”

McGinn smiles at Victoria again.

“Mighty helpful how ya gave ‘em yer name, ya know. Why, all the Krewe o’ Janus had ta do was look up yer address, and then they were in touch with me about the Masquerade breaker who lived on ma land.”

The vampire drums his fingers.

“After the amount o’ trouble you caused, darlin’, the prince’ll have ya executed for sure.”

“But seein’ as yer a nobody, and most o’ yer crimes were committed on ma land, I don’t reckon he’d object if I took out the trash for ’im.”

McGinn smiles cruelly and produces a thick cigar.

“Yer gonna take a walk outside, darlin’. Dawn’s only a few off.”

“Yer lil’ ghoul will walk with ya, o’ course. I’m a man o’ ma word. Ya’ll have time before sunup.”

“There is no atonement for you, fledgling,” Adelais states with a cold smile.

“Only a final death that shall be remembered as a mess cleaned up. That is to be your legacy to the world.”

Victoria: Victoria isn’t sure anyone’s horses and anyone’s men could truly put her back together again.

Even if they have all the pieces.

She closes her eyes and waits.

As she stands before McGinn—again—she holds her silence, respectful as she can be for how thoroughly dismantled she is.

She listens.

If she could pale, she would.

That confirms the sun.

What can she do? Where can she go?

She can’t fight. Not this many people, nor even the man who can force her to bend and break with just a few words. He could—still might—tell her to walk outside and wait, and that’s exactly what she’ll do.

She shudders.

Can she run? Can she hide? They’re smart enough not to give her an out. Not like this. Not easily.

Do they expect her to beg? They liked her begging—but they continued to mete her punishment, even then.

What is a Hensler, anyway?

Maybe it’ll buy a few, precious moments.

“I understand, Lord Councilor,” she answers, her voice as dead as her flesh. “May I ask a single question before I leave?”

GM: “I suppose ya might, seein’ as ya accepted yer execution so politely,” smiles McGinn.

Victoria: “I don’t think fighting you would earn me many points, nor yield me much success, Lord Councilor,” she answers with a polite smile. “What is a Hensler?”

GM: “If you paid sufficient attention to the word’s context, you would have realized Hensler is a who, not a what,” Adelais states critically.

“You would have found much in common with Mr. Hensler. He would have been well-suited to deal with you.”

Victoria: “I see.”

GM: “He breeds and trains dogs, you see,” states Violet.

Victoria: She doesn’t want to know which would be happening to her.

Probably both.

“I see.”

A pause.

“Thank you for your hospitality, Lord Councilor, and I apologize for my transgressions. Thank you for the kindness of a quick death.”

GM: “Well, how now about that,” smiles McGinn. “What a gracious and polite way ta go. I think I might e’en be inclined ta honor a last request or two, girl.”

Anna, white-faced, glances at Victoria, then speaks up in a faltering voice,

“Would you accept my life in place of hers, Lord Councilor?”

McGinn’s pleased look turns dangerously irate as Anna speaks.

“I wasn’t talkin’ ta you, half-blood.”

Anna lowers her head and gets out, “My apologies, Lord Councilor.”

McGinn doesn’t immediately answer. Just flashes a fanged smile that makes Victoria’s girlfriend back slightly away.

“Punishin’ you for speakin’ out o’ turn won’t be necessary, I don’t well imagine.”

He turns back to Victoria as if Anna has ceased to exist.

Victoria: “I suspect you’ve ensured that I won’t have anywhere to run to, Lord Councilor.”

GM: “O’ course,” says McGinn.

Victoria: “And there’s no way I can make sufficient amends.”

GM: “Observe the rat gnawing futilely at the trap’s spring,” states Adelais.

Violet holds a hand to her mouth and daintily laughs.

Victoria: She waits as if she’s a child about to be told her birthday party was canceled.

She’s not unfamiliar with that.

GM: “Yer fate’s been decided, girl,” McGinn answers in a warning tone.

“Yer makin’ me wonder if I was o’erly generous ta solicit a last request.”

Victoria: “No, Lord Councilor. Just confirming. I’ll go, then?”

GM: “So now yer not e’en acknowledgin’ the courtesy o’ ma offer? Not so much as a thank you?” says McGinn.

Victoria: “Sorry, Lord Councilor. You’re right—that was rude. Thank you for the kindness of your offer. Sincerely.”

She dips her head.

She did already thank him.

GM: “And yet, you still ask for nothing,” says Adelais. “Someone who believed they were to die would surely have some final request. Are you convinced you can escape your final death, fledgling? Do you believe there is shelter you may run to in sufficient time? There is not. We know every inch of this land. Your demise is as certain as a kine’s facing a firing squad.”

Victoria: “I appreciate your offer, Lord Councilor, Lady Councilor,” she says, eyes moving intentionally to each as she speaks their title.

“My only last request is that Anna is granted as much freedom as one can expect, given her knowledge. She means the world to me, and I would—will—die for her.”

GM: “If I were being charitable, I would say that knowledge of her impending demise has addled her brain,” Adelais says to McGinn. “But I will not be charitable and attribute her poor intelligence to limited circumstance.”

She looks back towards Victoria.

“Do you not recall the promise that Lord Pierpont so graciously extended you, fledgling, concerning your ghoul?”

Anna, still white-faced, looks confused.

The moment stretches.

“She don’t have ta be thrown out the door with all of ’er parts, ya know,” growls McGinn, his tone dangerously impatient. “I ne’er gave ma word o’er that.”

Victoria: The beaten Beast, chained and tied, whines. It’s been beaten so deeply that—for a time—it forgot what it was; forgot who it is.

Victoria Wolf, swept away in a river of change and lost control, dropped unceremoniously into a world of pain that transcends the physical, lost herself. She lost herself from the moment she decided to plot revenge.

Stupid, stupid, stupid girl.

So stupid. So weak. Fragile. Taken apart and put back together as if she were a child’s toy. Literally. Physically. Emotionally. Her pride.

What pride? She doesn’t have pride anymore. She’s a corpse.

The Beast grumbles lazily against its chains.

Her fingers tense into a fist at the lady councilor’s words, that fraudulent veil of control over her emotions crafting a shoddy guise of respect—even unto her death—fracturing.

The Beast doesn’t struggle. It doesn’t roar. It doesn’t whine, or thrash, or buck, or growl.

It stands up.

“You know what? I do, Lady Councilor.”

She looks to the McGinn.

“My last request is that whoever did this to me—turned me into this…”

She gestures to herself. Where she was once a picture of submission, vengeful confidence has kindled.

“…and set me on a path to fuck up your domain—be punished as harshly as you’ve deemed it fit for me to be punished. Better yet, that you let me do it. I don’t care who they are. I don’t care if they’re as powerful as you. If I’m going to die, I want them to rue their decision until their last strip of inner flesh hardens into jerky.”

A pause hangs.

That is my last request.”

Her hands shake, as much with fear as with anger—not at McGinn, but at the faceless creature who put her here, and who caused Anna to suffer.

GM: McGinn barks a laugh.

“So, ya want ta do it yerself, mm?”

“Well, well, well.”

“Tell ya what, girl.”

“I rightly do like that request. I don’t like how long ya gave me the runaround ta get there.”

He smiles a supple, fanged smile.

“So we’ll make ya do a lil’ runaround, ta earn it.”

“We’ll make a right game o’ this.”

He turns to Violet.

“Violet ma dear, please retrieve a flag. Any lil’ ol’ one will do.”

“Of course, Lord Pierpont,” says Violet. She rises from her seat and departs.

Victoria: “Thank you, Lord Councilor. I do love games,” she says with a playful smile yet unseen by
him. The same smile she wore when she first taunted him over the phone.

“…and fair is fair, of course, on the runaround.”

GM: “I’m a fair man, I am,” McGinn drawls.

“Oh, and I suppose in case ya survive…”

He raises his wrist to his mouth. There’s a flash of fangs, then Victoria smells blood.

McGinn extends his arm.


Victoria: She approaches without hesitation, reaching to drink from his arm.

GM: Human blood was beer.

Anna’s blood was 100-year-old wine.

This is hard liquor.

The good stuff. Stronger. Richer. Deeper. Headier. The flavor is less nuanced than Anna’s blood. There’s none of the love. None of the depth and complexity. This is kick. It tastes like supple fanged smiles and drawling cruelty. It tastes like Confederate flags and fine cigars. It tastes like the Lost Cause and Southern aristocracy.

He’s such a desirable man. So strong. So domineering. So certain of what he wants. He’d never submit. He’s made her submit.

Victoria: It’s better than hard liquor. It’s top shelf. It’s a king’s hoard. It’s a dragon’s treasure. It’s everything. She pulls from the lord councilor’s arm until he wills her to stop.

When she finishes, she speaks.

“I’m a woman of my word. I’ll not betray our little game. Would you like to keep Anna while we play?”

GM: “Oh, that won’t be necessary,” McGinn drawls. In moments, the bleeding points are gone from his wrist.

“But that is mighty thoughtful of ya ta offer.”

Victoria: “Certainly, Lord Councilor,” she nods.

“Do you have an idea who it is that did this to me?”

GM: “Lord Pierpont did not give you leave to question him further,” states Adelais.

Victoria: “Apologies, Lord Councilor,” she answers in response to Adelais.

GM: Violet returns with a Confederate flag. It’s a little thing, small enough to wave in one hand.

“Ya know the history o’ this noble banner?” drawls McGinn.

Anna doesn’t speak, but mouths ‘yes’.

Victoria: “As much as one who paid attention in school in the last twenty years can, Lord Councilor; though, obviously, I wasn’t there.”

GM: McGinn looks disappointed.

Victoria: “I’d love to learn. Is that part of the game?”

Another question. Oops. Oh well.

GM: “No,” Adelais says icily. “It is not.”

“You smell ta me like a Yank,” drawls McGinn. “Who used this flag, girl? From whence did it come?”

Anna, falteringly, raises her hand.

Victoria: She shoots Anna a warning look, and looks back to the pairing.

“A disgusting accusation, Lord Councilor. How can any proud Southern girl—from Louisiana especially—be anything but aligned to the South?”

A pause. She’s about to elucidate on a long point of her textbook knowledge and how it’s probably not what he wants, when she thinks better of it. She’s been rebuked for that already.

“Our ancestors—well, my ancestors—used it.”

Better personal than textbook.

“And it originated because we needed a little less blue in our lives.”

And a Union joke for flavor!

“More seriously, it originated because the Confederacy needed a new flag to reflect its differing philosophies from the United States.”

Now, tell me how I’m wrong.

GM: McGinn smiles, at first.

But not widely.

It’s a waiting smile.

It widens a little at the ‘blue’ quip.

But then, at Victoria’s final answer, the smile turns very mean.

“Ya don’t know shit.”

“Please! I know it!” Anna begs. Anna, the history teacher.

McGinn looks between her and Victoria.

Victoria: “I don’t know as much as I should know,” she relents. A flash of meekness passes, but only a flash.

“My blood’s every bit as red as the rest of those with ancestry here. My adoptive mother didn’t believe so much in the same, and I wasn’t the strongest student in history. That doesn’t mean I’m lying to you about my feelings.”

“It’s a rare person who’s able to talk to someone who was there.”

GM: “Adoptive?” Violet says in disgust, as if Victoria just used a foul word.

But McGinn’s face darkens.

“Break yer nose.”

Victoria comes to on the ground. She smells blood. She sees it on the floor. There’s pain in her face.

“You will address Lord Pierpont by his proper title at all times,” Violet declares haughtily.

But McGinn does not look at the human. He is no longer smiling. Not even a little. There’s anger on his face, for the first time Victoria has seen.

“What were names?” he asks, cold blue eyes boring into Victoria’s.

“Yer real ancestors’. Under whose commands did they serve? What units were they in? What ranks did they obtain? In what battles did they fight? Where are they buried?” The questions ring out, one after another, in iron-sharp staccato.

“Because I do so hope you weren’t lyin’ to me about that red-as-ma-own blood o’ yers,” McGinn whispers, his voice dangerously low.

“I do so very hope you were not.”

Anna helplessly looks between McGinn and Victoria.

Adelais’ face could be made from ice, etched into utter contempt.

Victoria: “I don’t know, Lord Councilor. What I do know is that there’s no way I’m anything but from right damn here. And if I can prove it to you, then I’ll damn well prove it to you. And if it’s not, well, then I’d argue I don’t much deserve anything but the execution anyway, would I?”

GM: “You don’t know your own ancestors?” Violet asks in disgust.

McGinn stares at Victoria. Utterly silent.

Violet looks towards him.

Adelais smiles coldly.

“And you said yer blood was red,” McGinn whispers.

“Red as ma own, did ya say.”

“Red as ma own.”

Victoria: She points at the ground.

“I was born right here, Lord Councilor.”

“My loyalty is to here.”

“And if you’d like to play our game, and let me have my request, my loyalty will remain exactly here.”

GM: “You shut yer filthy mouth,” McGinn snarls. His chalky blue eyes blaze with fury.

He rises from his seat.

He holds out his hand.

Violet hands him the whip. The one Jade made from Victoria’s parts.

“Run, liar,” whispers McGinn.

The whip cracks in his hands, louder than any Victoria has heard. Anna jumps back.

Death stares out from the vampire’s eyes.

“Run fer yer life.”

He raises the whip high.

Victoria: She turns, and runs like the very flames of Hell and gaping maws of Cerberus are at her heels, snagging Anna before she launches off.

She runs, and runs, and runs, barreling toward the exit to the manor so quickly that she nearly knocks into the walls twice while making turns.

The front door crashes open and the two tear out onto the palatial entryway. How near is the sun?

GM: McGinn gives chase.

The whip flashes in his hands. Crack. Crack. Crack. With the first stroke, Anna screams, and Victoria smells blood. Hot and flowing. With the second stroke, Victoria’s back is on fire, and she can’t stop the scream as she crashes into the wall. The force—and precision—behind the blows is incredible. Victoria has used her share of whips. She can instantly tell the other vampire has used one before, but she is not sure if he has ever used one for play.

This is real.

She runs, and McGinn gives chase, like a devil out of Hell. Adelais does too. Even though she’s in high heels. Her form impossibly blurs, rippling in a way that’s utterly disgusting, like she’s trying to bolt out of her own flesh. It’s an obscene video playing at schizophrenic-fast speed. The whip sings in her perfectly manicured hands. Crack. Crack. Crack. Anna shrieks. Victoria shrieks. Exquisite pain blossoms across their backs, their necks, everywhere, as the blood flows. Flecks get everywhere. Copper fills Victoria’s nostrils. Adelais and McGinn take turns with the whip. Victoria even learns to distinguish them. McGinn’s are brutally hard, aimed the back, and send her crashing into the walls as he tears off entire sections of skin, reducing her body to bloody tatters. The pain is incredible. She and Anna scream until their throats are raw and they can barely see.

Adelais’ lighter strokes seem almost like relief, but they’re not. They seem like they might be, at first, and then cruelly disappoint. Where McGinn wrecks as much of her and Anna’s bodies as possible, Adelais is the salt rubbed over open wounds, the pain in new and unexpected places. The whip’s lash takes her face. Her pussy. Her feet. Every stroke making the journey that much more painful. That much more harrowing.

The two vampires kiss one another, as they take turns. Sometimes they hit each other. They rip open one another’s skin and lap from the bleeding wounds, then whip Anna and Victoria again, as they give chase. It’s perverse, twisted love. Two spiders devouring the same fly together, with relish.

Victoria fades in and out. Blacks in and out. Reds in and out. The monster within her chest roars to life. It howls in her ears. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. So she runs. She sees red and she runs, half-carrying Anna. She runs like she has never run before in her life.

She bursts through the mansion’s great doors, bleeding and broken, every inch of her and Anna’s shredded skins on fire. McGinn and Adelais do not pursue. They fall to the floor, snarling and biting and ripping off one another’s clothes, one another’s flesh. They tear each other to pieces. They fuck each other to pieces. It’s like watching rabid animals mate.

Outside, the once-black skies are tinged a deep navy.

Victoria already feels unbearably hot.

Victoria: Every stroke lights an impossible fire under their skin, burning hotter and hotter until all they can see is searing white amid a red inferno. Their screams are a chorus. Their blood paints the walls. Victoria hardly notices the macabre actions and features of their pursuers in the overwhelming presence and potency of their assault, and the pressure of her Beast’s flight.

They crash through the doors, and heat overwhelms her.

“N-no,” she stammers, already aware of what’s happening to her. She keeps sprinting, looking for any semblance of cover.

GM: The mansion’s grounds look the size of a small park. There are gardens. Fountains. Trees. Statues. Expanses of grass. In the distance, high walls.

Anna collapses to the grass, broken and wheezing and bleeding. She looks about to pass out.

The skies look bluer than she thought. The heat is unbearable. Like she’s inside an oven.

With the heat being turned steadily higher.

The mansion’s doors slam shut.

Victoria: “Anna! ANNA!”

She wrenches her to her feet.

“If you don’t get up, I’m dead. You hear me. Dead. Gone. Ash. DEAD.”

“And I am NOT leaving you.”

GM: Anna looks half-dead. Three-fourths dead. Her eyes are out of focus. She’s lost her glasses. There’s so much blood. It’s everywhere. It stains Victoria’s hands and stings her cuts. Both of them are still naked. Their skins are latticeworks of pain.

Smoking pain.

Thin, pungent trails waft from Victoria. She feels like someone is pressing her to a burner at low heat. The sky is so, so bright.

Anna makes a choked wet sound and forces a bleeding foot forward.

Victoria: Victoria wills herself to heal as she scoops the dying woman into her arms, almost dropping her from the slickness of her bloody form.

She sprints, barely laden by her form.

“You fucking stay awake! Don’t you fucking die on me!”

She can’t die now. She can’t burn. She can’t be reduced to ash, because if she does, then Anna won’t make it to the hospital. Then Anna will die.

And she’ll never let that happen.

She tests a jump with Anna in her arms. Can she vault the walls?

GM: It’s like dumping buckets of water out of a leaking boat.

Her broken flesh mends even as it blisters. It’s so, so hot. Sweat would be pouring from her in buckets, but there’s no relief. Just heat.

Heat. And a losing battle.

The sun grows brighter and hotter every second.

Anna’s head lolls against Victoria’s chest. Her hair’s as blood-matted as the rest of her.

“T… th… en’…” she gets out.

The walls look higher than Victoria’s jump.

Higher than can be climbed?

There’s only one way to find out.

And precious little time.

Victoria: “Save your damn breath!”

Anna in one arm, Victoria vaults the wall as high as she can, slamming her fist into it to try and create a grabbable divot.

GM: She leaps.

Her hand seizes the wall top.

That only leaves the rest of her.

And Anna.

The sun glares down on her. Burns down on her.

Anna, awkwardly cradled in Victoria’s other arm, torturously reaches out both of hers towards the wall.

The blood wafting from the lashes on her limbs—no part of her was spared—is distracting.

But less distracting than burning.

Victoria: Victoria pulls with all her might, every single fiber of dead muscle uniting against the sum of their bodies to mount the wall. The fall will be easier. She just needs to pull them both up!

“Anna! Relax! Let me save you!”

GM: Dead muscles strain. Victoria feels pain. Yes, she has well learned that the dead feel pain. But not soreness. She hauls herself and Anna to the top of the wall, even as the sun bears down.

“Won’… le you… burn…” her girlfriend croaks, craning her neck.

On one side are the mansion’s expensive grounds.

On the other, the street, and a black van.


Victoria: That can’t be McGinn’s doing.

Or is this a test?

The pair mount the wall, and Victoria leaps to the far side, cushioning Anna’s fall as much as she can.

She tears toward the Van, testing a door.

GM: Her scabbed and bleeding feet hit the ground. It feels like the surface of an oven. It’s hot. So hot.

Anna jostles and moans in Victoria’s arms. There’s blood. So much blood. It’s a wonder that it isn’t boiling away in the heat.

The driver seat’s door opens first. A man leaps out. Large, with a curly afro and scar on his cheek.

He grabs the back doors and throws them open.

“IN!” he yells.

Victoria: Surprise registers on her face, but her pace doesn’t stop. She dives into the van.

Who the fuck is he?

He’s saved their lives, either way.

She turns to ask.


GM: Victoria doesn’t get a chance.

As soon as she’s in, a stake drives into her heart.

Victoria III, Chapter XI
Finding Her Fangs

“I don’t want you to face this alone.”
Anna May Perry

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

GM: Victoria smells Anna’s sweat. Adrenaline. Fear, even.

But she doesn’t smell blood.

She’s confident she’d smell that a million miles away.

“N-no,” Anna answers her earlier question. “I mean. I’m n-not hurt. I…”

She just keeps pointing at Victoria’s mouth.

“W-what the fuck?!”

Victoria: “I don’t KNOW, Anna!”

She doesn’t try to hide her mouth. What’s the point?

Victoria drives around, and around, and around, hoping they’ll go away. They’ll find a room, eventually—but not her looking like a Halloween costume in April.


She punches the steering wheel.

“I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t know why they attacked me.”

GM: “Th… those are fangs,” Anna says dumbly.

“The… the nurse hit you with a sedative… t-twice!”

She reaches out and presses her hand against Victoria’s chest.

“And y… you… your heart’s not even beating!”

Victoria can hear Anna’s. Pounding like a drum from stress and exertion.

Victoria: She closes her eyes, trying to center herself.

“Anna,” she says, only halfway calm.

“I need you to relax.”

“Please. Your heart.”

GM: “My… my heart?” Anna says confusedly.

Victoria: “It’s oppressive.

“I can barely hear you speak over it.”

GM: “You… hear my heart?”

Victoria: “Like you’re 15 again and playing metal in my ears.”

GM: Anna blinks at that.

“I’m… I’m sorry.”

Her heart rate does not slow.

Victoria: She makes a left.

“Do you love me?”

GM: “Yes,” Anna answers, without hesitation.

Victoria: “Even if this is as real as it seems?”

GM: “You’re still you,” says Anna.

Victoria: “Anna…”

“There was blood on my lips.”

GM: “Whose?”

Victoria: “Not mine.”

“I’m terrified of the thought of hurting you.”

GM: Anna opens her mouth as if to say she knows Sylvia would never do that.

But after the last few days, she looks less than completely sure.

“I don’t know what we do now, Sylvia,” she says, slumping against her seat.

“But I don’t want you to face this alone.”

Victoria: She pulls over into an empty spot on the side of the road, and lays her head against the steering wheel.

“This is a dream.”

GM: Anna rubs her shoulder sadly.

“I wish.”

Victoria: Thump. Thump. Thump.

Her head hits the top of the steering wheel over and over.

At least she hasn’t killed Anna.

Bright side.

“I can’t do that again.”

GM: “Do what again?” Anna asks concernedly.

Victoria: She gestures around.

“This. Losing your trust. Hurting people.”

Killing people.

Eating people.

GM: Anna stares for a moment.

“Your… your fangs are gone.”

Victoria: She fumbles a finger around her mouth.

“What the fuck?”

GM: Her teeth feel flat.

“Sylvia…” says Anna.

“How did this… happen?”

Victoria: She looks at her girlfriend.

“I told you already.”

GM: “It’s been a rollercoaster. I’m having a hard time keeping everything straight.”

“And… I didn’t think you were…”

She trails off, then just says, “the first time.”

Sylvia can hear the unsaid word, dancing on the edge of her girlfriend’s tongue.

Victoria: “Didn’t think I was… serious?”

GM: “No, a… uh….”

Victoria: “Uh…?”

GM: Anna points at her mouth.

Victoria: She lofts a brow, waiting.

GM: “Never mind,” Anna mumbles.

Victoria: “I think we’re past never mind.”

GM: “Look, just… how did this happen?” says Anna.

Victoria: “I meant what I said when I said I told you. It wasn’t all a hallucination. But…”

She touches her teeth again.

“This? This, I don’t know. I woke up, and that woman…”

GM: Her teeth are just as flat as before.

“So you just… woke up like this?” says Anna.

Victoria: She nods.

“That’s it. I woke up, covered in shit, naked in a room I didn’t pay for feeling like I had the flu.”

GM: “How do you think you wound up there?”

Victoria: “I…”

How did she?

“The last thing I remember is talking to your torturer—offering myself to her, if she let you go. Then, the hotel.”

She shudders.

“You don’t think…? It can’t be. The note said she’d kill me if she found us.”

GM: “No one tortured me, Sylvia,” says Anna.

Victoria: “I know! I know. Obviously. It was in my head. She put it in my head.”

She huffs.

“That’s why I asked you what happened after I came home. My reality wasn’t yours—but this? This is real. Something happened to cause this.”

GM: Anna frowns.

“What do you mean she… put it in your head?”

Victoria: “We agree that I was hallucinating, yes? Somehow, I believe she put that hallucination in my head.”

GM: “…how, exactly?” asks Anna.

Victoria: She throws her hands up.

“How, exactly, is any of this happening?”

GM: “I have absolutely no idea,” says Anna.

“I thought doctors maybe would.”

Victoria: “The doctor seemed more interested in restraining me and abducting me than listening to me.”

GM: “I noticed.” Anna’s shoulders slump. “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do now.”

Victoria: “I would suggest we start with praying that whatever took over me doesn’t take over me again while I’m locked in a car with you.”

GM: “Took over…?”

Victoria: She swallows, and tells her what happened to the cleaning lady.

GM: Anna looks horrified.

“Sylvia, is she… is she dead?!”

Victoria: She stares.

GM: “You… you have to do something…” Anna says numbly.

Victoria: She throws her hands up again.

“Do what? I have no idea what I am doing.

She tries to will her fangs forward.

GM: Just like that, she feels her canines lengthen in her mouth and taper into wickedly sharp points.

Anna makes a startled sound and pulls back.

Victoria: Victoria yelps.

“I’m not hallucinating, right?! That happened?!”

She pokes them.

“I just… thought about it!”

GM: They feel solid against her finger.

“You can do things,” says Anna. Almost imploringly.

Her stare rests on Victoria’s teeth.

Victoria: “Like, grow teeth? Yeah, obviously. It’s not fucking normal.”

She shudders.

“Thinking things shouldn’t make them happen!”

But is it really so different than a thought making your arm move, or a snake making their fangs slide forward?

GM: “Well, however you did it, you did it,” says Anna.

Her eyes still don’t leave those fangs.

“You can do things,” she repeats. “Don’t you think you should do something for that woman?”

“What if she had a family?”

Victoria: A flare of incredulity sparks, and quickly pivots to something softer.

She reaches out, stroking Anna’s cheek.

“I love you.”

GM: It’s a tired, faint, and fragile smile that Anna returns.

But it’s a smile all the same.

“I love you, too.”

Victoria: “I don’t want that to happen to someone else; someone who doesn’t deserve it.”

She doesn’t need to mention the others.

“Okay? We have to solve this—then we can worry about reparations.”

GM: “What is solving?” says Anna. “Finding a way to… undo this?”

Victoria: “Undo this? Control this? I’ll take either.”

She looks away.

“…it does feel good. Amazing, actually. I’ve never felt this strong.”

GM: “So how do we find out?” says Anna. “How to undo it. Or control it. Whatever stops you from hurting more people.”

Victoria: “You know as much as I do, Anna,” she laments.

GM: “It looks like it,” she nods. “So… what do we do next? How do we find out more?”

Victoria: Victoria closes her eyes, laying back to think. Think, think, think.

“The note says that if we go home, we’re dead. That’s why I was trying to get you to leave the city. I don’t want what ha—what I saw to happen to you, for real.”

She reaches over absently, squeezing Anna’s fingers with the gentle grasp of a mother to their child.

“There are a number of stupid things I could do, but that would only earn the attention of people who probably don’t want me alive.”

Think, think, think.

“I should warn Christina. Is my phone at home? Is any of my—right, we can’t go there.”

“How does one find answers to a phenomenon that’s been kept a secret from the world?”

And then it hits her.

“A book store! New Orleans is famous for its witchy history, right? One of them has to have some information otherwise taken as faux.”

GM: Anna’s fingers are warm in her cold hands.

“You want to go to a bookstore,” she says.

If the words sound dubious, they’re belied by her next ones.

“Okay. What the hell. It’s as good a place to look as any. The Quarter’s full of kooky bookstores.”

She rolls her shoulders.

“It’s… past 3 AM, though. I’m exhausted. We need to go ho… go somewhere, and sleep.”

Victoria: “Hotel?” she offers, as if she hadn’t for half the night.

GM: “Yeah, okay. Hotel.”

“Will you… you know, during the day?”

Victoria: “Explode? I don’t fucking know. I don’t want to try.”

GM: “O-okay. Keep the windows shut.”

“I mean, the shades drawn.”

Victoria: “Both?”

GM: “Yes. Both.”

They’re just figuring this out as they go, aren’t they?

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

Victoria: As they talk, she takes Anna’s phone, looking up a nearby hotel; one far enough away that they won’t run into any errant problems, but close enough that they won’t be driving too long.

Victoria pulls back out into traffic, weaving into the French Quarter. It’s far enough that they shouldn’t be caught.

But were they followed?

She gets Anna’s door, helping her out, and walks the pair into the Inn on St Ann.

GM: If they were, Victoria sees no one.

The tired-looking graveyard shift receptionist checks them in with perfunctory questions of whether they have reservations, and if not, how long they’re staying and how they’re paying.

Victoria: She answers them in a straightforward manner: no, just the night, and she gestures to Anna to pay.

GM: Anna gets out a credit card. Soon the two have a room to themselves. Anna flops down on the bed.

“Oh. Damn. We forgot about clothes.”

Victoria: Victoria flops down beside her, closing her eyes.

“We can worry about clothes tomorrow.”

GM: Victoria doesn’t feel in the least bit tired.

Anna pulls off her shoes and drops them on the floor.

“How do you want to, uh, sleep?”

Victoria: Sylvia kicks her shoes off, too.

“How do… we usually sleep?”

GM: Anna pulls off her clothes next.

“I don’t really think about it. I’m just wondering if it’s different.”

Victoria: She blinks at her girlfriend.

“I… are you asking if I can?”

GM: Anna blinks.

“Oh. No, sorry. I’m exhausted. And… everything. I just don’t want to sleep in my clothes.”

Victoria: She blinks back.

“Well, I’ve never seen you naked before. I… I’m not sure if I should…”

GM: “Don’t worry, I won’t rape you.”

Victoria: She wills her fangs out.

GM: The humor on Anna’s face instantly dies.

Victoria: She pokes her tongue out.

GM: Anna pulls up the blankets around herself.

“Please don… that’s scary.”

Victoria: They sheathe, and Sylvia snuggles her, blankets and all.

“What a night…”

GM: Anna is tense when Sylvia pulls her close. A shiver runs through her body.

“Oh my god, you’re cold…”

Victoria: She frowns.

“I’m not sure what to do about that.”

GM: Anna’s body is still tense against hers.

“I… I don’t know either.”

Victoria: She pulls a blanket from the end of the bed, wrapping Anna again before pulling her close.


GM: Anna nods.


Victoria: A brief warmth washes over her heart.

A pinch of normalcy.

“It’ll be okay.”

GM: “I hope so…” Anna murmurs with a sleepy sigh. “I hope so…”

She leans her head against Sylvia, pauses, pulls the blanket around her head, and then leans back again.

She’s out like a light in no time.

Sylvia can hear the steady exhalation of Anna’s breaths as her chest rises and falls. Her rate slows.

She’s there in her lover’s arms.




Right there.

So, so warm.

What would she taste like…?

Victoria: Sylvia swallows.

She tries not to think of Anna that way. Anything but that.


The fat cleaning lady, her blood on the floor.

The husband and wife, their blood laced with love.

The thug, left to die. Is he still there? She could look.

What does hunger feel like to a vampire? Is that what she is? If she ignores it long enough, can she forget hunger until Anna is out?

Anyone but Anna.

Not Anna.

GM: Sylvia doesn’t swallow.

Not on her own. She has to make herself.

It’s not the same, anyway. Her tongue is dry. She tastes no saliva in her mouth. She feels none swallowed down her throat. It’s just a contracting of muscles.

She swallowed when she drank their blood, though. The cleaning lady. The husband and wife. The thug. Three for three. She remembers the sensation lingering on her tongue, but not what consuming it actually felt like. All of the aftertaste of eating, without the actual act.

She could try it here.

Anna sleeps obliviously, blanket-covered head lying against Sylvia. Wrapped up like a present.

A lamb laying down with a wolf.

It would be so easy to just have a taste.

She can already feel her fangs, long and sharp in her mouth.

Victoria: She wills them away. She thinks of nothing but wishing her teeth would shy away so deep that they push out the other side of her skull.

Not Anna.

Not. Anna.

Deep breaths.



She holds the woman close, inhaling her familiar scent.

That was a mistake. Familiar, and mouthwatering; her own forbidden fruit and art all in one.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

GM: Her fangs continue to protrude in her mouth.

Anna smells so good.

Feels so good.

So soft.

So warm.

She’s not really really tasted blood before. She doesn’t remember it. What the actual act of drinking was like.

How would Anna taste?

Victoria: She runs her tongue over her teeth.

Her mouth is so dry; like a desert on a frigid night.

It could be so much hotter and wetter.

In a flash, she tears across the room, pressing herself to the wall as if Anna shoved a knife to her belly.

GM: Anna sleepily stirs and turns over.

Thump-thump, goes her sleeping heart.

Even stressed and exhausted and un-showered, she smells so good.

Victoria: She steals a room key, tosses on her shoes, and tears out into the hallway in a panic unencouraged by a still heart.

Anyone but Anna.

But someone.

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

GM: Anna said it was past 3 AM.

The hotel’s hallways are still and deserted.

There isn’t a soul in sight.

Sound is another matter.

Victoria can hear the steady thump of sleeping heartbeats past room doors.

There are sacks of warm, hot blood past those doors.

Just lying there in their beds.

Victoria: It’s never quiet for her. Not anymore. There’s always thumping, all around her. The world is her pantry.

She just needs to pick what to eat.

She pauses, leaning her head against the cool glass of a vending machine.

Don’t give in. Don’t give in. Don’t give in.

But she knows, deep down, that there is no ‘not giving in’. Can any human choose not to eat? Can any wolf choose not to hunt?

She swallows, dry as paper and stiff as cardboard.

It’ll happen eventually.

GM: Thump-thump-thump-thump go those faint and distant sleepy beats.

So much blood.

Sitting there in those rooms.

How long can she go without?

What happens to starving creatures like her?

Victoria: She’ll never find out. She knows that, too. Her body won’t let her.

She crumples the paper in her throat again.

Not here. Not so close.

She wanders the halls, listening to the music of life. One musician won’t make it to the morning.

Eventually, she comes out to the front desk.

GM: She finds it empty, but for the desk bell.

Victoria: She rings it.

GM: The graveyard shift employee emerges. He’s a clean-shaven 20something black man with short hair.

“Can I help you?”

Victoria: “Sorry,” she answers. “I was wondering if anyone was here this late.”

An awkward pause hangs, before she continues.

“What’s your name?”

GM: “Devon,” he answers. He looks tired. “And yeah, usually. Graveyard shift.”

Victoria: “How did you come into this job, Devon?”

GM: He shrugs.

“Was looking around. Saw they were hiring, filled out an application. Did retail before this.”

Victoria: She sucks on her lip, suddenly aware that her fangs went home. He wouldn’t be so calm otherwise.

“Plan on going to college? Or a trade?”

GM: “Nope,” answers Devon.

Victoria: “No dreams?”

GM: “College and trades ain’t dreams.”

Victoria: “No, dreams are dreams. I asked if you had any.”

GM: “Look, lady, it’s 4 AM. Why you askin’ this?”

Victoria: “Can’t sleep. Too hungry.”

GM: Devon grunts.

“Lotta 24-hour places.”

Victoria: He’s beginning to annoy her. Maybe he won’t be too much to miss, despite her attempts to trigger her own guilt.

“No one good is up at 4AM.”

GM: “Krystal’s pretty good.”

Devon rubs his eyes.

“Look, lady, I’m still gettin’ used to night shift, and my girl hates it. I’m gonna go back to sleep if there’s nothin’ else.”

Victoria: “Who is Krystal?” she asks.

He has a girl. There’s that guilt.

It doesn’t overpower the thirst.

“Would you… show me where a 24 hour place is? I’m not from around here. It’s late.”

GM: “Krystal’s a 24 hour place,” says Devon. “Fast food, look it up on your phone. I can’t leave work.”

Victoria: She sighs.

Never easy.

She wonders how Krystal tastes.

“Where is it?”

GM: “Bourbon Street.”

Devon doesn’t sound as if he particularly wants to leave work to show her around anyway.

Victoria: Not far. Maybe dangerous.

Not for her.

“Okay. Thank you.”

She turns to leave.

GM: Devon grunts and heads back off.

Victoria: If he hadn’t mentioned his girl, she might have gave in.

She might still.

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

Victoria: The muggy air of an early morning hits her like a steam room compared to the air conditioned hotel. Gross.

She stalks off toward Bourbon Street, glancing left and right for anyone at all. Any poor soul.

Nothing good is out at 4 AM.

She breathes in a deep drag of morning air. She can hear heartbeats. Can she smell prey?

GM: It’s still more night than morning. And Thursday night, or technically Friday night, along Bourbon Street. Every night is a party along the Big Easy’s most famous street from dusk to dawn. Crowds of drunken tourists and college students sway along with open containers of alcohol. No cars drive through the fenced-off street. Music still blares from clubs. It’s a playground.

Victoria: No doors block the staccato of heartbeats here. The chorus is blaring, oppressive in her ears.

They’re all faceless. Nameless. None of the people around her are a poor man at a desk, or a family safe behind a door.

She steps out onto the street, turning right, and stops behind a man. Until he has a face, he isn’t a person.

He doesn’t matter.



She slides past him, scurrying along the street and into the crowd.

Now she’s justifying murder.

She swallows, the paper turned to cardboard.

Someone dies every night in the Big Easy. What’s one more?



But even wolves need to eat eventually.

She recalls the granola bar; that sticky mass of glue and refuse.

She recalls the sweet scent of the cleaning lady.

She recalls Anna.

Mouth closed, she runs her tongue over her teeth.

Would they think she’s just in costume?

GM: 4 AM might see fewer souls on the streets than earlier, but Bourbon Street’s party continues uninterrupted.

The man doesn’t look at her.

No one looks at her.

Anna doesn’t know she’s here.

Devon seemed like he could give a rat’s ass.

Victoria might as well be a ghost.

Fangs or no fangs, she’s just another face in the crowd.

Victoria: Victoria is a recovering food addict in the most enticing, exquisite buffet in the world. She sniffs a sample of everything, of every single delicacy that Bourbon Street has to offer, but resists tasting any of it. She can’t. She knows that she’ll only be able to resist for so long, as if the world itself is edging her.

“Fuck,” she says cupping her hands over her eyes.

GM: Foot traffic continues to flow around her.

Victoria: Creole.







She smacks her forehead.

