Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
“Once young girls used to play with baby dolls, seeing themselves in the role of the nurturing mother; now they can be seen playing with Barbie dolls, seeing themselves in the place of the doll. And of course, the doll is both pretty and stacked. The pressure is on and stays on.”
“I never thought that I’d have much in common with a Malkavian. When I heard Elyse wanted to see me I thought there was no way this would go well. She’s obsessed with purity and I’m the childe of the town slut; hedonism is my middle name. Imagine my surprise when she wormed her way into my cold, dead heart with those little porcelain dolls of hers. She’s got a solid operation going and I’m proud to be part of it. And, as she says, Flawless is just perfection by another name.”
Elyse is a beautiful creature who resembles nothing so much as a morbid, life-sized doll. Her already petite frame is perhaps a bit too thin, making her appear all the more fragile by way of comparison. Her pretty, youthful face has a porcelain-white complexion interspersed with a few freckles. Long honey-blonde-brown hair falls down her back in soft ringlets. No emotion ever flickers past her gray-blue eyes, nor does any smile upturn her cherry-painted lips: her face always remains a mask of placid indifference.
Name: Elyse Cynthia Benson
Date of Birth: January 12th, 1941 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Date of Embrace: October 27th, 1957 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Apparent Age: 16
Real Age: Approx. 80
Build: Anorexically thin
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Dirty blonde
Complexion: Porcelain pale
Religion: Monachal Sanctified
I used to think about unimportant things before my enlightenment. Academics. My mother. What others thought of me. One thing I have never been concerned with is men, boys, lovers, companions, or what have you.
I don’t recall too much about my mortal life. Not because it was so long ago, but perhaps it was because the mind will shield itself from certain events to protect its keeper. I was raised by my maternal grandmother, Helen Athens. A woman of the upper crust stuck in her ways and endlessly fixated with propriety. Was it any wonder why she covered up how my mother died? The papers said it was sepsis, but in all honesty she bled out in the bathtub.
My grandmother blamed me from the loss of her daughter. Had I not been born, Mother would not have suffered from postpartum depression and chosen to end her life. It is the one thing she never let me forget.
Grandmother was always obsessed with her dolls: even now they litter the house, little soulless glass eyes staring back at the world whispering tales of what they have seen and the secrets they know. Only I cannot hear them. That is a gift which belongs to a few of my brothers and sisters within the clan.
I am not sure if love, hate, or fear of losing someone else caused her to raise me as she did. Maybe it was nothing like that at all. Perhaps she just wanted to mold me into one of her dolls. Whether or not that was her intention, it is exactly what she has done.
I was never permitted to show any sign of outward emotion. Dolls have no emotions. Love, hate, joy, sadness: none of this was acceptable. She reprimanded such actions while in fits of hysteria. Do as I say, not as I do. Dolls are pretty and Grandmother liked pretty things. Pretty things do not have those sorts of imperfections. I know now that emotions are imperfections: they cause Kindred and kine alike to act as fools. But I would not learn this lesson until after my Embrace, no matter how hard my grandmother tried to drive it home.
I was always expected to be well-put together and properly dressed. Social and physical appearance were always important to her. I started putting on a bit too much weight at nine years of age, for food made me feel good. I recall it as one of the few things that brought me pleasure, just as it remains one of the two things that bring me pleasure now. My grandmother suggested a way of eating and expelling so that I could have all I wanted to but stay pretty and thin. If you are not pretty and thin you can’t be perfect. Food became a bit of an obsession, I must admit. But instead of binging and purging I simply controlled how much of everything I put inside of body. I counted every calorie and read every package. Instead of turning food into a problem and smelling like vomit, I turned it into a solution. It taught me self-control while achieving my goal to be thin and pretty. After my Embrace I remained a picky eater. I simply can’t feed from someone who has let their frame be burdened with excess fat. Nor do I care for women of low caliber: you should not put something in your mouth if you have to question where it has been.
Like me, dolls exude their perfection in another way. I was corrected at the age of twelve, before unnecessary parts became a problem that could hinder my life in untold ways. Some might call it genital mutilation, or female circumcision. For me it was simply part of my transformation. I know that I could not be this far evolved if it had not happened. Love, sex, masturbation: these acts have always engendered revulsion from me.
I grew interested in dolls shortly after that incident. I found perfection within their round little eyes, their delicately rendered faces, their soft hair and carefully chosen outfits. Beautiful and timeless, they always look how their creator intends, expressing but not feeling.
Some might have called it an obsession. I spent hours in my room creating my lovely little darlings. I had already starting to make a name for myself with my dolls by the age of sixteen. Rather than having a coming out party with the rest of New Orleans’ débutantes, my grandmother arranged a gallery event for me to showcase my best creations. That was when I met her. Katherine Beaumont.