Stop being such a fucking pussy. This is going to happen, one way or another. The longer you act like a little bitch, the more likely it is that you’ll tear someone’s fucking head off in the middle of the street, and then who will watch Anna?"

She unveils her eyes, looking ahead and around, then drunkenly stumbles down the block.

GM: It’s not overlong before she finds a ‘date’.

A man staggers up to her. He’s slightly shorter than Victoria, Caucasian, in maybe his 40s, with a short graying beard and slightly receding hair. Out-of-season Mardi Gras beads hang from his neck over a t-shirt and jeans.

He looks and smells drunk.

“Yoo hoo,” laughs the man, slinging an arm around her.

Victoria: Her ‘date’ is the furthest creature from who she’d choose, and exactly what she wants.

She tries to shy away from him, only a feather of her strength exercised, and slurs her words.

“S—shtop… boyfriend…”

GM: “S’okay, I go’ a wife,” the laughing man hiccups, dragging Victoria after him through the crowd.

Victoria: She faux-struggles against him.

“B—bu’… I don’t wanna…”

GM: “Gimme a smoochie!” grins the man, wetly plastering his mouth over Victoria’s.

Victoria: She kisses him, biting back an urge to vomit an empty stomach.

“O—kay! D—do y’ have a place? Or—or!”

She points to a side street.

GM: “Uhh. Go’ a hotel,” says the man.

Victoria: “’kayyyyyy!”

“Where is it?”

GM: “Wayba’,” the man mumbles. “Nee’ a cab.”

Victoria: She tugs his shirt, wrapping her nails into the fabric.

“Can w’ ge’ a closer oooone?”

GM: “No,” he mumbles, waving his arm. “Canal Stree’.”


Victoria: She whines up to him.

“Bu’ I waaaan’ i’!”

She cups his balls.

GM: The man gives her another sloppy kiss and gropes her breasts.

Victoria: “‘kayyyyyy! But y’—”

She hiccups.

“Y’ better be nice t’ me!”

GM: The man grins and sticks a hand down her pants, then a finger up her pussy.

He might as well be groping her stomach for all the sensation she feels.

Victoria: She yelps, but forces a smile as genuine as a lawyer at a car accident.

She presses her hands to his chest, stepping up on her toes to whisper, “Where is it?”

GM: “Call a cab,” he mumbles, “I don’ wanna walk.”

Victoria: She harumphs indignantly.

“Wha’ a gentleman.”

GM: “Come ooonnnnnn!”

Victoria: “Mmmnn… Nope! I’m findin’ someone else.”

She doesn’t immediately turn away.

GM: “The fuck you wan’!” the man complains.

Victoria: She sends her knee into his balls, new strength unabated.

GM: The man gives a strangled shriek, clutches his scrotum, and sinks to the street.

Victoria: Revenge for the nonconsenual finger.

She half expects to smell blood.

Victoria snorts, pointing and laughing at the man’s misfortune.

“Oopsie! You grabbed me! I grabbed you!”

She feels bad—a little—but it’s better this way. She isn’t going to get into a cab with him, and she just needs him off the main road. A few blocks will do.

She stumbles backward, catching herself on the brick facade behind her, her eyes locked on her victim.

GM: “Fuck—you!” the man yells, staggering to his feet and running after her.

Victoria: She springs the remaining quarter block to Orleans St, skidding into a turn as she sprints—fast enough to keep her distance, slow enough that she doesn’t lose him—down the street.

Three buildings in, she turns down a narrow space between buildings, waiting.

GM: The overweight, out of shape man does not look thrilled to be literally chasing after her. Sloth seems to war with lust on his face.

In the end, lust wins out. He’s wheezing by the time he catches up.

Victoria: Lust, and anger. They share that anger—that heat. Victoria imbued him with it by an unwanted knee, just as he imbued her with an unwanted hand.

She prepares for him, nestled 20 feet down the pathway, ready to take him.

It’s a necessity. It’ll be a choice out of her hands if she doesn’t—an innocent. This way, at least she knows he’s not the kindest person in the world.

GM: “Youh—owe me!” wheezes the man with a distinctly half-aroused, half-pissed expression as he staggers up to her.

Victoria: She snickers, her laughter bells against the distant life of Bourbon Street.

“C’mere, then.”

She flicks her eyes downward, surprised she hasn’t cracked his pelvis.

GM: He grabs her tits and fumbles at her pants.

He sure doesn’t seem like he has anything broken down there.

Victoria: She bites back the sick that wells up in her throat, taking his wrist in her hands. Her touch is gentle as an angel, her intent just as set, as she brings it to her lips. She wills her fangs forward, but only kisses it to start.

The unwelcome touching is a gift, isn’t it? It’s okay—because she’s taking something from him, too.

GM: The man doesn’t seem at all into the wrist kissing. He pushes back against the wall, squeezing her breasts like he’s trying to pop them, and slips a fat finger up her pussy.

“Aw, you like that, dontcha?”

Victoria: She yelps, and clamps her jaw around his wrist. Hard.

GM: Victoria feels her fangs pierce skin. Bliss rolls over her tongue. Hot and sweet with lust, salty with irritation, and… something else, too. The man gives a yell, and after that she doesn’t hear him. She doesn’t hear anything.

It’s a rack of lamb. It’s champagne. It’s heroin. It’s eating and fucking and getting high all rolled into one. She is empty and it fills her. She is cold and it warms her. It feels like the most right, natural thing in all the world.

She feels strong. She feels giddy. She feels alive.

Victoria: Every woe. Every ache. Every bit of pain and suffering she’s ever been victim to. None of it matters anymore, because against this tide of infinite bliss, they’re all as trivial as the woes of an astronaut looking down on the Earth.

They’re all trifling.

Her eyes fall closed of their own volition, and the world falls to a backdrop as his life ebbs into her mouth, a pulsing waterfall of warmth running down her throat.

It goes.

And goes.

And goes.

And goes.

She isn’t sure how long she’s there, or how much she’s taken.

She doesn’t really care anymore, either.

She did, moments ago.

Or was it minutes?


Does it matter?

The guilt is gone.

That’s trifling, too.

GM: It fills her up. It makes her giddy. It makes her feel buzzed and energized and calm. Everything feels so much funnier and more interesting than it was mere moments ago, and the world full of new best friends waiting to be made.

It ends, though.

There’s no warning. No transition. She’s drinking from a full keg, and suddenly, it’s an empty keg.

The man’s pale, white-faced corpse silently slumps to the ground.

Two red fang-shaped incisions stare up from his neck.

Victoria: Is there even a reason for her to be worried? Why should anything at all matter when she can have this again tomorrow night?

Schlump! Clink!

The man’s body falls to the pavement, knocking over a cluster of empty bottles.

The vampire looks down at him, appraising not him, but herself. She expects the tide of guilt to come creeping back in, now that her source of euphoria is empty.

Think, think, think.

But it doesn’t come. Not naturally. If she has to think about it, is it guilt at all? If she expects to feel guilty, is that enough?

Though she thought to leave the main road, and though it’s the middle of the night, someone is sure to wander by soon. Victoria covers the man with a series of damp, cardboard boxes, and turns back toward Orleans, this time making a right away from Bourbon.

GM: The man’s corpse mutely lies there.

It looks very large.

It looks very noticeable underneath the cardboard.

There are so many people passing by the main streets.

It was dark. He didn’t scream. That has to be enough.

Doesn’t it?

Victoria: She wipes her mouth, checking for blood.

That can’t have been clean.

But make up fits right into Bourbon Street, doesn’t it?

Victoria makes a 3/4 loop of a few blocks, re-entering Bourbon several blocks down from where she left, and walking back toward Anna.

GM: It’s completely clean. She didn’t let a drop go to waste.

She feels full. She feels like she’s basking in an orgasm’s afterglow after pigging out. That feral instinct in the back of her mind, growling ceaselessly to feed, is silent.

Victoria: She looks as wonderful as she feels! She passes the empty desk with a smile that could light up the night; a smile that would have been turned on the night worker, if he deigned to be at his post.

Oh well.

Clearly, she found her 24-hour meal.

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

GM: It’s a short enough walk back to the hotel. Victoria arrives without apparent incident.

Victoria: She wanders through the halls, swipes her card at the door, and re-enters her room.

GM: Anna lies sleeping in bed, her slowed heart steadily beating. She looks the picture of innocence, next to the vampire approaching her. A lamb lying down in the wolf’s den.

The dead man’s blood sits warmly in Victoria’s veins.

Victoria: The entire city feels like the wolf’s den tonight.

But there are other wolves out there.

She curls up beside her girlfriend, and tries to sleep.

GM: Sleep does not come. Even full and satiated, Victoria feels just as wide awake as she did after killing the man.

Victoria: She checks the time.

GM: A few shy of 4:30.

Victoria: She tries.

And tries.

And tries.

And tries.

It feels like hours.

Several, amazing, post-orgasmic hours.


“Psst… Anna.”

GM: She still feels just as awake.

Anna remains fast asleep.

Victoria: She kisses Anna on the mouth, tugging her closer.


GM: “Mmmff…” Anna murmurs, groggily stirring awake at the contact. Her eyes are crusted with sleep and miss Victoria’s in the dark room.

“Sylv… mmm…?”

Victoria: “I can’t sleep.”

GM: Anna’s response comes after a moment of squinting.

“Me… neither… now,” she mumbles wryly.

She blindly gropes for the beside lamp that Victoria can see as plain as day.

Victoria: She takes the hand that reaches for the lamp, gently moves it to her mouth, and kisses it.


She doesn’t sound apologetic.

GM: Anna smiles tiredly in the dark, rubbing her eyes with her other hand.

“Wha… timezit?”

Victoria: “A bit before 5.”

GM: “Ha’ you… been up all night…?”

Victoria: “I’m starting to wonder if the downsides of…”

She gestures to herself.

“…this are coming to light. I can’t sleep.”

For the six minutes she’s tried.

GM: “Oh,” says Anna.

“Di’… Dracula sleep? Long time since I read the book…”

Victoria: “I don’t know. I’ve never read Dracula.

Is she like Dracula? Maybe she should read it.

Did she really just kill a man?

Does her logic justify the murder?

GM: Anna, at least, does not answer.

She yawns into her hand, then pauses.

“Oh. D’you have clients…?”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“No… not this early in the morning.”

“Do you?”

GM: Anna laughs faintly and rubs her eyes.

“I meant. Earlier.”

She fumbles around for the light and finally switches it on.

Victoria: “Nope…”

She elects not to explain further.

“I don’t like not being able to sleep.”

GM: “It’s probably just stress, over… everything. You’ll konk out.”

Anna plants a soft kiss on her lips.

“Oh. You’re warm.”

Victoria: “I am?”

She rests the back of her hand against her own forehead.

“I guess I am.”

GM: She feels almost as warm as Anna does.

“You were so cold earlier. That’s weird.”

Victoria: There’s so much they both have to learn, and not a soul in the world from whom to learn.

For an hour, Victoria forgot the dire situation they’re in.

“I wonder how long it’ll last.”

GM: Anna pauses.

“You want to bang?”

Victoria: Sylvia stares.

“Take advantage of the warmth? Sure.”

GM: “I mean, 4 AM and you can’t sleep…”

Victoria: “And you’re horny 24 hours a day…”

GM: “I think you’re usually the hornier one, Dark Mistress Dominatrix.”

Victoria: “It’s a shame we don’t have your costumes here…”

GM: “It is,” Anna agrees. “Or yours.”

Victoria: “Or a yard stick…”

GM: Anna laughs and plants a rather steamier kiss on her girlfriend’s lips.

Victoria: Sylvia grins into that kiss, pulling her closer.

GM: Anna’s always loved foreplay and kissing as the lead-up to sex. She pulls Sylvia down onto the bed with her. The kisses steadily come, hot and heavy as they hug one another close, pressing their breasts together. Anna’s still naked. Sylvia isn’t. “Clothed dominant, naked submissive” is a request that Victoria’s gotten more than once, and Anna makes no effort to remove her partner’s clothes, instead rubbing and squeezing Sylvia’s nipples through them. Anna’s breath is hot and her heart beats quickly in Sylvia’s ears. Her nipples are stiff under her girlfriend’s touch.

However, a problem soon becomes evident.

Sylvia isn’t wet.

What she does feel is… not hungry. More like the memory of hunger. She feels glutted and full, like someone is pressing another dish at her when she’s already had enough. But she still notices the way her partner’s jugular throbs in the light.

What would Anna taste like?

Victoria: It’s a request she all too happily complies with. There’s little more joy in the world for her than teasing—and denying—the love of her life.

How would Anna taste?




Definitely delicious.

She would orgasm from that alone.

And then she’d die.

Sylvia pulls back in the lamplight, looking down at her love.

GM: Anna looks tired. Most of the sleep is gone from her eyes, but the stress of the past few days definitely shows. Her eyes look darker and have bags.

But for all that, those brown eyes still warmly sparkle up at Sylvia. Her black hair spills out over the pillow she leans against. Her cheeks are rosy with color. Her chest steadily rises and falls with each of her breaths.

“Like what you see?” she smiles.

Victoria: “A little too much. I need a moment.”

One moment.



She closes her eyes, and inhales.

Don’t kill her.

Don’t kill her.

Don’t kill her.

GM: “Too much?” says Anna with a slight frown.

Thump-thump, goes her lover’s heart.

Sylvia can imagine how it would slow, as she drank.

How she could take from Anna.

Hold her life in her hands.

Hold her life in her mouth.

Swirl it around.

Savor it.

Drink it.

It was all just play acting before, wasn’t it, the D/s stuff?

This is real.

Sylvia could drink her and kill her.

How would it taste?

Victoria: She could edge her.

She could slow her heart, little by little, bringing her ever closer to the edge, but stopping just short of that fall into the void.

She could sa—

Sylvia flies across the room, pressing herself to the wall.

“Just… a moment!”

GM: “Sylvie?” Anna says, worriedly. “Are you okay?”


Victoria: “Just… stay there, okay? Just a moment.”

She covers her ears.

It does little to stifle Anna’s heartbeat.

GM: “Okay…” Anna says, slowly.

It does nothing.

Nothing is how so much of her feels.

Not sore. Not tired. Not sleepy.

It feels like she could just… exist forever.

Victoria: It doesn’t get any softer, but her control becomes stronger.


It’s not okay, but it’s easier to deal with.

“I don’t like thinking of you how I was.”

GM: “How were you thinking of me?” asks Anna.

Victoria: She stares at her.

GM: “Am I missing something…?”

Victoria: “Your heart. I can hear it. It’s… enticing.”

That’s the understatement of the year.

GM: “En… ticing?” asks Anna.

She pulls up the blankets a little higher.

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“Don’t worry! Don’t panic! I just needed to… break the spell, as it were.”

GM: “Was this because we were going to have sex…?”

Victoria: “N-no! Just, being so close. It’s not bad b—”

Better not to tell her what she did right before.

“It’s not bad. It’s just new. I need to get used to this.”

How normal it becomes so quickly.

GM: Killing?


“Okay, it’s new,” repeats Anna.

“I hope we can find some answers at a bookstore.”

“And get a better idea of how to navigate all… this.”

Victoria: She forces a faint smile.

She doubts that; but, if it quells Anna’s concerns, it’s a fair path forward.


GM: “Well. Actually. What do we want to do today? Besides look around bookstores.”

Victoria: She nods.

“Little by little.”

GM: “We need to go home at some point.”

Victoria: “I… don’t know. We can’t go home. I’m not sure.”

GM: “But how are you going to see clients? All the information’s on our laptops.”

Victoria: She furrows her brow.

They can’t avoid going home forever, and she’s not about to send Anna to do it.

GM: “Also, our clothes are there.”

Victoria: “You don’t need those.”

GM: Anna sticks out her tongue.

Victoria: “I’d bite that if I wouldn’t take it off.”

GM: Anna’s tongue disappears.

Victoria: She blows a kiss to her.

“…we’ll need to go back eventually. Not you.”

GM: Anna manages a smile at the kiss.

“Okay, so both of us. When?”

Victoria: “Not. You. Probably sooner than later.”

Right now?

“I don’t like not knowing who did this—and who did what they did to me last night. We don’t have allies; or, if we do, we don’t know who they are.”

GM: “I don’t want you going somewhere alone, if you’re scared,” says Anna.

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“I’m a little more durable than you are, Anna.”

GM: “But the note said we’re dead, didn’t it? Two is safer.”

Victoria: “If you get shot, I have to care for you. If I get shot, it’s like you flicking my arm. I don’t have to protect you if you’re safe somewhere.”

GM: Anna pauses.

“…did you get shot?”

Victoria: “Didn’t I… tell you? I could swear I told you.”


GM: “I hope I’d remember, but everything’s just been…”

Anna makes a little motion.

“Also, are you gonna sit down?”

Victoria: She sits, as commanded.

“I think there are a few bullets left inside me.”

GM: Anna blinks.

“Are you… sure?”

“And what do you mean, getting shot is like flicking your arm?”

Victoria: She shrugs.

“It pinched. I thought they punched me, but I found holes in my shirt, and… the wound closed quickly.”

GM: “Uh, who shot you?”

Victoria: “A few thugs in Central City.”

GM: “Oh my god!” exclaims Anna. “Why didn’t you say anything?!” She looks Victoria over as if inspecting her for wounds, then pulls off her shirt.

Victoria: She allows her shirt to be unceremoniously removed, waiting.

GM: “Oh my god,” repeats Anna. “There are holes in your back!”

“There’s no blood, though.”

“How are you… how are you feeling?”

Victoria: “Holes?”

She winces.

“Is it… bad?”

GM: “Uh. You haven’t seemed impaired.”

“And there’s absolutely no blood.”

Victoria: She shrugs, flexing the muscles of her back.

“I… don’t know what to do. Do you think it’ll heal on its own? Should we try to take the bullets out?”

GM: “Sylvia, I have absolutely no idea if this is going to heal on its own or what the rules are.”

“But I do know that always needing to take the bullet out is Hollywood. My dad has a co-worker who’s had a bullet in his arm for 28 years. Doctors said it wasn’t dangerous where it was, and removing it was likely to be.”

“Bullets only need to come out if they’re lodged somewhere they’ll cause more problems.”

“But I’m not a doctor. I don’t know if that’s the case here. Or what’s normal here.”

Victoria: “O-oh.”

She’s never been shot before.

“I don’t think they’re causing any problems.”

Whether they’ll heal or not is a greater concern.

“Can I… put my shirt back on?”

GM: “Look at the domme asking permission.”

The teasing in Anna’s tone is light, though. Her gaze feels like it’s lingering on Sylvia’s back.

“I… I guess. I don’t know what else to do here. We already tried a hospital.”

Victoria: She shudders.

“There’s no way whoever did this doesn’t know…”

GM: Anna’s silent for a moment.

“Why would someone do this?” she asks, helplessly.

Victoria: “I… I think they did it to help me. Why else would they?”

She doesn’t sound convinced.

GM: “I don’t know,” says Anna. “But I know this hasn’t helped us.”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“The situation hasn’t.”

But this? Her strength? Her invulnerability?

GM: “All right. So what do we do?”

Victoria: “You find another hotel. I go back to the house.”

GM: “Is something wrong with this one?”

Victoria: “I don’t like the thought of remaining in one place for too long. Not with the people who… did this. I find it hard to believe they aren’t trying to find me, especially after we caused such a commotion at the hospital.”

GM: “Oh. Yeah.” Worry crosses Anna’s face. “Better safe than sorry.”

Victoria: She won’t be able to carry everything they need in just her arms.

She can’t just go get her car, either. They’ll track that.

She picks up the note and reads it again.

Some friend.

“What do you need most from the house?”

GM: “More clothes,” says Anna. “Laptop. Toothbrush, paste, deodorant.”

“Anything else you can think of.”

Victoria: She closes her eyes.

Toothbrush. Clothes. Laptop. Etcetera. Her laptop, too. Phones? If the phones are in their house. Keys. She may as well take the car back, too.

Is it safe to leave Anna alone?

“I’m going to take you to the next hotel first.”

GM: “Okay. I’ll look one up.”

Anna rummages around her clothes and purse before pulling out her phone to scroll through.

Victoria: Sylvia misses her phone.

Victoria needs her phone.

She moves to sit beside her girlfriend, watching.

GM: They search for a few minutes before Victoria points out Maison Tremé.

“What do you like about this one?” asks Anna.

Victoria: “It’s simple.”


“It’s off Bourbon, but close. We’ll choose a more upscale one next, and vary from there. Maybe go across the city.”

She pauses, appraising her girlfriend.

“I’m sorry, Anna. I don’t want to leave you vulnerable until we figure this out.”

GM: “I’m more worried about you than me, honestly, if I’m staying in a hotel,” says Anna.

“I’m worried about you for so many reasons anyway.”

Victoria: “Me? Why are you worried about me? You’re the breakable one.”

GM: “Because you’re the one all of this has happened to, with bullets in her back!”

Victoria: “With bullets in her back, who feels fine.

GM: “There are lots of sick or hurt people who’ve felt fine, then gotten worse.”

Victoria: “You don’t generally feel fine with bullets in your back. Not this long after.”

GM: Anna gives a helpless-sounding sigh.

Victoria: “Point taken, Anna. I’ll be careful.”

GM: “Thanks. We’re still booked for a day here. Do we want to stay until then?”

GM: Anna blinks dully as if realizing how little sleep she got.

“We’ve only been here a few hours.”

Victoria: Victoria nods.

“Only a few hours; so… I don’t think they’d let us stay another day, unless we want to pay for it.”

Which they can.

Unless they’ve emptied her bank, too.

And then, it occurs to her.

“Hey, Anna? You don’t think I…”

She waves her hands, miming an explosion.

“…in sunlight, do you?”

GM: “Uh.” Anna pauses. “I don’t know.”

“That’s how it is in the movies.”

“But in Dracula he isn’t hurt by the sun.”

“He just can’t turn into a wolf or use his other powers.”

Victoria: “I was going to suggest a few hours more sleep, but…”

GM: “What do you want to do?”

Victoria: She hesitates.

“We should get to the next hotel before sunrise. Just in case. We can… test that another time.”

GM: “I paid through the day for this one. Not for just a few hours.” Anna blinks dully. “I thought I’d be sleeping longer than that.”

Victoria: She bites her lip.

“But not the next night?”

GM: “No, just the normal check-out time. But I guess we should reserve through the next night, if we want you to stay here all day.”

Victoria: “I just… I don’t want to risk it. I don’t want to explode next to you. If it’s like most stories.”

She mentally tries to turn into a bat.

GM: Nothing happens.

“So what do we do?”

“Just keep the shades drawn?”

Victoria: Curses.

Or not curses?

“Stay here. You need your rest. Can you call the front desk and extend in the morning?”

GM: “Sure,” says Anna. “And you’re going back to the house.”

Victoria: “The sun will be up soon. I’d have to be up soon.”

GM: Anna scrolls through her phone.

“It says sunrise is at 6:34. So that’s about two hours.”

Victoria: Doable. For bare essentials.

“Okay. I’ll be fast.”

GM: Anna taps into her phone again.

“The drive’s about 40 minutes, both ways. So that’s still a fair bit of time.”

Victoria: “40 minutes to throw shit in a car.”

Or die. Maybe.

“Wait here. Don’t answer the door unless it’s me.”

GM: “80 minutes,” Anna corrects.

“Okay. Please be careful.”

She plants a tender kiss on Sylvia’s lips.

Victoria: “Right. Both ways.”

She returns the kiss and departs.

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

GM: It’s about a 20-minute drive back to the two’s apartment. Next to the always-partying French Quarter, East Riverside is silent neighborhood residentia. Victoria’s car feels like the only one on the road between the rows of raised shotgun houses.

She arrives at 4018 Constance St. without incident.

Victoria: She’s surprised that she makes it without being stopped or accosted, but she settles into park in the street a few houses down from her place, and around a corner.

The vampire steps outside, taking in her surroundings. It feels like she’s being watched—even alone for most of the drive. The hackles on her back rise.

GM: No bumps erupt on her skin that she can see. It remains as dead as the rest of her.

The rows of shotgun house appear quiet and still.

Can it be that easy?

Victoria: She sets her jaw, and walks around her house, peering in the windows.

GM: The lights are off. Victoria isn’t bothered. The interior might as well be lit up like noon.

She sees nothing out of place.

Victoria: It can’t be this easy.

She circles back around to the front, slips her keys in and opens the door, and as quietly—and quickly—as she can, she grabs a suitcase from their closet, and moves to collect their things in order of importance.

The laptops are on the living room table, last she remembers.

GM: She’s collecting the suitcase from their bedroom when she hears it.

From the living room.

A door creaking open.

Victoria: Fuck.

And she didn’t bring their gun.

Victoria becomes still as a statue, waiting and listening.

GM: Footsteps sound.

Multiple pairs.

Drawing closer to the bedroom.

Victoria: Fuck this.

But if she runs, they’ll just go after Anna eventually.

She’s more durable now, right?

And no more smart.

She wields the suitcase, ready to strike.

GM: The lights spill on.

Heartbeats accompany the footsteps.

The bedroom door swings open.

Victoria: She’s pressed near the wall, behind where the door swings with enough room to swing. The moment the figure passes halfway in—unless she recognizes them—she slams the door on them to stun, then yanks them into the room, ready to disable more permanently.

GM: There’s a strangled yell as the door smashes into the face of a large man. His gun drops from slackened fingers. Victoria grabs it smashes it over his head, knocking him out cold. She has it drawn and pointed at the second man as his hand hovers over his belt holster.

Both of men are ugly. They’re dressed in jeans and wifebeaters. They’re bald, muscled, with metal piercings and hard faces that look accustomed to violence. The knocked-out man has tattoos that depict winged skull and a screeching eagle perched on a swastika. The other one has SS lightning bolts along his neck and pentagrams along his arms. Swords crossed behind a shield with a swastika decorate his chest.

Victoria: She keeps the weapon leveled at him.

“Talk. Don’t move.”

“Don’t you normally save this kind of thing for niggers?”

She nods, referencing his tattoo.

GM: The man stares at her, his jugular throbbing.

“You’re just making things worse, cunt.”

Victoria: “Who sent you?”

GM: He glares.

“The boss.”

Victoria: She shoots him in the shoulder.

GM: The man’s mouth opens. Victoria can’t hear his scream over the gunshot’s explosively loud roar. It’s like a bomb going off in the close quarters.

Victoria smells the blood, though, rich and hot as he collapses to the floor, clutching his arm. Red oozes from between his fingers.

Victoria: She feels that familiar pull, dragging her toward his gaping wound, but resists. Not now. Not yet.


GM: “Cedric… B…. McGinn!” he gasps out.

Victoria: “Next one is the knee. Why are you after me?”

GM: The man grits his teeth.

Red continues to ooze down his arm.

“Said to watch… your house.”

Victoria: “For?”

GM: “Case you… came back.”

Victoria: “To do what with me? If you make me ask another obvious question, you’re going to live life as a pirate.”

GM: “I don’t know!” the man grits out. The veins in his neck throb.

“He’s the… boss. He wants… you. That’s all I know.”

Victoria: “Dial him. Put it on speaker.”

“Toss your gun away.”

GM: The man clenches his teeth, then tosses it. The firearm hits the wall with a clatter.

Victoria: Weapon and eyes trained on him, she sidesteps to collect the weapon.

GM: The man gingerly pulls out a phone and dials it. He’s slower with one hand.



Victoria: She waits with all the patience of the NOPD.

GM: “Ya caught me a wolf, son?” greets a man’s lazy Southern drawl.

It’s a confident-sounding voice.

The kind from a man used to getting what he wants.

It’s a dangerous-sounding voice.

The kind from a man used to taking what he wants.

Victoria: “You know what they say about hunting a wolf on their own territory, don’t they, Cedric?” she purrs.

GM: Laughter rings from the phone.

It’s cold laughter, the kind that could ring at someone’s death.

It’s rich and belly-deep, and feels almost like a parody of how laughter is supposed to sound.

“I’da said someone fucked up.”

“But it done seems more like three someones.”

Victoria: Three. There’s another.

She glances around.

“Good thing I have a big freezer, and an industrial blender,” she answers in frosty reply.

“What have I done to you, dear Cedric?”

GM: She sees no one.

“Oh, darlin’, darlin’,” chuckles Cedric’s voice.

“More than yer pretty lil’ head’s done e’er imagined.”

“We should talk. Come swing ba ma place. I’ll open yer eyes ta a few things.”

“4717 St. Charles Avenue.”

Victoria: “Three sheep break into my house, weapons drawn? And you expect me to meet you? You could have sent a card.”

GM: There’s another peal of simultaneously cold and belly-deep laughter.

“I said there was three someones who fucked up.”

“I didn’t say nothin’ ’bout three sheep.”

“But I assure you, Miss Wolf, ya’ll find stoppin’ by a sight more pleasant than the alternative.”

“Might e’en be there’s a few things I can right open yer eyes to.”

Victoria: She grunts.

“In what way have I fucked up?”

GM: The man’s tongue clucks.

“That’s not the sort o’ thing ta chit-chat about o’er phones, darlin’.”

“That there’s one way.”

Victoria: “It wouldn’t be overly smart to meet you in your den. Why don’t we meet somewhere neutral?”

GM: The man’s tongue clucks again.

“Miss Wolf, there is a way things are done.”

Victoria: “Cordiality does wonders for trust. I have negative trust right now.”

GM: There’s another peal of that same, parody-like laughter.

“Tell me somethin’, darlin’. How thirsty are ya, rightaboutnow?”

Victoria: "Moreso than before I put a bullet in the pretty one; but, alcoholics tend to cave around alcoho—”

And then it clicks.

“You know.”

GM: Victoria can hear the man’s grin.

“Do I e’er.”

Victoria: “That doesn’t mean you’re an ally.”

GM: “Miss Wolf, right now, I am yer only hope in a dark and unforgivin’ world.”

“You got no idea what manner o’ shit storm ya set off.”

Victoria: “What the fuck did I do?”


GM: “Ya’ve made a lot o’ folks like us mad, darlin’. Real mad. Madder’n a box o’ frogs.”

“Yer days are numbered ’fore they find ya.”

“The longer that takes, the madder they will be.”

Victoria: “And if they find me? What? They kill me?”

GM: “Let’s just say, Miss Wolf, you will dearly regret not havin’ me as yer friend.”

Victoria: “Why do you want to help me?”

GM: “Self-interest, o’ course. Ya’ll owe me.”

“I could give two shits ’bout ya otherwise.”

Victoria: “Fine.”

It’s her only link to the world she’s only otherwise guessing about.

A bookstore isn’t quite so good.

“I’ll owe you one. I suppose I could have your remaining employee take me there?”

GM: The man’s tongue clucks.

“I certainly hope so, Miss Wolf. I do certainly hope so.”

Victoria: “Very well then. I’ll see you soon.”

GM: “Oh, ya certainly will, darlin’.”

“Ya certainly will.”

The line clicks.

Victoria: One way or another, she’s getting answers.

“Can you drive?” she asks the goon.

GM: “With one fucking arm?” growls the man, still clutching his bleeding shoulder.

Victoria: “I suppose I’ll be carrying your inept compatriot to the car, too?”

GM: “I got one fuckin’ arm,” the man snarls.

Victoria: She breathes a sigh.

“Use your one fuckin’ arm and help keep the doors open.”

She turns on heel, a stowing both weapons in her waistband, and moves to drag the other man out the front door.

GM: Limp bodies are extremely heavy. The man is a big man. Victoria finds her progress glacially slow.

She doesn’t get at all fatigued, though.

That’s when she hears the wail of approaching police sirens.

“You dumb fucking cunt,” mutters the man.

Victoria: “You help me get him in right now or he’s going to jail.”

GM: “Fuck that!”

The man runs for the door.

Victoria: Burglary charge it is.

She drops the disabled one and charges after him.

GM: The man runs towards Victoria’s car.

The wailing sirens grow louder.

Victoria: She rips open the driver’s door, sliding into the seat and unlocking the other side.

GM: She sees a note lying on the passenger seat.

Victoria: She pockets the note. What the fuck is going on?

GM: “Drive, cunt!” yells the man.

Victoria: She pulls out, speeding away before the police make line of sight. Without any flowing traffic, they’ll be a beacon to the police if they’re seen, and in Anna’s old car, they’d be lucky to make it to the end of the block before they’re cut off.

Vic turns the next corner, navigates two more blocks down, then turns back around to run parallel to her block.

With the police now elsewhere, she redirects toward her new ‘friend’.

80 spare minutes. Simple in, simple out. Grab the laptops. Grab the clothes. Grab the toothbrush and paste.

Simple, right?

It’s never simple. Anna will see it on the news: Shots fired. Man found unconscious. No Vic.

She pulls out her phone and shoots her girlfriend a text.

I’ll be a little late.
Victoria III, Chapter X
Crazy Talk

“You need to check in to the psych ward.”
Anna May Perry

Thursday night, 7 April 2016, PM

Victoria: “A-anna?!” Sylvia cries into the phone.

She expects to feel her heart skip.

GM: There’s what sounds like a frown.


Victoria: “You’re alive?!”

She slumps down against the building.

GM: “…yes, why wouldn’t I be?”

Victoria: No. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

“You don’t remember? You’re not hurt?”

GM: “Sylvia, what’s going on?” says Anna, who doesn’t sound on the verge of tears. “Did you see the lawyer? And schedule an appointment with the psychiatrist?”

Victoria: “Wh—”

Is she going crazy?

“Anna, you don’t remember?”

How can she not remember? The pain. The blood. What Victoria did to her.

GM: “Of course I remember!” says Anna. “I remember being scared you were going to shoot someone!”

Victoria: “What happened the rest of that night?”

GM: “Sorry, the rest of the night?”

Victoria: “After you took my gun. What happened?”

GM: There’s a long pause.


“We had a fight.”

“You scared me.”

“You really, really scared me.”

The words are a whisper. Anna sounds like she might be the one ready to cry, now.

Victoria: Victoria sounds mortified.

“I’m scared, Anna. Tell me about the fight. What did I do? Where did I go?”

GM: “Sylvia, do… do you not remember?” Anna asks in a fragile voice.

Victoria: “I d-don’t, and I’m n-not okay, and I’m s-scared. Please. Tell me what happened.”

GM: There’s another long pause.

Victoria has to wonder what’s passing on her partner’s face.

Anna’s voice is tremulous as she continues,

“You came home. You had a gun, that wasn’t yours. You denied it when I brought it up. You wouldn’t tell me anything.”

“You said you were seeing things.”

“You’d turned the safety off.”

“I asked you to give me the gun.”

Victoria: “And I gave it to you,” she nods.

GM: “No. You said no.”

Victoria: “…didn’t I?”

She doesn’t even believe herself."

GM: “No, Sylvia, no. You said no. N-no.”

Anna sounds like she’s blinking back tears.

Victoria: “Anna. When did I leave the house?”

GM: “You said you were going to use it. That you were… that people were after you. That you were going to… kill them. That you were in too…”

“I don’t remember what. I don’t remember what you said. I just remember you screaming, and saying, and s-saying… I remember being s-so scared, Sylvia, that you were…”

Anna gives a sob.

Victoria: “Anna.”

She’s deadly serious. Her voice is that voice she only uses when she needs Anna to focus, regardless her feelings.

“Where did I say I was going when I left?”

GM: “You di… didn’t, Sylvia!” Anna exclaims in a choked voice. “I have n… no idea, where you’ve been, or what you… what you… I s-said I was going to c-call the police, if you didn’t give me the gun, because I w… and you s… said…”

There’s no mistaking it.

She’s full-on crying now.

“You g… gave it… and called me… th… things…”

“And I s… said… you… have… to see a lawyer… and a therapist… or we’re… or we’re through, Sylvia, or we’re through…!”

Victoria: “Anna, baby. I need you to listen to me. Okay? I’m not going to make excuses.”

She waits.

GM: She hears Anna’s low crying over the line.

Her girlfriend doesn’t say anything else.

Victoria: “I’m not okay. I will get a lawyer. There’s more to it than that, though. The people after me—they aren’t going to sue or press charges. They did something to me last night, and…”

“I’m not sure what happened. I don’t want to see you hurt anymore.”

GM: “Sylvia. You need… you need to see a psychiatrist. You’re not… you’re not okay…” Anna chokingly repeats those words.

Victoria: “I need a psychiatrist. I’m not okay. I’ll get one. Promise. I’ll become okay. I’m listening, Anna. I’m listening.”

No one thinks they can take a bullet and finds no wound.

No one blacks out and wakes up in a pool of blood.

Three times.

No one sane.

She pulls the note from her pocket.

“I’m so sorry, Anna.”

GM: “Th… thank you,” Anna repeats in the same choked tone. “That’s… that’s all I wanted to hear… I want you to be o… kay…”

Victoria: She reads the note again.

“It’s going to take a while.”

GM: Anna sniffs.

“You… you start where you can.”

“Will you come home, after… you schedule the appointment?”

Victoria: “I’ll come home as soon as I can, Anna. I don’t have my phone or wallet or anything.”

GM: “Wh… why not?” Anna asks confusedly.

“Where’d you stay…?”

Victoria: “There’s a lot that happened overnight. I’m going to get help.”

A pause.

“At a hotel. Listen, Anna—I’m going to come get you, okay? Can you trust me if I promise to get a psych?”

“You can even watch me book the appointment.”

GM: Anna pauses for a moment.

“Yes. Okay…”

Victoria: She thinks that through again.

“Actually… with no money and car… could you get me?”

GM: “Okay. Where are you?”

Victoria: She gives Marcus’ address, walking back to the building.

GM: She finds the front doors closed and locked, as before.

“All right. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Victoria: “Okay. I’ll be inside. Just call this number.”

She pushes the buzzer for Marcus.

GM: “That you, Vic?”

Victoria: “Yeah. Anna is coming to get me. Do you want your change? I’ll give you it all back and then some another time, regardless.”

GM: “Keep it. You can pay me back in other ways.”

Victoria: “I’m gonna pay you back in both. You’re the only one who helped me.”

GM: “You’re welcome.”

It’s not long before Victoria gets a text from Anna.

Outside the building

Victoria: She’s still outside.

She hops into the car, still shaking.

She looks pale.

At least there’s no blood.

Not yet.

Not now.


She swallows.

“I’m going to spend the rest of my life apologizing.”

GM: Anna looks surprised when she sees her girlfriend.

She looks like she was crying, earlier. Her eyes are still a bit red and puffy.

Victoria can hear her steadily beating heart.

The thought comes unbidden:

What would Anna taste like?

“As long… as long as you get help,” Anna answers, rubbing a hand along Victoria’s shoulder. “That’s the important thing.”

Victoria: She swallows that thought as if it were a splinter pool cue, locking it deep inside her.

“I will, Anna. I will. I love you. You’re… all that matters. I’m going to get help.”

“Anna, do you have any perfume?”

GM: “I love you t…. perfume?” Anna asks confusedly as she starts the car.

“Uh, at home.”

Victoria: She cracks the window. The heat is oppressive, but less oppressive than thoughts of Anna’s taste.

“It’s fine.”

GM: The Arts District rolls past the car window.

“Why do you ask?”

Victoria: “You smell good.”

Not entirely a lie.

GM: Anna gives a small laugh.

“Uh, thanks.”

Victoria: She clears her throat.

“I was taken last night, Anna.”

Or was she?

GM: The mirth on Anna’s face dies.


Victoria: “I’m… going to tell you everything. You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’m going to tell you, because that’s what you deserve.”

She rolls the window back up.

Thump… thump… thump…

“In exchange, I need you to do something equally crazy for me. Nothing illegal.”

GM: “Okay,” Anna says slowly.

“And you’re going to call a psychiatrist to schedule an appointment as soon as we get home.”

“And a lawyer.”

Victoria: “A psychiatrist, and a lawyer. I’ll make the appointment, and I’ll allow them to discuss with you.”

So you know that I go, and that I try.

She doesn’t need to say that to Anna. Anna knows.

“I want you to go on vacation for a while. I’ll pay.”

“Just for a week or so.”

GM: Anna sounds puzzled.


“Why do you want me on vacation?”

Victoria: “Because if what’s happening to me isn’t just in my head, then I want to know you’re safe.”

“And if what’s happening to me is in my head, then you get a break to come back refreshed, knowing I’m working on me while you’re away.”

GM: “Okay,” Anna repeats. “I can take a vacation.”

Victoria: “Bahamas?”

Victoria would send her to the moon if she could.

GM: “Uh. I thought you just meant time off from work.”

Victoria: “Nope. You’ve been stressed, and you need to relax. I meant a vacation.”

A pause hangs between them.

“You can lock up the gun and change the combination.”

GM: “I’m a little reluctant to just leave right now, Sylvia,” says Anna.

“You need help.”


Victoria: “I agree.”

Anna doesn’t know half of it.

GM: “And I don’t know that I could really relax anyway.”

Victoria: “Okay—then we’ll get a hotel. Somewhere nice, and local. In the city. Is that a fair compromise?”

GM: “Yes. That’d be okay.”

Victoria: “Okay.”

It’s not okay.

And so she launches into her story.

She tells her everything. The fight. The blackout.

Waking up. The torture.

She obfuscates her forced role in it.

Waking up in the hotel.

Waking up in a pool of blood. Her fangs.

The bite marks.

She shows Anna her teeth. She’d have screamed if she had fangs when she got in the car, right?

The run. The near-robbery.

Getting shot.

Finding no wounds.


“…it’s, fucking crazy. I sound crazy. I think I might be crazy; but, if it’s not, then you’re in danger.”

She pulls the note out of her pocket, handing it to Anna.

“I woke up with this on the nightstand.”

GM: Anna pulls over the car when Victoria starts talking about being tortured.

Her being tortured.

“Sylvia…” she finally interrupts with a pained look.

“That didn’t… that didn’t happen.”

Her voice quavers.

“You’re imagining things.”

Victoria does not feel any fangs in her mouth.

Victoria: “I…”

She swallows.

“I know. You’re probably right. That’s why… I was so scared when I called you. So surprised.”

GM: “You’re not well, Sylvia,” Anna says in a chocked voice, shaking her head.

“None of that… none of that happened.”

“I’m not sure if any of what you’ve been talking about, with… enemies, and…” she trails off lamely, “everything, has even happened.”

“It sounds like paranoid… paranoi… I’m sorry, delusions, it sounds like, delusions.”

Victoria: “I… I don’t know.”

“You’re right.”

GM: “I… I think a psychiatrist, I think that’s not enough,” Anna continues in that same choked tone, but growing more firm.

“I think you should check in somewhere. I think you should be under observation.”

“I am scared for you, and what you might do.”

Victoria: “Anna. Baby. Why don’t we start with the psych? See what they say?”

“I’m not going to do anything.”

GM: “A psychia… Sylvia, they’re for getting better. Long term. Not… immediate crisis. Which you… which you’re i…” Anna gives another little sob and briefly trails off before continuing, “I think you are in crisis, and I think you need immediate help.”

“Please. I just want you to get help.”

“I don’t think you want to do an… anything, but I am very, very scared about how you believe… people are out to get us, and kidnapped us, and… I’d do desperate, c… extreme things, too, if I believed that was happening.”

Victoria: “Anna, sweetheart, can we give it one day? Just one day, and if you’re still as worried as you are right now, you can check me in. I won’t fight it then. Okay?”

“I’m telling you what I see and hear because I want you to know and understand how fucked it is. It’s not okay. I’m not okay. But I’m not telling you it’s fine, either. I’m treating you as my equal.”

She breathes a shuddering breath.

“Please. Please don’t abandon me.”

GM: Anna sounds like she’s fighting tears.

No, she is fighting tears. They’re trickling down her face, but she seems to be willing herself not to break down, not yet, as she continues,

“Sylvia, I’ll… I will, I will stay with you, I won’t ab… bandon you, I j… you nee… you need…”

Her voice steadies as she implores,

“You need to check in to the psych ward. I am t…. terrified, that you are a d-danger to yourself, r-right now.”

Victoria: Sylvia sets her jaw, as she would when preparing her rebuttal.

She opens her mouth, and closes it.

Then, she softens.


That’s it. No fight. No pleading. No crying. No explanation, or justification. Just ‘okay’.

“You promise that you won’t leave?”

GM: Anna’s shoulders slump as she makes a chocked sound of relief.

“Y-yes. I promise. I j-just want you to get h-help.”

Victoria: “Okay.”

No jokes. No offered wrists.

Just okay.

GM: Anna pulls out her phone and shakily taps into it.

“Okay… T-Tulane has a psych unit. They’re nearby.”

Victoria: She nods.

“That’s fine. We can do that. I trust you.”

GM: Anna gives a nod of relief and resumes driving.

Victoria: Sylvia doesn’t speak for the drive.

The hole is deep enough.

If Anna is right—and, to any sane person, Anna is right—then Tulane Psych is exactly what she needs.

If Anna is wrong, then people will die.

In either case, the only answer to keeping Anna is to comply. So she complies.

They’ll see if anyone else dies.

Thursday night, 7 April 2016, PM

GM: Anna finds a place to park. She walks it to the ER with Sylvia.

It looks as miserable as Anna feels. It’s like a third world refugee camp, with dozens of miserable and pained-looking people crammed into a hard, cold, and uncomfortable space as they wait their turns to be seen by staff. Some of them have obvious bruises and injuries. Some are curled up on seats and moaning. Some have loved ones. Some don’t. Some are crying. Some stare numbly ahead. No one looks like they want to be here.

Anna and Victoria talk to a harried-looking intake nurse. She asks them in a clipped and impersonal voice to describe their symptoms.

Victoria: “I’m… seeing things,” she says. “Hallucinating.”

She does not immediately launch into detail.

GM: Anna doesn’t say anything.

“Not urgent or life-threatening,” the nurse says in a monotone voice, then directs them to take a seat in the packed waiting room.

Victoria can’t even see an open seat.

Victoria: “N-not immediately, but not unquestionably,” she compromises.

GM: “Not urgent or life-threatening,” the nurse repeats in a tone that sounds like she wants them to go away.

Victoria: “O-okay.”

She looks to Anna, then to the waiting room.

“…when I said not leave, I meant me as a whole. You don’t have to wait here. If you don’t want to.”

GM: “I-I do,” says Anna, over the sea of moans from the waiting room. A man on one of the seats starts screaming as he hugs himself. People throw him dirty looks and yell for him to shut up. “I’ll stay.”

Victoria: She takes Anna’s hand, and leads her to a corner. The furthest corner from the screaming.

She’s suddenly very aware that hospitals sometimes smell like blood.

GM: She can smell it.

She can smell as strongly as skunk musk, but nowhere nearly as fowl.

It smells delicious.

It smells arousing.

It turns her on.

It makes her hungry.

There’s bits of it, in a lot of places, all throughout the room. Each one pulls at Victoria’s senses like a magnet.

She can smell it’s strongest, too, from the close-eyed woman weakly lying against her partner.

“You’re cold…” says Anna as Victoria takes her hand.

Victoria: It’s like being an alcoholic in the world’s finest bourbon distillery.

She takes slow, deep breaths, trying to ward it off.

It makes it worse.

“I am?”

GM: Anna nods.

Victoria: “I don’t feel cold. I hope I’m not sick.”

Sicker than she already is.

Cold. Pale. Crying blood. Hallucinating.

GM: “Maybe we should tell the nurse that too, and see if it gets you moved up…?”

Victoria: “I think you might have to stab me to get me moved up.”

GM: The man who’s hugging himself starts loudly screaming again.


WILL YOU FUCKING SHUT UP!” shrieks the woman next to him.

“Don’t tempt me,” Anna says dryly.

Victoria: Victoria winces. Hospital music is far from her favorite.

“Got a pen? A shot to the jugular might give us an express.”

GM: “No, just a phone.”

Victoria: “Concussion?”

GM: Anna manages a weak smile and looks around for a free chair.

Seeing none, she sighs and settles down on the floor to wait.

Victoria: Sylvia settles beside her, leaning her head on her shoulder.

“I’m sorry.”

GM: “You’re really cold…” murmurs Anna, but leans back in to her. “You think you might be sick?”

Victoria: “I… don’t feel sick. I actually feel pretty good.”

She rolls her shoulders.

“Better than most days. A little horny? Even for me.”

GM: Anna gives her an odd look.

“Your temperature doesn’t feel normal… that isn’t a good sign.”

Victoria: “How cold is it?”

GM: Anna places a palm against her forehead.

“Enough that I’m worried.”

Victoria: Sylvia whines.

“Will anything at all go right this week?”

GM: Anna’s face says it all.

Victoria: She wraps an arm around her.

“It’ll be okay. Not today or tomorrow. Eventually.”

She believes it.

“…it might be faster to make a psych visit.”

GM: Anna give a little shiver, but her face sets at Sylvia’s next words.

“No. It won’t be. Psychiatrists cannot take you overnight and provide round-the-clock monitoring. And appointments can be days or even weeks away.”

Victoria: “Right. Weeks away might be sooner than…”

She gestures at the room grandly.

GM: Anna gives a very weak smile and settles in to wait.

Time passes.

People come. People go. People cry. People hurt.

Victoria: Sylvia bitches the entire time.

But she doesn’t move to leave.

GM: Seats eventually free up. Anna grabs them and sighs with relief over getting off the cold, hard floor.

Sylvia doesn’t feel any soreness, coldness, or discomfort.

Victoria: If she wasn’t so distracted with the sheer terror of the unknown—whether any of this is real, or all in her head—she might notice that.

She takes Anna’s hand, pulling it into her lap.

“It’s been weeks.”

GM: Anna wearily leans against the seat.

“Sorry, what has…?”

Victoria: Sylvia slumps in the chair.

“Since we got here.”

GM: “Oh. Yeah.”

Victoria: Victoria lifts her head.

“Is someone wounded?”

GM: “Uh. Probably?”

“This is the ER.”

Victoria: “No, like—”

She sits up, sniffing and looking around the room.

“It’s smelled like blood in here for hours. Oppressively.”

GM: “I don’t smell anything,” says Anna.

Victoria: She groans.

“Am I…?”

GM: “I mean it doesn’t smell nice but I don’t smell blood.”

Victoria: Hallucinating.


“It smells worse the longer we’ve sat here. I thought someone might be bleeding around us.”

GM: “Well, wouldn’t surprise me. There’s probably some people bleeding here.” Anna looks around the sea of suffering faces.

Victoria: Why is it so much worse for her than Anna?

She slumps back into the chair, resuming her waiting.

GM: They wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Eventually, a nurse tells Sylvia and Anna that it’s their turn and leads them into an exam room. It has a papered bed to lie down and an adjacent chair. An oxygen tank, tubing, and other medical equipment sit nearby.

“A doctor’ll be with you soon,” the nurse states, then exits through the door.

Anna and Sylvia are left alone in the silent room.

Victoria: To wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It feels like weeks.

“You’re sure about this, Anna?”

GM: Anna’s already sat down on the chair. She looks like she’s starting to nod off.

“Yes,” she answers firmly, visibly sitting up at that question.

Victoria: Victoria can’t sit still.

With her question answered, she lays back on the bed, legs straight up the wall.

GM: Time passes.

And passes.

And passes.

And passes.

“Soon” seems like a pretty subjective phrase.

Anna looks half-asleep in her chair.

Victoria: At one point, Victoria does try to fall asleep.

It’s not like she’ll wake up in a hotel room this time.

Or will she?

GM: Sleep doesn’t come.

At all.

She doesn’t feel even remotely drowsy.

Victoria: She groans.

“The wait is murder.”

Did she really kill that woman?"

She swallows.

And that man.

And the elderly couple.

The man back in Chakras—the man that gifted her her career and all its success, in his own way—deserved what she did. These people didn’t.

But was it real?

Is any of it?

GM: Anna makes a tired noise of agreement.

Answers to Sylvia’s questions do not present themselves.

There’s not even the ticking of a clock.

There’s just nothing.

Just waiting.

“Got some granola bars in my purse,” Anna eventually mumbles.

Victoria: Thump… thump… thump… thump…

There is ticking, but Anna can’t hear it.

“I’m not hungry.”

GM: Anna rubs her eyes.

“When did you last eat?”




Victoria: “When I woke up.”

It’s not a lie.

If it’s real.

The thought makes her less sick than it should.

GM: There’s the sound of crinkling wrappers as Anna fishes around in her purse.

“Eat something. That was… all day ago?”

Victoria: “No, like… in the hotel. I woke up a few hours ago. Maybe an hour before I called you?”

GM: “That was…” Anna blinks dully. “Why’d you sleep so late…?”

Victoria: “I don’t remember going to sleep.”

“Or renting a room.”

“Or writing a n—”

She’s not helping.

GM: Anna starts softly crying again.

Victoria: “I’m telling you, Anna… some of it happened. You can’t explain everything away. I didn’t manifest an entire ho…”

And then it hits her.

“Someone paid for the room.”

“Someone had to have paid for the room.”

GM: Anna just shakes her head.

“Y-Yes. Yes, I am s-sure about this. I am very, very, very s-sure, about this.”

Victoria: “Anna, the Hampton inn just a few blocks from our house. Don’t give a name. Just…”

She looks nervously to the door.

“A lot happened that is in my head. I did not invent an entire hotel. That’s impossible.”

“I went somewhere when I left, and those events led me there. I had no money or credit cards on me. Someone paid for it.”

GM: “Or maybe you don’t remember what you did with your cards and money.” Anna’s voice sounds miserable and tired. “We’ll need to report them as missing or stolen.”

Victoria: “The cards, at least.”

Anna isn’t going to believe her. Not now. Not today. Not without proof.

She sighs.

She’ll have to get through this, first.

GM: “You should eat something,” Anna says dully. “Because it sounds like you don’t remember, when you last ate, if you didn’t have any cards or money.”

She extends the granola bars.

Victoria: She gives Anna a tired look, takes a bar, unwraps it, and takes a bite.

She looks as happy as a child given day-old broccoli.

GM: It tastes somewhere between nothing and horrible. It chews like paper. It slides down her throat like glue. She can already feel her stomach’s roiling unease.

Victoria: It’s the only bite she has.

She sets it down.

“I think it’s rotten,” she says, raking her tongue.

GM: Anna sniffs it, then takes a bite.

“Tastes okay to me.”

Victoria: “I don’t think I’m that hungry.”

She doesn’t take it back.

GM: “Do you remember when you last ate?”

Victoria: “I had O’Tolley’s this—yesterday—afternoon?”

GM: “You should really eat, Sylvia,” Anna says tiredly. “Hunger might be aggravating your symptoms.”

Victoria: “Maybe. But that granola bar is disgusting.”

It was her go-to running-late breakfast for years. They just bought a new box a week ago. There’s no way it’s rotten.

GM: Anna sighs, puts it back into her purse, and re-closes her eyes.

Victoria: Sylvia hops off the bed, settling next to Anna. She rubs her knees.

“I’ll ask for something else after the doctor is done.”

GM: “You should eat something,” Anna agrees.

“Maybe it’s why you’re cold. I don’t know.”

Victoria: “Do you have anything else?”

Thump… thump… thump…

GM: Anna shakes her head.


Victoria: The thought makes her want to wretch, but she speaks it anyway.

“Give me the bar.”

GM: Anna hands it over.

Victoria: She gnaws it as if it’s made from moldy charcoal.

GM: It tastes as filling as paper, goes down her throat like glue, and sits in her stomach like a brick.

Victoria: And yet, she finishes it. The entire bar.

This is her love for Anna.

GM: Sylvia doesn’t think she’s ever forced down such an unappetizing meal.

But Anna looks glad to see her eat, and gives her a kiss on the cheek.

It’s maybe the first time she’s looked glad about anything since Sylvia called her.

Victoria: She offers her girlfriend a smile.

It makes Anna happy. That’s all that matters.

Friday night, 8 April 2016, AM

GM: Without warning, the door to their room opens. A harried-looking, balding and middle-aged man in a white doctor’s coat strides in and closes the door behind him.

“Which of you am I assessing?” he asks brusquely.

“Her,” says Anna, nodding towards Sylvia.

“Okay,” says the doctor. “Routine physical for you first.”

Without waiting for Sylvia’s response, he partly pulls up her shirt and sharply jabs his fingers against various parts of her abdomen.

“How often do you exercise, smoke, and drink? Any allergies, medications, or past surgeries?” he asks absently.

Victoria: “Me,” she answers in unison, her smile faltering to a relaxed line.

She isn’t enthused with the intrusion to her physical space.

“Often, and vigorously. Rarely. Sometimes. None, not yet, just bone setting.”

GM: “Mm,” the doctor responds noncommittally to her answers. He takes his stethoscope and presses it to Sylvia’s heart.

Victoria: She complies, if only because Anna wills it so.

GM: The doctor frowns, takes it off, looks it over, and presses it to her heart again.

“Something’s wrong with this stethoscope,” he says. “Wait here. I’ll be back with another.”

Victoria: The look she gives the doctor at his words are the same as if she was told he’ll be back with a knife to paint her with wounds.

Mechanically, she turns to look at Anna.

GM: The doctor doesn’t look terribly concerned for Victoria as he heads off.

Anna gives her a puzzled look.

“What was wrong with the stethoscope…?”

Victoria: She swallows.

“You’re not hallucinating, too, right?”

Of course, she could be hallucinating this entire visit.

GM: “No…” says Anna. “He said something was wrong with the stethoscope, that he had to get another… did you see something?”

Victoria: “N-no.”

No heartbeat. What else could be wrong with a stethoscope?

GM: “Okay, that’s good,” says Anna. “I guess every doctor deals with defective equipment at some point.”

Victoria: It’s not defective.


She forces a smile. It’s like a terminal cancer patient telling their loved ones it’ll be okay.

GM: The doctor eventually comes back, and with a nurse too.

He takes an identical-looking stethoscope to Victoria’s heart.

He gives Victoria a curiously blank look, presses the stethoscope to the nurse’s heart without a word, and then back to Victoria’s.

He stares at her like she has two heads.

Victoria: She lofts a brow expectantly.

Thump… thump… thump…

GM: “We’re going to take your blood pressure,” says the doctor.

The nurse fastens the cuff around Victoria’s arm. She feels it snugly tighten.

The doctor reads the monitor.

He wordlessly looks at the nurse.

She frowns in puzzlement.

“Check her pulse,” says the doctor.

The nurse takes Victoria’s arm and presses two fingers to her wrist.

“Nothing,” she says in a baffled voice.

“Try her neck,” says the doctor.

The nurse does so.

“Nothing,” she repeats.

The baffled look on her face deepens.

Anna looks between the two in confusion. “What’s going on?”

“What the hell is this?” the doctor says to Victoria.

Victoria: “You’re asking me? I was told I needed a check up!”

She lifts her arms, as if to display a lack of hidden doubled set.

GM: “You have no pulse, no heartbeat, and no blood pressure,” the doctor says in a flat voice.

“What…?” Anna says confusedly.

Victoria: She knows.

She feigns mock-surprise anyway, snorting.

“Uh huh, and little, pink horns, too. You’ve got broken equipment.”

GM: “Five different tests,” says the doctor.

He’s frowning deeply.

Victoria: It unsettles her, but it doesn’t confirm anything.

What if this is a hallucination?

“Only the best for Tulane.”

She shoots Anna a glance.

GM: Anna just looks bewildered.

“Stay here,” says the doctor. “We’ll… administer some more advanced tests.”

He leaves the room with the nurse.

They close the door after them.

Victoria: She speaks quickly to her girlfriend.

“Now do you believe that something is fucked?”

GM: “Wh… why don’t you have a pulse?” Anna says dumbly.

Victoria: “Anna, we can leave right now, and they won’t know we were here. If you want to stay, I’ll stay—but if we stay, a lot more is likely to go wrong.”

Victoria knows that she’ll be the head of Tulane’s medical mysteries dialogue.

Woman alive! No pulse!

GM: “If… if you don’t have a pulse, something is wrong,” says Anna. “A hospital is exactly where we should be.”

“So you can get help.”

Victoria: “Anna, if I don’t have a fucking pulse and I’m talking to you like it’s a lunch date, I don’t think a hospital is what I need. A church is what I need.”

GM: “Wh… a church?”

Anna looks confused.

Victoria: FUCK!

Panic finally sets in.

No adrenaline crashes through her system.

“Think about the story I told you. Think about what you felt out in the waiting room.”

She hops off the bed, coming to a stop before her. She takes Anna’s hand, pressing it firmly to her chest.

GM: “What… story?”

Anna looks distinctly uncomfortable.

“You’re… you’re cold…”

Victoria: “The story that you thought was a hallucination. Anna, please. We need to go. We need to go.”

GM: Anna throws up her hands.

“Where could we go? Why can’t we just get you help? These are doctors!”

“They can find out, why… why you don’t have a pulse.”

Victoria: “Because I have no PULSE! I have no heartbeat! What do you think they’re going to do? Shock me back to life?!”

“Sure, doctor,” she mocks. “I’ll just settle one paddle here, and one paddle here. There. Look right? No, I can do it myself!”

GM: “I… I don’t know…” Anna says dumbly. “They’re the doctors, not me. Maybe this is… maybe this has happened?”

Victoria: She gives her a withered stare.

GM: Anna throws up her hand again.

“Sylvia, where would you even want to go?”

“Where else can we get you help?”

Victoria: “A hotel. Just so we can think. That’s it. Something isn’t right, Anna. I might be hallucinating, but we both aren’t—and if there’s a chance that some of what happened last night—some of what I did—is real? Then I can’t be locked up in a hospital.”

Because the doctors will be dead. The moment they try to restrain her, she knows it: she’ll wake up in a pool of blood, and some of it might be Anna’s.

GM: “Sylvia, it’s… it’s all a jumble,” says Anna. “What do you think happened last night? I know you think people are out to get us, and kidnapped us, but that didn’t happen. I was back home, wasn’t I?”

Victoria: “And I wasn’t.

“I entered Marcus’ apartment covered in blood with bullet holes in my shirt.”

“It’s still there.”

“Do I look like I’ve been shot?”

GM: “No, you don’t,” says Anna. “You might’ve been hallucinating that.”

Victoria: “Would you like to call Marcus and have him send a picture of the shirt?”

GM: Anna holds up her hands. “Look, let’s just… what are we going to do at a hotel, Sylvia? What are we going to think up? I’m a teacher. You’re a dominatrix. This isn’t our department. We’re not doctors, we’re not psychiatrists. If anyone can help us, it’s going to be a hospital, isn’t it? What’s the harm in staying?”

Victoria: “Because our names will be tied to whatever is going on, and whatever did this to me is probably going to be pissed! You read the note—someone thinks of me as a friend. Have you ever heard of anything like this happening, outside stupid stories? There’s probably a reason for th—”

If the color could drain from such a pale face, it would.

“…my name is on the registration. FUCK! Anna, we need to go!”

GM: “Sylvia,” Anna says slowly, “you’re scaring me. You could’ve written that note yourself. We don’t know that anyone did anything to you, okay? Let’s just… let’s just let the doctors do their jobs and find out what’s wrong, okay?”

Victoria: She groans, tugging her hair and turning to pace back and forth.

They’re going to die.

They’re going to die.

They’re going to die.

She’s going to kill them.

All of them.

Every one.

The nurse.

The doctor.



Not Anna.

Please not Anna.

The patients—everyone in the waiting room.

The receptionists.

They’re all going to die.

GM: Oblivious to such murderous and panicked thoughts, Anna rests her hands on Sylvia’s shoulders.

Her cold shoulders.

“Sylvia. Please. I just want you to get better, okay?” Her voice is breaking again. “This is the best… the only way, that I know how. I’m trying to help. Okay? This is how I’m… how we’re helping. Okay?”

Victoria: “Anna, you can’t heal someone who has every sign of death.

GM: Anna’s heart looks like it’s breaking through her face.

“Sylvia. You’re not g-going to die. You don’t have to die. I love you, okay? I love you. We’ll g… get through this, you j… just have to let people help you, ok… ay?”

Victoria: “I’m not going to die! I have. No. Pulse. I’m cold. I can hear EVERY beat of your heart. I’m not going to die, Anna! I am DEAD.

Or otherwise going to spend a long, long time in a white vest.

GM: Sylvia hears more heartbeats than Anna’s.

She hears three.

Approaching the room.

Drawing closer.

Thumping louder.

“Sylvia, you’re sc-scaring me,” Anna says shakily, “you’re not dead, you’re alive, you’re ALIVE, o-”

Victoria: The look she gives Anna is the same she gave her when she told her that party was a bad idea.

“Anna, I don’t know what they’re going to do when they come in, but it’s not going to end well. I love you—more than anything I’ve ever cared for. I haven’t given any illicit, psychological behavior to them. If they treat me with anything other than the respect of a patient, I need you to leave. Okay? I need you to leave, and don’t worry about me. Do you understand?”

GM: Anna adamantly shakes her head.

“Sylvia, I’m not leaving you, I’ll always stay w-”

She’s interrupted as the door opens. The doctor walks inside, along with the nurse and a man with a radio on his shirt who looks like a security guard.

The doctor looks between Anna and Victoria, then says,

“This way.”

Victoria: “Where are we going?” she asks, feigning timidness.

GM: “Advanced testing,” says the doctor, shuffling through some papers he’s carrying on a clipboard.

“Oh, say. We need you to look at these,” he says, extending them towards Victoria.

Victoria: She doesn’t move.

“Why do you need security to run any testing at all? I’ve done nothing to display that I’m unruly.”

GM: “It’s just a precaution,” says the doctor, extending the clipboard towards Victoria again. “Please tell me if these are accurate.”

Victoria: She reaches out to take the clipboard with ginger fingers, untrusting.

GM: She suddenly feels a stabbing sensation in her neck as the nurse jams a needle there.

Victoria: On instinct—after so many years in a career and life set on edge—she strikes the nurse’s arm upon feeling the pinch.

GM: Victoria’s swift chop sends the syringe flying away—just as she feels hard linoleum slam into her shoulder from the security guard’s tackle. Rage courses through her like fire in her veins, more furious and primal than she’s ever known. She barely registers the pain. They think to manhandle her?!

GET OFF HER!” Anna screams, whacking the security guard over the head with her purse.

The man’s grip slackens, just as the nurse grabs the sedative and jams it into Victoria’s thigh.

She feels nothing.

Nothing except for the rage, hot and hateful and murderous.

Nothing except for the long, sharp fangs jutting from her mouth.

Victoria: When Victoria was cornered in Chakras, she felt fear.

When Anna was assaulted, she felt rage.

This? This is incomparable. This is the primal terror of a cornered cub and murderous ferocity of its mother rolled into one single entity, vengeful as the Devil himself.

She burns, hot as a star, and dark as a night without.

They DARE threaten her? They DARE involve Anna?

She maneuvers enough with Anna’s help to slip an elbow, sending it backward with all her might into the man’s ribs.

GM: Victoria’s elbow drives into the man’s abdomen, hard. He gives a yell and goes down equally hard.

Victoria: CRUNCH!

Her elbow sinks into the man’s stomach, and she uses yet more leverage to shove a foot under her, tossing him off her back.

GM: Victoria scrambles to her feet as the nurse pulls away, gawking at the sedative’s failure to so much as slow her down. The door’s already open. The doctor’s gone. Fled?

Victoria dashes out. Anna runs after her. Their feet pound against the linoleum. Victoria hears her girlfriend’s heart rapidly pounding from adrenaline and physical exertion.

The security guard’s running after them, still clutching his chest. He’s grabbing his radio, too. Yelling into it. Yelling at them.


They dash through the packed ER. A few people, lost in their private worlds of pain, don’t seem to notice. More people yell. One elderly man leaps up and starts screaming and stamping his feet.


Victoria: As the pair pass the ER, her gaze lingers long enough to discern whether or not the elderly man’s screaming is to her or not.

GM: The man’s gaze is out of focus. He could be screaming to her. He could be screaming to God and the Devil. She can’t tell, not in the heat of the moment. Anna doesn’t even seem to register her words, wheezing and sweating as she is with her pounding heart. So mortal. So weak.

Victoria: He doesn’t matter. He’s insignificant. Maybe he is screaming at her, and maybe he isn’t. Either way, he’s only a cause to distract their pursuers.

She sprints on with Anna.


GM: The ER room’s automatic doors slide open as Victoria barrels through them, dragging Anna after her. Several people outside yell and scatter from their path.

There’s more security guards now, yelling and barreling after them.


Victoria: Like hell they will.

The doors to Tulane barely part before Victoria crashes into—and through—one of them, enough of her momentum clipping it that it’ll need a repair.

GM: Victoria leaps into her and Anna’s car, pulling her girlfriend after her. They slam the doors. Several security guards run out of the hospital with handguns raised.


Tires squeal as Victoria hits the ignition. There’s the crack-roar of distant bullets, and then the city roars past.

Anna’s mouth hangs open as she stares at Victoria.

Victoria: The moment they clear line of sight to security, Victoria snaps her vision to Anna, her hands shooting out to touch her.

“Are you hurt? Were you struck?! By anything?!”

She’s as frantic as if she’s Anna’s own mother. She feels and looks around, searching for any sight of red—for Anna’s safety from bullet wounds, as much as safety from herself.

GM: Anna wordlessly points.

At Victoria’s mouth.

She still feels fangs.

Victoria: She knows what happens when she smells blood.

As she speaks, her tongue runs over those pointed incisors.

Now do you believe I’m not hallucinating?”

Victoria III, Chapter IX
Sanguine Awakening

""I… don’t know what’s happening to me."
Victoria Wolf

Date ?

GM: The first thing Victoria notices is the smell.

She’s shat herself. Pissed herself, too. In bed.

Wherever bed is.

That’s the second thing she notices.

She doesn’t recognize the room she’s in.

It looks like a hotel room. It’s night out. The room’s lights feel distant and hollow. The blankets are cold and rough against Victoria’s bare skin. Her clothes lie in a heap on the floor.

Victoria feels cold, hungry, and clear of head.

Too clear of head.

She doesn’t feel groggy or tired. The waste caking her pelvis smells bad, but she doesn’t feel nauseous. Just blank.

She looks down at her body and sees an automaton that belongs to someone else.

Victoria: They say that you evacuate your bowels in the moments before death: one final ‘fuck you’ to the world before you move on to serve your eternity in one prison or the other.

Death is exactly what she feels like. Uninjured, and dead.

She did die.

You can’t live without your heart.

Even a living heart, grievously wounded, isn’t really alive anymore.

The corpse presses a hand to her forehead, wiping away a sheen of—is it sweat? Or did she manage to smear piss up there, too?

It doesn’t matter.

Is this Hell? Trapped in a room with nothing but her own thoughts, lying in a metaphor for her night given physical form, it must be.

She lifts her hips, shifting out of the mess and attempting to stand.

GM: She doesn’t feel anything against her head.

She stands without issue.

Some of the piss-shit admixture runs down her legs.

Victoria: She waddles around in the dark, looking for the bathroom. She needs a shower.

GM: The room is lit, if muted-feeling. She sees without impediment.

The bathroom is darker, but still lit. It’s a standard hotel bathroom. Clean and soulless.

Victoria: Soulless, like her.

Had she betrayed Anna in her kneeling to the blonde? Or had she saved her? Is there anything left to save?

The warmth of a shower is pleasant, but heals nothing.

GM: That’s all showers have ever done.

The water is pleasant. The filth caked around her pelvis and dribbles down her legs. It swirls down the drain. She’s left pale and clean.

And hungry. Very hungry. It has to have been 24 hours since she ate.

Victoria: It’s halfway through her mechanical scrubbing that she realizes how hungry she is. She didn’t eat much the day before, either.

Did she puke last night?

It’s a blur. Anna. Knives. Copper. Rust. The blonde.

She dry heaves in the shower, falling to her knees and spilling bile down the drain.



GM: Her stomach clenches, but that’s it. Nothing comes out of her mouth.

Her cry is answered by the most resounding silence of her life.

Victoria: Nothing.


Everything she has, everything she is, and everything she wanted to be: empty.

Her stomach lurches again.

GM: She continues to dry heave.

Victoria: She doesn’t remember the rest of her shower. Just the pain. Emptiness. Dry heaving. When she steps out, at least she’s clean.

She looks for clothes.

GM: They’re still there on the floor, along with a folded piece of paper.

Victoria: She opens the paper.

GM: There’s writing on it.

Victoria: What the fuck?

She looks for other rooms.


GM: She doesn’t see any. It’s a standard hotel bedroom with an attached bathroom.

No one answers her.

Victoria: She sniffs her clothes to ensure they aren’t covered in shit, and if not, puts them on.

GM: She finds them clean.

Victoria: One dim glimmer in a night of shit. She dresses quickly and peers out the door to her room.

GM: She sees a plain carpeted corridor with rows of doors that look identical to hers.

A squeaking sound approaches from around the corner.

Victoria: A cleaning lady? She tenses, but waits, door still only partly ajar.

GM: She sees a frumpy-looking Hispanic woman pushing along a cart with cleaning supplies. Her face is lined with the resignation of someone broken by life long ago and faced with no choice but to keep going. Hunger clenches inside Victoria; when did this woman last eat? Does she have food on her? Her dull, cow-like gaze makes her seem like an animal, mindlessly chewing its cud.

Seeing Victoria’s ajar door, the woman wheels the cart towards her room.

Victoria: Her stomach grumbles angrily inside her.


She waves the woman off, grabbing her room key off the table beside the door and pulling it shut behind her.

“Room is clean.”

GM: The woman just rolls her cart closer.

“¿Qué?” she says.

Victoria: A vein throbs in her forehead.

She shoos her off with a hand.

GM: “Voy a limpiar,” says the woman. She gets out a key and starts fumbling at the door.

Victoria: “No,” she says firmly, blocking her from opening the door. “No limpiar. No.”

GM: “Está bien,” the woman shrugs with a dull look as she puts away the key, “pero tendré…”

Victoria can feel the woman’s body heat up close. She feels so cold and empty. The woman is warm and she isn’t. Her heart steadily thumps in her chest, pumping life through fat-clogged veins. She’s such a dull, stupid cow, unable to even communicate intelligibly. The fat along her jugular rolls back and forth as she jabbers.

Then, suddenly, she shuts up.

She’s lying on the ground at Victoria’s feet, bleeding and motionless. The coppery scent is everywhere. Overpowering. The hallway and everyone in it smells like they’ve been drenched in blood; Victoria can’t even guess how badly she must the woman must be bleeding. Her heart feebly thumps. There’s long pauses between each beat.

Victoria feels better than ever.

She feels full. She feels like she’s eaten a sumptuous meal that hasn’t settled in her stomach, but spread through her entire body. Her limbs feel energized. Her head feels sharp. She feels like she just finished a workout and is ready for ten more. She feels horny, like Anna just ate her out.

She feels warm again.

Victoria: She feels a boil of irritation well up inside her. The nerve! As if she’s the first person in the world to decline cleaning service?

That anger bubbles up inside her…

…and then it’s gone, and in its place: euphoria.

Where there was once cold, there is a fire. Where there was once pain, there is pleasure. Where there was once lethargy, there is lightning.

From one moment to the next, the scene around her morphs, and all of her physical woes disappear. She’s strong. Stronger than she’s ever been. She’s the pinnacle of form without trying.

Thump… pause… thump… pause… thump… pause…

She notices the body at her feet, her feeble heartbeat barely keeping her clung to the living. Her fingers begin to tremble, and though she feels the instinct to scream, she covers her mouth to force it down.

No. No screaming. No nothing. She can’t be blamed for this. If she’s blamed for what happened—whatever happened to this woman—she’ll be tied up with the police long enough that she’ll never find her Anna.

Thump… pause… thump…

Shakily, she sinks to the floor, checking the woman’s pulse.

Before her fingers reach that fatty throat, she already knows the answer. She doesn’t need touch to discern her heartbeat.

She feels sick again. This time, she doesn’t puke.

“H-hey…” she stammers, trying to stir the woman. She pats her pockets, looking for a cell phone.

GM: The woman gives a feeble moan, but does not stir.

Victoria finds keys in her pockets.

No phone, though.

One of the nearby room doors bursts open. A 30something man in a hotel bathrobe gawks at the sight.

“What the FUCK?!” he exclaims, looking between Victoria and the bleeding woman.

Then his gaze halts.

“Oh shit! OH SHIT!”

Victoria: “I don’t KNOW!” she shouts back at him. “I opened my door and FOUND her like this!”

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Blood is everywhere. All over the woman. All over the floor. All over her.

“Are you going to HELP?”

GM: The man’s jaw works for several moments.

“I-I didn’t-I DIDN’T SEE THIS!” he shouts in a shrill voice.

The door slams.

Victoria: Fucking useless! FUCK!

She examines the woman’s wounds. Is she savable?

GM: She’s freely bleeding from two deep punctures on her neck. Victoria smells blood far in excess of what she sees.

Victoria: She can’t stay here. She can’t leave. What the fuck happened to her simple life?

Victoria looks at her hands: bloodstained.


She moves back into her room, back into the bathroom, and examines herself.

GM: Two long, sharp, and utterly inhuman fangs protrude from her upper mouth.

Victoria: This time she screams.

GM: The sound endlessly rings off the bathroom tile.

Aaaaa! Aaaaaaah! Aaaaaaah-aaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

The fanged woman in the mirror screams along with Victoria. They’re hideous, gleaming white things. Killing things. Killing tools. They look like they belong on a snake or vicious dog, but they’re right there. In her mouth. She looks like some amalgam of human and monster. Blood coats her lips as she screams and screams, eyes bulging with madness.

Then she’s gone from the mirror.

All that’s left is an indistinct shadow.

Victoria: Her breaths rattle like chains on broken machinery. The screaming stops, and trembling fingers reach up to touch those teeth—her teeth. Her fangs. Her killing tools.

GM: They feel just like teeth do.

But she’s never felt any so long before.

Or which taper into such wickedly sharp points.