Madame Beaumont was one of the movers and shakers among wealthy circles at the time. Little did I know she was Kindred, of the Rose Clan to be precise. My dolls captivated her. She fed me her blood and fed on me. My grandmother had no problems at all with me having the woman as a “late night friend.” In her eyes I was finally taking interest in proper society.
I was involved in things that mortals should never know. I asked no questions. I sat there like a pretty little thing and listened to all that she had to tell me, or tell others for that matter. She would feed on me and lick the wound closed. Then we would sit and talk while I worked on my dolls. This consisted of a lot of nodding and occasional eye contact from me. She was clearly one those people who needed attention in order to validate herself. I made dolls for several of her friends and clanmates during my service to her. Each had their own little look-alike. I must have amused them to no end because most of the Rose Clan still enjoy my talents and call me “friend of the rose.” I have even been to a ball or two.
While Madame Beaumont was not always an agreeable conversational partner, she had an acquaintance among Clan Malkavian who I got along with particularly well. Harlequin was the only name he gave.
He recognized the mask I wore and which had become my reality. I saw perfection in his dedication towards his own beloved masks. We would sit and talk for hours about our ideas of perfection and how to achieve it. Our concepts of perfection were different, but the road to enlightenment is never the same for every Kindred. I thought of him as a mentor, one who I could truly learn under instead of gossiping about what the harpy wore to Vieux Carré that night.
He must have thought he could teach me something as well. On a cold October night in 1957, I walked in to see Katherine and Harlequin sitting at chess table, carefully moving their chosen pieces around the board. The word “checkmate” had hardly even left his lips before I felt the searing pain of his fangs—somehow through the mask he still wore. It didn’t induce the same sort of pleasure that I recalled with Katherine’s kiss.
I could feel myself changing as Harlequin drained my life. Those pestering emotions stopped with the ceasing of my heart. I no longer had anything to hide. As my dead flesh cooled, my skin turn porcelain and even more beautiful, even more doll-like, even more perfect than before. All I had to do was die.
I do not miss my mortal life. My Requiem is superior. It is more than anything I could have imagined. Now I can truly achieve my vision of perfection. My sire has given me the tools to do so. He has also given me an important task and I would not have it any other way. He has taught me the meaning of family, and how all among our clan are knotted together in a web of knowledge deeper than any of the other clans can understand. I hear my brothers and sisters loud and clear because I listen. I hear their call and hear their screams.
Harlequin said I have been given a gift that is needed by our clan. Not everyone among our kind has the control over themselves that I do. They are mistreated by the others because their gifts are poorly understood. That is why I have to be strong for my brothers and sisters, and serve as a translator and “sane” face for our kind. I know we are not mad as the other clans say: we see so much more than they ever do. I will prove this, and I will achieve perfection.
Elyse holds a stretch of territory along St. Charles Avenue, the city’s “millionaire’s row,” in Riverbend. She got along well with its former regent, Donovan, and remains on cordial terms with its current regent Slane Holland.
Elyse knows a variety of prominent, well-moneyed kine through the Dollhouse (see below). Many kine from the city’s old families heard of her. No small few have enlisted her services.
Elyse is a well-established member of the Camarilla and First Estate. (Camarilla Status ••, Invictus Status ••)
Elyse is especially respected among the Malkavians as a sane “face” for the rest of the clan, and the Hardline Sanctified since her 2016 ordination as a priest. (Hardline Sanctified Status •••, Malkavian Status •••)
Elyse spends much of her time at Elysium among the harpies as one of their favored hangers-on. (Harpy Status •)
Husband: “There is a… you might call it a finishing school. A private school that’s only known by word of mouth. Mostly among wealthy families, or old families. For young women whose families are displeased with their behavior. […] Their methods are… extreme. […] Your mother was a shell when I first met her. Really met her. She was the shyest, most docile, most timid girl you’d ever laid eyes on. I didn’t believe her at first, when she told me the story. I thought it was some kind of joke. A tall tale."
Daughter: “When did you realize it wasn’t?”
Husband: “When she started to cry.”
A doll’s husband and daughter
Elyse had mastered the art of making dolls by the time she was sixteen years old. Her induction into the all-night society saw to it that her work went from “masterful” to genius; many Kindred, even the fickle Toreador, have been enamored with the dolls that she creates in the Wedding Cake House.
So, too, have the kine.
In certain circles people know about a finishing school known as the Dollhouse. Its strict headmistress can turn any wayward daughter into a polite and proper member of society. Drug addiction, reckless behavior, failure to live up to one’s potential, non-conforming sexual preferences, simple rebelliousness; Elyse can fix it all. She can turn the most stubborn and headstrong hellions into demure and smiling-faced little angels. Most inductees in Elyse’s “school” are young ladies, but she’s been known to accept boys (often with problematic sexual behaviors) and older women (often guilty of infidelity) on occasion. Her wait list of clients is extensive and spans the country, though she gives first priority to locals.