Victoria: Real?

Is the blonde playing a macabre joke on her?

We’ll let you go, but you’ll live as the monster you showed yourself to be.

She presses on them.

They don’t give.

Thump… pause… thump… pause…

It’s in her head—that woman’s heartbeat. Slowing. Stagnating. Dying.

She’s losing her mind.

The disappearance of her mirrored twin makes her jump. She touches the mirror, where her hand should meet her.

GM: The glass is cold against her warm skin.

All she sees is shadow.

Victoria: She smacks the mirror, then rips the water on and tries her damn best to rinse what blood she can off her face and hands.

GM: It comes off.

It smells so strong. It fills the room, even draining away down the faucet.

Victoria: She dries herself with a towel, and searches the room for anything identifying.

GM: All she sees are standard hotel toiletries.

Outside the bathroom, there’s the shit and piss left on the bed, and the unfolded note. Everything else looks hotel-standard.

Besides the savaged cleaning lady lying motionless on her back by the door. The heady coppery aroma wafting from her neck is impossibly distracting. Her heart’s beats are sluggish and faint.

Victoria: She collects the note, leaving the rest. Is excrement identifiable? She isn’t sure—and she doesn’t care.

Victoria tears out of the room, hopping past the woman’s body, and—

Thump… pause… thump… pause… thump…

She skids to a halt.

What are you doing, you dumb bitch?

Yet, she can’t bring herself to ignore the overwhelmingly present thought.

Victoria crouches beside the corpse-to-be, leaning over her throat. Why can she not get the steady pulse of this woman’s heartbeat out of her mind?

GM: The woman’s chest feebly rises and falls as she stares blank-eyed up at the ceiling.





Victoria: She sniffs.

GM: She smells more.

A last bowlful of soup at the bottom of the pot.

It made her feel so good.

So strong. So alert.

So warm.

The woman’s heart continues to weakly beat.

Victoria: So energized.

She doesn’t need to test to know: this is what made her feel so full of life.

She opens her mouth, leaning down.

Before her lips grace that fatty, bleeding throat, she pushes off, tearing down the hallway toward an exit.


GM: She collides straight into several bewildered-looking hotel workers just as the door opens.

She distantly hears something else, too, past the walls.


Victoria: Right outside? FUCK!

Before the group of hotel workers can collect themselves and realize who just barreled them over, she recovers and sprints back down the hallway, looking for another exit.

GM: There’s stairs.

There’s an elevator.

The employees were just filing out of the elevator.

Shouts of “HEY!” go up as footsteps thump after Victoria.

Victoria: Stairs. Stairs work.

She barrels into the stairwell, taking the stairs four at a time.

She isn’t worried about them catching her—she’s faster than most.

GM:STOP!” yells a raggedy voice behind Victoria.

She barrels down the stairwell. Bursts through a door. She’s in a mostly empty hotel lobby. There’s an employee behind the desk. Several people, too. All of them turn and stare at her.

The employees burst into the lobby, too. One of them points at Victoria and yells,


Victoria runs before anyone can. She bursts through the hotel’s front doors.

Victoria: She shields her face as she runs, trying to hide from any cameras.

GM: The city’s night air is warm and humid. It hits Victoria like a miasma. She wants to stop and inhale it, until she sees the screaming red and blue sirens of the cop car. Two police officers are already walking towards the building as they see Victoria barrel past the front doors, taking the steps three at a time.

STOP HER!” yells a raggedy-voiced employee.

Victoria: Her head whirls around, first left, then right—spotting the police. She turns back away from them, pushing off harder than she’s ever sprinted before.

GM:STOP!” yells one of the cops.


The night explodes with gunfire. The sound is like a bomb going off. Several bombs going off. The hot smell of gunpowder fills her nostrils.


The words are lost beneath another gunshot. Victoria staggers. She feels like someone just punched her. Hard and in the back. She smells blood. She hurts. But she doesn’t slow. She doesn’t feel tired. She doesn’t feel a stitch in her side. She doesn’t feel her lungs burning with air. It’s like she’s watching someone else pilot her body.

All she feels is her feet pounding against pavement.

Date ?

GM: After several minutes running, Victoria feels confident she’s lost her pursuers. No one’s calling after her. Or shooting after her.

She still doesn’t feel winded. There’s no urge to catch her breath. She might as well have been playing a video game for all the exertion she feels.

Blood leaks from a hole alongside her flank. Even that feels removed, like she’s watching it happen to someone else.

Victoria: She stops behind a parked car, several blocks past the last time she heard anyone shout—or shoot—at her, willing herself to pant out of sheer knowledge that she should be.

The teeth. The blood.

She touches the wound in her flank. Grazing? That’s the only explanation.

Her energy—boundless as the blue sky.

It points to an impossibility.

Just as impossible as the blonde.

But why?

She brings the hand that touched her wound to her face. Bloodied?

Why her?

Why is she alive?

GM: Blood stains her hands.

Questions of why remain hauntingly unanswered.

Victoria: She licks her own blood. That’s decidedly less unsettling to her.

GM: It tastes slightly thicker and sweeter than she expected, but somehow… unsatisfying.

Victoria: She grimaces.

No, she didn’t expect that would go any differently. If that were the case, vampires would drink themselves.

She simpers, shaking her head. Is she believing it now?

I don’t mean metaphors for sin. Real demons. Claws in the night.

Now I own you, body and mind

What’s not to believe, Victoria?

GM: She recognizes her surroundings. She’s maybe half a mile from her and Anna’s house. She recognizes the Victorian bed and breakfast she just passed.

Victoria: Fuck! She can’t go home. She can’t go to Anna’s house. Where the fuck can she go?

She doesn’t even have a phone to warn anyone.

She doesn’t have a clue where her girlfriend is, or if she’s even alive.

If she’s here, and warned against going home—then someone freed her. Did they free Anna?

Hope is all she can cling to.

She walks to the bed and breakfast.

GM: It’s a two-story Victorian house with several trees in the front yard. A sign says it’s called “The Chimes” and was established in 1986. The lights are on.

Victoria: She knocks on the door.

GM: She’s answered after a few moments by a white-haired man who looks old enough to be retired.

He offers a friendly smile, then looks at Victoria’s bleeding flank and exclaims, “Oh my lord…!”

Victoria: Fuck. A wound should concern her more than it does. It’s his concern that really concerns her.

“Help, my girlfriend—she…”

GM: “I’ll call 911!” exclaims the man, reaching into his pocket.

Victoria: She seizes his wrists, her eyes maddened.

“I can’t FIND her. Please. You HAVE to help.”

GM: The old man cries out and tries to pull away from Victoria. Fear flashes in his eyes.

“Let go!”

Victoria: Well, now the cops will know exactly where she is.

“Please. Please!

She presses him back into the home.

“It’s me. You’ve seen me around the neighborhood. With my friend.”


“She’s missing, and hurt, and the cops tried to kill me. They’re in on it.”

GM: “Help! Heeeeeeeelppp!” the old man yells when Victoria doesn’t let go.

Victoria: She pushes him inside and shuts the door behind her.

GM: “Glenn!” yells a woman’s voice from deeper in the house.

“Call the cops!” cries the old man. “Hhheeeeelllppp!!!!”

Victoria: She grits her teeth in rage, shoves him, and departs back into the night.

Why can’t they see that she needs help?! What is WRONG?!

Shutting the door between them, she kicks it as hard as she can in a flare of anger, and departs back out into the night.

GM: But that’s not what happens.

Fury wells in Victoria’s heart. She shoves at the old man—

—and then he crashes to the ground, bleeding profusely from his neck. Victoria tastes hot blood, wet over her lips. It’s salty and succulent with the taste of… fear? The old man’s heart spasms in her eyes. He raggedly wheezes like a fish out of water. Blood pools over the floor.

An old woman rounds the corner, with her phone out. She’s yammering into it, reciting the house’s address.

She sees the old man.

She sees Victoria.

She screams.

Victoria: It takes three to make a pattern.

This time she feels her foot set to the tiled floor of the entryway, and feels her muscles contract and spring. She feels the old woman crumple against the far wall, her strength and weight landing against her throat.

GM: The old woman’s scream abruptly cuts off with a strangled choke. Her eyes bulge as she gags, then hits the floor with a brutal crash. She stops moving.

The old man gives a strangled cry. He crawls to her side, wheezing and bleeding like a dying animal, and tries to position his body over hers.

“St… st… a… way!” he froths.

Victoria: Victoria shakes like a leaf in fear of the wind, brittle and hopeless. Her eyes flash between the two.

Her doing. Her damage. Her crimes. Chosen, or not.

“I’m sorry,” she burbles, half through blood and half through her own choking saliva. “I didn’t mean to—”

But she did, didn’t she? Not the man, no—but the woman? A flash of heat rolled over her, and she gave in—and in that moment, she just didn’t care. The damage had been done to her husband. Why not the wife, too? Would any fewer cops come for her if she’d only harmed one?

And then the guilt came.

And here she is.

“He’ll be—he’ll be fine.”

She tears out of the house.

GM: Victoria doesn’t taste anything in her throat. The words come out perfectly clear—choked only by guilt.

The couple does not answer.

All she hears are their cries. Their pain.

Then she’s gone, the old man’s blood hot in her veins, and doesn’t feel like she was ever shot.

Date ?

Victoria: The night is hot. The night is always hot, but tonight feels more oppressive than usual, steamed by the heat of her own shame.

Still no closer to finding Anna, no closer to finding safety, no closer to learning who her mysterious ‘friend’ is, and only making her situation worse with every attempt to remedy it.

She steers herself into a side street a few blocks away, and sets to examining herself in the dim glow of a distant streetlight. How damaged is her clothing?

GM: There’s a hole in her shirt from where the bullet hit her. The area around the hole is crusted with half-dried blood.

Victoria: She gingerly touches where the wound should be.

GM: She feels fine.

Victoria: She reaches around her back, feeling for where an exit wound should be—or, at least a hole in her shirt.

GM: She doesn’t feel any.

Victoria: There’s a bullet inside her.


The problems mount.

No phone, and she doesn’t have anyone’s number but Anna and her mother’s memorized.

Is her mother’s house a safe place?

Probably not.

GM: Approaching police sirens scream red and blue through the night.

Victoria: FUCK!

She sprints off, away from the sirens.

Her legs carry her away from the din of her would-be incarcerators, aimless. The further she travels—always more unnerved by her lack of fatigue, or any symptom of exercise at all—the more her mind wanders.

She can’t hurt another.

She doesn’t want to.

It’s not her.

She only hurts those that want it; those that pay for her service.

But the thought has always been there, hasn’t it, Sylvia?

Hasn’t it, Victoria?

It has.

Deep, yet present. Why else would she revel in doing what she does?

She doesn’t want to hurt another who doesn’t deserve it, but she knows that someone is going to be hurt.

Best someone who deserves it.

She angles her direction toward Central City.

GM: Without warning, it starts to rain. Fat droplets of water pound over Victoria’s head and plunk against the pavement. That’s New Orleans weather for you. Victoria’s hair is soon wetly plastered against her scalp.

The transition from middle-class Milan to poverty-blighted Central City proves equally abrupt as the weather. On one block, it’s beds and breakfasts in charming, lovingly maintained century-old homes. The next, it’s like Victoria’s stepped off the bus to the broken heart of ‘90s Los Angeles. Rows of homes stand abandoned, with with shattered windows and peeling paint. Graffiti tags the rotted boards. Needles and trash litter the streets. Victoria doesn’t see anyone around her, at this hour, but she hears the screech of a car alarm followed by yelling voices.

That charter school where Anna got threatened at knifepoint shouldn’t be too far away.

She still doesn’t feel any pain or discomfort from where the bullet stuck her. She doesn’t smell any new blood. The rain is cool against her still-warm skin, and dampens her clothes, but it doesn’t bother her. Not really. It’s just there. She doesn’t feel any fatigue or adrenaline crash from her escape with the elderly couple.

There’s just nothing. It’s like this is happening to someone else.

Victoria: It’s like she’s watching a movie about herself, viewed from inside her own head.

There’s nothing and no one.

Not a soul.

Just trash, and trashed dreams, and trashed hope. That’s the Big Easy.

No one will be at the charter school at this hour, either. She doesn’t even know what hour it is.

She wanders further, looking for something open—a bar, or similar.

GM: The blaring car alarm eventually dies.

After a few moments, she hears a distant gunshot, shattering glass, and a screeching cat.

The rain continues to fall and plunk.

Suddenly, like wolves leaping from undergrowth, Victoria sees several dark-skinned youths in hoodies approaching her with grim purpose in their strides.

One of them produces a Saturday night special and aims it at Victoria’s chest.

“Hands in the air, bitch.”

Victoria: She holds her hands up, palms out, chest height.

Her voice is weak. “Please… I’ve already… been shot…”

GM: “Gimme your money,” comes the pitiless response.

The other two youths converge behind Victoria.

Victoria: “Bleeding…”

She has no bag, and the pickings of her pockets look slim.

GM: The gun’s safety clicks off.

NOW, BITCH!” yells the youth in front of Victoria.

Victoria: “I d-don’t h-have anything!” she whimpers, reaching gingerly down to turn out her pockets.

Then, in a snap, she tries her luck.

She pivots on heel, bracing for the impact of the bullet to hit her back, and tries to dance behind one of her nearest assailants before the bullet can explode behind her.

GM: Pain explodes through Victoria’s back as she staggers forward, crashing into one of the youths. Suddenly he’s screaming, too. A coppery scent fills the air as he crashes to the ground in a bleeding heap. The other kid draws another gun. The night lights up like a discount fireworks depot as the guns explode. Distant voices scream. Gunpowder fills Victoria’s nostrils. Rain pelts her face as she staggers off into the night, feet pumping against pavement.

“YOU’RE DEAD, BITCH! DEAD!” roars a voice.

Victoria: Too late for that.

The woman tears off down the sidewalk and out into the night.

Date ?

Victoria: Victoria runs, and runs, and runs, until she can’t hear any screaming or shooting. It probably isn’t far—and she doesn’t expect sirens to come here anytime soon.

She checks herself for holes.


GM: Her fingers come away bloody from her back.

She’s sore there, but it’s not a crippling pain. It feels like she was barely grazed.

Victoria: There’s no way she was grazed from that angle.


Nothing on the front? More bullets stuck inside her.

Double fuck.

“What the fuck!?”

She smacks a nearby door in anger.

GM: Her finger leaves a red smudge soon washed away by the rain.

Her clothes feel wet.

Victoria: More holes. More problems.

She wanted one of their shirts.

This isn’t helping.

She can’t go to the police—obviously—and she can’t call an ambulance. She can break in somewhere.

That’s probably her only option. In her frantic state, that’s all she can envision.

And then it occurs to her: she may not have his number handy, nor a phone to call him, but there is Marcus.

She turns around, getting her bearings, then jogs off toward the Warehouse District.

GM: The most direct route that isn’t through Central City takes her straight to the Garden District. The contrast is night and day. Crumbling vacant properties give way to a classically-styled faubourg with tree-lined thoroughfares. Southern live oaks, weeping willows, palm trees, carefully maintained hedges, and expansive lawns fill the neighborhood with green. Attractive rows of Greek Revival and Colonial-style homes, some small enough to be ordinary homes and others large enough to call mansions, are surrounded by ornate cast-iron fences and classical statues of Greek nymphs and muses, lending the district an aura of grace.

Yet, vigilant of the crime and squalor that could spill down from its northern neighbor, the Garden District is well-guarded. Victoria has barely glimpsed a live oak when she sees a police cruiser slowly making its rounds.

Victoria: It’s only just as she turns a corner that she spots the cruiser rolling by, an overweight officer with sleep-laden lids seated behind the wheel illuminated by the dim light of a standard-issue laptop.

She ducks back onto the prior street, aligning herself with a pillar until he passes by.

Her journey through the Garden District is much the same, her eyes trained blocks ahead, peering down intersections and ever vigilant for the police—people who would ordinarily be her allies, but who wouldn’t take kindly to the bleeding woman mucking up their pristine streets.

GM: There are two police officers in the patrol vehicle. But neither one looks at Victoria, even when she traipses hair-raisingly close by their patrol vehicle. All they have eyes for is their laptop and the live oaks.

The next patrol vehicle proves equally oblivious.

And the one after that.

The Garden District’s boulevards give way to the CBD’s glass and steel skyscrapers and corporate high-rises. There are still passersby and pedestrians at this hour. No one looks at Victoria or remarks on her bloody clothes. No one hassles her. No one stops her. No one gives a damn.

Office buildings give way to restaurants, art galleries, and finally Marcus Marrow’s condominium building.

The front door is closed and locked.

Victoria: By the time she reaches the other side of the Garden District, she’s in sheer disbelief at the nonchalance of NOLA’s finest. Their jar of fucks to be given is often void—but not quite so void in the places that matter.

She arrives outside the condominium building, and presses the call button for Marcus’ apartment.

GM: “Marcus speaking,” greets the man’s smooth voice.

It sounds the complete opposite of how Victoria looks.

Victoria: “Marcus.”

What the fuck are you doing up?

“It’s Vic. Victoria. Can… I come in? I look like shit. I feel like shit.”

At least she doesn’t smell like it anymore.

GM: That seems to break the club operator’s stride a little.

“Ah, certainly. Let me buzz you in.”

Victoria hears the door unlock with a click.

Victoria: Lovely.

At least something is going right.

Date ?

Victoria: Victoria steps inside and moves to take the elevator up to Marcus’ apartment.

GM: The condo’s lobby is clean and modern, with tasteful art on the walls and magazines by the chairs. There’s a woman at the front desk. She doesn’t pay Victoria a glance either.

Marcus’ unit is on the fifth floor. Victoria takes the elevator up and runs into him in the hallway. He’s a handsome, 30something man with dark hair and a carefully trimmed goatee. He’s dressed down from his usual suit and tie in slacks and a button-up.

He blinks as he takes in the sight of Victoria.

Victoria: Never has Victoria Wolf felt so lucky to be ignored.

She raises a brow at the sight of him in turn.

“I expected pajamas at fuck-o’clock in the morning,” she grimaces.

She does not move to comment on her own sorry state.

GM: “It’s not after midnight,” Marcus answers slowly.

Victoria: She blinks slowly.

“What time is it?”

GM: “A little after 8.”

Victoria: “There’s… no way.”

GM: “What happened to you?”

Victoria: She pushes past him into the apartment.

GM: She finds the door closed and locked, given that Marcus is in the hallway.

Victoria: “Can we go inside?”

She turns to face him.

She looks like she just left a funeral. Tears are barely restrained.


GM: “What’s going on?” asks her occasional fling.

Victoria: “Marcus. Please. I don’t want to talk out here. I…”

GM: “You look like you should be in the ER,” Marcus frowns.

Victoria: “I’m fine. Physically. I just need a shower. And clothes.”

And a hug.

“And a hug.”

GM: “You don’t look fine,” says Marcus, his voice still wary. “You look sick. And is that… blood?”

Victoria: Her voice is as fragile as a cracked mirror, its pieces already falling.

“Marcus. Please.”

GM: Her occasional lover looks like this is distinctly more than he wants dumped in his lap.

He pauses for several moments, then jabs a finger at Victoria and says,

“You’ll owe me for this.”

Victoria: “Anything.”

And she means it.

She knows better than to ask for the hug yet.

GM: Marcus unlocks the door to his apartment. He still looks like he’s wondering if he’s going to regret this.

Victoria: He won’t.


“Can I… use your shower?”

Translation: Can I look like less shit before I explain?

Alternate translation: I’d like to track less shit all over your pristine apartment.

GM: “Go ahead,” says Marcus.

He’s polite enough not to say she looks like she could use one.

Victoria: She gives him a sympathetic look, and disappears to do so.

The heat is pleasant, but short lived. Thoughts crash against her. Memories. Blood. So much blood. So many people.

So much blood, but none of it her own. No bullet. No hole.

No hole.

No wound.

No blood.


Had she imagined it? She felt the sting—had she imagined that, too?

No, her shirt has a hole. Several holes.

What the fuck is happening to her? Is she dreaming?

She doesn’t spend long in there. She doesn’t want to be alone. Not with these thoughts.

Victoria pokes her head out the door.

“Do you have some spare pajamas?”

GM: Her shirt has one hole in the side and three holes in its back. Some of the water that swirls down the drain is red-tinged, at first. Victoria smells it like the bathroom is doused in it. Eventually, the water is nothing but clear.

The bathroom is neat and clean with chic decor. Neater and cleaner than Victoria’s, in fact. It feels like a hotel bathroom more than a lived-in one.

She doesn’t see any bullet hole along her flank as she bathes.

Marcus isn’t immediately outside of the bathroom door when Victoria pokes her head out. She hears the sounds of TV playing from the living room.

Victoria: “Marcus!”

She walks out, mostly dry. At least she isn’t tracking water through his apartment, aside from the droplets in her hair.

GM: She finds Marcus seated on the couch watching a movie. Arousal is distinctly absent from his face at the sight of her naked body, although there is perhaps some relief that he can’t see any blood.

“You look pale,” he says.

He’s not wrong. She’s definitely lost some color.

Victoria: She slides gingerly into the sofa beside him.

She doesn’t say anything.

GM: “I have a bathrobe,” says Marcus.

Victoria: She nods, but doesn’t move.

GM: Marcus gets up, leaves, and returns with it. It’s white and fluffy.

Victoria: She doesn’t feel very white and fluffy right now. Slipping her arms into the robe doesn’t help.

She sniffles.

It’s a dam against a tsunami.

“I… don’t know what’s happening to me.”

GM: She doesn’t sniff. There’s no congestion in her nose. No moisture welling from her eyes. Just nothing.

“That makes both of us,” observes Marcus.

“You’re not the first person I know who hates visiting the ER, but… why me? I thought you had a girlfriend.”

Victoria: She wants to cry. Why can’t she cry?

Frustration bubbles up inside her, like a clogged sink regurgitating fetid water.

“I… I don’t know where she is.”

She can’t tell him. Can she?

“I woke up, and she’s gone.”

He must not have seen the news yet. Is she in the news?

“I’m not hurt.”

Despite the bullet holes.

Despite looking like shit.

“I feel fine.”

Despite the pallid complexion.

“I just…”

GM: Victoria suddenly smells it again.




Wetly cascading down her face.

“Oh my god!” exclaims Marcus, his face paling.

“You need a doctor!”

Victoria: She sniffs.

The scent hits her.

“Wh—why do I smell blood?”

She wipes her face, the coppery fluid coming off on her hands.

She shrieks.

GM: Her hand is wet with blood.

Marcus pulls out his phone and frantically taps into it.

Victoria: “W-wait!”

She snatches his phone.

GM: “You’re bleeding out of your EYES!” yells Marcus.

Victoria: She blinks. Her vision stains red.

“I… I’ll be fine! I can’t. I can’t go to the ER!”

Anna would understand.

Is Anna even alive?

She starts crying again, harder.


This time, she runs for the bathroom.

GM: Marcus stares after her with an incredulous expression, then throws up his hands.

The man’s phone still in hand, Victoria sees a ghastly sight in the bathroom mirror. Exactly like Marcus said, she’s bleeding from her eyes. Bleeding red, fat, sanguine tears.

Victoria: She turns his water on, pressing her body to stop. No tears. No crying. No tears. No crying. Stop.

It still hurts.

She rinses her face off, then looks again.

GM: She looks miserable.





But clean of blood.

Victoria: She reenters Marcus’ living room, this time in better control of her emotions.

“If you lend me something to wear, I’ll leave.”

The words are cold. As dead as her.

GM: “Sure,” says Marcus. His gaze noticeably lingers around Victoria’s eyes. “Do you… want to call someone?”

“Girlfriend, family, whoever.”

Victoria: She shakes her head after a long moment.

She doesn’t want to leave.

She still wants a hug.

“I don’t know where Anna is.”

GM: “How long has it been since your first call or text?”

Victoria: “I… can’t tell you, Marcus,” she admits, defeated.

It’s like the blonde is there, smiling at her. She’s still winning.

“You’ll call the police, and the police will make it worse.”

GM: “Okay, no police,” the club owner says in stride. “What do you mean, you can’t tell?”

Victoria: She eyes him carefully.


GM: “Sure. Promise.”

Victoria: “Put your phone in the kitchen.”

GM: He walks to the kitchen and returns empty-handed.

Victoria: That elicits a small smile from an otherwise dead woman.

“We were taken last night. Both of us. They… hurt her. They made—”

She wills tears to stop. No. No, she doesn’t let them out. Not this time.

“They made me tell them h-how. How to hurt her. They made it my fault. Then, they knocked me out—and I woke up in a hotel. Like this.”

GM: Marcus opens his mouth once, then closes it.

“Maybe it’s better if I don’t know who. Or how.”

“Like… what?”

Victoria: She gestures to herself as if it explains everything.

“Alone. No Anna. No one.”

GM: It explains nothing.

Marcus just continues,

“And you woke up in a hotel?”

“Where do you think your girlfriend is?”

Victoria: “I—I don’t know. She was hurt. Hurt badly.”

Words are hard. They’re harder when she’s spending so much effort trying not to cry.

“Th-they promised me she wouldn’t die. I believe them, but I d—don’t know where she is. And I was left with nothing, and no one, covered in—just naked, on a bed.”

GM: The Corner Club’s owner just takes that in stride.

“Is she missing from your place? Not responding to calls and texts?”

“Or her place, if you don’t live together.”

Victoria: “I g—got a note. It s—said it wasn’t safe t—to go home, or to Anna’s. I d—don’t want to endanger my family.”

A pause.

“I don’t have my phone. Should I try c—calling from yours? They h—have it, though. Then they’ll have your number.”

GM: “Uh,” says Marcus. “Maybe you should just get a disposable one.”

Victoria: “Are you offering to buy me one?”

As she obviously has no wallet.

GM: “Sure.”

He gets up, retrieves his wallet, and offers her $50 in five $10 bills.

Victoria: She takes the bills, in apparent disbelief.

She stares.

GM: “It’s not that much money,” Marcus says dryly.

Victoria: “Do you have something I can wear? I only have my bloody t-shirt.”

GM: “No promises it’ll fit, but sure. Check my closet.”

Victoria: “I’m surprised you don’t have ‘extra’ clothing laying a round,” she manages to tease, pushing off the sofa to go look.

GM: “Depends what day you catch me,” Marcus responds idly.

The walk-in closet, like the rest of the chic and upscale apartment, is clean and neatly organized. There’s a variety of designer men’s clothes and accessories in styles ranging from dressy to casual. It’s a really big wardrobe for a man.

Victoria: She rifles through everything—anything—that might fit her, that won’t look too obviously out of place. Even a baggy shirt and sweatpants will do.

GM: Marcus has a few inches on her. The clothing is sized to match. It’s a little big, but wearable.

His frame, at least, is lean rather than bulky.

Victoria: She snags a shirt, a pair of lazy-but-not-out-of-place-at-a-convenience store pants, and dons her own shoes. She isn’t the picture of modern fashion, but it’ll do.

“Thanks, Marcus,” she murmurs. “I’ll be back in 15?”

Translation: If I’m not, worry.

GM: Marcus has set the cash down on the sofa’s armrest.

“Sure,” he says. “Good luck.”

Victoria: She takes the cash, pocketing it, and leaves.

She hopes she’ll be let back in.

Thursday night, 7 April 2016, PM

Victoria: Victoria pushes the call button on the elevator, waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

GM: Its doors ding open after about a minute.

Victoria: She steps in, and presses G.

The loneliness of an elevator feels oppressive.

GM: It opens at the ground floor. The woman at the front desk and the several people in the lobby ignore her like she’s invisible.

Victoria: Just like before.

Just like she wanted.

She doesn’t want it anymore.

Victoria strides past and out onto the street. There’s a convenience store just a few blocks down from Marcus’ place. It’s not the first time she’s had to visit.

GM: The cashier’s gaze slides blankly past her as she walks in.

Victoria: She huffs, approaching him.

“Where are your cell phones?”

GM: The cashier startles as Victoria talks to him.

“Ov-over there,” he says, pointing down an aisle.

Victoria: She regards him for a moment.


She retrieves a phone, setting it on the counter.

GM: The cashier gives her a mildly surprised look, but rings it up for her, takes the cash, and counts out her change.

Victoria: She takes the phone and cash, pocketing the latter, and rips open the package to the prior.

She has Anna’s number dialed before the door even closes behind her.

GM: A few rings pass on the disposable phone.




They are the longest-feeling rings Victoria has ever heard.

Then they stop.

The calling icon on the phone’s screen disappears.

“Hello?” comes Anna’s voice.

Victoria III, Chapter VIII
Which Finger?

“Which three fingers do you want me to cut off?”
Unknown woman

Wednesday night, 6 April 2016, PM

Support: The wake-up comes so suddenly that Victoria isn’t even certain when she went out. Some kind of chemical in the hood? Hard to say.

She’s handcuffed to a steel chair at both the wrists and ankles. The chair is appears to be bolted to the floor. She still has her clothes, for what it’s worth.

The room is almost painfully bright. It’s the kind of corporate LED ceiling lights that fill the entire room with multiple banks. The polished white tile floor does nothing to help with brightness, nor do the plastic sheets hanging from each wall.

And she’s still there. The blonde. Her makeup isn’t even smeared, or maybe she just had time to reapply it.

Either way, she looks like death.

Her skin is paler than any Victoria has seen, an effect made all the starker by the bright lights and black sweater she now wears. That’s the only thing Victoria can directly put her finger on directly against the obscenely white skin, makeup, and hair. Victoria can’t understand how she didn’t see the woman this way, at first. She looked normal at the front door. Here, there’s a terrible darkness in her eyes. A cruel cast to her porcelain features. The sharp hint to her smile that promises only one thing:


“Welcome back, Ms. Wolf.”

Victoria: Confusion claims her first.

Body and mind.

She recalls the words, and now she’s…

Bright lights. Cold steel. Plastic sheets.

You don’t need plastic sheets to hold someone prisoner. She swallows.


Where is Anna?” she snarls.

Support: The woman rolls her eyes.

“Adorable, if childish.”

“Let’s go ahead and put a pin in the heroic declarations and childish threats, now.”

She gives a savage smile.

“Would you prefer I cut off Anna’s ears or her nose in front of you?”

Victoria: She snarls back at her.

“Leave her alone! What the fuck is this even about?!”

Support: The woman smiles again.

“Both it is.”

She walks over to knock on the clinical white door twice.

Victoria: “W-wait! Wait! What do you want from us?!”

Support: There’s another poisonous smile.

“I want you to understand how serious I am. Don’t worry, there will be opportunities to save the rest of her. I’m told modern plastic surgery can be quite good.”

The room’s lights suddenly dim. Everything is blanketed in shadow. The door opens after a moment to admit two large black men leading in a diminutive female figure from either side. Victoria can’t clearly see her face. What she can see looks like hell. The figure’s face is already bruising from what might be… a few blows? Many blows? One lip looks grossly overlarge. It has to be swollen and split. Victoria smells blood. She’s been stripped of her pajamas and wears a straitjacket with nothing else.

Victoria can’t make out her full face. Or see her eyes. Not beyond terrified glints in the dark.

Perhaps that is a mercy.

The men walk the figure into the room and force her to her knees in front of Victoria. One man produces a serrated knife for the blonde.

She takes it and pauses before Victoria.

“We tried a straight blade for a while, but I won’t lie to you, it was a mess. You have to work so hard. If you’re trying to muscle it, half the time you take part of the lip with it. That’s just sloppy.”

“Serrated takes longer, but the knife does most of the work for you. The key is in holding the subject steady.” She pauses, then shrugs. “Why bother, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

The blonde turns to face Anna. “I want you to know: she brought this on you.”

Victoria: The beast inside Victoria compels her to rage against her bindings. The chair creaks. Her knuckles turn white. Her teeth bare, glinting in the light. The spirit inside her could render every creature in this room to ash, but she’s only human.


When it matters most, helpless.

“I’ll ruin ALL of you!” she snarls, the cuffs bruising her wrists in her struggle.

GM:STOP! PLEASE! I’LL DO-” the bound figure screams, only to be suddenly cut off by a hand over her mouth.

The blonde nods to the two men. The second one also grabs Anna’s head.

Support: “This may hurt a little.”

Victoria can’t see what happens. Not clearly, in the poor lighting. It looks like the woman is grabbing Anna’s right ear. Pulling. Stretching flesh tight from the skull. Then there’s a flash of steel, against the room’s remaining light, and the woman sets to work with all the hesitation of a butcher slicing a piece of meat or a mother cutting the crusts off a child’s sandwich.

The blade nosily slices—tears, really—into the flesh. There’s an overpoweringly coppery smell. Anna’s screams are almost inhuman.

It lasts for maybe four or five seconds.

Then the blonde walks back to Victoria and holds up a grisly, red-stained piece of flesh and cartilage like a trophy.

There’s no mistaking what it is.

Anna’s ear.

“She was prettier with both, honestly,” says the blonde.

Victoria: The bindings tear into Victoria’s wrists in all the burning rage.


She struggles as if the knife were at her own throat—and, really, it’s so much worse than that. She bucks and heaves, a mixture of tears and rabid saliva spilling down her face. If not for the chair being secured, she’d be sobbing into the floor.

“Let her GO!”

Support: The blonde doesn’t even acknowledge Victoria’s helpless fury.

She just repeats the process.

Victoria has only a moment to see the flesh pulled taunt again before the knife comes down a second time, sawing through skin. There’s no scream this time, but another light comes on. Anna’s face is a mask of terror and agony, her head held stable by the two strong men on either side. She brokenly sobs and wails. Tears run down her cheeks. Saliva leaks down her chin.

There’s four, maybe five seconds of wet tearing and bubbling coppery crimson. No longer. Halfway through, Anna’s cries cease.

Then the blonde hoists the second ear. She drops it in front of Victoria next to the first with a smile.

“Two down, one to go.”

She looks back to Anna’s now-motionless form and scowls.

“I guess we’ll have to wait until she comes to.”

Victoria: Her fury rises. Blood drips from her wrists. Victoria Wolf is an animal. Caged. Restrained. Taunted.

She roars.

AGH! STOP! Stop. Please! Please.”

Her rage falters.

“Please, no more to her. I’m who you want. You have me.

Support: The thugs drag Anna out.

“Do I? Do I have your undivided attention now, Ms. Wolf?”

The blonde says the name as if it’s a joke.

She stalks towards Victoria’s bolted chair.

“Every time you lie to me, every time you insult me, every time I don’t like the look in your eye or think you’re telling me anything but the complete truth… I’m going to cut off another part of your little friend in front of you.”

“The nose is still gone, by the way. This little delay didn’t buy it back for you. Next up will be fingers. To save time, we’ll sell them away three at a time. Lips. Nipples. Womanly bits. We learned to save the eyes for last so she can see what’s being done to her as you sell her off piece by piece like a piece of meat.”

“Are you ready to cooperate?”

Victoria: She simply jerks her head in a nod, the rest of her shaking like the last leaf holding against winter.

Support: The blonde pulls a second chair up in front of Victoria and lazily sits across it, facing backwards towards her.

“I suppose you’re worried about your little girlfriend. That she’s going to bleed out.”

The blonde smiles, then shakes her head and waves a hand dismissively.

“Don’t worry about that. We learned that lesson a long time ago. By now they’ve already cauterized those wounds. It might have even been enough to wake her up.”

“We definitely want to make sure she’s completely awake and aware of every single thing that happens because of you.”

“I give you my word, she will not die tonight.”

Victoria: She believes her.


This vile creature before her—this ‘once a woman’—hasn’t lied to her.

Not once.

She knows better than to talk back. She knows better than to speak unless bid to. She knows better than to let that rage show.

She nods again.

Support: The woman smiles.

“Now, let’s start with the obvious. Why did you have a priest beaten, raped, and framed?”

Victoria: She parts her lips to speak, pauses long enough to bid the instinctive lie away, and answers.

“His family had Anna’s life ruined; had people killed. All for a fault not their own.”

Support: The blonde breaths in deeply. She gives what might be the first genuine smile of the night.

“Ah, I do so love poetic justice. For a wrong against an innocent, you wronged an innocent, and in turn have had an innocent wronged.”

“Who can deny the hand of God in the world?”

The question sounds rhetorical.

“Who were your conspirators?”

Victoria: The defeat on Victoria’s face could tarnish God’s own sense of confidence.

“You already know Jordan. I’m sure he’s—”

Stay on topic, Victoria.

I’m sorry.

“Christina Roberts.”

Support: “Who else?” the woman asks, tracing a finger across Victoria’s bound, bleeding wrist and bringing it to her lips.

Victoria: She feels Victoria trembling beneath her.

“Some of Jordan’s associates. I don’t know their names. I wasn’t supposed to know.”

Support: The woman wipes Victoria’s blood off of her finger against her teeth and pauses in thought.

“You wouldn’t be lying to me, Ms. Wolf, would you?”

Victoria: “You are threatening the only thing that matters to me. Why would I lie?”

Support: “What a fascinating question,” the woman asks in turn.

“Why did you target the priest?”

Victoria: “A fool’s errand in revenge. He seemed like a good idea at the time; to tarnish image and c-career. That’s what matters to the el-lite, doesn’t it?”

Support: “How brave and powerful you must have felt, sending men to attack a servant of God. Did you have any direct evidence he was involved in the ‘ruining’ of your little friend?” the woman probes.

One hand reaches out to caress Victoria’s cheek, lightly, almost like a lover.

Victoria: She rests her cheek against that fetid palm.

“No. It didn’t matter. It was stupid.”

In retrospect, it was stupid.

GM: Victoria immediately regrets it. There’s no warmth or assurance at the contact. Just a cold, skin-scrawling shiver up her spine, like she might get from touching a snake.

Victoria: She knows better than to apologize, too.

She doesn’t pull away, despite the revulsion.

Support: The hand cups Victoria’s face and brings her eyes to meet her interrogator’s eyes. The dominatrix feels goosebumps along her skin.

“Oh, darling, spare us both the sob story. Like all victimizers, you regret getting caught and being made to pay for your sins. Not the sin itself. Left to your own devices, you’d be happily planning your next attack.”

“Let’s stick to facts: whose idea was it to target the priest, yours or Ms. Roberts’?”

Victoria: Her expression doesn’t change.

“Everything was my idea. The only input Christina provided was advice.”

Support: The smile vanishes from her interrogator’s face.

“There’s the lie. I knew it was coming.”

Her voice remains soft.

“I suppose we should get your friend back in here to remind you what you’re playing with. Which three fingers do you want me to cut off?”

Victoria: “N-no! It’s not a lie! She w-wouldn’t help me! Said it HAD to come from me! P-pl-please! I’m being honest! You’ve made your point—I have NO reason to lie to you!”

Defeat returns.

“Why would I lie to protect an accomplice when you have everything in my life bleeding in front of me?”

“She validated my plan. Her only input beyond that was to disseminate to media.”

She draws a breath, trying to calm herself enough to think their way out of here.

“I wanted revenge. I wanted to give life back to those I love. I didn’t care who got in the way to do it. I used Christina to validate and execute my plan.”

A pause.

“Both pinkies. Left ring finger.”

Support: “And all you gave her was suffering,” says the woman.

She snaps her fingers.

The men half-drag, half-carry Anna back into the room. She looks delirious. Barely aware of her surroundings. She has no ears. Just ugly, pungent-smelling burns where they used to be, over the holes.

“By that I also mean you, specifically,” says the woman. “Obviously, it’s inadvisable not to keep you restrained right now—for your safety more than mine—so we’re going to do the next best thing, to you actually wielding the knife.”

She lifts up the earlier knife and strides up towards Anna. The woman barely seems to register her presence. Her face is smeared with coppery-smelling half-dried blood. Especially down the sides.

“If you want those fingers gone? Tell me. And tell Anna. Do your best to get through to her. Dictate the entire thing, from start to finish.”

Victoria: It hurts her more than anything. She’d rather that drunk client of Émelise’ have taken her and left her dying on the floor.


This is suffering.

She lifts her jaw, weighed by anchors, and speaks with a resolute steel. Not defiance. No, only to date their captor.

“Take her left pinky and ring finger, and her right pink. You’ll find the joint, and slice through cleanly. And you’ll enjoy the feel of her flesh as much as you enjoy hearing me will it.”

GM: The woman snaps her fingers in front of Anna’s face. The woman’s eyes sluggishly follow them.

“I said get through to her, Ms. Wolf. She needs to understand who this is coming from. I’m not convinced she will.”

Victoria:ANNA! Anna! Fucking wake up. Look at me, baby. You need to do this, okay? This is my fault. You can blame me. You can hate me, but you need to do this. Okay?”

Her nerves are beyond frayed. She’s back to trembling. Her words become more and more feeble the more she forces out.

GM: Anna’s eyes blearily meet Sylvia’s.

“Do… wha….?”

Victoria:ANNA. Wake UP! Stay. Awake. Do you hear me? Did you hear what I said?”

GM: The ear-less woman just stares at Sylvia deliriously.

Then, after a moment, she starts sobbing.

Support: “Perfect,” the blonde purrs. She slides in beside Anna, knife in hand.

Victoria’s girlfriend screams and feebly thrashes.

The blonde nods again to the men on either side of Anna. They wrap their meaty hands back around her head.

Anna screams louder. It’s a pleading, almost childish wail of abject terror. When her torturer places the knife under her nose and begins to saw, it gets worse.

This isn’t as quick as the ear: there’s just so much cartilage to saw though. Anna screams with every drop of blood, and there are so many of those too. Maybe it’s for the best that the men holding her look fairly strong. It’s gruesome enough to watch the blade saw through flesh.

Blood flows down Anna’s face and soaks her throat red. There’s so much that it chokes off her screams as the blonde finishes her terrible task. The ruined piece of cartilage and flesh hits the floor with a wet splat. Anna’s ruined face is a hellscape. It’s a human’s face with a skeleton’s empty nasal cavity. She looks like a freak. Some monstrous, abominable unfortunate, caught between worlds, neither living nor dead. She looks like a monster that makes children scream. She looks like something no one could love.

Yet, she remains awake for what comes next.

The blonde frees one arm from the jacket and has her companions hold it straight. She produces a pair of pruning shears and teases one tiny finger away from the next. The shears line up around it. Anna’s screams hit a new high note.

Then it’s over, suddenly. One swift crunch of steel against flesh and bone, and a small finger hits the floor. Blood wells, but there’s scarcely time to register as the blonde moves the garden tool to the next finger. Her ring finger. There’s another snap. Steel sheers through flesh, glances off bone, and cuts through gristle. A second finger hits the ground.

If there’s something to be said for it, at least these actions are faster than the knife.

The second hand is teased free with a quickness as Anna’s eyes begin to glaze over once again. There’s another flash of steel. A third jet of blood joins the first two.

It becomes obvious why the blonde is rushing when Anna mercifully slides back into unconsciousness.

“Damn,” the blonde curses. “Three on two different hands is always a challenge.”

She sighs and waits as the men gather Anna’s severed nose, severed fingers, and what’s left of the woman herself, then carry her out of the room. Blood runs from her mutilated hands and face until the door closes.

“Let’s start over,” says the blonde. “You were telling me about how you and Ms. Roberts conspired to harm a priest because of the part others played in ‘ruining’ your friend.”

She pauses. “I suppose that word takes on a different meaning now. Do you still want to sleep with her? I thought I was doing you a favor by keeping her tongue, but we’ve only gotten started on her new look.”

Victoria: Victoria knows better than to look away. She knows better than to even blink; to zone out; to show any indication that her attention wavers for so much as even a moment.

This is your punishment, Victoria. This is your doing. This is your folly, and you are to reap every ounce of what you sowed.

She watches every schlick of the blade as it saws through her girlfriend’s nose. She listens to her fingers hit the ground with the unceremonious clack of thrown dice. She never leaves Anna’s eyes. Not once.

Her expression, though, morphs. By the time Anna is drawn away, the wolf is more—less?—than defeated; she’s beaten and battered, more than if the blade had been taken to her own face. She’s chained without the need for chains. Beaten without the need for further abuse. She’s sitting outside Death’s door, waiting to be let in, both patient and impatient.

When she’s addressed, those lifeless eyes shift up to the blonde.

Words are a foreign concept, and it takes her a moment to answer.

“Please,” she begs, for the first time in her life. “I’ll answer anything—do anything—if you let her go.”

She doesn’t remember when tears began streaming down her face, but the river is flowing with no sign of abatement.

“You have my life. We both know that. I have nothing to bargain with, but I can promise willing service if you just let her go.

She pauses, knowing that if she doesn’t answer the question, it’ll be more fingers.

“Anna was fired and blacklisted from teaching as a scapegoat for the events of the LaLaurie House. Christina Roberts’ niece was killed for it. I am protective of my own—you know that—and so I schemed revenge.”

The pause that follows is frigid.

“I do still want to sleep with her, yes,” she forces out. “I am s-s-sorry for my transgression. H-how can I make it right?”

Support: Does the blonde take pleasure from Victoria’s surrender? From her tears and begging? From seeing her broken like no one else has broken her before?

If she does, she gives no sign.

Perhaps that’s more galling, in its own way, than gloating.

Perhaps that’s worse for Anna.

Because all the blonde does is keep questioning:

“Who approached whom?”

“What is your past relationship with Ms. Roberts?”

Victoria: Victoria’s expression is pleading. Begging. This woman has everything she is, and is pulling it apart as easily and carelessly as a child eating string cheese.

She scrambles for thought.

“I—I met her. I was upset. I learned the circumstances of Anna’s blacklisting. She raised her niece’s fate. We broached the s-subject together: revenge.”

She swallows.

“The plan was mine. She wouldn’t provide, only advise.”

She addresses the second question.

“Acquaintances in related businesses.”

More information, Victoria.


Is the room spinning?

Why can she hear the ocean?

“She owns a… an escort agency. I provide related services.”

She adds, “That’s how I met Jordan. He’s… one of mine. Was.”

He isn’t here anymore.

She knows that.

Is Anna?

She promised she wouldn’t die.

Does this woman lie?

She’s been honest so far.

So honest.

“I knew of his… connections to the Mafia. I hired him. I…”

She considers asking where they went wrong.

She already knows the answer she’ll get.

Answering the door.

Thinking they were more than goldfish in a bowl adjacent to an ocean they’d never know.

GM: The blonde cracks a smile at Victoria’s haggard expression.

If she’s being pulled apart like string cheese, the blonde is the child gulping down the pieces.

It’s gone after a moment, though.

“You what?” the woman prompts.

“You’ve been doing so well. Don’t stop now.”

Victoria: “I… I… I thought it was enough. I thought I was clever. Using Jordan.”

The implication is written on her face: she had no idea how deep the water went.

Support: “If it’s any consolation, no doubt Ms. Roberts thought the same,” answers the blonde.

Victoria: She almost cracks a smile. A dead, broken smile.


As if afraid the moment’s silence between them might set off a bomb, she stammers, “Wh-what else? What else do you want to know? Anything. Anything at all. I won’t lie.”

The blonde knows she won’t lie.

The blonde knows how serious Victoria knows she is.

Support: Her interrogator, as it turns out, has a great deal she wants to know.

She probes into how and when Victoria and Anna met. When and how Victoria learned of Anna’s woes. When their relationship became sexual.

She wants to know about Victoria’s clients of interest. Their fetishes and desires.

She wants to know details on how the priest was singled out. Why not a Devillers sister? Why not someone more directly involved in what happened? Why not the Whitney family?

Victoria: She shares the story of how they met; of their quick, easy friendship, and Victoria’s protective nature. She recants the story of the golf club, knowing it’ll make it more painful—and give her torturer more pleasure—when they bring Anna back in. She tells the story of their relationship, and of Anna’s ex-fiance, and what Victoria did for her. She shares the story of their first time, and how much she loves the woman.

Victoria thinks for a moment on her clients. She has a fair few clients, and though they’ve become ‘more’ interesting over time, she’s yet to have the level of ‘interesting’ she’s dreamed of. She shares that, too. She shares those she considers the most interesting:

Jordan, and his mommy obsession.

Hugo Cleveland, and his penchant for being dominated by wealthy women.

Lucky Cardona, and his love for innocent interns; and, his true stories of defiling them.

Russell White, and his need for tender touch.

“The priest was singled out because he was accessible, and his reputation would be easy to tarnish at a time when it mattered,” she answers. To the rest, she offers an admission of her own weakness. Kidnapping and ruining lives are not her strong suit anywhere near as much as holding a knife herself.

It doesn’t matter what she asks. Victoria answers everything. Her mouth tries. Her eyes stream. She spills her innermost secrets—her most protected clients—as if her mind is an open text. All for Anna.

What’s left of her.

Support: The blonde listens as she spills every name and secret. She asks probing questions here and there with each topic.

By the end, she doesn’t look gleeful or sadistic. She just looks tired.

“Do you believe in God, Ms. Wolf?” she asks.

Victoria: “I… do, yes. Since I was little.”

She sounds as if she’s talking to her therapist.

Maybe she’s making her peace.

Support: She nods.

“Then you’re fortunate.”

That statement hangs pregnant in the air for a moment.

“Because I believe in God too, Ms. Wolf.”

She pulls up the chair before Victoria again, straddling it and leaning over the back.

“You hate me. Think I’m a monster.”

“Do you believe me a liar?”

Victoria: She looks up to her, death embodied in her eyes. The soul is dulled. The heart is a hole.

“I… believe that you’re doing what I wished I could do; what I would do, if we were switched. No, I don’t think you’re a liar. Not now.”

Support: “And if I told you this,” she gestures to the room, to the blood staining the floor, “was the lesser of two evils, for you?”

Victoria: “I would ask what you saved me from, and why you saved me.”

“Me, who gave you a reason to do what you are.”

Support: “I likely saved you, and your girlfriend, from getting beaten to death with a baseball bat by the side of the road and buried in a shallow grave.”

“I saved you because I needed to question you myself. I had no intention of helping you, after what you did, but I do find a strange providence in how this worked out.”

Victoria: Victoria doesn’t understand, and it’s written on her face as plain as graffiti.

“Why did you need to question me yourself…? What providence…?”

Support: She raises her eyebrows, looking up.

“I’m in the unusual position of having a better understanding of His sense of humor than most.”

Victoria: “Why? How?”

Support: “It usually starts with a terrible mistake that you don’t have enough sense to regret at the time.”

She lets out a long breath.

“So, what do I do with you,” she muses.

Victoria: Victoria almost smiles. Almost.

“You… have everything I’ve ever wanted. What do you want to do with me?”

Support: The cold hand returns, tracing Victoria’s bruised jaw.

“A pretentious assumption,” she laughs.

Victoria: A mask of confusion slips into place.


Support: “That you know everything you desire.”

A strained smile slips in before she continues,

“Tell me, Wolf, what is it you desire?”

Victoria: “My wife,” is her answer. “Whole. Unharmed. Sane.”

But she can’t have all of that, can she?

And that’s not all, is it, Victoria?

Is it, Sylvia?


The word isn’t spoken harshly, nor is it an afterthought. It’s a simple statement. Weak. Unsupported.

She can’t have that either, and it shows.

Support: “And you think that’s what I have?” the blonde asks.

Does she look sad?

Victoria: Victoria stares at her.

Is it not?

“Not… anymore.”

Now she’s sad.

Support: “If I let you go tonight, Ms. Wolf, what would you do?”

Victoria: “Would Anna be given back to me?”

Support: “Let’s assume so.”

Victoria: “What state would she be in?”

Support: “Meaning what? Are you asking if I’ll send you home with a corpse in some twisted mockery of your wish?”

Victoria: “If you hand me a noseless, earless, seven-fingered, cauterized, broken woman, then I would go to the hospital.”

It almost sounds like a joke.

It isn’t.

“You promised she won’t die, and I said that I don’t believe you’re lying to me.”

A pause.

“If you let me go tonight, I would try to learn who you are.”

Thoughts strain her face.

“Not for revenge.”

For what, then?

“Not yet.”

Support: “Why does it matter who I am, Ms. Wolf?”

Victoria: “Because you’re better than me,” she answers both simply and immediately.

“And I want to know how you’re so much so.”

All of that—all of tonight—and her answer has nothing to do with Anna at all.

Support: That seems to spark her interest.

“Does it bother you, or intrigue you, that I am?”


Victoria: “What is one without the other?”

Support: “And when you learned who I was?”

Victoria: “Find you. Find a reason for you to give me the time of day.”

Support: The blonde gestures with her free hand in a circular motion, up and down.

Get to the point.

Victoria: “I fucked up. You more than illustrated the point: I’m so far out of my depth that I’m not even in the same ocean. You saved me, and you won’t say why. You’re talking to me, not torturing me, and you won’t say why.”

Despite her words, she doesn’t sound hopeful that she’ll actually be going anywhere.

“I want to know how you became who you are. Normal people don’t do what you do. ‘Body and mind.’ I didn’t smell chloroform. I don’t know who you are—but I want to know, and you don’t seem the type to let people who know go free.”

A pause.

“You don’t seem the type to entertain a conversation with those you don’t find interesting.”

Support: “No. No, I’m not.”

It’s unclear which of Victoria’s statements that answers.

“What’s more important to you: your friend or knowing how deep the rabbit hole goes? If I made you choose.”

She leans closer to Victoria, over the chair’s edge, her face inches from the brunette’s.

Victoria: Her lip quivers.

The answer isn’t easy.

“I love her,” she answers meekly, as if the question provides only the illusion of choice.

“I can’t not choose her—and if I choose her, you’ll have to kill me now, because when I see her, I won’t stop until you have.”

She knows she won’t win the eventual attempt.

“You’ll make me choose?”

Please, don’t make me choose.

Support: “Are you asking me to choose?”

That seems to intrigue her.

“Kill Anna to save you? Kill you to save her? You’re a creature of such wild passions that you couldn’t bear what happened to her if you had to look upon her again?”

Victoria: She sniffs back a well of snot.

“I’m saying there isn’t a choice, because I will choose my family every time. I am loyal to those I love—until death. I could be loyal to you, too. If you spare her. If you help save her. I’m still yours—no matter what.”

“Unbind me. I’ll show you.”

Support: That brings a bittersweet smile to the monstrous woman’s face.

“I suppose you’ve made your choice, then.”

She stares for a moment, then the hand on Victoria’s face slides back to grab her by the back of the head. The woman pulls Victoria’s lips to hers.

The lips part and an ice cold tongue snakes past Victoria’s lips. But it doesn’t matter how cold the woman is. It doesn’t matter how monstrous she is. Because it feels so. Damn. Good.

There’s a thrill of pleasure that steals Victoria’s breath, and a taste on that tongue that is indescribable. Crisper than the crispest cocktails. Sweeter than the sweetest desert. It’s better than any drug.

Victoria’s heard heroin addicts talk about their first hit. The first taste. The first time. How nothing is ever as good as the first time, but you can’t help but chase it all the same. Chase it to the ruin of everything for the vain hope of recapturing that moment. She can believe it in this instant.

Victoria: She opens her mouth to answer—an acknowledgment, never given life.

The moment her lips part, that tongue coils behind her teeth, and in that moment: bliss. Sylvia St. George—thanks to her mother, and then her girlfriend—never fell hard into drugs.


This makes up for it. This is the hit of everything she’s ever wanted, and everything she’s ever wanted to avoid. Her tongue is a vile slug, and the sweetest delicacy.

She resists, at first, her neck arching against that iron grip, her bleeding wrists struggling against her bindings, and then…

Why? Why try? Why does it matter?

Hungrily, she returns the kiss, her lips gyrating against her torturers, her own tongue wrapping that acrid angel as if she thinks she can hold it inside her.

She wonders what that tongue would feel like elsewhere. Her neck. Her belly. Lower.

A grunt passes her lips.

Support: The woman’s own kiss is eager, active. She pulls Sylvia to her, ebbing and flowing.

How long does it last? It doesn’t really matter, does it? It ends, and it’s like the setting of the sun. She wants to cry like she hasn’t since she was a small child.

The blonde withdraws.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Wolf,” she says, that bittersweet smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

“I’m afraid that I’m going to give you what you asked for.”

“I hope it’s what you wanted.”

One hand strokes the side of Victoria’s head.

“Let’s start with that name you wanted…”

Victoria III, Chapter VII
Hell Arrives

“Nothing you are is hidden from God. He sees you. He knows your crime.
Adam Malveaux

Wednesday morning, 5 April 2016

GM: The couple’s rest is troubled. Sylvia dreams of falling down a dark pit, never reaching the bottom. Anna looks tired and says she didn’t sleep well. Breakfast is a simple affair of eggs and toast.

Anna says she wants to come to mass. She doesn’t trust Jordan to be alone with Sylvia.

She feels scared to be alone herself, too.

Victoria: Sylvia shakes her head.

“Not this time. Keep the gun nearby. Don’t answer the door. Okay? I’ll be back soon.”

Jordan isn’t going to keep his cool. Not this time. She doesn’t trust him.

GM: Anna doesn’t look thrilled by that answer.

“I feel like we’d both be safer together. Why not?”

Victoria: Sylvia doesn’t look thrilled by that answer, either. Anna also isn’t wrong.

Unless they come for her while separate?

“Okay, fine, but you’ll need to take a separate pew so you don’t scare him away. Fair?”

GM: “Because I’m such a scary-looking person,” says the four-inches-shorter ex-teacher. The amusement in her words is faint.

“But, okay. I’ll take that as a win.”

Victoria: Can you bring a gun into a church…?

It’s probably a good idea.

It’s also probably a bad idea.

“Don’t be scared.”

GM: Anna tries to smile.

She only partly succeeds.

Wednesday morning, 6 April 2016

GM: Jordan looks shabby when Victoria picks him up. He hasn’t shaved. He looks like he’s either barely slept, or slept terribly. He wears casual clothes and doesn’t fasten his belt right. He assents to come along, but doesn’t initiate conversation. Just stares out the window with a hopeless look on his face.

Victoria arrives at St. Louis Cathedral around the same time as Anna. It’s fuller, this time. Not packed to capacity, but pews have at least one person sitting there.

Anna sits within sight of her, but doesn’t approach.

Jordan looks miserable and mumbles about going to Hell.

Victoria: Victoria pats him on the back, reassuring him. She reassured him the entire way to church. Every last Hell was countered by a Heaven.

She sits beside him, taking his hand, and turns to listen to the speaker.

GM: None of them seem to so much as make a dent on Jordan.

People dip their fingers in holy water and anoint and cross themselves. People who pass the tabernacle genuflect to it. People who pass the altar bow. Everyone who’s not praying talks in a whisper. Some people kneel. The pews have padded kneelers to make that less uncomfortable.

The mass starts when a hush falls over the congregation as the priest and servers walk slowly to the altar. Everyone stands.

Victoria gets a good look at the priest.

He’s a tall man in his early 30s with slim, almost gaunt features, somber gray eyes, and ash-brown hair. He’s dressed in a priest’s liturgical vestments.

It’s Adam.

Jordan’s face drains of all color.

Victoria: Their target.



In the room.

Her and Jordan side by side.


She no longer knows Jordan, but he doesn’t know that yet. No, for now, she simply follows the expected procedure: kneel, pray, pray, kneel, sing, kneel, pray, sing.

GM: Adam and the servers bow to the altar, and then take their spots. Adam goes behind the altar and kisses it. He turns to the congregation and says,

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

“Amen,” answers the congregation.

Jordan doesn’t even get out that much. He stares ahead, frozen. Like a deer in headlights.

“The Lord be with you,” says Adam.

“And also with you,” answers the congregation.

Jordan doesn’t answer. Doesn’t move his mouth.

His face is turning red. Victoria can already smell the perspiration trickling down his body.

Victoria: Coolly, she squeezes Jordan’s hand.

“And also with you,” she murmurs, perhaps a little louder than her other neighbor.

Come on, Jordan…

He can’t hear her thoughts, but he can see her expression, if he looks.

GM: Jordan flinches at the contact as though struck. Several nearby people stare. Jordan stares down at Victoria’s hand. His eyes are hug and bloodshot. Victoria has to wonder if her fingers ends in claws or rotting digits from the way he’s staring at it. She can practically hear his heart hammering in his chest.

Victoria: She drops the contact as soon as he flinches. Her motion is fluid, as if her hand is a drop of rain sliding from his to whatever lays below.

Her eyes lock forward to Adam, intending to shirk what awkwardness was created by his sudden jerk.

GM: Adam continues:

“As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love,
let us acknowledge our failures
and ask the Lord for pardon and strength.”

The congregation bows their heads.

Jordan does not. He stares straight ahead. Frozen. Unblinking. Red-faced and sweating effusively as his jaw dumbly works. Whispers sound from behind him.

Adam continues,

“I confess to Almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault-”

He’s cut off by a scream.

It comes out almost like a fart. Jordan stares ahead, petrified. Then he opens his mouth and just lets it rip. Almost involuntarily:


As one, the eyes of the entire church fall upon the man next to Victoria.

Victoria: Victoria refocuses on Adam Malveaux, listening to the sermon. He gets no further than six lines in, when it happens.

The scream beside her sends Victoria halfway to the ceiling. She falls to the side in fright, stumbling into another congregant, but manages to catch herself on the pew in front of her.

She regards Jordan with a mask of confused irritation and restrained rage.

Really?! Here and now?!

GM: Jordan looks as if he’s been struck by lightning.

He looks as if he wants the floor to part and swallow him whole.

He looks as if he could melt into a puddle.

He clamps his eyes shut and clutches his head.

He’s still screaming.

Then, he bolts upright. He all but knocks over Victoria and the man on his left in his haste to get away. To flee this house of God and the evidence of his sin. His foostamps pound against the floor as he barrels through the double doors, sobbing and screaming with his face in his hands,


The congregation’s silence is deafening.

Victoria: For once in her life, she doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know what to say. She has no answers, and she’s only thankful that Anna isn’t right next to her for this horrible bout of shame.

GM: Anna might not be right next to her.

But her girlfriend is still staring right at her with a ‘what the everloving fuck’ expression.

Victoria: She doesn’t see Anna. She feigns as much surprise as everyone else.

GM: Silence reigns over the church.

Adam turns to one of the servers and murmurs something. Both of them make haste after Jordan.

“Sin may weigh upon this man’s mind,” he addresses the congregation.

“I apologize for the disturbance he caused. Does anyone here know his name? I would see him given help.”

No one knows it, or at least volunteers it.

Adam says a few words on the man obviously suffering and deserving compassion, with a few insinuations that he may be mentally ill, then continues the sermon.

“I confess to Almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God…”

Wednesday afternoon, 6 April 2016

GM: Mass concludes some time later. Anna relocates next to Sylvia throughout and whispers to her, “Promise me you’re done with him, okay?”

The congregation rises and starts to disperse.

Victoria: “Eternally and forever.”

But not before she’s sure that he won’t be bringing the police to her door. She gestures Anna to the door.

GM: Anna gladly follows after her.

“Excuse me,” calls a man’s voice from behind Victoria.

It’s Adam.

Victoria: Her expression softens as she realizes who it is addressing her.

“I’m so, so very sorry for what happened, Father… Truthfully, I thought a day with the Lord would do him some good.”

GM: “Perhaps he would find a less public confession preferable,” says Adam. “Or mental health services. May I ask his name?”

Victoria: She smiles a soft smile.

“I’d rather leave his name with him. I’ll get him the help he needs. Clearly, I am not it.”

GM: “May I ask what you were to him?” Adam inquires.

Victoria: “A paid service who came to care a little bit too much for her clientele.”

GM: “It is valuable to maintain professional boundaries, but there are worse sins than caring deeply,” says the priest.

“I am Father Adam. I do not believe I’ve seen you before.”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“Religion and I have a tenuous relationship. It’s something I’d like to explore more deeply again.”

Her eyes shift toward the door.

“…perhaps ever more so after that.

GM: “Would you like to take confession?” Adam asks.

Victoria: I would like a drink.

“I’d love one.”

GM: “This way.”

He takes her to the same confession booth she was in yesterday. Anna says she’ll wait.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen,” says Adam, making the sign of the cross.

“How long has it been since your last confession?”

Victoria: “Yesterday, actually.”

She doesn’t even have to lie. She does, however, have to quell her heart. She’s making a confession to the man she had drugged and ruined.

GM: “That is very soon,” says Adam. “Has something significant occured in your life since yesterday?”

Victoria: You asked if I’d like one!

“No, I suppose not, but it feels prudent to make a confession when offered.”

A pause passes.

“Father, do you yourself give confession at times?”

GM: “You mean do I take confession?” says the priest. “Yes. Even the pope has a confessor.”

“Priests are men. Men are fallible. Men sin.”

Victoria: That they are.

“I see.”

She breathes a sigh.

“I’m sorry about him. I didn’t think he’d lose his mind like that.”

GM: “His actions were his own.”

Victoria: She holds a pause there.

Not entirely…

“They were. He’ll get the help he needs.”

GM: “Good. What else has happened in your life since your last confession?”

Victoria: “What else? It was yesterday.”

She rests her head against the wooden grate dividing them.

“Save his moment of insanity, and a few before that, nothing at all. I’d hoped being in a divine house would help him see how safe he is in God’s light.”

GM: “He has only to fear what he brings with him,” answers Adam.

Victoria: “The logician in me wonders if you’re referring to me with that,” she muses.

GM: “I am,” answers the priest.

“Tell me of your relationship with this man. You spoke of it being transactional. His actions have touched you powerfully for you to bring him here.”

Victoria: She lofts a brow, though he can’t see it. The hair on the beck of her neck creeps upward.

“I consider some of my clients worthy of more than services provided, and I have a bleeding heart. Would you not go out of your way for some of your flock?”

GM: “It depends,” says Adam. “All professions maintain professional boundaries.”

“A priest, for example, will do many things for members of his flock. He may be present for weddings, funerals, end of life care, and other emotionally intimate moments of their lives. But there are many things he will not do, such as seeing a congregant outside of formally structured settings, making inappropriate jokes or innuendos, or reporting crimes he believes deserving of punishment to the authorities.”

Victoria: “I suppose I break my boundaries more easily than most when a wounded heart is in need. He… Is most certainly in need of something more than I can provide.”

GM: “What do you typically provide him?”

Victoria: There’s a long pause.

“That’s personal to him. No, I’m not an escort.”


GM: “I do not ask to know the personal details of the services you provide him, only the general nature of the service your occupation engages in.”

“If you are a therapist, for example, my advice and penance may different than if you are a fitness trainer.”

Victoria: “I help my clients live fantasies, whatever that may mean, beyond the bounds of the law.”

GM: “You are not the first sex worker to have taken confession here,” Adam answers calmly.

“There is a saying by G.K. Chesterton. When a man knocks on the door of a brothel, he is really knocking for God.”

Victoria: “Why would the man be knocking for God?”

GM: "The saying is meant to explain that the fundamental orientation of the human heart is to seek God and the peace, meaning, and truth that only He can bring; the God-shaped hole we are all created with. When we chase after anything else—women, romance, riches, power, position, knowledge—we do so seeking God, even if we do not realize it. "

Victoria: “How do the two connect?”

“I don’t follow.”

GM: “When a man literally or figuratively knocks upon the door of a brothel, he is doing so because he is missing something from his life. He seeks to fill an emptiness.”

“Almost any human desire can be explained within these terms. They are part of the hunger that God put in our hearts. His plan was for those godly longings to be fully satisfied through an eternally transcendent relationship with Him. Adam and Eve doubted Him when they tasted the forbidden fruit, and chose the curse mankind lives with: a core longing that will never be fully satisfied on earth.”

Victoria: His words provoke enough thought that she falls silent for a time.

He’s not wrong, and Sylvia knows it. Everything they are, and everything they’ll ever be—every absence, and every savored feeling—is by the will of God. Her own desires. Anna. Jordan. Adam.

She wonders if some deep corner of his soul enjoyed her gift to him.

“Are demons real?”

GM: Perhaps he’s spoken of what happened in his own confessions.


Victoria: “I don’t mean metaphors for sin. Real demons. Claws in the night.”

GM: “Yes,” repeats the priest.

Victoria: “…explain?”

GM: “What do you wish me to explain?”

Victoria: “How are they real? Where are they? How are they not more widely known, if they are real? My friend—client—he clamors on and on about demons and going to hell. It’s why I brought him here. To show him that he’s in God’s good grace.”

Panic enters her words the more she spills. She’s like a leaking pipe, bursting the more flows through her.

GM: “How is anything extraordinary real?” counters Adam. “You know enough of them to ask about them, so I would contend they are well-known. They reside in Hell.”

“Why does your client believe he is going to Hell? What has he done to earn damnation? I know he has done something terrible, and there can be no absolution without confession.”

“For him,” whispers the priest.

“Or for you.”

The confessional is dark and claustrophobic. Jordan’s screams ring her memory. The terror in his eyes. The sickly smile, as he spoke of the demon that knows who Victoria is.

Hell feels all-too real.

All-too near.

Victoria: She shudders at the oppressive sensation. She recalls reading a play in her youth.

Hell is other people.

It isn’t, though, is it? Hell can have other people, but this? This all-encompassing claustrophobia, and the unspoken promise of an eternity? That is Hell.

She shakes it off.

“He believes demons are coming for him. Hence the visit to Church. I gave my confession yesterday.”

He knows.

She knows he knows.

He knows she knows he knows.

It goes round her mind, over and over like some macabre merry go round.

Should she apologize? Beg for forgiveness?

No. He can’t know.

GM: The dark confessional carries no assurances.

Nor does its other occupant.

“Perhaps something has happened since your last confession,” the priest intones gravely. “Much can happen in a day.”

“Or perhaps you did not confess everything.”

Can he know?

Does he know?

“Normal people do not believe that demons are coming from them. Normal people do not scream in public that they are going to Hell. Normal escorts do not take their clients to church and ask the priest if demons are real.”

The priest’s voice is a whisper.

“You have not admitted your sins. You have not taken true confession. Until you do, I cannot grant you absolution, and all the Holy Mother Church’s power cannot help you.”

Victoria: He must know. He has to know.

Her heart plays its own staccato beneath her chest.

“No, normal people don’t. I’m not normal. Normal escorts—of which I am not one—do hide their clients name. I was raised in God’s house. We’re warned of demons, but only ever the metaphorical variety.”

A pause.

It’s a weak defense.

“Is there something you want to say, Father?”

GM: The priest does not address her defense.

He does not address her question.

Instead, he replies, his voice as heavy as the cathedral’s organ:

“Is there something you want to say? This is your confession.”

Victoria: The weight of his voice is crushing. She almost can’t draw a breath to answer.

“We all are sinners, Father.”

GM: The priest only waits patiently, allowing the silence to stretch his words like a rubber band.

This is her confession.

Victoria: The weight crushes her against her seat. It feels smaller. Is the confessional shrinking?

No. She can’t admit it. There’s no way he knows!

But he does, doesn’t he? She knows it already. She already told Anna to be wary.

“You’re being r-rather intense, aren’t you?”

GM: The priest’s answering words ring out hard and sharp, like raps against a metal pipe.

“Am I unwarranted in being so?”

Victoria: Sylvia shudders.

“Are you always so?”

GM: Adam does not answer.

But he speaks.

Rap, rap, rap goes the metal pipe.

Harder. Louder. Closer.

“Enough. This is your confession, and your soul we are here to speak of.”

“Will you confess and make right your actions, or shall you persist in a state of sin?”

The priest’s eyes cut past the grill, straight into hers. They are pitiless and blaze with fervor.

“The choice is yours, but know this: nothing you are is hidden from God. He sees you. He knows your crime. As do the servants of Satan!

The last word is all but spat.

Victoria: She relents.


She’s gelatin against the seat, and her voice reflects it.

“I’m too much a sinner to be forgiven.”

GM: “Perhaps,” is the priest’s sole answer.

Victoria: “I’m sorry,” she says after a moment. She means it.

GM: “Speak,” commands the priest.

“Words not said are heard by God alone. What are you sorry for?”

Victoria: His answer is the door to the confessional closing and the click of her shoes on marble floors.

Wednesday afternoon, 6 April 2016

GM: The drive home is lonely. It’s just Victoria. She and Anna took separate cars, after all.

“Nothing to do with that guy again?” her girlfriend repeats when they’re home, as if to make sure.

Victoria: “Nothing to do with that guy,” she answers. Her heart still hasn’t fully relaxed.

She’s’ confident that she won’t see Jordan again.

She’s wondering if she’ll ever see Anna gain.

GM: “So,” she sighs.

She lets that hang for a moment.

“What’s going on, Sylvia?”

“Why were you involved with that guy?”

“Why did you keep saying something terrible was going to happen?”

Victoria: Because something terrible is going to happen.

“Because I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Even the priest was… was weird. Intense.”

GM: Anna gives her a frustrated look.

Victoria: She sets her hands to Anna’s hips, trying to reassure her.

GM: “You talked to me about a GUN, earlier. You said something bad was going to happen, and you had no idea what.”

“You said you’d committed a crime, but you wouldn’t tell me what or talk to a lawyer.”

“You go see this guy in the middle of the night, who beats you bloody, and then take him to church and he goes insane in public.”

Anna throws up her hands.

“I can’t do this. I just can’t.”

“Something has to change.”

“This can’t go on the way it is. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel you’re safe.”

Victoria: Sylvia feels her heart climb into her throat.

There’s so much she wants to say. There’s even more that she can’t say. To protect Anna. Her body. Her life. Her innocence.

“I’m… sorry. I’ll make it safe.”

She always makes it safe, doesn’t she?

…doesn’t she?

Anna probably doesn’t believe her this time.

“I’m scared,” she says, her voice cracking.

GM: Anna reaches up to cup Sylvia’s cheek against her palm.

She looks scared, too. At her wits’ end.

But her voice is soft as she answers,

“I’m here.”

“You don’t have to do this alone.”

Victoria: She crushes Anna to her, silently tearing up against her hair.

“I know. I know.”

GM: Madmen screaming about demons.

Too-intense, too-knowing priests.

The Malveaux family.


She might be up against all of that and more.

Her and the woman silently returning her crushing embrace.

Victoria: “Do you believe in demons, Anna?”

Has she asked her that before? She doesn’t remember.

She’s asked a fair few people that lately.

Does she believe now, too?

GM: “I believe that your client believed in demons,” says Anna, stroking her back.

“I also believe he’s crazy.”

Victoria: “Believes. He’s not dead.”


She half expects to see that on the news. Then again, they won’t let his death be known. Will they?

GM: “Believes. Okay. Why do you ask?”

Victoria: “I am… starting to believe the same. More than the metaphors. Something… happened in the confessional.”

She shudders.

“I… I don’t know, Anna. I don’t know what to believe anymore.”

GM: “Does it matter?” asks Anna. “Does it really matter, whether demons are real, against everything else?”

Victoria: She shrugs.

“Doesn’t it? If they want him. If they want me.”

If they’ll take her as collateral.

GM: “If who wants him? Demons?”

Victoria: She simply nods.

As if it’s the most sensible thing in the world.

GM: Anna gives Sylvia a long look.

It’s not a confident one.

It’s not a believing one.

It looks like she thinks things got even worse.

It looks like one that precedes crying.

Victoria: “…but that’d be crazy!”


Faster than sound.

Is she crazy?

GM: “Sylvia, this… this _isn’t helping!”_ Anna exclaims. There’s half a sob to her voice.

“I said this can’t go on, the way it is, and you’re not… you’re not listening! You’re talking about demons! This makes me MORE scared for us, not LESS!”

Victoria: All the kinks whoreses and all the kinks men couldn’t put Sylvia together again.

“O-okay! I’m sorry.”

She takes a breath.

“How can I help you?”

GM: “It’s not me, it’s US!” Anna exclaims. “I’m scared for YOU!”

“And I’ve been telling you! To just… the crazy stuff, the talk about demons, seeing this nutjob client and saying we’re in danger, it HAS to stop! And why, why, do you keep saying we’re in danger?! And, and you NEED to see a lawyer about… whatever this crime is, that you won’t even tell me! I mean, do you n-not trust m-me, or w-what?!”

Anna’s trying to hold in the tears, but they’re coming out like water from a leaky faucet.

Victoria: Nothing makes Sylvia St. George fall apart faster than her partner trying—and failing—to hold in tears.

She holds her, rubbing her back, and allowing her to speak her mind.

There’s no escape. Is there?

She relents.

“Okay. I will tell you.”

There’s no promise made. No swear. No condition.

GM: Anna sniffs, wipes her eyes, and nods. She sits down on the couch next to Sylvia.

Victoria: Where to begin…

The truth.

“I had a Malveaux priest framed with prostitutes and drugs in revenge for what happened to you and Amelie. My ‘friend’ is my link to those who executed the plan. He came back changed.”

GM: Anna blinks.

“Wh… why?”

“A priest didn’t do anything to me. Or Amelie!”

Victoria: She spits venom that could etch steel. “Because family is all that matters.”

But which family?

GM: “But. But a priest didn’t do anything to me!” Anna repeats. She looks genuinely confused.

“Or the Malveauxes?”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“I don’t want you to know more than you have to know. Okay? Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. It doesn’t make sense—but it’s the only language they know. They have to know they can’t get away with what they did.”

GM: “But they didn’t do anything,” Anna repeats. “Sylvia, I just—I don’t get it! I was fired by McGehee, after the Devillers and Whitney girls got shot.”

Victoria: “Yes, after! You okayed their trip! Or so the Malveauxes and other families believe. You’re the scapegoat. I won’t stand for that!”

GM: “But the Malveauxes don’t, they don’t have anything to do with…” Anna’s face furrows as she trails off. “What happened to the priest? Did he get fired? Arrested? Is he okay?”

Victoria: “They do! Anna, they really do.”

She breathes a sigh.

“He is fine. Somehow. He wasn’t harmed; but, I think he knows.”

No, she knows that he knows.