What the kine don’t realize is exactly what these daughters go through when they’re sent off to be finished. Elyse uses a combination of physical abuse and mental conditioning, augmented by Dominate, to reduce her “pupils” into states of total submission. Elyse provides a consistent system of rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior. She takes client requests into consideration as she works upon the women so that, following their transformation, they are exactly who their loved ones want them to be. Gays are turned straight. Masculine is turned feminine. Abhorrent and unsightly disfigurements are excavated and polished. They learn manners, faith, and obedience. Their sexual proclivities are curbed. Elyse takes pride in the fact she can turn even the most wayward sinners into proper, God-fearing Christians. She refers to these kine as her dolls, for she pampers and pretties their appearances until they are beautiful as any porcelain doll. Every doll is given a new name and referred to in the third person with “it” pronouns, including by the doll itself.
Elyse keeps her dolls in a strict hierarchy based on their accomplishments.
First-order dolls are fresh off the streets and still being conditioned into accepting their new roles. They hate Elyse and what she does to them, but that hate rarely survives months of brainwashing and abuse at the Malkavian’s practiced hands. When Elyse thinks a doll has come far enough, she presents it with a seeming opportunity to escape the Dollhouse. The doll never actually has a chance, but Elyse wants it to think it does.
Dolls who report the incident to Elyse graduate to the second order. They have fully embraced their new roles and serve as mentors, disciplinarians, and (just as importantly) providers of comfort to the first-order dolls. Elyse requires every aspect of her dolls’ lives to be painstakingly micromanaged but does not have time to do so herself. Further, she believes that teaching a lesson to others is the surest way to make it sink in for the teacher.
When a second-order doll’s protege graduates to the second order, that doll graduates to the third order. At that point, Elyse releases the doll back into the world, finally remade into the well-behaved young lady that its family desire it to be. Elyse keeps a few of these dolls for her own use. Retained third-order dolls undergo an even more extreme regimen of conditioning, supplemented by Dominate and plastic surgery, to destroy their individuality and leave them little more than walking, talking, but perfectly pliable and obedient dolls.
Dolls who satisfy Elyse’s expectations graduate to the fourth order. Fourth-order dolls spend almost all of their time in the Dollhouse supervising the second-order and third-order dolls: their physical appearances are sufficiently transformed as to draw stares in public. Elyse sometimes brings them to Kindred parties to show off.
Elyse has spoken of a final fifth order for her dolls, which she terms “perfection incarnate,” but not what it entails. Kindred who desire to see for themselves are invited to visit the Dollhouse.
Stories Five and Ten
Jade met with Elyse in early 2011 to discuss their shared vision of perfection and flawlessness. Elyse had heard of Jade’s talents at her spa and wanted to see them in action. Together the two Kindred went through the onboarding of a new client, Butterfly, that the pair physically transformed into a new doll. Elyse also had Jade work on her own body as well. Pleased with the results, Jade was invited to take a hand in Elyse’s business and finish the domestification of the new doll over subsequent nights. Elyse also taught Jade a handful of “obscuro” tricks and the process by which porcelain dolls are made. The two have since been on good terms.
• 6. “The Mother” (e. unknown, d. uncertain)
• 7. The Malkavians will not speak this Kindred’s name.
• 8. Uriah Travers (e. early 19th century)
• 9. Hercule “Monty” Lestrange (e. late 19th century)
• 10. Frank Larsen (e. early 21st century)
• 7. The Malkavians will not speak this Kindred’s name.
Clarice Barabet (e. early 19th century, d. 2005)
• 9. Harlequin (e. early 20th century)
• 10. Marceline Duval (e. early 20th century)
Ophelia Hensley (e. mid 20th century, d. late 20th century)
• 12. Janine Clairmont (e. mid 20th century)
• 13. Catarina Glapion (e. early 21st century)
The Man With The Silver Smile (e. late 20th century, d. 2016)
• 10. Elyse Benson (e. mid 20th century)
Rachel Elliot (e. early 21st century, d. 2005)
• 9. King Bolden (e. early 20th century)
Martin Neal (e. mid 20th century, d. 2005)
Julia Tilbrey (e. mid 20th century, d. 2005)
• 7. The Malkavians will not speak this Kindred’s name.
Rachel Naomi Massoteau (e. early 20th century, d. late 20th century)
Elyse Benson is the childe of Harlequin, the founder and leader of the Krewe of Janus. Harlequin is the childe of Clarice Barabet, the Lancea et Sanctum’s third bishop in New Orleans and Clan Malkavian’s former primogen. The lunatics refuse to speak the name of Clarice’s sire, but she is believed to be the grandchilde of an enigmatic elder known only as the Mother.
Benson’s elder broodmate Marceline Duval is a surrealist painter of some standing within the Invictus. Her younger broodmate The Man With The Silver Smile is a gambling-obsessed bookie and loan shark who runs much of the local Mafia’s numbers racket.
Rachel Elliot, Benson’s only childe, was a former fashion model from among her “dolls” destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.