GM: “Okay, well, I’m glad he’s fine. I’m glad you didn’t seriously hurt anyone for me. I don’t want revenge, I don’t want anyone getting hurt, I just want to be a teacher again next fall.”

“And if he knows you framed him with drugs and prostitutes, you need to talk to a lawyer. Like, right now. I don’t want you going to jail!”

Victoria: “There’s no way he can know. There’s no link! Not one. Not a single one.”

Is there?

“It will be fine, Anna.”

GM: “It hasn’t been fine!” Anna exclaims. “Just yesterday you were asking if I knew how to shoot, and saying we were in danger! That’s… that’s not fine!”

“Why don’t you want to talk to a lawyer? Why do you keep blowing me off? I seriously don’t get it!”

Victoria: She takes Anna’s face in her hands.

“Anna. Anna May Perry. I have never and will never blow you off. I just… I want to handle this! Okay? It’s all under control. It will be under control.”

GM: Anna gives a sniff.

“Sylvia, I want that. I want you to just take control and make everything go back to normal. But I don’t feel like it’s under control. I’ve been scared, and confused, and I don’t feel like I know anything. How are you handling this? How is it under control?”

Victoria: She glances away.

No answer.

For once, Sylvia has no answer.

GM: Silence stretches for a moment.

“Lawyer,” Anna firmly repeats, placing her hands on Sylvia’s shoulders.

Victoria: She relents, raising her hands in surrender.

“Lawyer. I’ll get one from a friend.”

And so she texts Christina.

Free for lunch?

Their code.

GM: Sure. Tomorrow?

Victoria: Today, if possible. I miss you.

Shit: meet fan.

GM: How much? I have something going on.

Victoria: I’ll live until tomorrow.

She hopes.

GM: Christina texts her a time and restaurant.

“Taken care of?” Anna asks when Sylvia puts her phone away.

Victoria: She slips her phone away.

“It will be. Tomorrow.”

GM: “Okay,” says Anna. “Thank you.”

“I don’t want you to go to prison.”

Victoria: She hugs her girlfriend again.

“I won’t. Promise.”

GM: Anna hugs her tenderly back.

Then she murmurs in Sylvia’s ear,

“Can we have hot makeup sex, please?”

She adds after a moment, “Or. I guess worry-free sex. Since we weren’t really fighting.”

“But that sounds kind of PG.”

Victoria: “Aggressive teacher-punishing-student sex?”

GM: “That’ll be a treat for after you’ve seen the lawyer,” Anna declares officiously.

Victoria: Sylvia groans.

Then, she slaps Anna’s ass.

GM: Anna yelps.

“What, are you gonna punish me into punishing you?” she teases, rubbing her rear.

Victoria: She does punish her. She punishes Anna in the worst possible way: the promise of heaven, followed by unrequited climax.

Poor Anna.

At least someone got theirs that night.

Wednesday evening, 6 April 2016

GM: Anna might grouse and whine and beg over Sylvia not finishing her, but she continues to be a good secretary. She says that Victoria has a client early this evening, and a dinner scheduled with Émelise to talk about property things. Money things. “Still think it’s weird she referred you to a dead guy,” Anna remarks.

Victoria: Property things. Business things. Money things. Things that bore Anna. Boring Anna makes Anna not want to know.

“Little bit, yeah,” she answers, stepping out the door.


GM: The client is a 40something man who looks like a working professional. He wants some fairly typical spanking, physical bondage, and shoe worship. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, relative to other requests, besides some extra concealer to hide her bruises. Victoria may be thankful for that.

Victoria: Victoria hardly remembers the client. He doesn’t stand out. Most don’t.

GM: She may be less thankful to feel like she’s being followed.

She first sees the car in her rear view mirror during the drive to her dungeon. It’s a black car with tinted windows. She can’t see who’s in it. The car is gone by the time she reaches her dungeon. It’s there again during the drive to Leblanc’s, though, and gone after she parks.

Victoria: Victoria hardly remembers the client. He doesn’t stand out. Most don’t.

Irritable and fatigued, Victoria returns to her car, settling into the dreamlike backdrop the world takes while driving. Until she sees the car behind her. She fights that little demon of paranoia in her head, trying—and failing—to quell that fear bubbling up inside her.

A few turns cement the fact: she’s being followed.

She swallows.

GM: Émelise meets her at the bar, says hello with a rather intimate-feeling kiss on the cheek, and asks how she’s been doing.

Victoria: When Emelise arrives, Victoria is already settled into a stool, quivering like a leaf. Despite faux-warmth returned in a kiss to her cheek, Emelise can see through it.

“It’s been hard, but…”

She sounds like a child who got their hand caught in a cookie jar.

She sighs, shaking her head.

“We’re all living, aren’t we?”

She shrugs.

GM: Émelise smiles at her.

“Until we stop.”

“Living’s a rigged game.”

“Same ending whether it’s easy or hard, mm?”

Victoria: Until we stop, indeed.

She relents against the last vestige of composure in her fragile poise.

“Mistress, I think… I’m being followed.”

GM: “Oh, by who?”

Victoria: “If I knew that, I probably wouldn’t be shaking.”

A pause.

“They were behind me today. Twice. Once just before this.”

GM: “Oh, dear. If you don’t know, who do you think has motive? Recently upset client?”

Victoria: “Something like that,” she shrugs, sipping her whiskey. “They don’t seem to want to approach me—just keep tabs.”

GM: So does the other domme.

“You seem fairly rattled by it. As a precursor to something else?”

Victoria: “Following is ever a precursor to something else, old friend.”

GM: “All too true.”

Victoria: The fear permeates her. She doesn’t like Émelise seeing her fear.

There’s no reeling it in.

“But we’re not here to discuss my murder tonight.”

GM: Émelise laughs.

“You can hardly expect us not to after remarking a thing like that. Tell me more! This doesn’t sound like garden variety stalking if you’re going to end the night as a corpse?”

Victoria: “Can we ever tell whether or not we’re going to end the night as a corpse?”

More shrugs. More sips.

“I don’t know. I think I’ve pissed someone off.”


GM: Émelise smiles back.

“Yes. But forewarned isn’t always forearmed.”

She sips her own drink.

“Been a bad girl, mmm? No chance of smoothing things over?”

Victoria: “Do I seem like the sort of girl that does things that leave people smoothable?”

GM: “You’d be surprised what’s smoothable with a little creativity.”

Victoria: “I’m sure—one day—you’ll imbue me with but a sliver of your divine creativity, Mistress.”

GM: “Do you want my help with this, or to solve it yourself?” asks Émelise.

Victoria: She lofts a brow, regarding Émelise with mildly cautious appraisal.

“Are you offering pro bono?”

GM: Émelise taps the side of her glass in thought. “I’m offering. Pro bono depends on what help would look like.”

She smiles.

“But you can have a kiss for luck pro bono, either way.”

Victoria: She always knows how to make Victoria smirk with a blush.

“Let’s hear your thoughts.”

GM: “I need something to work with. Let’s hear the situation.”

Victoria: “I hired a grumpy man to make some other people even grumpier, as they made people close to me grumpier yet. The made-grumpy one seems to know what happened, and intends to make me the grumpiest yet.”

A pause.

“At least, that’s the only reason I can come to believe I’m being followed.”

GM: Émelise laughs. “That’s a lot euphemisms, but I suppose I get the gist. I don’t believe in coincidence either, so it’s probably a safe bet that you’re being followed by the made-grumpy person. Or at his behest. What do you think would get him off your back?”

Victoria: “Aside from me dying or—somehow—paying back the damage I’ve done?”

GM: Émelise smiles and sips her drink. “If those aren’t outcomes you’d be happy with.”

Victoria: “Would you be happy with them?”

GM: “Dying, only if it was on my terms. Paying back, potentially, if the cost was less than resolving the problem another way.”

Victoria: She looks at Émelise as if she sprouted a penis from her ear.

“In what way is dying desirable?”

GM: “Who said it was? But everyone has to. I can’t decide if, but I can try to decide how.”

Victoria: She shudders. That doesn’t sound like the option she wants.

“And if I’d rather they stop following me…?”

GM: The smile starts to fade from Émelise’s eyes.

“You’re talking like a victim, lovely. Where’s that vicious domme who gave Greg the biggest regret of his life?”

Victoria: She offers a meek smile in return.

“These fish are bigger than the bigger fish. I know my limits. Even if I’ll fight like that if they catch me.”

GM: “Maybe then you’ll find out your real limits. The woman who most impressed me tried to turn a gangbang around on half a dozen or so rapists.”

Victoria: “Which woman is this?”

GM: Émelise waves a hand. “Not important. She failed, but through no fault of her own. The effort showed remarkable spunk and initiative.”

Victoria: She shudders.

“All right, then. You piss off the wealth of the city. What do you do? I’m not apologizing. The destroyed people close to me.”

GM: “Then if you’re not backing down, I suppose your only option is to square off.”

Victoria: “You think I should walk out and confront them?” she asks, lofting a brow.

GM: “You tell me. You’ve ruled out saying sorry.”

Victoria: “Got a gun?”

“Or a knife. Or security.”

GM: “A gun and knife, yes.”

Victoria: She offers a hand.

GM: “I’m not carrying them,” laughs Émelise, who snaps her fingers at a server and whispers into the woman’s ear. The pair get taken to a table. There’s a short wait before another server hands them menus, along with a purse-sized box that deposits on the table with a heavy clunk.

Victoria: She follows Émelise, unsurprised that she has the wait staff at beck and call.

The box, however, surprises her.

“Do you dine on lead?”

GM: “If I’m peckish enough,” the woman smiles, unfolding her menu.

Victoria: She reaches to open the box.

GM: There’s a handgun inside, along with a black-handled vicious-looking knife that’s either a high-quality BDSM toy or combat knife. Or both.

Victoria: Probably both.


She doesn’t even need to ask. She picks it up, testing the weight.

GM: It’s on the slightly smaller side, but weighs like it’s metal rather than plastic.


Victoria: “I’ll pay you back. If I can.”

It’s not a question of finances.

This is a terrible idea.

“What do you recommend? To eat.”

GM: “The jambalaya is heavenly,” says Émelise.

Victoria: “Jambalaya it is,” she assents.

Wednesday night, 6 April 2016, PM

GM: “For luck,” Émelise says after the server clears away their plates, and then Victoria feels the other woman’s lips against hers. The kiss is an odd melange of hot and sensual, passionate and subdued, but Victoria has only a moment to savor it before Émelise’s tongue hungrily invades her mouth. There’s a sudden stab of pain as the other domme bites down. Hard. Victoria tastes blood, and then the lips against hers are nothing but gentle tenderness as Émelise strokes her cheek.

Victoria: The kiss enthralls her. She doesn’t expect the tongue—and even less so, the bite—but each elicits a subtle burble of a moan, her hand snaking into Émelise’s hair. Victoria Wolf is no stranger to pain, given or received.

“Watch, will you? So I know someone knows, if something happens.”

GM: “I love to watch,” smiles Émelise, her palm lingering against Victoria’s face.

Victoria: She kisses the woman’s palm, gentle as a breeze, and then stands.

“I know. You also love to participate—but this isn’t your fight.”

GM: “It is yours,” Emelie agrees.

Victoria: She turns on heel, takes the safety off the gun, pockets the knife—the gun, as well, until she’s out of the restaurant—and moves to wait by the front door, outside.

GM: It’s a balmy, humid April evening in the Quarter. A saxophonist plays before some tourists who toss change into his case. Pedestrians mull around the other restaurants and galleries.

Victoria sees no sign of the black-tinted car.

Victoria: She waits another five minutes.

GM: The saxophonist collects a few more bills and quarters.

The car does not appear.

Victoria: She slides into her car, and begins driving.

You ok?

GM: yeah, you? Anna texts back.

Victoria: yeah, just leaving dinner

She’ll have to explain her bleeding lip.

She checks the rear-view mirror.

GM: She sees a black car.

With tinted windows.

Victoria: And there it is. She continues driving, making her way generally toward her home, but using a different path, and coming no closer than a mile.

Then, she pulls over.

GM: She no longer sees the car in her rear view mirror.

Victoria: This time, she watches more closely as she pulls out.

GM: The car remains absent from her mirror.

Victoria: What the hell?

She continues driving.

GM: She arrives back home at 4018 Constance St. It’s built in the traditional New Orleans style: stairs leading up to a front porch on the second floor, the one intended for habitation, and a ground floor used as a basement. Many people have since converted those basements into apartments. They can be nice enough places to live, even if Sylvia and Anna have been talking about moving and buying a property once the business expands.

Anna’s visible through the window, watching TV on the couch in sweats and a tee as she waits for Sylvia.

Victoria: The whole way home, she watches for that car.

She doesn’t get out for a few minutes, and when she does, it’s with the gun in hand, safety off, ears almost swiveling.

GM: The neighborhood is silent and still.

Victoria: And then there were none.

She walks in side.

GM: Anna smiles when she sees Sylvia open the door, then sees the gun.

“Uh, what’s the story there?”

Victoria: “Practicing safe sex,” she says, giving her girlfriend a kiss and shutting the door before the police are called.

GM: Anna returns the kiss. It’s not an experience like Émelise’s was. But it’s familiar, pain-less, and there’s love behind it.

“Uh huhhh. Dad always said Responsible Gun Ownership 101 is treating even an empty gun as dangerous.”

Victoria: “Sure, sure. Guns are like people in that way. They’re always loaded until you’re sure that they’re not.”

She flicks the safety on.

GM: Firearms training taught that the responsible thing to then do is remove the ammunition and securely store gun and ammo in separate locations.

Anna’s eyes widen in alarm as the safety comes on.

“What happened?”

Victoria: “Nothing. And I’m making sure it stays that way,” she shrugs, setting the weapon on the counter.

It sits, cold and ominous for barely a few seconds, then she picks it up again.

GM: “No, it was something, if you turned off the safety,” says Anna.

Victoria: She shrugs again.

“It’s nothing, because the gun wasn’t fire. Just a bout of overabundant caution.”

GM: “That isn’t a Glock,” says Anna. The models they have. “That’s a different model.”

The scared look on her face deepens.

“Sylvia, what’s going on?”

Victoria: “I had dinner with a friend, and she offered me this for protection on the way home.”

Anna can see through her veils.

“I thought I was being followed.”

A pause.

“I think… I’m hallucinating.”

GM: Anna slowly gets up and holds out her hand.

“Hand me the gun, please.”

Victoria: She hands her the gun without pause.


Right. Hallucinating.

GM: “Because you turned off the safety and said you were seeing threatening things. That is an accident waiting to happen.”

Anna’s voice has a calm ‘dealing with this before any freaking out’ quality as she double-checks the safety, even though she saw Sylvia just do so, then detaches the magazine.

Victoria: Sylvia doesn’t mention the combat knife.

She’s sane enough for that.


“Right. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

GM: Anna leaves the room with the gun and magazine.

When she comes back, she’s empty-handed.

She sits down on the couch and looks up at Sylvia.

Then she starts softly crying.

Victoria: Sylvia pulls her into a gentle, loving hug, stroking her back.

“I’m so sorry,” she says, kissing her hair.

GM: “I’m scared,” Anna sniffs. “I’m scared.”

Victoria: “I know, I know. I know. But it’ll be okay. I promise.”

GM: “That’s w-what I thought until tonight,” Anna sniffs. “And it w-wasn’t.”

Victoria: She shivers.

“But it is! Isn’t it? I’m here. Nothing happened.”


GM: “This time!” Anna exclaims.

“My dad would be losing his mind! You could’ve shot someone!”

“You ALWAYS keep the safety on, until you intend to s-hoot! And NEVER if you’re impaired!”

Victoria: “Anna, I was ready to shoot someone!” she finally relents. “I was followed, all evening. I lost them a few miles away. I know about gun safety.”

GM: “No, you don’t!” retorts Anna, who’s still crying. “You said you were hallucinating, you brought it into the house! I don’t kn-know what’s worse, if you were expecting to shoot here, or if you d-didn’t!”

“Who was following you? Why were you hallucinating? What’s going on!?”

Victoria: Victoria grunts. Why can’t Anna be reasonable?

“I don’t know! That’s why I had the safety off—in case I was ambushed on the way in.”

GM: “That’s NOT gun safety!” Anna retorts. “Th-”

The pair are interrupted by the doorbell’s ring.

Victoria: “Go get the gun. Safety off.”

Wednesday night, 6 April 2016, PM

Victoria: Victoria snakes her hand behind her back, ready to draw a knife that would make crocodile wrestlers blush.

Then, she checks the curtain.

GM: Anna pauses for a moment, then dashes towards the bedroom.

Support: Victoria sees a woman. A rather attractive woman, around 6" tall with with blonde hair and blue eyes. She’s waiting patiently for the door to open.

She’s dressed professionally, in a black blazer over a white blouse, with her long hair tied back.

Victoria: She grips the knife, ready to draw and attack in one, swift motion, then opens the door a crack.

Support:* The woman smiles at Victoria.

“Good evening, Ms. St. George?”

Victoria: “Speaking,” she nods, not opening the door further.

Support: “Ms. St. George, do you know a Mr. Jordan Ratcliff?” the woman asks.

Victoria: Lovely.

“May I ask who you are?” she asks, mirroring perplexity.

Support: The woman gives an unfriendly smile. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, and a ‘you realize exactly why that relationship is something you shouldn’t admit to’ answer.”

“Mr. Ratcliff is in custody and I think you should follow my directions. Open the door-”

Suddenly, the woman shrieks and recoils. It’s one of the ghastliest sounds Victoria has heard, as though someone threw acid on her.

Victoria: Victoria gets as far as parting her lips to retort before the woman continues, and again before she nearly hits the ceiling with a shriek.

An instant passes that feels like an eternity. Shock passes her face. Then confusion. Alertness. Panic. She reaches out, trying to yank the woman inside and slam the door.

Whatever happened—and something happened—it’s coming from outside.

Support:* The grabbed woman doesn’t resist as Victoria pulls her inside. Instead, with her left hand, she frees a pistol which she buries in Victoria’s chest as they tumble through the door.

“Try it. You’ll die first,” the woman snarls, in a voice scarcely less mangled than her earlier cry. Loathing and disgust well from her bulging eyes like overflow from some corpse-choked fetid river.

GM: “No, YOU will!” Anna snarls back. She rounds the counter with her Glock in her hands, aimed squarely at the woman threatening her girlfriend’s life.

Victoria: The action is instinct. As the woman’s arm whips around, Victoria continues the momentum, pushing her toward the door as she edges away. Her heart hammers in her ears.

Anna’s words barely register. Anna’s intent seats itself firmly.

Her fingers wrap the woman’s wrist, trying to keep the barrel of her weapon near the door.

“Who the fuck are you?!”

GM: “Someone who’s better,” the woman retorts with a cruel laugh.

Then she proves it.

Victoria crashes against her back, hard. She’s on the floor. She didn’t even see the kick that swept out her legs from under her. She fights the urge to retch, because she didn’t see the woman’s follow-up punch either, just feel it drive into her kidneys. Then another. And another.

She fights back. Even crying from the pain, tasting bile in her throat. She throws a punch. A pistol-whip. The woman bats aside Victoria’s blows as lazily as her instructors on that first day at GroundBorn. But even they never looked at Victoria like this. The woman’s blue eyes brim with that same poisonous cocktail of hatred, disgust, fury, and nausea. But Victoria can see something else in them, too.

She’s playing with her.

The dominatrix can tell when someone’s relishing control.

The woman’s white, perfectly manicured hands descend towards Victoria with a terrible finality. The last thing she can think is how they aren’t beautiful at all, but hideous. Like the legs of pale spiders.

Victoria futilely bucks and thrashes.

The woman suddenly shrieks and recoils. Her obscene hands withdraw. The pungent scent of smoke and cooking flesh fills Victoria’s nostrils. She feverishly scrambles free. The woman shoots her a look of hatred so black that she feels physically sick.

Victoria: She hardly constructs a thought in reply before the flurry of blows strikes her.

Her head whips around, seeking the second assailant before her mind connects: the woman was so quick, she hadn’t seen the sweep coming. Every block: dismantled. Every counter: thwarted before it’s given life. Seconds feel like hours, and by the end of it, she can hardly move, instead clustering her limbs around her face to—meekly—protect herself.

And then, nothing; nothing but the scent of smoke and her own blood.

“Shoot her again!”

GM: Anna’s Glock sails through the air and lands in the woman’s casually outstretched hand.

“I don’t think so,” she replies.

There’s another woman in the room. She looks Middle Eastern. In her 20s, maybe. She’s dressed in similar professional apparel. Victoria has no idea when she got in.

Anna’s standing across from the newcomer, dumbly staring at her empty hands. They’re still held in a shooter’s position.

Victoria: Her mind spins. Her heart rages. Her body fails.

She snarls up at the woman, pushing herself to her feet and staggering backward against the wall in lost footing.

She tenses, coiling to engage the woman again when she sees Anna’s weapon in a second woman’s hand. Back door?

Support: “That was your second mistake this evening,” the woman says to Victoria. She produces a second sidearm, aiming one at Victoria and one at Anna. Smoke still wafts from one of her clenched hands.

“Now, here’s how things are going to go. Both of you are going to remove all phones, jewelry, and metal objects that you’re wearing, and place them on the floor. If you don’t, I will shoot your girlfriend in the throat.”

The safety on the gun pointed at Anna clicks off.

Victoria: She seizes at the threat, offering raised hands at her chest in surrender. It’s enough. She won’t fight back.

She jerks her head toward a nearby table.

“In the bag.”

“…what was the first mistake?”

GM: “No,” the woman interrupts, leveling her second gun at Victoria. “You stay where you are. Everything goes on the floor. Now.”

“I’m not carrying anything!” exclaims Anna, whose face is white with fear. “These are my fucking pajamas!”

“Turn out your pockets,” says the woman.

Anna does so. They’re empty.

“Good enough,” says the woman. The gun trained on Anna doesn’t move.

Victoria: Okay then.

She removes her belt, her crucifix, and the knife from her waist, placing them at her feet, then takes a step away from them.

“Who the fuck are you?”

GM: “I answered you the first time, Ms. St. George,” the woman answers with a poisonous smile.

She motions with one of her guns.

“Face against the walls. Separate walls. Hands behind your backs. Both of you.”

Victoria: The glare Victoria shoots back could etch steel.

She complies, turning away, and setting her hands behind her back.

Support:* The Middle Eastern woman gingerly picks up Victoria’s crucifix and pockets it. The woman watches with that same poisonous smile.

“Your first mistake was answering the door,” says the woman.

There’s a tight, plastic-y sensation against Victoria’s wrists as they’re tied firmly in place. Zip cuffs.

“Your second mistake was pulling me inside.”

Someone pulls a sack over Victoria’s head.

“Your third mistake,” she says, amused for seemingly the first time,

“Was giving up the crucifix. Because now I own you, body and mind.”

Victoria III, Chapter VI
The Scariest Thing

“I’m probably going nuts.”
Victoria Wolf

Tuesday morning, 5 April 2016

GM: Sylvia groggily wakes up. She thinks she hurts less than last night. That’s also not saying much, because she still hurts like a bitch. Anna’s still in bed with her, but is already awake and scrolling through her phone.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” she says with a tired smile, planting a soft kiss on Sylvia’s forehead.

The time is close to noon.

Victoria: Sylvia smiles at the kiss.

“Morning. Did last night really happen?”

It’s not the first time she said that.

GM: Anna’s smile turns sadder.

“This is the first time I’ve not wanted to say yes.”

Victoria: Her smile falters. She still feels like she laid down on a highway.

“What a fucking night…”

She checks her phone.

GM: Nothing from Jordan.

Victoria: She tosses it back to the nightstand, and sets out for a shower. Clothes. Covering wounds. Being pretty. Pretty enough. She can’t cover everything.


GM: Her soaked and dirty clothes are already removed. Maybe she took them off. Maybe it was Anna.

There’s no response to the text.

Victoria: She calls Jordan while she waits for the shower to heat.

GM: It rings to voicemail.

Victoria: He’s probably dead.


Hopefully he didn’t talk.

She opens a text to Christina.

Her fingers hover.

She closes it. No. No bringing in Christina without a solution.

She navigates to the Parish website. Do they list new prisoners?

GM: The closest is an inmate search field.

Victoria: She enters Jordan’s name.

GM: Jordan is not listed as an inmate at the prison.

Victoria: Hm.

Not jailed.

Hospitals won’t release that information.

Where the fuck is he?

GM: No answer is immediately forthcoming from Victoria’s Solaris.

Victoria: The shower gives her some clarity in thought. What the fuck is she going to do?

If you were a private detective, what would you do, Victoria?

Find the demon.

Five minutes later, she enters the kitchen guided by the scent of hot food.

“I’m going to church.”

She waits for Anna’s head to spin.

GM: She finds that Anna’s made breakfast by the time she gets out of the shower. Cheesy scrambled eggs, grapefruit, cinnamon toast. The household cooking is her job, after all.

Anna’s head visibly spins.

“Did last night inspire a conversion?” she asks.

She may or may not be joking.

Victoria: “A conversion? No, I don’t think so. I need to understand what happened to him, and the only way I can do that is to retrace some semblance of his footsteps. I don’t know where the events took place, but this is close enough. For a start.”

A pause.

“That smells wonderful.”

GM: “Thanks,” smiles Anna. “So this is the church your client goes to…?”

“Uh. I mean, ex-client.”

Victoria: “Something like that.”

GM: “Don’t you think it’s a little inappropriate to show up to a client’s church or workplace…?”

“They probably want that as separate as possible.”

Victoria: “Nope,” she answers, popping a bite of toast into her mouth.

GM: Anna looks like she’s trying to suss whether Sylvia’s joking.

Victoria: “It’s one of those things, Anna. You’ll get the answers you need to get when it’s time.”

Nibble, nibble. Bite.

“…he was raving about demons all night. He visited someone close to a church. I want to see if there’s an obvious connection.”

GM: “Well, I said I’d trust you,” says Anna.

Victoria: “Mhmmmmn… and you’re doing so well at that,” she replies with the warmest of praise.

“It’s a church. What’s the worst that can happen?”

GM: “They fill your head with anti-gay talking points and you dump me and quit being a dominatrix to become, I don’t know, a puppy veterinarian.”

Victoria: “Hardly, Anna, I’m much more likely to renounce my femininity, masquerade as a priest and fondle altar boys to bring me closer to God. You know, the traditional way.”

GM: “So you’d be a transgender pedophile priest?” muses Anna.

“I’m pretty sure there are some trans rights groups that’d want to give you a pass for that.”

Victoria: “I’d call it a middle ground,” she shrugs. “Love you, bye!”

She tosses a handful of scrambled eggs into her mouth, and begins lacing up her shoes.

GM: “Love you, too!”

Tuesday afternoon, 5 April 2016

GM: The interior of St. Louis Cathedral is cavernous enough for Victoria’s footsteps to audibly echo. Flags of nations from France to England to the United States hang from the ceiling, interspersed by the soft light of candlelit chandeliers. Tiny cherubs proffer basins of holy water beside gold-festooned pillars. Stained glass images of Christ and the Twelve Apostles serenely gaze down upon the Friday afternoon’s small congregation. Many of their heads are silently bowed in prayer. There are tourists too, but they are quiet as they take pictures. There is some quality endemic to cathedrals this vast and old that engenders a silence more total than any library’s.

Victoria: Victoria has as much respect for the sanctity of this building as she expects from the many who seek her services. Every deity should have respect in their own domain.

Plus, Mary would kill her if she was anything less.

She’s never been here—not that she can remember—despite her familiarity with church due to her adoptive mother. She wanders the hall for a time, another tourist among many.

GM: Her tranquility is interrupted by a text from Anna.

Hey you know how you were thinking about all those different lenders to approach? And the one named Simmons?

Sylvia may or may not have told her everything about the man that Émelise did.

Victoria: yeah?

GM: he’s been dead for weeks

just read a news story on it

Victoria: WTF?


GM: heart complications in his house

Victoria: suspicious?

GM: ?

Victoria: i don’t believe it

GM: fake news lol?

Victoria: She puts the phone away. What the fuck is her life?

She looks around. Is anyone looking at her?

GM: No one that she sees. People in the fairly empty cathedral are either praying or admiring the architecture.

Victoria: She looks for a member of the clergy.

GM: She does not see any immediately present.

Victoria: Unfortunate.

What did she expect to happen? That a demon would be present, sitting in a corner at a table with a warm cup of cocoa waiting?

She looks around for any staff at all.

GM: There is a clerk at the gift shop outside of the chancel.

Victoria: She wonders if this church actually performs any church services at all.

The dominatrix approaches.

“Hi there! Are there any members of the clergy around? I have a confession to make.”

GM: “I think the father still is,” says the woman. “Father… oh, forgive me, I forget his name.” She makes a sign of the cross, then smiles. “He’s not our usual priest. He’s filling in for Father Malveaux today.”

She stares a bit at Victoria’s bruises, but doesn’t say anything.

Victoria: “I’ve no preference for who. I’m new here. If it’s not a bother… but if it is, I can come back!”

GM: “No, I don’t think it’ll be. He’s probably with someone, if you didn’t see him in the chancel. Things are pretty slow after mass.”

“That’s at noon every day, usually.”

Victoria: “I see.”

Normally she’s up before then.

GM: Normal does not describe the last 24 hours of her life.

The clerk offers her a friendly smile.

Victoria: “Thank you! I’ll be inside while I wait.”

GM: “God bless,” says the woman.

Victoria: She reenters the main room and admires one of the windows.

GM: Victoria waits in peace for perhaps ten minutes. Eventually, an elderly man in a priest’s black cassock and white collar emerges from the confession booth, talking quietly to a parishioner. The other man murmurs something, lowers his head, and takes his leave.

Victoria: She waits patiently for the father to finish his conversation and the parishioner to depart. Once he appears open to more conversation, she approaches.

“Hello, Father.” She holds a hand out in welcome. “I’m new here. Do you have time for one more confession?”

GM: “All the time in the world,” he smiles, shaking her hand back. “I’m retired and filling in for the regular priest.”

He gestures towards the booth.

Victoria: She follows him, moving to sit on her own side of the partition.

GM: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen,” says the priest, making the sign of the cross. Victoria knows she’s supposed to do that part as well.

Victoria: She performs her motions in turn, as all good Christian girls do.

“Forgive me, Father. I have some sins to confess.”

And an ice cream man has a cone or two to peddle.

GM: “Of course. How long has it been since your last confession?” the priest asks.

“It’s all right if it’s been a while. Confession is like exercise. Some is always better than none.” The priest smiles faintly.

Victoria: A fucking while indeed.

“Longer than it should be.”

GM: “Are you happy in your life?” the priest asks.

Victoria: “Are any of us truly happy, Father?” she returns.

GM: “All of us know pain and sadness,” says the priest. “No one’s life on Earth is completely happy. It can be more useful to think of happiness in degrees, than as a yes or no. Are we happy enough? Do we feel we experience God’s love in our lives, more often than not? Do we feel we should be content with what we have, or do we feel our lives are lacking something?”

Victoria: “I think too many don’t ask themselves that question, and seek more to fill a void they keep widening themselves. That’s not why I’m here today, though.”

Truthfully, she isn’t sure why she’s here, either, but she suspects that if there is any truth to Jordan’s lunacy, then they’ll be watching her. She knows she needs to be respectful, and appear normal to everyone else.

GM: “Greed is a void that never fills,” says the priest. “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

“That’s obviously about money, but it can apply to many other things too.”

“You’re right, though, you’re here for confession. What do you have to confess?”

Victoria: “Truthfully, I’m not sure. I’m not a terrible person. I don’t harm those that don’t deserve it. I also don’t keep God as close to my heart as I should. Is it wrong that I should want to tell you that?”

GM: “Not at all,” says the priest. “Having a close relationship with God enriches our lives in immeasurable ways.”

“Is that something you wish you had?”

Victoria: “In some ways. I grew up with a relationship like that, and somewhere along the way, it fell by the side. Life has a way of doing that when you don’t keep what’s important front and center.”

GM: “So it does,” says the priest. “In what ways do you wish you still had that relationship?”

Victoria: “What do you mean, Father?” she asks, a little confused.

GM: “Oh, I’m sorry. You said that in some ways, you wish you had that relationship. A better way of asking might have been, what do you miss about having a relationship with God?”

Victoria: “The warmth. Knowing I have someone to turn to. It’s like contacting an old friend after far too long: there’s a sense of guilt in knowing that you want to reach out because you need them, not because you want them.”

GM: “Tell me about that. What it means for you to need God without wanting God.”

Victoria: “It’s the difference between needing a friend because they provide you a service, and wanting them in your life because you enjoy their company. I wonder how many people in this world pray when they’re cold and lonely, versus how many pray because they want that relationship.”

GM: “I think that many people do,” says the priest. “They want someone to turn to. They want warmth and assurance in their lives. They want to feel that someone loves them, or that there’s a guiding moral center to the universe. They aren’t worried about being good Catholics. They don’t try to live their lives any differently. They just want God to be there for them.”

“And you know, that’s perfectly all right.”

Victoria: She perks up, looking through the grated window.

“…it is?”

GM: “Being a good Catholic is something you do for yourself. It’s something you do for other people. But it’s not something you need to do for God. You don’t need to earn His love. He’s there for everyone who wants Him.”

Victoria: “Even if we only want him here and there? How is that fair to Him?”

GM: The priest chuckles.

“What’s unfair? Taking advantage of someone, by taking more from them than you give back? Lying to them about why we want them?”

“We can’t lie to God. He sees our hearts.”

“We can’t take from God. He has infinite love to give.”

“He doesn’t run out.”

“God isn’t like other people in our lives. If you only call your friend because you want to feel like someone cares about you, and don’t actually care about him or her, that is an exploitative relationship. You’re either lying to your friend about your feelings, or they’re a lonely person who’ll take a bad friend over nothing.”

“Or, maybe your friend is compassionate person who’s loved in other relationships, and cares about you so much that they still want you to know their love.”

“That’s God.”

“That’s also not an exploitative relationship, because your friend knows what he or she is doing.”

Victoria: She hasn’t considered it like that before. She’s been on both sides of those relationships, where she’s been needed, and where she’s needed one.

Is that what she was to Anna, in some ways? An overwhelming wave of love that carried her completely through the worst times of her life?

Anna loves her, too, though. She always has.

“Do you believe in demons, Father? Not the stories we hear in mass, nor the movies. Real demons.”

GM: “The stories we hear in mass are real to me,” says the priest.

He smiles faintly. “The movies are not.”

“But yes. I believe in demons. And angels, too.”

Victoria: “Have you ever seen one?”

GM: “I believe demons, like angels, are invisible to us. But I believe their influence is at work in the world.”

Victoria: “Curious. They never directly touch us? Physically.”

“How would they influence us?”

GM: “May I ask why you ask this?” the priest requests.

Victoria: “Curiosity. We’ve always been warned about the devil’s influence, haven’t we? But we don’t see horned men in the corners.”

GM: “So we don’t,” smiles the priest. “In the end, I think what’s in our hearts is more important than the devil’s influence. The devil can’t make someone do anything. The devil can’t make you not do the dishes, hit someone in anger, or cheat on your partner. The devil can only tempt. We have to let him in.”

Victoria: “We all have a bit of the devil in us. Don’t we?”

A pause passes.

“Do you?”

GM: “Of course. As you say, we all do.”

Victoria: “How does the devil manifest in you?”

GM: “Like with all of us, he does in many ways. The most recent was sloth. The church asked me to fill in for Father Malveaux today, at the last minute. Part of me didn’t want to. I wanted to sleep in.”

Victoria: “I see. I think that’s the smallest of sins, all things considered. Is Father Malveaux all right?”

GM: “Some would say it’s not so small. Lots of people come to the weekday masses. They deserve to have a priest. The part of me that wanted to sleep in didn’t care. To that part of me, and to the devil, what I wanted was more important.”

“As to Father Malveaux, I’m told he was feeling unwell and took a sick day.”

Victoria: She smiles faintly.

“That’s not so bad. Even the most pious catch colds. Father, how does God view sex outside marriage? I know the texts. How would he view me?”

GM: “God believes you should not have sex outside of marriage, in the same way that a mother believes her child should exercise and eat a healthy diet. Both are good for you. Being good to yourself will better allow you to be good to others. The church teaches that reserving sex to married couples enriches the marriage, provides a healthier environment in which to raise children, and best supports a loving family. Loving families, in turn, support a better society.”

“So, like a mother, God hopes you will make good choices. But God’s love for you is unconditional. God loves you even when you make harmful choices.”

Victoria: For a long moment of silence, Sylvia wonders who she would have been in life today if this man was her father.

Of course, men who portray this potent kindness in public often beat their wives at home.

“No matter what? As long as we ask for forgiveness, God will love us and welcome us when we die?”

GM: They’re similar enough words to Mary’s.

She didn’t get a Catholic father, but she did get a Catholic mother.

“God wants to welcome all of us to His side when we die. But that doesn’t mean what we do when we’re alive doesn’t matter. It’s possible, through our own choices, to reject God’s welcome even when we say we want it. A mother can tell her son he’s always welcome for dinner, but if he murders a man and gets arrested on the way over, they won’t be able to share a meal together.”

“That’s why his mother gave him so much advice growing up, like God gives us advice through church. To keep us out of ‘jail’ so we may enjoy our creator’s love.”

“But even when it looks like we’re going to jail, God’s love can do amazing things. Do we honestly regret our mistakes and want to repent them? When we ask forgiveness, are we just saying the words because we figure that’s our ‘get out of jail’ card, or because we mean them in our hearts?”

“So, yes. As long as we ask forgiveness, and really mean it, God will love us and welcome us when we die.”

“God will be the mother who springs us out of jail when we have no hope.”

“God makes possible what should be impossible.”

Victoria: “What if we’re already in jail? What if we begin to regret our decisions in life during our eternity in Hell? Can God save us then? The brevity of life and all that happens in it seems so small in comparison to eternity. We’re so young in our lives. Infant souls. I don’t believe we stop learning after death, so why should eternal torment be judged on that infancy?”

GM: “So that’s a complex question you’re asking. Why are we condemned to Hell forever, when we make choices in a life that’s not forever. Why do finite actions earn an infinite punishment.”

“There are several answers.”

“Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote one. He said that some mortal sins can have infinite repercussions. For instance, if you kill a man, can you ever undo all the harm you’ve caused? Can you make up for all the good he might have done in his life, that he never did? If he has a wife, children, friends, anyone who loves him, can you fairly compensate them for a lifetime’s worth of memories they will never get to experience? No, probably not. So Aquinas says that a punishment that is infinite in duration can be justly imposed for mortal sin.”

“But there’s another conundrum there, as you’ve pointed out. Can a soul change its nature? Can we continue to learn from our mistakes and grow as people after death?”

“The Catholic Church says no. The Catechism teaches there is no repentance after death, because of the irrevocable character that man’s choices take on after the soul separates from the body. The Catechism defines Hell as the ‘definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.’ We are choosing, when we die, that we want to reject God’s love forever. We are making a choice with infinite repercussions, like Aquinas wrote about.”

Victoria: His words give her a lengthy period of silent contemplation. She’d come here to needle at what happened to Jordan, and had found some level of enlightenment. What a day.

She answers with some uncertainty. “Can we choose to accept God’s love while we sin?”

GM: “Think of it this way. Can a mugger accept his mother’s love while he continues to steal from people?”

Victoria: “I think you underestimate the motive and sociopathy of many muggers.”

GM: “Some muggers might steal out of desperation, to feed hungry children at home. They might hate what they’re doing, but believe they’re out of options. Some sins can look very justified under the right circumstances.”

Victoria: “So I can sin my life away, and as I die regret it all. As long as I repent in my heart and ask for God’s love, I’m welcome in his Kingdom?”

GM: “Yes. You would be welcome in His kingdom. As long as your remorse is genuine, and you sincerely wish you had led a life without sin.”

“There’s another reason the church tries to stop people from sinning when we’re alive, though. It’s because we’re the sums of our habits, and the more times we do something, the harder it becomes to change our ways.”

“For example, could Hitler have repented at the moment of his death? Theoretically, yes. In practice? He’d need to be a completely different person than the hate-filled man who plunged the world into war. That kind of change very, very rarely happens overnight. It’s the product of years of hard work.”

“So, is someone who’s sinned their entire life away likely to regret it all—and to become a different person—when they die? Much of the time, the answer is no. That’s why the church encourages people to live a life of virtue for as long as possible.”

Victoria: Victoria is nearing her fill of religious philosophy.

“What’s your name, Father? I appreciate your counsel.”

She still hasn’t given a confession, either.

GM: “I’m Scott. Counsel is part of the sacrament.”

Victoria: “Thank you, Father Scott. You’ve helped me today. As for my sins… where do we start?”

Where does she start? It’s like picking individual strands of hay from a barn.

“I’m not telling my partner the whole truth. I tell myself it’s for her betterment, but I wonder if it’s hurting her.”

GM: “Do you believe she would want to know the whole truth?”

Victoria: “I do, sometimes. But she also trusts me to know better.”

GM: “What makes you believe she would want to know the truth, during those other times?”

Victoria: “I think she might. But she also knows that the truth can do more damage than ignorance.”

GM: “There are people in occupations whose spouses know they keep secrets. For example, lawyers have attorney-client privilege with their clients, and military servicemen may have secret security clearances. The partners of these people know they can’t talk about the details of their jobs. But these people are honest with their partners about the fact they are keeping secrets.”

“Usually, partners are understanding about this, because the nature of the work has nothing to do with the partner’s life, or the couple’s marriage.”

“Do you feel the secrets you are keeping impact your partner and her life, or do they have nothing to do with her?”

Victoria: She considers the question for a time.

“Could more than do, but in that, her ignorance makes her safe.”

GM: “Does she also believe her ignorance of these secrets betters her life, or her relationship with you?”

Victoria: “I… think so, yes.”

GM: “Do you think so, or do you know? Have you asked her?”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

Right. Grate.

“I haven’t asked her.”

GM: “Trust and honesty are the foundations to any successful relationship.”

“You don’t have to tell your partner your secrets. But you should be honest that you are keeping secrets which have bearing on her life, and ask what she wants to do.”

“She might agree that her ignorance will keep her safe. She also might not.”

Victoria: “That’s a fair point, Father. Thank you.”

GM: “You are welcome.”

“I noticed you had some bruises, too, coming in. May I ask if all is well in other areas of your life?”

Victoria: You don’t know the half of it.

“I was mugged.”

GM: “Oh, I am very sorry. Are you all right?”

Victoria: She huffs.

“Injuries happen. I hope the man who hurt me finds peace in his life. I don’t wish him ill.”

Maybe a little ill. She’d love to punch him in the dick and steal his debit card, but she doesn’t hate him. Really, she’s worried about him.

“He was raving about demons. Said I’m one, and took it out on me. I’ve been robbed before, and I’ve never seen anything like him. You think the police might have picked him up?”

GM: “I don’t know,” says the priest. “If he was causing a public disturbance, it’s possible.”

“But your compassion towards the man who hurt you is commendable. You’re a strong person to wish him well.”

Victoria: Understatement of the year. He was a public menace.

“Thank you, Father. I think I feel better now.”

GM: “Good. Then here is your act of penance. Speak with your partner, about the secrets you are keeping in your relationship, and pray to God this evening.”

Victoria: “Yes, Father. Bless you.”

She moves to exit the confessional.

GM: “Just a moment,” says the priest. “There’s three last steps.”

Victoria: She pauses, hand on the door.

GM: “First, I will hear your act of contrition. That’s a prayer where your express your resolve to sin no more. It can be in your own words, or the ‘standard’ one. Here’s how that goes:”

“O my God,
I am heartily sorry for having offended You,
and I detest all my sins,
because of Your just punishment,
but most of all because they offend You, my God,
who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace,
to sin no more,
and to avoid the near occasion of sin.

Victoria: “Oh my God,
I’ve been wrong for so many years,
and in that wrongness I’ve wronged you.
I can’t promise I won’t sin again,
but I swear that I will repent for the sins committed so far,
and all in the future.”

Close enough.

GM: “And now, for the second step, I absolve you. You’ll say ‘amen’ when I’m finished.”

Father Scott extends his right hand above Victoria’s and makes the sign of the cross.

“God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of His Son
has reconciled the world to Himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.”

Victoria: “Amen.”

GM: “Now, the third step. Go in peace, and express your conversion through a life renewed to the Gospel and steeped in Christ’s love.”

Victoria: “Thank you, Father.”

This time, she exits into the main hall.

Tuesday afternoon, 5 April 2016

Victoria: Victoria spends some time in a nearby coffee shop. She orders one—black—and sits, staring at it. Where the fuck is that man?

And then it hits her: she doesn’t need to go to be police. She’s been so frantic in what happened to her that she wasn’t thinking clearly.

The woman draws out her phone and looks him up in the NOLA registry.

GM: She finds his address in Gentilly.

Victoria: And a short while later, she steps out of the Ryde in front of his place, marches straight up to his door, and knocks.

GM: It’s a quiet- and average-looking suburban home, all things told. It looks middle-class. A sheriff’s deputy probably doesn’t draw the biggest salary, but Victoria well knows that his less than honest inclinations draw in extra on the side.

The door’s answered by a gray-haired older woman with a resemblance to Jordan. She’s lanky-limbed, like him, and doesn’t look to have aged well. Her face bears many years of scowls.

“May I help you?” she asks with a peeved expression.

It may or may not be from the bruises on Victoria’s face.

Victoria: She flattens her expression once the door opens. Calm down, hellcat.

“Hi there! Is Jordan home? I’m a friend of his.”

GM: “Yes, he is,” says the woman. Her peeved expression deepens. “This is a bad time.”

Victoria: “You’re telling me.”

She gestures to her face.

“It’s really, really important.”

GM: “Not to me,” the woman answers pitilessly.

She closes the door.

Victoria: She puts her foot in the door.

“Look, he was not okay when he did this to me last night. I care about him enough that I want to make sure he’s doing better, and if he’s not, then I want to help him. Please.”

She gives her best pleading expression.

GM: The woman gives an exasperated sigh.

“Fine. He’s been a mess since last night. I expect that he did something stupid, like usual for him. Now he’s missing work.”

“Come in, if you can get him to stop blubbering like a big baby.”

Victoria: She steps inside before his mother-assumed can change her mind.

“I will. Where is he?”

GM: “Jordan!” yells his presumed mother. “Someone’s here to see you!”

Victoria: “I think it might be better if I go to him. Given his condition.”

GM: There’s no answer.

“Jordan!” snaps the woman with a look between disgust and disappointment.

She strides deeper into the house. It feels more like an aging woman’s than a young-ish man’s. Everything from the decor to the furniture says ‘retirement-age woman who lives alone.’ There’s kitschy pieces of art, ceramic chachkies, floral wallpaper, pink and magenta living room chairs. It feels like it was decorated decades ago.

The higher-end TV and stereo set, in comparison, feel distinctly out of place. They feel like things someone newly come into sudden cash might have bought. Grabbing the most expensive toys without changing the rest of the home.

The woman bangs sharply on a door, then opens it without waiting for any response. It’s decorated in a younger man’s more minimalist style. Jordan lies in bed, the blankets pulled up to his head.

The woman walks up to his bed and slaps his face.

“Jordan! Wake up, you stupid layabout!”

Jordan makes a startled half-scream of fright, bolts up, and pulls the covers to his chin.

“Mom?! Wh…”

His mother rolls her eyes. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Your father would be ashamed if he could see what a pathetic little loser his son turned out to be!”

Victoria: Even Victoria winces at that. It’s no wonder he comes to her to be praised and loved.

GM: Jordan’s eyes scan the room. He sees Victoria.

He gives another strangled yell, and makes an awkward motion between dropping the covers and pulling them up further.

“G-get out! GO AWAY!”

Victoria: “Hey,” she croons. “It’s okay. It’s okay, Jordan. I’m just here to check on you. You weren’t okay last night. I care about you.”

In that moment, she even believes it herself.

GM: Jordan furiously glowers at her. He’s got a black eye and bruises along his mouth, too.

“G-go away!” he yells, leaping out of bed. He has a t-shirt and boxers on. “G-get out, or you’re under arrest!”

“You can’t arrest people, you idiot, you’re off-duty,” snaps his mother.

“Given that someone decided he was feeling too bad to go in to work today.”

Victoria: “Jordan,” she snaps. “I am trying to help you.”

Maybe some structure will set him straight.

“So let me. Sit.”

GM: “You duh-didn’t help! You gave me THIS!” Jordan angrily points at his own black eye.

His mother doesn’t even look concerned.

“Fix this. I want him going back in to work,” she snaps, then turns to leave.

The door slams behind her.

Jordan glowers at Victoria.

Victoria: “And you left me unconscious, bleeding in a gutter! I’d think we’re even!”

She considers sitting, but decides against it.

“Take a breath. Relax. What happened?”

GM: “You went psycho!” sputters Jordan. “You duh-didn’t help! You were awful!”

Victoria: “Jordan. You pissed yourself in your sleep, attacked me, and ran out the door.”

GM: “Go away!” Jordan yells, pressing his hands to his head.

Victoria: Now she approaches, clasping his cheeks gently.


“My love.”

“I need you to relax.”

Her words are calm and even.

GM: Jordan stiffens under Victoria’s touch. His breath is raggedy and uneven. He angrily glares into her eyes.

Then he starts crying again.

“I’m g-going to H-Hell…”

Victoria: “The only place you’re going, my Jordan, is into my arms until you are calm. Okay?”

She tries to pull him into a hug.

GM: Jordan doesn’t resist.

But he doesn’t stop sobbing.

“I’m guh-guh-going-g t-t-to H-H-Hell…”

Victoria: “One day.”

She strokes his hair.

“We all go somewhere. But you don’t have to worry about that. You belong right here. And here is all you need to focus on.”

GM: Jordan bawls his eyes out. Tears and snot get over Victoria’s shirt.

Victoria: She doesn’t mind. She needs him to cry this out. They’re both a mess.

GM: Jordan cries for a while. Long enough that Victoria starts to feel sore standing.

There’s seemingly no catharsis when Jordan is done. Just numbness. She can only tell he’s done from the fact he lapses into silence, and stops shaking.

Victoria: Eventually, she sits. Numbness is better than raving.

She takes his hand in her own.

“You know how much you matter to me, Jordan?”

GM: Jordan gives her a hopeless look.

Victoria: She pats his forearm. Her back is going to rebuke her later.

“How did all of this start, Jordan?”

GM: Vague confusion enters his face.

Victoria: “The fear. It’s not you. What was the moment it began?”

GM: “The nightmare,” Jordan mumbles.

Victoria: “In your dream? When you called me?”

GM: Jordan makes a noise like assent.

Victoria: “Do you see demons around you right now?”

GM: Jordan uneasily looks around.


Victoria: She looks around with him.

“Have you seen them since that dream?”

GM: Victoria sees nothing out of place.

“Nuh-no,” he numbly repeats.

Victoria: “They can’t get you. They saw that you’re too brave.”

She rubs her thumb against his palm.

“Do you know what you should do if you see them?”

GM: Jordan’s face is without hope.

He does not look as if he believes her.

At all.

Victoria: “You should arrest them. You’re a godly boy, aren’t you?”

GM: Jordan’s face sinks even deeper at that question.

“No,” he whispers.

“I’m going to Hell.”

Victoria: “Do you know what I did today, Jordan? I went to church. I confessed my sins. I bathed in God’s good will and I’m with him again. You can do the same. Do you want Him to protect you?”

GM: Jordan looks ready to cry again at those words.

“I’m going to Hell,” he hoarsely repeats.

Victoria: She seizes his face.

“God forgives those who ask. Do you want to be forgiven?”

GM: “I won’t be,” whispers Jordan. His eyes scrunch.

Victoria: “My love, if God can forgive me for all I’ve done in sin, he can forgive you.”

“We are going to church tomorrow. Or… tonight.”

She pulls out her phone and looks up mass times.

GM: “D’you tell God you raped a priest?” Jordan asks hollowly.

Victoria: “Do you regret what you did?”

GM: Tears bead from Jordan’s eyes.


Victoria: “Do you really regret it, deep in your heart? To your core?”

GM: Victoria finds that mass is scheduled for noon tomorrow.

“Yeh-yes,” Jordan repeats.

Victoria: “Then repent, and God will forgive you.”

“I will pick you up tomorrow at 11:30.”

GM: Jordan gives her a bleary look.

He doesn’t protest.

He doesn’t object.

He doesn’t say no.

He just repeats, in the same numb and hopeless voice,

“I’m going to Hell.”

“An’ so are you.”

Victoria: “Is someone making you say that, Jordan? You’ve said the same words over and over.”

Her eyes are laced with concern.

GM: “What the demon said,” Jordan mumbles. His eyes are far away.

Victoria: “The demon mentioned me?”

GM: Jordan doesn’t nod. Just answers,

“Asked about you.”

Victoria: A chill rips through her spine.

“What did it ask?”

GM: “Your name,” Jordan says in monotone.

“What you wanted.”

“With the priest.”

Victoria: “What did you answer?”

GM: “Tol’ it your name,” Jordan answers hollowly.

“Said you wanted the pictures.”

“Said you paid me.”

Victoria: “In your dream?”

GM: “I begged,” Jordan whispers. “I said I was sorry. I was sorry. S… so, sorry…”

Jordan doesn’t shake with sobs. He doesn’t even tremble. But tears starts to roll down his cheeks again.

“Din’ matter.”

“Said I was goin’ to Hell. For what I did.”

“Said it’d be waiting.”

Jordan’s stare is a thousand miles away.

Then his head slowly tilts, and seems to look both at Victoria, and through her.

There’s a low sound in the back of Jordan’s throat. Like the strangled afterbirth of a laugh. His features twist into a hollow parody of a smile.

“It’s coming for you.”

Victoria: Victoria Wolf doesn’t scare easily. She’s the predator. She’s the alpha. She’s the pack mother, and the protector.

Sylvia St. George is terrified, more for her girlfriend than herself.


GM: “Dunno,” says Jordan.

Tears still trickle down his face, past the joyless smile.

He gives a faint, cough-like laugh.

“I dunno… anything…”

Victoria: She wraps her arms around him, pulling him into a hug.

“You’ll be okay, Jordan. I’ll make sure of it.”

Tuesday afternoon, 5 April 2016

GM: “So, how’d it go?” Anna asks when Victoria gets back.

Victoria: She shakes her head, falling into her partner’s side and laying her head on her shoulder.

“Not well.”

GM: Anna hugs her and rubs her back.

“I’m sorry.”

Victoria: The hug’s long enough that Sylvie loses track of time.

“I committed a crime to take revenge on those who took away what you loved, working with someone to take revenge in loss for someone who they loved. I don’t know how, and I don’t entirely believe it, but I think they know. It’s a feeling. The logic isn’t there. It’s not. I shouldn’t lie to you. I shouldn’t boast my own position to you and obfuscate. I’m sorry.”

GM: Anna slowly takes in that confession.

Finally, she says,

“I don’t want you to commit a crime. I don’t want revenge. I just want to be a teacher again.”

Victoria: “I know.”

She knows it’s selfish, too.

“Have you practiced with the gun lately?”

GM: That question does not look as if it puts Anna at ease.

“Sylvia, what happened? What was the crime?”

Victoria: She holds a silence.

Her voice breaks.

“I don’t want to tell you. Penance. That’s what it was. Blood for blood. Not enough blood.”

GM: “You’re scaring me,” says Anna. There’s fear in her voice as her grip on Sylvia tightens.

“What’s happening? Why are you asking about the gun?”

Victoria: “Because I have a really bad feeling, and I’d rather know you’re safe than you’re not, okay? Just—you can be mad at me, but later! Right now I need to know you can protect yourself if I’m not here.”

GM: “Sylvia, I’m not mad, I just want to know what’s going on! Why do I need to protect myself?!”

Victoria: “The guy I paid to deliver that penance? He’s the one who called me last night. He’s losing his mind, going on and on about demons. The scary thing? The thing that gets me?”

She rests a hand on Anna’s thigh, trying to reassure her. It’s wracked with tremors.

“The questions they asked him—his dream—it just—I don’t know! Something feels wrong! Like it’s more real than a nightmare!”

GM: Anna gives a laugh of relief, but it still sounds more than a little desperate.

“That’s all this is? That guy’s crazy!”

“You heard what a nut he was!”

Victoria: “I did! But he wasn’t like this before. Something’s different. Something—”

She huffs.

“I don’t know.”

GM: “Look, he obviously has problems. Is he your first client who’s gotten this crazy?”

Victoria: She nods to her girlfriend.

“It’s just—”

Maybe Victoria is going crazy.

GM: “Just scary? Yeah, this wasn’t something you signed up for!”

Victoria: She’s still shuddering.

“I—I don’t think…”

But she has no evidence of it, does she? Nothing at all. The only evidence she has is her own involvement in the crimes.

GM: “Look,” says Anna, rubbing her back, “you’re freaked out about this whole thing. Crazy client and getting caught up in a crime.” Worry returns to her face. “What’s the story there?”

Victoria: “With the crime?”

Her horror transforms to concern. She knows how Anna will feel.

“I don’t know if you’ll forgive me.”

GM: “Right now I’m more concerned about keeping you out of prison. I don’t want that, whatever you did!”

Victoria: “If I tell you, you will be accountable for reporting it. I’m not putting the love of my life in prison.”

GM: “Then talk to a lawyer,” says Anna. “At least do that. Please.”

Victoria: She pinches the bridge of her nose.

“If it comes to it, I will. Promise.”

GM: Anna shakes her head.

“Please. This is what I’m asking, if you won’t talk to me. Get ahead of this, before… before it gets out of control.”

“A lawyer can’t report you or turn you in.”

Victoria: “Legally. Okay. Okay. I’ll get advice for lawyer from someone I trust.”

Christina, or someone similar.

“Promise. I’m not going to jail.”

GM: “Then let’s do that now,” presses Anna. “No sense putting it off.”

“Take it from the teacher. It’s always best to do homework early.” She gives a weak smile.

Victoria: “I would need to call a few friends.”

She presses still hands to Anna’s cheeks.

“I will be fine.”

Victoria always is. She’s worried about Anna.

GM: “Then call them,” says Anna, mirroring the motion and pressing her own hands to Victoria’s. “Please! I’m really worried after how scared you were!”

Victoria: “Look. I’ll do it. I promise. You have my word, and my words aren’t overruled by my position. For now, I need to know that you can defend yourself if something happens.”

Like what? The demon coming for you? Victoria believes in demons, even the fictional kind. They come in dreams, and they work through people. This? This feels different. Unbelievable, yet unshakeable.


GM: The fear returns to Anna’s face at that question.

“Sylvia, what do you think is going to happen?! I have no idea if I can defend myself, not without knowing against what!”

Victoria: “A gun! Our gun. I’ve taught you how to shoot it. You’ve done it before. You remember. Yes?”

GM: “Yes, I do remember! Now will you please tell me what’s going to happen?!”

Victoria: Victoria should be in an asylum with how she looks at her girlfriend.

“I. Don’t. Know.”

GM: Anna’s answering look seems on the verge of tears.

“Sylvia, that is scarier than anything else you could say!”

Victoria: “I’m probably going nuts.”

She’s lost her mind.

“I’m probably just being overcautious.”

She always is.

“But I want to know that you’re safe. You’re my whole world.”

GM: Anna gives a long sniff.

“I don’t feel safe right now. I don’t. I’m scared.”

Victoria: She pulls Anna into such a tight hug that she struggles to breathe.

GM: Anna loses herself in Sylvia’s embrace, as if hoping her girlfriend might squeeze out her fears and turn everything back to normal. Take control, like she so often does.

Moments pass.

Victoria: Moments pass. Then minutes. She lets Anna breathe, but doesn’t let go.

“I will make it okay.”

Victoria III, Chapter V
Jordan's Breakdown

“We’re going to Hell.”
Jordan Ratcliff

Monday night, 4 April 2016, PM

GM: It’s not long after Sylvia’s settled down to bed with Anna that Victoria gets a call.

It’s Jordan. He really wants a session, and soon.

“I had a night… nightm… about the g…”

The sheriff’s deputy sounds on the verge of tears.

Victoria: “A nightmare about…?” she asks, full of motherly warmth.

GM: “The… the guy! The priest! It was… w…”

There’s no mistaking it. Jordan is full on sobbing now.

Anna stirs in bed and groggily looks up at her girlfriend.

Victoria: “I think that’s all a nightmare,” she purrs. “Why don’t we meet… tomorrow, hm?”

Fingers wrap Anna’s throat, pressing her lightly back to bed.

GM: Does she like that?

Maybe it takes a little while to process after just waking up, but she settles down.

Jordan does not.

He makes a hysterical sound that sounds like something between a scream, a sob, and manic, delirious laughter.

Victoria: “Jordan, my love, it’s only a dream, hm? That’s all it is. Shhh… I’ll see you tomorrow, and you’ll forget all about it. Won’t you? Don’t you believe me?”

She presses more firmly to Anna’s throat.

GM: Anna obediently stays down.

But Jordan does not sound like he believes her, or that he will forget it. Or something.

All it comes messily, sloppily, deliriously, sobbingly tumbling out. To call it “word salad” would imply a modicum of coherence, and Jordan’s words have none. He babbles about being chased, about darkness, darkness, about being eaten, about being raped, about Hell, raped in Hell, dark in Hell, black in Hell, Hell, Hell, he’s going to Hell. For everything. He wishes he hadn’t done this. He wishes he hadn’t gotten involved. That he hadn’t had any, any part in it. He is hyperventilating. He is sobbing. He babbles something about piss in the sheets. He babbles about being paralyzed, and dying.

The man is having what sounds like a full-fledged mental breakdown.

Victoria: “Jordan, my dear, nothing will happen to you. Nothing bad has happened to you. What are you going on about?”

GM: Victoria just gets more of the same frenzied, manic, crying and shrieking babble. Jordan does not sound in the least bit reassured.

Victoria: “Six o’clock tomorrow, Jordan. Okay? Six o’clock. Say it back to me.”

She rolls her eyes, looking at Anna.


The man’s words trail off into incoherent sobbing.

Anna frowns with concern.

Victoria: A chill runs down her spine.

“Jordan, baby. Come on. You’re not going to do that. Why do you want to do that?”

She’s painfully calm. She’s his opposite.

GM: “HE WAS A PR… PIESSSTTT!” Jordan screams. He rambles. About how he’s going to Hell. About how it’s too late for him. He’s gone to Hell, he’s going to Hell, Hell is waiting for him, Hell has seen him.

Victoria: Why did she have to rely on such a pussy?

“Do you need me to come see you, Jordan?”

GM: Anna pulls her phone off the table, taps something out, and holds it up:

Talking suicide?

Victoria: She nods.

GM: Anna taps:

Call 911.


Victoria: She shakes her head.

Bad idea.

“Meet me at the usual place, hm?”

GM: “C-can you c-come to m-m-my house-se…?”

Anna taps:

He needs mental health services, not a dominatrix right now.

Victoria: She covers the receiver.

“No cops.”

Then back to the phone.

“You know I can’t do that, baby.”

GM: “Get him to call a suicide hotline, at least!” says Anna.

“P-p-please…” Jordan sobs.

Victoria: “Jordan, honey, do you really think you’re going to hurt yourself?”

She gestures Anna to get the number.


Anna pulls one up on her phone and holds it up.

Victoria: “No you’re not, Jordan. You’re a good boy. Good boys don’t go there. Now, I need you to come to my place—okay? You know where it is. Just call a cab. You can get there.”

GM: A long silence greets Victoria’s first statement.

But at her second, he falteringly manages,

“O… k…k… ay…”

Victoria: “Good boy.”

She hangs up and starts getting dressed.

“Fucking hell. He’s going to get me killed, or arrested, or—fucking—back to sleep, okay? I’ll be back soon.”

Gun: found.

Knife: pocketed.

“If I don’t text you within two hours, call the cops and send the to my office.”

GM: “Wai—hold on!” says Anna, getting out of bed.

“This seriously is not your job.”

Victoria: “I’ll tell you more about it when I get back, ’kay?”

No, she’ll probably not—but she hopes it soothes her for now.

“There are reasons I have to be the one to do this.”

GM: “Look, we receive some suicide prevention training, as teachers,” says Anna. “And… the biggest thing it played up is that we’re great at detecting students at risk for suicide, but we should leave the actual treating to the pros.”

“Jumping out of bed like this kind of violates a bunch of professional boundaries, too. It’s not your place to talk a client down from suicide.”

Victoria: “It is when that client just did some very unethical work to make the world right again, and the police would be very interested to know why he’s yelling about how he wants to take his life over it.”

She holds a pause.

“This is one of those ‘you don’t want to know’ times, Anna.”

GM: Anna looks torn.

“Well, I guess the question is, is this work worth his life?”

“Because you might not be able to help him.”

“What does he do after you leave?”

Victoria: “I won’t leave him in need of help, Anna. Promise.”

Her face softens.


GM: “All right,” Anna relents. “Just… don’t make this a habit. Your clients really shouldn’t be doing this.”

Victoria: She shakes her head, kissing Anna’s forehead.

“Promise. This is a unique case.”

Monday night, 4 April 2016, PM

GM: It’s a short enough trip to her dungeon. It’s not long, either, before she hears banging against the door.

Victoria: She checks the window first.

GM: It’s him. He looks awful.

Victoria: She grips the knife in her pocket, and opens the door.

GM: Jordan staggers in and slams the door behind him. He’s shaking. His face is white, except for his eyes, which are red and puffy.

“I’m… going… to Hell…!”

Victoria: “Jordan, dear, come in.”

She already has hot-but-not-scalding tea prepared.

“Give me a hug. Come here.”

GM: He collapses into her embrace, trembling and weeping.

Victoria: She pulls him to the couch like that, pushing and reassuring him the whole while. She allows him to feel that human contact.

GM: He needs it. He sobs. He moans. He weeps.

“This… this was… a m-mistake… we fucked up. Oh, god, we fucked up…”

Victoria: “Shhh… He’s no more free of sin than any in the depths of Parish.”

Irony? She’s amused, though it doesn’t show.

“Why the sudden guilt?”

GM: “I had a d… dr…”

He swallows, shaking his head.

“A n-nightm-mare…”

Victoria: “About…?”

GM: Jordan chokes back a sob and buries his face against Victoria.

Victoria: She rubs his back, cooing.

“It’s okay… it’ll all be okay… just a dream… just a dream…”

“Did something happen with the priest…?”

GM: “We’re going to Hell,” Jordan whispers, his voice faint against the rain plunking overhead.

“Both of us.”

Victoria: “Perhaps. When the time comes. Why do you say?”

GM: Jordan just shudders and clings to Victoria.

Victoria: “Is someone coming for us, Jordan?”

GM: “They’re waiting for us,” he whispers. “The demons. They know who we are. They know… what we did…”

Victoria: “What demons are these, my love? Your friends in the mob? The police? How do you know what demons they are?”

GM:DEMONS,” Jordan repeats, emphatically.

Victoria: “Did you know that I’m a demon slayer?”

She sounds entirely believable. Or deranged. Probably the prior to him.

GM: Or joking.

But Jordan looks little assured.

He starts to cry again.

“I don’t… I don’t… oh god, I’m sorry…!”

Victoria: “They can’t get you here, Jordan. It’s impossible. You’ll be entirely safe here. Shhh… rest.”

GM: Jordan looks little assured by those words, too.

But resting, at least, looks like something he wants to do.

He clings to her, head resting against her, and closes his eyes.

Victoria: Resting he can do. For now.

What the fuck, Jordan?

She pulls out her phone.

Fine so far…

GM: Good news. You coming home soon?

Victoria: Eventually…

GM: Should I go back to sleep?

Victoria: Ill wake you up

GM: K. I’ll get some rest tile then. Good luck with your guy

Oh and bill him

Victoria: He’ll be licking our floor for weeks

GM: I don’t even want to guess where that tongue has been…

Victoria: Worry about where mine is going to be.

She sends a selfie of her poking it out, entirely a clown.

GM: I’m not worried about your tongue at all :)

Lol some romantic line that is

Victoria: Bed.

GM: Yes mistress ;)

Victoria: Vic locks the front door, and returns to the couch. She watches for a while, and eventually drifts off.

Tuesday night, 5 April 2016, AM

GM: Victoria dreams of Émelise kissing and fondling her. When she wakes up, Jordan’s still there. He’s twitching and whimpering in his sleep.

Victoria also smells urine.

There’s not a ton of it.

But there’s enough to smell.

Victoria: “What the f…? JORDAN!”

She smacks him.

GM: Jordan gives a half-gasp, half-scream at the contact. He pulls away and looks wildly around. His eyes are wide and his skin is sweaty.

Victoria: “You pissed yourself! You know damn well you’re paying for the cleaning bills!”

GM: Does he look embarrassed?

He just stares past Victoria with hollow eyes, breathing hard.

“O… kay.”

Victoria: “What. Happened.”

GM: “We’re going to Hell,” Jordan whispers. His voice is without hope.

He starts softly crying.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Victoria: “Is there a reason you can’t tell me why we’re going to hell?”

GM: “The priest!” Jordan exclaims.

“He was a priest!

Victoria: “And? Who gives a fuck? You’ve done worst to less deserving people.”

GM: “He was a m… man of God.”

Victoria: “He was a pawn of a wealthy family, and as politically shrewd and cold-hearted as the rest of them. Do not think him pious.”

GM: Jordan just shudders.

“The demon did.”

Victoria: “Which demon?”

GM: Jordan looks at her blankly.

Victoria: “Tell me, Jordan.”

GM: “I don’t… huh?”

Victoria: “You don’t… what?”

GM: “I don’t understand.”

Jordan starts softly crying again.

“I don’t understand.”

Victoria: “What do you not understand?”

GM: “Everything!” Jordan sputters.

He still hasn’t moved from his piss stain.

Victoria: “Jordan. Fuck’s sake. What is wrong with your head? You were never like this. Why can’t you tell me anything about the ‘demon’?”

GM:STOP IT!” Jordan yells. “STOP IT! You’re suh, suh-posd to m-make things better, and yuh-you’re NOT! I’m d-done! I’m out!”

He stomps towards the door in his piss-stained pants.

Victoria: “Your piss-covered ass slept on MY couch! Get your ass back here!”

She stomps after him.

GM: She catches up to him as he yanks the door open, not stopping.

Victoria: “Jordan!”

She grabs his shoulder.

“Get the fuck back in here!”

He needs an ambulance. She doesn’t call one.

GM: Jordan turns around as she grabs him and shoves at her.

Victoria: She steps backward from the shove.

“What the fuck, man?! I’m trying to HELP you!”

GM: Jordan gives a hysteric yell and runs out into the rain.

Victoria: Victoria is further confirmed that children aren’t in her future.

She locks the door and chases after him.

GM: She catches up to him. Rain pelts in her face.

Jordan doesn’t respond to her. Just keeps running.


She snags his jacket.

Every minute. Every last fucking minute she has to do this—self-preservation or not—she’s billing him a full hour.

GM: Jordan gives another yell and throws a punch at her.


Victoria: She ducks the punch, aiming to sink her knee into his balls.

“Neither of us are going to hell!”

GM: Victoria’s knee solidly connects with that most sensitive part of male anatomy. Jordan gives a half-cry, half-gagging noise and goes down to one knee then throws a punch into Victoria’s kidneys. It hurts. He throws himself at her as she stumbles, grabbing her by the waist. She goes down after him in a heap. The wet street scrapes her skin. Rain pounds over them both. Jordan screams and throws wild, terror- and adrenaline-fueled punches. Victoria fights herself fighting back, just as hard, out of simple self-preservation instinct.

There’s no finesse or even dignity in what they do. Just two people, flailing and brawling on a dirty street as they’re soaked under the downpour. Jordan socks Victoria in her face, in her gut, even in the cunt. She hurts, everywhere, and tastes blood. So does Jordan. Victoria sees a tooth go flying under one of her punches, or it might just be the rain. Someone throws up. She’s not sure who. She’s not sure how it all goes, in the haze of adrenaline—just that Jordan’s gone by the time she comes to.

And she hurts, everywhere.

Maybe he beat her bloody and left her there. Maybe she beat him bloody and he ran off. There’s red over the streets. Hers? His? Both? Somehow it feels like it doesn’t matter. No one feels like they’ve won this fight. Victoria’s face feels swollen, her lip feels split, and she has a hard time seeing out of one eye. She’s absolutely soaked under the rain.

No one, her gut tells her again, won this fight.

Victoria: She recalls flashes: A spark of pain in her ribs. Her hair pulled. The crunch of his nose. Hitting the ground. Pain in the back of her skull.

White. Then black. Then rain. And heat. Always heat. Heat from the starting day, and heat from the blood on her face.

She pats her pocket. Is the knife still there? The gun?

GM: She finds both.

Did she use either?

They’re wet with rain, but that might’ve happened anyway.

Victoria: She stows them away, and steadily gets to her feet. Can she stand?

GM: It hurts, but looks like it.

Victoria: She stumbles back to the house. No more rain. It smells like piss. She’s going to bill him for every punch.

GM: For all the smell, it’s dry indoors, and light.

The night beyond is dark, wet, cold. Each plunk of rain seems to reverberate with Jordan’s hope-stricken words:

“We’re going to Hell.”

Victoria: Maybe he is. She isn’t planning on that for a long, long time.

She moves into the bathroom to examine herself.

GM: She looks like shit. She’s got a black eye, split lip, and multiple bruises. Her hair is a soggy, sorry mess.

She wonders how Jordan looks.

Victoria: She looks better than Jordan looks on his best day. The thought makes her feel a bit better.

What the fuck is going on? Jordan was never the most intelligent, stable person in the world, but he’d never displayed such a primal breakdown.

She can’t call the cops. That’ll just be another bribe and uncomfortable explanations.

She snags a medical kit and begins cleaning what damage she can.

She can’t tell Christina. Not until she has a solution. Not if she wants to be something. Nor Jill.

It stings. It looks worse once the blood is wiped away.

GM: Her no longer bloody, but still beaten reflection dully stares back at her.

How the hell did it come to this?

Victoria: She wonders how long it’s been since Jordan has seen a doctor. Maybe she should ask for medical history in future clients.

otw home

But she doesn’t go home. She heads to her car, and drives the nearby blocks looking for Jordan.

GM: Anna doesn’t immediately reply. Maybe she’s still asleep.

Victoria finds no trace of Jordan. Not in the middle of the rainy night, at least, while she’s tired and hurting everywhere. Who knows where he went?

A dirty homeless man lying under a corner’s roof leers and pulls out his genitals as she drives by.

Victoria: She makes the universal gesture for ‘tiny pp’ and moves on.

Whatever. Jordan probably got hit by a car. Dead men tell no tales.

She sets her sights on going home.

GM: She finds Anna contently asleep in their bed.

Victoria: Which is worse: Anna waking up to her sleeping in this state, or waking her up intentionally?

She gets an ice pack to hide some of the damage, then sits and nudges her.

“Anna…” she croons.

GM: “Mmmf…” Anna mumbles, stirring. “Daddy, go’ the eggyolk in your han’…”

Victoria: “Annnnnnnaaa….”

GM: “Mmmf… wuzzi… Sylvie?”

Anna gives a tired yawn and sits up.

She fumbles around for the light.

She squints and blinks dully after flicking it on.

“Why you got an ice pack…?”

Victoria: “Hey, I’m not looking the best… don’t be scared. I’m fine.”

GM: Anna blinks again.

“How’d it go with it… wait, why you got an ice pack?” she repeats.

Victoria: “We had a… Disagreement.”

She keeps it firmly in place.

GM: Anna suddenly seems to wake up more.

“He hurt you?!”

Victoria: “You should see the other guy,” she grins.

GM: “Let me see you,” says Anna, gently attempting to move aside the pack.

Victoria: “Promise not to freak out?”

GM: Those words seem to bring her little comfort.

“Not if you’re missing an eye. But I’ll try.”

Victoria: She snorts, pulling it away.

“Both eyes.”

GM: Anna’s hands go to her mouth.

Victoria: “No freaking!”

GM: She lowers them after a moment, her eyes still wide. She gingerly rests her hands on Sylvia, as if afraid to hurt her further.

“What the hell happened!?”

Victoria: “Something is wrong with him,” she answers, uncertain. “It’s as if he cracked, but it doesn’t make sense. Not with the work and people he’s involved with. This shouldn’t have happened, but I can’t think of anything that would induce this behavior outside drugs.”

And she isn’t sure whether or not he is on drugs. He’d certainly never been that crazy.

“He pissed my couch, got angry, ran out the door, and got into a fight with me when I chased him. I woke up—I don’t know how long later—on the sidewalk. He’s gone.”

GM: “Oh my god!” Anna exclaims.

She throws her arms around Sylvia and squeezes her tight, as if to make sure she’s still there. It hurts, a bit.

“Don’t ever see a client like that again! I knew this was a bad idea!”

Victoria: She might smell like piss, too. After all, she was sleeping next to him.

“Not every client is paid to do things not everyone would be proud of.”

And she leaves it there. No cops.

“I need to find him, but not now. He was going on and on and on about demons, and how we’re both going to Hell, but he never once told me what they were or what happened.”

GM: Anna blinks and pulls back, enough, to look Sylvia in the eye, but keeps her arms on her girlfriend.

“Sylvia, let this guy go. You do not want to find him!”

“He’s crazy.”

Victoria: “I have to. I have to. If he goes blabbing to the cops about this, then it’ll be more trouble than dealing with this on my own.”

She pokes Anna in the ribs.

“Come on. You know I’m tougher than I look.”

GM: “No! You don’t have to! No amount of money is worth you getting attacked like this!”

It takes a moment before the words seem to fully process.

“Why would he go to the cops, anyway, if he’s crazy and attacked you? Crazy people rambling about demons don’t call the cops.”

“And if he does, it was self-defense. You’re safe.”

Victoria: “He’s fucking crazy. I don’t know what he’ll do. The problem is his ranting touches on what I paid him to do, which was illegal, and would interest the cops.”

A pause.

“I’m not worried about it tonight. Not tonight. Maybe not in the morning.”

GM: Anna frowns. “That you paid… him to do?”

“I thought he was a client. That he was paying you.”

Victoria: “Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.”

GM: “I kind of want them when the love of my life staggers in at 5 AM after getting attacked by a crazy man.”

“And then wants to go find him again.”

Victoria: She presses a finger to Anna’s nose.

“Let me be a hero once in a while.”

GM: “This isn’t being a hero,” says Anna. “Who are you saving?”

Victoria: “Us.”

GM: “I don’t see us getting saved. I see you getting hurt, and now wanting to do something dangerous.”

Victoria: “You don’t have to see. You weren’t supposed to see. This is just a setback.”

That’s right, Victoria, that’s all this is. A setback.

GM: “Sylvia, this isn’t normal dominatrix stuff! You see a guy, you help him live out his fantasy, you get paid, done. What is going on?”

Anna looks at Sylvia for a moment. There’s fear in her eyes.

“I’m scared for you. For us.”

Victoria: She pulls the teacher into a warm hug.

“Anna, love, it’s okay. It’ll all be okay. Every last thing.”

Because she’ll make it that way. That’s how it always works, doesn’t it?

GM: Anna falls silent under that hug.

She obviously wants to believe that.

So bad.

“Will you at least talk to a lawyer, first,” she says. “Instead of trying to find a crazy man.”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“Not yet.”

GM: “Sylvia… I can’t accept you just throwing yourself into a dangerous situation, without even a why,” says Anna.

Victoria: “Do you trust me?”

GM: “With my life.”

Victoria: “Then trust that this is all happening for the better.”

GM: Anna’s quiet for a moment.

“Is this… what submitting really looks like, outside of the bedroom?”

Victoria: “No, Anna, this is what it looks like when your partner loves you and is trying to protect you from the monsters out there, who she engaged with in the first place to make the world just a little more fair to the person she loves.”

GM: Anna’s quiet again.

It’s a lot to ask.

To just accept this.

Sylvia seeking out the crazy client who ranted about demons, pulled her out of bed in the middle of the night, and sent her home with an ice pack and the shit kicked out of her.

Sylvia not talking to a lawyer, after the talk about illegal activity.

Sylvia not even disclosing any details, or reasons, besides, ‘for us.’

It’s a lot to ask.

“Okay,” Anna says quietly.

“You let me teach at an inner city school. And never said ‘I told you so.’”

“You were right about Jeff. You’ve made better decisions than I have.”

She takes a long breath, as if to convince herself.

“I will trust you on this.”

“I will trust you to handle it your way.”

Victoria: The beaten woman pulls Anna into a hug, and leans the pair of them into bed.

“I won’t break your trust. I won’t go anywhere until morning, and when the time comes, I will tell you why this happened.”

GM: There’s some relief on Anna’s face, at that. Hearing Sylvia will at least wait until morning.

Anna wordlessly holds her close. The rain pounds overhead. Jordan is out there somewhere, in some wet and dark and lonely corner of the city, ranting his madness. Sylvia still hurts, everywhere.

But her bed is soft and warm, and so is Anna’s embrace. She can hear the woman’s steady breathing in the dark.

For all their worries, there’s nowhere the two would rather be.

Victoria III, Chapter IV
Conditional Love

“Why? Why do they have to hate us? Why can’t they just be happy we’re happy?”
Anna May Perry

Friday evening, 1 April 2016

GM: Anna’s thrilled by the news that Victoria’s meeting with banks to purchase Chakras. The meeting with the St. Johns is little ways off.

In fact, Anna seems inspired by Sylvia taking steps to realize her own dream. She says she wants to apply to schools again for a teaching position.

“Did you say your mom might be able to hook me up with something?” she asks, hopefully, one evening over dinner.

She cooks, like always.

Victoria: “She could, I’m sure.”

She hopes.

“I can call her.”

GM: “Please. Anytime that’s convenient for you both.”

Anna looks very hopeful.

Victoria: She pulls out her phone.


A pause.

“After dinner.”

GM: “After dinner,” nods Anna. “I can wait that long.”

“How do you feel about those different financiers you mentioned?”

Victoria: She pauses, her fork halfway to her mouth.

“Like I’m diving in deeper than I should; but, no great moves beyond good without risk. You either earn the respect of the rich and powerful in New Orleans, or you remain another pebble carried by the stream.”

GM: “Financial risk?” asks Anna, concernedly.

Victoria: She reaches across the table, squeezing Anna’s hand.

“Everything’s the same risk, in the end. All that matters is the degree. Don’t worry about me.”

GM: Anna squeezes it back and smiles.

“You can’t seriously expect me not to do that.”

Victoria: “Okay. Worry. But trust that I’ll come back to you. What would you do if I wasn’t here to take the weight of the world off your shoulders?”

GM: “I wasn’t even thinking about me.”

Victoria: “Who were you thinking about?”

GM: “The most important person in my life, of course.”

Victoria: “Rick Towers?”

GM: Anna laughs.

“I know a lot of his movies these days are pretty so-so. But he’s interesting even when his movies aren’t. It’s like… watching the last specimen of some exotic, alien species, almost.”

Victoria: “‘Like’? I’m entirely certain he’s the first real link to the lizardmen.”

GM: Anna smiles again.

“To answer your question, though. Geez. I don’t even know what I’d do.”

“It really has been a relief after everything to just… let you take the driver’s seat.”

“And for you, I bet, not to worry about cooking or the apartment when you’re so busy.”

Victoria: “Among other services freely available.”

The wink she follows with isn’t necessary. Finally, she feed herself a mouthful of food.

“I’ll be fine, Anna. If I’m not fine, I’ll get back at them.”

GM: Anna looks less than thrilled by that last promise, but nods.

“Can I have seconds?”

That’s been another rule they’ve adopted to help manage her weight.

Sylvia can take care of everything.

Victoria: “If you’re planning to run before bed, you may have one extra scoop.”

GM: “Oof. Such decisions.”

Victoria: “I’ll even be kind. Just one mile.”

GM: Anna smiles. “Can you make this decision for me, too?”

“It’s just… more fun when you do.”

Victoria: She clicks her tongue, a devious smile coming to her lips.

“All right. Have your seconds. Clean the pans and put the leftovers away. Allow yourself to digest. Run one mile, and then you can join me in the shower. I’d like my hair washed.”

GM: “Yes, mistress,” Anna smiles back, helping herself to another chicken burrito scoop. They’re refried beans, chicken, peppers, salsa, and grated cheese wrapped in small tortilla, like burrito cupcakes.


Victoria: Sylvia watches her eat, chin in her palm. Watching. Staring. Waiting. Observing.

GM: “I’m suddenly feeling very self-conscious…” Anna laughs.

Victoria: “Oh, don’t worry. Just admiring the artwork.”

GM: Anna gets up, burrito cupcake in hand, and strikes a pose.

Victoria: Sylvia laughs, shaking her head.

“Your silliness is enticing.”

GM: She strikes another pose, munching on burrito as she does.

Very slowly and exaggeratedly.

Victoria: “You keep that up and I’ll be making you massage a lot more than my scalp.”

GM: “Is that a punishment or a reward?”

Victoria: She smiles faintly. “Keep eating.”

GM: “Yef, mifreff,” Anna says past a full mouth.

Victoria: Sylvia finishes her food. Apparently, she’s not all that hungry. It’s probably at least partly Anna’s fault.

GM: Anna takes her time finishing her own food and sits down on Sylvia’s lap.

“I’ve really liked this. Everything these past few months.”

“Is there more we can do in daily life, outside of the bedroom? What’s the next step?”

Victoria: Sylvia wraps an arm about her waist, promising security.


She knows the punishment for lying.

“I’ve had an idea in mind, but it’s a surprise.”

Uh oh.

GM: Anna looks intrigued.

And a little nervous.

Just the way Vic prefers her.

“My lady of mystery,” she smiles.

Victoria: “Yours, devoted eternally,” she teases.

GM: Anna nuzzles her nose.

“I guess I should do my chores if I want it to be a nice surprise, huh?”

Victoria: “Mhmmmm…”

Though, who said it will be tonight?

Saturday afternoon, 2 April 2016

GM: Sylvia knows how much her mother loves to have her children over, even outside weekly dinners. Anna’s teaching prospects is a topic best raised in private, anyway. Mary greets her at the door with a hug and question of,

“Have you eaten yet, Sylvie?”

Victoria: She pulls her mom into a more gentle hug than anyone else gets from her.

“Mom, you know that I know better than to come home full,” she laughs.

GM: “I do know,” Mary smiles. “I have someone staying with me. Please be gentle with her. She’s come from a very, very dark place.”

Victoria: “When am I ever not gentle?” she smiles, stepping into the house and removing her shoes.

GM: “When are you not,” Mary agrees. “Don’t take it personally if she doesn’t want to speak with you, either.”

Victoria: “None taken, Mom. New foster?”

GM: “Not quite, dear. Just someone who needs a place of… respite.”

Victoria: She nods.

“I’ll try to talk to her, but I won’t push.”

GM: “That sounds wise. She’s more willing to answer in nods and head shakes, I’ve also found.”

Victoria: She nods.

“What’s her name?”

GM: Mary pauses.

“She’s very frightened about people knowing her name. Why don’t you ask her if I can tell you.”

Victoria: Sylvia gives her a quizzical look, but nods her assent.

“Where is she?”

GM: “One of the bedrooms. I’ll go and get her,” says Mary. “Make yourself at home at the dining room, please. Lunch is already laid out.”

Victoria: Sylvia set her shoes neatly in the rack, just like Mama always had her, then pulls out a chair and sits, waiting.

GM: Lunch is tomato soup with basil toppings and grilled cheese sandwiches. Easy, classic comfort food.

Mary returns after several moments with a young woman. She has long dark brown hair, a button nose, and gaunt cheeks. They look like they might have been plump with baby fat, once, but there’s a deflated quality to them seemingly suggestive of rapid weight loss in a short time. She’s dressed in a plain t-shirt and sweatpants with a thick blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Her eyes are dark and haunted, as well as out of focus. They don’t seem to fully register Sylvia’s presence. She looks in her to mid to late teens.

Victoria: She’s glad Anna isn’t here. She doesn’t need any more grilled cheese.

Sylvia plates a meal, but doesn’t yet eat any of it, not wanting to be rude despite her mother offering.

When the girl enters, she’s greeted with friendly eyes and a warm smile.

“Hello there,” she purrs. “I’m Sylvia. You can call me Sylvia, if you want.”

GM: Anna was spoiled by their initial junk food feast together.

The girl looks at Sylvia warily.

She doesn’t say anything.

Victoria: “Can Mom—Mary—tell me your name?”

GM: The girl quickly shakes her head.

Victoria: “That’s fine, dear. You don’t have to let her,” she smiles, looking up to Mary.

GM: Sylvia’s mom nods in emphasis.

Everyone eats. The girl does that much without prompting. It’s simple, tasty, and filling comfort food. Anna will no doubt grouse missing out on it.

“You said you’d wanted to talk about Anna, Sylvie?” her mom asks. She glances at the girl. “Would that be better after lunch, or is here fine?”

Victoria: “I think after lunch would be best,” she answers. “It’s not so fun a topic for my new friend here.”

Translation: privacy.

“Did you enjoy the grilled cheese? That used to be my favorite meal, when I first got here.”

Victoria: Sylvia pauses, and then it occurs to her.

She produces her phone, opening it to a notepad app, then slides it across the table.

“Is this more comfortable for you?”

GM: Sylvia gets the distinct impression that her mother was framing her question in such a way, too.

The girl does not answer Sylvia’s question until Mary looks at her, then nods.

She looks at the phone without comprehension, up Sylvia, and then gives a light shrug.


Victoria: She nudges the phone closer to her.

“If you’d like to try. There’s no pressure.”

GM: The girl looks at it, then continues munching her grilled cheese.

Victoria: She lofts a brow, looking to Mary. “Perhaps a pen and paper?”

GM: “Perhaps a writing prompt,” her mother gently suggests.

Victoria: “Writing prompt?”

GM: “A question to answer, or other suggestion of what to write.”

Victoria: She did ask her if she liked the grilled cheese. Oh well.

“How old are you, dear?”

GM: The girl taps two numbers on the phone.


Victoria: Older than she thought. She has questions for her mother, but not even their echo touches her expression.

“Lovely. I’m 27.”

GM: The girl silently takes that in and has another spoonful of soup.

Victoria: “What do you like to do for fun?”

GM: The girl pauses in her eating to stare numbly ahead.

She does not answer.

Victoria: Perhaps a bit too open.

“Would you tell me your name?”

GM: The girl adamantly shakes her head.

Victoria: “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

A pause.

“Do I scare you?”

GM: The girl looks at Sylvia, then at Mary, who smiles encouragingly.

She slowly shakes her head.

Victoria: Sylvia smiles.

“Most people think I’m a little scary. You must have seen things that toughened you up, huh?”

GM: In fairness, she’s dressed in normal clothes rather than black leather here.

She’s Sylvia here.

The girl closes her eyes at the words ‘seen things.’

Victoria: She’s being playful, trying to open her up by lightening the mood. Even still, Sylvia is a forward person, and can be a loud personality. Even without the leather and chains, she can be intimidating.

“What’s your favorite food?”

GM: Anna agrees with that.

The girl hits an emoji on the phone:


Victoria: Sylvia rolls her eyes with emphatic delight!

“Ugh, I haven’t had a pizza in forever! Have you ever had a dessert pizza?”

GM: The girl shakes her head.

Victoria: “Maybe Mary’ll let me make one with you…?” she says, looking to her mother. “If I nab the ingredients.”

GM: “A desert pizza?” says Mary with amusement. “That sounds unhealthy, but I suppose it can’t be any more so than cake or pie.”

Anna and Sylvia know better there.

Victoria: “No, that’d be sandy. A dessert pizza. I made one with Anna when she came home after a really bad day. It was a lot of fun.”

Tasty, too.

GM: “Maybe one with some dried figs for desert,” laughs Mary. “That sounds tasty, though. You could make it a lot like a cake, I’d imagine, only you’d wind up with a lot more icing or toppings.”

“Mmm. No wonder you liked that.”

Victoria: “I have always liked sweets,” she muses to Mary. “We made it with just a few more sweets than that. Once in a while, it can’t hurt.”

Anna has been banned from sweets outside celebrations for the last two weeks.

“Do you like sweets?” she asks the mute.

GM: Too much of a good thing.

Too spoiled from their first days together.

The girl nods.

Victoria: “Are you a chocolate kinda girl, or something else?”

GM: The girl taps another emoji.


Victoria: She laughs.

“After my own heart.”

She hopes her mother doesn’t take that literally.

GM: Mary doesn’t seem to.

The girl abruptly stands up.

Mary rises with her and touches her shoulder.

“Do you want to leave?”

No answer.

“Will you say goodbye to Sylvie?”

The girl nods.

Victoria: “It was nice to meet you! I hope to see you again.”

She’s sure she will. Sylvia reaches to take her phone back from the table.

GM: The girl freezes in place. Her eyes are enormous and bloodshot.

She screams and flings her soup bowl at Sylvia.

GM: It hits her solidly, and painfully, in the forehead, sending her staggering reflexively backwards. Soup gets all over her eyes and face. She’s momentarily blinded. She can hear plateware shattering as Mary shouts, “ENOUGH!” over the girl’s screams.

Victoria: THUNK!

Sandwich halfway between her teeth, the half-full bowl of soup bounces off her forehead, tumbles down her shirt, skids off her lap and lands upturned on the floor.

A searing fire tears through Sylvia, and if not for the fact that she’s covered in lukewarm tomato soup, the girl would see a searing gaze hot enough to embrittle her very bones.

Sylvia is thankful for that soup. She draws a deep breath, calming herself.


She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t move. She simply watches.

GM: Wiping her eyes clean of the tomato soup, Sylvia sees that the girl’s screaming features have gone completely still, like a flipped switch. She is silent as Mary takes her by the shoulder and leads her out of the room with an, “I’ll be back in a moment, Sylvie.”

The bowl does not lie upturned on the floor, however, but in dozens of shattered pieces. Tomato soup is all over Sylvia’s clothes, chair, and the floor.

“I’m so sorry for that, dear,” Mary says after she returns. She lightly touches Sylvia’s forehead with a mother’s critical eye. “You’ve got a bruise. Come on, the first aid kit’s still under the sink.”

Victoria: In, out. In, out. In. Out.




She brushes the soup off her forehead as Mary walks into the room, allowing her mother to be her mother. There’s no escaping Mary St. George’s nursing, so she doesn’t even try.

“It’s f-ow! It’s fine, Mom.”

She hisses. Yeah, that’s a bruise.

“It’s just a bruise. I’ll be fine. Do you know why she did that?”

GM: “It’s nothing she has against you, Sylvia. She is… unstable,” Mary merely says. “I think she would have done that to anyone. You did well with her, though it was a mistake on my part to introduce you. She isn’t ready for company yet.”

“Now come along. You’ll be finer with a bandage.”

Victoria: “People are going to think I went to war,” she protests, but follows. “It feels like I did. Ow…”

GM: “I’m sorry, dear,” says Mary as she leads Sylvia into the kitchen. “This was my fault. Now…”

She doesn’t take long to dab off Sylvia’s bruise with a cloth, then applies a bandage from the first aid kit.

“We’re definitely not the same size anymore, but you can borrow one of my shirts. I’ll wash this one and have it for you on Sunday.”

Victoria: Sylvia shakes her head.

“It’s not your fault, Mom. I should’ve known not to startle her grabbing my phone.”

She knows better than to fight her mother on laundry, too.

GM: “I don’t think it was grabbing your phone. As I said, she’s unstable. Something would have set her off. But the milk’s spilled.”

She puts the first aid kit away.

“You can pick out something you like from my dresser to change into, I’ll clean up out here.”

Victoria: “Thanks, Mom.”

She’d say she’s the best, but she already knows it, even when Sylvia fusses.

Sylvia heads into her mother’s room, thumbing through her clothes for something simple. She doesn’t want to leave her without some of her favorite wear.

GM: She finds a number of button-ups to choose from. Mary isn’t much of a fashionista, anyway. Her clothes are simple and practical. Sylvia knows that she buys her jeans from the grocery store.

Her mother’s cleaned up the spillage and broken platewear in impressively fast when she returns. She’s also ladled out another bowl of soup for Sylvia.

“With that excitement out of the way,” she says, “do you want to talk about Anna now?”

Victoria: She reseats herself at the table, dipping her spoon into the bowl. She almost finished the first, but as mothers always know, she’s still hungry.

“As long as she’s okay, yes,” she answers, looking toward the bedrooms.

GM: “She isn’t,” Mary says, matter-of-factly. “But with time she’ll get better, and it was nothing you did.”

Victoria: Her gaze lingers on the hallway to those rooms.


Mother always told her to spit it out.

“Is there anything you can do to help Anna find a place in education with one of the Christian schools you associate with?”

GM: “Oh. I’m very sorry, Sylvie,” she says, rubbing her daughter’s hand. “Catholic schools aren’t willing to hire homosexual teachers.”

Victoria: “And if they didn’t know…?”

GM: “Sylvie, you know that it’s wrong to lie,” her mother says gently.

Victoria: “Omission isn’t a lie, Mom,” she answers after a pause.

“You’ll really let her dream die? You can save her.”

GM: “A lie by omission is a lie,” replies Mary. Her voice isn’t accusatory, but neither does it waver. “If Anna was romantically involved with another woman and didn’t tell you, how would that make you feel?”

Victoria: Turned on, probably.

“Hardly relevant, and you know it.”

The fire flickers. She controls it.

“Anna is a good Christian. She’s a great teacher. She cares for her students. She leaves her personal life at home. She wears a smile to class every day. And she does. Not. Sin.”

Outside their house.

Unless commanded.

“She has more merit for teaching there than any of those slap-happy ruler-wielders.”

GM: “That may well be the case,” Mary replies without argument. “But Catholic schools choose not to hire homosexual teachers. It would be a lie for me not to tell them that Anna is in a homosexual relationship. Proverbs tells us: ‘The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy.’ Luke tells us: ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.’

“If you would like, I can explain Anna’s situation to them and ask if they will give her an interview. I don’t think they are likely to. But it’s a shot you can take with a clean conscience.”

Victoria: Mary knows that tension building in her face.

The final offer—a concession, Sylvia knows—sates her.

“I suppose that’s all I can expect.”

GM: “This is part of why I am concerned for you, Sylvie,” says Mary. “I am concerned for your soul. If asking your mother to lie is acceptable, how many other sins will become so?”

Victoria: She isn’t helping. Sylvia simply stares.

GM: Her mother stares back. Not angrily, not confrontationally, but she does not look away.

Victoria: “When have I ever been a sinful creature?”

That she’s aware of.

GM: “That is a question I would ask yourself,” answers Mary, her gaze steady upon Sylvia. “Have you committed other sins since you began your relationship with Anna?”

Victoria: “The same rhetorical question applies again.”

GM: “My question isn’t rhetorical, Sylvie. It’s one I would urge you to consider, and strongly.”

Victoria: “My answer is.”

GM: “Is it one you would like me to answer?”

Victoria: “If it was one that needed an answer, it wouldn’t be rhetorical.”

GM: “I don’t appreciate your shortness of temper, Sylvia,” Mary says with a slight frown. “I would appreciate a thank you. I am doing something for you that I am normally not inclined to do.”

Victoria: She looks away from her mother.

“Thank you.”

It’s as pleasant as a bucket of icewater dumped over a shower curtain.

GM: Mary sighs faintly.

Victoria: She glances only halfway back, relenting as much.

GM: “You’re welcome,” replies her mother.

Victoria: Sylvia gets up without a word and walks toward the front door at a hurried pace.

GM: Mary watches her go with a sad look, but doesn’t stop her. Or call after her.

Normally, Sylvia leaves her mother’s house with food.

Victoria: The door doesn’t slam, but it isn’t gentle.

Normally, her mother leaves being told she’s loved.

Normally, Sylvia leaves feeling she is.

Saturday evening, 2 April 2016

GM: “So, how it’d go with your mom?” Anna asks over dinner that night.

Victoria: Sylvia gives her a look.

She hasn’t said much all evening.

GM: Anna leans over and hugs her.

Victoria: She returns the hug, half as strong as she’d usually, twice as strong as she feels she can, and exactly all of what she can give.

GM: “Geez,” Anna murmurs, holding her close and rubbing her back, “that bad, huh?”

Victoria: There is a pregnant pause before she answers.

“How much do you value your career?”

GM: “…why do you ask?” says Anna.

There’s a pause.

“I don’t want to hurt your relationship with your mom, if you locked horns…”

Victoria: There’s no subtlety. There’s no subterfuge. There are no games, nor manipulation, nor art to her speech as usual.

The words come out like vomit.

“If we break up, she’ll get you a job.”

GM: “…what?” says Anna.

Almost disbelievingly.

Victoria: “She’s going to tell them that we’re together, and then give your name. Those two-faced fucks will decline you on that alone. Or, you make the truth what it needs to be—that you’re not with me—and she’ll leave your relationship status out. She won’t take a middle ground.”

GM: Anna slowly blinks at that.

Emotions play over her face. Disbelief. Pain. Even some anger.

“But I love you,” she says, plaintively. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Red starts to creep into Anna’s face.

“Did she… did she seriously say, and try to make us pick…?”

Victoria: “You won’t become a teacher again in New Orleans.”

She doesn’t notice how badly she’s shaking until the words shake with her.

“No,” she spits. “She clung to her ‘faith’…” She makes air quotes, mocking. “…and set the same outcome. The same piss-poor excuse all of them given. They’re all about love, charity and forgiveness until you fail to meet any one of their irrelevant criteria. Love all God’s children, indeed.

She crosses the room in a heartbeat, wrenching open the liquor cabinet and producing a bottle of whatever-the-fuck, vintage right-fucking-now.

GM: Anna doesn’t stop her. The alcohol is hard and goes down hard.

Her girlfriend is still sitting in place when she gets back.

“Why do you say that,” says Anna, her voice thick. “That I won’t become a teacher. What does… what does your mom know. There are lots of schools.”

“Like, fuck her. What does she know? Why can’t I be a teacher?”

Anna’s hand starts to tremble at that question.

Victoria: “I’m not getting a call that you’re in critical care because some dumb nigger doesn’t understand that the knowledge is more important than the grade and took it out on you.”

She’s seen Sylvia angry before, but rarely this angry.

GM: Sylvia’s anger is no small thing to witness.

Perhaps, were it over any other subject, Anna would want to calm her down. Stay out of the way.

But her eyes are angry, too.

“There are… there are other schools!” she exclaims. “Besides McGehee, that aren’t shitty inner city ones! I can apply to those! That was always the plan, we don’t need her, we can do this without her!”

Victoria: Can they?

Sylvia doesn’t care. In those moments, Anna’s career doesn’t matter to her. Anna’s career is just the catalyst. She’s angry at the entire hypocrisy of the religion she’s been raised to covet.

She drinks again, draining several mouthfuls.

GM: It goes down as hard as the preceding mouthfuls.

Does it take the edge off?

Maybe a bit.

Anna waits as Sylvia drinks.

“What do you think,” she says, lamely.

Victoria: “I think.”

The bottle lands lightly on the table, tipping, but righting itself.

“I think we should go burn down a church.”

GM: “I’d be down for that.”

If the words are meant as a joke, they don’t sound very humorous.

Victoria: Sylvia lofts a brow. Even with the excuse of a wave of drunkenness about to hit, she isn’t sure that’s a good idea.

GM: “No. Not really,” Anna says glumly, looking down at her lap.


She sighs and looks up.

“Why? Why do they have to hate us?”

“Why can’t they just be happy we’re happy?”

Victoria: “Because they’re the most hypocritical group of people on the planet.”

GM: Anna doesn’t seem like she has any answer to that.

“I think that…”

She sighs.

“No, I don’t think. I’m scared. What’ll happen when we tell my parents.”

Victoria: “Nuclear war, probably.”

She reaches for the bottle, then decides against it.

GM: Anna looks little comforted by that answer.

“I’m scared they’re going to disown me.”

Victoria: She looks sideways at her girlfriend.

“Then don’t tell them. We’ll adopt six cats and you can use that excuse.”

GM: “But what about when…”

Anna trails off and looks down at her lap.

Victoria: “When…?”

GM: “When it’s not… possible to.”

Victoria: “Make a child?”

GM: Anna nods slowly.

Victoria: “Well, pray real fuckin’ hard. God loves heterosexual relationships, so maybe he’ll slap a fat cock on my forehead.”

GM: “Sylvie, I’m serious,” Anna entreats with a miserable look. “What do we do?”

Victoria: “Is your relationship dependent on having children? What if you never met a man again? Would your parents disown you?”

GM: “I want children with you,” Anna says, frankly.

Victoria: “Then we will adopt.”

GM: “I mean… with my parents. And my brother. Not how we get kids.”

Victoria: “You… want children with your parents and your brother?”

GM: Anna manages a strained smile.

“Sylvie, seriously…

Victoria: She seriously doesn’t understand what she means, and her expression reflects it.

GM: “What I’m getting at is… when we have kids. How do I not lose the rest of my family. I don’t want to.”

“But we won’t be able to hide it.”

Victoria: “Tell them you’re adopting as a single mother. Or tell them that this is who you are, and they can love you as you are, or…”

Or not.

GM: “I’m just scared,” says Anna. “That they won’t.”

“Do you think your mom still loves you…?”

Victoria: “There’s nothing I can say or do that will change them if they’re set in their ways, Anna. I can only promise that you’ll always have me to come back to.”


“Which is the problem.”

“A parent doesn’t love their child conditionally.”

GM: “What’s the condition?”

“And I guess you’re right, if they’re set in their ways. But you’ll always have me, whether your mom loves you or not.” Anna squeezes her hand. “I guess some part of me was just hoping the always in control domme could magically pull a solution out of thin air…”

She gives a halfhearted smile.

Victoria: She opens her mouth, then closes it. No, she won’t ruin the magic for Anna.

GM: “It’s okay,” she says, rubbing Sylvia’s shoulder. “I know you can’t make them accept me.”

Victoria: “I can only accept you where they don’t. Without condition.”

GM: “I know,” Anna murmurs. “That’s why I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Victoria: She gives her a quick kiss.

For the first time in hours, she feels a little bit better.

The alcohol helps.

GM: Drinking always helps.

Anna snuggles up against her and lets some time pass, seemingly not wanting to ruin the moment.


“Could you ask your mom not to talk to schools, please? I think it’d hurt more if she tells them I’m gay and asks for an exception than if I just apply blind.”

Victoria: “If you feel that’s best; though, if she hears you apply to any of her related schools, she’ll tell them anyway. That’s the Christian ‘honor code’.”

“I still want to go burn down a church.”

It seems a better idea now than before.

GM: Anna looks exasperated.

“Would she seriously do that?”

“That’s… sabotaging me.”

Victoria: “She considers lies of omission real lies, so…”

Anna is starting to understand why Sylvia was so angry.

GM: “Okay, well why you don’t you lie to her that I’m not applying to any religious schools anyway, so she doesn’t need to bother.”

Victoria: “I can do that.”

GM: Anna looks satisfied, at first, then a little guilty.

“I don’t want to make you lie to your mom…”

Victoria: “I don’t give a fuck. If she’ll betray me, I’ll betray her.”

GM: Anna looks away.

“I feel like I’m responsible for this.”

“You fighting with your family.”

Victoria: “No, she’s responsible for this. After over fifteen years, she decided to put a condition on her love. She set it back at Christmas, and now the wound is septic.”

GM: “What was the condition?”

“I remember you saying she didn’t approve, and how you wouldn’t hold hold hands at the table, but at least she didn’t kick me out…?”

Victoria: “Right. She’s fine with our sin, so long as we don’t spread it within her home, and she prays for our salvation.”

GM: Anna sighs.

“The worst part is how I’d take that as a win from my parents…”

Victoria: “Maybe two churches…”

GM: “Tempting.”

“Very, very tempting.”

Victoria: “At least one priest…”

GM: “What if we pretend I’m a priest tonight.”

“Helpless and you can do what you want to me.”

Victoria: “I like you alive.”

GM: “We can pretend you want to take your sweet time, then.”

Victoria: Sylvia cants her head this way, then that. She opens a drawer in the coffee table before them, takes out a pocket knife, and opens it.


GM: Anna looks at it, then up at Sylvia.

“With my life.”

Victoria: She takes the blade, and with the softest pressure, she drags it up Anna’s jeans, tapping it against her thigh.

“We’d start here…”

GM: Anna watches the steel edge trace along her pants, but doesn’t pull away.

“Because that’s a less needed part of the body, if you don’t cut an artery?”

Victoria: “Because it gives you something to worry about,” she answers, that predatory undertone coming through.

GM: “I know you wouldn’t actually cut off my leg, but damn if you can’t be scary with a knife,” Anna remarks with a nervous smile.

Victoria: “Oh no, that’d be much too simple.”

The blade travels up the inside of her thigh, brushing over her pubic mound and slowing beside her navel. Sylvia angles it such that the point isn’t flush with her, just in case Anna moves.

“Do you feel that inside you?” she asks. Her eyes betray a black pit of hunger. She isn’t just taking her sweet time, nor is she just making a point to Anna. No, she’s reveling in watching Anna’s reactions.

“That rush on adrenaline. That uncertainty That vulnerability. That submission. The knowledge that a simple flick of my wrist could change—or snuff out—your life forever.”

Tap, tap, tap goes the blade.

She removes it from her skin, watching.

GM: Anna keeps very still as Sylvia unzips her jeans and pulls off her shirt. Her clothes’ protection is more psychological than physical. She can’t seriously expect them to stop a knife. But there’s something about naked steel over naked flesh that’s so much more visceral. Actually feeling the cold, sharp metal against your skin.

Anna keeps very, very still. She takes small, measured breaths. Her eyes follow the knife’s edge.

Even if she trusts Sylvia, all it takes is one nick. One slip of the hand.

“You… you have the power,” answers Anna. “You have the power over me. You could… I’m alive because you decide it. I’m in your hands.”

Her eyes drift up to the black pit in Sylvia’s.

Is she surprised by what she sees there?

Her breath seems to catch just a bit more.

It’s as she said.

Her life, in Sylvia’s hands. Victoria’s hands.

Hers to keep. Hers to take.

Then the knife withdraws, and Anna lets out a breath she might not realized she ever took.

Her eyes seek out Sylvia’s again.

Victoria: Sylvia isn’t just her girlfriend, nor her long-time friend. She’s her goddess. She’s the keeper of her life, and the single force keeping her here.

She tosses the knife back onto the table, still open, and pulls Anna into a hug. Even with so short a bout of play, she knows the importance of conveying her love.

“You don’t want me to pretend to take my time, because there’s an element that isn’t pretending,” she finally answers Anna’s request while she strokes her hair.

GM: The longtime domme is no stranger to the purpose of aftercare.

Anna gladly hugs her back. There’s a relieved and grateful energy to the hug. It’s an assurance-seeking hug.

A submissive hug.

“I knew you never would… but I wondered, when I looked in your eyes. Was that wrong…?”

Victoria: She strokes her chin.

“Was what wrong?”

GM: Anna rubs her head against Sylvia.

“Wondering, if you would.”

Victoria: “I don’t think it’s wrong. I think it’s self-preservation, but… That is a not-terribly-uncommon way into edgeplay. Usually with a fake knife.”

GM: “So we can say we were more hardcore,” smiles Anna.

Victoria: “We can say your girlfriend goes too far in toying with the idea.”

She winks, taking her hand.

“Now come on. I want a massage.”

GM: “Yes, mistress,” Anna smiles again.

Saturday night, 2 April 2016, PM

GM: The massage is nice.

Going to sleep together is nice.

The prospect of calling her mother in the morning is less so.

Anna makes a show of retrieving and presenting the phone from her hands and knees, but it’s like a spoonful of sugar to make the bad-tasting medicine go down.

“Like I said, I really don’t want her calling up a bunch of Catholic schools and telling them I’m gay…”

Victoria: It’s like being woken up by a puppy dropping their bowl on her head.

“You’re right, you’re right… now shhh…”

She strokes her hair, pulling her back into bed, and dials her mother.

GM: Anna smiles and nuzzles against her.

“Will you take me on a walk next…?”

She trails off, though, when Mary answers, “Hello, Sylvie.”

Victoria: “Mom.”

GM: “I’m glad to hear from you. How is your head?”

Victoria: Bruised.

“Fine. It was only a bowl.”

Launched by a teenager that should be recruited for the major leagues.

“Are you alone?”

GM: “I’m glad to hear that, too. I am.”

Victoria: “Look, I’m just going to be direct: I don’t think you should talk to anyone at schools about Anna if you can’t leave our relationship out of it. It makes you uncomfortable, and I think it’ll only disservice her.”

GM: “All right, Sylvie. I won’t talk to them about her,” says Mary.

Victoria: “And… I’m sorry.”

The words pain her.

GM: “I’m sorry, too,” Mary says quietly. “I’ve never wanted there to be pain between us. But you know that I’ll always love you, dear, no matter what.”

Victoria: Conditionally.

“I know, Mom.”

GM: “You and your siblings are the most important people to me in all the world. All I’ve ever wanted is for you to be happy and fulfilled.”

“I know we disagree on some things. Please understand it’s borne out of love and concern for you.”

Victoria: “I know where it comes from, Mom. You only want what’s best for us.”

It doesn’t stop her rolling her eyes.

GM: Anna silently watches.

“I do,” says Mary. “With all my heart.”

“I know we disagree on what is best. I’m sorry that’s caused us pain. But I will never, ever, stop loving you.”

Victoria: “I know, Mom. I know.”

GM: “I’ll still see you for dinner tomorrow?”

Victoria: Yes Mama, you will."

GM: “That makes me very happy to hear,” smiles Mary.

“All right. I have to get going now, the girl you met needs me. I love you, Sylvie.”

Victoria: She wishes her well, says she loves her, wishes her a good day, and hangs up.


GM: “I guess that went okay,” says Anna, rubbing Sylvia’s shoulder.

Victoria: “Better than I hoped it would…”

GM: “Yeah. I mean, I’m still mad she won’t help me get a job. But that is a better conversation that I think my parents would’ve had.”

Victoria: Sylvia shrugs, tossing the phone down to the bed.

“The world isn’t fair.”

And it never has been.

Sunday night, 3 April 2016, PM

GM: “So… any hints on the upcoming surprise?” Anna asks innocuously.

She’s done all her chores. Cleaning. Vacuuming. Dishes. Laundry. Cooking. She does them anyway, but without any sass or bratting, this time around. She’s made something new every night instead of leftovers.

She’s been very good.

Victoria: “Hints? No, no hints. You’ve done so well, but I need to see something…”

She swirls her hand, searching for a thought.

“Something more.”

GM: “Something more,” says Anna. “What sort of more?”

Victoria: “Something… promising.”

GM: “Promising,” Anna repeats thoughtfully. “Hmm. Interesting word choice.”

Victoria: She simply stares, waiting.

GM: “What time will you be home tomorrow, do you think?”

Victoria: “La…”


Always late. Buying Chakras on top of continuing to see clients promises to keep her very busy.

“I’ll make time. Picnic?”

GM: Sylvia has good memories of picnics.

“At home would be better, actually. There’s only so promising I can make a picnic.”

Anna looks thoughtful.

“Or at least one in public.”

Victoria: Sylvia lofts a brow.

“I’m fine with public.”

She planned to do the cooking, too. How contradictory.

GM: “Whatever Mistress says,” smiles Anna. “I can show that promise later.”

Victoria: Tap, tap, tap goes her finger.


GM: Anna stands to attention, but doesn’t drop the smile.


Victoria: Tap, tap, tap.

“Are you happy?”

GM: Anna looks a little unsure where this has been going, but nods emphatically.

“Yes, absolutely.”

After a moment, she adds, “With you, that is. With things between us.”

Her face falls a little.

“Obviously I want to teach again… I really want it to be summer so I can apply to schools already.”

“I hate just waiting like this.”

“Sitting around until I find out if I can live my dream again or not, you know?”

Victoria: Obviously she wants to teach again. Obviously she wants her career back. Obviously she wants to follow her passion. Obviously she wants not to wait and see. Obviously she knows the dungeon isn’t for her. Both inflict pain. Both enable growth. Both teach. Only one is happy with their path.

But they’re happy with each other, and Sylvie knows that that’s enough to keep Anna going. For now.

“I know,” she says, pulling the teacher into a light hug, running her fingers through her hair. “We’ll find a way.”